What Shekhar Gupta has in common with the oppressive British Raj

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A lot.

Am reading I am Divine by Devdutt Pattanaik (edited by Jerry Johnson) and is a laudable work on the history of LGBTIQ within the Indian ‘Hindu’ society. To me, Hindu is a geographical identity whose one of the aspects is the legacy of Dharmic religions. But all that later.

The book has sharp insights on the issue of ‘caste’, for which Hindus have been flogged over and over for centuries. It is particularly valuable in the current climate of creating divisions within our society (SC/ST Act issue, Lingayats, etc.)… all because Congress wants a few votes in order to remain relevant.

Their cronies are helping them further their divisive agenda.

And Shekhar Gupta is leading the pack, how? ‘I Am Divine’ offers a perspective.

Before I present the relevant excerpt, here’s a background of the issue, taken from the same book:

A hymn from the Rig Veda described society as an organism whose body parts are made up of 4 Varnas, Brahmins (learned ones, religious scholars) on top, Kshatriyas, ruling class and landowners come next, trading community or Vaishyas come third, and last come the Shudras, the service providers. 

This 4th group split later, with untouchables and tribals, who were pushed out of the social system. While many sages and philosophers spoke against this social structure, most rulers of the land respected Jati as it helped legitimise their rule, enabled them to collect taxes with relative ease from communities, rather than individuals, who controlled the lands and the markets. Many used Brahmins to establish new villages, and collect taxes on their behalf, thus making them God-kings. Muslim rulers too, in order to ensure stability, used Brahmins as bureaucrats and tax collectors, and so effectively let the 4-tiered social model persist. 

Here is the excerpt from ‘I am Divine’ that throws light on how this caste conundrum became so pervasive as to be thoroughly institutionalised:

When the Portuguese came to India, they used the word ‘Caste’ for Jati. 

The British eventually documented castes for administrative convenience, and converted this rather fluid social system into a rigid and documented categorisation, even giving castes to people who really had no castes, and giving them social status in a standardised national hierarchy, ignoring the fact that the hierarchies of the Jati system functioned locally with numerous regional variations. Based on caste, the British assigned jobs in the military, they divided cities. Later, they switched from caste to religion, ignoring the caste divides in Indian Christians and Muslims, and amplifying the divide in Hindus, insisting that caste was an essential condition of all Hindus, based on books such as Manusmriti, which had originally only documented caste as social practice, not recommended or prescribed it.

Hindus who moved to the Caribbean Islands as indentured labour in the 19th century, after slavery was abolished in Europe and America, retained their Hindu identity, but not any caste identity, as the socio-economic conditions there did not have NEED for caste. British administration did not bother to document the caste of labourers or classify them as such. But in India, where caste was strongly mapped to socio-economic realities, and where British administrators documented caste and made it essential category while recruiting for the army (only military castes were allowed) and for the bureaucracy (Brahmin and the landed gentry were preferred), caste not only thrived but was institutionalised. 

The documentation process also created the religion we now call Hinduism.

So, when Shekhar Gupta propagates writings like:

and makes comments like this:

But, in no way has a response to this:

Because there are…

a body that he is now the President of,

he is culpable of furthering the noxious legacy of the British Raj.

He is no intellectual. His attitude is a vestige of the British system of divide and rule, which works very well in the present context as it did in those times.

How long are we going to keep falling victim to this?

Finally, for those who might have questions about Manusmriti, often blamed for all the major social ills in the Hindu society, please read this:

Manusmriti & Caste System by Acharya Harikrushna Farashuram.

Read, and liberate yourself from centuries-old burden of hate and disgust heaped upon our civilisation by people who pillaged, marauded, and oppressed entire civilisations around the world with complete lack of compunction and are now giving others certificates for human rights while fomenting violence in the Middle East.

People like Mr. Gupta, instead of participating in the progress of our society by furthering a constructive agenda, happen to spread hatred because it helps them so. They have created a different class system of ‘intellectuals’ who act as if they walk on water, but won’t even acknowledge it. This should be our fight.

Is this a turning point?

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The last few months have not been easy. No. Not at all.

For a middle class girl to a woman, I have grown in an extremely diverse, pluralistic, sometimes traditional but largely liberal society, especially at home.

When it was time to join in evening prayers or bhajans, I used to be thrilled to take the mickey out of the bhajan mandali participants of my granny’s group. It was quite the ‘in’ thing, at least for me, not to visit temples, completely deny all the little bits of religion fed us by our elders and relatives. Not because it was being forced upon us; no, not at all. After all, the prayer before leaving the class for lunch break was mandatory; Christmas celebrations were marked by a unique fervour, unmatched by that which marked Diwali in our largely ‘baniya’-led school in Ahmedabad – not one classmate of mine was Christian, I remember (we did have one Christian teacher though).

It was incredulous to find, one fine day, our elders using separate cups for the drivers and cleaners to serve tea. Once more the student in me, instructed by the ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ in our textbooks found an opportunity to exercise my learning, the question being, ‘if not now, when?’; ‘if not me, who?’

And it went well. The banishment of separate crockery. Then came puberty with its own problems – emotional, physical, but also social. ‘Don’t sit here; don’t go there; don’t do that; and absolutely don’t question’. That last one rankled. So I questioned. And then the rest of them unravelled.

Same with boyfriends. Then with not making the expected grades. Then with not studying science and instead taking up a ‘useless’ profession – writing. All the while not going to temples; not even saying ‘Jay Sri Krishna’ as we are wont to do at the beginning and at the end of our conversations (nowadays in the time of SMS, a JSK suffices); not reciting the mantras and the shlokas and the prayers; not doing havans; not reading the scriptures; opposing wholeheartedly as I do even now, the religiously guided (Hindu) invocation at the beginning of every formal function at any institution – the ‘ridiculous’ lamp lighting ceremony; not doing anything even remotely religious. And all the while, the former being called as having been caused by the latter.

All this because belonging to a Hindu majority was a pain. Caste discrimination, gender discrimination, vegetarianism (which has never wavered in my life). The sati system, the female foeticide and infanticide, the dowry system, untouchability – baggage of a murky past. So strong was the urge to move oneself away from the bad associations that it could only come at the cost of identifying with this culture.

However, I attended a midnight mass, celebrated Christmas with my friends, learnt to write my name in Urdu thanks to a Muslim driver in our family, made friends with other kids with all kinds of surnames, especially those that went against any hope of approval on any level. Deliberately, openly, and finally, lovingly. At that time, being a modern Hindu was to be openly and actively embracing all other religions and culture and their practices. At the cost of having a Hindu identity. And it was easy because among the intellectuals, a Hindu identity was a cheap thing to have. As truly modern Hindus, we HAD TO BE progressive – join the Christians in their ‘creation’ of a classless, casteless society; we know now how that goes in the world of pointed capitalism that might just be led by Donald Trump. Had to be, and so we were. Progressive.

Being progressive is something that we have always had to keep attempting at. Missionaries can continue making more and more missions; and Muslims can continue to send their kids to madrassas; and everyone can keep their personal laws. Hindus are happy to let everyone take a dig at themselves, take the jobs through reservations based on exactly what they hate – caste; there’s talk even of religion being included here, but so far it hasn’t happened; and make Hindus look like the most intolerant of the lot.

And if you went looking, you wouldn’t find a case of a Hindu Raja looting, invading, and plundering other faraway lands; you wouldn’t find Hindu proselytisers and mass conversions; you wouldn’t find even Hindu religious schools. You won’t find Hindus saying we are for our Hindu brothers, building fences, making wars. I know, what an intolerant lot! Even now, as I look around, the most militant intelligentsia calling their own brethren intolerant is largely Hindu. Because as Hindus, we rarely were brought up to think of Hindu brethren as the only relevant brethren. For us, Vaisudhaiva kutumbakam is a reality. I won’t translate this term because in the current atmosphere, it has become irrelevant.

We, who never went in search of our own identity – a religious identity, but were content with our cultural identity, find ourselves at a strange juncture. I am already probing my Hindu roots, looking for what makes me so tolerant to others’ insinuations and cheap jibes at my being intolerant. I know what it is. It’s my tolerance. We’re okay with cheap risque jokes about our Gods, we might not like it but we’re okay with letting people use the imagery of Hindu Gods and Goddesses to design their bikinis and flip-flops – we’d rather ignore it, we’re okay sharing our spaces and our history, of course our resources, and our society and the safety it ensures, with others as we have always done.

And what’s the hardest part here? To have to utter the word ‘we’. It means a boundary has already been formed. I was not like this before. But the disgusting circus around Rohith Vemula’s death, the utterly irresponsible way the political class as well as the media has acted around the JNU issue, and the absolutely shameful way people have banded together to develop this story of the intolerant India i.e. intolerant upper caste Hindu India, I can’t think of an alternative.

And I’m sure I am not alone.

 

Saif Ali Khan on Love Jihad – inspiring!

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http://indianexpress.com/article/opinion/columns/intermarriage-is-not-jihad-it-is-india/

After seeing Saif Ali Khan as Langda Tyagi in Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara, I believed it impossible for me to like him more for anything else he would do in future. That changed today. With his article in The Indian Express on a particularly sensitive topic these days in Indian polity – the Love Jihad. That too around the time it has come to be known that the Meerut Love Jihad was most probably a fake one. As if that’s not enough, there are allegations that a certain BJP man had some role to play in it. All that promises to unfold during investigations that I am sure will be carried out… coming back to Saif’s work, I think his comment tops any role he may ever have played. 

What’s even better is that you can see it reflect in his life as well.

You know he has thought this through with:

Excerpts: “What is religion? What is faith? Does a perfect definition exist? I don’t know. But I know doubt. I’m intrigued by the politics of doubt. Doubt gives us faith. Doubt keeps us questioning what keeps us alive. If we become sure of something, then there is a danger of becoming fanatical.”

Forthright –

“As I grew older, I saw religion twisted and used so badly by men that I distanced myself from all man-made religion. I choose to be as spiritual as I can be.”

Keeping it real –

A major concern in today’s India is that we keep deleting our past. To say Muslims don’t have a role in India is denying their importance and contribution. It is like saying women don’t have a part to play in India.

You can’t but nod…

It is sad that too much importance is given to religion, and not enough to humanity and love.

nod again…

I think we should have one law for all Indians, a uniform civil code, and we should all think of ourselves as one nation. All our religions must come later and be by the way. Teach our children about god and his thousand names, but first we must teach them respect and love of their fellow man. That is more important.