Caste: I am not, but I am


Anyone who even dabbles in academia, especially in the social sciences, would be wary of making a singular, essentialist statement about caste. Because, caste in contemporary India operates in several layers, constantly renegotiating their exertions with varying space and time. Socio-historical emplacement, political and economic disenfranchisement, aesthetic and racial overtones, and linguistic and symbolic violence are some of the layers that complexify the idea of caste in public discourse. Nevertheless, at the risk of being wordy and simplistic, I’ll try to present my understanding of caste in a way that is most relevant to an audience that browses through blogs like this. (In saying so, I do not mean to characterize the readers’ acumen one way or the other.)

Ideology vs. Social Reality

One of the primary attributes of caste is the identity it imparts on an individual. The identity is so rigid that even Marxist theorists have floundered in their assessments about caste. I have a friend who, at least according to him, grew up in an environment that allowed him to be oblivious of his caste identity. He wasn’t aware of his fellow students’ either. So caste, seemingly, played a minimal role in how he turned out. In one of our conversations I referred to him as a Brahmin and he objected to it. He said, “I don’t even know what it means to be a Brahmin and I don’t care if I am not one. Why do you want to make that association still?”

While many of us may not identify ourselves with any caste (or religion) anymore, we cannot ignore that it’s only in principle, and our actions as we understand it. My friend may have been unaware of his caste himself, but the environment probably wasn’t. Privilege is a relative idea that needs be situated to appreciate it. He, to a slightly lesser extent, I and a lot of us are privileged in that we were not made to sit out of class rooms, served tea in a separate tumbler, denied entry into a temple, and patronized by the government – some of the many forms of oppression the lower-caste individuals go through.

Being in this privileged position enables us to form a worldview that is often devoid of critical assessment of power structures that bind us. For we are not at the bottom of the pyramid; status quo, as long as it enables our mobility, is not a problem [1]. We make every reason to defend the substructures – like religious dogma, morality, partisan ethics, “merit” etc. – that limit the access to power to the others. The most disturbing aspect of this equation is the upper caste rhetoric that tries to conceal the underlying ruthless, ant-colony behaviour [2].

I remember a lecture during which one of my professors spoke about the time she realized she was white. She probably knew she was white all along, but it took that one moment to remind her how she’s different from the black or the brown. As she put it, “the realization didn’t change my race, but it urged me to racialize more issues.” The same applies to caste and a society where castes exist. I may detest my caste now, but I still would not be able to divorce the privilege it rendered – from within and by others – in the past and it may in future. We cannot stop “drawing casteist lines” until social reality re-orients itself with the ideology in pursuit.

The Social Brahmin

Who is a Brahmin? If I were to present an apologetic/defensive case, I would probably cite verses from the Gita or numerous other scriptures. I might even use a carefully concocted narrative that makes it all seem perfectly reasonable – as in Cho’s Enge Brahamanan. But a moral hierarchy is inherently problematic for any academic, whether he/she is a Marxist or a post modernist. The existentialist quest to be the “superior” – irrespective of the means and accessibility to the said quest – is of negligible importance.

What is important is the status of the social Brahmin (just like the social Hindu). Cho Ramaswamy, for instance, has often said that he is not a Brahmin because he doesn’t possess the “superior” qualities of one. I have seen many bloggers and other "internet individuals" take a similar stance. Quite ironically though, they have also mentioned “I’m a Brahmin by birth” elsewhere. Regardless of what their stance is, the priest in a temple would probably not recall Cho’s theoretical distancing from a Brahmin; and my light skinned friend is likely to get a better reception when he steps into an Alwarpet music store than I would.

These are only relatively subtle elements that elevate the social Brahmin. A theoretically rigorous and academic approach would delineate several factors – disputing the myths of cultural and racial superiority – that contribute to ‘the Brahmin success story’. It would be redundant for me to argue why there are more Brahmins in the elite educational institutions of India or why there is a disproportionate number of Brahmins abroad. So I can never sympathize, at least not as seriously, with a Brahmin who claims to be a social victim of some kind.

