Analysis

The Hindu Extremist Agenda of Residential and Social Segregation

By Iniyan Elango

In the year 2012, there was a newspaper advertisement in The Hindu (7 April, 2012) which openly advertised for sale of flats to “Brahmins Only”, and after my complaint to the Chairman of the Press Council of India, the newspaper (The Hindu) published my letter which condemned the aforementioned advertisement along with an editor’s note that was devoid of explicit regret but seemed to pass the buck to a serendipitous incidence of inadvertence caused by the oversight over fine print by the newspaper’s employees ( http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/dont-exclude/article3555784.ece ). There are very many flat complexes, gated communities, residential neighbourhoods and townships all over India which are openly advertised for “Brahmins Only” in the Indian print and web media.

But, more hypocritical and sly expressions of caste bigotry are attempts at caste residential segregation by using claims of dietary vegetarianism, because caste bigots hide behind the claim of segregation based on a dietary life style, as if segregation of living habitats based on a claim of vegetarian diet is morally condonable, when in reality, self-segregation of “vegetarians” by excluding those practicing a non-vegetarian lifestyle is nothing but a worst form of caste bigotry, caste segregation and religious segregation executed in a sly manner to deflect legal and constitutional challenges to such bigoted practices or to simply camouflage the practitioners of such bigotry from detection in order to sustain their fake posturing of a progressive or liberal image.

According to some recent reports in the media, The Hindu newspaper had issued a notice (April 10, 2014) to its staff members that they should not eat “non-vegetarian” food in the canteen / dining hall of “The Hindu” because the “majority” of the staff members of The Hindu are “vegetarians” implying that the Brahmins are more in the employ of this Brahmin-owned and edited newspaper (given that contemporary Brahmins are traditionally vegetarian except for Brahmins who lived in the so-called “Vedic” times millennia ago who had enjoyed eating beef according to Hindu scriptures such as the Vedas).

If the owners and editors of The Hindu want to impose their Brahmanical fundamentalist preference for vegetarianism on their non-Brahmin and non-vegetarian Shudra (backward caste), Panchama (Dalit), Muslim, Parsi and Christian employees just because Brahmins own and editorially control “The Hindu” newspaper and Brahmins are more in the employ of “The Hindu”, one can just as well imagine how the supremacist Brahmin clique have been imposing their world-view and socio-political opinion on the rest of the Indian masses and the world by passing it as the views of the Indian masses to influence and hamper the socio-political fate of the latter, fundamentally because Brahmins control various Indian media organs and newspapers just as they control “The Hindu”, and just as they want to impose “vegetarianism” on non-Brahmins.

If Brahmins see “vegitarian supremacism” as an assertion of their Brahmin supremacist identity via the monopolist dominance of a vegetarian diet in the workplace of a media house they own by causing dietary detriment to their meat-eating non-Brahmin, non-Hindu and non-vegetarian employees, one can easily understand how Brahmins suffer the urge to express their bigotry of other social, intellectual, bureaucratic, judicial, artistic, religious and political aspects of their religiously and socially sanctioned supremacism based on their birth into the pinnacle of the Hindu caste system, which is exemplified by many examples.

A case in point is the bemoaning of the dominance of Brahmins in the annals of Carnatic music in Chennai in an opinion piece written by Carnatic singer Mr.T.M.Krishna (who is a Brahmin himself) titled “The big paradox: what it takes to be an honorary Brahmin” which ironically was published in the magazine supplement of The Hindu on 11 May, 2014. Mr.T.M.Krishna also alludes to indirect expression of Brahmanism by way of Brahmins’ supporting non-Brahmin Hindu fundamentalist and fascist leaders such as Narendra Modi who tend to be seen as more Brahmanical than Brahmins themselves in executing the Hindutva agenda of Brahmanism (http://www.thehindu.com/features/magazine/the-big-paradox/article5996032.ece).

There was another recent news report in The Hindu which said that the Government of Gujarat is planning to declare certain areas of Gujarat as “vegetarians only” zone (http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/gujarat-mulls-creation-of-vegetarian-zone-in-palitana/article6152899.ece).

This news-report is about the clamour amongst members of the Jain religion (which legally and constitutionally is a part of Hinduism in India), to declare the Palitana town in Bhavnagar district of Gujarat as a “vegetarian zone” by wholesale banning of animal slaughter for food in Palitana town - despite the fact that people who eat non-vegetarian food such as Dalits, backward castes and Muslims live in the Palitana area. Such balkanisation of Indian territory by making it exclusively residential to members of a particular caste or religion who practice “vegetarianism” is nothing but a form of antinational and seditious separatism.

When the “vegetarian” Brahmins (Pandits) of Kashmir find themselves out of Jammu and Kashmir due to armed conflict, the Brahmin-Baniya-controlled Indian media cries foul and terms such exodus of Brahmins as a victory of Kashmiri separatism, but the expulsion or exclusion of non-vegetarian Indian citizens to create “vegetarian zones”, “vegetarian habitats” or “vegetarian flats or housing complexes” (because such non-vegetarian Indian citizens don’t belong to castes such as Brahmins or religions such as Jainism which practice vegetarianism) is not seen as a form of separatism or balkanisation by the Brahmin-controlled Indian media because such segregation and balkanisation of Indian society and territory based on “vegetarianism” or Brahmin caste is seen as another expression of Brahmin supremacy through the assertion of “vegitarian dietary supremacy”.

