'Uncorrupt' Clowns

In an interview with Gnani, S.Ve. Shekher told that he believed in spirits and that he communicates with his dad's spirit regularly. Later when Shekar spoke about this political ambitions and how he would run things, Gnani quipped, "how are you going to do things differently? By taking advice from your guides in the spirit world?" It didn't even seem funny because of the things Shekher had said until then. That was then, now this:

Why should they not get reservation? In Tamil Nadu, 69 per cent of the people get reservation and ninety five per cent of people enjoy some kind of reservation except the forward community. Where is social justice? There are over 40 lakh Brahmins in Tamil Nadu. It is the government's duty to give equal opportunities to everyone. Brahmins have been eliminated, insulted and sidelined in so many ways. You cannot punish people for what happened over 50-60 years ago.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

whats so funny? He has stated his opinion. Dalits and Brahmins are the most poor people in India

Suresh said...

Please provide some stats and enlighten us.

Anu said...

gud one suresh:) It was a real torture when he was one of the guests in the vijay tv 'neeya naana' show. avan appa thaan avan payyanae vachhu padam edunnu sonnaaraam...thirumbavum onnu eduppaanaam...thaangalae da saami!!! spirits worldlae box office stats yellaam available ille polae..appae therinjirukkum..how vegamaa 'Vegam' film potti made it to the dumps!
btw we watched 'Vaaname yellai' recently...adhulae nammae thiruvaalar balachander avargaulum 'forward communitykkaagae kural yezhuppi irukkar;)

Prasad Venkataramana said...

Historically, governments have been poor at social engineering. Trying to 'uplift' those who are 'disadvantaged' by giving them speical offers hasn't worked in the past 50 years and I have no reason to believe it will work in the future. At the same time, I don't think leaving the brahmins out of the reservation quota has had a detrimental effect on them. Now, brahmins comprise of only 3% of the population. If they represented a significant vote bank, politicians would obviously not care for what the devars or vanniyars think about them and try to accommodate them in their symbolic progress.

But I resent your belittling the agony of a brahmin student who sees his/her classmates (as good as him/her in social stance) stepping into an elite institution with same or even lesser educational credentials or a brahmin government employee passed over promotions in spite of solid reputation. You wrote: There are those who are not Dalit, not poor, not illiterate, not political, and not silenced. By virtue of not being any of them he's already immune to their social malaise. Their misery doesn't seem to trouble him. And then there are those who're not brahmins… Though I agree that this pales in comparison with the oppression of a dalit

Rudolf said...

If I have problems A & B and if A were bigger than B, would supporting B be scoffed at?
Apparently it will be. Never mind that B is still a problem.

Anonymous said...

"... for what happened over 50-60 years ago": Wow, this is just stupid. In reality, the 'what' the most illustrious S. Ve. Shekher is referring to has been forcibly imposed on all of society for the last thousand years or so... it only STOPPED happening, albeit not completely, in the last 50-60 years ago.

The truth of the matter is that a significant # of middle and lower-caste children still don't have the same access to advancement as does an average brahmin student.

Going by 'common-sense' justice, the quota system should be imposed (unfavorably to the brahmins) for at least a thousand years. But, I am an optimist and wouldn't mind doing away with the quota system the day after a child from the lowest caste has the same opportunities as a brahmin kid.

Suresh said...

Note: Because I haven't stated my views on reservations before (or as clearly) -- and because they may changed since the last time I did -- I'm using this comment to do it. It's just for the record.

Prasad,

I don't know exactly where I've "belittled the agony" of Brahmins who couldn't do whatever. I agree that not everyone who has benefitted from the reservation system "deserved" it. Perhaps quite far from it. But reservation is not the only thing that is "unfair" in life. There's social status, property inheritance, 'educated parenting' and a lot of other things that are taken for granted. I wonder how many of those who "agonized" over the obstructions to their "growth" stopped to question how they got what they already got.

Of course, it's worse when it's a rich Gounder or Chettiyar who's well-off in every which way. The bottom line, however, is that most of us question the system selectively. By system, I don't just mean the government machinery.

I believe you understand that the quota system is not necessarily about economic upliftment but about 'social justice.' About 'meaningful representation' of the people in the polity, and whatever else that makes the society. Economy is just one of the elements, but also happens to be a primary means to attain others. Sure, one can argue about the virtues of "proportional representation"; disingenuously simplify and ridicule it, making jokes about cricket teams and what not. But I think it is important in a society like TN's. At least for a few more decades.

In a strictly legal sense, one can question the validity of holding 30% for OBCs based on data that is over two decades old. It's even more meaningless that they don't exclude the 'creamy layer.' It's obvious that the quasi upper castes have been pampered by the government in TN. But for all practical purposes, we need to understand how this ridiculous number has affected the upper-caste population with respect to its representative capacity in various domains. For example: what is the percentage of Brahmins in each college? I'll surprised if you say that it's less than 5% (or whatever the percentage of Brahmins in TN is).

Note 2: One of the biggest problems in any of these discussions is that we don't have reliable data. Very often, they are just not there -- reliable or not.

How come there are so many Brahmins in America? (I hope you wouldn't suggest that they are genetically superior.) That there is something in the system that's favouring their 'progress' is quite clear. And if they are so good that they don't even need Indian institutions -- for education or employment -- why bother? Like my friend K who hasn't spoken to me once about reservation in spite of the contempt he has for Indian educational system. Why complain as if government institutions are their last resort? If you're talking about poor Brahmins who are crushed, well, there are poor BC, MBC and SC/STs that are crushed too; their case is worse than the former.

Before I go further, please run through this post once, if you can. Just so that I can extend my argument from there.

In the post you quoted from I also state something else: "It fits in his middle class cocoon of a mind, preserved by ignorance and hypocrisy. "

So the agony you are talking about, comes out of ignorance too: about history, about social injustice, about global inequalities, and in short, about social reality. I have mentioned in several discussions about the lack of debate or education on why there are reservations, in schools. There is little informed conversation over the validity of such a system among children. Mostly it takes the populist point of view of "merit." Many even question reservation for Dalits. They are naïve enough to suggest that their Dalit classmates -- just because they are in the same class -- are no different from themselves in terms of their access to opportunities. If the Dalit student doesn't do as well in school, the common perception would be that, "he's not working hard." Should one be surprised if the upper-caste kids "agonize" because the Dalit student got into Anna University and they didn't?

