Wall Street Journal Discovers Sorry Plight of Brahmins

The Wall Street Journal has an interesting piece on the plight of India’s Brahmin caste in its Saturday edition.

Once a privileged caste closely aligned with the rulers of India for several centuries, the Brahmins have fallen on tough times over the last few decades owing to the reservation policies (affirmative action programs) of the federal and state governments in post-Independence India that set aside jobs and seats in engineering and medical colleges for the lower castes.

Discussing the reversal of fortune for the Brahmins, the WSJ (subscription required) piece observes that:

[I]n today’s India, high-caste privileges are dwindling, and with the government giving extensive preferences to the lower-caste majority, many Brahmins are feeling left out of the economy’s rapid expansion.

Originally a priestly and scholarly caste, the changing political and social milieu in India has compelled the Brahmins to branch out into other arenas.

The WSJ writers note of the sorry plight of Brahmins:

The reverse discrimination is rooted in Indian history and politics. For decades, Brahmins were resented for their dominance of the government, economy and culture. Indeed, political parties in Tamil Nadu sprang from anti-Brahmin feelings. “If you see a Brahmin and a snake, kill the Brahmin first” was an old slogan.

A national constitution adopted in 1950 reserved more than 20% of government jobs for lower castes. In 1990, an additional 27% were set aside for what were called “other backward castes.” Some states set higher quotas, including Tamil Nadu, which reserves 69% of government jobs for lower castes and other needy groups.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that the reverse discrimination against Brahmins has induced some members of this community to migrate to the West or look for opportunities in the business world that was once the mainstay of the Vaishya caste.

The French evangelist and Christian bigot Abbe Dubois, who traveled widely in South India in the late 18th century and early 19th century, had this to say about the Brahmins in his lengthy work Hindu Manners, Customs and Ceremonies:

Naturally cunning, wily, double-tongued, and servile, they turn the most undesirable qualities to account by insinuating themselves everywhere; their main object, upon which they expend the greatest ingenuity, being to gain access to the courts of princes or other people of high rank.

Brahmins once dominated the elite Indian Civil Service and in post-independent India, the Indian Administrative Service but their numbers in the bureaucracy are now dwindling.

Some noted Indian Brahmins include the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, Bollywood film actress Hema Malini, world chess champion Viswanathan Anand, Tamil Nadu politician Jayaram Jayalalitha, Infosys co-founder N.R.Narayana Murthy, mathematician Ramanujan and physicists and Nobel laureates C.V.Raman and his nephew Subrahmanyam Chandrasekhar.

6 Responses to "Wall Street Journal Discovers Sorry Plight of Brahmins"

  1. ★TRΞY☆   November 17, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Only in India.. Crazy.. But are the IT firms exercising reservation? Was Parameswaran not able to beat out the Shudras there?

    Didn’t brahmins invent the caste system (I may be wrong).. now it is biting their poor descendants’ asses..

    Why does Parameswaran [the guy interviewed in the WSJ story] have to feel sorry only for the brahmin beggars? Isn’t that discriminatory..

    Now the desi butcher can join your list above!

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    We think reservations in India should be on a caste (SC/ST/most backward/Muslims) + Class (i.e. income) basis.

    We’ve seen SC/ST children of IAS officers using reservation privileges…which seems unfair to economically poor Brahmins.

    The WSJ article (at the very end under Corrections & Amplifications) mentions a relevant point:

    The percentage of Brahmin households in India that earned less than $100 a month was about 50% in 2007 and 65% in 2004, according to the Center for the Study of Developing Societies.

    At the current rate, the Brahmins in India will reach the level of SC/STs in a few decades.

    Does economic upliftment of one section in India mean that we should drag down another community into the ditch?

  2. ★TRΞY☆   November 17, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    We need a major revamp.. Should only be based on economic conditions.. Caste system is screwed up.. But with India’s population/corruption rate that would be impossible to implement.

  3. joeantony   November 18, 2008 at 1:11 am

    Few demographic reasoning should be understood here..

    Most of the poor Brahmins in India are at Uttar Pradhesh, where as in the south they are less, most of the South Indian Brahmins are educated and doing good (surprising – amidst of ‘anti Brahmin’ campaigns here).

    Periyar attacked the preachings of Brahmins which classified themselves as superior than other human beings, this was the start of anti-Brahmin feel here in TN. As we all know now anyone can get into hindu temples ONLY because of Periyar.

