India’s caste system: religious apartheid

Ensuring Socio-economic Justice

Zafar Bangash

Shawwal 27, 1437 2016-08-01


by Zafar Bangash (Opinion, Crescent International Vol. 45, No. 6, Shawwal, 1437)

Hinduism’s Caste system is a blot on the world’s conscience. It provides religious sanction to a system in which some human beings are condemned to a life of permanent slavery and degradation. It needs to be exposed to the world.

India is probably the most violent country in the world yet it has successfully managed to project an image of nonviolence. This has much to do with Mohindas Karamchand Gandhi, erroneously referred to as “Mahatma,” or holy man. There was nothing holy about Gandhi; he was a complete fraud. He indulged in strange habits including sleeping naked with girls to exercise self-control. How successful he was we do not know but his claim to nonviolence cost a lot of innocent Muslim lives both during and after the partition of British colonial India into the independent states of Pakistan and India.

We need not sidetrack ourselves with Gandhi’s eccentricities, including his habitual drinking of his own urine mixed with cow dung, which an average person would find quite revolting. There are other pressing issues that need attention. India is a caste-ridden society. For those not familiar with this system, it is religiously sanctioned apartheid. The caste system is like a pyramid at the top of which sit the Brahmins, a tiny minority that consider themselves superior to everyone else by virtue of birth. At the bottom reside more than 200 million Dalits (aka “Untouchables”). Yes, they are literally untouchable. They cannot eat from the same plate or drink from the same glass as Brahmins or members of other castes; otherwise these would become unclean.

Dalits are forced to do the dirtiest jobs including cleaning toilets, sweeping streets, and removing the carcasses of dead animals. The overwhelming majority of Indians do not have access to flush toilets. In India a raised platform with a bucket at the bottom serves as a toilet. Dalits are forced to clean others’ filth. They cannot marry into other castes even though so-called upper-caste Hindus routinely rape Dalit girls. Other minorities including Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians also suffer Hindu racism and persecution.

When the Congress Party ruled India, it was easy to camouflage Hindu racism. India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was Western educated and projected an image of modernity. He even appointed Bhimrao Ambedkar, a Dalit lawyer, to draft India’s first constitution, in theory abolishing the caste system. That the Brahmin Caste to which Nehru belonged did not care much about the constitution was conveniently ignored. Today, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a right-wing fascist party whose ideology is rooted in Nazism, rules India. Its storm troopers are the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a bunch of murderous thugs who make no secret of their plans to turn India into a Hindu state. Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians are threatened with death if they do not covert to Hinduism, claiming they were originally all Hindus.

These fascists have other strange habits. They consider the cow to be “sacred” and “holy” (calling it their mother) and, therefore, forbid anyone from killing or eating its meat. While cow meat consumption is forbidden in several Indian states, India has no compunction exporting its meat and earning some $4 billion in annual revenues.

In recent weeks, a new anti-Dalit campaign has erupted, especially in Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat. Four Dalits were stripped naked, beaten up mercilessly, and paraded in Una after being accused of killing and then skinning a cow. Despite protesting their innocence — the victims maintained they skinned the cow after it had died of natural causes — the self-styled gau rakshaks (cow protectors) were not convinced.

These mass murderers consider the BJP’s rise to power in 2014 as a license to attack and kill Dalits. With the BJP in power, 47,064 cases of crimes against Dalits were registered, up from 39,408 in the previous year and 33,655 in 2012. Modi himself is on record describing Dalits as “mentally retarded children” and their menial scavenging as a “spiritual experience”!

How does Hindu India get away with such horrendous crimes? Modi is welcomed in world capitals with nary a mention of the crimes being perpetrated against millions of innocent people. The India-doting West sees India as a market of 300 million people with surplus cash to purchase Western goods. A few hundred million people oppressed or even murdered is a small price, or so the thinking goes in the West.

India has also successfully marketed yoga, transcendental meditation, hashish and pot smoking, and group sex. In the 1960s, the British pop group, the Beetles, gave such nonsense an enormous boost. One Beetle, George Harrison, became a disciple of Maharishi Mahish Yogi. The hippie generation followed suit. There also emerged the fraudsters called Rajnishis in Oregon where group sex was again common. For many young people in the West, sex and drugs was the road to nirvana.

Hindu India has successfully cashed in on it. Dalits, Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians have had to pay the price.

Zafar Bangash is Director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought (ICIT).

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