I happen to be a fair-skinned Brahmin of Telugu origin ("The TM Krishna column: 'I'm upper-caste and I'm proud of it – and that's where the problem lies''). I stopped giving any relevance to the Brahmin part, as well as religion, when I was just 13 – once I realised that our society had structural and institutional forms that ensured permanent inequality.
TM Krishna has perfectly enunciated what pains others like me – that I like to call “Brahmin guilt”. This mindset of guilt is what Krishna tries to expose.
The lack of conscious recognition of caste/race/class discrimination in our daily lives, through gestures small or big that go unnoticed is what holds the guilt in place within us.
This is what the column makes those from the upper caste think about and question – makes them aware of incidents that happen to them everyday that are a privilege of their cast so that they can highlight and denounce such actions. – Advait Rao Palepu
The pain is deep rooted and no matter how much I try to keep it aside, I am constantly reminded that I belong to a low caste.
I serve all sections of population as a teacher in a medical college, but it still difficult for so-called low caste people to get a house on rent. We have reached the moon and will reach other planets soon, but have forgotten how to live on Earth with humility. It is a shame that we have held on to the inhuman caste system.
I have made it till today, may be because of a better social status or because I serve people selflessly. My habits are clean, my thoughts are cleaner and I pray to god to enlighten fellow humans who are follow caste-based discrimination. Let good thoughts come from everyone since the world is going through tough times. – Venkatarathnamm PN
This column is very true and frank. Were it not for the privilege of his background, caste and qualifications, he may not have found the kind of success he enjoys today. – V Balasubramanian
What an argument! The upper castes, for the most part, cannot accept the upward mobility of lower classes.
Most rulers, bureaucrats and intellectuals are from top of the caste pyramid. TM Krishnan deserves more than a few awards for his great thinking. – Rajanna
If all upper caste people start introspecting in this manner, that could spark a social revolution. But to bring in a structural overhaul, India will need to wipe the slate clean on its history of discrimination and start afresh! – Indira Parthasarathy
I really like the manner in which TM Krishna has spoken of the caste system. I think the caste system is the natural outcome of competition for money and status in society. Thus, a hierarchy was bound to be formed – even if not the caste system as we know it. So the real way to break out of the caste system is to change one’s outlook towards caste. One should just see it as an artificial hierarchy and not the only determiner of person's ability to work or be successful. – Chinmay Joshi
I have several arguments against this piece.
When TM Krishna says that he is empowered by its history, what this means is that he has read a very selective and rosy history of his caste. When he says, "In spite of all my intellectual understanding of the need to annihilate caste, it lives in everything I do,” this reflects the common confusion of annihilating the caste system with annihilating castes.
When he says: "I have been spotted as cultured, as opposed to the rest and whether I admit it or not I am happy that I am known," he should verify if indeed others thought of him this way. When he says that the foundation of caste is not economic, but cultural and religious, dividing human beings and creating economic backwardness, this is exactly why reservations won't work. I hope he comments about that in the future.
I also disagree with his presumption that if a high-caste person is poor, he is considered to be an unfortunate wretch. On the contrary, his fellow upper-caste members will say that he or she deserved it because of their karma – we Brahmins are staunchly Hindu, like no other caste you see.
When he says “this is the very reason why all non-Brahminical interpretations of mythology and scriptures practiced by many subaltern communities are considered aberrations, vulgar, or derogatory,” whar are these interpretations is he talking about, and by whom? Can we have some references and examples? Or is it just a shot in the dark?
To his argument that “We never try understanding the struggles of aspiration that force changes in the individuals seeking acceptance. Non-Brahmins see the Brahminised as cultural models and as they climb the ladder, they may unconsciously and consciously sacrifice their self for status”, I’d like to ask: Are the Brahmins to be blamed for this?
And when he says, "We remain the ideal”, who is he referring to? Who made TM Krishna the representative of all Brahmins? I am Brahmin and I don't think my caste is the ideal. TMK's sense of artificial superiority is apparent here. So much for the humility he demands towards the end.
"Unfortunately, it is this very ugliness that we wear on our sleeves with aplomb and refer to as culture,” he adds. Now who is feeling disgusted with his own culture? This has been the strategy all along. Abuse Brahmins till they feel ashamed of their own culture and just give up. The trick worked for British against Indians on the whole, and it will work now too. – Venkat Raghavan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to think that if he congratulates Bezwada Wilson and TM Krishna for winning the Magsaysay Award, he he will end up admitting the existence of India’s dirty secret of caste discrimination to the world. Wouldn't your average Silicon Valley Indian, or East Coast Indian doctor find it difficult explain the institution of caste because they don't have the courage, character and conviction to tell the truth, to own up the violence they hide behind peaceful countenance of Gandhi and to accept the fact that their privilege comes from deprivation of others? In short, they are not TM Krishna.