    Rajaji – should be added to your list. Rajaji had a conviction that the castes were made to share roles in society, if a ‘Sudra’ (the one born for doing labour and cleaning shit according to Brahmin preachings) comes to do a better job, who will be doing those things. This was counter-attacked by Periyar’s disciples with – ‘ in that case Rajaji has go to temple and tell slogans… Kshathriyaas only should be ruling’ ..

    These were important moments in history when people started supporting the ‘anti-Brahmin’ campaigns…

    The major target of Dravidian parties were the large pool of Brahmins occupying the top seats at Congress Party which was ruling for a long time, they used these tactics to bring down the dynasty of Congress after freedom…

    And it did work, so rest of India followed it. The hatred of Brahmins amoung other majority people was used for political purpose and that is the root of the reversal discrimination. I think its a kind of sadism of the people being exploited by the politicians…

    The problem with Brahmins is, most of their customs that are insulting (may not be the right word) other castes believed and followed as religious. For e.g. I have a Brahmin neighbour, whose servant should never enter by the main entrance of the apartment, they have a seperate entry by the backdoor for her … even in 2008 you can see this. But we cant blame Brahmins for this because its been a religious belief for them, its very hard for them to change.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Nice explanation.

  4. SRINIVAS   November 18, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Castesim is a like a Hierarchial chain with virtually everybody a victim and an aggressor …

    So called other upper castes in TN ..the OBC’s and also the Dalits are guilty of casteism ..in a much more violent (physical) way …what we see today in the form of caste violence is a fight between OBC’s and Dalits … Dalits themselves regard Tribals as inferior to them ….

    Periyar did not fight casteism per se …he was anti-Brahmin …and ensured that other upper castes and to some extent OBC’s got a share in power at the same time ensuring that Dalits stay marginalised ….

    All along his so called supporters were/are casteist to the core …they deny DAlits access to temples in many villages in TN .. at the same time accusing Brahmins ….

    Reformers were – Narayan Guru from Kerala , Subramania Bharati (tamil Poet), Kalki , etc. They opposed casteism per se.

    Rajaji was a Dewan with the Raja of Mysore … during which he ensured that DAlits were allowed entry in the Temple …

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    1. You write above: Castesim is a like a Hierarchial chain with virtually everybody a victim and an aggressor …

    Excellent point…One of the best comments ever posted on this blog.

    All the other points seem to have merit in them as well.

    2. You write: So called other upper castes in TN ..the OBC’s and also the Dalits are guilty of casteism ..in a much more violent (physical) way …what we see today in the form of caste violence is a fight between OBC’s and Dalits

    We think the above argument is valid for the Hindi heartland as well.

  5. joeantony   November 19, 2008 at 12:15 am

    S.I: We think the above argument is valid for the Hindi heartland as well

    There is a difference between today’s MNS anti-hindi+anti North Indians campaign and TN’s anti Hindi movements those days. Both parties believed their language is superior than Hindi(in fact it is true as well in many facts) and they can’t accept Hindi as their ruling language but the way TN protested it, was different, there was no agitation against North Indians of Hindi speaking people who live in TN, the protest was to make a stand as Hindi will never be a compulsory language to be learnt thats all, but anyone who is willing can learn, any one can teach also do it freely, I think TN’s stand on Hindi had a great reception among people and was a major factor in DMk’s victory on defeating the great Kamaraj.

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    Your points on the language are valid but both (Srinivas & us) were speaking about the caste violence not the language issue.

    But perhaps you are making a different point altogether.

    By the way, when we were growing up in Tamil Nadu we used to sometimes see Hindi name boards defaced with tar.

  6. shuaib68   November 22, 2008 at 1:28 am

    “SI:By the way, when we were growing up in Tamil Nadu we used to sometimes see Hindi name boards defaced with tar”

    This happened in Sri Lanka too. In 1956, the new government that rode to power with the slogan of Sinhalaization of the state, enacted a law, then, making the Sinhala as the official language within 24 hours. During that moment the victorious Sinhala politicans and backers of the Sinhala supremacy started a pogrom against the Tamils. There were riots everywhere in Colombo and most part of the southern part of SL. They started pouring hot Tar over innocent tamils and all the sign boards and anything that displayed tamil language was being vandalised and destroyed.

    On the other hand in the nothern part where the Tamils are in majority they did the opposite vandalising the sinhala language sign boards and stuff. My parents have related this story many times over as they have had seen all these things during that time.

    Now, the all of them are reaping what they sowed. Human beings are stupid when they try to push their man made race, caste or religion to supersede others’ manufactured ideas (or rather Bad models and products).

    SearchIndia.com Responds:

    You write above: Human beings are stupid

    Say that a million times. We agree 100%.

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