Friday, 4 August 2017

Christophe Jaffrelot on UK Caste discrimination Law

Christophe Jaffrelot is a Visiting Professor at the King's College India Centre in London. Does he actually know anything about India? Let us find out. Below is an article he published recently in an Indian newspaper. My remarks are in bold.

'Recently, the National Council of Hindu Temples (NCHT) and the Hindu Council UK criticised the British government’s call for a public consultation on caste. UK’s citizens have till September 18 to reflect if caste should be banned by law or not.'

Untrue. Britain is not deciding whether or not to 'ban caste' by law. It is deciding whether it should adopt caste discrimination laws similar to India. Since conditions in Britain are wholly dissimilar to conditions in India, the British Hindu community naturally thinks this is a stupid thing to do. It is like Scotland introducing a 'Food Security Bill' on the Indian model even though Scotland is rich and most of India is very poor. The Scots are pretending that evil Tories are starving wee Scottish bairns. Similarly, in England, we have already seen a suit brought by a Pakistani cook belonging to the Arain caste against his employer who also belonged to the same Muslim Arain caste. The Tribunal decided that the whole case was nonsensical. The cook was fired because customers didn't like his food, not because he was low caste.

 'In a report released by Subramanian Swamy in London, the NCHT ascribed this initiative to a “colonial conspiracy”.' 
Really? Does Swamy believe England still rules India? Nope. He may have a PhD in Econ from Harvard, but even he isn't that stupid. Swamy says some Christian missionaries supported Colonialism and sought to inflame hatred between Hindu communities so as to gain converts whom they themselves discriminated against.  Swamy seeks to tar some elderly Bishop or such like with the same brush. The joke is that it is Pakistani chefs who will be suing their employer under this silly legislation. Hindus, by contrast, are doing well because they are well educated and forward looking.

'This report is in tune with the views of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath who has declared, “Castes play the same role in Hindu society that furrows play in farms, and help in keeping it organised and orderly”.

Really? Is a Rajput politician really preaching Casteism? Are the OBC and SC voters in U.P really so stupid that they voted for a guy who thinks his people are superior to their people? Wow! What an amazing discovery! This Jafflerot dude must be real bright! Let's look at the evidence-

Fast forward to 1.25 on the video.
Yes, the English translation is as Jafflerot says. But listen to the Hindi. The Yogi uses the word maiD- this is not a furrow but a raised portion of earth demarcating a parcel of land owned by a particular individual. He isn't saying 'caste is like a furrow'- that would be meaningless. He clarifies that he means boundary markers and not anything to do with the practice of agriculture. He goes on to say 'jati' (i.e. endogamous groups notionally linked to a particular occupation as imitatio dei) may be okay but discrimination on the basis of jati or its instrumentalisation for a political purpose is wrong.

Economists believe that endogamous groups devise ways of spreading risk and thus have utility. Obviously, once there is a basic Social safety net and a well developed Insurance market, this utility declines and we are more likely to see assortative mating without endogamy.

 The Yogi hasn't mentioned 'Varna' (i.e. the four fold division of Society into priests, warriors, merchants and labourers) at all. He himself is head of a Sect which can have a leader from any jati. That's why OBC and SC voters plumped for him even though he is a Rajput.

'There is a long tradition behind this argument. Deendayal Upadhyaya, the Sangh Parivar’s influential ideologue, wrote in Integral Humanism (1965), “society is self-born’’ and forms an “organic unity” inherited from a caste-based antiquarian arrangement that should not be disturbed: “In our concept of four castes, they are thought of as an analogous to the different limbs of Virat-Purusha. These limbs are not only complementary to one another, but even further, there is individuality, unity. There is a complete identity of interest, identity of belonging”. Here he refers to the varna system as a social model and regrets that it has lost its fluidity with the multiplication of jatis.

Is this really true? Was Upadhyaya utterly stupid? Did he really think that something which is 'self-born' can also inherit something? How? 

