தமிழ்த் தேசியம்

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."

- Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

Home

 Whats New

Trans State Nation Tamil Eelam Beyond Tamil Nation Comments Search
Home > Culture of the Tamils > Caste & the Tamil Nation - Dalits, Brahmins & Non Brahmins > On Hinduism, Caste, & Indian 'Democracy' - Dr.Iniyan Elango
 
Caste & the Tamil Nation

On Hinduism, Caste & Indian 'Democracy'

Dr. Iniyan Elango, M.D.
President, Tamilar Human Rights Organization
Letter to Boston Globe, USA
23 November 1999

"...Even though India likes to call herself a democracy, it is only a fake democracy as far as the Dalits are concerned. Large scale bogus voting and preventing Dalits from voting are very common in India...The tragedy is that the caste system is being spread rapidly even in the United States by the Brahmans and other caste Hindus who have emigrated to the USA during the past forty years. For example, in the Hindu temples built in the USA, only those who are born into the most superior caste of Brahmans are allowed to be priests. Even in the USA, lower caste Hindus and outcast Dalits are not allowed to touch the idol in temples to perform religious rites. ... In 1989, when I was a student in Los Angeles, the priest (Brahman) in a Hindu temple in California who knew my background prevented me from entering the room (sanctum sanctorum) where the idol was kept because I was a Dalit. Upper caste Hindus in the United States and the Brahmans in particular, who live in large numbers in the USA vigorously practice the caste system. ..I know many castes Hindu friends in the US, especially Brahmans, who credit their academic achievement to their intellectual superiority (over Americans) due to their "natural" intelligence inherited “genetically” through "caste superiority"... In effect, the Hindus have managed to bring untouchability and the caste system into the United States in the garb of religious freedom even though it violates the Civil Rights laws of the United States..."


I was amused to read the article “Baptist book spurs march by Hindus” by Mr. Thomas Grillo in “The Boston Globe” edition dated 11/22/99. I was amused because those who believe in one of the most intolerant and bigoted religions in the World were complaining of intolerance by the Baptists. As a victim of Hindu bigotry and a witness to the social misery bred by Hindu intolerance, I pray for an opportunity from “The Boston Globe” to register my protest and to unmask the hypocrisy of the Hindus.

Hinduism espouses the division of people into hierarchically placed groups called “castes”. These castes are placed in a stepladder of ascending superiority and descending inferiority. People who are born into these castes should follow the ordained caste professions and marry only within their caste through arranged marriages. The beneficiaries of this system were the various Brahman castes who by virtue of their birth were free to follow intellectual pursuits at the advent of British colonial education making them modern India’s intellectual, scientific, and bureaucratic class. The various “Vysya” (trading) castes, placed below the Brahman castes and the Royal (“Kshatriya”) castes, have enjoyed the monopoly in trading activities for centuries, by virtue of their birth, thus becoming modern India’s corporate and business class. The “Shudras” are the various lower castes in the hierarchy who are considered as Hindus and members of caste Hindu society.

The “Dalits” (which is a Hebrew derivative meaning “broken people”) are the "outcasts" and “slaves” of the Hindu society of hierarchical castes. That is why the Dalit people are considered untouchable and made to live in segregated colonies outside the towns and villages where the caste Hindus live.

All the political parties in India are controlled by caste Hindus. When the British offered to give the Dalits "separate electorates" to enable them to participate in democracy more securely, the so-called "Mahatma" (Gandhi) who strongly believed in the caste system went on protest fast until death. The Dalit leader Dr.B.R.Ambedkar had to refuse the British offer (of separate electorates) because he was afraid that if Gandhi died by fasting the Hindus will use the opportunity to organize wholesale massacres of Dalit people all over India. Mahatma Gandhi was a bigot belonging to one of the “Vysya” castes who believed in the concept of graded superiority of birth espoused by the Hindu caste system.

The recent killings of Christian missionaries, burning of Churches and gang rapes of Catholic nuns by Hindu fanatical elements belonging to the vast supportive network of the BJP party and the RSS (“Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh”) known as the "Sangh Parivar", is motivated by the caste bigotry of the Hindus. The caste Hindus want to preserve the outcast status of the Dalits and tribals by preventing the Christian missionaries from educating and converting the Dalits. The Hindus feel that the work of the Christian missionaries will destroy the Dalits' bondage to outcast status through education, conversion and spiritual liberation. Even last month a Catholic nun was stripped naked and urinated upon by a gang of Hindu fanatics in north India. A Catholic priest Rev. Fr. Arul Das was murdered by the same Hindu fanatic (Dara Singh) who also burnt an Australian missionary (Mr.Graham Staines) and his two little sons alive until they died in great pain.

Hindu society is a wasteland of hatred spawned by the bigotry of the hierarchically placed Hindu castes. Apart from bickering with one another, the Caste Hindus, whether they are upper or lower in the caste hierarchy are united in their hatred for the Dalits. No attempt has been made in the 50 years of India's independence to integrate Dalits with the mainstream of society. State sponsored services such as primary schools, medical clinics, offices of government departments or a public telephone, are always established in the caste Hindus section of the village or town and not in the segregated colonies where the Dalit people are forced to live.

The Hindu identity is forced on all Dalits (despite being outcasts of Hindu society) and also on all atheists. According to the Hindu Civil Law all those who are not Christians and Muslims are "Hindus". Those Dalits who convert to Christianity are made to lose the concessions provided in state employment and education. Thus the victims of the caste system are kept in perpetual bondage by law and those who seek to escape this bondage by conversion are penalized.

The single most factor that makes the Dalits suffer and live in fear is the violence unleashed on them almost on a daily basis by the Hindus. Every hour, a Dalit person is raped or killed in some part of India. In the district of Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu State in India, four Dalit women (Sakunthala, Victoria, Ponnaruvi and Susheela) were gang raped and killed by caste Hindus during the past year. In all the cases none of the culprits were arrested and no investigation was done. Arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and framing of Dalits for crimes they have not committed are a common practice. In north Indian states such as Bihar wholesale massacres of Dalit villages occurs regularly.

The police force of the Caste Hindus is the worst oppressor against the Dalits. Dalit women are raped in the police precinct itself by the cops. In a famous case that occurred in 1993, a Dalit woman named Padmini was gang raped by five cops in front of her husband at the police station of Annamalai Nagar in Chidambaram district of Tamil Nadu State in India. The cops then killed her husband after gang raping Padmini. None of the policemen were punished for the capital offence. They were slapped with minimal sentences for the gang rape. In a tribal area called "Vachathi" in India, the police posse, which came to catch a brigand gang, raped almost the entire female population of the tribal settlement. None of the cops who indulged in the mass rape were punished for this gruesome crime which happened in 1994.

Rape is the most common risk faced by a Dalit woman in the Hindu society.

The English language dictionary even now carries the word "Pariah" (which is the Tamil name for the large population of Dalits living in Tamil Nadu in India) to convey the meaning of "outcast".

Even though India likes to call herself a democracy, it is only a fake democracy as far as the Dalits are concerned. Large scale bogus voting and preventing Dalits from voting are very common in India. During the recent parliamentary elections, Dalits (Pariahs) living in the parliamentary constituency of "Chidambaram" in India where attacked, molested and their huts burnt to ashes by the caste Hindus placed at a lower hierarchy called “Vanniyars” to prevent the Dalits from voting. The bigoted police force actively participated in the violence and arson against the Dalits. Totally 17 Dalit villages were burnt to ashes and three Dalits were killed in the Chidambaram area. Around 50,000 Dalits could not vote and all the Dalit votes were fraudulently cast by the caste Hindu Vanniyars whose PMK (Pattali Makkal Katchi) party candidate in alliance with the Hindu fanatic BJP party was declared elected in Chidambaram. He (Mr.Ponnusamy) is now a minister in the cabinet of Prim e Minister Vajpayee.

In short, the Hindus of India are so bigoted and hateful that they will never allow the Dalits to taste a sense of equality and dignity. Even though the present President of India is a Dalit he is just a constitutional figurehead without any executive power.

The tragedy is that the caste system is being spread rapidly even in the United States by the Brahmans and other caste Hindus who have emigrated to the USA during the past forty years. For example, in the Hindu temples built in the USA, only those who are born into the most superior caste of Brahmans are allowed to be priests. Even in the USA, lower caste Hindus and outcast Dalits are not allowed to touch the idol in temples to perform religious rites. In effect, the Hindus have managed to bring untouchability and the caste system into the United States in the garb of religious freedom even though it violates the Civil Rights laws of the United States.

In 1989, when I was a student in Los Angeles, the priest (Brahman) in a Hindu temple in California who knew my background prevented me from entering the room (sanctum sanctorum) where the idol was kept because I was a Dalit. Upper caste Hindus in the United States and the Brahmans in particular, who live in large numbers in the USA vigorously practice the caste system. This is evident from the way they psychologically despise African-Americans, arrange marriages for their children strictly within their caste and harbor feelings of superiority because of their caste Hindu heritage. I know many castes Hindu friends in the US, especially Brahmans, who credit their academic achievement to their intellectual superiority (over Americans) due to their "natural" intelligence inherited “genetically” through "caste superiority".

No wonder Adolf Hitler chose the Hindu symbol of "Swastika" to represent the political message of superiority by birth of those born into his race.

Hindus who protest the Baptists’ criticism of Hinduism should ponder how the Hindu Civil Law has forcibly converted outcast victims (Dalits) who were never allowed membership into the society and religion of the Hindu castes. The segregated dwellings of Dalits all over India, the denial of admission to Dalits into Vedic schools which teach Hindu scriptures and the ban on Dalits from working as priests in Hindu temples obviously prove how the Hindu identity is thrust on the very people who are victimized by it.

Hindus should wax eloquently about the intolerance of other religions after destroying the hierarchical bigotry of castes and other inherent evils in the Hindu faith. Burning brides for dowry, killing people for caste bigotry, sanctioning inequality and segregation in the name of God, preventing widows from marrying, burning widows in the funeral pyre of their husbands, allowing slavery of Dalits and tribals in the form of bonded labor, female infanticide, forcing women into prostitution at temples in the name of serving God (Devadasis) are all some of the evil practices of Hinduism which are still prevalent in many parts of India. Baptists are fully justified in their remarks about Hinduism.

Hindus should criticize Christian missionaries for their drive to convert Hindus into Christianity after scrapping the Hindu Civil Law in India which "forcibly converts" all non-Christians and non-Moslems, (including atheists, outcast non-Hindu Dalits, tribals, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains) into the Hindu religious fold.

People living in glass houses should not throw stones.
 


Dr. Iniyan Elango is a general physician and psychotherapist practicing at Chennai, India. He also edits a monthly periodical called “Dalit Times.” He recently shot a video documentary about the violence and arson that prevented Dalits from voting in the Chidambaram area in India. The TIME magazine in its issue dated August 02, 1999 published his letter about the relationship between violence in motion pictures and campus violence. He is also the President of the “Tamilar Human Rights Organization” and a co-founder of the “Dalit Media Network”. He is 34 years old.
 

Comment by Hari Venkatachalam [harih122@hotmail.com]
21 July 2005

Interesting article but I'm not in agreement.

Recently I read an article on your site by Dr. Iniyan Elango of the Tamilar Human Rights Organization stating that Hindus in the United States were unjustified in their protest against the Baptist.

I am a backward caste individual who was born to both Sudra parents. Because they were not of the same sub caste, one could call me a mutt of some sorts.

However, my parents and I are strict Hindus and follow our religion with the same vivacity as we followed it in India.

The Hindus marching in the USA and the Dalits marching in India are searching for the same goal of tolerance in an intolerant society. Both our goals are the same.

For Ilango to ridicule our cause here forces me to overlook the better parts of Ilango's arguments.

For one, Ilango equate all American Hindus with the upper echelons of Hindus society in India. This is an unfair and cruel comparison. Among my family friends, we have brahman, kshathriya, vaiysa, sudra, and untouchable friends. We all spend time together, eat together, and intermarriage between the castes has become very common.

More of my friends are non brahman than are brahman. However, we all were equally offended when in a public announcement one of the most powerful leaders of the Baptist church denounced our faith as Satanism.

This is no different from a Shiv Sena leader screaming anti-Islamic propaganda. The point of our protest was for our faith to be accepted in the greater American identity.

For Ilango to say we are unjustified in our actions until the caste system is completely destroyed is similar to an Israeli individual saying he'll give the Palestinians rights the day Muslim terrorist actions cease.

For centuries, the lower castes, to which I belong to, were defaced and grouped into an amorphous mass of human society.

Today, Ilango defaces all practicing Hindus and clump us all into a group of caste-ridden bigots...

We fight for minorities who are being oppressed by the Bible oriented government that exists in the United States. We are fighting for homosexuals to be given common rights, for separation of church and state, and for a society that treats its minority faiths in a dignified manner.

Your article was so bitter, it doesn't incite change; it incites anger.

Mail Us up- truth is a pathless land - Home