The "Excess"

Power and exploitation become central to any ideology if it can lend enough credence to its chastity. Brahminism, as an ideology that propagates rigid, hierarchical structures based on piety, vocation and its modern variants, is at the core of the caste system. It has been appropriated and re-asserted by several castes over several hundred years – the prominent ones being Gounder, Thevar, Chettiyar and lately Vanniyar. It may seem as if scholars, mainstream writers and bloggers ‘attack’ Brahmins more than other castes. But their ubiquitous presence in various media, quite ironically, is the very reason for the seemingly excessive criticism. There are more members from the Brahmin community defending some form of Brahminism in written media – mainstream or otherwise – than any other. Among all the upper castes it’s the Brahmins, at least in my observation, who are the least invisible in urban areas.

Frankly, I do not see any reason to tone down the criticism of someone who has the insolence to claim an essentialist, oppressive identity in public space – be it Brahmins or other upper-castes. What we need is not a reduction in censuring Brahmins, but increase in including Gounders, Thevars and Vanniyars. For the latter hold Brahminism not only in principle but execute it with utmost vengeance. The treatment of these castes in media like cinema – especially in movies like Chinna Gounder, Thevar Magan etc. – is reflective of the appalling insensibility that Tamils as a society have engendered.

If anyone is outraged by what’s been said so far because he/she belongs to a particular caste, he/she should ask himself/herself, “why do I care?”

--------------------------------------------------

[1] – Contrast the protestors, dressed in trek shoes and jeans, against the quota system with Dalits in tattered clothes protesting for basic human rights. The state’s indifference to either of them is a different issue in itself.

[2] - Upper in upper caste cannot be put in quotes because we are referring to a system in which hierarchy is intrinsic. To argue that all castes are equal -- by using quotes -- is flawed considering what constitutes caste.

36 comments:

murthy said...

I was quite intrigued to see what you're going to say. You've come far more critical of Brahmins than I anticipated. I thought you'll try to explain yourself that you've been mistaken or something, but I am so glad you didn't relent.

This is probably one of your most complex posts. I had to read it thrice to catch up with everything you've packed in this post. But I think you should have taken the time to elaborate on some of the areas. It's long post anyway, you might as well have been more detailed.

You're right, realizing that you are privileged will at least widen your world view and bring some humility about your so called achievements.

Anonymous said...

yaaaaaaawn

Anonymous said...

suresh,

really well written. i'll wait and post a longer comment later.

anon: let me guess, you're a brahmin male?

SD

mrcritic said...

The problem for me in this post starts with the title.

We don't choose the mother tongue,nation, or to whom we are born. So the second part of the title "but I am" still shows that the deconstruction of caste image (not by you but) by your surroundings may never happen! And that is the reality piece missing in this post and in the moderate hindu post.

Even though you announce to the world I'm not such and such, people will be waiting to label you as an "abimani" because of your birth (In Ideology Vs Reality section this is missing). Take the case of Vanjinathan, Poet Bharthi etc... they are being blemished by Dravida Party just because they are Brahmins.

Though it is true that privileged position blinds a person to social realities that are rarely reported on media, but caste, religion or language becomes so second nature to a human being they will always defend it no matter how absurd the defense may sound! Unless they renounce the notion of a "belief" system.

However every human wants a belief system - it could be science, it could be nature or the higher power. All belief systems have ups and downs. For example science can help make you fly but it can also create a hiroshima. So it depends what a person takes. In that case if some one is going to defend science will you label him/her apologetic?

---> Right now the politics played by Dravida team is "Eye for an Eye", if this is the case no wonder there will be an increase in Brahmins in the US.

----> In addition to whatever I have said, there is nothing wrong in criticizing brahminism and it is the need of the hour. TREAT PEOPLE LIKE HUMANS! However in 50 years of dravidian rule in the TN state who should be blamed for people still working in menial jobs, is it the "upper" caste or the GOVERNMENT?

mrcritic said...

One piece missing in my previous comment:

The caste identity, rituals and superstitious beliefs are for more strongly rooted among the "lower castes", at least not less than the "upper castes".

Just try convincing "them" not a feed milk to the snake or not to run on the fire bed, then we will know difficult it is to deconstruct these belief system.

Suresh said...

