Saturday, 22 October 2011

S.Anand's Brahmanical and bigoted "twice born" caste supremacist hatred for Periyar

S.Anand's Brahmanical and bigoted "twice born" caste supremacist hatred for Periyar. (Third corrected version):

By Dr. Iniyan Elango, MBBS., LLM.,

S.Anand's article "Iconoclast or Lost Idol?" published in "Outlook" on September 20, 2004 (and republished in "" at ) is full of falsehood, and is a vicious defamatory attack on the rationalist thinker and anti-caste revolutionary Periyar. I have excerpted and analysed a few examples from the scores of fallacious statements in his article.

S. Anand's article is replete with false quotes from individuals who have lied about Periyar. To say that Periyar worked only for "intermediary" castes and not for Dalits is a lie. It is also preposterous to state that Periyar was more anti-Brahmin than anti-caste. These are all based on lies which are not substantiated by any direct statement or quote from Periyar. Periyar's writings and actions worked towards annihilation of castes and empowerment of all oppressed caste people including Dalits.

S.Anand makes the mistake of assessing Periyar through the actions of DMK and ADMK parties which have nothing to do with Periyar or his ideology. DMK was a break away group from the Dravidar Kazhagam party and DMK was disowned by Periyar. DMK diluted most of Periyar's principles. ADMK which was founded by the movie actor MGR has nothing to do with Periyar's ideology except for using Periyar's images some times in their campaigns. Hence it is a fallacy to use DMK and ADMK as a measuring scale to assess Periyar's work.

It is baseless to state that "Periyar’s "eccentricities" seem to have provoked people to turn more zealously to religion (as S.Anand quotes from Ravikumar). If that was true Hindutva parties would have taken hold in Tamil Nadu but even now BJP struggles to win a single seat in Tamil Nadu. The fact that BJP cannot politically succeed in Tamil Nadu with its Hindutva ideology (in order to preserve "twice born" hegemony and the caste system to divide and rule the Indian masses along caste lines at the expense of Muslims, Christians and other religious minorities) is a victory of Periyar. And S.Anand does not elaborate on what he means by "eccentricities" of Periyar and simply uses such language to unabashedly malign Periyar.

Attributing the existence of untouchability and segregation of Dalits in villages and towns across Tamil Nadu to "empowerment of Shudras" or Periyar (as S.Anand alludes by quoting Chandrabhan Prasad) is as preposterous as attributing untouchability and segregation of Dalits in Maharashtra to Babasaheb Ambedkar or to empowerment of "Shudras" in Maharashtra. The fact remains that both the so called Shudras (backward castes) and Dalits are divided and ruled by the graded caste supremacist hierarchy imposed by the "twice born" castes, and the segregation of Dalits from backward castes cannot be blamed on Periyar but on the "twice born" ruling classes of India. The segregation of Dalits and atrocities on Dalits can be ended if the "twice born" establishment ruling India uses the might of the state to enforce a desegregation drive all across India, to provide housing to Dalits inside the towns and villages by abolishing the nationwide segregated colonies of Dalits and by banning all caste descent based degrading and inhumane occupations. But the "twice born" castes will not do that because they want the backward castes and Dalits to live in a state of division and social segregation, so that the "twice borns" (Brahmans, Kshatriyas and Vysyas) can divide and rule the Indian masses.

The fact remains that Tamil Nadu after Periyar has a lower number of Dalits who are forced into caste ordained degrading and inhumane work compared to Dalits in other parts of India who are imprisoned in degrading "caste occupations". Tamil Nadu has also totally eradicated the forcing of Dalit women into prostitution in the name of caste ("Devadasi") which is still prevalent in adjacent Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

S.Anand is also wrong to state that "speaker after speaker" of Dravidian parties "conveniently rewind to his (Periyar's) sayings". The two main Dravidian parties, namely DMK and ADMK do not speak about Periyar's ideology at all. An attack on the inadequacies of DMK and ADMK cannot be presented as an attack on Periyar.

