Rakesh Bahadur’s Analysis of HAF Report

2. Critical Analysis of Central Themes of the HAF Report (24th December 2010)

The hypothesis of the report is on very thin ice. Cherry picking arguments to support HAF hypothesis will not improve it. A report of this importance must contain an in-depth balanced analysis of the caste issue and must stop regurgitating stereotypical description of the caste. The following central themes occur in the report:

 

1.     Birth based hierarchy

2.     Caste based discrimination

3.     Justification by the scripture (s)

HAF central theme 1: Re-analysis and subsequent rejection of teachings in scripture (s).

“HAF supports the reanalysis and subsequent rejection of any and all teachings that promote caste-based discrimination and birth-based hierarchy. Most such teachings are found in texts called Smritis,………”.

 

In the above statement HAF implies the following two issues:

  • Discrimination is part of scripture (s)
  • Some scriptures will be re-written after the rejection of part of its teachings. This very suggestion means that we are smarter than the authors/compilers of these scriptures.

In doing so, HAF does not give any reference to

  • Which Hindu scriptures sanction caste based discrimination?
  • Which Hindu scriptures HAF is supporting to be reanalyzed and subsequently a part of these scriptures rejected? It will be important to know a list of the scriptures and the sections that need to be modified?

Talking in generalities will create more confusion rather than clear a complex issue like caste.

  • How often HAF has come across similar line of thought (reanalysis and rejection of the non scientific parts in their scriptures, treatment of women, etc.) from other religions?

Nobody has the moral authority or intellectual capital even to suggest for a re-analysis of the scriptures. Can HAF name a single Hindu group which is still following Manu Smriti?

A better approach will be to help form a core group of accepted Sanskrit scholars for translation of these scriptures in different languages. Translation done by the missionaries is the root cause of problem and not the scriptures themselves.

HAF central theme 2: Birth based hierarchy

Though in chapter 6, HAF stated its position “the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) does not believe in caste-based discrimination or a birth based hierarchy”, but the report is full of discussion about birth based hierarchy.

Birth based hierarchy by definition is static (# of castes do not change with time) but this does not reflect ground realities. There is no discussion in the report about how the list and numbers of lower and upper castes is changing on a daily basis.

In 1950 there were 1,373 castes in the list of scheduled castes, which grew to 5013 in 2006. Similarly, there were 2399 backward castes in 1955 and 3763 in 1980 (identified by Mandal commission)[1]. Visit http://socialjustice.nic.in/sclist.php for a complete list of current list of Scheduled Castes and for a complete list of backward castehttp://www.ncbc.nic.in/backward-classes/index.html.This list is continuously expanding.

A case in point is agitation by jats for reservation. They were kshatriyas for centuries but now agitating to be declared OBCs[2]. Story is same with Gujjars in Rajasthan[3].

This list of caste is not birth based but based on political reasons and these lists change based on economic benefits. We are coming to a full circle, everyone being a Brahmin in Satyug and becoming a lower caste in Kalyug.

We will never win if we do not change the terms of the debate. It will help the hill staffers (the intended audience of the report) to know why groups are agitating to be classified as lower castes.

HAF central theme 3: Caste based discrimination

HAF position as mentioned in chapter 6 of the report “We believe that caste-based discrimination is a failure of Hindu society to live up to its highest teachings and not an intrinsic part of Hinduism itself”. HAF report implies that the discrimination continues unabated and is rooted in Hinduism. Again the report does not pass the smell test.

If caste based discrimination occurs in India then why a large groups of proud people are agitating to be included in lower caste.  Definitely not be discriminated and exploited by others. With the release of GOIs new list, the perpetrators of discrimination become victims of discrimination. Discrimination is a law and order issue and has nothing to do with religion.

Another case in point is Mayawati, a dalit women and CM of UP.  Should not this empowerment help with reduction if not elimination of the discrimination?

Modern day Maharajas (IAS and IPS) – The following table [4] shows that about 30% IAS and IFS belong to lower castes. The report does not discuss why with all this empowerment, religiously sanctioned discrimination continues. When the so called lower caste person comes in position of power, how does he/she treat their own and other castes?

SC

ST

OBC

IAS

526  (11.88%)

339  (7.66%)

394  (8.9%)

IPS

336  (13.82%)

160  (6.58%)

286  (11.76%)

IFS

84   (13.5%)

42  (6.8%)

68  (11%)

 

Are economic factors real causes of discrimination?

HAF report is completely silent on economic factors leading to discrimination. The following table# from Planning Commission report shows percentage of population below poverty line. This table illustrates two things:

  • Percentage of SC living below poverty line has improved over a six year period (1994-2000). This number will be lot better once we consider the data from 2000 to 2010, as the main development in India happened in this time period.
  • This table also illustrates that prosperity of state impacts how people live. Lowest percentage of population living below poverty line is in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. These are two states where nobody talks about caste.

What happens in Tamil Nadu should not be the only criteria for writing a report?

  • A true picture emerges once you compare crime data# with prosperity.

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