Letter to the Editor, The Times of India

Intellectual Brahminism 


It is no surprise that the Indian elite is up in arms against the Mandal Commission, for caste is nothing but class, fossilized by centuries of religious sanction. When the conquerors of Ancient India found that the fear of the sword was not enough to permanently subjugate the native population, they invoked the fear of gods. So priests became the necessary and powerful allies of kings. In the course of history merchants graduated towards power- sharing with them and to this day together form the ruling elite of our land.

The priests of old tightly controlled information flow and ensured that the masses would remain illiterate and powerless. So according to legend, Eklavya, the Shudra, had to sacrifice his thumb that he might not become a rival to the great warrior Arjun, as their common guru, the Brahmin Dronacharya, was worried that on pure merit Eklavya was at least the equal of Arjun.

But the intellectual Brahmins of today are less honest than Drona. Witness the righteous double-speak of the likes of Arun Shourie (Indian Express) and Swapan Das Gupta (Times of India). They pretend that “merit* is what they value, not caste or class. Yet they are silent witnesses to the fact that it is only the Dalits who clean the gutters of our country. Do they believe that gutter cleaning aptitude is genetically ordained, and it is pure merit that determines the fact that the higher castes never clean their own filth ?

They speak of “economic criteria” being more appropriate than caste, wilfully ignoring the high correlation between caste and class. Indeed the economic criterion has been taken into account by the Mandal Commission Report in determining which group needs greater support and it has recommended that reserved seats be kept for backward sections amongst the upper castes as well. They speak of the “dangers of fragmentization” as if it is the Mandal Commission that invented the caste system and not the upper caste/class elite that derives its justification from the Laws of Manu. That is like blaming Nelson Mandela for apartheid.

They speak of “Indian Nationalism” as the prerogative of (upper caste) Hindus, and democratization as a threat to unity and integrity. So Swapan Dangupta openly concludes that only a BJP victory in Ayodhya (i.e. demolish the mosque and build the temple) will promote Indian Nationalism.

Fortunately for those of us who fear that this brand of “nationalism” is not far removed from the “national socialism” (nazism) of Hitler, the democractic revolution is here to stay. The ease and speed of information flow in the modern world is such that the modern Brahmins cannot for ever keep their monopoly of knowledge and power. So let the Arjuns roam the streets burning buses and let the Dronas write their editorials; Eklavya will no longer sacrifice his thumb.

Yours truly,
Anand Patwardhan,
January 5,1992