The caste system has been the most vilified aspect of Hindu society at the hands of Western scholars. And this has greatly contributed to India’s lack of national pride, as you hardly find any Indian who is not ashamed of caste, especially if he talks to a Westerner.
Much of this shame originated with the idea that it was the Aryans who devised the caste system. And thus English missionaries and later, American preachers, were able to convert tribes and low caste Hindus by telling them : ” you, the aborigines, the tribals, the Harijans, are the original inhabitants of India, and you should discard Hinduism, the religion of the Aryans and embrace, Christianity, the true religion”.
Thus was born the great Aryan invasion theory, of two civilisations, that of the low caste Dravidians and the high caste Aryans, always pitted against each other – which has endured, as it is still today being used by some Indian politicians. It has also been enshrined in all history books – Western, and unfortunately also Indian, although all the latest linguistic, archaeological and satellite mapping, show that there never was an Aryan invasion. This theory has also made Indians look westwards, instead of taking pride in their past and present achievements.
Yet, once upon a time, caste was an arrangement for the distribution of functions in society, just as much as class in Europe, but the principle on which this distribution was based was unique and adapted to India’s social needs. It is true that the caste system degenerated and that it bred exploitation and abuses, which were often unforgivable. But look at today: it is the Brahmins who have become the Dalits of India. Brahmins are in minority in most of the UP villages, where Dalits constitute 60 to 65%; most of the intellectual Brahmin Tamil class has emigrated outside Tamil Nadu; the average income of Brahmins is less than that of non-Brahmins; a high percentage of Brahmin students drop out at the intermediate level ; 75% of domestic help and cooks in Andhra Pradesh are Brahmins; and most of Delhi’s public toilets are cleaned by Brahmins (Brahmins of India by J. Radhakrishna, published by Chugh Publications, 2007).
It is also true that India has been trying to get away from the caste system in the last 60 years. And with some success: it is difficult today to distinguish the upper caste from the Dalit, in a plane, an hotel or shopping mall. The Government has also implemented many schemes that did successfully empower the lower castes both at the educational and social level, even if this system has sometime been perverted. But the people who demand today a caste census, do not want it to alleviate caste and poverty. They want it because in today’s India, It is enough to have the voices of the Muslims and the Dalits to be elected. It is at best a cynical ploy, and at worst one that will hurt India and divide her more and more as the British had wished.
What is sure is that if there is a caste census, the greatest sufferers will be the ‘other’ non-Dalit Hindus, who constitute nearly 40% of the Hindu community (unfortunately they are hopelessly divided). Indeed, we live today in an India where Hindus, the overwhelming majority of this country, are treated like an inconsequential minority. An India, where it’s ok to free the two Muslims convicted by the Mumbai police for helping in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, but where Swami Nityananda, a grownup adult, who had consensual sex with a grown-up woman, is thrown in jail. An India, where the so called-Hindu terrorists of Malgaon, or Ajmer, languish in prison without ever having been convicted. An India where the word of a Guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, revered by millions, is doubted by the Government of India, whedn he says there has been an attempt on him. An India, where many institutions have been subverted by the Government to the point that in exchange for Mayawati’s support in the recent cut motion, the CBI lifted all cases against her. An India which is supposed to be the largest democracy in the world, but where phones are tapped, where politicians who take thousands of crores as bribes, get away with it, and where people are scared to speak aloud. An India where Sir Mark Tully (who most definitely wrote Hindutva, Sex & Adventures), is considered an icon of ‘fair’ journalism, whereas, when he was BBC’s correspondent, he set standards in reporting on South Asia, which still stand today and harm India’s image. Even though since the mid-eighties, Pakistan encouraged, financed, trained and armed Kashmiri separatism, Tully always made it a point to say: “India accuses Pakistan to foster separatism in Kashmir”; or :”elections are being held in Indian- held Kashmir”; or “Kashmir militants ” have attacked an army post, instead of “terrorists”. All the other foreign journalists, yesterday and today have followed the BBC’s benchmarks.
This hostile attitude, pioneered by the BBC, may have also partially influenced President Obama’s South Asia policy, whereas he thinks he can fight terror by making a frontline state of the very country which fosters 3/4th of the terror attacks in the world. He is also putting the screws on India so that it negotiates with Pakistan, even at the cost of compromising on its sovereignty in Kashmir. Mr Obama is finally pressuring Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to give-up India’s military nuclear programme, leaving her at the mercy of not only Pakistan’s, but also China’s formidable nuclear arsenal. The Government may have come to a secret agreement with the US on all these points.
Thus, we are slowly veering towards a subtle dictatorship that uses those Government tools such as the CBI or the judiciary, which should be independent, to further their own agendas. The caste census is just another ploy to subvert democracy in the name of democracy.