ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT OF NON-BRAHMINS WOULD NEVER END CASTE ATROCITIES
Is economic disparity, the reason behind caste atrocities? Well, CPI-M secretary Sitaram Yechury, thinks so. Speaking at a conference held in Cuddalore to condemn honour killings, the Communist leader suggested economic empowerment of Dalits and backward castes to end caste atrocities without the basic understanding of caste dynamics.
Though he was well aware that he was standing on the soil, where the Dravidian movement has been struggling to destroy caste, he still holds, like many others, the view that economic inequality is behind caste oppression.
Even if one were to look into the recent cases of honor killings that sent shock waves across Tamil Nadu, one would realize the facts. In the 2013, the tragic love story of Ilavarasan and Dhivya from Dharmapuri, the girl was a caste Hindu and the boy a Dalit from Natham village. A fact finding team that went to the boy’s village after it was ravaged by a rioting mob of caste Hindus said in its report: “Natham had about 250 families, all Dalits.
Most houses were proper houses with cement concrete slabs or tiled roofs. Many had glazed tile flooring, some even with granite. Most were well furnished with sofa sets, steel almirahs and had cycles and motorbikes…Over the years, the dalits with their hard work accumulated money and built good houses and generally improved their living standard.”
Eminent persons like Yechury, who talk about economic disparity alone behind caste atrocities, should also know that in the honour killing at Andipalayam village near Sethiathope in Cuddalore district in September 2015, the murderer was a village headman, which means he was not impoverished. In that case, 66-year-old Veersamy murdered his grand daughter Ramanidevi, who had fallen in love with a boy belonging to another caste. This was after he was teased by some persons.
According to the village people, “Veersamy was like village-head (Nattamai) of Andipalayam. He used to settle civil disputes and other problems that arose in that area. A day before the murder , Veerasamy went to resolve a local dispute at the area. There a few persons reportedly teased him saying that he was unable to control his family itself as his granddaughter had fallen in love with a boy from another caste. This had virtually provoked Veersamy that led to the killing of his granddaughter.”
Coming to the most recent incident in Thiruchengode, where a Dalit youth, Gokulraj is suspected to have been killed by Yuvaraj, a leader of a local community. The deceased youth is an engineering graduate.
In all these cases of honor killings, caste pride played a dominant role. Economic status was not the reason for these murders.
History, however, is replete with several instances on how economic affluence did not prevent Brahmins from discriminating people from other castes
Well known Justice party leader, Pitti Theagarayar, who was born in a wealthy mercantile family, was deprived of the honour and respect at the festival of Kabaleeswarar temple though he had donated Rs10,000 for the festivities in 1916, just because he was a non-Brahmin. In the same event, ordinary Brahmins from economically poorer background were given due respect and seated in a gallery much closer to the deity.
About 25 years ago, the famous film Music Director Ilayaraja was not allowed to hold a concert in front of the Ranganathar temple at Srirangam. Ilayaraja had donated Rs 8 lakhs for the construction of the temple Gopuram and was booked for a musical concert along with his brother Gangai Amaran. However, the Brahmins did not allow Ilayaraja to perform in front of the Gopuram. Consequently, Ilayaraja boycotted the concert, which was conducted by Gangai alone.
Perhaps Yechury has not heard about the incident, in which one of the boys of Cheranmadevi Gurukulam reported to Periyar about separate dining arrangements in the Gurukulam for the non-brahmin and the Brahmin students. One of the Non Brahmin boys was none other than the relative of the former Chief Minister Omanthur Ramasamy. Periyar was in Congress then. He vigorously opposed the practice and urged the Congress to stop funding the Gurukulam, which was started by V V S Aiyar in the 1920s.
The Marxists might have come a long way from the times of E M S Nambudiripad, who in 1952, referred to the caste as the ‘brahminical scheme of division of labor and reconceptualized ‘the idea of caste as having played a historical role in organizing production in such a way that it promoted the development of both individual skills as well as a regional culture’. Yet, Yechury seems to be stuck with economic inequality being the cause for oppression.
Dravidian leaders have been pointing out that “Asking for wage-hike for the non-brahmin workers, who are not rationalists, is of no use to them. What did those workers do with the surplus money they earned ? They donated it to the temples or spent it for rituals ultimately benefitting the Brahmins.”
Justice party leader TM Nair said “The Brahmins toiled not, neither did they spin. The sweated slaves supplied them with everything, and they in their turn cultivated spirituality.” P. Ramarayaningar, speaking in the first conference of the non-brahmin movement in 1917, charged the upper crust of non-Brahmins, saying: “They devote their superfluous wealth to building temples, establishing choultries for feeding the able-bodied idlers of a particular community (Brahmins) and to other equally unproductive purposes.”
MSS Pandian, in his book Brahmin and Non-Brahmin, mentions several other instances like these and points out that colonialism did not alter in any fundamental way the old relationship between the production of surplus by non-brahmins and its appropriation by the Brahmins.
Former vice-chancellor of Madras University N T Sundaravadivel also argued that it was only the Hindu religion (we could read it as Brahminical customs and rituals) of wasting huge quantity of food products including edible oil in the name of religious practices.
In Bunch of Thoughts, M S Golwalkar mentioned an incident narrated by Lala Hardayal. In the South, there was an English officer. His assistant was a local person, probably a Naidu. The orderly of that Englishman was a Brahmin. One day, when this Englishman was walking in a street, followed by his orderly, the assistant came from the opposite side. The two officers greeted each other and shook hands. But when the assistant officer saw the orderly, he took off his turban and touched his feet.
It is time the Marxists understand that to put an end to caste system and honor killings, we have to fight against the Brahminical hegemony.
CATHOLICS AGAINST AN ENGLISH DRAMA
Whatever the religious denomination is, a man is a man wherever he is. He is subject to Nature. He cannot totally negate and absolutely abstain from congenital qualities such as mercy, pity, passion and love, not excluding conjugal love and connubial pleasures. Any religion that prohibits these is bound to fail in its objectives.
Ancient Hindu religion allowed renunciation and Sainthood only at the fag end of one’s own life-after giving up family bond such as wife, children and domestic bliss. Somewhere in the middle has come the habit of seeking Sanyasa in bachelorhood itself culminating in the Sankaracharyas and various other Swamiyars choose the wrong side of a blanket.
No less is the offence committed by Roman Catholic pontiffs and nuns. Their Clandestine sexual relationships, resistance, coercion and even murders take place and their behind – the scene crimes do not come to the surface.
All are buried within the four walls of nunnery. Culprits escape under the garb of religious freedom and secrecy. Nothwithstanding such secrecy, an information has leaked out in New York in 1977 that a Roman Catholic nun has given birth to a girl baby. How can it be unless there is an illicit relationship of the nun with somebody inside or outside? This is how the futility of celibate life has been miserably exposed.
The true story of this nun has been dramatised by John Pielmeier, an American playwright in 1982. One Vinay Verma in Hyderabad has adapted the play entitled the Agnes of God and planned it to be staged at a theatre in Banjara Hills, Hyderabad. Bishopric circles in Hyderabad are up in arms and made a hue and cry requesting the Chief Minister and Police Commissioner to ban the play.
Instead of being ashamed of this exposure of a mere humbug of renunciation and celibacy, the Archdiocese of Hyderabad pleading for a ban of the play is ridiculous. Let them understand that freedom of expression ensured by the Indian Constitution cannot easily be flouted. Freedom of writing and speaking is as much sacrosanct as their freedom of religious belief.