On @bseshadri's article calling for an end to the hate narrative aganst TamBrams

Here is the article if you haven't read it: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/chennai/The-angst-of-the-Tamil-brahmin-Live-and-let-live/articleshow/45408151.cms

First, this article has been portrayed as a victimhood narrative, a demeaning description. It certainly isn’t a victimhood narrative. Read this again:

“Brahmins are unlikely to demand any kind of reservation in education, job or political sphere. All they would look for is an amenable climate where they can, like other communities, contribute to the progress of the nation.”

He is only saying that the hate narrative against Brahmins is not necessary at this stage (if it ever was). He is demanding that this uncivilized essentialization of a whole community and constant vilification of its members should stop. He need not have asked to be left alone, since that is guaranteed under the Constitution of India and beyond the purview of Dravidian parties or their camp followers.

There are at least four reasons why the vilification should stop:

Past Sins

The vilification is justified on the grounds of alleged “past sins” of the Brahmins, which have no connection with the present reality. We all know that this kind of essentialization of a community based on grievances from the past is a form of societal pathology which all healthy societies must avoid. Very importantly, it is no different from the fomenting of communal hatred against Muslims by the proponents of Hindutva on the basis of past invastions, conquests and so on. If we begin to speak of popular antagonism against any community as justified, I think we are only degrading ourselves. It makes good sense to speak against it wherever it occurs. Whether such ‘justified’ antagonism erupts into violence or not is beside the point. Even if it doesn’t, it’s a form of politics that should be condemned.

Absent from Public Sphere

It is a fact that Brahmins are mostly absent from the public sphere in Tamilnadu and from public employment through the state government. They are not implicated in any of the major socio-political problems facing Tamilnadu. In terms of numbers, they are electorally insignificant. They are of course present in many secular domains of activity, along with people from other communities. Their mere presence, perhaps even prominence, in any field cannot be construed as dominance, if it is not preponderant or exclusionary. But the insane hate narrative militates against all such sane considerations.

Skewed representation of history

In a casteist society, no single caste can be dominant on its own. It’s incorrect in thought and malicious in intent, as Ambedkar said on another occasion Social hegemony has always involved collusion between castes. Ownership of productive assets, State power, employment in the bureaucracy, control of trade and commerce, and access to finance capital have all been important sources of social power. In the modern era, ownership of media assets is an important addition. That being the reality, the Dravidian movement’s case against the Brahmins has never been rooted in actual social history, involving the wider social arena but only on loose demagogic oratory about Brahmins. The “narrative”, replete with a mind-boggling amount of fabrications and falsehoods, has outweighed actual history at every turn, and still does. Therefore, it must be called out.

Social justice as a rhetorical device

EV Ramaswami grandly declared that caste and religion should be done away with to restore self-respect to the subaltern. Both he and his followers have taken this to mean only Brahmin’s caste and Brahmin’s Hinduism. They have never addressed the casteism within the non-Brahmin fold, in spite of it being very real and directly exploitative of Dalit labour. They have never questioned the entrenched casteism of the Shaivite mutts nor the pseudo-religious mumbo jumbo of sundry Godmen and their empires, which have flourished under their regime. They have never addressed the egregious violence of the intermediate castes against Dalits politically, and the response of a heavily caste-ridden police force has been consistently worse. They have never, of course, shared power with Dalits, although it is entirely in their hands to do so. Finally, what kind of social justice can exist under a regime that systematically extracts rent from all businesses and the common people at every turn, and raids the public exchequer at every opportunity? The credentials of the Dravidian movement’s ideology as a champion of social justice are rather dubious.

Given this background, it is not surprising that Badri (and many others, including me) are calling for the vilification to stop. No point in facing him with the problem of caste privileges and the plight of Dalits in Tamil society. It is the place of those who hold the levers of State power and the underlying political power to answer those questions. You can’t be in charge and then hold someone else accountable for what you have failed to do for 47 years.

Thank you.

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