Is it possible to eradicate Casteism in India?


"Ram S. Ravindran" <rravindr@iupui.edu>

It requires deeper understanding of the issues involved and a sincere desire on the part of everyone to change their ways and and genuinely want to treat each other with fairness and a sense of brotherliness (stemming from sharing the same land TN)
 
The migration of Indians to USA ( and meeting with them out of the environment of India and with Christianity as the the refernce relgion) has thrown some interesting light on the inner workings of the minds of  Indians, particularly Hindus

I have had occsion to move with various groups of people from various parts of India here in the USA. I have asked them probing questions with the idea understanding the caste dynamics in TN vs the rest of India

Something strikes me very interesting

The animosity between Brahmains and non-Brahmins or Sudhras and non-Sudhras

(by the way can someone give  an explanation for the word "Sudhras"}
 It is most intense in TN, then comes Kerala and then karnataka then AP and
surprisingly not so much at all in the rest of India!!!

Why is it so ?

the % brahmins in every state is just about the same (3-4%). The overwhelming majority of the populace belongs to the non-brahmin category  So the feeling (between the two groups ) should be about the same in the other states of India as well. Right!
How come it is not so ? Why the situation is uniquely differnt in TN?

On close examination two things stand out

1. The social hierarchy in the north was destroyed by the Mogul occupation. TN was essentially untouched by the Moslem invasion

The Moguls also destroyed the temples and the culture (hierarchical that goes with it). The social order (based on religion) was destroyed

2. By virtue of two cultural traits

1. Early rising ( to do sandhya vandhanam (sunrise)) and early memorization skills the brahmins were able to master the knowledge the Britishers wanted to run the show. The British influence in TN was more intense than in the rest of India. In fact the Tamilians were happy with the britishers (unlike the northerners) In British TN if you could master enough knowledge to get
a SSLC you were able to get into the system and by virtue of seniority you were able to move up in the ranks. The ones who got in early were able to move up to a higher postion and had the power to help out others.

1. brahmins were able to secure well paying jobs and  positions of power and wealth by virtue of early lead in education

I don't believe that in any other state (till recently) a dispropotionate % of high paying jobs were held by the brahmins as it was so in TN. Besides the % of lawyers, doctors, administrative positions quite unlike the other states in TN (very unique siotuation that did not exist in other
parts of India) out of proportion to 3% population a sizable number of brahmins also became the landowning population (obtained as a gift from local kings, welathy ladnowners or from the temple endowment)in TN.  (This is not the case in the other states of India)

Another important factor was even the political control in TN ( in a democracy the majority group will naturally have a greater control in the political process) was in the hands of the brahmins to a greater extent in TN than in other states of India
 

On top of it, cultural dominance via AIR

Carnatic music is just one form of music enjoyed by a tiny % of the populace.Music , just like food, is just a matter of taste and what one is used to. None of it can be really claimed to be better than the other (it all has to do with the individual) Till recently the people who controlled
the programming of AIR felt everyone had to listen to only carnatic music.

Just imagine in the US the fellow in charge of radio programming feels that "opera" (or hymns and spirituals) is the best music (or high brow music) and everyone has to listen to it and not listen to country, blues, jazz or pop and the other music lovers had no power to change matters

Because of the mogul influence, the music of North India was to the needs of the common people.
 

This kind of music favored by one group did not have total dominance in the other states of India as it was in TN
 

Bhajans which involve all the people and requires that you be seated on level is a form of North Indian worship. IN the north every worshipper go and do the puja himself or evne touch the gods personlly

IN the north there is more group dancing and perhaps more community orientation

As Sanskrit uses Devanagiri script the Non-Tamilians (Tamil script is vastly differetn from devanagri) were able to read the religious literture and in fact were able to perform many rites (that mark the events of life) themselves. With less of religious control of their lives , less of economic disparity, the non-brahmins of the north were able to co-exist without harboring
animosity)

Things are changing slowly and dramatically. People who observe the social scene of today may think nothing has changed. Compared to what it was quite a bit of cahnge has occured. With democracy rapid change can't be brought about

The laws and govrrnment can  make only minimal structural change ;only the people can bring about greater change. For that to happen people should want to become [articipants in the change.

The intense competition in education (that exists today) has made every group become early learners.  every group gets their kids to study in bala vihar. The early memorization skills enjoyed by one group is now partaken bye veryone.

 If you notice the gap between various groups in the entrance examination is slowly narrowing. To me it really doesn't make much difference whether one gets 98 or 85 out of 100%. They are all above average and should  have the capacity to learn higher level of knowldege.
 

Every group is waking up and is not afraid to challenge status quo. with education they are able to vocalize and cogently write about their inner feelings and aspirations for equality and fairness. The media is slowly taking on social issues (not to the extent it is done in the WEST)

If everyone wants to change, practical steps can be taken.

Government and laws won't be able to do much unless people genuinely want to change and religious leaders are willing to take a role in the society and not in individual life alone

More on it later


 "Mani M. Manivannan" <manim@ix.netcom.com>

Dear Ram,

There are some myths and inaccuracies in your otherwise well-intentioned article.

Myth #1:

>Early rising ( to do sandhya vandhanam (sunrise)) and early memorization
>skills the brahmins were able to master the knowledge the Britishers wanted
>to run the show.

Brahmins are not the only ones who had the habit of rising early. If you work in the fields or live in rural areas, generally people rise very early in the morning.  Of course, they don't have the
luxury of reading in the early morning because they are busy earning a living.  And as for memorization skill, that too is not unique to the brahmins.  Several of the "Avadhanis" (Memory
experts) belonged to other castes.  Anybody who had learned Tamil literature, had to have memorized volumes and volumes of texts.  Neither of these traits had anything to do with the
brahmin ascendancy during the British era.  That i