There's no better critique of Modi's Flagship swachcha bharat programme than Bezwada Wilson's initiative against manual scavenging.
TM Krishna is brave to risk his celebrity status to start a conversation on one of the most widespread problems in the country. I applaud the fact that he understands caste as a vehicle of oppression independent of the binary of the oppressor and the oppressed. – Siddhartth Taara
This article just reiterates a problem that which pretty much everybody is aware of, but does not offer any concrete solutions, thereby confusing the reader.
The author has taken the easy way out by saying: “this is not about the past – it is only a call for introspection and self-awareness." What is even more startling is that the write-up rejects all possible ways to ease the situation. It villainises charity and self pride. It labels everything as wrong, but does not offer a solution. Author should now introspect on whether this write-up really needed. – Ravindra S Kashyap
The writer’s preoccupations are apparently economic, yet he reviles the Left by using amateurish and laughable cultural arguments (“I am a gay Indian man and still lean to the Right. Here's why”). He says America has been successful in combating terror because everyone is compelled to integrate and immigration is not a right, but a privilege.
However, in Europe, immigration is far more systematised around integration, and paradoxically, Europe fails to integrate its minorities. Every other point that the writer brought forth is equally ridiculous, most specifically, his insistence on equating the Left with Soviet communism.
Vikram Johri needs to have a conversation with a liberal or read a book on the introduction to world history, because based on this article, it appears that he has never done either. – Bhishma Mago
This is one of the best articles I have read and it reflects my own position almost perfectly. I'm an atheist who supports the BJP, mostly because of their economic policies. – Nitish
The writer's “yes, but” argument betrays his bias for the eclectic welfare state that is always projected as the new Right, undermining the systemic cruelty of capitalism in all its shades.
As long as right to private property is constitutionally legitimised as a fundamental right and all wealth drawn from nature and created by man is not treated as social wealth to be equitably used by one and all, not owned by a handful of capitalists, no issue can be squarely and justly addressed. Gay rights, though spoken of purely in emotional terms, are also closely related property rights. Heterosexual men and women can take their bloodline forward, while queer men and women cannot, which is why it is not socially encouraged or accepted for the most part. But this is linked to capitalism – the conception of family and state in any capitalistic set up is implicitly linked to property rights. This is why the queer are encouraged, in any capitalistic society, to fight for their moral, cultural, political and social rights – but not for their property rights. Any fight for any form of justice needs to be combined with political economy. This does not mean only economic freedom. – VN Laxminarayana
I had seen this iconic photograph when I read the biography of Balasaraswati (“The mystery of the photograph that revealed a different side of MS Subbulakshmi”). I was happy to see that they too had enjoyed in their younger days.
They are our pride and I salute both my idols. – Dipali
The picture hardly impacts the celebrity status of MS among her fans and for posterity because of her outstanding achievement as a classical singer. The personal life of luminaries is irrelevant. – V Narasimha Rao
How nice to see this photograph of icons also being regular, fun people. – Kanchan C Bhattacharya
As this article says, both states are responsible for destroying the Cauvery river basin (“The story of how Karnataka and Tamil Nadu mismanaged their water and then blamed each other”).
Illegal sand mining has taken a toll on the natural resource. It is unfortunate that the government has not tackled and has possibly encouraged unregulated mining.
As a citizen, I want to know what we can do to save the river and maintain the ecological balance. – Rajesh M
You will not understand the significance of Singur to the state, not being natives of West Bengal (“The Singur moment represents the need for a fine balance between politics and economics”).
The land here is among the most fertile ones in the country. It can support six crops a year of different types. The farmers here are not only farmers, but also small traders and blue-collar workers.
Farming is one of their income streams, but more importantly, the land is their anchor and old-age pension.
The Supreme Court verdict is indeed a big victory – that of the way of life – something that people chasing only wealth will not understand.
The verdict is also a big defeat of crony capitalism that was epitomised by the forced takeover and transfer of this land at rock bottom prices from poor, hardworking farmers to the richest industrial house in the country. The judgement has forced unscrupulous politicians and their cronies to sit up and realise that this cannot go on. – Madhusudan Sikri