Hindus, Castes, and secularism

Before India got its independence, it was Still several hundreds of large and small kingdoms governing present-day Pakistan’s areas to the borders of Myanmar. But the majority population at that time, as even now, were mostly Hindus.

The belief system practiced in this geographical area is called Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism, roughly translated, a way of life, adhering to the principles of duty to lead a righteous life while following spiritual practices applicable to all born into that fold irrespective of class or status. Nothing could be more inclusive than this thought process.

As a Hindu, I feel helpless about the division I see in the Hindu community. Did the Muslim invasion and subjugation that started earnestly in the 12th century and the western colonization that began in the 16th century make the Hindu society draw inwards and become defensive and not claim back what its heritage was?

What prompted me to write this essay is two incidents. The first One, a discrimination-based “Caste” lawsuit filed here in a Californian court in Silicon Valley by two Indian tech workers. On Which I do not want to comment on as the case is still alive. I have to reiterate that I am not fully aware of the exact nature of the case and what transpired between the individuals concerned, but it has a bearing on my subject matter as the crux of that case is.” caste.”

https://apnews.com/article/594de601e8eb1a69eea5a625a08d8ecc

https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/California-federal-caste-based-discrimination-15654000.php

The next is an article written by Ms. Matangi Subramanian here in USA

https://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/politics/a35321103/separating-indian-hindu-identities/

 I am certainly not criticizing her as she has a right to express what she feels like, and her experience is personal. Still, since she has gone public with it, I am now at liberty to give my take on it. Again, it has a bearing on the subject matter of my article. I would rather not see them as victims but individuals whose experiences are shaped by the narrative that haunts Hindus in India or even those who have emigrated outside India. Caste is the collective guilt that is needlessly thrust on Hindus by circumstances.

Both individuals are highly educated. The ones that filed the discriminatory case had the best affirmative support from the Indian state and were able to study in one of the world’s renowned Indian institutes of technology. They should face the world with pride as privileged few to come out of such an institute. Why are they then holding themselves consciously prisoners of the narrative they grew?

They ate the cake that was offered but then claimed discrimination. Hundreds of similar caste cases have been imposed on mostly innocent people in India by people who had the opportunity to come up in social order by affirmative actions but by misusing laws that protected them from discrimination. This misuse of law is akin to blackmail by one protected by the state against others who have legal recourse but have to endure the emotional and financial cost. I don’t know how the courts here would adjudicate the case, as to do that, the judge has to take a sabbatical time off to go to India and study Sanatana Dharma or Hinduism, understand it, then pour through tomes of law books and judgment cases in India before he or she can decide the case here. Because this case cause itself is alien to American jurisprudence, and I don’t know under what category of comparative law the order can pass.

Most articles on India, issues on caste, matters of faith concerning India are written here in mainstream media by people who are not Hindus. And some script pieces with Hindu Americans’ collaboration here or with Indians in India who are blatantly biased, and invariably the articles would be full of left-liberal political trash. Many items are also written by mostly uninformed students in universities who publish papers on the subject based on google or Wikipedia research. Most of the people who write these articles are Christians and don’t know what Santana dharma or Hinduism is about, nor do they know about the thousands of years of Hindu India’s history. The saddest part of this vilification campaign is Indians here in the media or some Hindu Americans who want to be like Romans in Rome. Instead of dispelling all the myths, they add on to it. They are all willing collaborators of this narration.

One needs an enemy to fight. The left-liberals, Christian clergy, and the Islamic Church created this imaginary enemy in Brahmins and the so-called pitiful victimhood on another side. There is no noble intention here from these groups like helping any “aggrieved castes “; it divides the Hindu society as sections of oppressor and oppressed. The chasm created is the space these anti-Hindu and anti-India forces occupy to undermine India.

On a visit to India in 2018, Jack Dorsey of Twitter allowed an anti-Hindu group to manipulate him by making him hold a placard with a very derogatory reference to a Hindu community section.

He proudly displayed a placard with the caption,’ Smash Brahmin Patriarchy’ made by Dalit Diva,@dalitdiva, a Dalit activist.

her website is very informative- https://dalitnation.com/

The others in that group are mostly left-liberals who are openly anti-Hindu and anti -Modi. This group knows how uninformed and gullible left-liberals like jack Dorsey’s would swallow any bait thrown at them. Dorseys know neither Indian history nor its culture. There was a massive display of anger in social media in India, Indian print, and electronic media on this needless exhibition. The head of Twitter India tendered an apology on behalf of Dorsey. Would Dorsey dare hold a poster and stand in New York’s Times Square with a placard deprecating any shortcoming in the society he lives in, or would he dare hold a placard deprecating minors’ sexual abuse by clergy in Christian churches in the USA?