To state that Periyar's message cannot be posited against Hindutva and to state that Periyar called for a majoritarianism which was akin to Hindutva's majoritarianism but only without Brahmins are all malicious lies (as quoted by S.Anand from Ravikumar). Periyar called on his followers to totally reject Hinduism and called on Dalits to embrace Islam to escape untouchability and related indgnities. Periyar fought Brahmanism and Brahmins who lead and use the Hindutva ideology to divide and control the non-Brahmin masses. Periyar is an ultimate anti-Hindutva icon and to brand him as otherwise is malicious falsehood.

The allying of Dravidian parties such as DMK and ADMK with Hindutva parties has nothing to do with Periyar. Will S.Anand misrepresent the past allying of Mayawati with BJP as an expression of Ambedkarite ideology?? One cannot judge Ambedkar through the actions of those who claim to be his followers but hobnob with Hindutva elements, and similarly Periyar cannot be judged by those who simply garland his statutes and pictures such as those belonging to DMK and ADMK.

To say Periyar was a failure is akin to stating Ambedkar was a failure. Both leaders propounded an ideology and a life time of activism to annihilate caste bigotry and "twice born" supremacy. The failure of the ensuing generations to carry on their work cannot be branded as a failure of Periyar or Ambedkar. The existence of superstitions, religiosity, inequality, inhumanity., etc., cannot be construed as a failure of Periyar as S.Anand states in his quote from Thirumavalavan. Periyar prescribed an ideological medicine for social evils and lived a life of activism, but if society has not taken that medicine and continues to be ill, it is not the failure of the doctor (Periyar) but the society which has stopped taking the medicine prescribed by Periyar.

To state that many in India know of Periyar only as a river and sanctuary by that name in Kerala is nothing but an unwarranted mockery of Periyar. Many in India don't know of even Ambedkar (if one goes by the knowledge of non-Dalits in India), but that does not take away the importance of Ambedkar or that of Periyar.

S. Anand should be deluded to think that J. Jayalalitha is a "flag-bearer" of Dravidian ideology!! Jayalalitha is a Brahmin caste supremacist and an erstwhile actress who usurped the leadership of the ADMK party after the death of its leader MGR. Jayalalitha is a avowed Brahmin steeped in religiosity and has never displayed any interest in Periyar's ideology. To call her as a "flag bearer" of Dravidian ideology is laughable and only shows S.Anand's bigoted intent to malign Periyar. Both MGR and Jayalalitha have nothing to do with Periyar's ideology, and as stated above, both the DMK and ADMK broke away from Periyar's Dravidar Kazhagam and heavily diluted Periyar's message. Hence it is fundamentally flawed to assess Periyar through the actions of DMK and ADMK or its leaders.

It is a willfully malicious and gross exaggeration to state that children, such as 13-year-old Bharanidharan alias ‘Salem Kutty Swami’, posing as gurus, command a better following than Dravidar Kazhagam, the original Dravidian platform founded by Periyar. Has S.Anand done any scientific poll or survey to count the supporters of Periyar or Dravidar Kazhagam to conclude that they are fewer in number than that of a "child swami"? Dravidar Kazhagam and Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam are social reformist organisations who still conduct successful rallies and campaigns all across Tamil Nadu and whose influence is not restricted to registered members of these organisations.

S.Anand fails to mention the countless agitations Periyar conducted for the rights of Dalits including the famous Vaikom struggle in Kerala in which Periyar fought for the rights of Dalits to walk on the street and enter the temple, a struggle which went unsupported even by Gandhi. (But Gandhi's lack of support for agitations that empowered Dalits is another topic which is beyond the scope of this rebuttal to S.Anand).

It is reductionist and false to bracket Periyar's free thinking rationalist thought on various subjects with the "Dravidian" label and lump it with the actions of DMK and ADMK parties who have nothing to do with Periyar's ideology. It is fallacious to restrict and label Periyar's ideology as "Dravidian". Periyar can be best described as a rationalist free thinker and a caste annihilating revolutionary who cannot be reduced to any restrictive label.

S.Anand also quotes Chandrabhan Prasad as saying that 42 per cent Dalits are independent cultivators in UP, in TN it is only 12.8 per cent", but one fails to understand how this can be attributed to Periyar. Moreover, one has to question the validity and relevance of such a statistic considering that Dalits are larger in population in the state of UP than the state of Tamil Nadu. But the fact remains that Dalits remain segregated in UP and are prone to more atrocities in UP than in Tamil Nadu.

