in Annihilate Caste — by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd
India is a nation of second largest population in the world. China is the first largest populated nation with a land size bigger than India. India’s population according to 2011 census was 1210.2 million and China’s population was 1347.3 million. India’s land size is 3.287 million KMs, whereas China’s land size is 9.597 million KMs. China’s land size is three times bigger than that of India.
Within a small land size with a massive population India has been producing food, goods and commodities that could sustain a population of almost as large as that of China. This means that the food producers of India must have been working harder and for longer hours than that of Chinese food producers.
India feeds more non-food producers than China. In India there are about 7-8 per cent population in caste terms the Brahmins, Banias, Jains, Kayasthas Khatris and Kshatriyas openly who declared that they would not touch agricultural work, which is the main food production source.
There is a spiritual theory that controls their mind that production is pollution and soil is untouchable. The Indian Jains think that tilling the land kills insects therefore they would not do that job as they practice total non-violence. There is no such anti-production population in China. All do production or production related work without any spiritual or any other theory of non-violence that works as hindrance to the life line of human survival, food production. Crafting such theories is easy but sustaining human life is very difficult.
This situation has increased the burden and pain of food producers in India. The physical labour, pain and pleasure are evenly distributed in China. Sweating out to produce food is a universal human cultural and civilizational value and non-participation in production is exceptional human behaviour. Indian Brahminism has produced this exclusionary spiritual and cultural system which has become the main problem of India.
Though there is a difference in consumption levels of Indians and Chinese, the fact that India feeds it people by producing food resources for all of them shows its strength. Where exactly is the strength of its food, goods and commodity production lies? It lies with a social mass within the Indian population called Shudras, Atishudras (Dalits) and Adivasis. The minority religious people like Muslims and Christians also share their labour. But the main component of the labour power to sustain this country’s people’s lives comes from the Shudras and Dalits. On the other hand, the main ruling class of India consists of five castes-Brahmins, Banias, Kayasthas, Khatris and Kshatriyas. They are known as the ruling English educated Bhadralok. They treat the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis as not so competent people to rule India on their own. But the history of Indian civilization tells that the Shudras are the main civilization builders with massive struggle with nature. And over a period of time they built the science and technology of production. For any nation to survive through the thick and thin of natural calamities, human wars and human ignorance keeping the human mass survive the food producers went on playing a key role, after the food gathering stage was crossed.
The Shudras and Brahmins worked as two opposing schools in the process of keeping this nation survive. There were no such diametrically opposite schools in China at any point of time in history. The Shudras were agriculturalists and the Brahmins were anti-agricultural sanyasis, sadhus, gurus, peetadhipathis and so on. They have been working ways and means to survive without participating in food production. The Shudra knowledge of production, construction and building up science of preservation of food resources played main role in civilization building. By the time the Indo-Africans who later have come to be known as Dravidian and in caste/Varna terms Shudras built Harappan civilization without Brahminism being around.
Both the countries have oldest civilization on this earth. The Indian civilization began to be noticed by the world with building up of Harappan city civilization around 3000 BCE. Shimao is oldest civilizational city site in China dated back to 2000BCE. In the recent past the Harappan civilization is being discussed in a big way in the global history and archaeology platforms. Though Chinese so far discovered Shimao civilization as their most ancient civilization it was not as rich as that of Harappan civilization
What is actually a broad definition of civilization?
According to one definition: “A civilization is any complex society characterized by urban development, social stratification, a form of government and symbolic systems of communication such as writing. Civilizations are intimately associated with and often further defined by other socio-politico-economic characteristics, including centralization, the domestication of both humans and other organisms (animals, birds and so on), specialization of labour, culturally ingrained ideologies of progress and supremacism, monumental architecture, taxation, societal dependence upon farming and expansionism…Civilization, as its etymology suggests, is a concept originally linked to towns and cities. The earliest emergence of civilizations is generally associated with the final stages of the Neolithic Revolution, culminating in the relatively rapid process of urban revolution and state formation, a political development associated with the appearance of a governing elite.”
Who built this civilization in its earliest form and where it began? As I said earlier in the Indian subcontinent the Harappan civilization is the earliest and there is no dispute about it. For any civilization to be built developing an economy of domesticated animals, de-tribalization of human living, constructing villages and expanding them into urban centres are the key processes. Who built the Harappan civilization? Number of archaeological studies, the recent DNA studies and human migrational studies clearly suggest that the Harappan civilization was built by Ando-Africans, later known as the Dravidian race. Whereas the Chinese civilization was built by the Han race. It is clear that by the time of India building Harappan civilization China had no matching civilization even after thousand years of Harappan civilization. When they built the Shinao civilization it was no match to the Indian Harappan civilization. There was no urban civilization that was as advanced as that of Harappan civilization even 2000BCE.
According to Tony Joseph the third migration to the Indian sub-continent was that of Aryans by 1500 BCE. The Aryans wrote Rig Veda after they settled down on this land as their first book in their language-Sanskrit. The Indo-Africans or Dravidians had their own languages in different stages of development. The Indian society, as Rig Veda tells us, was divided into four Varnas–Shudra, Vaisya, Kshatriya and Brahmin by the time the Rig Veda was written. The Shudras were shown as slave working mass; the other three varna/castes were the Aryan non-working minority that would get food resources from the labour of the Shudras. The whole Sanskrit literature has shown Shudras as inferior human beings. Their existence in modern India is without much change. Whether it was the Congress rule or coalition rule or the RSS/BJP rule Varnadharma system remained the central anchor around which they operated in the post-Independent India.
Even assuming that the Aryan migration theory is wrong, as the Hindutva archaeologists and historians are arguing, the work ethics of the present-21st century Brahmins and other Dwijas–show that they have no participation in deforesting, agriculuralising the lands, taking care of animal and bird economic activity. If the division of labour that had driven them to such non-agrarian activity leaving every agrarian productive activity to Shudras the brahmin history, practice and life style even of 21st century does not show that they have changed. Even now their contribution in civilization building as it is a continuing process is a negative one. If they claim that they built religious organizational structures like temples, mutts, and pittas so on, Brahminism does not show inclusive character to allow collective civilization to emerge in building these structures and institutions. Even in that realm the physical and scientific structural construction of those institutions are done by Shudras. The role of the Dwijas in pre-Independent Indian civilization building seems negative but never was positive and post-Independence democratic India did not change the basic character of Brahminism of the old order.
The Dwija castes have occupied all education; ritual, soft knowledge related institutions and kept tightly under them in a manner that they do not unfold knowledge of production, positive and inclusive human relations. In educational institutions and soft knowledge and religious institutions Brahmins made the Shudras, including Marathas, Patels, Jats, Yadavs, Gujjars, Kammas, Reddys, Velamas, Nairs, Nayakars, Lingayats and so on that their historical civilization building abilities were/are inferior. Their classsical books portrayed the Shudras as unworthy people and they hold that books as the mirror of Indian civilization in the schools and colleges even now. After the RSS/BJP came to power they want teaching only those books but not field work based modern research books as unworthy to teach. In their day today practice they work in conformity with their books.
The Shudras are made to feel that they cannot become priests in the temples, cannot become intellectuals in the larger civil society. Though the Shudras worked for pulling down Babri Masjid and building Ram Temple at Ayodhya or worked to build Tirupathi temple earlier under the guidance of a Shudra king Sri Krishnadevaraya, yet they cannot become priests in those temples. If temples are part of Indian civilization and must be treated as Hindu civilization as the RSS/BJP, secular Congress or communist Dwija intellectuals are arguing, what is the place of the real builders of all these spiritual institution? They are visitors, as bhakts but not the conductors of the Hindu spiritual system. Is there a religion in the world that says that a particular caste, community or race cannot become priests in a temple?
This caste/varna division exists in a much structuralized manner by the time India established constitutional democracy in 1950. China established a communist people’s republic in 1949. But India became independent from the British colonial rule in 1947 and took almost three years to institutionalise proper constitutional democracy. This is a most revolutionary development in the whole of Indian history. The Shudras and Dalits got recognition as voters, as citizens, though several other inequalities do continue. The right to vote was given by the British colonial state for all adult Indians. If it were pure Hindu state or a Muslim state like Mughal state the adult franchise would have come to India even by now.
The Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis of India got political freedom after a long slavish life after the Rig Vedic Varna system was established. At times there were Shudra rulers in small states. But they were under the spiritual and intellectual authority of the Brahmin forces. At no stage in history the Brahmin intellectual authority was overthrown in a long history of the Shudra civilization. Their spiritual and social slavery to Brahminic spiritual authority still continues. In a province like Maharashtra where a Shudra king like Shivaji defeated the Mughals and established his kingdom the Brahmin priests of his time refused to do pujas or prayers on his coronation. But such a valiant hero Shudra king was so afraid of the Brahmin power he went all the way to Varanasi (Kashi) to get Brahmin poojaris and took Kshatriyahood for his coronation. He could not create Shudra priests in his state. Within a short time that province went into the hands of Brahmin Peshwa rulers. By the time Mahatma Jotirao Phule and Savitribai Phule came in the mid nineteenth century and rejected the Brahmin authority in all fields the Peshwas were ruling the roost over the Shudra farmers, masses and Dalit labour. Why the Shudra rulers and masses could not assert spiritual and intellectual autonomy is a puzzle that human history has to still uncover. This is not just an Indian issue. It is a problem that global psychologists, sociologists and theologians have to examine. There is a deep psychological trauma among the Shudras and Dalits with fear of Brahmin spiritual authority. Even swords, war elephants could not win over Brahminism. Only education–that English education for all–can win this battle.
The Africans who were enslaved by the white colonials fought against the spiritual and intellectual hegemony of whites. Women across the world revolted against the physical and mental control by men. But the Shudras never revolted against the Brahmins. This spiritual and intellectual hegemony of Brahmin continued from the days of writing of Rig-Veda to my generation in the 21 century. How and why the Shudras allowed this Brahmin hegemony to continue for such long time? This is a major unexplainable historical knot. Perhaps it lies in frozen consciousness of the Shudras of the post-colonial India much more than what their pre-colonial consciousness was. In the pre-colonial era they were not allowed to have access to education even though they were rulers of small states.
Most Shudra rulers were illiterate and depended on the Brahmins for every written word and spiritual speculative knowledge. Even reading of the calendar, epics or Vedas was not their job. The Shudras were not allowed to write books and read any book at all. They were made to live like children arrested in a dark room. The Brahminism destroyed all their creative energies that would have advanced the productive knowledge of India much more than the British colonialism did. If only they were allowed to write their own experience, experiments, strategies and tactics that they used on the production fields the spread of such knowledge far and wide would have made India much more stronger nation than what it is today.
The Shudra knowledge always was in an oral form. The Brahmin and other Dwijas because of their declared superior status with a right to read and write and also leisure in life and their image became divine image among the Shudra productive masses. They were deeply embedded in the karma theory fed by the Brahmins. But in the post-colonial era, even in a changed situation the Shudra inferiority continued, irrespective of their economic status.
Shivaji a very powerful king who defeated the Mughals was a Shudra. He too surrendered to the Brahmin spiritual and intellectual authority. His grandson Sahu Maharaj tried to unsettle the Brahmin authority by giving reservation to Shudra/Dalits. From that period to the last stage of abolition of princely states in the 1970s Shudra kings had political power in several pockets of India. Rulers like Mysore Maharaja and Baroda Maharaja were Shudras rulers of small states politically for quite long time. But spiritually and intellectually they were under Brahmin control. Whereas Brahmin rulers like Peshwa who ruled parts of the present Maharashtra were not controlled by anybody else in any field of life. They were rulers, priests and business conductors, policy makers. Except food production they were doing everything to control the food producers. It was from this total hegemony of Brahmin the first modern Shudra intellectual, Mahatma Jotirao Phule emerged. But the post-colonial intellectuals’ school that constituted only of Brahmins, Banias, Kayasthas, Khatris, totally ignored him in their count of the Indian renaissance thinkers. The post-colonial intellectual school played more negative role than the colonial intellectuals.
By the time Ambedkar returned to Baroda state in 1917 to serve as per his agreement with the king, the Shudra kings had no social power in their hands. Ambedkar got a job in Baroda state. But the king had no power to provide him accommodation to live as that would enrage the Brahmin officials and priests. The king must have thought that even the Shudra masses would support the Brahmin priests and officials and overthrow him or curse him. The notion of Brahmin curse having a power of killing people, overthrowing kings or causing wars was strong weapon in the belief system that the Brahmin spiritual system put in place. The Shudras and Dalits are believed to have no such cursing power. These belief systems were shaking the mightiest kings in the war fields and were begging for Brahmin blessing. Such was the power of casteism and Brahminism in the early twentieth century. A Shudra king who supported the education of a Dalit scholar till his highest level of education in America and England, the Baroda king could not give him a living place along with a secure job. Not that he was opposed to giving him a house in Baroda but the Brahmins were opposed to that and he was scared of their spiritual power.
If only the Shudra kings were to train the Shudra priests within their states to conduct the temple rituals, peoples family ritualistic activities like child birth, marriage, death, house warming and so on the Brahmins would have been jobless. They would have been forced to take up productive jobs. The cultural environment of the nation in such a situation would have been different. The problem was the fear of Brahmin became more serious to the Shudras than the fear of God. This in turn multiplied the problems of the Dalits. At the instance of the Brahmin the Shudras oppressed the Dalits further down. Todays atrocities against Dalits by Shudras should be traced to this weakness of Shudras. The social and spiritual disconnect between different productive layers of the society increased. If the Shudras who were spread out into many fields were to get into spiritual thought, the Shudra priests would have become a connecting link between all layers of the society. As the Shudras constituted the largest number of people all along the living history of the nation, they were situated in varied occupations. But Shudra rulers were always under the spiritual authority of the Brahmin. They lost out on philosophy front as the inferiority complex crushed them. They have now reached to a stage that studying philosophy is not their field. They want to become doctors, engineers but when it comes to the domain of spiritual philosophy they feel that they cannot handle it. They have a deep sense of fear of philosophy.
No Shudra ruler thought of declaring spiritual autonomy and train Shudra priests and intellectuals with a fear of Brahmin shapam (curse) and with the fear that Hindu gods that were said to have completely under the spell of Brahmin pooja, yagnam, yagam and so on would not be accessible to them without the Brahmin mediation. If the same pooja, yagnam or yagam were to be done by Shudra priests or spiritual gurus the communal disconnectivity between Shudras and Dalits would not have been so deep. Gradually Dalits would have become priests and gurus and whole communities would have had social intercourse in the temple system. That would have put an end to human untouchability.
Once you become a priest or teacher you read book and write books. When you read and write philosophy your acceptability becomes wider. If the Shudras were to do reading and writing throughout the history of Brahmin monopoly this much control of Brahmins over a very critical area of reading and writing would not have been continued. Any caste person would have become priest, teacher, reader and writer. The Indian philosophy, like the Chinese philosophy of agriculturalism, would have developed on different course. The agrarian production would have come fully into the domain of philosophy. That would have put the Indian development on altogether a different path.
The post-colonial priesthood, teacher job, (whether in the school or college or university), guruhood, reading and writing confined to Dwijas and that caused enormous socio-spiritual stagnation. The Shudras who built the Indian civilization from Harappan days to present are made mere followers of Dwijas. At best like in the times of the princely rule in the states, they are allowed to hold positions of political power in the states but they lost sight of Delhi even in politics because they cannot reach there with a philosopical vision and all India connectivity. Spiritual power establishes deeper social connections across the country but not the political power. Political power keeps people around day today life struggles in the economic and political domains. Unless the Shudras get deeply involved in spiritual power and the philosophy which would give more serious ideas to organise humanity, they cannot control political power with authority. The Brahmin writers created a world of mysticism where the Shudras did not dare to think that they could challenge them with deep involvement of book reading and book writing.
The very same Brahmin writers wrote several texts which would tell such stories of brahmin rishi shapam and destruction of kings and their powers. Once the rulers themselves in modern times are afraid of brahmin power the ordinary Shudra masses were/are more afraid. They thought that a Shudra becoming a priest even after learning Sanskrit mantras, slokas and texts would not undo brahmin power and would not satisfy Hindu gods. During the freedom movement the Hindu Mahasabha and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh were established by Brahman thinkers. The Shudras did not understand the Brahman strategy. Even if somebody understood their strategy they were spiritually dead sacred of life here on this earth and moksha hereafter. The communist Brahmins and other Dwijas though know that all this Brahmin spiritual power is a myth but did not want to attack it because such an attack would also delegitimize their control over the communist movement and organizations. Thus they helped the Hindutva Brahminism to sustain and grow. Similarly the Brahmins and Dwijas around the Congress and other liberal political forces knew that their hegemony on soft power, wherever they were/are, lies with the spiritual power they did not allow the Shudras around to understand that critical domain. They know that the religious philosophy and institutions are completely under their authority. The Shudra educated were also not conscious of what was controlling them.
What played more powerful role in controlling the Shudra forces is the domain of post-colonial intellectuality. Universities, colleges, schools, research institutions played a very important role to continue the pre-colonial Brahminic authority by not allowing the Shudras to get into mass English education and get into intellectual domains. The pre-colonial Muslim rule had its own Islamic spiritual domain which did not get out of its own fold. The Islamic spirituality had /has no liberation agenda. They were interested only changing the name and form if some Shudras converted to escape the Dwija hegemony. They replaced Sanskrit with Arabic which is also not a productive language in India. Field and spirituality got equally separated in Indian Islam as they were separated by Brahminism. The Shudras have not shown any interest in such Islam. The Hindyutva Dwijas uses their muscle power against Muslim quite cleverly.
The spiritual intellectuals and the so called secular Dwija intellectuals have a common cultural basis to divert the Shudra attention. The Shudraism remained a mind numbed agrarian operational force within small localities without even thinking about the nation and its future and their role in the nation. They did not think that the Gandhi-Nehru combination was Bania-Brahmin combination with a mixed ideological agenda. The only Shudra leader in that team was Vallabai Patel who never played an ideological role with a direction to liberate the Shudras from the historical hegemonic authority and control of Brahmanism. He simply remained a follower of Gandhi’s Bania vegetarian gyana marg (path of knowledge).
In post-colonial India what the Dwija intellectuals did was that they deployed what is known as the post-colonial discourse on India. One of the main characters of this discourse was making colonialism responsible for everything. They said caste hierarchies were also created by colonialism. The Shudra numbness was such that they did not understand why such theories were being cooked up. While blaming colonialism for everything whenever the Shudras asked for priesthood rights in the temples they said the Agama Shastras do not allow that to happen. Who wrote Agama Shastras and when?
The Agama shastras are more than two thousand years old. They were written by Brahmins in such a way that the Shudras would never get equal spiritual rights according them and other books like Manudharma Shastra and Vedas. The problem of Shudra history is that they never aspired for equality and never thought of giving equality to Dalits. What the Nrahmin priest said was/is divine word. Shudraism thus is an ideology of production and hard labour but it has deeply embedded in inferiority and ignorance and lack of spiritual and social consciousness. It never realised that the same British colonial masters allowed the African Black slaves to become pastors, bishops in Britain, America, and South Africa so on. The Shudras did not ask a simple question why they cannot become temple priests even after the British left India. Even when the British were there how were they stopping the Shudras admitting in to the Sanskrit gurukulas when they were being defined as Hindu? The same Gandhi whom Patel and other Shudras nationalist leaders and cadres were following as a God sent Vaishnava leader who was repeatedly saying Varna gradation is non-negotiable in Hinduism. Once Varna system is non-negotiable how do Shudras, whether they are land lords or landless labourers become equal in post-colonial spiritual and social citizenship rights? Political equality does not mean spiritual equality. The right to vote does not guarantee the right to equality in the temple and does not guarantee moksha in heaven. Most criminals become big politicians, become ministers but criminals cannot get moksha in the Kingdom of God. The judgement of God is not the same like our caste centred courts.
Even the rich Shudras never focussed on the leisure centred intellectual domain beyond agrarian landlordism and crude power base over the labour in the villages. They never thought of soft power issue that had much to do with reading and writing books. This weak point of Shudra civilization-that is non-focusing around soft power-made India weaker than China from time to time. A constant upgradation of the consciousness of the productive force is a necessary condition of national development and an egalitarian spiritual system that plays a critical role in this upgradation of philosophical knowledge.
Shudra intellectual and spiritual rebellion against anti-production Brahminism would have kept the world at a different plain. If only the Shudras who contited such huge numbers were to produce intellectuals who could command every field of science, technology and spiritual system the world would have gained a lot. The post-colonial Shudras had this task at hand. But they have not produced enough intellectual leaders to lead the philosophical and social discourse and defeat Brahminism without any fear of intellectual black magic. The Brahminic intellectuality has produced enough black magic.
By 2020 there is a vast difference between the development of India and China. China has the second largest economy of the world by 2020 and Indian economy is way behind which is not even 1/3rd of Chinese economy. The only thing to boast about India is that it is world’s biggest democratic nation, with constant elections. Not that it doesn’t have the potential to change the Indian nation’s development path with the constitutional democracy being what it is, but what the Shudra mass should do is that they should gain grip over everything, including the spiritual system and higher education structures.
Post- Colonial Shudra Intellectuality
Post-colonial India has rigidified caste. The secular Dwija intellectuals have hidden every inequality under the carpet of secularism. The process of national independence was made an instrument of English educated Brahmin, Bania, kayastha, khatri and Kshatriya monopoly. The Shudras who had a history of building a massive civilization through their labour power lost out on spiritual and educational fronts and hence became mere followers of the Dwija leaders. During the colonial times under the Brahmin leadership the Dwijas gained access to the British administrative institutions like collectorates, courts and safeguarded their Brahminic spiritual control over the Shudra productive masses in the villages and towns. The Dwija hegemony was also intact during the Mughal regime because lot of Brahmins and other Dwijas learnt Persian language and they worked as administrators at lower level, though at higher level only Muslim officials were running the system. In many places like Kashmir and Gujarat Brahmins and Banias got converted to Islam and entered into higher administration. Such converted Dwijas safeguarded the interests of the Brahmin-Banias outside Islam. Allama Iqbal, a Kashmiri Brahmin convert and Mohammed Ali Jinnah, a Gujarati Bania convert, who worked as top nationalist Muslim leaders are the best examples. Though they worked out divisive nationalist policy at the far end of the freedom struggle by proposing a two nation theory, because of serious disagreement between the same Dwija Congress leaders and also Muslim leaders–Gandhi on the one side and Jinnah on the other–their overall grip on the two nations more so on India remained very strong. They essentially managed the caste- class elite system even in Pakistan.
The Muslim society both in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh even now is based on the old caste-class feudal hegemonic hierarchy. Bangladesh actually is a nation of most Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi converts. But few Brahmin and Kayastha converts control power in Bangladesh even now. Caste is a coronavirus like social structure it would not leave once its enters the society. Once it takes roots in the social body no religion could undo it once for all. We need to discover an anti-caste vaccine. That requires rigorous research by Shudra/Dalit scientists. As of now there are no such social scientists in India.
The Shudra labourers and landed farmers or even the landlords followed the Dwija leadership and believed whatever they told at any time. The roots of caste structure and the Brahminic inequalities are so deep in this land that whether Islam or Christianity so far could not undo that structure. Since some of the native people converted from caste cultures the same inequalities got into Islam and Christianity. The only fundamental difference between Hinduism, Christianity and Islam is that the priesthood is allowed to all male persons in those religions.
With the anti-Muslim and anti-Christian campaign of the RSS/BJP during last several decades the Shudra consciousness was more blunted. They deploy the Shudra muscle power in anti-Muslim and anti-Christian campaigns. The Shudras are ready to do muscle work not mind work. Thus the RSS has become the main organization that safeguarding the Dwija interests in the era of advanced capitalism and political democracy.
While the post-colonial pure class theory of left liberal intellectuals kept Shudras out of the English language and higher educational structures the focussed anti-Muslim Hindutva nationalist campaign of RSS/BJP deformed the Shudra consciousness much more. They have reached to a stage of no ambition of acquiring global knowledge. They have no ambition of acquiring intellectual leadership in any field of life. That is the most tragic part of Shudra post-colonial existence. They were illiterate all through the medieval and the pre-medieval times and they became English illiterate in the modern post-colonial times. How do they rule the nation as English illiterates when the Dwijas became global intellectuals and political leaders, even ruling America (Kamala Harris, vice-president) and United Kingdom (Rishi Sunak present finance minister and so on) while telling the Shudras to remain in the regional language education. The Shudra leaders are too willing to obey them.
During the colonial period many Brahmins converted themselves to Christianity and became Christian educationalists in English language. But they again taught English to non-Christian Brahmins and other Dwijas. In Kerala, TamilNadu, in Bengal such converted Brahmins played a key role in educational development of non-Christian Dwijas, what they now call Hindus. During this entire educational expansion period the Shudras remained tied down to land, cattle economy and producing food and supplying to Dwijas. Some of them are landlords and regional rulers. Buth they have no philosophical ambition. Whatever their Brahmin guru advises they follow without question.
During the British colonial times a very small number of Indians entered into schools in the village setting because the British English medium schools were around towns. The Brahmins and other Dwijas were the most urbanized people by those times. The Brahmins, Kayasthas, Khatris were around book centred operations; the Banias were around business even in colonial times. Both these activities were mainly operating from urban areas. Agriculture on the other hand was spread out into the rural areas and most cases to semi-forest zones. The Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis were located in such disconnected village locations where education was completely shutout to them. Even during the whole of British colonial period the villages remained illiterate as they were during the Muslim rule and earlier because of non-availability of schools or even family education centres.
Prior to the Muslim rule in Hindu period the Shudras were not supposed to learn Sanskrit. The Shudra political rulers since were under the spiritual control of Brahmin priests or gurus they were given Kshatriyahood and were taken out of Shudra social connectivity. At every stage the educated Brahmin played a new trick with the Shudra agrarian mass so that they could not become educated. In Indian caste system there is no culture of neighbourhood child education practice by home teachers. The Brahmin family teaching centres called gurukulas were out of the reach of Shudras whether they were rich or poor. Hence the Shudras could not become teachers till the British opened schools and reservations were given to them by some small Shudra rulers like Sahu Maharaj or Mysore Maharaja during the colonial times. The fact that Savitribai Phule was the first Shudra teacher– female or male– shows the historical educational deprivation of Shudras.
In the post-colonial India when the new schools and colleges and universities came up hardly any Shudras were there to enter these institutions as teachers, Government officers, clerks and so on. High end universities were filled with Brahmins, Banias, Kayasthas and Khatris. These castes historically were either around Hindu priesthood where book reading played an important role or working in the revenue departments as clerks, patwaris where reading and writing played a very critical role. Banias were exclusively around business where some basic reading and writing of accounts was needed. During the colonial times they went into English education. Mahatma Gandhi, Rammanohar Lohia and historians like K.P Jaiswal went abroad and studied.
The Shudras thought that their job was food production, cattle rearing, artisanal instrument making but not reading and writing. The Shudra landlords were happy with their power the village labour. The Brahmin priestly forces also told them that God does not allow the Shudras to read and write. This was most heinous divine principle that they evolved and repeatedly propagated.
How could intellectuals emerge from Shudras in that situation? Their notion of religion was not book centred but idol centred and when they began to be defined as Hindu during the freedom struggle they were depending on the Brahmin to read and recite books for them. They could not even read astrology or Panchangam (the book of horoscope and book of time and space). It did not matter whether they were landlords or landless labourers. The nationalist period very systematically brought all the Shudras under the grip of Brahmins, who maintained the Brahminic Dalit untouchability intact. Mukul Keshavan writes in NDTV blog, while writing about Kamala Harris hiding her Brahmin background, that his own grandfather used to have a purifying bath if he sees a Dalit from distance. That was a nationalist Brahmin. (https://www.ndtv.com/opinion/is-kamala-harris-suppressing-her-tambram-origins-2283536).
The nationalist Brahmins treated Dalit sight as untouchable and a Shudra touch as unacceptable, but the Shudra labour was acceptable even within the house. A Shudra for a nationalist Brahmin was like a black slave in American white house. In fact, lesser than that. Black slaves were allowed to work within whites’ houses and they were touchable as well. Whereas the Shudras–a Nair, Naykar, a Mudaliar, a Kamma, Reddy, Lingayat, Vakkaliga, or Maratha, Jat, Patel and so on were working in Brahmin houses to do household tasks but they were not touchable humanly.
No Brahmin at any point of time in the post Vedic history worked on fields along with Shudras. There was no area where the Brahmins and Shudras could touch each other except perhaps in sexual engagements of Brahmin men, as it happened in the Nair society of Kerala. The Nair women were working as sexual concubines of the Brahmin men. Even in other areas Brahmin and other Dwija men using Shudra women for their sexual gratification was not treated as major problem by the Shudra men also. Because a Brahmin is treated as equivalent to god and any crime by a Brahmin is treated as divinely accepted process. Once a criminal act of Brahmin and other Dwijas is treated as divinely accepted the legal dimension does not come into focus. The Shudra women were never accepted as a legal wife but a sexually usable commodity.
The female sexuality was touchable for Brahmin but not the working body as a human being. The Shudra women had lost out in education even in the post-colonial period much more than dwija women. Thousands of dwija women are educated in English medium schools after the post-colonial constitutional governance began. Even before India achieved independence many Dwija–particularly Brahmin women- got educated in English medium schools. Sarojini Naidu (born in a Bengali Barahmin–Chattopadhyaya family– but married to Shudra Naidu of Andhra), her daughter Padmaja Naidu, Vijaya Lakshimi Pandit and Indira Gandhi and so on had advanced level of English medium school education in India and England and played a critical role in high end political structures. Indira Gandhi would not have become the Prime Minister of India but for her English education and global exposure. We have hardly any Shudra women of that stature whether they came from landlord family or middle class family. The question of landless labour Shudra women getting English medium education is out of imagination. This legacy was extended to post-colonial higher educational institutions. Since the rural settings were not allowed to have English medium education the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi men and women were forced to confine to regional language education which did not give them scope to confidently get English medium higher education. The Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis living in urban areas were also forced to confine to Government regional language schools and or remained illiterate labouring mass.
C V Raman (a Tamil Brahmin) was the first Nobel Prize winner after independence. His father was a school teacher in pre-independent India, Har Gobind Khorana (a Khatri from united Punjab) the second Nobel winner, though he was Non-Resident Indian. His father was a Patwari in Western Punjab. Amartya Sen (a Kayastha from Bengal), his father was a professor undivided Bengal. These professions were not available for Shudras in pre-independent India.
In post-colonial India the Shudra regional language educated, even though were the children of village landlords, could not compete with English medium educated Dwija forces in higher educational institutions. Added to this the Shudra houses had no book reading culture. Unless a spiritual need forces people to read books human beings normally do not get to know the spiritual philosophical issues in normal course of life. Unless God is said to have commanded one to read books the working houses do not take off time to read books. There was no notion of holiday mandatorily allocated for educational purposes or a rest day in the Shudra history. The nationalist Brahmin priest did not provide such a rest day which would have given them leisure time to think of reading a book once the regional language education reached them, if not English. The post-colonial Shudra was leading a primitive life, as usual around his farm, cattle either as a worker or as manager. This in itself does not provide a globally or nationally synthesised philosophy unless one is educated and takes time to read and write. That road was/is blocked to Shudras irrespective of their landed wealth or poverty.
Poverty in itself does not block acquiring spiritual philosophy or social philosophy. Poverty in itself does not stop a big mass of humanity acquiring the skills of reading and writing. Many poor across the world became great thinkers and writers. For example, the twelve disciples of Jesus who spread the spiritual philosophy of Jesus and Bible were not rich or big land owners. Similarly the Brahmin saints or rishis who were said to have written the Brahminic books or propagated them were not big moneyed or landlords but were people of interest to sustain Brahminism as a religion. They were determined to spread the ideas of anti-Shudra, anti-labour ideology and keep them bonded to land and labour, as the Brahmin keeps handling the soft knowledge power. This was lacking among the Shudras. They would have fought for it but as a race and community they were so intimidated for millennia that they lost the historical confidence in themselves except in performing labour and land related tasks. The general communist theory that economic equality or achievement solves all other problems of inequality, including that of spiritual, social and philosophical inequality, is absolutely wrong. India is a critical example to disprove the economic determinism of communist thinkers of the world and India.
How Shudra Consciousness is encircled by Brahmanism
At the national level the Dwijas encircled the high end institutions in all sectors in three package forms: the secular liberal, Hindutva and left. In every package the same Dwija forces were/are there to checkmate the Shudra/Dalit path into those institutions in various ways. They went on changing institutional definitions. When the Shudras/Dalits were reaching one stage of the institutional target they went on raising the bar with a definition that becomes advantageous to the Dwija youth. The top layers of Shudras who were defined as ‘dominant’ castes by the same Dwija intellectuals did not understand the game at all. The productive Shudra masses could not even go beyond the issue of reservation. Shudras who are outside the reservation category could not compete with Dwijas in many fields. The idea of Shudra and Dwija forces competing at the same level in higher education and high end jobs was/is very misguiding. The Dwijas have a common spiritual thread among them with long family history of education, whereas the Shudras have no such history. The main role at the national level in encircling the Shudra consciousness was/is played by Brahmin, Bania, Kayastha and Khatri communities. The Kshatriyas have little role in this post-colonial deceptive role because they too had no long history of English medium education.
Very few Kshatriyas, who in northern Indian today are known as Rajputs, Thakurs have entered these institutions because they thought that they were high end rulers with landed estate ownership and hence they need not spend time in schools, colleges, universities and offices. Even today there are not many high end Kshatriya bureaucrats and university professors and top business families, though some have come up in politics. They are hardly there within hardware or of software business or in the high end economic activities.
The post-colonial modernity was linked to English language education and it was kept in private domain in metropolitan cities and Kshatriyas have not focussed much on English education. Not that that they do not have money but do not have the aptitude to learn English. Colonial modernity has become a Dwija preserve. The Kshatriyas, of course, are catching up very lately.
The Shudra position was/is much worse. Jats, Gujjars, Yadavs, Patels, Marathas, Reddys, Kammas, Lingayats, Vakkaligas, Nairs, Nayakars, Mudaliyars and so on, though had landed property did not enter into educational and administrative institutions at national level with a grip on English language. Their presence in regional institutions is of course is visible because of regional language education. The gap between people who are educated in regional language in Government schools and those who are educated in English medium private schools is enormous. The post-colonial life is dependent more on education–that too on English education– than on land.
Globalization made the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi life more disadvantageous. The farmers’ life became more unequal and they have not yet realized where their spiritual and social location is. Their place in the globally interactive business is almost zero. Except that they buy some cell phones, TV sets, cars or other gadgets but their control on globalized economy is zero. Few farmers or landlords or political leaders could buy cars and good modern houses but that is no sign of modernized development. In spheres of soft knowledge production they are totally absent. They could neither become priests in the temples, professors in the universities, scientists in the high end labs of India or leaders of globally networking organizations or Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), nor could they become national level mass leaders and industry owners. The so called rich Shudras can only handle the regional political institutions and small economic institutions.
The Shudra artisans, cattle herders, shepherds, Dalits and Adivasis all over India couldn’t have handled even the regional political institutions and financial institutions as they remained uneducated for generations. In post-colonial times they were not allowed to learn English which is the key language to handle power structures with efficiency. Many of them are still in the forest zones. They are not even capable of educating their children in regional language schools. Their children were/are farm hands, cattle grazers and cultivators for wage as they keep growing. The British were replaced by Dwijas in all post-colonial institutions. The Shudras remained post-colonial farmers, cattle herders, tillers of soil. Some Shudra upper layer castes hoped to gain neo-Kshatriya status without even understanding the Kshatriya status in post-colonial times itself has no meaning. They themselves are not in good position without having modern English medium education as much as the other Dwija communities have. They themselves have not produced high end intellectuals and philosophers and in such a situation what do Shudras achieve even if they are given the Kshatriya status. The only use of that in ancient and medieval India was to become kings. Now because of Ambedkar’s constitution they can become the Prime Minister, President of India by remaining Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi.
Post-Colonial Shudras and Nationalism
In the post-colonial world nationalism became a major theoretical discourse issue. The Shudras were outside that discourse. Once they were outside English education and university presence the Dwijas controlled the nation and nationalist discourse. The Shudras remained as field intellectuals. They were studying the nature, forests, mountains, rivers, animals, birds, seeds and instruments of production but were not entering into the book reading and writing domains, where the nationalist discourse plays its game. Book reading requires a motivation slightly different from agrarian operational motivation. For Dwijas the spiritual system itself was motivational factor for reading and writing. The only Shudras who write books in English by claiming themselves as staunch Hindu like Shashi Tharoor present themselves as more fundamentalist Hindu than Dwijas themselves. He tells about his father’s ritual practice in graphic way in his book Why I am a Hindu.
He says “I grew up in a Hindu household. Our home always had a prayer room, where paintings and portraits of assorted divinities jostled for shelf and wall space with fading photographs of departed ancestors, all stained by ash scattered from the incense burned daily by my devout parents. I have written before of how my earliest experiences of piety came from watching my father at prayer. Every morning, after his bath, my father would stand in front of the prayer room wrapped in his towel, his wet hair still uncombed, and chant his Sanskrit mantras”. (Why I am a Hindu. Aleph, 2018). How many generations of Nairs in his own family did this prayer and how many generations did till the land, grazed cattle, roamed in the forests studying nature? He does not tell us. He tells the story of his father and mother as if he had no grandmother and grandfather and great grandmother and great grandfather. What were they doing? Were they praying Hindu deities as he and his father did?
Tharoor, a Nair (rich Shudra from Kerala) became later a diplomat, a politician, but if he were to decide to become a Hindu priest to run a Hindu temple, he would have been thrown out. It was this lack of spiritual right to become a priest as an individual and denial of it even though one wants to take that most important job up in a religion based on his caste background made Shudras what they are today. This is the issue on which the Shudras lost out their civilizational contribution in a nation that they built with their sweat and blood. Millions of Shudras educated or uneducated worship like Tharoor did the Brahminic deities, but they never become an equal to a Brahmin with all spiritual rights in life. Yet they do not rebel but surrender to the Brahmin. A rebellion against Brahmin and Brahminism by the Shudras would havereformed Hinduism and made India equally capable like China is in many fields, including in science and technology. Because when entire population gtes education at the same level and treated equal in all fields including in spiritual system human knowledge level expands.
The Shudras built the sub continental civilization as Indo-Africans 1500 years before the Brahmins wrote their Vedas. They brought the Indian society out of tribalism. They domesticated cattle, stored meat and milk products and generated material surplus, which is an essentially pre-condition for building civilization. They built villages, expanded them into cities. Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Dholavira and so on are their contribution to the world much before China built such advanced civilization. But now under the leadership of the post-colonial Dwija intellectuals where is India and where is China?
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political Theorist, Social Activist and Author. His new book The Shudras–Vision For a New Path co-edited with Karthik Raja Karuppusamy being published by Penguin will come out soon