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Caste-The Facts

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    Caste-The Facts

    hey folks,

    Since there seems to be a sane attempt to discuss caste I'll attempt to add my bit to the confusion.

    It was interesting to see a plethora of posts on caste. But its a whole bunch of misconceptions.First up,Brahmins constitute 7% of the hindu population and Dalits 27%. Ever wondered where the rest are. That's where the untold story lies. They are categorized as Backward classes and Most Backward classes but the name applies only for purposes of reservation(affirmative action). They are for all practical purposes part of the upper castes. The primary oppression of dalits over the last 50 years comes predominantly from this grouping. The thakurs of UP,Bumihars of Bihar,Thevars of Tamil Nadu,Vokkaligas of Karnataka,Kshtriyas of Gujarat,Reddys of Andhra and such sects in every state are the primary dalit antagonits today. Clashes erupt between these sects and Dalits.In my living memory(thats say 15 years out of 23) I have not heard of a clash between Brahmins and Dalits in the physical sense. So that's one big misconception you have to remove from your minds forever.

    The origins of caste in Hindu Scriptures was dwelt at length by a legend in Indian Sociology who passed away recently,Srinivas. He virtually lived among every strata of the Indian community from varying caste groups trying to understand the economic implications of caste and trying to answer questions on its origin. He painfully documented experimental evidence spreading over decades and his conclusions were very interesting.he felt that the poorest and the illeterates were clubbed together to be called dalits.The landed and the learned categorized themselves as higher castes using the ambiguous scope for interpretation that the hindu scriptures provided. The most powerful way the illeterate/poor masses could be kept in subjugation forever was by invoking religion. The pattern became a norm centuries back. He infact went ahead to suggest that the vedas might have been tampered/re-written to achive this purpose but could offer no conclusive proof for this. On another level he felt that the categorization into castes either by birth, action or profession is highly ambiguous in hindu religion. In other words hinduism lacked a central authority who could interpret scriptures to correctly define caste. This was exploited to the hilt in subjugating the illiterate & poor by saying that they have to remain untouchables by birth by virtue of the Hindu religion. He further points out that most converts to islam from india starting with the 12th century were the ones in the middle group of castes--a phenomenon caused predominantly by the fear of losing life,property & previleges to the invaders. It was their way of gaining the invaders trust.The Dalits were largely excluded from the conversion process as they were treated as mere appurtenances of the landed gentry.He traced the growth of Islam in India from the 12th century largely to the fact that most of the original converts came from the middle castes.They had the money,stamina and power to influence more groups. Their birth rates were high and mortality rates were better than the lower castes.And they had the resources to survive and cultivate a strong progeny. So contary to popular belief the most oppressed classes were not the one's to embrace Islam.

    As regards to the anti-brahmin bias you would find in most websites that discuss caste, the paradigm originated with the dravidian movement of Periyar in Tamil Nadu.Now Periyar was a strong leader who genuiely desired that the people lived egalitarian lives in terms of their social stauts,economic power and political empowerment. He felt that the biggest obstacle to this goal was religion(any religion not just hinduism) and since the majority were hindus he decided that hinduism was evil. He wanted the people to shun all beliefs that went with it inorder to prosper and wanted his followers to embrace atheism. He felt that the best way to get rid of hinduism was to get rid of the Brahmin. target him and break his back. The other castes would follow automatically. Thus the Brahmin was a mere symbol in periyar's quest for building a society free of religion. Periyar strongly beleived that if religion goes,people would divert their thinking to education and scientific temper would grow. This in turn would lead the fulfillment of his avowed goals. You should note here that if say there was a periyar in Pakistan today,the equivalent strategy would have been to get rid of Prophet Muhammad. He would have simply demonized him,whatever the merits/de-merits of his message. So don't get carried away with anti-brahmin bias. He merely repreents a symbol of periyar's athiest goals.

    Peace,and I'll join the discussion if I do get cogent responses.


    As good as it gets

    sundaram you right brahmins not directly
    involved in opressing dalits since
    most of them urbanised and moved to
    professional class at least in south.
    urbanisation and industrlisation will
    be only way this feudalistic practises
    will end. in united states indutrial north
    were free from slavery as oppsoed to south.

    about peryiar even though he is anti-brahmin
    he once said he will not rent house to non-brahmins because brahmins faithfully pay rent on time. he only aethist in public
    when he goes home he used to pray. he was more against cast aspect of religen.

    Casteism was mainly responsible for making the country weak in the past and in the present. It is the greatest enemy of the country. I do not know ho long I will live, but I would not have lived invain if I could end casteism in my lifetime.
    - Jawaharlal Nehru

    __________________________________________________ _______________

    [This message has been edited by rvikz (edited February 24, 2002).]


      Brahmins are sitting ducks for this kind of thing in a way.
      Can you imagine Thakurs or Gaudas or Reddys or any other forward Caste being criticized the same way Brahmins are?

      Another fact is pointed out. Brahmins no longer are the land owning class.
      Caste is more alive in Rural areas.
      Who cares what your Caste is in Bombay?

      Also, Tamilnadu's Anti-Brahmin, Pro Tamilian movement seems to have become self-contradictory didn't it?

      The biggest leader turned out to be MGR , a Malayali. His successor is a Brahmin, Jayalalitha!!

      In the ultimate analysis Merit prevails.
      However many positions you keep Brahmins out of , in the GOvernment, you can't stop them in the private Industry!!


        it is very difficult and complex problem
        in dealing with quota system.
        take a hypothetical situation:
        100 people apply for medical seats
        50 brahmins qualify purely on merit
        and rest of them goes to other castes.
        that kind of imbalance is very hard to maintain in a society that is 95% non-brahmin. so there should be a balanced
        approach that combine qualified people
        at the same time it also represent larger
        section of the community.

        [This message has been edited by rvikz (edited February 25, 2002).]


          Well, rvikz Tamil Nadu is the only state that went overboard in Reservation Policies.
          Andhra goes for 50-50 policies mostly. That is 50 in Merit and 50 reserved!!