S.Anand himself states that good renditions of Periyar's work are not available in English. Given this admission by Anand and his reported inability to read chaste literary Tamil, one can only conclude that S.Anand's malicious and defamatory report on Periyar is not based on Anand's reading of any of Periyar's original writings or statements.

S.Anand quotes Chandrabhan Prasad as saying "TN proves that the Shudras, when empowered, can be more socially violent than the Brahmins", which is a classic example of Brahman racist divide and rule tactic to use Dalits in order to justify keeping the lower castes (backward castes) disempowered and entrenched in the lower echelons of the graded caste supremacist hierarchy, which will in turn entrench Dalits as outcasts and untouchables, thereby protecting the "twice born" upper caste position in the graded caste supremacist social ladder, and securing the graded caste supremacist system for posterity. This is also a tactic to shift the blame for segregation and atrocities suffered by Dalits on the backward castes (lower castes), while hiding the social, political, judicial and theological role of the "twice born" bigoted ruling class of Hindus (upper castes) and the Hindu religion in sanctioning and sustaining untouchablility and atrocities suffered on account of the latter. Bigots like S.Anand never attack the Hindu religion and the "twice born" upper caste ruling class directly for the graded caste supremacist system that segregates and oppresses Dalits, but conveniently blame only the "backward castes" for the suffering of Dalits, to hide the role played by the "twice born" upper castes in oppressing and dividing the lower castes (backward castes) and Dalits. By keeping the rural poor of the backward castes and Dalits in segregation and violence, Brahmans and "twice born" Hindus aim to secure and sustain the graded caste supremacist system and the ultimate supremacist status of the "twice born" upper castes. Brahmans and allied "twice born" upper castes will never allow Dalits into the sanctum sanctorum of temples to worship or to work as temple priests because this will destroy the social and theological basis for untouchability and destroy the segregation between backward castes and Dalits, which will in turn allow backward castes and Dalits to mingle and destroy the graded caste supremacist system. Many other social, political and legal methods are used by Brahmans and allied "twice born" upper castes to keep the backward castes and Dalits divided and bickering, while conveniently blaming the backward castes for the suffering of Dalits which is actually perpetrated by the graded caste supremacist system unleashed and preserved by the Brahman and "twice born" theology, religious practice and social system. This is why Babasaheb Ambedkar burnt Hindu scriptures including the "Manu Smiruthi" and blamed the Brahmans for the plight of Dalits fully realizing that only the destruction of the fountainhead of the graded caste supremacist system (Brahmans) will destroy the graded caste supremacist system and the atrocities suffered by Dalits in that bigoted system.

S.Anand uses the term "Shudras" - a vulgar, profane, bigoted and abusive term meaning "descendants of Brahmans' prostitutes" with impunity which belies his "twice born" Brahman racist caste supremacist bigotry. Both the backward castes and Dalits are indeed Shudras according to Hindu scriptures, with both the "backward castes" and Dalits being technically "untouchable" to Brahmans and "twice born" castes. Both the backward castes and Dalits are banned from entry into the sanctum sanctorum of Hindu temples.

S.Anand lists a series of superstitious and ritual practices of backward castes and Dalits (such as fire walking, etc.,) including religious movements headed by a backward caste person (Bangaru Adigalar), and seems to ludicrously want the reader to believe that the existence of these superstitions and rituals has something to do with the rationalist - atheist Periyar. He conveniently leaves out Hindu temple worship, rituals and yagnas performed by Brahmans from this list of superstitions. S.Anand fails to recognize that all the superstitions listed by him existed during Periyar's time and continues to exist after his time because Periyar did not have a magic wand to cure society of its superstitions. Periyar expressed his rationalist thought and lived a life of activism against many social ills, and the continuance of such ills does not point to the irrelevance of Periyar, but the need for society to take more of the medicine prescribed by Periyar to cure these social ills.