There is a systematic assault by Christian and Islamic groups on Hindus in India with a clear plan to stoke up the caste factor and convert Hindus into their fold. Concerted efforts by all Christian churches of all denominations to appropriate Hindu symbolism in constructing churches, iconography, and liturgy with the unabated speed in attracting believers by inducements.

When they try to convince converts that Jesus or Mary are new avatars of Hindu gods, the intent is malicious. These Christian churches are appropriating Hindu festivals and Hindu attire worn by Hindu priests. Hindu saints, whose timeline traced thousands of years back in history, are claimed as Christian gospel evangelists. The Church’s devious way of converting and superimposing Christian dogma and worship using Hindu symbols is a creative strategy to exploit the caste difference in Hindu society’s economically marginalized sections to destroy Hindu culture.

Why do Hindus belong to the same fold of thought portrayed as intolerant to each other? Is there an inherent Faultline or lack of strength, or is it due to misinformation that is deliberate to malign Hindus?

Now, if we cut back to Mathangi Subramanian’s article,” Why I Separated My Indian Identity from My Hindu Identity.” We come back to this article’s crux—the confusion and identity crisis Hindu faces in India or outside. if one reads, her article one will find her arrogance and confusion and her own perceived superiority when she says,” adopting a child like my daughter, whose features and history marked her as indigenous, and therefore outside of the caste system. “Adoption agencies in India don’t categorize babies as pedigreed or indeterminate. Her judgment shaped by her environment here in America is condescending to the child she is adopting. For all her father’s efforts here in America to bring her up as a Hindu American, she has ended up as a “woke liberal” lost in a sea of ignorance influenced by the same left-liberal vacuous thought process that’s the hallmark of media and ” intelligentsia “both here as well as back in India. I am not even going into her rantings about the nonexistent “Brahmin patriarchy” or whatever it is.

Most people outside India are clueless about what caste is and what they know is from heresy and what is in the public domain. Even in India majority of Hindus also are equally ignorant as Hindu leadership itself is to blame. It never took any major initiative to bring this subject into public discourse and dispel these Hindu society differences. It suits almost all political outfits left, right, and center in India to exploit it for the “Caste” political dividend.

But the Hindus are shown as oppressive, discriminatory to one another due to “castes. “There was no concept of castes in India when the West entered the scene. There were varnas or roughly translated in English, “description,” Or “jati,” translated as “family” or “descent.” Varnas were not derogatory, and they were complementary to each other. Varnas espoused in Manu Smriti was in vogue till the colonization started. Manu smriti or Manus code of conduct timeline could be anywhere between 200 to 1000 BC. I don’t think what Manu wrote was never entirely followed at any given time, and it is not even relevant anymore in modern times. For anyone in India or outside to quote it is futile.

It was like the ten commandments that mostly are ignored and hardly followed. If One studies the Hindu civilization period timeline spanning across to 5500 BC to date, One will find eminent persons from across the Hindu society achieving excellence without any association to caste or gender.

In a vast landmass of 140 million, before the pre-industrialization era in a land blessed with natural resources and wealth, this division of society based on varnas worked well. But the British and others’ mischievousness were directed at breaking up this cohesive Hindu society that was thriving in harmony. The Hindu way of life predates Abrahamic faiths and goes back to 7000 to 8000 years. This philosophy was indigenous to present-day India’s landmass, and it did not come from European steppes by way of any Aryan migration, which was a myth created by British colonial rulers to give legitimacy to their presence if they were to be seen as superior to be an effective colonizer of the week. The wealth of knowledge and sophistication of Hindu society was more overwhelming than the material wealth the very same community processed. The rewriting of narratives about this great civilization started at that very moment as the western colonizers and clergy could not accept that a “heathen, heretic” but a sophisticated and equally wealthy society was alive and kicking on the face of the Christian civilization. The colonizers consciously tried to erase the ethos and spirit of this great landmass.

Here I don’t want to appear I am partial in only accusing the Christian West efforts to destroy Hindu dharma or the Hindu society. India equally withstood the repeated pillage and onslaught on it by Islamic invaders who spared no effort to destroy Hinduism. They converted hundreds of millions of Hindus by forced conversions and destroyed more than 50000 Hindu temples of antiquity. The conservative estimates of Hindus massacred by Islamic invasion are around 80 million. Fortunately for Hindus and India, Hinduism survived due to its inherent resilience.

The insidious campaign on brahmins as oppressors is baseless. The present Brahmin population in 2020 would be about 60 million out of 1.350 billion people. Imagine when there was no census in 1500 when India got colonized, The Brahmin population out of 100 million could have been about 6 to 8 million. How such a minuscule number of Brahmins who mostly were employed as teachers or priests without any economic clout could have oppressed others is questionable. Hindu society’s brahmin section was the first target for the western colonizers as their knowledge threatened them. The colonizers sowed divisions between the four varnas by introducing a new alien word called “caste” The catholic clergy played a significant part in this corruption of the varna system.

