At a time where the Congress Government wants to raises the quota for backward classes to 50% in private and public sectors, nobody talks about the plight of the upper castes. The public image of the Brahmins, for instance, is one of an affluent, pampered class. But is it so today ? Well, judge for yourself: There are 50 Sulabh Shauchalayas (public toilets) in Delhi; ALL are cleaned and looked after by Brahmins (this very welcome public institution was started by a Brahmin). There are 5 to 6 Brahmins manning each Shauchalaya. These Brahmins came to Delhi eight to ten years back looking for a source of income, as they were in minority in most of their villages, where Dalits are in majority (60 – 65%). In most villages in UP and Bihar, Dalits have a union which helps them to secure jobs in villages. Too bad for the Brahmins ! Did you know that you also find a number of Brahmins working as coolies in the Delhi railway station ? Kripa Shankar Sharma, one of them, says that his daughter is doing her Bachelors in Science but he is not sure if she will be able to secure a job. “Dalits have often five to six kids, he says, but they are confident of placing them easily and well. As a result, the Dalit population is increasing in villages”. He adds:“ Dalits are provided with housing even their pigs have spaces; whereas there is no provision for goshalas for the cows of the Brahmins”.
You also find Brahmins rickshaw pullers in Delhi. 50% of the richshaw pullers in Patel Nagar are Brahmins who like their other brethren have moved to the city looking for jobs. Even after toiling the whole day, Vijay Pratap and Sidharth Tiwari, two Brahmin rickshaw pullers, say they are hardly able to make both ends meet. Their rickshaws, which are on a daily rent of Rs.25 /-, get stolen very often. These men make about Rs.100/- to 150/- on an average every day from which Rs.500 /- to 600/- go towards the rent of their rooms, shared by 3 to 4 people or their families.
The rickshaw pullers working in West Patel Nagar, most of them in their thirties, reside in the nearby areas like Baljeet Nagar and Shadipur gaun. All of them belong to Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh. Some of them are qualified like Arun Kumar Pandey, a 28 year old Brahmin, who has done high schooling. He says that he is working as a rickshawpuller because there are less employment opportunities in his village and the schooling is not up to the mark. He is living on rent in a room which is shared by four people and pays Rs.600 monthly. Did you also know that most of Benares’ rickshaws pullers are Brahmins ?
This reverse discrimination is also found in bureaucracy and politics. Most of the intellectual Brahmin Tamil class has emigrated outside Tamil Nadu. Only 5 seats out 600 in the combined UP and Bihar assembly are held by Brahmins – the rest are in the hands of the Yadavs. There last 400.000 Brahmins of the Kashmir valley, the once respected Kashmiri Pandits, now live as refugees in their own country, sometimes in refugees camps in Jammu and Delhi in appalling conditions. But who gives a damn about them ? Their vote bank is negligible.
Do you think it is only in the North ? 75% of domestic help and cooks in Andhra Pradesh are Brahmins. A study of the Brahmin community in a district in Andhra Pradesh (Brahmins of India by J.Radhakrishna, published by Chugh Publications) reveals that all purohits today live below the poverty line. Eighty per cent of those surveyed stated that their poverty and traditional style of dress and hair (tuft) had made them the butt of ridicule. Financial constraints coupled with the existing system of reservations for the “backward classes” prevented them from providing secular education to their children.
In fact according to this study there has been an overall decline in the number of Brahmin students. The average income of Brahmins being less than that of non-Brahmins, a high percentage of Brahmin students drop out at the intermediate level. In the 5-18 year age group, 44 per cent Brahmin students stopped education at the primary level and 36 per cent at the pre-matriculation level. The study also found that 55 per cent of all Brahmins lived below the poverty line that is below a per capita income of Rs.650 a month. Since 45 per cent of the total population of India is officially stated to be below the poverty line it follows that the percentage of destitute Brahmins is 10 per cent higher than the all-India figure. There is no reason to believe that the condition of Brahmins in other parts of the country is different. In this connection it would be revealing to quote the per capita income of various communities as stated by the Karnataka Finance Minister in the State Assembly: Christian Rs.1562, Vokkaligas Rs.914, Muslims Rs.794, Scheduled caste Rs.680, Scheduled Tribes Rs.577 and Brahmins Rs.537.
Appalling poverty compels many Brahmins to migrate to towns leading to spatial dispersal and consequent decline in their local influence and institutions. Brahmins initially turned to government jobs and modern occupations such as law and medicine. But preferential policies for the non-Brahmins have forced the Brahmins to retreat in these spheres as well. According to the Andhra Pradesh study, the largest percentage of Brahmins today are employed as domestic servants. The unemployment rate among them is as high as 75 per cent
What about this other myth of the rich and arrogant Brahmin priest ? Seventy percent of Brahmins are still relying on their hereditary vocation. There are hundreds of families that are surviving on just Rs. 500 per month as priests in various temples (Department of Endowments statistics) Priests are under tremendous difficulty today, sometimes even forced to beg for alms for survival. There are innumerable instances in which Brahmin priests who spent a lifetime studying Vedas are being ridiculed and disrespected. At Tamil Nadu’s Ranganathaswamy Temple, a priest’s monthly salary is Rs.300 (Census Department studies) and a daily allowance of one measure of rice. The government staff at the same temples receive Rs.2500 plus per month. But these facts have not modified the priests’ reputation as “haves” and as “exploiters.” The destitution of Hindu priests has moved none, not even parties known for Hindu sympathy.
The tragedy of modern India is that the combined votes of Dalits/OBC and Muslims are enough for any government to be elected. The Congress quickly cashed on it after Independence, but probably no other Government than Sonia Gandhi’s has gone so far in shamelessly dividing Indian society for garnering votes. The Indian Govt gives 1000 crores for salaries of imams in mosques and 200 crores as Haj subsidies. But no such help is available to Brahmins and upper castes. As a result, not only the Brahmins, but also some of the other upper castes in the lower middle class are suffering in silence today, seeing slowly the minorities taking control of their majority. Anti-brahminism originated in, and still prospers in anti-Hindu circles. It is particularly welcome among Marxists, missionaries, Muslims, separatists and Christian-backed Dalit movements of different hues. When they attack brahmins, their target is unmistakably Hinduism.
So the question has to be asked: are the Brahmins (and other upper castes) of yesterday becoming the Dalits of today?
~ Francois Gauthier