S. Anand uses a quote of Thirumavalavan to allude that Periyar and his followers have not worked for temple entry rights of Dalits which is a gross lie. Periyar and his followers pioneered temple entry movements for Dalits and were instrumental in legislation of a law for temple entry rights for Dalits during the life time of Periyar itself. The fact is that no Dalit can be denied entry into any temple under the control of the Hindu religious and charitable endowments in Tamil Nadu.

Periyar pioneered a law for abolishing the religious fountainhead of untouchability by making Dalits as temple priests by calling for a legislation that allows peoples from all castes – including Dalits - to become temple priests which was stalled by Brahmans by going to the Supreme Court despite Periyar’s proposed law being twice legislated by the DMK Government.

S. Anand quotes Thirumavalavan to belittle the Periyarist agitation for “entry” into the “sanctum sanctorum” of temples and in challenging Sankaracharyas. One should remember that the agitations for entry into the sanctum sanctorum is aimed at ending the untouchability imposed on both Dalits and backward castes which bans their entry into the sanctum sanctorum, and hence is aimed at empowering both Dalits and backward castes to enter the sanctum sanctorum which will demolish the theological caste supremacist status of Brahmans as the “most superior” caste with the sole right  to enter the sanctum sanctorum, and thus strike at the root of the graded caste supremacist bigotry which sustains the caste system. Similarly, Dalits and backward castes are banned from being anointed as Sankaracharyas and the latter are seen as custodians of Brahman racist supremacism. Therefore opposing Sankaracharyas is also an expression of challenging the graded caste supremacist system - the fountain-head of which are Brahmans and Brahmanism, which in turn empowers both backward castes and Dalits. If a Dalit can become a temple priest and a Sankaracharya by eradicating untouchability and overthrowing the theological racist supremacy of Brahmans, it will be easier for Dalits to break barriers at other hierarchies and levels of the caste system and bring down the caste system itself. Hence Periyar believed in going after the root factor that sustained the religious foundations of untouchability and the graded inequality of the caste system. In other words, Periyar believed in uprooting the tree and did not want to waste his time cutting the branches of the tree. Periyar believed that if the Hindu religious foundation for untouchability can be eradicated, other social manifestations of untouchability will wane and disappear. Now, one can realise the fallacy of the argument by some biased individuals who vainly and falsely argue that Periyar ignored untouchability.

One has to also cite the fact that the erstwhile Government of the DMK in Tamil Nadu state brought in a law to train and employ people from all castes – including Dalits - as temple priests by allowing them to enter the sanctum sanctorum, which was a measure to combat the Hindu religious foundations of untouchability, caste system and to create the mingling of the castes. But this law was stayed by some Brahman bigots who sued against the law by citing the Hindu law based on bigoted scriptures such as Manusmiruthi, even though the Hindu law runs counter to the constitutional provision that outlaws caste discrimination. This shows that Periyar believed in attacking the Hindu religious fountainhead of untouchability which will end religious sanction for untouchability and the caste system, which is a crucial factor in the fight against the caste system.

S. Anand also quotes Thirumavalavan as saying that Periyarists do not lead Dalits into temples controlled by “non-Brahmins”. All temples are in fact non-Brahmin temples because all temples were built by the blood, sweat, money, talent and artistry of non-Brahmans. Brahmans colonise and occupy the temples built by non-Brahmins as priests.  From a legal point of view, there are only two kinds of temples: In the first category are temples which come under the control of the state Government’s Hindu religious and charitable endowments board. In the second category are temples which are privately built and privately owned in land governed by private property laws.  No Dalit is prevented entry into any temple that is controlled by the Government of Tamil Nadu’s Hindu religious and charitable endowments.  As stated earlier, Periyarists conducted campaigns for temple entry of Dalits and pioneered the law to enable temple entry of Dalits during Periyar’s life time itself.  Hence all Dalits have all the right to enter all the temples under the Government’s Hindu religious and charitable endowments.  In a few places, Dalits may be refused entry into temples built on private property owned by caste bigots as an expression of untouchability and this has been the point of contention involving a few agitations, such as the agitation of Dalits to enter the Uthapuram temple. Untouchability is universally and constitutionally banned. Hence, to practice untouchability in privately owned property, businesses or in privately owned temples is anti-constitutional, criminal and illegal. Periyarists support all agitations and movements regarding temple entry of Dalits, but after pioneering the movement and the law enabling temple entry for all Dalits in Tamil Nadu, Periyarists may be constrained to go after a few privately owned and insignificant rural temples where Dalits may be denied entry because Periyarists (just as Ambedkarite Buddhists) may not want to be seen as proselytizing for Hinduism and want Dalits to shun privately owned Hindu temples which shun Dalits, and actually want Dalits (and backward castes) to shun Hinduism itself. But Periyarists (such as myself because I believe in combining Periyarist – Ambedkarite perspectives) may not be expected to act during each and every rare occasion when an insignificant and privately owned rural temple shuns Dalits because Periyarists prioritize advocacy for asking people to shun Hinduism and embrace atheism, Buddhism or even Islam. Periyarists have campaigned for temple entry of Dalits and pioneered a law that ensured temple entry for all Dalits in all temples in Tamil Nadu during Periyar’s life time itself, and hence it is biased to put all the burden of activism on Periyar’s followers regarding a few privately owned temples where Dalits may be shunned. Hence if untouchability is still practiced in some remote privately owned temples, I am sure other Dalit political parties, NGOs and communist parties will shoulder the responsibility for ensuring Dalit right to enter these temples using the law, as it successfully happened in Uthapuram temple recently.