Murthy,

I did want to make the post a bit more detailed, but the topic is such that no amount detail would make it "detailed". So I re-edited the post to bring it close to 100 words. Besides, the benefit of blogs is in using the comments space to fill up whatever you couldn't say in the post.

SD - thanks.

Murali,

This is what the title means: I'm not a Gounder, but I am "privileged" (this is irrespective how others see me).

Proclamation of an identity is a complex idea and it carries different meanings depending on who does it and when it's done. When I say I was a Gounder, I say it with some guilt and shame.

If someone read some of my pro-Hindu posts from 3, 4 years ago, he/she could accuse me of being an upper-caste mouthpiece. At that point, all I can say is, "yes, you're right and I'm sorry about it." Only my recent posts can vindicate me, at least partially, from that accusation. Not stubborn polemics.

It's a common practice, especially in ethnography, for scholars to identify themselves as white/black/English/Dutch etc., to acknowledge possible shades of prejudice and bias in their work. This in spite of their best efforts to be "objective". Other's accusation of possible bias, especially when it's self contained, cannot be ignored simply because they have an agenda. We can probably try to be nuanced in dissecting their lives (by contextualizing it), but some facts would be the same.

I can recommend you some books/articles if you're interested. But for now, I'll just cite a passage from this page . I also think exploring the ideas and scholars mentioned in the page would be worthwhile.

-quote-
Essentialism is the belief that language has an essential meaning; that there is a concrete, stable, unchanging, meaning for a term such as “British” or “Canadian”. Spivak believes that words take on their meanings through usage and discursive power; that language is arbitrary, and therefore disagrees strongly with the term essentialism. Spivak stresses that “... we must of course remind ourselves, our positivist feminist colleagues in charge of creating the discipline of women’s studies, and our anxious students, that essentialism is a trap.” She underlines this because of the limited thinking that comes with essentialism; it is the basis for exclusion and exploitation. Spivak also states that it is impossible to be completely non-essentialist, therefore essentialism is something to which the individual is committed even when rhetorically rejecting it. It is with this in mind that Spivak introduces strategic essentialism. A strategy is different from a theory - it is not general but directed, combative and particular to a situation. Although Spivak rejects essentialism, she also recognizes the importance of using it from time to time to obtain her goals. This is a strategy, and encompasses her concept of strategic essentialism. An example of this is that in order to make an argument regarding the “East”, Spivak must first acknowledge that there is a stable meaning for the “West”. If Spivak denies that there is an essential “West”, than there is no way that she will have any basis for argument.
-unquote-

I think you have a very reductionist and distorted understanding of many of the issues you've raised in your comments. They also hijack what the post puts up for discussion. I'll try to address them in a different post if they ever become relevant.

Anonymous said...

oru maanum puriyala

Sharepoint the Great said...

நல்ல பதிவு.
உங்கள் பதிவுகளில் உங்கள் கருத்து நன்றாகப் பளிச்சிடுகிறது.

நன்றிகள்

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தமிழ்நெஞ்சம் said...

Hi. I like your thougts and ideas..




Thanks

வடுவூர் குமார் said...

என்ன ஒரு அருமையான பதிவு!!
sharepoint சுட்டி கொடுத்திருந்தார்.
இன்னும் சிலமுறை ஆழ்ந்துபடிக்க வேண்டும்.

Anonymous said...

Excellent suresh. Keep up the good work. I'm sure a lot of casteists (especially brahmins), would not be able to appreciate this. I think it's because they are like fish in a sea. Fish does not know that its in a sea, until it gets a chance to jump out and have a look. Our brahmins, never get that chance and are thoroughly unaware of their racism throughout their life.
Others like thevars,vanniars,gounders etc. know such a thing exists, but they are more scoundrels than brahmins because, knowingly they practise racism against dalits.

Suresh said...

வடவூர், Sharepoint & தமிழ் நெஞ்சம் - நன்றி

Anon - Indeed, both your points are quite in place.

mrcritic said...

Fine Suresh, I may have condensed or reduced the content of my explanation to derive the result. But as the "new incident" which you pointed out as no coincidence is the simple reason to point that the situation in TN is "Eye for an Eye".

