Tuesday, 24 July 2012

My letter to "The Hindu" protesting an advertisement for flats which restricted the sale of flats to "ONLY BRAHMINS:

My letter to "The Hindu" protesting an advertisement for flats which restricted the sale of flats to "ONLY BRAHMINS" is given below and can also be read by clicking on the link below: (This letter was published only after a complaint to the Press Council of India, and the emailed letter of Honourable Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman, Press Council of India is also given below): 


Your ‘Property Plus’ supplement (April 7, 2012) carried an advertisement for the sale of flats with a caption stating “only Brahmins,” excluding non-Brahmin castes, Dalits and religious minorities such as Muslims, Christians, Jains, Buddhists, Sikhs, etc., from buying or residing in the flats, thus discriminating against people on the basis of caste and religion, thereby violating the letter and spirit of Articles 15 and 17 of the Constitution. Excluding Dalits from buying the advertised flats can only be construed as an expression of untouchability against them.
Excluding people based on caste or religion from the sale, rental or residence of housing facilities is a blatant act of bigotry and oppression that causes great distress to the victims apart from leading to social balkanisation of our nation due to caste segregation and religious polarisation. Such advertisements and business practices which exclude people on the basis of caste or religion should be proscribed.
Iniyan Elango, Chennai

Emailed letter of Honourable Justice Markandey Katju, Chairman, Press Council of India, in response to my complaint:

Dear Siddharth and Dr. Ilango,

I have seen the complaint of Dr Ilango and Siddhartha's letter to him.

I entirely agree with Dr. Ilango that the publication in The Hindu that certain flats are for sale to Brahmins only is totally unacceptable in the modern age.The caste system is a curse on our country, and the sooner it is destroyed the better. It is keeping us divided at a time when we must remain united to face the huge challenges before the nation (see in this connection my article on the caste system on my blog justicekatju.blogspot.in and on the website kgfindia.com) Hence the aforesaid publication in The Hindu was in extremely bad taste. I request the editor to take care this does not happen again.

Since Dr. Ilango's letter is being published in The Hindu I am allowing the matter to rest. However, I  request Siddharth to publish this email in the Hindu at the earliest.

 Regards,   Justice Katju

My letter to "The Hindu" on caste segregated habitats:

My letter to "The Hindu" on caste segregated habitats is given below and can also be read by clicking on the following link: 


This refers to the article “Agraharam — time virtually stands still here” (April 29). “Agraharams” are exclusive dwellings of Brahmins where caste segregation and untouchability are practised. We cannot have a sense of nostalgia or respect for such segregated habitats if we want to foster social equality and fraternity.
The caste system is a vertically graded system in which one caste professes superiority over another. That is why thinkers like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Periyar wanted the annihilation of all castes. Even non-Brahmin caste Hindus segregate themselves from Dalit habitats. This does not excuse the bigotry of those who segregate themselves in caste-based dwellings — Brahmins (who are at the summit of the caste system) or any other Hindu caste.
It is a shame that despite the passage of almost seven decades of independence, Dalits are forced to live in segregated and insanitary ghettos in every village and town. In their case, there is no self-segregation as in the case of Agraharams. Segregation is forced on them by the rest of the Hindu society due to the evil of untouchability. There is no place for caste-based segregation in a civilised and egalitarian society.
Iniyan Elango,

My letter to "The Hindu" on the Racism of Caste:

May 31, 2012.

The Editor
The Hindu

Dear Madam / Sir,

This letter is with regards to the op-ed column titled “Let’s stop pretending there’s no racism in India” by Mr. Yengkhom Jilangamba (The Hindu, May 29, 2012). While I sympathise and agree with Mr. Jilangamba’s views, I have to emphasize that prejudice against Indians from north-eastern states is not the only form of racism in India. Mr. Yengkhom Jilangamba’s opinion piece overlooks the age old forms of prejudice, discrimination and oppression based on professing superiority or inferiority of endogamous caste descent in the vertically graded and bigoted system of castes which has been condemned as racism by no less a body than the United Nations Human Rights Council (formerly known as United Nations Commission on Human Rights) and the latter’s "Committee On The Elimination Of Racial Discrimination"(CERD) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has made it clear that caste falls within the ambit of the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), ratified by India. General Recommendation 29 (2002) of CERD states as follows: “CERD strongly condemns descent-based discrimination, such as discrimination on the basis of caste and analogous systems of inherited status, as a violation of the Convention.” In addition, CERD reaffirmed through general recommendation 29 (2002) that CERD seeks to eliminate discrimination based on "descent" which includes discrimination against members of communities based on forms of social stratification such as caste and analogous systems of inherited status which nullify or impair their equal enjoyment of human rights. General Comment 20 of the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, also unequivocally prohibits discrimination on grounds of birth.

Thus it is amply clear that discrimination and bigotry based on caste is part and parcel of the legal discourse against racism under international human rights law.

Racism is not strictly limited to discrimination based on skin colour or physical racial features, but a belief system of bigotry that discriminates, inferiorizes or oppresses people based on their human (biological) descent. Anti-Semitism professed by Nazis against Jews is indeed considered as the most virulent form of racism human history has ever known, even though both Nazis and Jews were white skinned. Similarly, according to International Human Rights Law, any form of prejudice, bigotry, discrimination or oppression based on caste descent is indeed racism even though those who profess superiority of caste descent and suffer inferiority of caste descent (imposed on them) may not be physically very dissimilar to each other, but belong to different endogamous caste descent.

The vertically graded bigotry of castes where each caste is considered superior and inferior to castes below and above respectively, (except for Brahmins who are considered as the “most superior” caste and Dalits who are relegated as “most inferior” as outcasts – untouchables at the bottom of the caste system), is indeed the most virulent, long surviving and most resistant form of racism the World has ever known. But a state of silent acquiescence of the intellectual and media class of India to the bigoted, reactionary and regressive principles inherent in the practice of caste has so far prevented the genesis of a national fervour for ending all practices and manifestations of caste bigotry in India. 

The racism of caste bigotry and its off-shoot called “untouchability” are the causes for honour killings, atrocities against Dalits, bondage to inhumane labour, poverty, caste segregation, social exclusion from literacy, housing and health-care and discrimination against students in elite higher educational institutions such as IITs, AIIMS etc., which has pushed many students of IITs and AIIMS (from Dalit and OBC backgrounds) to commit suicide just as the reported murders and suicides of students from North Eastern India.

In addition, one has to also state that attitudes that foster discrimination against dark and black skinned people while associating beauty or attractiveness bigotedly with fair skin is rampant in Indian society, media, advertising and films, with a consequent flourishing of multi-crore industry in cosmetic creams that claim to bleach the skin to whitish fairness!

Prejudice against North Eastern students is only an extension of the entrenched racist attitudes that sustain caste bigotry and prejudice against dark skinned people in India. 

 Yours Sincerely, 

Dr. Iniyan Elango. 


Prejudice against north-easterners is not the only form of racism in India. The article overlooks the age-old forms of prejudice, discrimination and oppression based on caste. The vertically graded system, in which each caste is considered superior and inferior, is indeed the most virulent, long-surviving and resistant form of racism the world has ever known. But the silent acquiescence of the intellectuals and the middle class in the regressive principles inherent in the practice of caste has prevented the emergence of a national fervour for ending the system.
Iniyan Elango,