This devious word was used first by the Portuguese, who followed the casta system of racial profiling of their society in Europe as their gene pool got mixed with the Islamic Moorish invaders. Ironically the word “casta “was used to measure the Christian society’s racial purity in Portugal and Spain but was foisted on Hindu culture, which had no castes. Even then, the word casta was derogatory in Spain and Portugal as it meant for racial profiling. Ironically, alien nomenclature was foisted on a peaceful Hindu society and, in turn, painted it as a divisive society. The discrimination case filed in California by two Indian CISCO employees was dropped but kept as open litigation. I am giving this information to highlight how this caste divide has even carried forward outside the borders of India

https://apnews.com/article/594de601e8eb1a69eea5a625a08d8ecc

https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/California-federal-caste-based-discrimination-15654000.php

A seamless and effortless narrative has been built in the last 500 years Starting from the year 1505, in undermining the Hindu society in India as one that is a divided one by caste, by the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British colonial rulers and the Christian clergy of all denominations actively encouraging this.

The ruling class of liberated India schooled in Macaulayism, or the Indian educated elite’s westernization, has continued the same narrative for another 60 odd years. This ideology was akin to the western social democracy mixed with a heavy dose of Russian socialism thrown in. Hindus who are deeply spiritual people have to continuously struggle in the rough sea of the godless concept of secularism that was foisted on them by the state while facing at every turn the intolerant Christian and Islamic sharks nibbling at them. It is extraordinary in a country where Hindus became defensive about being Hindus and started finding faults with the tenets of their Hindu way of life. Even today, it is considered secular for a Muslim or Christian in India to go on the rooftops and scream out their identity, but if Hindus dare to do it, Hindus get branded as communal and intolerant. It is indeed Kafkaesque.

The Indian media, which was nurtured by the same environment, did its bit. The Mandal Commission, set up in 1979 by the socialist Prime minister Morarji Desai further released a toxic divide in the society by creating caste-based reservations in education, thus further legitimizing what divisions the western colonial powers bequeathed India. The western media here in America mostly identifies itself with left-liberalism fanned the sentiment regularly, setting the narrative here for the far-left liberals in the Democratic party to pick up to influence the establishment and sermonize India about religious freedom or caste inequalities. This narrative from the West had great takers from the liberals in Indian society who grabbed every word uttered on the subject as a creed. It used that as a tool to communalize India’s situation, not only to divide the different faiths but also to successfully continuing the narrative that Hindu society was a divided one. And there was intolerance in the community based on castes.

This narrative suited the rice bag conversion lobby in India (rice bags are distributed as inducements to impoverished Hindus and other pecuniary benefits to convert them to Christianity), who exploit this “caste “divide for conversions, which is primarily funded by western evangelical Christian churches and Catholic churches in India.

India’s caste divide is dying out naturally due to the economic aspiration that cuts all across the society. Economic advancement will be the equalizer force in India. The Indian population, primarily the young Hindu today, is aspirational and wants to escape from the past ideology. Hindu society is not cohesive like Abrahamic faiths, which are bound by dogmas, Hindus don’t subscribe to doctrines, there is no spiritual hierarchy, no single line of thought which is a spiritual marker. The individual is supreme, and he or she is allowed the freedom to realize his or her purpose in life or realize God or Truth or whatever One may call that. Simply put, the methods are infinite and based on the ability of the individual.

The word” secular” in the West means “a state that is independent of any religion but One that allows free and fair worship of any faith. In India, the same word turned upside down. In India, the state placates groups of minority faiths by allowing freedom to manage their religious affairs without state interference, and the state does not appropriate the income received by these institutions. While Hindu temples are controlled by the state and the revenues or offerings received by Hindu temples that run into billions of dollars are used or misused by the state. Nowhere in the world, a community that forms the majority gets sidelined like Hindus in India.  The state of Hindus in India is like entering a black hole portal, and God knows what form they come out of and what reality they have to face. Is that changing? Yes, there is a conscious effort from the younger population of Hindus who want to change the status quo, not for any fanatical religious benefits as Hindus are not a religious identity, but realizing that their Hindu identity would bring more balance in society and the caste divides also would disappear once more comes into the financial inclusion.

The movement to reclaim Hindu glory was not to seek power but power accrued logically once the Hindus started coalescing as a large voting base. It is not as if this voter base is a block of divisive votes but is a block of positive votes as Hindus as a majority realized that for the country as one to raise as an economic power and also if Hindus need to save themselves from the secular and communal onslaught that is continuing even after independence, only a government that centered around Hindu ethos could achieve that objective. The driving force of this resurgent India is the concept of Hindutva or translated as Hindu nationalism. Hindutva has not centered around the Hindu “faith.” Or any Hindu rituals, But on the collective inheritance of a way of life, literature, and culture.

The heckling incident recently of the group of brahmins in the state of Tamil Nadu in India by a reporter needling them by asking the question why there are no female Brahmin priests in their community is a symptom of caste divisions instigated by Christian neo converts—now fanned by its neo-liberal political class for their political ends.

Again, it is ironic that the Western press, especially the ones here in America, goes to any lengths to demonize Indian society using this same word, caste, When the social inequity between white Caucasian and black African races are too glaring here and was a significant issue in the political document of the democratic party. The duplicity of West can be astounding. It is essential for Hindus who are still under the emotional no man’s land created by vested interest and are still smarting under the notion they are victims of this or that section of Hindus has to assess their predicament and come to terms objectively. In reality, there is no discrimination among Hindus. We all worship the same Hindu gods in different names. Belittling each other and this never-ending infighting is futile.

The three Abrahamic faiths are monotheistic and do not give the adherents liberty to digress from what their prophets considered right. Whereas Hinduism, which is a way of life than a codified faith, has gathered strength over time by building on the wisdom and experiences of generations of Hindus. It is a living entity that evolves along with humanity, discarding and collecting ideas and practices on the way. There is no one book, nor any messiahs like Monotheistic Abrahamitic faiths based on dogmas.

Islamic philosophy tends to look at everything through its worldview of Islamic blinkers where there is no freedom of thought as everything one can say has to conform strictly to the Quran and Hadith. The mullahs interpret it to their convenience and force it down the throat of all Muslims by way of fatwas is another matter. That leaves the Asian philosophical branches like Chinese and Japanese. Confucianism, Taoism was the main philosophies till Buddhism spread there from India. These philosophies were more about social order and governance rules, cultural practices to attain balance in society than spirituality.

Science is empirical, but philosophy and theology exist in imagination to a large extent, given multiple interpretations. Most Philosophies tends to postulate ideas and leave it at that. Western philosophy can be so meandering, and that very nature of that leaves it like uninhabited islands in a vast ocean. 

In Henotheistic Hinduism, the individual is an entity that forms his or her balance and order in society and tries to find the meaning of existence or, in other words, has the freedom to find the truth or realization in as many multiple ways as possible and independent of the society he or she lives. There are no hells or heavens in that context in Hinduism. Nor any salvation to worry. This realization is through cyclical births and rebirths based on One’s deeds or Karma. The word fate should not be interchanged for the word Karma here. Abrahamic faiths emphasize implicit obedience to God, and salvation is only through that, and you need a Yahweh, Jesus, or Allah to take you there. Christianity goes a step further and maintains that only Jesus can save the soul; otherwise, the soul goes to hellfire on judgment day. All three believes there are some judgment and punishment. I do not want to make this topic on comparative theology and overshadow the other questions I started Yet I need to bring in these facts to bring clarity to say the simplicity of Hinduism or Sanatana lies in its practice and the practitioner is the ultimate arbitrator to settle his doubts and lay the ground rules how he or she leads a Hindu way of life. Time Hindus raise above these caste considerations thrust on them by vested interests and expand as one homogenous society yet with freedom to think independently without fear of condemnation or punishment from any ultimate god. There are many examples from the Vedic period to modern times great spiritual gurus, saints, intellectuals, kings, warriors, or in modern times now men and women cutting across the spectrum of caste lines have become inspirational and pathbreaking icons and legends. This inherent strength was always there in the people of this great landmass.

My observations on the subject are that Frequently factual incidents present or in the past may look critical, uncomfortable, and biased when given. It is up to the reader of this essay to refer, cross-check information available in the public domain and history and come to their conclusions. There is no intent of malice to anyone or any other faith.

I am giving some external links to few great articles that to be used as a mirror. These are just a few of the writings of many I have read. Frequently during our life, even in that short period, we need to take an in-depth look at ourselves to ask questions, do we need to evolve. Political and spiritual leaders, most of the time, fail to do that. There are no messiahs around the corner.

1.Is America Trapped in a Caste System?

https://newrepublic.com/article/160329/caste-book-review-isabel-wilkerson-origin-discontents

2. Viewpoint: How the British reshaped India’s caste system

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-48619734

3. Caste or Economic Status: What Should We Base Reservations On?

https://www.epw.in/engage/article/caste-or-economic-status-what-should-we

4. America’s ‘untouchables’: the silent power of the caste system

5https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jul/28/untouchables-caste-system-us-race-martin-luther-king-india