I did go through the links on post modernism and post colonialism. Here I would like to say that you are doing the same mistake that Arundhathi Roy is doing. That is by applying a western concept to Indian situation. You may rubbish it as distorted comment but you will soon come to the realization of the gaps in applying these concepts in the Indian context.

Hope that piece of reconstruction works on you!

Hawkeye said...

Suresh,

Your post makes sense at many levels. But at certain levels, I begin to disagree. Its hard for me to articulate it but I'll try my best.

You have ignored the "merit" of each issue that is independent of external factors and exists within itself. The truth. All your argumments presuppose that one's arguments are always influenced by his caste (with or without his knowledge). Even if its true - it should be moot. Every issue has its own "thanmai". The "thanmai" has its own truth, regardless of how others interpret it. That truth should prevail regardless of who is arguing for it or against it. That is the criteria you should use to make your own judgements.

Essentially a recap of the "mei porul kaanbathu aridhu" kural (which is an excellent kural btw).

Your post (and many others) shows that you have moved from the level of "thanmai" (the central factors)to the level of the "stakeholders" (tangential factors) and are judging the "thanmai" based on the caste of those stakeholders. Its broken at that place.

You are trying to approach a solution to a problem using the wrong tools.

P.S:

1. If you get into the existential question of what motivates me to disagree at all - maybe it is because of my caste. Who knows? As per your post says - one is unaware of the extent of his caste's influence - so motiovations are moot here. lets not discuss that.

2. Don't apologize for your past posts already. Life is a long marathon. Not a sprint. Unless you stick to an opinion just for the ego of it - you can safely assume that you will change your mind on most of your current opinions too.

Suresh said...

Bharath,
//All your argumments presuppose that one's arguments are always influenced by his caste (with or without his knowledge).// - I disagree. But I'll try to read the post again to see if I've meant this anywhere. (Or you can quote, if it's a particular line/passage that made you think so.)

Meanwhile, I'll clarify, just in case. My argument is that being a part of caste, depending upon the case, makes you privileged or underprivileged. I didn't say that being privileged will make it impossible to see things otherwise. For I consider myself as an example that proves it (even though one can question the authenticity of my politics). I think the post is quite clear on this:
"Being in this privileged position enables us to form a worldview that is often devoid of critical assessment of power structures that bind us. For we are not at the bottom of the pyramid; status quo, as long as it enables our mobility, is not a problem [1]"

The post basically tries to problematize the sense of superiority and entitlement that many upper caste people exude. It also tries to posit why status quo is desirable for many. It doesn't try to find "solutions".

Deconstruction's primary problem is with the notion that there is an inherent truth in everything, while truth, "thanmai" are almost always human constructs. Life is not full of arithmetic setups; A and B cannot replicate results by applying the same values.

Besides "thanmai" is irrelevant. That's what I've tried to present under the 'The Social Brahmin' section. One can lecture me about what the scriptures "actually" say and how it's been misinterpreted/distorted by its practitioners, but I'll still have a problem with the "purest" form of "thanmai".


This page
makes for a very interesting read on both thanmai (essence) and truth:
--quote--
Derrida's deconstructive attack on what he calls "logocentrism" is liberating in that, among other things, it frees us from the tyranny of two particularly insidious notions which, from the beginning, have dominated philosophy: the notions of totality and essence.

The notion of "totality," i.e, the idea that reality is One, and is, consequently, the proper object of a Unified Science, is oppressive because it invariably leads to the suppression of all sorts of loose ends to things (and to people) which cannot or will not (which refuse) to be fittled neatly into the System.
….
The notion of "essence" is also oppressive and fully merits being deconstructed. "Essence" is the grounding notion of philosophical science, the that-without-which it could not be. Science or Knowledge is, by definition, the knowing of what something is (its "whatness" [quidditas] or essence). The metaphysical presupposition behind this epistemic endeavor is that a thing is indeed just precisely what it is and not something else; essentialism upholds the rule of the Principle of Identity, the cornerstone of logocentrism.
--unquote--

It's up to you do decide whether or not it's a coincidence that you have a certain view and your belonging to a certain caste. Only you have a psychoanalytic view of your life's trajectory. And as far the post in concerned, this realization -- about caste, race etc. -- is quite crucial for one's political views.

