#India- What it Means to be a Brahmin Dalit #caste

Vol – XLVII No. 52, December 29, 2012 | Anjali Rajoria , EPW

An impassioned plea by a Dalit woman professional for acknowledging the prejudices and obstacles even “privileged” people like her face when confronted with the structure of caste. This personal experience underlines the context for the Constitutional amendment bill on allow reservations for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotions.

Anjali Rajoria is a medical doctor from Delhi.

“A slave cannot be freed save he free himself. Neither can you enslave a free man, the most you can do is kill him.”

Robert A. Heinlein

In case you are wondering what a ‘Brahmin Dalit’ means, let me clarify at the very outset, I claim to be a Brahmin Dalit because I was born with the label “lower caste”. (In fact that label is given even before one is born, but lets keep that aside for a while.) However, today I am a relatively well off, educated and an accomplished dalit, hence the epithet, ‘Brahmin Dalit’.  Do you think that I am trying to gain your sympathy by deliberately posing as a victim of the evil caste system despite being in a much better position than the majority of my fellow dalit brethren?

The answer is a clear, unequivocal No! My purpose here is only to help people understand what it really means to be a dalit and how it is so difficult for us to get rid of our caste identity, even in this time and age. I writhe in agony as I give myself the title of ‘Brahmin Dalit’. When I realised that it is my religion that is impelling me to live life with a degraded status forever, I decided to renounced my religion. I am no longer a Hindu. When I look back, I feel so proud of having taken that decision a few years back.

But the stark reality is, even if a dalit turns into a non-Hindu in her quest for liberation, her caste status continues to haunt her. Her identity continues to be shaped by her caste and she continues to grapple with it every single day. Her society forces her to bear the burden of bondage. It is this bondage that we wish to break. We wish to be freed from slavery.

Perhaps the title ‘Brahmin Dalit’ is not appropriate. Because a dalit Hindu can convert to Islam, Christianity or to Buddhism, but she can never turn into a Brahmin. “Dalit” rigid label for life. It refuses to erode. It is a label that reminds us constantly of who we are. We stand at the end of centuries of injustice and oppression. And even today we are treated as second class humans. We are presumed to be unequal in possibly all aspects – less intelligent, less capable, less hygienic, less civilised and what not. The inequality meted out to us is justified on these counts.

So even if a dalit accomplishes something in his life, he is secretly dismissed as an exception. He is not granted his place of respect. Very few people realise how much he would have struggled to achieve what he has. Very few people take the pain to empathise with him. Yet, publicly his example is used to criticise the positive discrimination extended by the government to the dalits. It is not uncommon to see such hypocritical attitude of casteists around.

True, urbanisation and modernisation have diluted the occupational rigidities and economic disabilities to some extent. Dalits can now aspire to occupy the highest echelons in terms of occupational status. But does that mean that we have got rid of this hydra-headed monster of caste? Definitely not. For those who are still wondering in disbelief, my suggestion would be to take a closer look at the whole picture. If you think that caste no longer holds relevance in urban India, go and personally talk to any of the backward category students studying in any of the elite institutions of this country. Ask her how many times she has been disgraced by her teachers and fellow students. Ask her how many times she has been forced to hide her identity from her professors for fear of being castigated only because she is a dalit. Ask her how painful and tormenting it is for her to live under the shadow of untouchability in a free country.

Thorat Committee Report clearly points towards the continued discrimination and segregation of students belonging to dalit and tribal communities in premier institutions of this country like All India Institute of Medical Sciences and Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi. For how long will we turn a Nelson’s eye towards the plight and anguish of these young and bright minds? How many more Eklavya-like sacrifices do we need to get rid of Dronacharyas who deliberately fail even deserving students belonging to backward communities.

It does not need rocket science to grasp the reality that caste stigmatisation exists even today, a fact that no well-reasoned person can brush off. A look at the website of National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes would easily give you an insight into the horrendous levels of continuing maltreatment dalits are being subjected to. It probably would require an encyclopedia-sized tomb to mention all the atrocities that have been perpetrated and continue to be perpetrated in the name of caste.

