June 17, 2006
The first article published by rediff on Brahmins as an underprivileged community, brought a flurry of reactions, mostly of surprise: “What, Brahmins as toilet cleaners, coolies, rickshaw pullers, priests earning less than Rs 150 a month… How is it possible, we always thought that Brahmins were a rich, fat, arrogant community?”
Many Brahmins and other upper castes expressed online their relief that someone was speaking about their plight, that for once they were not attacked, made fun of, ridiculed. Of course there were also a few hostile e-mails, accusing the author of upper casteism, of anti-Dalits bias.
One would have thought however, that at a time when reservation was the hottest journalistic topic, the media would have seized this story and made it its own. After all, isn’t impartial journalism to show both sides of the story?
Don’t you think, for instance, that the discovery that all 50 Sulabh Shauchalayas (public toilets) in Delhi are cleaned and looked after by Brahmins — traditionally the task of the lowest of the lowest caste — and that this noble institution was started by a Brahmin, Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, makes a wonderful story, both for the print and electronic media?
That is what I believed, at any rate. So when I discovered that the Art of Living Foundation was conducting workshops for all coolies, irrespective of their religion and caste of the Delhi railway station — and that quite a few of them were Brahmins — I thought I could share this story and the Sulabh Shauchalayas scoop, with a few journalistic acquaintances, who would jump on it with glee. Unfortunately I was very wrong.
Initially, some young journalists were enthusiastic and joined us in our investigation. We expected the story to hit the headlines soon and be taken up by the entire press, hungry for something different than the strike of the medicos, or Arjun Singh’s adamant attitude. But nothing happened.
We called them day after day, proposed some more data, but still no story came out. Then one of the young journalists, working for one of the largest media outfits in India told us off the record that the sub-editor, backed by the editor, had killed the story in true journalistic freedom.
The second scenario we encountered was stone silence: the star anchors, bureau chiefs, editors of national English newspapers whom I personally contacted, either did not return my calls or were evasive.
Third scenario: Downright hostility: “You’re a right winger, a pro-BJP-RSS journalist” etc. What does truth and investigative journalism have to do with the BJP (who by the way did no more than the Congress for the Kashmiri Brahmins, for instance, when it was in power)? I don’t know.
Some journalists, initially willing to do a story, backed out after some time under the pretext that the data was not solid enough. Not solid enough? Does flimsy and unchecked data ever stop the Indian media to publish slanderous stories in the recent past?
Then, I came to the conclusion that more than fifty years later, the Nehruvian culture which directly brainwashed two generations of Indians in certain thinking patterns, has survived today. Actually, you have to go farther back than Nehru. For Jawaharlal was a true end product of Macaulay’s policy of creating Indians who would be Indians by the colour of their skins, but British in their thinking. Thus, the English outlook on India survives today in India’s intellectual class, particularly the journalists, who often cast a Westernised, anti-spiritual, pro-minority, anti-majority, un-Indian, anti-Brahmins and other upper castes — look on their own country.
It is true that Nehru started from a positive volition: How to solve India’s huge class and caste disparity? How to appease a Muslim minority which ruled India ruthlessly for ten centuries and was not ready to be ruled by those who were for a long time Islam’s pliant subjects?
But Nehru went overboard. He made the paupers of yesteryear the saints of modern India, allowing some states to literally hound out Brahmins and other upper castes. He twisted history and thanks to docile historians, made of cruel Muslim invaders and rulers, the benefactors of medieval India.
He went to the extent of excusing the razing and sacking of thousands of exquisite temples all over India, by saying that Muslim invaders such as Babar did it because these temples were full of hidden gold and jewels, damning again indirectly the poor hapless Brahmins, who were beheaded by Muslim invaders, crucified in Goa by the Portuguese Inquisition, vilified by British missionaries, and morally crucified today by their own brothers and sisters.
It is true that Brahmins may be paying today for the excesses of yesterday. In ancient times, as Sri Aurobindo wrote: ‘A Brahmin was a Brahmin only if he cultivated the spiritual temperament and acquired the spiritual training which alone would qualify him for the task.’
But once Brahmanism became hereditary, arrogance, complacency and casteism became rampant, ultimately bringing the downfall of Brahmins, a downfall which the Dalai Lama defines (for his own people) as Black Karma.
Thus, thanks to the lingering influence of Nehruvianism, ‘Brahmins’ remain today a dirty word, even in the face of reality: that Dalits have considerably come up since 1947 in Indian society, that no nation in the world has done so much for its underprivileged (India had a Dalit President — did the US ever have a Black President?). But the intellectual elite of India, which never mentions these facts, continues to hide its face in the sand like an ostrich, refusing to see the reality.
And rampant anti-Brahmanism and upper castes, first used by the Muslim invaders, then by the British colonialists and missionaries, is still in vogue at the hands of Nehruvians, Marxists, Indian Christians and politicians in search of the votes of Dalits and Muslims, which combined together make and unmake prime ministers.
Yet, Brahmins and other upper castes have played an invaluable role in Indian history, as Dr Bindeshwar Pathak, the founder of the Sulabh Shauchalaya Movement remarks: ‘Society sustained the Brahmins and other upper castes earlier, who upheld the Hindu scriptures and Hindu culture. Today hinduism is on the decline day-by-day. There is a lack of ancient knowledge. No political party has objected to reservation thanks to vote-bank politics. People have a very short memory. They have forgotten the contribution made by Brahmins to our society.’
And who says that Brahmins and other upper castes are anti-Dalits. Some of India’s top avatars, saints and gurus were of low caste and are still worshipped today by all upper castes. Valmiki, the composer of the Ramayana, was a fisherman; Ved Vyasa, the epic poet of the Mahabharata, which also contains the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible of Future Humanity, was the son of a fisherwoman; Krishna was from the shepherd’s caste. And are not today’s Amritanandamayi or Satya Sai Baba of low caste birth? Don’t they have millions of Indians, many of them from upper castes, bowing down to them?
Anti-Brahmanism has to be stopped!
This inter-caste war, triggered by the politicians’ greed for votes, has to be defused.
FACT, my Foundation, which conducts exhibitions on persecuted minorities, whether the Kashmiri Pandits, the Christians, Buddhist Chakmas and Hindus suffering in Bangladesh at the hands of fundamentalists in Bangladesh, or the Tibetans facing a cultural and spiritual genocide in Tibet, decided to take things in hand.
We started, with the help of a few dedicated friends, a film on Brahmins and other upper castes as an underprivileged community. This film will lead to a photoexhibition and hopefully to a book. All testimonies and documents are welcome.
The future of this country lies in a unified India, where all castes will find their just place, where all will feel Indians first and belonging to this caste or that one, after.