I've just checked. Jafflerot is telling porkies. Upadhyaya, being well versed in Hindu Scripture, knew very well that something which is 'Svayambhu' can't have samskars. Otherwise, Advaita is nonsense. Thus the words Jafflerot has interjected prove only his ignorance of Hinduism. They do not indict the Sangh Parivar. 

Upadhyaya is saying that when we all work together harmoniously to promote Social Welfare, we don't care about our status or the type of work we do. The R.S.S gained in prestige because people said - 'the wealthy Seth takes his turn doing manual work. His superior may be a cobbler, but he takes orders from him. Not only do these people cook and eat together, they actually go as volunteers to do relief work when there is a flood or an earthquake.'

 Gandhi's Ashramites also went to do relief work- for example, during the Bihar famine. But, in the opinion of Kumarappa, a Chartered Accountant, they were useless. Kumarappa refused to pay them from the Relief Fund. Gandhi protested but had to tap some other fund for their benefit. 
I have read no similar story about the RSS volunteers being useless.

The Hindu reformers do want to do away with the notion of hereditary occupations monopolised by endogamous 'jatis'. The cobbler and the priest both want their sons and daughters to have a chance to become Doctors, or IAS officers, or Software engineers. They don't want the traditional Doctor caste, or the traditional administrative caste to monopolise those occupations.

However, Hindu reformers aren't advocating laws which prevent people marrying within their 'jati' if they choose to do so. Nor are the British. Jafflerot was lying when he said the Brits were thinking of banning caste. 

I personally would be delighted if they do. Every time some beautiful Hindu girl gets married within her jati, I could bring a court case saying I'd been discriminated against solely on the grounds of my 'out-caste' Brahminbandhu status. English judges are very polite and would hesitate to throw out the case on the grounds that that I am very old and  ugly and fat and stupid and no woman in her right mind would touch me with a barge-pole. Thus, wealthy families will just pay me a small amount of money to drop my suit so as to avoid a nuisance.

'Dayananda Saraswati, the founder of the Arya Samaj, was the first Hindu reformer who endeavoured to rehabilitate the Vedic caste system by endowing this varnavyavastha with meritocratic dimensions. 

The first? My Arya Samaji friends make no such claim but rather refer reverentially to local precursors like the Parmansa Mandali in Mumbai or the Manav Dharma Sabha in Surat. However, there is an unbroken initiation from Sages behind the Arya Samaj which knits it together with other great traditions across the length and breadth of India. That is why the 'Sangh Parivar' ('family of Congregations') has an ecumenical appeal. We can see that a great Saint of our region is connected by deeksha to the lineage of the great Saint of another region. A South Indian, like myself, can overcome my suspicion of the (numerically preponderant) North Indian when these connections become clear. Nowadays, many of us have learnt some basic Hindi and can see for ourselves that people like Modi or Yogi Adityanath are not promoting 'Aryan' superiority against us Dravidians.

'He maintained that hereditary jatis did not exist in the Vedic times but children were placed in different varnas according to their qualities. Through such reasoning, he legitimised a hierarchy imbued with anti-individualistic values — once in a varna, a man and a woman remained in it.

Was Swami Dayanand Sarasvati ignorant of Sanskrit? Had he not even heard a recitation of the Ramayana or Mahabharata? Did he not know that Visvamitra, one of the greatest Vedic Rishis, changed his Varna? 

What about the Punjabis who became devout followers of the Arya Samaj? The cultivator and the small shop-keeper were delighted to see their sons getting an education and becoming Doctors, Engineers etc. That is why the D.A.V schools started emphasising useful subjects rather than purely Religious studies. Not just men, women were able to rise thanks to the Arya Samaj and the Brahmo Samaj and the Ramakrishna Mission and many other similar Sanghas.

I may point out that non-Brahmins took the leading role though in some cases the impetus may have come from Brahmans. 

'Unsurprisingly, the Arya Samajis joined the Sanatanists to form the Hindu Mahasabha in 1915, in spite of the latter’s social conservatism. One of them, M.M. Malaviya, the founder of the Banaras Hindu University, who was awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously in 2014-15, aspired to restore the antiquarian system founded on heredity. “Functions assigned to each class as its jati-dharma, were specialised by different families as their kuladharma and were faithfully and efficiently performed for the well-being of the whole society, which was thus served by the classes and families composing it, as an organism is served by its constituent organs,” he argued.

Malaviya was from a traditional priestly Brahman family and it is true that he felt obliged to argue that young Brahmans should keep up their Vedic studies in addition to more useful and remunerative types of education. This was because traditional Brahmins like himself were needed to keep the Religion alive and free from superstitious practices or unscrupulous charlatans. Orthodox Jews similarly encourage their children to attend Hebrew School. This does not mean (except in the case of the Haredis) that they neglect Scientific studies.

However, non-Brahmins did not believe that Malviya really wanted the children of other occupational groups to stick with their ancestral profession. That's why non-Brahmins felt comfortable in financing the Benares Hindu University and sending their own progeny there.

'This discourse reflects an organicist worldview which has informed the Hindutva social project — but it was not confined to the Sangh Parivar and the Hindu Mahasabha (an organisation that was a part of the Congress till the late 1930s). Mahatma Gandhi’s views on caste were very similar in the 1920s. In 1920, he wrote in Young India, “Caste has saved Hinduism from disintegration. But like every other institution it has suffered from excrescences. I consider the four divisions alone to be fundamental, natural and essential. The innumerable sub-castes are sometimes a convenience, often a hindrance. The sooner there is fusion the better… Interdrinking, interdining, intermarrying, I hold, are not essential for the promotion of the spirit of democracy”.

Jafflerot first says that there was a 'Hindutva Social Project' and that it had 'an organicist world view'. He mentions the 'Sangh Parivar' as though it were coeval with the Hindu Mahasabha. Clearly, this brilliant Professor has gone far beyond Einstein and has discovered that things which happened later actually happened sooner. Wonderful! What a prodigy we have here! Time may indeed be like a Moebius strip. But, as far as the Social Sciences are concerned, Time still has to be linear. If you say there was a Hindutva Social Project and World View and it was the same as the Gandhian Social Project and World View, you are either saying they were the same or else admitting that you have been talking nonsense. You have made a distinction without a difference for no good reason.

'Gandhi’s subsequent views on caste varied, but his initial take on the subject gave conservative Congressmen room to manoeuvre at the expense of progressive minds. In the 1920s, in Gujarat, Vallabhbhai Patel countered Indulal Yagnik when the latter asked Congressmen to work for Dalits. 

Oh! So Patel was Hindutva! Okay. Makes sense. Why mention Yagnik? He was a Nagar Brahman. M.C Rajah, by contrast, was an actual Dalit. He made a pact with B.S Moonje who was Hindu Mahasabha. During the course of the Thirties, even Ambedkar came to appreciate that the RSS was sincere not just in 'inter-dining' but doing socially useful work.

'Another Congress conservative, K.M. Munshi, eulogised the varna system through his Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. In 1950, he declared, “We, who are blinded by an admiration of the social apparatus of the West, fail to realise that chaturvarnya was a marvellous social synthesis on a countrywide scale when the rest of the world [was] weltering in a tribal state”.

So, Congress- not the RSS- was casteist. That explains why Dalits suffered under the yoke of the (Brahman) Nehru dynasty. 

'Soon after, C. Rajagopalachari claimed that jati (not varna) was “the most important element in the organisation of our society” and argued that professional mobility would destabilise the complementarity of social functions at the village-level, making economic development more difficult Another contradiction in the legitimation of caste pertains to the untouchability question: It makes the fight against this social curse more difficult. At the Nagpur session of the Congress in December 1920, during which Gandhi seized power over the party, a resolution condemning “the sin of untouchability” was passed for the first time because of the Mahatma’s determination. But no action could be taken because of resistance within the party. The conservative Congressmen did not support Swami Shraddhanand’s ambitious initiative on that front in the 1920s and in 1929, the party gave Malaviya the charge of reflecting upon the issue of untouchability. Three years later, Gandhi had to return to it in reaction to Ambedkar’s growing influence.

