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We need an India based on merit, not on caste
Francois Gautier
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July 03, 2006

You knew about OBCs, Other Backward Classes. Now you have to learn about OUC -- Other Upper Castes, a term coined by a bureaucrat from the Union home ministry.

The Congress has become adept at cornering the votes of Dalits and OBCs, that is enough to bring any government to power. But do they know that Brahmins and OUC, according to the National Sample Survey's 1999 report, constitute 36 per cent of India, a huge vote bank which ignores its own power?

And are the Brahmins and OUC aware that together they may constitute more than the OBCs vote bank, if one excludes Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Trtibes, which constitute 13 per cent of the 52 per cent Mandal OBC list?

There are further post-1931 caste census adjustments to be made, due to the merger of Rajput-Dominated Princely States with the rest of India, which took off 4 per cent; and another 4 per cent due to migration at the time of Partition in 1947.

Thus we come to an OBC actual population, All Religions Taken, excluding Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, of 22.5 per cent.

People think that Brahmins and OUC are rich, arrogant and cut off from society. We have already shown that today Brahmins and OUC work as toilet cleaners, coolies, rickshaw pullers, that temple priests sometimes earn less than Rs 350 a month.

But what about the Thakurs, the farmers and landlords, who have such a bad reputation in Bihar and UP, as having huge lands and exploiting the lower castes?

A paper by D Narayana, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthpuram ('Perception, Poverty and Health: A Contribution' CICRED Seminar on Poverty and Health, February 2005), shows that 69.8 per cent of Brahmins and OUC never went past the 12th standard, that 52.4 per cent of Brahmins and OUC farmers don't own land bigger than 100 cents, quite insufficient to nourish a family, and that that 53.9 per cent of the upper caste population is below poverty line.

So much for the clich�s and prejudices in India about Brahmins and Thakurs.

Narayana thus concludes: 'Just as the higher ritual status of Brahmins does not necessarily translate into economic or political supremacy, those lower in the ranks are able to move up in the local hierarchy through the capture of political power, the acquisition of land, and migration to other regions. A combination of these strategies and India's policy of quotas or reservations have particularly benefited the so-called backward castes, or Shudras. Referred to as 'other backward classes' (OBCs) in administrative parlance, backward castes are defined as those whose ritual rank and occupational status are above 'untouchables' but who themselves remain socially and economically depressed. Contrary to the general presumption that the OBCs belong to the deprived sections of Hindu society, few groups in independent India have made progress on a scale comparable to the OBCs.'

We are often shown Tamil Nadu as an example of successful reservation policies. But the Dravidian movement's success has its origins in the anti-Brahmin movement launched in the first part of the 20th century.

One century on, the DMK continues to stoke those feelings. Most of the Brahmins who once enlightened Tamil Nadu have now fled to other parts of India and abroad, probably one of the greatest migrations of intellectuals from any country in the world.

It is true that thanks to reservation, social justice has returned to Tamil Nadu. But at what price?

The only Brahmins left there are priests and the DMK, back in power, is on the verge of also stripping them of this last privilege. But it takes decades to master the art of Sanskrit and puja and priesthood today is not a very lucrative career, as many Pandits are wallowing in poverty.

So how many takers will there be for their post? This is another empty vote bank posturing, which will split India more on caste lines.

This is the third part of the article on Brahmins. rediff has received a considerable amount of messages. We get huge amount of mails from Brahmins and OUC, grateful that someone has at last taken note of their plight, but also a few mails (3 per cent) from people saying that we are anti-Dalit.

First, I would like to say that after so many years in India, particularly in the cities, I am still not able to see the difference between a Dalit and a Brahmin, except if I see a Brahmin wearing a sacred thread and a Dalit in a loincloth, which is never the case in cities.

Second, we live partly in the South near Pondicherry, where most of the local inhabitants are Vanniars, an OBC caste, just above the untouchables. I play basketball with them, our marriage witnesses were both Vanniars and our best friend there is a Tamil OBC.

Thirdly, as all Westerners (and French), I am revolted by social inequalities. When during the tsunami in Pondicherry, Vanniars stopped Dalits (whose access to their burial ground had been flooded), from crossing their village to bury their dead, I was appalled.

When in Banares during a recent survey, a few Brahmins tell us that they still will not let a Shudra enter their house, I am revolted and I think to myself that Brahmins deserve the treatment they are getting today.

Today the Hindus, the huge majority of this country, they whose culture is the backbone and the genius of India, with virtues of tolerance, spirituality, acceptance of all, are treated like a minority by the Congress and more and more ostracised.

It may be true that chunks of India are still ruled by some of the erstwhile upper classes; but the 36 per cent upper castes of India -- the Brahmins, Thakurs, Vaishiyas, Jains, Marwaris, Baniyas -- are more and more marginalised, their voices are not heard, and their children have to emigrate abroad, because merit is not any more sufficient to get admission in a university or a government job.

When will this great brain drain stop?

What a terrible loss for India. Not only Brahmins and OUC kept alive India's old age spirituality carried down throughout the ages, India's sacred texts, including the Bhgavad Gita, humanity's Future Bible, but they are also some of the top most scientists, engineers, software people, writers, artists of this country...

Will this 36 per cent so-called upper castes forever remain disunited, silent, and see its role more and more diminished, India more and more Christianised, Islamised, de-Hinduised, Marxist-ised? This may be the dream of the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress, but that will spell the doom of the India we all love.

Today, although outwardly many of the OUC still control parts of India there are many areas, such as the bureaucracy, schools, universities, hospitals, where the backward classes, often without merit, exercise huge control.

We need an India based on merit, not on caste. Indians should feel Indians first and then belonging to that caste or that religion after. But what is happening at the moment, under the Congress reign, is that Indians are made to believe that they are first OBC and then Indians, first Muslims and then Indians, first Christians and then Indians. This is very wrong and has got to be fought.

O Brahmins and OUC, awake, not against the lower castes, who are your brothers and sisters and whom you did sometimes mistreat for centuries, but against this cynical government that is trying to divide India more and more along caste and religion lines.

Let go of your centuries' old disunity and selfishness, and unite. The power is still with you.

Francois Gautier

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