Besides, the arguments posted against it are often from a purely capitalistic perspective. For a society whose "progress" is measured by how far it's industrialized and "technologically advanced." Where the "stronger" lead the society while the "weaker" follow; or wither away. Stronger in what? In using the "mental might," some would say. But that's the important question here. The world has evolved to embrace the idea that the physical is far inferior to the mental. Indian society is no different from it. If the tables are turned, what kind of jobs would the "thinker" be holding?

So I don't even accept the present structure. I'm sure, many upper-caste folk don't either. But the post 'non-egalitarian, bureaucracy ridden, politically corrupt' society that we have in mind are not the same. (Personally, I don't even have one -- at least not in a grand scale.) The latter's ideal society is, perhaps, one which appreciates "merit" and just that, i.e. the final outcome, irrespective of the head start or a boost in the middle of the race. In which the "best" get to become doctors, engineers, geneticists and able technocrats. The "best" people producing the "best" stuff. But herein lies the biggest folly. The world is a fucked up place (it is, in my opinion) not because there aren't enough scientists or engineers. Or that we don't have enough 'inventions.'

The world as a whole has espoused a doctrine that has made the current human condition inevitable. Industrial revolution has got us into a vicious cycle of environmental destruction and consumption for sustenance. As a society, we have come a long way from recovering the much romanticized "humanity." The worst will happen when the oppressed launch an armed revolution -- French style. We may be able to dodge meteorites and survive global warming, but no amount of technological development is going to fix that. The studious Brahmin boy's "agony" because he was denied the chance to become the "best" -- by the Indian government -- is a nonentity here. You may have your reasons to feel strongly about it. I don't.

Lakshmi said...

Access to opportunities -- in a similar vein from the movie Racing for time; Charles Dutton puts it poignantly when he defends why the girls from the correctional facility should partake in the track events alongside the "regular" high school kids.

Prasad Venkataramana said...

Suresh,
I'm not against or for reservations. I just don't care. It is the inevitable popular child of governments to correct an injustice. My bias, ignorance or hypocrisy, whatever you choose to call it arises from my past affiliations. I believe I've moved on, detached myself and started looking at the current equations from a high ground. I don't have any statistics to prove that the quota system is useless. Reservation based on gender/caste at the college or office level is only political. From a policy standpoint, we need better schools, better social welfare programmes, not free color TVs. When you say that a society like TN needs this for a few more years, do you mean that this has worked? Can you please elaborate on that?

In the last three paragraphs, you take a 10000-feet perspective of the issue and dismiss that reservations don't matter in the big picture. I totally agree with you on that. As stated in my previous comment, I don't think the current quota system is having any perceivable effect even in the short term, where they're directed towards. But your explanations leave a few questions that are off the topic. Here I go:

Are you suggesting that 'progress' shouldn't be capitalistic or shouldn't be just capitalistic? It depends on who you ask what progress is - Socrates, Thoreau, Sri Sri Ravishankar, Buffett.. But capitalism has been at the heart of almost all spheres of life in the last two millennia. Artistes and philosophers and spiritual leaders have needed the bounty of rich men. Technologically advanced countries accomplish more work in less time generating increased revenue which leaves room for more men to diversify their interests in new fields of activities. Isn't making a movie or sculpting or blogging an expression of the romanticized humanity? I don't think we need to throw away our iPhones and get back to forests to discover ourselves.

The world will always be an asshole and as a pragmatist I too don't see a post 'non-egalitarian, bureaucracy ridden, politically corrupt' society. I think it takes immense maturity, knowledge and wisdom to throw away the colored filters of personal experiences, personal gain/loss, etc and look at the social order afresh to frame workable public policies. Since our leaders aren't saints or aliens to view our social institutions and social relations without bias, their policies will always be flawed. But this doesn't mean their policies should disregard merit. Take the 19th century Britain or the 20th century America - not just their economy or military might but their achievements in politics, arts and sciences.

Suresh said...

Prasad,

You're far removed from my 'reality.' The stands you've taken on several issues tell me that you've accepted different schools of thought than mine on almost every occasion. I'll just make some brief points to make those differences conspicuous. I don't want to go beyond that because it's going to be tiresome for me (and you, if you choose to extend it).

About reservations:

You "don't have any statistics to prove that the quota system is useless" but you are somehow convinced that it has not worked the least bit. You don't have a problem with this assertion?
I, on the other hand, do have some numbers to say that it has worked, at least partially. A society like TN's, with its history, does need forced proportional representation of different castes. Because:
1. Caste affiliations and caste based cronyism are still strong. If it's left to chance (or "merit") you'll have one set gradually overpowering the other out of existence (in a domain/field etc.). History provides the rationale for this claim.
2. History: the highly disproportionate percentage Brahmins that occupied jobs in the bureaucracy in the first half of the 20th century. History of caste in India in general.
--quote--
The Brahmin majority in the administration was a natural corollary of the fact that the community had the largest number of graduates, by virtue of its greater access to education thanks to the prime place it enjoyed in the caste hierarchy. For instance, in 1896, Brahmins, who accounted for 3.2 per cent of the population, occupied 53 per cent of the 140 posts of Deputy Collector, 71.4 per cent of the 18 posts of Sub-Judge and 66.4 per cent of the 128 District Munsif posts. In 1912, their presence increased to 55 per cent, 83.3 per cent and 72.6 per cent respectively

Social scientist Jayati Ghosh writes: "In Tamil Nadu, for example, reservations account for around two-thirds of such seats, even in private institutions, and in Karnataka they are close to half. Yet there is no evidence of inferior quality among the graduates of such institutions; instead, it is widely acknowledged that graduates from the medical and professional colleges in the South are among the best in India" (Economic and Political Weekly, June 17, 2006). She adds: "Surely no one would contest that Vellore Medical College [in Tamil Nadu], for example, is one of the best medical colleges in India; yet, it has consistently operated with an extensive system of reservations accounting for more than half of the seats."
--unquote--

http://socialjustice.ekduniya.net/Infocus/document.2007-04-13.0444948657

(I can retrieve more data from other sources if you want. It takes a bit of time. But if you're really interested, you should do it yourself. These data are available, indeed.)

