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March 17, 2007

By Social Conviction I am an Ambedkarite

From a speech, New Delhi, 2005

By social conviction I am an Ambedkarite.
By secular ideology I am a Nehruvite.
By culture and nationality I am an Indian.
By outlook I am global.
By vocation I am called to justice and reconciliation.
By faith I am a Christian and refuse to be co-opted into Brahmanism.

At times I am shocked by the force of the attack of my Brahmanical detractors. They belong to various faiths including my own. Brahmanism is the poison of Indian culture and life.

Yes, we have identified our struggle against Brahmanism – which is both an attitude and an ideology. Our fight is not against any particular group of people. The general term Hindu does not identify the worldview to which we are opposed.

Brahmanism at its core denies the fundamental social and spiritual equality of human beings. It also denies equal value to the woman. It does not want the blood of Indians to mix across caste lines even though racially we are all Indians. Brahmanism has refused to abolish the caste system for 3,000 years. It is because of this ideology and attitude that the nightmare of the Dalits and the backward castes continues. Brahmanism has used Indian thought, philosophy and religion for its own racist agenda.

The present agenda of Brahmanism is to co-opt other faiths and ideologies and avoid the unpleasant and painful task of the reformation of the discriminatory social order. Co-option is the way to stifle all voices that challenge the degrading social system.

I am indebted to the great Dr. B.R. Ambedkar for his analysis of the Brahmanical social order. I am indebted to him for his theses on the annihilation of caste. The caste system is a social, religious and political tool to control and manipulate the lives of the Indian majority. With the great Ambedkar I believe the true greatness of India will come to the fore when the caste system ends and disappears into the annals of history. The progress made in the last 50 years in giving social justice to the Dalits and the most backward castes is still far away from eradicating the disease of the caste system. The Brahmanical minority continues its domination of our political, social, economic and religious landscape.

The rise of religious fundamentalism has come as a great advantage to the perpetration of Brahmanism. Caste-based right-wing Hindutva extremism can once again be used against the Dalits, the oppressed castes, the Christians, Muslims and other minorities. In the war of civilizations, the Brahmanical ideologies have been brazen enough to suggest that Christians and right-wing Hindus should join together to deal with Islamic fundamentalists.

I am indebted to Jawaharlal Nehru when it comes to subscribing to the secularism of India which is different from the secularism of the West. In the West secularism has come to mean the end of religion and the death of God. The secular state in the West is an atheistic state. In contrast Indian secularism believes in the freedom to embrace and practice any religion of choice or birth. Nehruvite secularism allows for a plurality of faiths to coexist and gives people the freedom of conscience and the freedom to believe or not believe in God or any faith. The right of free speech gives the right to propagate whatever beliefs one may have. We know that Nehru himself was an agnostic. I believe in religious freedom for everyone. To me this represents the true Indian secular state. I believe that even God does not interfere with the will of man and his will to choose to believe or not to believe.

The great Jawaharlal Nehru opposed the anti-conversion laws which the Hindutva brigade is obsessed to pass all over India. These anti-conversion laws which are disguised as freedom of religion laws are designed to remove the last means of revolt of the Dalits and the oppressed peoples of India against the caste system – the freedom of conscience and the freedom of choice. Why doesn’t the Hindutva brigade pass laws abolishing the caste system first? Let us forbid the practice of the caste system in any religion in India. In the words of Ambedkar let us annihilate the caste system first!

I am proud to be an Indian by nationality and culture. I have inherited an ancient civilization and culture with many traditions and a rich diversity of languages, arts and ways of living. I love the Indian way of life which is free, spontaneous, hospitable and creative. I also know the insecurity of the Indian life, of how the loss of the main bread winner in the family can drastically alter one’s life and living conditions.

I am very comfortable with my skin which is dark brown. I do not desire it to be more fair, white and lovely like some ridiculous color-biased ads on Indian television. I long for my nation to achieve its full potential in every area of life.

I am troubled when I see that the vast majority of people who are profiting under the new economic climate in India are once again the elitist upper castes who have had access to quality education (especially private English-medium education) and happen to live in the right place (urban areas) at the right time because of their financial power.

I accept with a great concern the grinding poverty which is the daily portion of a large majority of my fellow Indians. I cannot deny the poverty of my people. I refuse to be deceived by the glamour of the rich and famous because there is an even greater reality facing me in the slums, towns and villages of India. I want us to reach out to the poor and destitute of this land even as they commit suicide, sell their children, eat one meal a day, or sometimes simply starve and watch their children die because of a lack of medical care.