I didn't apologize as much as I felt sorry. But I might as well apologize, regardless of whether my views are going to change in future.

Sudhir said...

Recently, I happened to find myself interviewing some middle-aged fellow in Triplicane who teaches the Rig Veda to youngsters here and apparently, was doing a 'good job' of it. I am normally very prejudiced against such people, for, I, more or less, know the kind of people that teach these Brahminical scriptures and what their take is on castes and where 'we' stand in the caste ladder. It was disgusting to find him be exactly the kind I wished I didn't have to talk to. He was against teaching the vedas to people from other castes and wished to go back to the ages when the Brahmin was only a 'poor' priest. Ironically, having to abide to the rules of being part of a newspaper, there's only so much I could argue with the fellow (knowing fully well that it was all 'pointless'). If these are the kind of people that are propagating the Vedas and their meanings, I will be very surprised to see a future generation of Brahmins having a different view of the caste ladder from what is espoused by most.
And don't even get started on how embarrassing it is for a person like me to visit a friend (MBC) and having his mom say, "Oh, you're a Brahmin? He was saying. Please, please, sit on the chair and eat. Also, do you want me to get some plastic plates from outside?"
!
Of course, I'm hardly suffering as much as an oppressed Dalit does. But well, maybe that's why she/he has people sympathising and arguing for her/him. I guess I have to put up with being categorised as a Brahmin. It's probably like being labelled a liar even though you aren't one, for classificational purposes and having to explain to every new person that even though you are a liar, you don't like lying.

Suresh said...

The page I tried to link in my previous comment (on truth and essence).
http://www.focusing.org/apm_papers/madison2.html

RV said...

One point.

I am one of those who always identify myself as an Iyer before posting a comment. My reasons happen to be different.

I am new to the blog space and I frequently see posts/replies which will simply assume that I am a brahmin (I am born of the Iyer caste) and start bashing my motivation instead of answering points. So I started mentioning my caste as the first point whenever I post something about Tamil Nadu. Makes it easier for people to start bashing me up - they don't have to waste time reading what I wrote.

Recently, I forgot to mention it in a comment I posted on Shri Rudran's blog - bang came the reply talking about my genotype. It is amazing!

Just wanted to point out that there are other alternative, valid (at least to me) reasons to proclaim the caste in which one is born.

Anonymous said...

how come you stopped giving 'fitting' replies to morons like murali and now this guy RV?

Dr.Rudhran said...

[2] - Upper in upper caste cannot be put in quotes because we are referring to a system in which hierarchy is intrinsic. To argue that all castes are equal -- by using quotes -- is flawed considering what constitutes caste.

i would never care for the genotype of someone who can think like this. well written and neat.

Hawkeye said...

(disclaimer: i am travelling and unfortunately cant do justice to this post or your comment. here is what I can respond in a single 5-minute go)

/* One can lecture me about what the scriptures "actually" say and how it's been misinterpreted/distorted by its practitioners, but I'll still have a problem with the "purest" form of "thanmai". */


1. I was not going for "thanmai" of scriptures. I was going for the essense that is inherent in every issue that two people might debate on.

2. My reference to thanmai did not presuppose that "thanmai" = goodness/agreeable. Let us asusme for a moment that the article you linked is 100% true and everything is an "interpretation". And truth is just a function of different moving parts. If we reached an interpretation of *that* "thanmai" ourselves without the coloring of others - then
that should be enough to agree or disagree.

3. My problem is when people decide on the "thanmai" purely based on who is arguing for/against it. One's pursuit of knowledge should be more rigorous than that.

On the larger argument of "thanmai". It is unfortunate that all the "thinking" that has been done by people living in the indian subcontinent on this subject has been buried under religion. The merging of philosophy and religion in this part of the world is an atrocious loss of knowledge.

On the larger issue of Dalit & castes. You know, having lived in nellai maavattam and having seen this in a much magnified reality, I wish I could help to change something. Somehow stop this. But I know I can't. I foresee all of India being either muslim or christian in another 60 years - maybe it will happen then. Or maybe not.