I will, however, add that the quality of graduates coming out of engineering colleges in TN is assessed only in conjunction with the rest of India. The overall Indian standard is debatable and it's a different topic altogether. (Ex: reservation or not, a student has to pass to become a graduate. It's the government/institution's responsibility to set the passing standards 'right.')

Nowhere have I suggested that reservations is a panacea. It goes without saying that the government has practically remained inert in providing the infrastructure that truly encourages social justice. So yes, reservations have to be compounded by educational and social reforms that address quality education for the poor; language barriers; proper diversification of fields of study; complete overhaul of the curriculum; a transparent, socialist economic policy etc. When these things are in place and seem to support a stable community on their own, we can remove the crutches.

For a brief introduction on social/cultural capital and similar topics relevant to this discussion:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_capital
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Bourdieu

The State Nobility: Elite Schools in the Field of Power
- Pierre Bourdieu.

About Capitalism:

While you list the "progress" that have been made over the last two thousand years (and farther, if I may), you seem to forget the costs endured by the people at all times. By women, by minorities, and generally those who were "weak." You also agree that progress is a subjective idea, but you still expect me to answer your questions. If I were a Dalit in rural TN or a luddite, I will simply say, no. None of what you're talking about is progress, because it's either not relevant to me or not in sync with my philosophy of life. But since I'm neither (at least, not a proper luddite), I'll partake.

Our measure and appreciation of 'art' and other things you mention is a result of selective observation of human history. It's like a comment made by one of my white friends, "I know the British colonized your people and all, but didn't they give you English, the railways and the modern infrastructure?"
What you call art would not be visible if it weren't for the clouded lenses that hide the horrors beside it. Not to mention the idea of 'art' is a construct in itself -- something that was stated long before the 'deconstructionist era.'

Invasion, colonization, slavery, genocide, forced poverty, environmental destruction; the list is too long. The so called achievements of the imperial powers won't even be called that if we place them in the former's entirety -- with everything else that was happening at that time. On one hand you have a country that colonized most of the world for one tiny island; and on the other hand you have country that is built on obliteration of the native population and exploitation of slave labour. If there's been any meaningful progress at all on the political front it has been made with little or no assistance from technology.

You've said "[t]echnologically advanced countries accomplish more work in less time generating increased revenue which leaves room for more men to diversify their interests in new fields of activities." You cannot be more naïve than this. You really need to read on industrial revolution and its effects on, say, Indian farmers of the mid-late nineteenth century.

The first "diversification" technology does is unemployment. Then the system falls back and finds a way to engage them again purely on an existential basis. It's the vicious cycle I was talking about in my previous comment: when you produce, you need a market that consumes it. When you don't have a market you create a market; you colonize a country -- by brute force, like the good old days or through WTO agreements and World Bank's "conditional loans" -- and make that country your market. When the market doesn't have any purchasing power you either shutdown the machinery and send home the workers until the market "recovers." Or, pump in some of your bloated profits and get them running again. When you over-produce -- as in most cases -- the situation gets worse. The equation simply won't add up. Especially in countries like India where they don't just throw away their old motorcycles and cars for scrap metal.

You were probably happy with your $50 Nokia, but were given a "better" choice that you didn't know existed and probably didn't care for. The nonexistent becomes a luxury and luxury becomes a necessity; all for the profit making few who need to make "increased revenues."

The irony is that there is no pre-set pinnacle that we are "progressing" towards. At least, not in the technological domain. Each time something "better" comes out, we are not climbing a step to reach that pinnacle. All these profit making big shots go through it just to sustain their "high," fuelled by power. Power that is achieved by keeping that vicious cycle running. Only that someday the mechanism will fall apart -- with violence as the main instigator -- and we'll start rebuilding. Quite possibly something similar to the one that just went down.

(Analogy: A kid pedaling a bicycle mounted on its stand. The dynamo generates power and the power lights the bulb in front. The cycle is going nowhere and the light isn't showing anything new. But the kid sure has fun and even thinks that he's doing something "productive.")

We can probably put human condition on the same scale. But the difference lies in that there's hardly anything "better" about what's shaping it. (If there are, as I said before, it has nothing to do with technology.) And if we continue the way we do now, we probably won't have any forest to "discover ourselves." "Immense maturity, knowledge and wisdom" will become irrelevant when the guns and the nukes change hands.

Note: In spite of this seeminly detailed reply, this is a wider area that I cannot present a sensible account of in a few hundred words. Any disagreements with what I've said are likely be topical and I'm leaving it there. The following -- wikipedia links and the references within them -- would serve as an introduction for this perspective:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marxism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neocolonialism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dystopia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luddite
http://www.scottlondon.com/interviews/mander1.html
You may read his book for a detailed argument:
In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations
.

There are some very interesting documentaries as well:

Surplus: Terrorized into being consumers
Manufactured Landscapes
How Art Made the World

Suresh said...

Clarification: I have nothing against technology per se, it's with who have had control over it and how it has been used historically. The problems that technology facilitated might as well be addressed with it. Ex: internet, social networking and so forth (just suggesting a possibility). So I don't call for a reversal of all technology just for the sake of it. But it will happen if it becomes necessary for more "important" human endeavours. And if and when it does, I wouldn't have a problem with that either.

Anyway, the reason I started talking about it was because most of the people who complain about reservations invariably aspire to become some kind of technicians.

Prasad Venkataramana said...

Thanks much for your enlightening response Suresh.

Subhash said...

Suresh,

Offtopic:

If reservations are more about 'social justice' than economic upliftment, why should anyone feel bad for an Indian muslim?

Suresh said...

