Twitter turmoil

I am not a social scientist and agree with some of the opinions of the author (“A call to ‘smash Brahmanical patriarchy’ is not hate speech – it’s progressive, anti-caste politics”). But, the paragraph titled “Are Brahmins a minority?” rankled me to no end. The author has obviously done limited or selective research to come to the conclusion that Brahmins dominate elite white-collar jobs and that 49% of them hold top positions in national journalism. Did he also find that a report in 2007 that said that only 9% of the MPs nationwide were Brahmins? That 13% of Brahmins were poor?

A poor Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe or OBC [Other Backward Classes] person can expect some support from the government in the form of policies for education and ration. Can a poor Brahmin person expect the same? Brahmins, by virtue of their traditional occupation, are poor. They are the supposed knowledge-bearers of the Vedas and are expected to teach without charging their pupils. How much does the author think that a poor Brahmin at any of the temples earns? Is it enough to buy him and his family even two square meals for a single day?

There are various platforms that can be used to address the grievances of the Dalits, by virtue of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Such legislation is needed. But how many Brahmins have misused this Act or indulged in atrocities? If we dig deeper, we will realise that all the statistics quote upper classes (which include the mighty Kshatriyas and Vaishyas), but what proportion of these are Brahmins?

If the author examines Indian history, he will realise that it there are Brahmins who have fought against inequality and the caste system. – Sumedha Dharmarajan


I do not agree with this article. It may be that Brahmins enjoy a privileged position, but they do not control the levers of the economy or power in an overall sense. Look at the who’s who of the central and state Governments – Brahmins are a minority in this. When this is the situation, it is utterly insensitive and malicious to call out the name “Brahminical”, because it so closely lands near the term Brahmin. The piece would have been balanced had the attack been on the caste system as a whole. – Hrushikesh


It is telling that when the writer reaches for an example of “Brahmanical” patriarchy he finds a non-Brahmin Vanniyar family committing a hate crime against a Dalit man. There can scarcely be a clearer example of the reasons behind the outrage over the use of the word “Brahmanical”.

Let us be clear, the issue here is not about the word patriarchy; it is about the word “Brahmanical” and what it implies. If Dorsey had held up a sign saying “stop patriarchy in India”, any negative response would have been muted at best. The issue is whether, as the writer claims, “Brahmanical” refers to a social order practiced across India as a whole, or whether the word “Brahmanical” refers to a particular caste group of a particular religious community.

Various Leftist scholars and caste activists may have used “Brahmanical” as an adjective imputing blame to a broader section of the population than Brahmins, but that is not only beside the point but also lacking in factual basis. The use of that term implies a lack of agency in non-Brahmin groups such as the aforementioned Vanniyars, as if they are so foolish as to be brainwashed by Brahmins into adopting discriminatory practices.

There is plenty of scholarship grounded in genetic and textual evidence calling into question not only whether caste was an invention of Brahmins but even whether caste was originally connected to “Brahmanical” Vedic/Hindu practices at all. See George L Hart for example, who theorises that untouchability originated in the ancient Tamil country. At the very least there are viable competing theories of how caste originated in India such that the question is nowhere near settled to the point of scapegoating one community for all of India’s caste discrimination.

More importantly, in a message directed at the general public, when the scholarly/elitist usage of a term clashes with popular understanding, the popular understanding should hold. The existence of the controversy is evidence enough that the popular understanding of the term “Brahmanical” is “of or relating to Brahmins”.

Whether Ambedkar used the term to refer to all non-Dalit Hindus, the average reader does not interpret the word the same way. The obvious, textual understanding of that sign is that it condemns one particular social group for India’s patriarchy, thereby absolving other groups of any responsibility (including, say, the Islamic patriarchy that keeps India’s Muslim women significantly behind other Indian women in most social indicators).

Finally, the writer’s protests about Brahmins not being a minority fly in the face of common sense and reveal the central contradiction of the secularist’s world view. A minority absolutely does connote numbers, especially so in a democratic system where every person has the same ability to vote and every community has political representation commensurate with their numbers. If the writer sees the absurdity of declaring the British a minority, then he agrees with the vast majority of caste Hindus that the salient issue in determining social standing is power, not numbers.

When referring to contentious social issues, precision in word choice matters. Imputing India’s gender inequality to Brahmins is no different than Donald Trump imputing America’s violent crime to illegal immigrants. There is no avoiding the fact that the term “Brahmanical” scapegoats one numerically small community in India for social ills that are mostly attributable to communities other than their own. Hopefully Jack Dorsey’s misstep helps some people outside the Indian English media ecosystem learn from their mistake. – Sandeep S


The reaction over Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey holding the poster decrying Brahminical patriarchy give us a glimpse of the future. Women and Dalits still have a long way to go. As Dipankar Gupta stated clearly in his book A Revolution from Above, a social revolution brought about by the privileged classes and castes based on the concept of fraternity is the only answer to the problems plaguing India. As long as the privileged classes and castes see the emancipation of the oppressed as an attack on them, there is very little hope. – Shinobi Suantak


Ambedkar’s thoughts

This is an excellent showcase of Ambedkar’s writings on patriarchy, Manu’s laws and feminism (“Brahmanical patriarchy: How Ambedkar explained the links between caste and violence against women”). Sharmila Rege uses an authentic source of scholarship to clarify today’s controversy over “Brahminical patriarchy” sparked by the photograph of the Twitter CEO holding a placard.

The blame on Buddhism for the degradation of women’s status is repudiated by bringing forth the reality that women’s status was already degraded before the Buddha arrived.

Whatever the source, such degradation of women, or anyone for that matter, needs to be rejected by the gatekeepers of religion and culture – the religious heads and politicians. Unless such ideas are rejected through a reform process of religion, such ills will continue. – Rajratna Jadhav

Historical debates

While it’s very commendable what does with regard to exposing Hindutva bigotry, it is shameful that one of your writers is acting as an apologist of the Moplah rebellion (“Revolt against British or communal riot? Removal of Kerala mural revives debate on Moplah Rebellion”). It is no secret that the rebellion, whatever be its initial motivation, was a communal movement. It was by no means an anti-Imperialist movement. All records show that most atrocities committed were because of religious zealousness rather than patriotism. Is hard to imagine how this, or even the Khilafat movement of which the Moplah rebellion is considered a subset, is considered as freedom movement when clearly its goals were to protest against the deposing of the Caliph of Turkey, a nation having no influence on our national movements and psyche.

Desist from the distortion of history. These are the reasons why people often become suspicious of Left historical versions whose analysis differs from their common experience. – Sudhanshu Sharma

Health watch

This article on antimicrobial resistance is timely and not enough of an alarm bell. The situation is so dire that it needs to be shouted from the rooftops (“India’s plan to tackle antibiotic resistance is toothless without a strong public health system”). There is one aspect that the author did not touch upon – the abuse of antibiotics by doctors themselves. I have cried myself hoarse to friends and relatives alike who blindly pop anything the doctor gives them. I have seen in several cases involving my friends that doctors have given them a bunch of prescriptions, including antibiotics, and then stopped them from taking the entire course when the true nature of the diagnosis emerges. Why is that the doctors cannot exercise restraint and wait for a few days to ascertain if something is bacterial to begin with? They also often fail to instruct the patients about the precautions required while taking antibiotics. Awareness on how indiscriminate antibiotic usage is detrimental to health needs to created on war footing. – Chitra Dinesh