Suresh said...

Bharath,

I had mentioned scriptures only as an example. I have issues with the notion of "essence", "truth" and "knowledge" even otherwise. It's not that I always use them quotes, but I try to be aware that they are loaded terms and cannot be used rigidly to drive a philosophical point.

I do agree that very often the appropriators of an idea/ideology/philosophical school of though etc., are taken for what's appropriated by them. Classic example: communism = Stalin = Gulag, genocide etc.
I understand what you're saying.

Nevertheless, there are issues that overwhelm perspectives other the one presented by social reality. For example -- sorry for repeating -- most Brahmins on a good day would say that no one becomes a Brahmin by birth, it's acquired (and that anyone can become one if they "tried"). But the same people will also claim that they are born Brahmins. I don't know if they are making a conscious, nuanced distinction between theology and social reality or just being airheads who don't know what they are talking about. It's probably the ambiguity why people don't care whether or not they represent the "thanmai".

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer: This is not a reply in the strictest connotation of the word. Much of what is here is not related to the actual post, but thoughts related to the broader subject of the post.

Why is that our Tamilian thoughts, debates and political atmosphere is saturated with Caste? Caste is a nation wide phenomenon but I do not think it paints as bold a stroke in the meme of any other state as in Tamil nadu.

Perhaps the problem with philosophy is that there is no end to arguments back and forth - peel one layer and there will be another layer of thought to analyze and argue about.

Simply put, every person has a freedom to be a casteist, racist or whatever he or she wants to be. It is also in out right to say that is ridiculous.

But, before we take a holier than thou attitude towards these "idiots", let us however analyze a little bit. We are all predujiced. We adore beautiful people (how much control does one have over that), intelligence (again a factor of genetics) and sometimes revere sportsmen and filmstars beyond what they deserve. All the while, we look down upon so many good, honest humble people for reasons nothing to do with caste.

This is not to apologize for the casteists, but just to point out that strictly speaking, judging s inherently filled with prejudice. But, of course, we cannot help it.

I am not going to lie and say that a casteist thought has never come to my mind (and casteist means that a dalit judging a thevar to be arrognat when he does not know that person and vice versa). It has, plenty of times. Casteist, racist thoughts, dark thoughts filled with prejudice and sometimes even hatred. If we are honest with ourselves, perhaps many of us will agree. But, the answer lies in choice. I choose to ignore them, I choose to know that these are not good thoughts - but come into me because of perhaps eveolution on the African plains when we were monkeys, when sting bonding with one sect of monkeys meant access to food and mates, and are of no relevance to the present.

Human beings were flawed, and are flawed. It comes with the model, sorry. The only way any society can make progress is the acknolwedge that and move forward.

It is right of the few to discriminate seriously based on caste - their right to hate. We cannot take that away from them. In real life, even in the caste hate filled atmosphere of Tamil Nadu, I find people of all sects to have the lovely intrinsic good in them.

If we choose to talk about real problems more than these for a change and just let people who want to be casteist be casteist, in fact encourage them saying it is their God given right to a bad choice, but we think it is repulsive, it will reduce.

BTW, what caste I am is pretty unimportant - if you are thinking what caste I am, to quote the author of the post, why do you care?

murhty said...

As the comment above says, most of you are idiots. RV, bmurali and now this anon are some fine examples for that. What's puzzling is why they won't shut up instead of leaving stupid comments on matters they have little grasp of.

Prasad Venkataramana said...

Anon wrote:
I'm sure a lot of casteists (especially brahmins), would not be able to appreciate this. I think it's because they are like fish in a sea. Fish does not know that its in a sea, until it gets a chance to jump out and have a look. Our brahmins, never get that chance and are thoroughly unaware of their racism throughout their life.
Others like thevars,vanniars,gounders etc. know such a thing exists, but they are more scoundrels than brahmins because, knowingly they practise racism against dalits.

One of the few anonymous comments that revels in brevity & insight. Thanks.

Suresh said...

Anon - Comment deleted. If you didn't save the text elsewhere and need it for pasting it in a different blog I'll mail it to you.

Anonymous said...

