Opinion: Hindus opposing anti-caste Bill promote


The so-called Hindu organisations give the impression that Shudras and all Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are part of them. However, none from among these castes can lead a temple or any spiritual system even in America.

On April 25, the California state’s anti-caste-discrimination Bill successfully crossed a hurdle when it was unanimously cleared by the Senate Judiciary Committee and sent to the full senate. The Bill’s introduction by Afghan American Senator Aisha Wahab had seen vehement opposition by conservative non-resident Indian (NRI) Dwijas who assume the caste-hiding religious identity of Hindus. 

Dwijas include the Janeu-wearing (so-called sacred thread) Brahmins, and Banias, Kayasthas, Khatris, and Kshatriyas. Instead of forming caste organisations there, the privileged caste NRIs formed so-called religious organisations like the Hindu American Hindu Foundation (HAF) and Coalition of Hindus of North America (CoHNA). 

The California Bill is not against the Hindu religion, but against caste discrimination. According to this, even discriminating against a Brahmin by a Dalit in the name of caste is a crime. Why the opposition to the Bill then?

Those castes that are opposing the Bill are telling the world that they should have the right to discriminate worldwide. This is a shameless approach to a major discriminatory practice.  

The caste Hindus in the United States of America should know that no Christian organisation has opposed anti-race laws as a religion. For the first time in modern democratic and human rights history, a religious tag is being used by Hindu organisations to oppose anti-caste legislation. The casteist mindset behind this is more discriminatory than white racism.     

On the one hand, the HAF’s website declares that Hinduism teaches that the ‘divine’ is equally present in all. It says that as all beings are connected through this shared ‘divine’ presence, prejudice and discrimination against anyone or any group violates this fundamental teaching and the moral duties of selflessness, non-injury, and truth evoked by it.

On the other hand, the HAF works to sustain the casteist, Brahmanic tradition of only Brahmins becoming priests and conducting rituals in temples, even in the USA.

More than anyone else, the Shudras must understand the Brahmanic ploy that is being played out in foreign countries as well. Brahmins never tilled land in India, nor worked in any artisanal village industry, always treating such work as untouchable. They wrote that Shudras are a fourth varna — slaves unworthy of heading temples, or reading and writing books. 

Can they show one Shudra priest in any American Hindu temple? Caste Hindu NRIs import only Brahmins as temple priests, who make a lot of money and return to India. Why do they not want spiritual democracy? How does social democracy come about without there being spiritual democracy? Why are American Brahmin intellectuals not arguing that the priesthood position in that country at least should be open for all Hindus irrespective of caste? Can a Shudra, such as a Reddy, Kamma, Jat, or Maratha, become a temple priest in America?       

The so-called Hindu organisations give the impression that Shudras like Reddys, Kammmas, Velamas, Lingayats, Vokkaligas, Jats, Marathas, Nairs, and all Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are part of them. For example, the Kammas and Reddys from the Telugu states lead organisations like Telugu Association of North America (TANA) and American Telugu Association (ATA). None from among these castes can lead a temple or any spiritual system even in America. Caste has not oppressed only Dalits or Adivasis. Brahmanism has historically oppressed all Shudras and OBCs as well. If the Shudras think that the anti-discriminatory laws in America are useful for only Dalits, they are wrong. The Shudras are also discriminated against by the Dwija forces worldwide because the Shudras do not have equal rights in the caste system.

Protesting before the California Senate Judiciary Committee, the members of these Hindu organisations said that the Bill will fuel hate against Hindus. The joint statement by the organisations under CoHNA said, “We fear the Bill will encourage religious profiling and stereotyping of a minority. We believe it advances baseless hateful narratives against these communities by legalising a presumption of guilt and turns a long-standing bedrock principle of American justice on its head.” 

What caste do the signatories of this statement belong to? Why do they not reveal their caste background and cultural heritage?

Caste origins are rooted in the anti-dignity of labour prescribed by Brahmanism from ancient days. At no stage in Indian history have Brahmin scholars written anything positive about leather technology, nor have they spoken about agrarian tool science as positively divine. Their literature does not deal with production, as that work is assigned to Shudras and/or Dalits. They have always characterised productive communities’ lives as impure while describing the Brahmanic, anti-production life as pure.

However, there is no such pure and impure work ethic in the discourses of race. Neither does Brahmanism’s pure and impure treatment of male and female bodies exist in the language of race. Women’s life at different stages like menstruation or childbirth are treated as impure in Brahmanism. But Dwija intellectuals have not changed this narrative even while living in the West.  

The world now knows that Dalits (the historical untouchables) are the worst exploited and humiliated lot in the world. They constitute about 200 million people. With modern education and globalised migration, the West – America, Canada, UK, etc. – has taken up the cause of abolition of caste relations.

The battle that Mahatma Jyotirao Phule, Savitribai Phule, and Dr BR Ambedkar started in India has reached the West now. But there too, the Dwijas are opposing human equality laws as they have done in India for a long time since the freedom struggle.

According to Manoj Mitta’s latest book Caste Pride: Battles for Equality in Hindu India, when Sardar Vallabai Patel, a Shudra leader, proposed a Bill for legalising inter caste marriages in 1918, during the British Raj, Madan Mohan Malaviya and Surendranath Banerjee opposed it quite shamelessly. It is widely known that when Ambedkar proposed a separate electorate for untouchables, MK Gandhi opposed it bitterly fearing that it would divide Hindus and turn them into a minority against the Muslims.

Now, Dwijas living in America are opposing equality laws in the name of Hindu organisations. As history repeats this shameless civilizational practice, fighting this behaviour of casteists will be one of the world’s biggest problems. 

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author. His latest book The Shudras: Vision For a New Path, co-edited with Karthik Raja Kuruppusamy, has put forth a powerful argument that without the cooperation of Shudras with Dalits and Adivasis, caste inequality and oppression cannot be changed.       

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