Reservations for Muslims is more complex than others. The questions that need to be addressed are:

1. Who are these Muslims; what's their history? That is: considerable population of Muslims in India were once untouchables, and some lower castes. Many of them converted as lately as a few decades ago and dozens convert every year. Even though they are Muslims now, their past cannot be forgotten. Their life of poverty and poor social status is very likely to follow a trajectory strongly influenced by caste. (I don't know if Dalit Muslims still qualify as SC as Dalit Christians do. They should.)

2. It's well known that Muslims are under-represented in many areas (and over "represented" in jails), but we don't know exactly why that is the case. Some say they are not interested in education as much as they are in business, hence the imbalance. But such theories come out of mere speculation. There hasn't been enough studies to find whether the current social setup, by its very nature, is discriminatory against Muslims. If not in schools, in job interviews, by banks and such institutions? Is there institutionalized discrimination? If so, how detrimental is it?

Finding this isn't really that difficult. Definitely not in a country like India. You have plenty of human resource to collect data. A survey that takes a sample of graduates, their religion, their final grade average in college, the number of people who appear in interviews and the no of people who get jobs (then their religion).

You are looking for an observation like this: in a class of 70, 10 were Muslims. The class' grade average (GA) is 68. The Muslims students averaged at 70. The number of people who appeared for campus interviews were 30. 6 were Muslims. GA of the 30 is 74. The GA of the Muslims is 72. The number people who got the job were 22. 20 Hindus and 2 Muslims. The 20 averaged at 76, the 2 averaged at 77.

You do this with 30 colleges and 60 classes or something (how you choose that sample -- random, clustered or stratified -- is important too). Then you crunch the numbers and your conclusion may look like this: "Muslim students are less likely to be hired than their Hindu or Christian class mates."

Now you have situation where Muslims are being discriminated against. One can no longer argue that they are not interested in education or having jobs. Because, we designed the survey in way their willingness to participate in the system -- by enrolling in college and appearing for interviews -- is established beyond doubt.

You can make similar studies with bank loans, police arrests and a lot of other things. (Who applies, who gets it etc.)

You can also have surveys that record data from employers side. Quantitative and qualitative, i.e. ask why they would or would not hire a Muslim (if that is a factor).

Of course, I've just outlined a hypothetical conclusion based on a draft survey idea. You can refine the research further and make it very rigorous by increasing the sample size and including more variables. The conclusions, whichever way they happen to be, will tell us if we should have reservations separately for Muslims. Because many are already under BC and MBC.

Leaving reservations aside, poor representation of Muslims anywhere, cannot be ignored. Especially in the context of current geo-politics. Congress is probably not going to change anything, but BJP is bound to make it worse. That said, BJP or Congress, there will be bomb blasts, there will be killings and there will be "common men" pontificating on POTA's necessity.

Anonymous said...

wow, suresh. I'm clean bowled.

Anonymous said...

"In Tamil Nadu, for example, reservations account for around two-thirds of such seats, even in private institutions, and in Karnataka they are close to half. Yet there is no evidence of inferior quality among the graduates of such institutions"

If that is the case then why there is reservation for those who are not inferior and in any case will excel ?

Anonymous said...

to ensure proportional representation, apparently.

Anonymous said...

"to ensure proportional representation, apparently"


could you be more specific

Hawkeye said...

1. By and large I think people congregate into communities and communities try to out-survive other communities and what happened 120 years ago and what is happening today reflects this. 80-20 rule is followed and 20% of people control 80% of the revenue.

2. Someone should kill S.Ve. Sekhar. Just based on general principle.

3. Your emphasis on the "mental" aspect of upbringing/exposure/community/peer pressure is valid but only to a certain extent.

4. Brahmins getting social justice in today's world is a negligible priorty in the larger context of TN's problems. But understandably is that community's highest priority.

Having said all that - Just a minor quibble, if I may.

/*The Brahmin majority in the administration was a natural corollary of the fact that the community had the largest number of graduates, by virtue of its greater access to education thanks to the prime place it enjoyed in the caste hierarchy. For instance, in 1896, Brahmins, who accounted for 3.2 per cent of the population, occupied 53 per cent of the 140 posts of Deputy Collector, 71.4 per cent of the 18 posts of Sub-Judge and 66.4 per cent of the 128 District Munsif posts. In 1912, their presence increased to 55 per cent, 83.3 per cent and 72.6 per cent respectively */

I agree with you about there being no (reliable) data. If there was data it would answer the following quetsions.

So there were 2 - 2.5 crore people in areas currently called as TN, nearing end of 19th century and beginning of 20th century.

1. What % of that 2.5 crore was an earning population?
2. Among the earning population -> what % was contributed by the clerks/govt jobs?
3. What percentile did these govt jobs fall in as far as salary?

And then the qualitative question of

(a) what was the importance of education in 1800s?
(b) what % of graduates brahmin/otherwise found jobs and what % fell below the economic strata of illitrate people with jobs.

There is some "Narrative Fallacy" to do with the argument on % of brahmins in educational institutions. Today in hindsight it seems obvious that education was a primary source to economic security. 120 years ago formal education wasn't even in the conciousness of people. If the tables were turned and brahmins weren't so upper class in 1800s -> schools or education *may* not have been such a hit in TN for other castes. Simply because it *may* not have been considered important.

There was no great foresight on part of brahmins while they placed this bet on education. Nobody knew it would be so important. for thousands of year religion dictated that a boy be placed in educated for a period of 14 years. What was estabished as a cult discipline/cullture was followed blindly. So like many million things in history, a very old "kuruttu" bet clicked and the community benefitted from that bet for a while.

You of all people should know that for any timeline over 10 years there is no overarching "strategy" hatched by a group of people (be it brahmins or DK). The tendency to conform to "status quo" sustains status quo.

/* How come there are so many Brahmins in America? (I hope you wouldn't suggest that they are genetically superior.) That there is something in the system that's favouring their 'progress' is quite clear. */

While disagreeing with your implicit assertion that "america" = "progress", the reason behind this phenomena has never been clear to me. Although I have been asked this many times. The % of uppercastes in gulf is also pretty high.

Suresh said...

Bharath,

Your reading of the issue is terribly flawed and your suppositions warped. I'll try to reply your questions still. But I'm really afraid I might come across as condescending.