Why would I post anywhere else? I am not attacking any community. I just pointed out flaws in your blog while bashing you just like you point out flaws in the society while bashing Brahmins.

You start of with the point - a privileged person may not be aware they are privileged - point taken. Right from there, you go about venting your feelings about Brahmins and coin a word Brahminism and encourage people to not stop censuring Brahmins - you have used the word Brahmins and Brahminism interchangeably and cleverly vented out your strong feelings towards Brahmins. You end with two statements which resonate with your initial point.

Though I have lot more to say, I think you are going to delete this comment too.. I would part with this - Judging someone by caste or religion or whatever privilege or under privilege is the worst thing you can do. Getting intimidated/instigated is a problem and a bigger problem.

Suresh said...

If you have lot more to say, please do. Because, what you've said so far has been quite stupid.

Anonymous said...

I give up Suresh. Peace.

Suresh said...

Cool, thanks.

Raj said...

Hi Suresh,

I stumbled across your blog when I was searching for a review of the movie 'Aval Appadithan' and boy what a discovery it has been. Apart from the fact that your review of the movie was very good, it also gave me a chance to see to go through your views on other topics. I cannot agree more with your views on many topics which you had discussed in your podcasts and writings. I admire your rational outlook on various issues.However, in one of your podcasts where you talk about self and inter caste marriage, you raised a view that the hindu religion was not as fundamentalist as the other ones and there was no need to abolish caste as long as it is regulated. I beg to differ with this view of yours. Personally, I feel that the hindu religion is one of the most rigid and vicious systems which has been set up with the sole purpose of creating inequality among its followers. Theists often proclaim that the purpose of religion is to elevate one's self and make him/her a more matured individual. The hindu religion is an exception to this. It thrives on the inequality it perpetuates among its followers. This doctrine is followed in each and every scripture and 'holy' book of this 'great' religion, including the Bhagavad Gita. There is no room for regulation in such a rigid system. To regulate such a system would mean to re-write the whole system which is impossible. A dalit can easily become a muslim or a christian if he wishes but never can he become a brahmin during his lifetime and however qualified he may be,he will still considered a outcaste within this system.

Keep up the good work.

Suresh said...

Raj,

Thanks.

I agree with your disagreement too. I've spoken about this a few times before and I've mentioned it in one of my comments for this post as well.
--quote--
If someone read some of my pro-Hindu posts from 3, 4 years ago, he/she could accuse me of being an upper-caste mouthpiece. At that point, all I can say is, "yes, you're right and I'm sorry about it." Only my recent posts can vindicate me, at least partially, from that accusation. Not stubborn polemics.
--unquote--

I don't if you thought if I still carried the same views (even after reading this post) or just wanted to mention that I had I said something else in the podcast.

Anyway, just wanted to clarify.

Raj said...

Suresh,

I actually heard the podcast after reading this article and noticed the contradiction in the views you expressed. Sorry, I didnt notice the date on the podcast.Now, I see where you are coming from.Does this also hold good for the views you had on muslims back then?

Suresh said...

My view on Muslims has changed quite a bit in that I situate their religiosity and their politics. I understand that their affinity to their religion is a product of othering more than anything else. I'm open to the possibility that there is a systemic bias against Muslims in India (I do think that there isn't enough research to establish this accurately). So if there is anger over being "left out", I understand that too.

In terms of nationality, I do not have any issue with Muslims or anyone if they don't feel like "Indians." I don't think everyone has to subscribe to a statehood.

So I don't have a right-wing kind of dislike for Muslims. But I do have a problem with Islam just like I do with Hinduism and other religions. Of course, the terms will vary.

Raj said...

According to me, the kind of bias against Muslims that prevails both in India as well as the west is a carefully constructed image by both the print and visual media. It enables the people in power to create a fear psychosis among the people so that no one questions their actions. A genocide in Gujarat or daily deaths in Iraq doesnt get the same/any coverage in the media as compared to a Mumbai/UK blasts. Atleast in India, this can be attributed to the fact that majority of the people in media are Hindus.I am not in any way trying to justify the killing of innocent civilians but a careful look will reveal that in most cases these activities occur as a reaction to atrocities committed by Hindus/West

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