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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Ambedkar – A national leader or leader of Dalits only?

I

Ambedkar’s role in national politics

Introduction

Ambedkar was not the undisputed leader of Dalits only, he was the leader of the whole nation. The whole nation honours him and remembers him as ‘the Father of the Constitution of India’. After Independence in 1947, when the Constitution of Independent India was being framed, Bhimrao Ambedkar, because of his hard work, expertise in legal matters and intelligence, was nominated as the chairman of the drafting committee of Constituent Assemble. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India was the chairman of the Constituent Assembly. The joint efforts of Dr. Ambedkar and other national leaders  like Nehru, Patel, Rajaji, Rajendra Prasad etc. have given to independent India a wonderful Constitution.

Babasaheb Ambedkar was misunderstood more by Dalit leaders of the day, who use his name frequently to justify their claims. He desired for not just political empowerment of Dalits, but also for social democracy in India. He did not approve the idea of revolution, which his followers advocate today. He advised to adopt constitutional methods to bring about change in independent India. He thought that methods of revolution and violence “are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.”

Doyen of Contemporary Dalit Politics

He sincerely wished for upliftment of Dalit people, but never wanted a glorified status for himself. But his followers of Ambedkar have given a glorified status to Dr. Ambedkar. Many powerful leaders – Paswans, Manjhis and Mayawatis have emerged in present day political world, who have created their own power elite and centres. They have benefitted from their caste identity in elections. Their caste status has helped them in consolidating Dalit vote-banks. But their politics revolves around self-aggrandizement. They have hardly succeeded in bringing any change in the social or political status of submerged people or bring in social equality. Their focus is on imprisoning the poor masses forever in the trap of reservations/quota politics, which can not produce many Dalit leaders or intellectuals.

Educational background of Dr. Ambedkar

Ambedkar had received best possible education throughout his student career in India as well as abroad, at Columbia University in New York, which was available to any other person belonging to any higher caste’s student at that time. Belonging to Mahar community (listed in Scheduled Castes community) had never put any hurdle throughout his student life in getting admission in school or college whether in India or abroad or in furthering his social status (he was married to a lady belonging to Brahmin community) or political career, or attaining positions of power.

Ambedkar’s school’s education

His father and grandfather being the employees of the British Army ensured a good education for Bhimrao Ambedkar. He continued his studies and passed his Matriculation examination from Bombay University. Bhim joined the Elphinstone High School and later on the Elphinstone College for further education – one of the best schools in all of India.

College education

With the help of a monthly scholarship given by Maharaja Gaekwad of Baroda, Bhimrao (‘Rao’ is added to names in Maharashtra as a sign of respect) passed his B.A. in 1912.In 1912, he graduated in Political Science and Economics from Bombay University and got a job in Baroda.

Education abroad

In 1913, Maharaja of Baroda awarded scholarship to Bhim Rao Ambedkar for further studies at the world-famous Columbia University, New York. It was with a condition that he would serve Baroda state for ten years on finishing his studies. The freedom and equality he experienced in America made a very strong impression on Bhimrao. There he attained a degree in Master of Arts and a Doctorate in Philosophy from Columbia University in 1916 for his thesis “National Dividend for India: A Historical and Analytical Study.” The Maharaja of Baroda appointed Dr. Ambedkar as his political secretary.

Start of Dr. Ambedkar’s political career

In 1917 Bhimrao Ambedkar returned to Bombay. In 1918, he became a lecturer at Sydenham College in Bombay. There, he got the reputation as a brilliant teacher and scholar. With the help of Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur, he started a fortnightly newspaper, the “Mooknayak” (Dumb Hero) on January 31, 1920. That was the start of his political career.

Studying in London School of Economics

In 1920, after accumulating sufficient funds, Ambedkar went back to London to complete his studies in Economics at London School of Economics. He also enrolled to study as a Barrister at Gray’s Inn and became a barrister-at- law. In 1923, Bhimrao returned to India with a Doctorate in Economics from the LSE – he was perhaps the first Indian to have a Doctorate from this world-famous institution.

Ambedkar’s journey in political arena

Founded ‘Bahishkrit Hitkaraini Sabha’
After coming back to India, in July 1924, he founded the Bahishkrit Hitkaraini Sabha (Outcastes Welfare Association). The aim of the Sabha was to uplift the downtrodden socially and politically and bring them to the level of the others in the Indian society. Now he was well equipped as a leader of the Dalit community.

Babasaheb represented the leader of ‘untouchables’

In 1930, when a Round Table Conference was held by the British Government in London to decide the future of India, Babasaheb represented the ‘untouchables’. He said there: -The Depressed Classes of India also join in the demand for replacing the British Government by a Government of the people and by the people… Our wrongs have remained as open sores and have not been righted although 150 years of British rule have rolled away. Of what good is such a Government to anybody?” Gandhiji appreciated that.

Co-operating with Simon Commission

Later on, he made the controversial decision to co-operate with the all-British Simon Commission. The Congress decided to boycott the Commission and drafted its own version of a constitution for free India. Ambedkar attended all the three Round Table Conferences in London and forcefully argued for the welfare of “untouchables”.

‘Communal Award’ in Poona Pact raised controversy

A separate electorate was announced for the depressed classes under Ramsay McDonald ‘Communal Award’. The famous Poona Pact replaced the separate electorate demand with special concessions like reserved seats in the regional legislative assemblies and Central Council of States.

Birth of “Independent Labor Party”

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar set up the “Independent Labor Party” in August 1936 to contest the elections in the Bombay province. He and many candidates of his party were elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly.

Strongly opposed the title ‘Harijans’ for untouchables

In 1937, a Bill was introduced to abolish the “khoti” system of land tenure in the Konkan region, the serfdom of agricultural tenants and the Mahar “watan” system of working for the Government as slaves. A clause of an agrarian bill referred to the depressed classes as “Harijans,” or people of God. Bhimrao was strongly opposed to this title for the untouchables. But the Indian National Congress succeeded in introducing the term Harijan. During the Second World War, Babasaheb was appointed Labour Minister by the Viceroy.

All-India Scheduled Castes Federation

The All-India Scheduled Castes Federation was formed in 1942 to unite all ‘untouchables’ into one united political party.

First Law Minister of Independent India

In 1947, when India became independent, Babasaheb Ambedkar became First Law Minister of Independent India in Nehru’s cabinet. He was elected as a Member of the Constituent Assembly from Bengal. The Constituent Assembly made him chairman of the committee appointed to draft the constitution for the world’s largest democracy.

Relinquished position of Law Minister

In October 1948, Dr. Ambedkar submitted the Hindu Code Bill to the Constituent Assembly in an attempt to codify the Hindu law. The Bill caused great divisions even in the Congress party. Consideration for the bill was postponed to September 1951. When the Bill was taken up it was truncated. A dejected Ambedkar relinquished his position as Law Minister.

Ambedkar and his beliefs

Anathema against Hinduism

Babasahib propagated vehemently against Hinduism. He regarded Hinduism and caste system as “great obstacles to Hindu Unity”. … “My self-respect can not assimilate Hinduism…The religion that does not recognize you as human beings…is not worthy to be called a religion.” He used to say – “Hinduism has given us (untouchables) only insults, misery, and humiliation.” … “We have not been able to secure the barest of human rights… I am born a Hindu. I couldn’t help it, but I solemnly assure you that I will not die a Hindu.”

In favour of ‘conversions’

Therefore in 1935 at Yeola, Babasaheb for the first time that Babasaheb suggested to his people – for they were only known as ‘untouchables’ within the fold of Hinduism. opt for conversions for his people – for they were only known as ‘untouchables’ within the fold of Hinduism. He stressed the importance of conversion from Hinduism About a month before his death (December 6, 1956), on 0ctober 14, 1956 he embraced Buddhism along with many of his followers.

Views on Reservation

According to Ambedkar, “Where a majority of population is denied its share in actual power, there exists no democracy.” … “Reservation is not aimed at economic uplift or alleviation of poverty. But it is a provision made for the entry of certain castes, which have so far been outside the administration. Hence the need for their adequate representation in State Services. Adequacy should be judged not by their presence in the lower rung of the services, but their entry into the higher echelons, the corridor of power.”

On loyalty

He was clear from the very beginning of his political career that “Attempt to uplift my community rather than to win Swaraj for the nation is my goal.” …… “I will leave no doubt in the minds of the people of this country that I have another loyalty, to which I am bound and which I can never for-sake. The loyalty is to the community of the untouchables; in which I am born, to which I belong and which I hope, I shall never desert. And I say this…. as strongly as I possibly can that whenever there is any conflict of interests between the country and the untouchables, so far as I am concerned, the untouchable interests will take precedence over the interests of the country. I am not going to support a tyranny of the majority, simply because it happens to speak in the name of the country…. As between the country and myself, the country will have precedence, as between the country and the depressed classes, the depressed classes will have precedence.”

On democratic values

“Democracy is not merely a form of Government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow men.” … “In an ideal society, there should be many interests consciously communicated and shared.”

Ambedkar and Reservation Policy

During Constituent Assembly Debates, Ambedkar advocated the policy of Reservation. But later on, as a socialist and humanist, who had the long-range interests of untouchables at heart, had developed doubts about advisability and efficacy of Reservation Policy. Chowdhary Charan Singh said, “Ambedkar himself declared in a speech sometime before his death that the provision of Reservation in service should not extend beyond 1960/61.”

Ambedkar’s realization of worthlessness of ‘Reservations’

Pr. Balraj Madhok had also pointed out that later in life, Ambedkar realized that SC and ST would not be able to stand on their own feet, so long as they depended on the crutches of Reservation. “Reservation,” Dr. Ambedkar said, “Encouraged backwardness, inefficiency and lack of competitive merit among them barring a few stray cases.” Therefore, when he launched the Republican Party of India, he incorporated this view in the Manifesto, according to which the party was committed itself to abolish all kinds of Reservations based on caste and birth.

Depressed Ambedkar

During his last days, Ambedkar said, “I have not been able to fulfil my mission. I wanted to do more for the SC people and to see them as governing class in my life. I could have succeeded, but my own people have deceived me. Whatever I have been able to do, is being enjoyed by the educated people and they are the worst fools. I now want to divert my attention to the uneducated masses, but life seems short. The second worry to my mind is that I wanted that somebody from the SC should come forward and take the responsibilities from me. There, however, seems none to shoulder such a heavy responsibility. All are selfish and quarrel themselves on petty matters.”

Wave of Ambedkarization

1990’s witnessed a wave of Ambedkarisation. Many politicians started describing Ambedkar as the “The maker” of Indian Constitution. Experts on Constitutional law have some reservation to such expressions, because both the constituent Assembly and its Drafting Committee headed by Dr. Ambedkar were the formal centers of work. The real place of work was the Congress Working Committee, which took all the important decisions and there, the prominent role was played by leaders like Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad or Constitutional jurists like Alladi Krishna Swami Ayyar, K.M. Munshi and others. It was frankly admitted by Mahavir Tyagi, one of the members of Drafting Committee, and Dr. Ambedkar himself that their hands were tied and they were only carrying out the wishes of the majority.

Ambedkar’s contributions

After an examination of the situation, Pr. K.V. Rao said, “No doubt, Ambedkar, a man of legal acumen, untiring industry, consummate skill and firmness, tempered with modernization, made substantial contribution to the framing of the Constitution” He had been recognized at that time as an intellectual having his own philosophy and interpretations, but he lacked leadership qualities and mass appeal.

Ambedkar and the wrath of intelligentsia

Ambedkar earned the wrath of intelligentsia during pre-Independence period
– he, himself, was a beneficiary of social reform movement in Maharashtra, which was led by nationalist leaders and reformers mostly belonging to caste Hindus. But in his speeches, he always considered caste Hindus as his enemy.
– Some people feel that it is inappropriate to call Dr. Ambedkar, the maker of the Constitution. The sources of all the ideas of the Constitution were Nehru and Patel and many other reputed leaders and lawyers. The credit of framing the constitution goes jointly to all of them as well as all the members of the Drafting Committee. Many people do not like to single out Dr. Ambedkar for this honour.
– The intelligentsia regarded his move for separate electorates for untouchable as an act to split Hindu society permanently. It is alleged that he could not rise beyond his caste identity.
– He was criticized for his association with Simon Commission proceedings, First Round Table Conference and Viceroy’s Executive Committee as member, with an intention to cooperate with British rulers, at the time, when national leaders were fighting British rulers for Independence;
– His anguish against Hinduism and caste system and his act of burning Hindu-script, which he regarded as great obstacles to the Indian unity, annoyed many.
– Many people did not like his confrontation with Gandhi. Ambedkar, like Jinnah was against Hindu majority rule, Congress Party and Gandhi. Both of them reacted against the above three in similar manner most of the times and preferred continuance of British rule.

Ambedkar as a role model

The present day followers of Ambedkar do not seem to have understood Ambedkar in right perspective. He wanted to annihilate caste system not by revenge, hatred and violence, but by rethinking, reason and reformation. He, therefore, taught untouchables “To organize, educate and agitate” with an aim to finishing caste prejudices, the arrogance, and the “Holier than thou’ attitude of Brahmins. He wanted his people to improve their condition by education, enlightenment and enterprise not by animosity, anger and abuse. It is quite understandable that he did not hate Brahmins as he was happily married to a Brahmin lady. He respected Justice Ranade.

His followers appear not to have done justice with Ambedkar. In order to overcome their insecurity and keep united various split groups,they used Ambedkar’s name ruthlessly. It served only their selfish motives and political ends for some time. They idolized Ambedkar as “Rescuer of Dalits”. The trend in 90‘s of idolization of Ambedkar or attempts of Ambedkarisation of the nation exposed the intentions of his followers, especially when he himself considered idolization as an act leading to destruction. Today agitated the Dalit leaders are, but their agitation is far away from being a positive or constructive one. It has turned into a negative militancy against caste Hindu.

Winding up

Dr. Ambedkar gave a required boost to move forward to Dalit movement at right time. He played a significant role in national politics and as the Chairman of drafting Committee of Indian Constitution.

Ambedkar is a role model for Dalit leaders. It is unfortunate that that some leaders of present day misunderstood Ambedkar. They have not learnt much from the life-long experiences of Dr. Ambedkar. Critics say that these Ambedarites have been proved shallow in understanding his real aim for social transformation. The ground realities of untouchables in India were quite different in the beginning of Nineteenth century than what it is at present. It was at that time that Ambedkar had made untouchables (SC’s) as the base.

After Independence, a massive shift has already been taken place in favor of Dalits allover India. But present day Dalit leaders are still living in old world. Modern followers of Ambedkar have forgotten that he rose to the status of a political icon, because he always took up bravely the challenges in life against all odds. His life is a classic and most inspiring example of what a man can achieve by hard work, knowledge, and clear-cut priorities. He had struggled and worked very hard to succeed in life.

Latasinha's Weblog

No doubt, Ambedkar has been the undisputed leader of untouchables and Doyen of Contemporary Dalit Politics. But it is also true and can not be altered that he had received an elite education at Columbia University in New York. Belonging to Mahar community had never put any hurdle in his life to get the best education in the world throughout his student career, one could get, or in furthering his social status or political career, or attaining positions of power.

Ambedkar’s career as a Student

His father and grandfather being the employees of the British Army ensured a good education for Bhimrao Ambedkar. He continued his studies and passed his Matriculation examination from Bombay University. Bhim joined the Elphinstone High School and later on the Elphinstone College for further education – one of the best schools in all of India.. With the help of a monthly scholarship given by Maharaja Gaekwad…

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April 21, 2014 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , , | Leave a comment

Empowerment of untouchables?

 

In recent past, starting with reformatory efforts to seeking state intervention and generating the idea of paying special attention to untouchables, Dalits’ (untouchables) awakening has traveled a long way. Untouchables have been described as “The oppressed of the oppressed and lowest of the low”, who have not been benefited from the opening up of modern economic, social, political and cultural opportunities.

The story of their journey started around the beginning of twentieth century, when untouchables tried to enter into the political arena separately. In 1909 for the first time, the lowest strata of non-Brahmin Community or the service class, earlier known as Shudras, was conceptualized under the name of untouchables in political circles.

The emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided the leadership and stimulus to untouchable movement. He gave untouchables a distinct identity during late twenties and early thirties. The whole of 20th century, especially the last two decades have been quite important for political empowerment of Untouchables/Dalits.

The suggestion of Census Commissioner, for forthcoming 1911 Census, to exclude untouchables (comprising of about 24% of the Hindu Population and 16% of the total population at that time) from Hindu fold made numbers important in taking political decisions. Continuous decline of the number of Hindus immediately increased the importance of untouchables in political circle, in social circle, and in their own eyes too.

The suggestion to exclude untouchables from Hindu population was not acceptable to Hindu leaders at any cost. The continuously falling down number of Hindu population had already been a matter of concern for them. Granting special electorate to Muslims disturbed prominent National leaders a lot, as they thought that the move was made to divide Indians and weaken the National movement of Independence.

In order to prevent alienation of untouchables from Hindu community, the national leaders and reformers drew the attention of forward communities towards inhuman condition of lower strata of society and tried to create compassion in their hearts for downtrodden.

They gave top most priority to the abolition of untouchability. They tried to clarify and make everybody understand that Untouchability was neither an integral part of Hinduism nor an outcome of Varna/caste system, nor have any religious sanctity, but an external impurity and sinful blot on Hinduism. Segregation of lower castes in Hindu Society was not based on economic status or their incapability to do any intellectual work, but on cultural grounds – unclean habits, indisciplined life style, speaking foul and abusive language etc. They laid emphasis on education, moral regeneration and philanthropic uplift. They also appealed to untouchables to observe cleaner habits, so that they could mix up with other sections freely and become proud and independent human beings, that they were. They tried to improve the status of untouchables through Sanskritization.

However, Dalit leaders desired to find the solution of their problems through political power, not through acceptance by Hindus, who according to them were treated as lesser human beings, meek and helpless persons, at the mercy and benevolence of upper castes. They The leaders of the downtrodden like Mahatma Phule, Ambedkar or Gopal Ganesh vehemently criticized Hindu hierarchical structure, and regarded untouchability as an inevitable concomitant of Varna/caste system. Therefore, they taught the lower castes to get united and make eradication of caste system their major plank as it engaged them to forced labor or unsavory jobs, imposed many restrictions on them and prevented them from joining the mainstream of the society.

They also insisted on their separate identity. They sought special legal protection and share in politics and administration on the basis of caste. By 1920’s, numerous caste organizations, specially in the South and West, organized themselves into larger collectiveness by keeping contacts and alliances with their counterparts at other places; formed associations and federations at local and regional levels and emerged as a powerful political force.

Their demands were readily accepted by British rulers through Communal Award of 1932. Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all”, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms….The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community… The British introduced every possible cross-division.i

The new phase of untouchables/Dalit assertion during last two decades under the leadership of Kansiram and Mayawati’s became most prominent in the most populous state of UP. BSP under the leadership of Ms Mayawati has taken the destiny of UP in their hand now. Earlier in 1994-95, BSP formed the government first in alliance with SP and later on with BJP. Again, in 1997, it came to power in alliance with BJP. Now on its own strength, BSP is ruling in UP.

Despite all the political empowerment, special attention and preferential treatment, dalit leaders and intellectuals have failed to improve the socio-economic condition of the masses of Dalit community, to give them proper education, enough employment opportunities and a vision of a prosperous society or to change their lot. They are still victims of discrimination, untouchability, poverty, illiteracy, ignorance and consequential disabilities. Majority of them still lives in precarious condition because of low wages, bondage, non-payment of fair share of agricultural produce to the SC share-cropper, forced harvesting of crops, forced eviction from their land and house sites, dispute over non-payment of minimum wages prescribed by authorities and land disputes. Caste rivalries are increasing everyday. Over and above, their sufferings have multiplied due to increasing number of crimes and incidents of violence. The deterioration of law and order position all over India is continuously increasing their miseries.

Whatever might be the condition of Dalit masses, but the political power and arrogance of Dalit leaders and intellectuals are at rise. They are aware of their growing influence and crucial role as a kink-maker in today’s highly competitive and unstable political atmosphere. All the three major national political formations – Congress’s UPA BJP’s NDA and National Front – are wooing frantically Dalit leaders and competing with each other to have a pre or post poll alliance with them. But now Dalit leaders are in no mood to play a second fiddle to other national political parties and wish to make its own place in national politics.

The solution of the problem of empowering the whole Dalit community does not lie in letting down the upper castes, who are not interested in direct confrontation, either with intermediate castes or with Dalits. Liberalization and Globalization has opened up many new opportunities in job-market for all. What is required for an individual’s or the whole nation’s prosperity is learning, acquiring required knowledge, hard-work, intelligence, confidence and will power to face the challenges and move forward.

i Prasad Rajendra, India Divided, p 136, and Mehta and Patwardhan,

The Communal Triangle, p 72.

December 31, 2009 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | Leave a comment

Untouchables in ancient India?

 

Existence of Shudras (at present referred as untouchables or out-castes) was recognized, as early as, Pre Mauryan Period (6th century BC to 3rd century BC). Though given a lower status, they were always an integral part of Hindu society. They performed essential social and economic tasks as well as in agricultural sector.

In ancient India, Ranking of different castes was not done by putting them within a framework of hierarchical layers of social order, each fitting neatly below the other, but more or less as a series of vertical parallels. All local groups, whether high or low, living in an area mutually depended, cared and supported each other in fulfilling different kind of needs of the society. All people living in a village or city, were bound together by economic and social ties and had a strong bond of mutual dependence. There was hardly any room for any section of society to consider itself, as being placed in greater or lesser disadvantageous position with reference to another. Concept of forwards or backwards or feeling of exploitation of lower strata by upper castes was almost non-existent at that time.

Every section of society was supposed to lead a self restraint and self disciplined life in all respect, be it in the matter of daily routine, occupation or inter caste relationship. There was no hard and fast rule of ranking various castes. It did segmental ranking of different caste groups according to relevance and contribution of their occupations to society. Usefulness of a profession to society as a whole, conduct and way of living of different people were the factors to determine social, economic or political status of a group in society vis-a vis others. Considerations of self-discipline, hygiene, cleanliness, morality, knowledge and spiritual standards were given importance in their ranking. Higher a caste, purer it was considered, and greater were the self-restrictions on its behavior through rituals. Brahmins commanded respect of the whole society. They were put under maximum restrictions – to lead a simple life, devoted to the spiritual and intellectual pursuits and denied accumulation of wealth.

Conquered groups, individuals or groups engaged in unclean occupations, clinging to the practices, which were not considered respectable, or persons born illegitimately or the groups clinging to anti-social activities were treated as Shudras and were given lowest status in the society. Breaking the caste rules meant loss of caste, meaning complete ostracism or having no place in the society. Permanent loss of caste – out-caste- was considered to be the greatest catastrophe for an individual, short of death penalty. By the beginning of Christian era, the out-castes themselves developed caste hierarchy and had their own out-castes. Socially, they were put amongst the lower strata of Hindu community doing all sorts of menial work and serving the upper castes of the three Varnas. Instead of holding others responsible, Hindu Dharma taught that Adharma” (immoral behavior), “Alasya” (laziness) and Agyan (ignorance) were to be blamed for all evils, exploitation and miseries of people.

Respect to a person or group was never given on the basis of material success or control of power. Sir John Shore (Sir John Shore, the Governor General of India during the period 1793-1798) had observed that Hindus regarded Britishers at par with the lowest natives despite their being so powerful and the ruling community. Similarly Brahmins associated with unclean jobs like, Mahabrahmins performing last rites, have also been treated, more or less like Shudras and have been put at the bottom of the social structure. There were instances when non-Brahmins or Harijans served as priests of temples of goddesses like Sita or Kali, where all castes made offerings.

Many studies have shown that Hinduism never prevented Shudras or others to rise in the scale of society or to earn respect of the society. In many parts of the country, people belonging to lower strata held position of power/superior status or earned respect of Hindu society. Many warrior kings of Shudra and tribal origin sought Brahmins’ help to acquire Kshatriyas status for themselves. Many Shudras were accepted and revered as philosophers or spiritual teachers like .Lord Rama, a king, ate half-eaten berries of Shabri – an untouchable. Lord Krishna’s foster parents Nand and Yashoda, who in today’s classification would be called OBC, get more respect than his real Kshatriya parents from Hindu society. Vashishtha, the principal of the conservative school of Brahmanism, was the son of Uravshi, a prostitute. Vishwamitra, the maker of the very Gayatri Mantra, the quintessence of the Vedic Brahmanism, was a Kshatriya. Aitreya, after whom the sacramental part of Rig-Veda is named as Aitreya Brahamana, was the son from a non-Aryan wife of a Brahman sage. Vyasa of Mahabharata fame and Balmiki, the original author of Ramayana, both untouchable according to present standards, were not ashamed of his origin and are highly respected persons all over India. In middle ages, Sant Ravidas, Namdev, Tukaram, Malika, Sunderdas and several other saints, belonging to lower ranks, earned the same respect as any higher caste saint. There had been instances of people of lower ranks becoming kings.

As far as masses were concerned, the system always kept them reconciled, if not contended in the past. It kept all the sections of society united under one umbrella despite of their diversity and gave the society stability, continuity and prosperity.

Therefore, it is not fully correct that Hinduism or its practices are responsible for Shudra’s isolation, deprivation, exploitation, low social status, inhuman treatment by caste Hindus, their low status in traditional Hindu Society, or forced them to do menial, unsavory and unclean jobs.

All troubles of lower strata of society started after the downfall of Hindu Raj and old Hindus values. Continuous invasions by Turks, Afghans and Mughals who earlier drained out the wealth of the nation to foreign lands and afterwards made India their homeland and ruled the country for centuries. It resulted in Hinduism turning inwards and observing all the rituals rigidly and blindly to save its distinct identity under foreign rule. Afterwards, feudalistic attitude, extravagance and luxurious life style of Mughal rulers and those at the helm of authority, increased the disparity between the rulers and the ruled.

Again, in  nineteenth century during British rule, modernization an industrialization process has made many traditional occupations obsolete or less paying or were regarded more hazardous and more time consuming. White collared jobs gained importance. Modernity taught people to escape from menial work and discredit manual work. More, a person withdrew from physical labor, more civilized, honored and qualified he was regarded by modern society. The British apathy towards indigenous skills, knowledge and occupations pushed millions of rural artisans, craftsman and small scale farmers, for whom work was essential for survival, backwards in a very subtle manner. It resulted in discrediting many traditional occupations and in destruction of Indian handicrafts and cottage industry. It scattered efforts, sense of direction and manufacturing skills of millions of artisans, craftsman, weavers etc. A few of them joined modern occupations. Majority belonging to different groups could neither enter modern sector, nor could stick to their traditional occupations considering menial work derogatory and lost their creativity, sense of achievement and pride. Masses had no option, but to either join band of agricultural laborers, industrial workers, and marginal labor and increase number of poor and unemployed. Outcome of such a change has been casualty of workers first, afterwards their work style, commitment, motivation and culture.

Therefore, it can be said that it was not the malice of upper castes, but the circumstances, that pushed untouchables and others away from the mainstream. Suffering from centuries old enslavement, suppression and ostracism deteriorated severely the condition of lower strata of society, stopped growth of their personality and made them dependent on others for their livelihood.

December 30, 2009 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | | 394 Comments

   

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