Rajaji was originally supposed to be Gandhi's successor. Thus Jafflerot is showing that it was Gandhi and Congress which believed in 'varna'. Swami Shraddhananand was an Arya Samaji. Why is Jafflerot mentioning him in a creditable light here?

'The Mahatma rejected one of the provisions of the 1932 Communal Award that Ambedkar had obtained from the British — a separate electorate for the Dalits. For Gandhi, such a scheme would break the unity of the Hindu society: “[The Harijans] are part of an indivisible family… There is a subtle something, quite indefinable in Hinduism which keeps them in it even in spite of themselves. And this fact makes it imperative for a man like me, with a living experience of it, to resist this contemplated separation, even though this effort should cost life itself,” he said. Gandhi did not ignore that the social integration of the Dalits in the caste system was taking place “in spite of themselves” and was hierarchical, but he saw these dimensions of society as late perversions of an ancient order that could be restored to purity by social reform.

So Gandhi was a casteist. 

'The fact that even Gandhi was not prepared to support Ambedkar’s fight against untouchability is a reflection of his deep attachment to a form of social organicism.

& into 'social organicism'

 'But the poor record of the Congress’s fight against untouchability after the Poona Pact had also much to do with the resistance of the declared conservatives. In 1933, Malaviya fought against a bill on the opening of temples to the so-called untouchables. 

But Malaviya was President of the Congress, not the Mahasabha, when he did this. By this time, the RSS had been formed and was going in a different, more positive, direction in terms of battling hereditary occupational discrimination.

'The text of a bill on temple entry, also submitted in 1933, was never put to vote. Similarly, when Dalit members of the Madras Legislative Council introduced a Temple Entry Bill in 1938, Rajagopalachari, the Congress chief minister, asked them to withdraw it.

Yet Rajaji was appointed Governor General when Mountbatten left. Who appointed him? Was it Congress or the Mahasabha?

'Sixty years later, in spite of the Constitution, democracy and reservations, the hierarchical view of society finds expression in the defence of caste and reassertion of categories like pure and impure. Yogi Adityanath ordered shuddhikaran (purification) of the CM’s office in Lucknow before entering it and Musahar Dalit families of Kushinagar received soap and shampoo to clean themselves before attending one of his meetings. 

The CM's office was a den of corruption. Yes, it was purified. But that has nothing to do with caste. 
The Yogi did not ask Dalit families to 'clean themselves' before attending his meeting. Some government officials did so. But those officials were following a practice established before the BJP took office. How is it the Yogi's fault if a humiliating practice instituted by other parties was kept up after he took office? 

'And 6,000 km away, in London, the Hindu Council UK partly attributed the initiative of the British government mentioned above to the Indian Christian Dalit lobby in the country.'

Quite true. The credit for this initiative does, quite genuinely, go to the Christian Network Against Caste Discrimination and the Voice of Dalit International, UK. Nothing wrong in that. They are raising their profile and showing their effectiveness. The fact is Dalit Christians in India, despite being the majority, are discriminated against by the High Caste Christians who control the Churches and Colleges. Christians of Dalit origin in the UK- some of the smartest, most educated, most entrepreneurial people here- are using this issue to help redress the balance of power for their own people back in India. I don't see why any Hindu should object. Well, actually, that isn't true. There are some gangster types here in the UK and they will find any excuse to harass people- more particularly in the case of 'inter-caste' marriage. Shockingly, even some educated young men act like this. By all means, criminalise hate crimes based on caste because then the Police can take action more easily. Thus, if my neighbour calls me a 'Paki' and punches me, the Police treat the case very seriously because there is a racial motive.
Similarly, if my son marries a Jat or a Yadav or whatever and the girl's brothers decide to beat him up, then a Police complaint will be acted on immediately. 

No comments: