Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Where the mind is in chains

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it,” said one of Terry Pratchett’s characters in his witty fantasy novel, Diggers.   An open mind belongs to the seeker of truth.  Truth being as elusive and deceptive as happiness, it keeps the seeker going on and on endlessly.  Most people don’t like such endlessness.  People like to snuggle down in the cosy warmth of the status quo.   Religion is the most staunch supporter of the status quo.  And religion insists on putting things into open minds.  And shut them.

The cosy warmth of the status quo is what turns the BJP and its allies against Jawharlal Nehru University and Hyderabad Central University, says Kancha Illaiah in his article in the Indian Express.  Both JNU and HCU have produced numerous thinkers and scholars because their academic environment encouraged the liberal pursuit of truth. Banaras Hindu University, on the contrary, has failed to produce such thinkers and scholars, argues the author, because the very air of Banaras is bathed in status quoism.

The status quo that religions uphold goes against changes especially of social hierarchies.  Both JNU and HCU have a lot of Dalit students and an illustrious set of Dalit alumni while BHU cannot boast of having produced any famous Dalit scholar.  “The only known Dalit politician who studied there was Babu Jagjivan Ram,” says Illaiah. He goes on to say that Jagjivan Ram faced horrible caste discrimination at BHU “and later shifted to the University of Calcutta, where he finished his BSc.”

Caste discrimination is part of the Sangh Parivar ideology, says Illaiah.  Parivar people can never think of changing such deep rooted social hierarchies.  The Privar cannot tolerate changes.  It is only natural that intelligent Dalit students find Karl Marx and other such thinkers more attractive than Golwalkar and Savarkar because there is nothing in the latter that can stimulate the intellect which always seeks to transcend the status quo.  JNU and HCU encourage leftist thinking because they have academicians who are intelligent thinkers and scholars.

The thinking brain seldom rests on status quo.  BJP and its allies want status quo.  Dalits want to change the status quo, the existing social hierarchy which is obviously against their interests. 

I am paraphrasing Kancha Illaiah’s article here merely to draw attention to it.  I also agree with Illaiah to a large extent. 

Source: Here

Let me conclude this with a personal experience.  A few years ago, when I was in Delhi, I made a friend who went on evening walks with me every day for years.  One day he made a very uncharacteristic remark.  “You know, Mr Matheikal, I’m a Brahmin but I don’t mind befriending low caste people.”  I wondered why he made that remark because merely by virtue of not being a Hindu I had no caste.  It did not take me many days to find out the reason, however.  Someone had told him that all Christians were low caste converts (which is not true, in fact).  The irony came a month later.  The school where we worked sent out a form to be filled in where we, the staff, had to enter certain details including our caste status.  I ticked the “General” category.  But my eyes did not fail to notice my “Brahmin” friend’s tick mark: he belonged to the OBC [Other Backward Class] category!  I was amused by the profound irony.  Soon I learned how deeply entrenched the caste feelings are in the minds of the vast majority of people of India.  Hence I think Kancha Illaiah’s views need to be examined seriously.


  1. And I agree to your views on a large extent. Caste system need to be pelted and killed. I have not muh knowledge about the Sanghis rooting for the caste system and so am not in a position to comment on that. In kerala, I believe the influence of BJP is minimal and mperhaps that is why the extremism that exists in the North are rarely displayed down here. Also, I like to believe that, even though we are not saved from the clutches of caste system, the ineviatble need to discriminate to the extent of taking lives or pushing someone's life down the abyss are less common here. You must know, right? What is your opinion?

    1. The caste system is already eradicated from Kerala and that's perhaps why you don't understand it clearly. Outside Kerala it is a terrible menace. Even in Kerala's neighbouring states, there still are villages walled out by the higher castes. Kerala is a unique state in India as far as the religious equations are concerned. People like Vellapilly Natesan are trying to revert the modernity of Kerala back to the ancient ways! But such people won't succeed in Kerala. Having reached certain heights, Kerala won't descend too low, I hope.

      But Kerala runs a serious risk. Every religion in the state (Hindu, Christian, Muslim) is becoming increasingly fundamentalist. It's a very dangerous sign. Religion is one thing that can pull down anybody from any height.


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