I have to confront the two faces of India: the “India shining” and the “India deprived”. The ‘India deprived’ has a monumental battle to break into the world of the ‘India shining’ because of the lack of quality education and the financial muscle that is required to break into prosperity.

The poor are poor not because of their karma in a past life, but because of a whole set of complex factors. Those of us who experience the good in this life are called to reach out and give to those who do not have the basic necessities of life. The teaching of bad karma in a past life kills the spirit of individual generosity and philanthropy which is why there has never been a robust philanthropic culture in our nation. Why engage in philanthropy if people are getting their just deserves for sins in a past life or sins in this life? Even in the recent economic boom where many an Indian has attained great wealth in the West, we have not seen a comparable rise in Indian social philanthropy.

In a quickly globalizing world, my outlook has become global. I realize that a citizen of the 21st century must be global in his outlook because we do not have the luxury of living and acting alone. If I destroy the environment in India there will be dire consequences in other parts of the world. If I unleash hatred in one part of the world, the impact will be felt in another part of the world. Today we cannot have localized wars as the destruction, economic impact and images go far and wide. War anywhere is immoral and so is any form of terrorism. Both involve unleashing violence on the innocent who just want to get on with their lives.

Human rights everywhere are important to me because of my global outlook. No abuse of human right is local. While I acknowledge the notion of national sovereignty I also allow for voices to be raised and protests to be staged everywhere when there is severe abuse of human rights. How can we be quiet about Darfur or Burma, children sold in the sex trade or bonded child labour or the plight of the Dalits? Indians have every right to raise the voice, protest and lobby against racism anywhere. But the same right applies to people outside of India when they respond to the massacre of innocent Muslims in Gujarat or atrocities against the Dalits or something else. We do not live in an insular world anymore. Globalization is not just about money, technology and culture. It is also about social justice across the globe. The world of today needs a global social conscience against that which is inherently evil and not acceptable to our common humanity.

As much as I want justice I also want reconciliation and peace. I want the caste nightmare to end in my lifetime even as I want all people to live together in peace and harmony. Even as the monster of the caste system/discrimination is destroyed we must not unleash another monster of oppression or violence of the empowered Dalit-Bahujan castes. I do not think revenge and violence will bring reconciliation and peace.

The 21st century has opened with violence, terrorism and war. The so called war of civilizations is not good for anyone.

By faith, I am a disciple of Jesus. He calls me to be a peacemaker as much as he calls me to be a worker for justice. He does not want me to compromise on justice and compassion.

Like every human on the face the earth I too am a spiritual being and have my spiritual needs. Jesus meets my spiritual needs. Jesus addresses the issues of my life including my own sin. And believe me – I have had many spiritual needs at different stages of my life. Jesus beckons me to come to Him when I am burdened, heavy-laden and seeking peace. Jesus calls me to show mercy, justice and love to all.

I am called to demonstrate this Jesus-like character regardless of caste, race and creed. He asks me to show unconditional love to all regardless of their religious beliefs. In my own life time Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa have served as powerful examples of those who have achieved justice, reconciliation, peace and love.

Jesus accepts me-an Ambedkarite, a Nehruvite, an Indian, a justice campaigner, a peace lover, a proud Indian and a citizen of the world. I continue to evolve as a human being.

So the question that remains? Why are my detractors unable to see that this struggle against Brahmanism is clearly about human dignity, equality, justice and freedom?

Posted by klajja at March 17, 2007 08:02 PM

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I will express myself with civility, courtesy, and respect for others, especially toward those with whom I disagree—even if I feel disrespected by them.

I will express my disagreements with others' ideas without insulting, mocking, or slandering them personally.

I will not exaggerate others' beliefs nor make unfounded prejudicial assumptions based on labels, categories, or stereotypes. I will always extend the benefit of the doubt.

Comments

Dear Sir
Any individual who commits heinous crimes against any living being is not a Brahmin even though they prefer to call themselves as Brahmins. They are not Brahmins and can never be Brahmins.
I am not sure if you have really understood the concepts of Hinduism and Brahmanism. A christian missionary named David Frawley converted to Hinduism and was rechristened as Vamadeva Sastry. Please read his book called "Why I became a Hindu" before you misinterpret the concepts of Hinduism
and Brahmanism.
Catholics and Protestants have massacred each other for decades now in Ireland. Does it mean that we all need to start a new struggle against Christianity. I would like to mention these perpetrators as extremists rather than as Christian extremists. So i request you to please not use the word Brahmanism. Please use the greatest invention of mankind(internet) to research on the true meaning and purpose of Hinduism and Brahmanism.

Posted by: Mohan at July 20, 2007 11:44 PM

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