Such expressions of Brahmin supremacy are part and parcel of the Hindutva agenda as it can be seen by the ban on cow-slaughter and the ban on the  transport of cows or cattle and a practically effective ban on the beef industry in many Indian states, or even a wholesale advocacy of vegetarianism as the dictum of fundamentalist Hinduism and a campaign to impose such a dietary fundamentalism of vegetarianism on the majority of Indian citizens and a majority of Hindus (backward castes and Dalits) who are non-vegetarian meat eaters.

There was another recent full front-page advertisement by a building company advertising an exclusive tower of flats in Chennai for “pure vegetarians” in the Chennai edition of The Hindu of 1 February, 2014. When I protested by writing an email to the official representative of the company criticizing and asserting that the implicit segregation of habitats based on “vegetarianism” would result in segregation based on caste and religion by excluding those belonging to religion and castes who do not practice a “vegitarian” lifestyle such as most backward castes, Dalits, Muslims, Parsis and Christians, I got a high-handed and incongruous reply that the flat promoters were no different to “vegetarian restaurants” and “vegetarian marriage halls” who cater vegetarian food! The response of the company was bizarre and illogical since flat builders and flat sellers do not sell food or catering services along with the flats and apartments they build and sell. “Vegetarian restaurants and marriage halls”, just as “non-vegetarian restaurants and marriage halls” do not exclude those who practice an opposing dietary life style because anyone irrespective of their dietary preference of vegetarianism (including those belonging to “non-vegetarian” castes and religions) can enter these “vegetarian” restaurants and have a snack or a drink of their choice if they want, and hence restaurants and marriage halls which cater to “vegetarian food” do not end up segregating against people based on caste or religion.

The truth is that most of these so-called segregated households, flats, apartments and tower blocks which are advertised for “vegetarians only” are meant primarily for Brahmins, Jains and some caste Gujarati people who practice “vegetarianism” and thus result in blatant caste segregation and religious polarisation - particularly against Christians and Muslims, and also against Dalits and other backward castes.

And what would be the criterion for these flat sellers and builders to identify a “vegetarian” flat buyer? Would they be able to identify a “vegetarian” by his looks? Hardly. They will be simply relying on a buyer’s caste or religious orthodoxy to determine whether he is a vegetarian or not. Will the flat sellers sell their “vegetarian” flats to a Muslim who looks and dresses Muslim and claims to be “vegetarian”? I guess not. But even a Brahmin or a Jain who occasionally eats non-vegetarian food would be allowed to buy and reside in such a “vegetarians only” flats or houses because being a Brahmin or a Jain is associated with a “vegetarian” dietary lifestyle.

Anybody with a right mind and a sense of justice and fairness would consider such direct caste-based segregation through advertising and selling of habitats to “Brahmins Only” and indirect caste-based segregation and sly religious segregation by using “vegetarianism” as the criterion for qualifying as a buyer or lessor of a flat or house - to be patently unjust, pernicious and anti-national which would socially balkanise an already caste-balkanised India and sabotage any attempt at evolving an integrated Indian national and social identity to the caste-fractured citizens of India.
More important would be the fact that such segregation of living habitats based on caste or eating preferences and wholesale expulsion of non-vegetarians or banning of non-vegetarian food from an Indian territory to create “vegetarian zones” such as the one proposed in Gujarat, fly in the face of many constitutional provisions and are hence blatantly anti-constitutional. Such social, residential and territorial segregation based on caste, religion or vegetarian dietary preferences particularly violate Articles 14, 15 and 19 of the Indian Constitution.

Advocacy of vegetarianism by Brahmanical Hindutva zealots and closet Hindu zealots posing as fake liberals (such as The Hindu newspaper) should be seen as an extension of the Hindutva agenda to create a “sanitized and homogenized” Hindu identity which conceals the fact that the “Hindu” identity was indeed a socio-legal and bureaucratic umbrella term invented by the colonial British administration to shelter thousands of manifold indigenous religions and schools of religious thought followed by the very many castes and tribes of India under this umbrella term. Thus, advocating and extolling “vegetarianism” achieves the twin aim of attempting a dietary cultural homogenisation of a radically heterogeneous Indian populace clubbed together by the colonially manufactured “Hindu” identity  and also to entrench the socio-religious status of graded inferiority accorded to “Shudras” (backward castes) and “Panchamas” (Dalits) by institutionally entrenching the “inferior status” accorded to the “non-vegetarian” dietary lifestyle of Shudras and Dalits as being supposedly “inferior” to that of the vegetarian lifestyle of Brahmins.

I now realize why even the almighty global chain of “MacDonald’s” restaurants who specialize in selling beef burgers all over the world do not sell their trademark hamburgers in India, since the “cow worshippers” in the Indian ruling establishment have ensured that McDonald’s shouldn’t sell their beef burgers if they want to set up shop in India - a rare example of U.S. trade imperialism bowing before the diktats of medieval religious culinary extremism! (countercurrents.org)

The author is a physician and writer based in Chennai, who blogs at  http://hinducasteracism.blogspot.in/ and he can be reached at iniyanelango@gmail.com

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 August 2014 on page no. 11

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