It is also for wrong for Thirumavalavan to say (as quoted by S. Anand) that Periyar did not have a separate agenda for Dalits. Periyar spoke, wrote and organised socio-political action for Dalit rights on many occasions. Periyar did not have a separate agenda for any particular caste and he did not have a separate agenda for backward castes either. Periyar attacked the fountainhead of the caste system which are Brahmans, Brahmanism and Hindu religion, and called for annihilation of all castes, hence he focused on atheism for all castes, destruction of Hinduism, conversion of Dalits to atheism or even Islam and the overthrowing of Brahman – Baniya “twice born” racist apartheid governing class with representation for Dalits and backward castes in government, power, education and employment. But Periyar's thought and action were not restricted to these areas because he was a free wheeling rationalist thinker who spoke, wrote and advocated ideas on many social, political and intellectual issues including feminism, sexual liberty of women, Tamil language reformation, opposition to Hindi, separatism (which he advocated to bring in laws for annihilation of castes and not for reasons of linguistic chauvinism), and many other issues. 

Even though Mandal was for the advancement of all castes oppressed by the caste system, Mandal focused on affirmative action for backward castes because Dalits already had constitutionally guaranteed affirmative action. This does not mean Mandal ignored Dalits. Similarly, since affirmative action for Dalits was achieved already by Babasaheb Ambedkar, Periyar called for affirmative action for backward castes. This does not mean Periyar focused on only backward castes. Otherwise Periyar called for annihilation of all castes and the destruction of the caste system itself, and attacked all castes in his speeches for caste bigotry. Periyar has attacked caste bigotry of backward castes against Dalits in many of his speeches just as he attacked Brahmanism and Brahmans.  

It is also wrong for Thirumavalavan to state that Periyar has overthrown Brahman hegemony (as quoted by S.Anand). Brahman hegemony has not decreased even a wee-bit and Brahmans along with their allied “twice born” castes such as Baniyas (Vysyas) and Kshatriyas - are the ruling class of India who control the government machinery, bureaucracy, top leadership of national parties such as the Congress and the BJP, military officers corps, judiciary, business corporations, academia, arts and the media. Brahmans’ status as the “most superior” caste at the head of the caste supremacist system of graded inequality is intact as ever and they will safeguard their racist supremacist status and the caste system at all costs.  Brahmans have not lost their racist supremacist socio-religious status and their monopoly for priesthood in Hindu temples. Brahmans along with their “twice born” compatriots such as Baniyas (Vysyas) and Kshatriyas are indeed the apartheid governing class of India who are dividing and ruling the Indian Dravidian masses (backward castes and Dalits). Even though Periyar fought against Brahman hegemony, it is a fallacy to say that Periyar has overthrown Brahman hegemony, because Brahman hegemony is as intact as ever. 

S. Anand's article is nothing but an ignorant, inept but malicious attempt to defame and misrepresent Periyar to those who may not have known Periyar's original writings, statements and actions.

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