Tag Archives: Hinduism

Kancha Ilaiah has the right to freedom of expression.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd has emerged as the most prominent antagonist of the Hindutva forces in the country. Ilaiah, a political science professor, came into the limelight with his book “Why I Am Not a Hindu” and he has relentlessly been attacking anything and everything related to Hindu ever since. His latest book titled ‘Samajika Smuglarlu Komatollu’ has stirred the ‘Arya Vaishya’ community in the Telugu speaking states.

Though I haven’t read the book, I came to know that it critically scrutinizes the role played by “Arya Vaishyas” in the society. Vaishyas, a dominant caste and the third in the hierarchy of Hindu caste system, are a predominantly trading community and control a large part of the wholesale and retail trade, especially the essential commodities. Ilaiah alleges that the Vaishyas, who rarely produce anything, don’t make any positive contribution to society, and therefore the society can survive even without their presence. So Ilaiah, through his writings, wants to highlight the lack of positive contribution to society from certain castes.

It is a fact that in the Hindu society there are some castes which led a kind of parasitic lives for generations. Take the example of Brahmins. They were hardly involved in any productive activity and in fact, the role played by them is to a great extent negative. They, for generations, misled the society in the name of religion, introduced meaningless rituals, promoted superstitious beliefs and played a lead role in perpetuating caste discrimination. In an essence, they exploited the inherent sense of insecurity among the people to run their God business, which is a classic example of non-economic activity. Many Brahmins say that they were involved in spreading knowledge. But the question arises whether they have spread that knowledge among all the sections of society? They taught only Brahmins and Kshatriyas and made sure that they don’t impart any knowledge to Sudras and Dalits.

Being a community of shopkeepers, Vaishyas ran most of the wholesale and retail outlets in both urban and rural areas and their activities can’t be labeled as non-economic activities. However, even now people associate Vaishyas with excessive profiteering, usury and stashing of wealth. Therefore, they also played a largely negative role in the impoverished Indian society.

Even the other dominant castes such as Kamma and Reddy, who own disproportionately large tracts or land, have the history of perpetrating atrocities against Dalits. The massacres against Dalits in villages such as Neerukonda, Padirikuppam, Kanchikacharla, Karamchedu and Tsunduru are the testimony to the upper caster cruelty and arrogance.

The main intention of Ilaiah appears to be to attack the dominant castes in Hindu society and expose the negative role played by them. There is nothing wrong in questioning the discriminatory, exploitative and hegemonistic practices prevalent in the Hindu society. The Vaishyas, however, appear to have taken offense to Ilaiah’s writings and started a concerted campaign against him. They even accuse him of trying to promote Christianity.

If there is anybody who is promoting Christianity in a big way in India, it is the Hindu clergy and the caste Hindus. The clergy hardly mingles with Dalits and don’t hide their Brahmin bias. The caste Hindus are known for their discrimination and mistreatment of Dalits. It is a fact that Dalits are not in a position to lead a life of self-esteem as long as they are in Hindu fold. The caste system is so rigid that even after a Dalit converts to Christianity he is not treated on par with other Christians. A Brahmin Christian or a Reddy Christian looks down upon his Dalit Christian counterpart.

The Hindu caste system is such that it does not even allow the Dalits to stay united. For example, in the Telugu speaking states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, there is a feud between Mala and Madiga communities on the issue of sharing the fruits of reservation.

In spite of all these anomalies why caste system is still strong? As Dr. B. R. Ambedkar had rightly observed, the characteristic of graded inequality prevalent in Hinduism keeps caste system ticking in Hindu society. Except Dalits, all Hindu castes have someone or the other under them, whom they consider inferior to them, and therefore worthy of exploitation.

The fact of the matter is the caste system in Hinduism is a sinister arrangement, which is bent on dehumanizing Sudras and Dalits. The Swamijis and Hindutva organizations are only interests in perpetuating the evil system. Therefore, it becomes inevitable for the intellectuals to criticize the caste system and along with it the upper caste people, who perpetrated untold atrocities against Dalits.

The thing all the caste Hindus must understand is tribals, Dalits, and other backward caste people have a right to question the inherently inequitable and exploitative caste system and raise some pertinent issues with regard to the current status of the suppressed classes. Therefore, it is wrong on the part of the caste Hindus to issue death threats against the writers with an intention to suppress their freedom of expression. The Supreme Court has rightly refused to impose a ban on the book, and therefore upheld the freedom of expression.

The need of the hour, if Hinduism has to survive, is to introduce sweeping reforms in the Hindu way of life, especially destroying the caste system entirely to bring about equality and unity among all Hindus. Nothing less than a complete annihilation of caste and unequivocal condemnation of Brahminism will save Hinduism from complete extinction. Many people opine that Hinduism survived for millenniums and it will definitely survive for eternity. But that is not true. In this 21st century, equality is non-negotiable. If they have any doubts they can visit a Dalit hamlet and count the number of Hindus who haven’t yet converted to Christianity.

Women hold up half the sky but not at Shani Shingnapur?

Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra. Image Courtesy: shanishingnapur.blogspot.in

Shani Shingnapur Temple in Maharashtra. Image Courtesy: shanishingnapur.blogspot.in

Shani Shingnapur temple continues to be on the boil over the issue of barring the entry of women to the inner sanctum. It is indeed an avoidable controversy and it highlights the need for the traditional-minded temple authorities to shift to 21st-century thinking. It is not that women are altogether prohibited from entering the temple. As per the tradition, women are not allowed to gain entry into the inner sanctum (an open-air platform) of the temple, where the rock idol of Lord Shani is installed.  But still this is unjust and as the Bombay High Court has stated in its verdict,  “if men were granted entry to a place of worship, women should enjoy access too”.

Shani Shingnapur controversy – an attack on Hinduism?

Some people opine that this temple activism is a conspiracy to intervene in the Hindu spiritual affairs and view it as an onslaught on the Hindu way of life. However, their fears are ill founded. Hinduism is so ancient and yet ever renewing. It is like a perennial river which continues to flow even after the innumerable efforts made by the invaders, who followed the Abrahamic faiths, to destroy it. The Hindu shrine, Somnath, stands as an enduring example of the Hindu legacy which has the capability to withstand even the most brutal onslaughts.

Is Hinduism averse to reform?

Unlike the Abrahamic faiths, Hinduism has always been receptive to reforms. It is mainly because of its unorganized structure where the dominance of the clergy is almost nil. There is no pope or grand mufti who can issue edicts or fatwas. Of course, there are ‘swamijis’ but they don’t issue fatwas and even if they issue no one cares. Hindus jealously guard their right to choose whom to worship, how to worship and when to worship. And that is the reason why Hindus can even worship Saibaba of Shirdi, a Muslim fakir, and deify him as an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Hindus are in fact inventing new Gods and Goddesses almost on a daily basis and their penchant for inventing new Gods will continue till eternity. No doubt Hindus practice many blind beliefs and useless practices that impose an unnecessary financial burden on them. However, they don’t allow any clergyman to intervene in their religious affairs. And this unorganized nature of Hinduism makes it the most receptive to reforms.

Hinduism underwent many reforms. Sati, devadasi and untouchability are some of the social evils Hinduism by land large could eradicate. However, still there is a lot to be done like ending discrimination against Dalits and the empowerment of women. Though untouchability has largely been eradicated, discrimination against women and Dalits is still prevalent in many parts of the country.

Why are women not allowed into the sanctum of Shani temple?

Hindus believe that Lord Shani wards off evil from them if they keep him happy with their offerings. Mustard oil is believed to be the most loved offering Lord Shani accepts. However, only men are allowed to offer mustard oil to Shani Deva as it is believed that the wrath of the deity is less on women and they are largely unaffected by Shani. In other words, Lord Shani is benevolent towards women and they need not make any offerings to please him.  But Trupti Desai and the members of her activist brigade want to enter the sanctum and offer mustard oil to the presiding deity. If they want to unnecessarily enter the sanctum and carry out an unnecessary ritual, let them do it. Why the temple authorizes are trying to prevent them?

There is no restriction whatsoever on the entry of women into most of the Hindu temples. However, Shabarimala and Shani Shingnapur temples are the rare exceptions. The temple authorities give out many reasons which are actually unreasonable. As the saying goes, women hold up half the sky. Any discrimination against women or any attempt to reduce them to the status of second-class citizens is abhorring and must be condemned outrightly. Even the Hindu nationalist organizations like RSS have condemned the barring of women from entering these two temples.

Resistance to reform will only strengthen the hands of anti-Hindu forces:

There are many Hindu nationalists who trash the women’s organizations as agenda driven and accuse them of being the instruments in the hands of foreign NGOs who are trying to defame Hindus and bring disrepute to the Modi government. They also point out to the fact that these women’s groups never raise the issue of discrimination against their fellow women in other faiths, especially Islam. It is a fact that the status of women in Islam is pathetic, but any effort to bring about reform without the explicit consent of the Muslim clergy will be resisted violently by the Muslims and it will create a law and order problem in the country. Muslims, especially Maulanas are very rigid as far as their religious beliefs and practices are concerned and they feel that their religion, being ordained by God, is unalterable. However, Hinduism does not believe in any such dogmas, and it is useless to compare the discriminatory practices prevalent in Hinduism with that of the practices in other faiths. Irrespective of the intentions of the women’s groups, Hindus should be receptive to reforms and all the meaningless and discriminatory customs and traditions prevalent in Hinduism must be done away with immediately.

Any delay in introducing reforms and any efforts to resist the attempt to bring about reforms will only strengthen the anti-Hindu forces. The left liberals will utilize this resistance to reform as a stick to beat Hindus and Hinduism. The Christian missionaries, who try 24×7 to convert Hindus to Christianity, will get an added impetus to their proselytization efforts. Irrespective of what left liberals or Christian missionaries say or do, it is indeed unjust on the part of Hindus and Hinduism to allow any discriminatory customs and traditions against women and Dalits to continue.