Hinduism, “Caste System” and discrimination – Part II
This part begins from comments that were triggered following a post by Incognito (in which he referred to Nemo’c comment @ #51) on the earlier thread. Since it was in danger of getting overloaded (100+ comments already), I decided to move the recent comments here and start this new thread.
Please continue the discussion here…
I am reproducing excerpts from Nemo’s comment first (for context), followed by Incognito’s and others comments… Please read on:
*** COMMENTS BEGIN (CAUTION: Long Post) ***
Excerpts from Comment By Nemo (#51):
Hindus have had enough of the racist myth which christianism imposed on us (the Japhetic-Hamitic story). It’s rather the same as the Semitic-Hamitic story which the christians imposed on the poor Rwandans. We’re familiar with the outcome of *that* terrorist tactic:
“Christian Churches and Genocide in Rwanda” paper by Timothy Longman, Vassar College, for a conference on Genocide. http://faculty.vassar.edu/tilongma/Church&Genocide.html – Section “Christianity and the Construction of Ethnicity” That’s the section that contains the striking parallels with the christian AIT. If anyone reads that part, they�ll find it’s interesting to note how both in Rwanda’s case and India’s case, christians of the colonial era were only able to explain the perplexing extant social situation and phenotypical variety by recourse to some desperate invasion fiction.
It was the christian colonials from Britain who destroyed the Indian school system and prevented people from being educated. Just like they burnt up Hindus’ books on Ayurveda – http://www.hinduwisdom.info/European_Imperialism.htm. Also at that link, it quotes from “The Case for India – By Will Durant Simon and Schuster, New York. 1930″ (Will Durant is a historian):
— When the British came there was, throughout India, a system of communal schools, managed by the village communities. The agents of the East India Company destroyed these village communities, and took steps to replace the schools; even today, after a century of effort to restore them, they stand at only 66% of their number a hundred years ago. Hence, the 93 % illiteracy of India. —
And as Dharampal has shown in his meticulously researched “The beautiful Tree”, it was the same christian British that thwarted a great many Hindu communities who had been getting excellent education prior to the uninvited christian colonial meddling/destruction. Some of Dharampal’s stuff can be found at: http://www.india-forum.com/forums/index.php?showtopic=1068 (At the bottom, it also discusses the use of Samskritam.)
Lest we uniquely blame the British for this most christian habit of vandalism, we must recall that they were but following what their predecessors – the christians of Rome – did to the Ancient ‘pagan’ Roman education system: destroy it. http://freetruth.50webs.org/A2b.htm
Comment By Incognito:
Nemo @ 51 mentions the article Christian Churches and Genocide in Rwanda.
- It is interesting to note that while ancient indian scriptures do not support the idea of a birth based caste system(Ramayana, written by a reformed robber, Mahabharata by the son of a fisherwoman, even Vedas compiled by the same son of fisherwoman, who are considered are Brahmins) , it is interesting to find out how and when the activity and temperament based varna system of the ancient indian scriptures turned into birth based caste system in english text books.The above mentioned article and the book The creation of Tribalism in Southern Africa on what happened in Africa gives a clue to what may have happened in India.Extract from the introduction of the book-
“missionaries were instrumental in creating cultural identities through their specification of ‘custom’ and ‘tradition’ and by writing ‘tribal’ histories, a process discussed in the chapters by Ranger, Vail and White, and Jewsiewicki. Once these elements of culture were in place and available to be used as the cultural base of a distinct new, ascriptive ethnic identity, it could replace older organizing principles that depended upon voluntary clientage and loyalty and which, as such, showed great plasticity. Thus firm, non-porous and relatively inelastic ethnic boundaries, many of which were highly arbitrary, came to be constructed and were then strengthened by the growth of stereotypes of ‘the other’(stress added), as the essays by Siegel and Papstein show…
…European missionaries, assuming that Africans properly belonged to ‘tribes’, incorporated into the curricula of their mission schools the lesson that the pupils had clear ethnic identities… ”In the indian context, caste was used to replace tribes and the missionaries worked with british colonialists.“missionaries educated local Africans (who)then themselves served as the most important force in shaping the new ethnic ideologies. These people—usually men—were keenly aware of the forces that were pulling apart their societies and, with the examples of nationalism in Europe derived from their own mission education before them, they sought to craft similar local movements as a means of countering these problems. Despite their own western-style education, they realized that such a construct would best be understood and accepted if it were put in a cultural idiom easily accessible to the people. Thus, in formulating their new ideologies, they looked to the local area’s past for possible raw material for their new intellectual bricolage. Like their European predecessors during the initial stages of nineteenth century nationalism, they ‘rediscovered’ the ‘true values’ of their people and so defined the ‘ethnic soul’. Their cultural strongbox was the ‘customs’ and ‘traditions’ of the people, identification with which they saw as giving an automatic, ascriptive cultural unity to ‘their’ people as they confronted the challenge of colonialism and the impact of industrialization. Virtually every study in this volume demonstrates the role of educated people as key actors in the creation of such ideology…”Creation of Arya Samaj, Brahmo Samaj, Congress party etc., in India appears to follow this line of thought .“..In those societies where missionaries did not work, or where they did work but did not introduce education along western lines, or where African intellectuals emerged only at a late period or not at all, the development of ethnic ideologies was either stalled or never occurred.”