1. Social justice is a notion that is always conceived within a particular context. So Brahmins' claim for social justice is worse than a joke, especially in TN. They either don't know where they live or what social justice is. That's why the community's supposed highest priority is worth laughing at.

2. In contrasting structure and agency, I agree that structure is not everything, but in a feudal society like India's it is almost everything.
You cannot undermine theories behind cultural capital and social capital just by positing a bullet point (saying it's only to "certain extent"). They are founded on extensive research done world wide. We cannot go by exceptions and anecdotal evidence. Please cite some theories/research that support your claim so that we know what that "certain extent" is.

3. You should read on the Self Respect Movement; its origins and the history behind it (I'll be surprised if you already have and yet arrived at these conclusions). So the way modernity and industrial revolution favoured the Brahmins to emerge as an economically dominant social class may have been -- in a very minor part -- a coincidence, but it's no coincidence that they were always close to or part of the politically dominant class. So it's naïve (and disingenuous) to suggest that they dominated the British bureaucracy (and by extension, Indian) because they were the only ones who were educated, by coincidence.

It's not like the washermen who were one of the lower-castes that rose to a high rank because of their washing skills, in a modern society. You can call it a coincidence -- or a thoughtlless "bet", if you like -- when the downtrodden rise to the top. There is no such basis for the Brahmins. Those who remained at the top of social ranks, continued to.

4. Besides, Brahminism is not simply about the economic mobility of an individual, but about enjoying a "socially sanctioned and religiously sanctified hegemony." And this religion -- Hinduism -- is the dominant in India and in TN. So their positioning at the top of that pyramid was oppressive to the non-brahmins in more ways than just the economics of it. The Brahmin hegemony is so ideologically powerful that it doesn't even depend on arithmetics of demography, "as it derives from a complex articulation of power and knowledge, that is diffused as 'common sense'". We cannot simply slide this collective hegemony as a group of people trying to help each other "out-survive" another group.

Now coming to your questions:

As I've argued above, their social status cannot simply be measured by what they earned through these jobs. I can probably dig through some archives and find the exact numbers, but suffice to say that govt. jobs were the most sought after just until a couple of decades ago. It's not like they were manual scavengers; a job that everybody refused to do or thrust up on by other dominant castes.

And it's not as if the Brahmins had "their education" and that's all they had. Brahmins, at least as a community, have had greater access to land or the income generated through land (that belonged to temples) than many OBCs and all the SCs. It's insincere (or ignorant) to portray Brahmins as innocent, unwilling participants in a cruel trajectory that history took on its own.

I think you have a lot to read on this topic. I've uploaded a few articles that you may start from:

Backward Classes in Tamil Nadu- 1872-1988 ----------------------------------------------
Communal Representation in Tamil Nadu, 1850-1916- The Pre-Non-Brahmin Movement Phase ----------------------------------------------
Private Property in Asia- The Case of Medieval South India ----------------------------------------------
(You can download the pdf file instead of reading it in the site)

About America:
1. I had put progress in quotes.
2. It's not that complicated. Here is where you apply the "communities out-survive others" theory. It's the most educated who began to travel abroad, especially to countries with closed-immigration policy. Who were the most educated in India? That's right. This was true for a very long time, starting in the 1800s going to all the way until the end of 20th century. Even today most graduates from IIT and such 'top ranked' institutions are Brahmins.

Add to that the fact the Brahmins occupied a good percentage of the bureaucracy. From lawyers to chartered accounts. From postal department to banks. Just use anecdotal evidence: I'm even willing to bet one of your relatives was/is either a bank manager or a chartered accountant. And given the you've 'studied abroad' yourself, you know the kind of documents one needs to produce.

Of course, today you have seasoned consultants who take care of everything for a 'nominal' fee. These people weren't around until ten, fifteen years ago. And it just takes one community to get a head start and the remaining never 'catch up'.

In conclusion: I don't expect Brahmins to take responsibility for whatever their ancestors did, but know that their position today in the society is no coincidence. (Just as mine isn't.) And they cannot escape getting blamed for it as long as they try to present an apologetic account of their ancestors. Not to mention the fact they still call themselves Brahmins. It's no surprise that people who consider and call themselves Brahmins can never get around the evils of brahminism.


Note: I've paraphrased a few statements from V. Geetha and S.V. Rajadurai's articles.

Hawkeye said...

Suresh,

I get a feeling that the communication gap is too big here. Several times I felt you were answering some other comment and not mine because you had misinterpreted my comment on almost every single point.

/* Your reading of the issue is terribly flawed and your suppositions warped */

After reading your response I can see why you think so. But I would have preferred it if you did the "show don't tell" thing.

Broadly - I was agreeing with a caste based domination history. It is obvious there is nothing to agree with. But I was only taking exception when I felt that the benefits of domination were being exagerrated. You assumed that I was denying the hegemony and dominance overall. Which is totally not the case.


/* Social justice is a notion that is always conceived within a particular context. So Brahmins' claim for social justice is worse than a joke, especially in TN. They either don't know where they live or what social justice is. That's why the community's supposed highest priority is worth laughing at.*/

this I am assuming is a response to

/* Brahmins getting social justice in today's world is a negligible priorty in the larger context of TN's problems. But understandably is that community's highest priority. */

So at 50000 feet level for someone who is (a) an disinterested party and (b) is theoretically analyzing movements of castes in the social justice heirarchy -> the actual priority levels etc etc of Caste A Vs Caste B may be obvious.

Not for the 1st person who is impacted. And this is where I see your stand on "inherent truth" not working in your favor here. An upper caste SBI Officer's son will not compare himself with the millions of down trodden lower-caste scavengers. He is going to compare himself with the "MBC" rated Malaysia-return business class Nadar boy who has 2 cars. So is a priest who earns Rs 2000/mo.

You cannot expect everybody to have a wide perspective and dispassionately rate themselves on a the larger scale of things. People are selfish. They only worry about their problems. This does not mean they should get what they want. But the fact that they are raising such a hue & cry should come as a surprise to no one.

/* 3. You should read on the Self Respect Movement; its origins and the history behind it (I'll be surprised if you already have and yet arrived at these conclusions). */

Again you are confusing a wider broad logic with what applies in individual instances. I dont think I even had the notion of saying that the whole social justice system is flawed and or any sort of caste hegemony was absent. Wasn't trying to apologize or mitigate by saying "paavam vera vazhi illai theriyaama pannitanga". When I was neck deep into literiture on Social justice, I was completely influenced by it and viewed it as a filter for everything.

As it happens for everybody, the effect of any theory or philopsophy on an individual has an expiration date and as you grow older you start seeing agendas and ulterior motives behind everything and anything. So I have stopped assuming that there was any altriusm associated with Social Justice movement or for that matter the uppercastes. In my earlier comment I only pointe dout stuff that overly extrapolated the benefits enjoyed by upper castes.

/* So the way modernity and industrial revolution favoured the Brahmins to emerge as an economically dominant social class may have been -- in a very minor part -- a coincidence, but it's no coincidence that they were always close to or part of the politically dominant class. So it's naïve (and disingenuous) to suggest that they dominated the British bureaucracy (and by extension, Indian) because they were the only ones who were educated, by coincidence */

Again i think value of a variable is being confused with the importance of the variable. Nobody can deny the dominance brahmins enjoyed in the bueracracy of british. The data that I asked in the previous comment is the missing piece here.

if TN had 100 people. Let us assume 50 were outright below poverty line. 20 were poor. 20 formed the middle class. 7 rich and 3 filthy rich. Where do you think these bearaucrats sat? With a 5% population (which is dubious stat to start with) how many spaces can they fill in the above categories?

Data if available will show the "being singled out" phenomena. To simply put it -> if it is established that chettiyars were 11% of the population and 6% of them were either rich or filthy rich, the other 5% were middle class. And (hypothetically) it was found out that brahmins were 10% of the population but 8% were in middle class and 2% in the rich category then there is a case for reservation on a relative basis.

Ofcourse compared to ST ( hypothetically: 50% of population and all 50% in below poverty line) brahmins are well off. But that some other richer caste being branded as OBC is what will rankle them.

/* It's not like the washermen who were one of the lower-castes that rose to a high rank because of their washing skills, in a modern society. You can call it a coincidence -- or a thoughtlless "bet", if you like -- when the downtrodden rise to the top. There is no such basis for the Brahmins. Those who remained at the top of social ranks, continued to. */

This is what is "narrrative fallacy". You are looking at a guy who bought a stock at $2 and sold at $2000. And you are thinking he knew buying at $2 that this would go up so high. No way. Nobody is that good enough to foresee 100 years into the future. Even in the 1930s these bueracrat jobs made-up for decent volume but low money amount.

Again, I think you misinperpreted my previous comment to assume that I was saying "caste didnt enjoy hegemony". The caste did enjoy hegemony and had a clear intent on dominating and cornoring off a portion of the money for themselves. But still they did not dominate/control the business/agriculture part of the economy at that time. They don't do so now. Even today doing business is not part of the caste's DNA. The over potrayal of desk/clerk jobs and lack of mention of other sources of money is the missing data. Given that In 1800s the other main purpose of brahmns was to legetimize upper castes and provide religious sanction to the upper caste vs lower caste theory and kept the lower castes out of action.

There was this show Neeya Naana which provided a caste-wise break down of the rich people in TN and the belts where they operated. Vanniyars & chettiyars from North/middle TN and Nadars from South TN emerged as the top guys. My theory is if you did a similar analysis in 1850 you'd pretty much find similar results.


/* Besides, Brahminism is not simply about the economic mobility of an individual, but about enjoying a "socially sanctioned and religiously sanctified hegemony */

/* We cannot simply slide this collective hegemony as a group of people trying to help each other "out-survive" another group. */

Again I did assume hegemony was present and did assume malicious intent was present too. My specfic objection overall is the exaggeration of the benefits reaped by this hegemony. This goes to my "certain extent" comment. Up to a point I can see what I got that the ST guy who lived down the road did not get. But beyond that the benefits attributed to a person just because he was an uppercaste becomes hazy. Maybe I dont have data and am relying more on personal experience. So you may have a point there (but do you have data? for every benefit you attribute to being an upper caste - at what point does it beecome and "opinion"). I don't have a personal experience of anybody helping me or even talking to me for extra 5 minutes because of my caste. I have bene helped by more thirunelveli folks than by brahmins. Maybe others had it. But the data provided in the links dont seem to indicate any other benefits other than what I expected to see.

There is a disconnect between the tool, which is "hegemony" in this case to the application of the tool. If this is not tribes trying to kill-off the other tribe to get share of the meat then what is the hegemony being used for? I cannot see from your comment and the links provided an alternate purpose for hegemony outside of money/security. ( The reason why I cannot see it could probably because I assume social status is predicated on money and you don't.).

/* And it's not as if the Brahmins had "their education" and that's all they had. Brahmins, at least as a community, have had greater access to land or the income generated through land (that belonged to temples) than many OBCs and all the SCs. */

Again i agree and it is obvious that there was "hegemony",that there was "greater" access (only on a relative scale because the kovil dharmagatthas were rarely brahmins. Mudaliyars dominated Kanchi temple lands, Naidus dominated coimbatore temples and chettiyars had control over trichy/kumbakonam/thanjavur/pudhukottai temples) all that is obvious.

But as is to be expected from DK sounding folks there is also enormous exagerration. I read a few thamizh blogs that had some theories on land pertaining to temples (something you had linked for the dasavatharam movie). That data is clearly wrong and understandably exagerrated to develop a perception that temple land was screwed over by the priest class. You should go and look at the 10 generations of priests living in srirangam and see if they have the land they are supposed to be rolling in. 2 years ago I worked for a temple project in kumbakonam where we had to dig out data on temple lands and records. Chidambaram, Kanchipuram, Srirangam, Triplicane and Madurai had hectares of land that government purchased from various ashrams for Rs 0.02 per hectare and so on.

/* It's insincere (or ignorant) to portray Brahmins as innocent, unwilling participants in a cruel trajectory that history took on its own. */

Again the "innocent" and "unwilling" is an assumption you made. I did not intend that.

Hawkeye said...

/* but know that their position today in the society is no coincidence. (Just as mine isn't.) */

agree.

/* And they cannot escape getting blamed for it as long as they try to present an apologetic account of their ancestors. */

agree.

/* Not to mention the fact they still call themselves Brahmins. It's no surprise that people who consider and call themselves Brahmins can never get around the evils of brahminism.*/

As an outsider to the community and as an atheist your view of this (or for that matter any) caste is devoid of the whole 'god' thing. So naturally you tend to blend the word 'brahmin' with the 'caste benefit' aspect of it. I don't say you are incorrect but know that it is only true for about 75% of the brahmins who are like S. Ve, Sekhar. I disgree with it in principle.

Suresh said...

Bharath,

I think I'll be repeating most of what I've said already. If not in my reply to you, in my other replies. So I'll rather refrain from commenting on some points, even though I have disagreements.

1. We were not talking about economic justice, but social justice. Please go through my previous comments (about proportional representation etc.).

2. I don't believe there is anything in any caste's DNA. Even if you meant it as a figure of speech, it's not true. TVS to Infosys, several business empires have been run by Brahmins since the pre-independence days.

3. Neeya Naana: it's a meaningless sample.

4. {{But the data provided in the links dont seem to indicate any other benefits other than what I expected to see.}}

The links that I provided were about the property access/ownership Brahmins had in the colonial days and before; their representation in colleges and universities; the reports that were presented by the British colonial government assessing the disparities between castes in various domains. It clearly outlines the kind of control they had, among other things, on agricultural land.

Land that was procured from the temples was just like any other under the land reforms. Even zamindars and mirasdars "lost" "their" land during those reforms. But the money that was obtained until then -- for hundreds of years in some cases and decades in many cases -- could not be ignored. It's like convicting the Ambanis for all the scandals in the 80s and seizing their 'illegally' licensed looms. Even if they cost 1000 crores, they couldn't care less about it now; thanks to capitalism.

Let's take the case of Tanjore presented in this insightful paper (Menon, 1979). I'll quote an 'interesting' passage from the article:
--quote--
In 1807, the Tanjore Committee had noted that "there is hardly a family of
this colony which does not hold land on ordinary mirasi tenure in Tanjore!'.8 Seventy years later, Brahmins, who formed little over six per dent of the district's total population, held over 25 per cent of the ryot pattas. Landownership by other castes, however, was not
negligible. Many such landlord castes, such as the Moopanar, Vellalar, and
Naidu, have held land granted to them by Maratha rulers. But, despite these trends, the overall dominance of the Brahmins is distinctive. Unlike the situation in other areas, "Brahminical Hinduism is here a living reality, amid not the neglected cult shouldered out by the worship of aboriginal godlings...almost every village has a temple."9

Extensive landownership by more powerful temples, particularly in east
Thanjavur, further strengthened the bond between ideological and economic dominance. Under the Cholas, temple land was subject both to State supervision as well as control by the village assembly, headed by the Brahmins. The difficulty of directly managing extensive temple lands was resolved by leasing first to Brahmins and then, since this caste was barred ritually from cultivating, subletting to other castes.10 Temple land ownership has thus served as one of the principal sources of subletting
in Thanjavur. It further influenced the condition of -he peasantry by
its 'right' to vary rents widely.11 (p.403)
--unquote--


Historical Development of Thanjavur Kisan Movement


I'll be happy if you can cite something like this to support your case (that Brahmins enjoyed no/negligible benefits because of the lands).

Many of these Brahmins sold their land and moved to urban centers in late 19th and early 20th centuries (and continued on gradually in the following decades). (So records on rural land ownership for this period may not be an accurate indicator.) Real estate was expensive compared to non-urban areas even during the colonial days. While it may be a coincidence that Madras got urbanized, the fact that Brahmins hold some of the most expensive real estate in Madras -- Adyar, Mylapore, Mandaveli etc. -- is not a coincidence. Lewandowski (1975) states:
--quote--
Although the urban poor of Madras have always lived at a distance from the center of the cite, the development of sizable squatter colonies was a nineteenth century phenomenon.
The population of these settlements was mainly recruited from the lower castes and untouchables, and for this reason did not present a new set of urban problems. By locating on the outskirts of the city, the castes did not create a pollution threat to the older established areas where the Brahmins, higher castes and the "middle class resided; they were essentially segregated from the residential neighborhoods of the Hindus who observed ritual restrictions. (p.348)
--unquote--


Urban Growth and Municipal Development in the Colonial City of Madras

(Of course, locales like Velacherry and other recent developments are exceptions.)

5. You seem to have a very personalized understanding of how cultural capital and social capital works (even that, not well analyzed). Just read on the wiki pages on both cultural capital and social capital (even things like economic capital, linguistic capital and so on). Then scroll all the way down and pick up some papers that have been referenced. (That's why I asked you to read my previous comments again. I've spoken about it in length already with references.) You may also look into Bourdieu's wiki page and pick up some of the paper referenced in that page; even his books if you can.

If you're not able to find papers the support my argument I'll upload some myself.

6. This whole "they made a blind of bet on education and it turned out be golden" is irrelevant either way. Even if it all happened by accident, it needs to be redressed.

7. I don't understand the problem that you identify as "narrative fallacy". Please answer the following questions:

Were brahmins 'ranked' above anyone else in the social ladder or not?
Does this create skewed access to wealth such land or not?
Did they or not have cultural/social capital that was/is exclusive to them in many ways?
(Even before the British came into picture.)

8. You keep saying that the British bureaucratic jobs did not pay well. Please explain in relation to what and provide evidence for both. And if you go through Lewandowski's paper, you'll see that the labourers -- who were mostly from the lower castes -- were settled outskirts while the clerical employers were settled in main areas of the city. An added benefit to taking those jobs.


{{The reason why I cannot see it could probably because I assume social status is predicated on money and you don't.}} - I don't know how you can say that about a country like India. People who are supposed to be ascetics and nomadic 'saints' literally step on the political leaders and entrepreneurs' heads in this country. I had argued about this disparity extensively in my other post on caste.

Suresh said...

Anyway, there's not much else to say in this post (unless something entirely new comes up). There could have been possible 'miscommunication' but it's not something that could be avoided; especially when we talk without citing numbers. We, as those who put the words down, always tend to connect more than what's been said in text. Only others could judge whether I miscued my responses and vice-versa.

I think the god thing is the worst kind of "mosadi" in this topic. Reminds of an old conversation (thanks to gtalk archives):

9:40 PM me: once you jump into the subject head over heals, you'll most likely get out as a Marxist (if you're bad at handling cognitive dissonance, that is)
9:41 PM handling*
9:42 PM or like many, just give justifications and "explanations" wherever things don't flow logically
9:43 PM like "why is he poor?"
  -"he must be lazy"
  "he was born in a poor, untouchable family. The system was against him to begin with"
9:44 PM -"I know dalits who have worked and come up, if this guy is still poor, it's simply because he doesn't want to come up in life"
  "he did work hard, he was still defeated by upper-caste cronyism"
  -"well..."
9:45 PM (then, there's god: a panacea to justify and explain everything)
  -"well, I'm sure god has a plan for him"
  "God doesn't put people into this miserbale situations for nothing, I'm sure there's something great waiting for him"
9:46 PM "he just needs to pray"

Suresh said...

6. This whole "they made a blind of bet on education and it turned out be golden" is irrelevant either way. Even if it all happened by accident, it needs to be redressed.

Addendum: In principle, it applies to land and property ownership of other castes too. That is, based on historical data and trajectories, perform further land reforms to give the dalits and other poor their share of land and reparations. I believe all private property needs to be capped and re-distributed every 50 years or so.

(It's all part of the socialist state that I have in mind.)

Suresh said...

This is another article that I wanted to cite (and quote from):

Much in the business world of Madras/Chennai appears to be little
changed. Most of the major companies of Singer’s time are still
important today; and the pre-eminence of Brahman families
amongst the business leaders of Chennai is as marked as it was in
1964.18 Amongst his 19 ‘industrial leaders’19 Singer found nine
Tamil Brahmans (seven Smarta Brahmans, or Iyers; and two Srivaisnava
Brahmans, or Iyengars); four Chettiars; one Mudaliar; one
Kamma; two Muslims; one from a Gujarati merchant Hindu family;
and one from a Syrian Christian family. The nineteen ‘family or
other ownership groups’ which I identified amongst the 31 leading
companies include: eight Tamil Brahmans (six Iyers and two
Iyengars); three Chettiars; three Reddys; one Saiva Mudaliar (not
the same as in 1964); one Kamma (the same family as in 1964);
one Syrian Christian (the same as in 1964); one Raja20 and one
Marwari. The Brahman-owned family businesses of 1964 have, with
only one exception (that of the ill-fated Standard Motor Company),
consolidated their positions; successful new companies, in software products and in chemicals,
also owned by Brahmans. The largest single group of the new software
entrepreneurs is constituted by Brahmans. This new generation
of Brahman entrepreneurs comes generally from a different social
background, however, from that of the first generation of Brahman
industrialists.
.....
18 The belief that it is predominantly the Chettiars who run family firms in the
South dies hard, however. It is repeated, for example, in Gurcharan Das’s introduction
to a recent issue of the journal Seminar devoted to family business (October
1999). A more accurate assessment is found in an article in Business World in 2000:
‘Today of the dozen odd big Chetty [sic] business houses only three survive. . .’.

The great tradition globalizes : reflections on two studies of ‘The Industrial Leaders’ of Madras

bhuvanesh said...

@hawkeye: does this "blind bet on education" include things like banning other communities from entering schools, having sanskrit as one of the papers in Medical College entrance exams as late as 1920?

Anonymous said...

Lets forget about reservations as a concept for a while. How has a country like US, with all its diversity and people from different countries and economic backgrounds, been able to make progress as a meritocracy without having to resort to reservation policy? Should India also be looking for a meritocracy by concentrating on, say, building more world-class schools and universities? In short, we should cut down the gap between demand and supply. This gap is getting crazy in India now, my 2 year old needs to identify all the animals to get into nursery!!

Anonymous said...

Suresh.. It is an anti-brahmin rant. All "upper caste" were oppressing the "lower caste" people. Mudalayars, Koundars, Thevars etc. were equally guilty if not more. But under the Dravida movement only the Brahmins had to suffer.

In today's context a brahmin seeking reservation is just as bad as anyone else seeking reservation.

Suresh said...

(Very) Short story:

"It is an anti-brahmin rant," said the probably Brahmin man. Truer words were never spoken before, he thought.

Anonymous said...

he he.. yes I am a Brahmin. "Truer words were never spoken before, he thought." - whatever that means... The thought that you can think what others think is quite pompous, and you were wrong.

Now that I am done with that retort... I have read many of your blogs and I like your podcasts. I like the way you articulate... it needs knowledge and clarity of thought. I also find you are highly opinionated (I am not saying that is good/bad) so, there is no point in debating. To each his/her own. We can choose to respectfully disagree.

I just feel that everything is relative and subjective and there is no such thing as undisputed global truth on most of these contentious topics. The "sins" committed by the Brahmin community are no greater or lesser than the sins of all other communities. Everyone is equally guilty. It is just that Brahmins have become a convenient target for retribution(or may be I think that way because I am a Brahmin).

Just for the record... I think reservations are necessary for certain sections of the socity and it should be backed up with economic aid as well to get those communities to grow knowledge and cultural capital. I agree that brahmin's "want" of reservation is not greater than the "need" of other less fortunate communities.

That is all I got to say on this topic.. just felt the urge to do so although it neither makes any difference nor do I expect you to concur with me.

Looking forward to your podcasts.

Peace...

Suresh said...

"I just feel that everything is relative and subjective and there is no such thing as undisputed global truth on most of these contentious topics." -- This statement is either true or false. If it is either it's meaningless.

Anonymous said...

I didn't quite understand what you meant by your comment above and what you found meaningless. Ne sonnadhu purila nu sollale. Konjam puriyare maari irundha nalla irukkum nu dhaan sollanren. :)

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