Opinion

The violence of caste: Why I have changed my name to Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

'I thought this is the best way to tell the Brahmin: I am now no longer interested in working to reform your spiritual culture.'

On May 15 and 16, the Brahmin Associations in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana burnt my effigies, gave condemnation statements and came to my office at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University Hyderabad, under the guidance of IV Krishna Rao, Chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Brahmin Corporation. He is a former chief secretary of Andhra Pradesh.

On May 16, about 15 men were sent to my office, apparently by Rao, and they later went and issued false statements of half truths about me in Telugu news papers. These men, claiming to be Brahmins, made calls to my office and threatened that they will do to me what Parashurama of their ancestry had done to the kshatriyas with his powerful axe. The story of Brahmin Parashurama killing hundreds of kshatriyas in a mythological story is not so well known. But it is a dreadful story.

A case was filed against me at Saroor Nagar Police Station of Hyderabad under IPC sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts, intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 153A (promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion) and 298 (uttering, words, etc. with deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of any person) on May 26, 2016.

However, forming a militant Brahmin caste associations is a new phenomenon, after the Bharatiya Janata Party came to power at New Delhi in 2014. The trend gets expressed where even the regional parties are in power. This militancy of Brahmins as a community has increased in the country threatening the freedom of speech of the nation itself.

Why now?

Why all this against me at this time? While speaking at the Centre of Indian Trade Unions, a wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) on May 14, 2016, at Vijayawada (Amaravathi), I said:

“The Brahmins as a community have not contributed anything to the production process of the Indian nation. Even now their role in the basic human survival based productive activity is not there. On the country, they constructed a spiritual theory that repeatedly tells people that production is pollution.”

To this kind of Brahmin aggression, the Dalit-Bahujan, Adivasi organisations, including some of the Left organisations responded by organising counter protests and meetings on subsequent days.

At a significant meeting organised at the Puchalapally Sundarayya Vigyna Kendram on May 21, I released my poem.

O BHARATIYA BRAHMINS

O Brahmins of Bharath and the World
You want to crucify me
Knowing that I can’t resurrect,
As I am not Jesus Christ.
But, I will follow that Star,
As I am an Indian shepherd.
I will not destroy your temples
But, I will destroy all our shackles,
As I follow only the God of Equality.
Good, you tell all lies about me
You abuse me as Iligadu
I do not abuse the abuser,
But, lay down my life for the abused.
I turn my inside out
I am now Ilaiah Shepherd
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd.

I know that many Brahmin men, and also some women, have been very angry with me ever since I wrote Why I am Not a Hindu. They think that it is a direct attack on their historical hegemony and control. They are also upset with my books Post-Hindu-India, Buffalo Nationalism and Untouchable God. These books are meant to transform India and I can understand the feelings of Brahmins cutting across their so called political ideologies.

Despite Gautama Buddha providing an alternative to the Brahminical set-up, nothing – not even the present democratic set up – has overthrown their hegemony. In fact, the present democratic set- up has given them global visibility, connectivity, cultural arrogance, as no Dalit-Bahujan or Shudra upper caste communities have acquired a grip over English language in the modern market. Their control over Sanskrit, which they defined as their God’s language, also remains unshaken. The Dalit-Bahujan reformers tried all methods but could not shake the Brahminical control in key areas of spiritual, social and economic systems.

A time has come where the Dalit-Bahujans should connect to the world on their own, because they cannot be controlled any longer.

A linguistic hegemony

No nation can survive without the basic production of food, service goods and cultural instruments. Those who are involved in these occupations do not depend any more on those castes that did not – and do not – do any fundamental productive work. These castes only have hatred towards the productive soil and mud but they consider it a matter of their right that they should take a bigger share of the food that is produced out of the labour of those they look down upon.

The productive class needs to begin by adopting names in a language that allows them to connect with each other and thus enjoy social respectability they have been denied.

The Brahmins adopted Sanskrit names like Sharma, Shastry, Chaturvedi, Upadhyay and so on. With those Sanskritic names, they established pan Indian connectivity. But the Dalit-Bahujans were left to live without having any dignified names – be it their first, second or last names. They have no pan Indian identity and hence no connectivity between one region and the other, largely because their occupations are known by different linguistic terms.

The only way left for the Dalit-Bahujans in the globalised world is to trump Sanskrit with English. Though not many among them are well educated in English language, they must adopt and own English as their language – in all aspects, from their names to addressing God in their prayers. Let their prayers be to a God of equality, as against the Brahmin gods of inequality.

The Dalit-Bahujan masses must begin to pray to the Universal God, leaving aside other local or national gods, who are assumed to not to understand English when you worship them in that language. As the Brahmin’s right to worship their god in Sanskrit is accepted, our right to pray to our English-knowing God in English has to be fully respected. Otherwise we must prepare for a show down. No priestly force in the world has said that even God has to live in a particular so-called national borders. Only the Brahmins of India constructed even God or gods as national and are threatening those who believe in The God, who is said to have created the whole universe, as anti-national. This primitive thinking of these forces needs to be fought with all the might at the Dalit-Bahujan command.

It’s all in a name

As a first step in this spiritual and cultural revolution, the Dalit-Bahujan masses must add their present or ancestral occupational names to their existing or new name – but in English translation. As I come from a shepherding family, I have suffixed ‘Shepherd’ to my name. I thought this is the best way to tell the Brahmin: I am now no longer interested in working to reform your spiritual culture. I join the universal brotherhood/sisterhood and remain more nationalist than you by rooting myself in the great productive occupational heritage of my ancestors. You have no business to teach me nationalism.

A believer in God of Equality is a better nationalist than those worship gods that breed inequality. The Brahmins did that all along. My ancestors suffered every ignominy because of that inhuman culture. I uplifted their spirits by adding a universally understandable language name to my existing name. Now ancestral occupation is globally notified.

The farming communities can become Mr and Mrs Tiller, Dalits can have names like Mr and Ms Cobbler, Tanner, Shoemaker. Thus pot makers can have names like Potter, Iron and gold smiths can become Smith. Thus the marginalised communities could all have English names – from Washerman to Fisherman.

In this mode of names, the productive occupation becomes globally respectable and dignified. Our indignity gets washed away by clean waters. Our children at once become globally loveable. Once we shift out of the caste rot and begin to be known by the glorious productive occupation of each one of us, God will love us more, as s/he loves all producers more than people who eat without producing food.

A day will come when even the Brahmins of the whole world will come and join hands in turning the mud into food. All our women, irrespective of caste, have suffered and continue to suffer untouchability during menstruation and child birth because of the procreative mud that comes out of their body. They will smile and bring up our children in a healthy atmosphere of equality. The world, then, will be glorious and that is what is known as “The Kingdom of God”. God Bless India.

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