“…Ethnic identity, thus, came to be specified not only by the written histories, grammars, and accounts of ‘traditional customs’ produced by local culture brokers, but also—and in many respects, far more importantly—by the actual operation of the administrative mechanisms of indirect rule…”
Seems very relatable to the pre-independance india.
“educated local Africans then themselves served as the most important force in shaping the new ethnic ideologies. Combined with the policies of colonial administrators and the popular acceptance of ethnic ideas as a means of coping with the disruptions of modernity, the actions of missionaries helped to create the deep social divisions that are at the root of ethnic conflict in many African countries.”
Again, has a parallel to pre-independence India.
Extract from the article-
“The role of missionaries in the construction of ethnicity in Rwanda offers an excellent example of the process that Vail describes. In Rwanda, missionaries played a primary role in creating ethnic myths and interpreting Rwandan social organization — not only for colonial administrators, but ultimately for the Rwandan population itself. The concepts of ethnicity developed by the missionaries served as a basis for the German and Belgian colonial policies of indirect rule which helped to transform relatively flexible pre-colonial social categories into clearly defined ethnic groups. Following independence, leaders who were trained in church schools relied extensively on ethnic ideologies to gain support, thus helping to intensify and solidify ethnic divisions.”
Apparently the imperial powers whether british or german or belgian practiced same tactics, most likely in collusion with each other. Max Mueller the german therefore worked for the british in India.
Antics of the british educated elite after independence in continuing with the british education system and creating divisions in society is comparable to what is narrated in the article.
Seems like the politicians of India today are following the footsteps of imperial powers by dividing the populace.
What we are seeing today with the parties warring with each other over vote banks is similar to the tiffs between colonial powers which ultimately resulted in WWII and the end of colonial rule.
Will a similar thing happen in Indian political scene which will result in vote-bank playing parties weakening and nationalistic ideas gaining ground ?
“When colonial administrators and Catholic missionaries arrived in Rwanda, they were enchanted by the Tutsi rulers they encountered. To the missionaries, the Tutsi seemed tall and elegant, with refined features and light skin, in some ways closer in appearance to Europeans than to their short, stocky, dark Hutu compatriots. As elsewhere in Africa, in order to convert the population in Rwanda, the missionaries considered it important to understand the indigenous culture and social structures, and the interpretations that came from their study of the culture greatly influenced both the colonial administration and, subsequently, Rwandan self-perceptions. Influenced by contemporary European notions of race which held that the world could be divided into clearly defined and hierarchically ranked racial and national groups, the missionaries, ignoring important divisions within each of the groups, viewed Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa as three distinct peoples representing three separate waves of immigration. They viewed the Twa as the autochthonous population, the original inhabitants of the region, who many centuries earlier were subdued by Bantu migrants from the west who became the Hutu. According to the missionary account, the Tutsi arrived from the northeast sometime later, around 1600, and because of their clear superiority, conquered the Hutu, whom they had ruled ever since. Doubting that Africans could have designed so complex and efficient a political system, the missionaries hypothesized that the Tutsi were not really African but a Hamitic or Semitic group from the Middle East, perhaps a lost tribe of Israel(emphasis added) .”
How similar this sounds to the Aryan Invasion Theory and the division created between so-called Aryans and Dravidians.