Let the dead past bury the dead. We do not hold grievances against injustices of the past because what has happened cannot be undone. But even in the present times, 90 percent of the so called menial jobs are performed by dalits. Those living in the hinterland are forced to reside in ghettos or slums. Government schools and offices continue to witness segregation of dalits. The occupation of priesthood is still monopolised by Brahmins. We still have Hindu temples that continue to deny entry to dalits. Inter-caste marriages are the exception rather than the norm. Honour killings of those who dare to defy the diktats of their elders by marrying people of “lower castes” are commonplace. In fact, caste is such a pervasive reality that almost no group of people (including non-Hindus and even non-resident Indians) and no part of India is untouched by its immense influence.

I have nothing against the Brahmins. Being born to the upper caste (or lower caste) is not a matter of choice. I hate the Brahminical system, not Brahmins. Vices of the Brahminical system may be found in dalits and non-dalits alike. The ultimate panacea for all such ills has to be ‘Annihilation of the Caste System’. Its time for us to come out of our comfort zones, accept the harsh realities and collectively try to heal the near-permanent wounds of dalits. It is time for us to open our hearts and minds to embrace those as equals who have been disgraced and denied a dignified life for far too long.

I am very hopeful that a time will come when caste will lose its raison d’etre, when people will be treated only as humans and when we will redefine our identity in terms of secular credentials alone. Babasaheb Ambedkar had once remarked, “We are all Indians, firstly and lastly.” To realise this dream, we must ensure that caste is stripped off of all the functions that it performs for Indian society. We must take collective action to dismantle this evil structure. There are many well-intentioned people who are sincere about the goal of eradication of caste hierarchy. It is these people who continue to give us hope – hope of ushering in a new era – a caste-less and classless society.

Numerous measures can be taken to efface bigoted caste identities, at governmental and societal levels. Strict enforcement of legal provisions to proscribe all forms of expressions, rituals and social practices associated with the caste system is the need of the hour. Alongside these steps, we also need to ban the use of caste names to prevent targeting of caste groups and instead replace surnames with the names of either the father or the mother. (Former union health minister Ambudani Ramadoss had given a worthwhile suggestion in this regard). Inter–caste marriages should be freely promoted and incentives should be provided for those who decide to inter-marry. Government and social agencies should make inroads into dalit areas to provide equal and universal access to education, social equality and employment to all. Upper-caste-dominated occupations, especially in the private sector and media need to be accessible to people from the backward sections. Most importantly, we need to infuse the spirit of confidence and self-worth in our dalit brethren.

Martin Luther King Jr. had famously observed, “A person who cannot die for a cause is not fit to live.” To my dalit brothers and sisters, this is my message: We are not alone in our fight against tyranny. There are many others outside our net who empathise with us. But we have to be the prime movers and torchbearers in our struggle. We are ‘chosen’ to fight and we will keep fighting. This is our only option.

Brothers and sisters, it is time for a revolution. A revolution that will begin in our hearts and minds. Liberation of the self from internalised oppression does not happen quickly or easily. The tiniest bit of self-liberation needs to be nourished and treasured and consciously grown. We have come very far, but there is still a long way to go. We will shape a better tomorrow and we will leave behind footprints for others to follow


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: #India- Why there are so few senior Dalit bureaucrats « kracktivist
  2. Trackback: The Angst of a Common Indian | The Earth Citizen
  3. Trackback: Violence rocks Dalit hostel as Patna varsity looks the other way « kracktivist
  4. cutie
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 15:08:26

    Whole world think that India has many castes which are main reason of discrimination of people but its very very big misconception of caste system spread around the world to defame culture of India because it was the biggest systematically designed system for people from thousands of years. Now let me tell you what is meaning of varna and caste system in India and how its was started. In Ancient India there were two great saints, one was saint Bhrigu and other was saint Bhardwaj. They met to discuss how to structure a stable society for human being to live proper life, First they recognized the four sources which are:
    1. Knowledge 2. Weapons 3. Wealth 4. Land
    They decided to make system where nobody has more than one of that. These should not be in one hand, not even two should be in one hand. So those who has knowledge will not have wealth, will not have weapons and will not have lands. Those who will have weapons will rule the country but they will not make policy. They need to go to people having knowledge to seek their permission and advice. Those who are having wealth, their social status will be decided by the how much philanthropy they do not by their wealth. Those who has lands have to produce for the society. In fact none of these four category or “varna” was based on by birth.


  5. cutie
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 15:12:32

    Hindu (body) four community: brahmin (head) kshatriya (arm) vaishya (belly) shudra (feet) All these four community called as hindu. We all are parts of one body. Without each part our body is not complete. If we lost one part of our body then we become handicap. The human body is the entire structure of a human being. Human Body is considered so loving that God even wants to have it. Spiritual Yogis have found that after going through the 84 millions species this souls get the most dignified human body. So it is the last step to explore the God or to get the view of almighty father god. We know that the soul never dies it takes birth again and again just like as we take new clothes to wear the soul as it takes new body and it is an infinite process. But the body what we get in next birth depend on our karma that has been cited in Gita by Lord Krishna to Arjuna. We all here to perform our duties. Our action makes our destiny and nothing else. The result is in the hand of supreme power. Karma is the seed of plant and if the seed is genuine it must be fruitful.


  6. cutie
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 15:13:22

    Many a time, man has taken birth in high caste and low caste; but this does not make him great or low Having been born in high caste man thinks himself to be great and being born in low caste thinks himself to be low and pitiable; both of these states of mind are wrong because many times man has been born in high and low castes. Hence, one should not be proud of having been born in high caste and not feel low if born in low caste family.
    Greatness has nothing to do with high caste. Man becomes great because of his noble work, exemplary character and becomes loathsome because of his immorality and evil conduct. Thus, it is his conduct only that decides his greatness or lowliness. Who does not know that high family born Ravana, Kansa, Duryodhana and others are censurable; whereas Metarya muni, Harikeshi muni and others, though born in low family, are venerable.
    Then, what is the importance of high or low caste?


  7. cutie
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 15:16:13

    We always talk about religion and castesim but in reality there is no any caste and religion. We all are same our blood are same.then why we believe in discrimination. God never created any caste they made simple human being.. Mentally sick people take the path of fundamentalism and spread casteism and communism. They suffer from inferiority complex and divide the society into “we” and “they”. They (belonging either to higher or lower ranked caste) have a fear in their heart that if they do not get a higher place for themselves in society, “other” people are going to exploit them and going to put them down.They don’t have believe on themselves and their own work. They have doubt own their capability. People with negative mindset suffer from inferiority complex and divide society into compartments like higher castes or lower castes.and can’t tolerate “others” progress or well-being. They cannot work hard and cannot tolerate anybody else’s achievements. These are the people with negative mindset who believe in ranking some belonging to higher castes and/or some to lower castes. They are coward and they are unable to protect themselves…


  8. cutie
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 15:16:59

    Whenever someone’s ask you about your caste then your answer should be to them is:
    I am a Brahmin in knowledge
    I am kshatriya in valor
    I am vaishya in business
    I m shudra in service
    In the end I am just sanatam dharmi hindu and nothing else..Then say you proud to be a hindu..


  9. cutie
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 15:21:26

    Inter caste marriage should be encourage..bcoz if people take this step then castesim and religion based discrimination should be stop itself..we all are human being..God never created any caste and religion..even God dnt has any caste and religion…did you know that God belong to which caste and religion..then keep shut your mouth about this stupid varan system and caste system okh.. In ancient times, caste system had the seeds of liberalism. It provided the right and opportunity to get to the top from the humblest origin and earn the respect of the whole society. For example, Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame was the son of a fish-woman and he was not ashamed of his origin. Balmiki, an untouchable according to present standards, the original author of Ramayana, is highly respected all over India..And only you can make it good or bad this inter caste marriage. Depends upon how much importance u give to these meaningless and stupid values. And how much importance u give to other people who value these meaningless things. U have to see how much u urself r attached to other people opinions. And since u r asking for opinion, it means u r attached to these meaningless things.


  10. cutie
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 15:25:52

    A brahmin man godse killed Gandhi.
    A brahmin lady savita killed Dr.B.R.Abedakar.


  11. cutie
    Apr 26, 2014 @ 15:26:32

    The brahmin community has been one of the dirty communities which has planned strategically to fool people in the name of god by generating the highest donations in the temple, doing business to fool and loot money in the name of puja, death, marriage, new home… For any occasion, there’s one puja. They charge very high prices and take away all the items after the puja. They have created prostitution in the name of devadasis. They suppress jobs and employment and welfare and equality are destroyed. they have destroyed the Indian medical system. They have killed Indian medical science like siddha vaidhyam and created ayurveda and carnatic music by destroying dravidian music. Even today they have the temples under their control. They say they don’t like untouchables, but they have always been sexually harassing low caste women.


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