“The Tutsi, not surprisingly, failed to challenge the missionaries’ assertions of their superiority and instead participated in the development of a mythico-history that portrayed them as natural rulers, with superior intelligence and morals. “
Again, parallels to how Brahmins and upper castes were patronised by british in india and their silence, which is natural when facing a gun.
“When the Catholic Church began to recruit native Rwandan clergy early in the century (the first native-born priest was ordained in 1917), they selected exclusively Tutsi, and these priests, nuns, and brothers played an important role in interpreting Rwandan history and culture. A group of Tutsi intellectuals emerged within the church — most importantly historian Alexis Kagame and Bishop Aloys Bigirumwami — whose anthropological and historical texts, based largely on oral histories, reinforced many of the ideas of strict ethnic separation and Tutsi political dominance. As Alison DesForges writes, “In a great and unsung collaborative enterprise over a period of decades, Europeans and Rwandan intellectuals created a history of Rwanda that fit European assumptions and accorded with Tutsi interests.” This history became widely accepted by Rwandans of all ethnicities, and following the transfer of power from Tutsi to Hutu after the 1959 revolution, Hutu leaders used the historical account of centuries of ethnically based exploitation to inspire support among the Hutu masses.”
And how similar this sounds to the Brahmin/ Dalit divide in India.
And the Church inspired Maoists killing of Swami and others whose activities fostering indian culture undermines the nefarious activities of Church.
“When the genocide finally occurred, church personnel and institutions were, not surprisingly, intimately involved“.
This about Rwanda. But also true about Orissa recently.
In conclusion the article says-
“The complicity of the churches in the genocide is not merely a failing of Christianity in Rwanda, but of world Christianity as it has established itself in Africa, and it should lead people of faith throughout the world to question the nature of religious institutions and the ways in which they exercise their power.”
The ideas brought out by the article and the book sheds light on how social engineering was carried out by the british in India during the time they ruled this country. It shows a pointer to how the colonials destroyed the indigenous education system and installed in its place something that deprived the indigenous people of their self-esteem and simultaneously created divisions in society which are now being exploited by power hungry politicians.
To conclude, an extract from the book-
“..Nationalism—and tribalism—have thus appeared uncertain and ambiguous to many observers.
Yet when one looks closely at the situation in southern Africa, one comes to realize that the ethnic message’s backward-looking aspects and its forward-looking concerns have been in no way contradictory. The emphases on past values, ‘rediscovered’ traditions, and chiefly authority were truly conservative—that is, they were calculated to conserve a way of life that was in the process of being rapidly undermined by the forces of capitalism and colonialism. ”
Is it any wonder that in India nationalistic organisations such as RSS are opposed by the Church and the products of the british education system as being backward looking conservatives…
The ideas presented in the book and the article also give a warning of sorts to Indians on what could happen in future if the divisiveness in society created by the british and their successor politicians are allowed to go unchecked.
Indians needs to learn lessons from the mass killings of Rwanda as a result of reprisal acts committed by different ethinc groups.
In the Indian context, clashes between Maoists and Ranvir Sena are examples.
What is happening in Tamil Nadu are ominous.
So are the Church engineered murder of nationalistic Indians in Orissa.
Efforts by interested parties(read missionaries) in propagating ideas of Dalitistan and Dravidistan are also significant in the light of this information.
Jomo Kenyatta, the first Prime Minister and later President of independent Kenya said:-
“When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.”
Hope the following quote will not come to pass for India-
“They came with ideas of secularism and classless society and Indian thought them good and shut his eyes. When he opened his eyes, they had his land and he had nothing”
Comment by Jayadevan:
Really high-flown discussions. The posts have really added to my knowledge. That all are happy with their place in the caste system, which is not as discriminatory as the Western media and missionaries would have us believe. That the caste system is both part of our culture and (just the evils may be) an aberration caused by foreign invaders. That the world over, people have been practising worse forms of discrimination, so the Indian low castes should count their blessings. So I do get confused.
Maybe there was never and is not a system of classifying people by occupation (never by birth, I am told), with various classes occupying higher and lower positions in society. I do know that there was a different scale of punishment for crimes (at least in Kerala) where the leniency was in direct proportion to altitude on the caste scale, but maybe this was an aberration. What are we trying to do? Justify the caste system? Deny the discrimination? Say there are blacker kettles than our pot? Say that the niggers are happy in their little cabins ( I note that when people feel that they are on the reverse end of the stick, they sing a different tune – see Tamil Nadu)? Blame someone else for the defects in our society?
- Are we so afraid of what others will think of us if we introspect? Hindus are not limited by the fear of being charged of apostasy like the Muslims or Christians – and even they have a million interpretations of their faith. We have no book that holds us to any particular way of thinking. So why should we carry this albatross round our neck in the fear that Hinduism will become unraveled if we throw caste in the garbage can?The fact is that all we are, our culture, our upbringing, our relatively better educational background, our relative wealth, is based on a system that treated a certain class of people as lesser humans, albeit useful, and held them from revolt by making them believe that their place in life was exactly that. Caste is not confined to India. It existed in all societies, except perhaps in the Nordic lands where real democracy was a fact of life from very far back. The fact is that society needed a subservient class in order to maintain the superiors. Now it was inevitable that these subhumans would rebel at times and no physical force could hold them down. So a system in which they could be indoctrinated to hold themselves down had to be devised. Britain had its class system, Russia had the serfs, Japan had its Eta, we have the Shudras and of course, beyond and below the purview of the Varnas, the Panchamas, who do not even qualify to be called human. Shambuka (a shudra) could at least aspire to do tapa. Because he was part of the Varna Sampradaya, he could transgress. But a Panchama had no hopes of even that. He was a beast, along with the cows and goats an economic resource to be used.We get a cow impregnated and take care that it delivers safely. If the offspring is female, well and good, if male, we let it live if we want a bullock. Otherwise we kill it (Ahimsavadis kindly let it starve) and put the skin on a framework of twigs the mother can smell, so her output does not do down. After the cow becomes less economically viable, we slaughter it by a long-drawn process of denial of food. The carrion comes handy to feed the Chamars. And the hide goes to make drums which are deva vadyas. The Panchama is also seen as a precious resource. Who would abuse or misuse a precious resource? They were disciplined, certainly. Don’t you put a nose ring on a bull? Does that show that you degrade it? Some are kind to their animals. A cow treated kindly gives more milk. In the same way..This system worked perfectly well for years. There is no call to say that this was not part of our culture. That would be an untruth. I call myself an upper caste Hindu and I have to acknowledge the fact that my culture, my upbringing, my relative wealth is all based on systematic exploitation of these resources. That does not make me want to apologize. That does not want me to surrender my privileges.Now if you will argue that this treatment is not civilized and should go out with the advent of modern thought, I can give you the example of Germany, which was considered the then most advanced of European countries, using Jews and Gypsies as labourers first and then harvesting their hair, the gold in their teeth, their body fat and even their skin for lampshades. Nothing was wasted. After a few years, they might have started to call them Kaamadhenu.So, why nitpick? Do we have Manu on trial here? The poor man or men described what was being thought at that time. Are we supposed to justify him, when we do not even know whether Manu was one man or a group of people who collated and interpolated over the years? Do we carry the sins of our forefathers that we need to justify them or apologize for them? Or do we move forward after giving the people whom we oppressed for centuries a couple of generations to catch up with us? This does not call for great sacrifices. We are getting off cheap.
Comment by Incognito (EDITED)
@ Jayadevan Padri- 125
>>>”I do know that there was a different scale of punishment for crimes (at least in Kerala) …”
Then why didn’t …beloved britishers who ruled that state for 200 years not change that?
Or your Godfathers in Kerala Congress or CPM whom you voted to power for the next 60 years.
>>>”The fact is that all we are, our culture, our upbringing, our relatively better educational background, our relative wealth, is based on a system that treated a certain class of people as lesser humans, albeit useful, and held them from revolt by making them believe that their place in life was exactly that.”
Yes…britishers did that to the Negros. They did much the same to Indians too for 200 years.
Good that you acknowledge that.
>>>”Caste is not confined to India. It existed in all societies, …”
Yeah everywhere…wretched britishers set foot.
>>>”The fact is that society needed a subservient class in order to maintain the superiors. “
That is the justification…britishers gave. It is not valid today.
>>>”But a Panchama had no hopes of even that. He was a beast, along with the cows and goats an economic resource to be used.”
Yeah that is how…britishers used men.
>>>”This system worked perfectly well for years. ”
Well. It does not anymore.
*** NOTE by MODERATOR ***
@ Incognito: Pl. stick to substantive points in your arguments.
Somewhat relevant to this discussion, here is an interesting graphic courtesy Prasanna: