How much does Britain owe India as reparations for its 190-year occupation of the country? – Minhaz Merchant

A group of 66 Namdhari Sikhs were blown up by canon by the British for protesting against cow slaughter in 1872.

Minhaz MerchantWhat Britain built in India with underpaid Indian labour and overtaxed Indian revenue was repatriated to pave the roads of London, finance British infrastructure and subsidise Britain’s imperial wars. India ended up paying for its own colonisation. All the benefits accrued to Britain. All the costs were borne by India. – Minhaz Merchant

How much does Britain owe India as reparations for its 190-year occupation and depredation of India?

Shashi Tharoor, the Congress MP from Thiruvananthapuram, in his book An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India, quoted American historian and philosopher Will Durant: “The British conquest of India was the invasion and destruction of a high civilisation, utterly without scruple or principle, careless of art and greedy of gain, overrunning with fire and sword a country temporarily disordered and helpless, bribing and murdering, annexing and stealing, and beginning that career of illegal and ‘legal’ plunder which now (1930) has gone on ruthlessly for one hundred and seventy-three years.”

Consider the damage Britain did to India. In Tharoor’s words: “Taxation (and theft labelled as taxation) became a favourite British form of exaction. India was treated as a cash cow; the revenues that flowed into London’s treasury were described by the Earl of Chatham as ‘the redemption of a nation … a kind of gift from heaven’. The British extracted from India approximately £18,000,000 each year between 1765 and 1815. Taxation—usually at a minimum of 50 per cent of income—was so onerous that two-thirds of the population ruled by the British in the late eighteenth century fled their lands. Durant writes that “(tax) defaulters were confined in cages, and exposed to the burning sun; fathers sold their children to meet the rising rates. Unpaid taxes meant being tortured to pay up, and the wretched victim’s land being confiscated by the British.”

While Tharoor’s well-researched book has deservedly received wide coverage in India and abroad, an excellent article on the subject by Venu Madhav Govindu in The Wire (August 6, 2015) has passed relatively unnoticed.

Govindu throws light on what Britain owed India from an accounting point of view. These are empirical, official figures. From here we can extrapolate Britain’s colonial debt to India, an exercise I first did in an article in The Illustrated Weekly of India in 1988: “The Debt and Dishonour of the British Empire”.

But first, Govindu’s arguments: “In 1931, the debt owed to Britain by India was said to be about Rs 1,000 crore. At that time, the Indian National Congress argued that much of this amount was incurred by Britain in furthering its own interests. Based largely on the work of the Gandhian economic philosopher, J. C. Kumarappa, the Congress argued that the principle of natural justice would wipe out all of this debt and more. Therefore, it held that the future debt to be borne by a free India had to be subjected to the scrutiny of an impartial tribunal. The British political leadership and press roundly denounced this rather moderate position and treated it as a treacherous “repudiation” of India’s obligations.

“By the end of the Second World War in 1945, Britain had to finally reckon with the problem of its debt to India and other countries. Britain agreed to pay a debt of Rs 1,600 crore but other calculations showed a rather different figure. In 1947, Kumarappa estimated that the Indian share of the costs of deployment of its soldiers was Rs 1,300 crore. A similar amount of Rs 1,200 crore was spent in expenses pertaining to the war. He argued that these and other costs ought to be borne by Britain, which led to a figure of Rs 5,700 crore which was many times larger than the British figure of Rs 1,600 crore. Britain, Kumarappa asserted, should not be allowed to be the debtor as well as the judge and the jury and he lobbied for India to demand an impartial international tribunal on the matter. In the event, India failed to push for such an international settlement and the British view prevailed much to the detriment of independent India.”

Let’s take the Rs 5,700 crore figure estimated by Kumarappa in 1947 as the starting point of what Britain owed India in purely commercial terms, not taking into account intangibles such as the economic cost of human life caused by British brutality or the egregious strangulation of Indian economic activity and trade.

In 1947, the exchange rate was Rs 13 to one British pound sterling. Thus Rs 5,700 crore in 1947 was equivalent to £4.40 billion. What would that be in today’s rupees/sterling?

The value of gold and real estate is an accurate indicator of how money appreciates over long periods of time spanning more than 70 years. In 1947, the price of 10 gms of gold was Rs 80. In 2017, the price of 10 gms of gold was Rs 31,000—an increase of nearly 400 times.

The rise in the price of a basket of real estate, commodities and household essentials over the past 70 years gives a similar cost-inflation index of between 400 and 500 times. (The inflation-adjustment in British prices between 1947 and 2017 is around 150 times. But since our calculations are in rupees and a depreciation of the rupee-sterling rate between 1947 and 2017 has been factored in, the multiplier of 400x holds.)

Now to the math: according to Govindu, Britain’s official debt to India in 1947 was Rs 5,700 crore (£4.40 billion) at the prevailing exchange rate of Rs 13 to one pound sterling. Multiply that by 400. At today’s inflation-adjusted and exchange rate-adjusted figure, the debt is therefore £1.76 trillion.

But this is just the tip of the reparations iceberg. We haven’t yet computed the cost of India’s near-zero rate of GDP growth during vast time swathes of the 190-year British occupation, nor the cost of lost economic value due to Britain’s wilful destruction of Indian mercantile trade.

If these are scientifically calculated, Britain’s debt to India at today’s prices would easily cross £3 trillion (Rs 270 lakh crore)—more than Britain’s current GDP.

Tharoor says reparations aren’t needed; an apology and a token payment of one pound sterling a year for 200 years will suffice. He is wrong. Reparations are needed. An apology and tokenism won’t suffice. Writes Tharoor in his book: “India should be content with a symbolic reparation of one pound a year, payable for 200 years to atone for 200 years of imperial rule. I felt that atonement was the point—a simple “sorry” would do as well—rather than cash. Indeed, the attempt by one Indian commentator, Minhaz Merchant, to compute what a fair sum of reparations would amount to, came up with a figure so astronomical—$3 trillion in today’s money—that no one could ever reasonably be expected to pay it. (The sum would be larger than Britain’s entire GDP in 2015.)”

Obviously £3 trillion (not $3 trillion as Tharoor writes) is a figure that needs to be ratified by an international arbitration panel of economists and technocrats. This mechanism had been demanded by the Congress, based on Kumarappa’s work, even before Independence. Let’s assume the final figure such a tribunal arrives at today as colonial reparations against Britain’s debt to India is £2.50 trillion.

A payment schedule can stretch over 50 years, interest-free at £50 billion (Rs 4,50,000 crore) a year. That’s less than 2 per cent of Britain’s current GDP (£2.6 trillion) and not much more than the amount Britain intends in future to spend every year on the National Health Service (NHS).

Can Britain afford to pay India reparations of 2 per cent of its GDP for the next 50 years?

That isn’t India’s problem. It’s Britain’s.

For nearly 200 years Britain plundered India, committed brutal crimes on Indian civilians and strangulated GDP growth. In the process, it financed its industrial revolution, its Napoleonic wars against France, and built the world’s largest economy in the 1800s. That led to the creation of Britain’s post-industrial leisure society and the soft power of music, sports and culture that accompanied it.

What about Britain’s contribution to India: the railways, unification, English, the ICS/IAS, universities, the rule of law?

Tharoor rightly sets each one in perspective. Consider, for lack of space, just one: the railways: “In this very conception and construction, the Indian Railways was a big British colonial scam. Each mile of Indian Railway construction in the 1850s and 1860s cost an average of £18,000, as against the dollar equivalent of £2,000 at the same time in the US.”

In short, what Britain built in India with underpaid Indian labour and overtaxed Indian revenue was ruthlessly repatriated to pave the roads of London, finance British infrastructure and subsidise Britain’s imperial wars. India in effect ended up paying for its own colonisation. All the benefits accrued to Britain. All the costs were borne by India.

Last week Virendra Sharma, a long-time British MP of Indian origin, tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) in the House of Commons seeking a formal apology from the British government for the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre. That is one of the tips of the reparations iceberg to which no price can be attached.

But to others it can. And Britain must pay. – Daily-O, 28 November 2017

» Minhaz Merchant is an author and journalist in Mumbai.

Victor Hope LinlithgowWinston Churchill Quote

Bengal famine orphans (1943)

Reference

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Video: How Britain replaced slavery with the coolie trade – Deep Sehgal

Newly arrived coolies in South Africa

This is a professionally-made must see video about a little discussed period of Indian history under the British Raj ⇓

Video: Shashi Tharoor on the British contribution to India – The Indian Express

Shashi TharoorContrary to popular opinion, the presence of British in India did more harm than good. The colonial empire incessantly looted and plundered one of the richest countries in the world for 200 years. – Shashi Tharoor

Author and politician Shashi Tharoor is known for his verbose tweets and quick-witted repartee. The former diplomat, who is currently serving as a full-time MP from Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram, is not known to mince words and this was proved yet again when he was asked if India has not benefited from the presence of British, especially while imbibing skills in the field of engineering, infrastructure and education.

Tharoor, who was attending the Melbourne Writers Festivals 2017 in Australia, did not hold back his words as he went on to ‘school’ the person asking the question and others in the crowd. He categorically explained how, contrary to popular opinion, the presence of British in India did more harm than good, and that the colonial empire incessantly looted and plundered one of the richest countries in the world for 200 years. He went to say that education was the last thing on the British colonialists’ minds and that they left India in ashes. This part comes after 44:55 in the video.

Shashi Tharoor’s earlier speech at the Oxford Union (2015) ⇓

East India Company dubashis and the birth of anti-Brahminism – Vedam Gopal

East India Company official with his dubashi

East India Company Coat of Arms (1698)The Tamilian tradition of giving generous accommodation has been fully exploited by the foreigners, by trapping the greedy local groups who literally sold their own motherland to unscrupulous traders. – Vedam Gopal

Not to repeat the bad deeds of our ancestors which we come to know through true history and repeat their good deeds only are the priority duty of our younger generation.  This only will determine the true fate of our country’s future.

It is highly unfortunate that untruth and lies-galore are the basis of such false history. Culture, social justice, right without duties as a contagious disease, secularism, industrial development etc., are the false fabric of such historical mockeries. Net results are our own low self-esteem, slavish mentality, mischief-mongering, creating confusion, dis-integrating our national fervour by splitting it are the mindset of to-day’s conditions. If we refuse to digest true history, the aforesaid negative attitude will be very difficult to erase and change.

The Madras Presidency comprises of Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra, Karnataka, Lakshadweep Islands, Orissa and part of Maharashtra.  East India Company of Britain, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Danish, Austrian business interest colonized the Indian shores between 16th to 18th centuries. Principally Portuguese in Goa, French people in Pondicherry, and Madras, Calcutta, Mumbai were controlled by the British. The autocratic rule of the Portuguese and British overlords by spear-leading religion, killing the innocents, loot of the treasures is the true face of such plunderers.

The tabulation below was presented in an article, “Indic Mercantile Collaboration with Abraham Invaders” (Bharata Bharati, 6th April 2017). In the article selfish groups of merchants who collaborated with foreigners are only given. No mention had been made about the dubashis who brokered between the foreigners and local merchants.

Collaborators

In the 16th century Tamilnadu was the leading state in business across the oceans. The foreigners who were well aware of such back-drop began to plunder the country like the modern-day NGO’s, corporate camouflaged as global business and software giants. For both the sorry state of affairs is the product of our meek submissions. We never read that the travails of history are the sorry state of affairs. A little room given to such foreigners turned into an over looking situation of which tactics they are adept.

The Tamilian tradition of giving enormous accommodation has been fully exploited by the foreigners, by trapping the greedy local groups who literally sold their own motherland to unscrupulous traders. Yes, such are the open secrets of our weak history. One such avatar is the contribution of the dubashis. The word dubashi is Hindi or Sanskrit or Persian is still a controversy. Some says the Chennai term dubakoor (born liar) is the forerunner of dubashi.  The people who in the beginning doing the translator job between foreign and local traders slowly began to turn into brokers. Cheap local procurement and undue profits from foreign elements were chief ways of expanding their assets. With their British and French fervour, their dressing and cultural habits followed suit. Also did they undertake the cooking, washing, shaving ordeals of the alien households and proved their servitude? There were even dubashi who attended the personal requirements of the governor’s female clan. Also these suited servants arranged for wine parties and visit there with full suit crossing the board kept written as “Dogs And Indians Are Not Allowed”. This base attitude has been truly delineated by Vaithi of  Thillana Mohanambal fame.

Apart from this, assisting in land distribution, maximising the revenue, creating artificial shortage of essentials and engaging in food grain distribution with greedy profits, colluding with governors themselves in looting the treasury and getting caught and punished legally are the shameless traits of such selfish groups. Many enjoyed the grandeur of bungalows with huge gardens and revelled like anything. Building mansions like colonial officials, purchasing estates, spending the ill-gotten wealth in temple building activities as a social cover up, turning into trustees of the temples in Chennai Rajadani with the governor’s connivance. Celebrating the kumbhabishekams, marching on horse, elephant and palanquin with melam, nadasuram and band vadiyam. To have grandiose name patronage of musicians and dancers, as also devouring the temple properties in devious ways. Running lending banks and giving loan even to foreign traders. Initially procuring plots in their native village and becoming mirasdar.  Extending the plots further in the surrounding villages and becoming jamindar. Their greed did not stop here and they extended their plots in more villages and becoming inamdar (no need to pay any tax and permitted to collect tax from the villagers). Sometime in the absence of governors took acting governor job and collected undue taxes from the local merchants and not paid into the treasury. Also dubashis served the Nawabs as well and cunningly created rift between the British and Nawabs with selfish advancements.    

An English circular describes the dubashi as follows: Much has been said about these monsters, but it is impossible to say too much until the whole race of them both with the English jargon and without it, are entirely eradicated. They will correspond with your enemies, they will plunder you of your property and after they have enriched themselves at your expenses, they will throw you into jail. All currency is in their hands, hoarded up and lost to the state.” (C. G. Heyne in his tracts.)

A few among such people were of a philanthropist nature with benevolent attitude.  

After the fall of Vijayanagar Empire, Tamilnadu turned into a chaotic land. There were Mogul invaders, the European traders with long-grabbing greed, conversions taking their toll, the palaiakarars misbehaving like clan chieftains and becomes local mutineer’s order of the day. Thalavai Arianada Mudaliar served efficiently for three generations of Vijayanagar Empire.   

“Chola times Brahmins administered the sabahs of villages as autonomous socio-political units. The pre-Vijayanagar polity of the Tamils was permissive of such autonomy while the imperialist policy of all the governments from Vijayanagar downwards spelt the ruin of these semi-autonomous villages.”

Arianada Mudaliar created 72 pallayams after dissolving the grama sabah which was controlled by the Brahmins. Some of his own community people were appointed as palaiakarars. Because of utter disunity of these palaiakarars, Kattabomman was complicitly handed over to the British by Ettappan and Vijaya Raghunatha Thondaiman. Ramalinga Mudaliar – Dubashi – Major Banerman. This man only showed the secret passage of the Panchlankurichi Fort enabling the British to completely demolish it to the ground level. The internal clash of the Pandian kings, one brother went to north and approached Maalikhafur’s help. This paved the way for interference of Moguls’ in Tamilnadu’s ruling clan.  

One Maruda Nayagam Pillai converted to Islam alias Yusuf Khan was an ordinary sepoy who by his clever and powerful maneuvers was in the good books of the palaiakarars, Moguls and English alike to such an extent. Thus became the ruler of Madurai. But was discretely handed over to the British by the Moguls and was finally hanged to death. Like Tipu Sultan, Yusuf Khan is also hailed as a patriot (freedom fighter) who fought against the British. His life history was to be portrayed by our Kamal Hasan through silver screen and is yet to see the light of the day.

The invasion and colonization of the British was mainly in Madras, to-day’s Chennai sea front. The land was called Armagon probably called so because it was acquired from one Arumuga Mudaliar. Here they built a small fort. It can well be called a battery of godowns (Clive Battery).  It was also called Durgarayapattinam. What I presume is to-day Armenian street was Armagon and to-days Royapuram might be Durgarayapattinam.

Thaniappa Mudaliar, otherwise known as Lazurus Trimorthy, of the Agambadi Mudali (Vellala) caste who was a founder (?) of the French East India Company in Pondicherry, died on the twenty-first day of Chittrai (month) of Promodhuta (year) corresponding to the current year 1691 A.D. He lies interned in St. Andrew’s Church, Chennapatnam (Madras).

He was converted as Christian in Mylapore, thereafter was called Lazurus Motha, Francois Martin was the priest who recommended, thereby he went to Pondicherry. He was the enabler for the French settlers in the year 1673-74. He served there for 40 years and died at Madras. An epitaph has been written about him by Francois Martin. The descendent of Thaniappa Mudaliar also were dubashis for the French. His son Muthappa alias Antonio was helpful in bringing the Indian weavers to Pondicherry.  His son Kanakaraya Mudaliar (alias Peary) was helpful in mint facility. He was instrumental in acquiring and acceding Karaikal to French. Whether the Lazurus Church at Luz was built in memory of (Lazurus Trimorthy) is not yet corroborated.

The situation obtaining at Tamilnadu at that time: “The important cultivating class was Tamil Vellalars. They are not only important part of rural population but also they were employed in government service, particularly the village revenue collectors (karnams) and in trade and commerce. Districts like Tanjavur and Trinellvellai Vellalas were very orthodox in religious practice, some time even more than a Brahmin. The Vellalas were for the most part concentrated in the inland areas west of the city of Madras, particularly the districts of Coimbatore, Salem and North Arcot. They were also large numbers in south in Trinellvelli district. One description of the Vellalas position in Coimbatore characterized them as ‘truly the backbone of the district’ It is these who by their industry and frugality create and develop wealth, support the administration, and find the money for imperial and district demands.

“As their own proverb says ‘The Vellalar’s goad is the ruler’s scepter” Because the Vellalas were so widely diffused throughout Tamil area, they could not protect themselves against several of sub groups (jatis) who called themselves Vellalas but whose origin was among groups considerably inferior to the Vellalas in social position. Accounts of the emergence of Vellalas as important landholders in Madurai and other districts indicate that they achieved this position only under British rule, usually by ousting their Telugu counterparts the Kapu or Reddi cultivators, who had previously migrated into the area. At the start of the 20th century, the great landholding cast group in Madras was the Vellalas in the Tamil area.  (Politics and Social Conflict in South India by Eugene F. Irschick.)

Largest group of dubashis serving during 1650 to 1850 were the Mudaliars and Pillaimars is a historical fact. Later certain Telugu Brahmins and Komatti Chettiyars were also serving as dubashis.  The Vellalars were keenly inclined to be in the good books of the British and Christian lords, thereby getting enough influence and favors that were their sole aim. Several of them converted into Christianity. The bust of a converted Vellala Coho is still there in Pondicherry church complex. First time one Arumuga Navalar a Vellala of Sri Lanka wrote the Bible in Tamil. The Madras University and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam was nicknamed the Mudaliar Munnetra Kazhagam. Here for a period of 27 years Dr. Lakshmanaswamy Mudaliar was the vice-chancellor.  In the guise of literature and historical research Vellallas collaborating with Christian contaminating authenticated facts and written text books and propagating bogus information as facts. Their sole aim was to divide the Hindu religion, turn Tamil people mood against nationality, to separate the Brahmins against Tamilians, etc.   

Typical examples of some people who have contributed for adulterated history, culture and literature are Devaneya Paavaner, Aappa Duraiyar, and Deivanayakam Pillai (all converted Christian). This man Deivanayakam Pillai said in one of his research paper that saint Thiruvalluvar was a disciple of apostle Thomas and these Dravidian idiot’s are keeping mum. Others in the list are Manonmaniam Sundaranar, Venkata Challapathy, Kanakasabai Pillai, Aravanan, Marai Malai Adikal, Bharathidasan, Kundrakudi Adikalar — the list goes endlessly. This Vellalar muting is not only in Tamilnadu, the same muting in Sri Lanka is the root cause of countless number of innocent Tamils killed in the undeclared civil war recently. The main reason is changing faith and colluding with Christians.   

Why at all they served as dubashis? 1) Trading benefits; 2) The short route of brokering without investment; 3) The socially backward class were keen in getting converted and serve the British (slave mentality); 4) Joining the military of the foreign forces; 5) In the village administration cornering the karnam and other positions. The Tamil Brahmins never engaged such devious tactics. But later on, even the Brahmin joined the bandwagon and overtook the caste Hindus. But the race was won by the tortoise as the saying goes.  At that period, the group that was close to the British Madras Presidency was Ananda Rangam Pillai, Sunku Rama Chetty, Muthu Krishna Mudaliar, Narayana Pillai etc., of which Brahmins did not partake.   

1841 was the year the high school (Macaulay’s education) system was started. 1853 was the year of the first college. 1857 was the year of the first university reforms and regulations. 1857 to 2017 for 160 years, if three generation were involved, in the first generation the Brahmins were the lead group of literate in the city. They never interrupted anybody from learning. Legally they stood for social upliftment. The second generation saw the Brahmins were lagging behind. Reason being the Justice Party, Pachaiappa’s College, Christian College and Madras University were the fortress of the Mudaliars and a few caste Hindus. Their contribution just ruined the Tamil language, for two generations were doctored  about Tani Tamil, Tamizhan religion and Hindu religion are different, Dravida Nadu are the alibis for twisting the literary, cultural and historical facts. Anti-Brahmanism was the main aim fueling the hate and untouchability clashes, ruining the Tamil fabric is their only contribution. After Independence in the name of reservation, they have isolated the Brahmins from pillar to post and who are at the threshold of Tasmac.  In the capital city of Delhi one Brahmin Trust SULAB is operating public toilets and poor Brahmins are working there as scavengers, in the railway stations Brahmins are doing coolies job, a few Brahmin ladies driving auto rickshaw in Chennai and in the interior Tamilnadu one Brahmin girl took the job of burial in the cemetery. Now I hope that anti-Brahmin caste Hindus hearts may be cooled with joy.     

Only after the British expanded their trading activities, colonizing many areas and turned into ruling class, the Indian Civil Service enrolled the Brahmins as clerks, accountant, lawyers, advocates and judges etc., and not as dubashi.

Brahmins role as Dubash and their influence seems to have been disproportionate to their actual number in the company services. Mostly Telugu and Marati Brahmins who have former trading tie with Europeans and some had family ties with earlier Muslim rulers. Most of the Dubash are Tamil Vellalars, Pillai, Yadava and Chetty. Initially Tamil Brahmins are reluctant to have personal service with Europeans, instead accepted some bureaucratic or scholarly positions with the company.”

At that time backward caste and Brahmins were poor. The high caste Hindus were rich land lords, temple trustees, owners of many tenants in the city. They were not ready to take up the government jobs. The poor Brahmin took the lead. They were not jealous about the prosperous caste Hindus and never blamed them at all. This situation prevailed for a short span of time and the Britishers were also aware it. Also the Britishers were afraid of the high numbers of Brahmin involvement in the freedom fight. Hence they started issuing circulars to put hurdles in their advancement. Also they sowed the seeds of Arya/Dravida ethnic clashes.   

“During 1853, the British found the virtual monopoly of a single caste in public service. The revenue establishment in Nellore district was controlled by 49 Brahmins and all from the same family. Collectors should be careful to see that the subordinate appointments in their districts are not monopolized by members of a few influential families. Endeavour should always be made to divide the principal appointments in each district among several caste. (Proceedings of the Board of Revenue 9.3.1854. Similar type of notification was issued during the years 1857, 1907).

Lamentation of Sri Lankan Tamil (Pulambal): “During British rule the Jaffna Vellalas were favored by the British and the Vellalas became doctors, engineers, lawyers. Judges and civil servants throughout Ceylon. There was near total domination by the Vellalars in education and employment throughout Sri Lanka. Even in Sinhala areas the Vellalas dominated. The Sinhalese became angry and jealous but since they did not know the difference between Vellalas and non-Vellalas, they turned their ire on the entire Tamil community. The hapless non-Vellalas had incurred the wrath of the Sinhalese and had to suffer because of the misdeeds of the Vellalas. As a consequence of this the civil war erupted. So it is the Vellalas who are responsible for the plight of the Tamils.”

First of all this Mudali, Pillai and Vellala are not caste.  Mudali means: first rank in everything. During the Vijayanagar rule the king gave this Mudali title to army general Ariyanadan. Similarly Pillai title also given to certain people related to king’s families, some say it came from Kanaku Pillai (village clerk), in the web search lot of abuse information’s are available and the title’s origin not yet established. Likewise the word Vellala is derailed from the word vellanmai. During Sangam period vellanmai means: hosting and serving the guest. Thus the word vellanmai become Vellala caste of landlords and farmers. Like this it is very difficult to find out the base root of certain Tamil caste. There is a fight still going on in Tamilnadu to claim the ruling class status from almost all the communities except Brahmin. If we type Mudaliar Archives in Wiki, you will find one discussion panel comprising all the sub caste of Vellalas fighting each other with lot of evidence to establish who is ruling class, who is devadasi class, etc., and it runs countless number of pages.     

Puthiya Tamizhaham leader Mr. Krishnaswamy says in Vellalar group there are 153 sub castes and he suggests and recommends all sub caste groups to add Vellalar, Mudaliar title along with their group name at the end. He gives us examples also. Thuluva Vellalar to add Mudaliar in the bracket, Sengunther to add Mudaliar in the bracket, Senai Thalaiver to add Mudaliar in the bracket.  Likewise Pillaimar to add Vellalar in the bracket, Sozheya Vellalar to add Vellalar in the bracket, Karkatha Vellalar to add Vellalar in the bracket, Kodikal Vellalar to add Vellalar in the bracket. 

For a long duration in Tamil History the Vellalars were very close and had cordial relationship with Brahmins and treated them with respect. The same treatment was given to Brahmins by other Tamil caste people also. During the start of Vijayanagar Empire the rift between Brahmins and Vellalas started. Vellalas included Nayakers (Vanniyars) in the army and along with Vadugars they started distancing from Brahmins which took wild shape during British time and gave birth to separate Dravida Nadu excluding Brahmin. This Vellalas, Vadugars, Vaniyar combination strength in Tamilnadu is more than +15%. And minorities support them always. Without the mindset change of these Dravidian Donk…s, it is very difficult to bring the Tamil masses into the national stream. To know more about Vellalars twisting of history, culture and literature please visit website of South Indian Social History Research Institute by authors Mr. S. Ramachandran and Mr. Pravaahan. Here lot of articles with literary evidences denying the twisted theories of Vellalars and other Dravidian supporters, tearing them into gossip pieces.                                               

List of Dubashis

List of dubashis on record, their heirs and relations who for the last three generations were eking out a living and available names are as follows:

  1. Ananda Rangan Pillai – Dubashi & Trader – French Governor Joseph Francois Duplex – Pondicherry – 1726 – his diary is a worthwhile and important historical document – Thiruvenkadam Pillai’s son – his close associate was Naina Pillai – he was punished for colluding with Governor and lost his life in jail – a relative of this person is – Kuruva Pillai – in a  similar accusation of conceit with Governor – escaped and sought refuge in France and converted to Christianity – Bharathi and many other poets have eloquent praise about Ananda Rangan Pillai.
  2. Petro Kanakaraya Mudaliar – Broker & Dubashi – French East India Co. – for 24 years (1722 to 1746) – converted to Christianity – his bust is installed in Pondy St. Andrews Church – he was the builder of the church also – he has arranged common community feast many times – his coffin was imported from France and carried him in his last procession – the mansion built by him is now maintained by ASI – father Danappa Mudaliar – first dubashi of French – Christian convert – translated Thirukural in French
  3. Vallal Pachiappa Mudaliar – Dubashi & Trader – Philanthropies  – between the ages of 16 to 21 amassed huge fortunes in his profession – Henry Pony, Thomas Pony were Mayor Brothers for whom he had worked – first Indian to write a WILL for his property/wealth – he had two wives from different castes – his property was locked for 40 years in legal battle – then a trust was created for a value of approximately Rs. 4500 cores – so say Wiki: “As the 1990s dawned, it was reported that the Trust was worth over 4,500 cores, one of the biggest in that part of the world. Apart from administering religious charities from Kanyakumari to Varanasi, it ran six colleges, a polytechnic and 16 schools in Tamil Nadu, helped several medical facilities and owned several properties in the State.” Without any Christian influence started first Hindu college (Pachaiappa’s). ¶ Ramanuja Kavirayar has written a Panchatchara Maala about him – A simple man in life, he bathed in Cooum River and worshipped Komaleeswarar routinely – Kanchipuram Ekambareswarar Temple received enormous funds from him; his form etched in a pillar can be viewed even to-day – he was also trustee of several temples – a facsimile stamp was released by Indian Postal Department – donated Rs. 4.5 lacs for Hindu religious entities – Rs. 7.5 lakhs for Hindu student English education – every day free food distribution to poor people and Brahmins was one of his routine charity at Komaleeswarar Temple – he built choultry and agraharams – gave donation for the renovation of Chidambaram Temple – he helped Brahmins to visit religious places like Kasi, Rameswaram – in his WILL he mentioned about 30 charitable houses built by him – his friends Iyaa Pillai and Muniya Pillai were also dubashis – one of his student Narayana Pillai was the dubashi for Mayors Henry Bouni and Thomas Bouni.
  4. Avadanam Pappaia – Telugu Brahmin with knowledge of Persian and French – 1789 – worked under John Holland and Edward Holland the Governor’s brothers – his collusion with the Governor was exposed – lost his position along with Governor – a street in Choolai is named after him as “Pappa Theru” – Scotland’s one Walter wrote about his misdemeanors in a novel called The Surgeon’s Daughter – has worked for Thomas Parry as well – was in a good terms with Arcot Nawabs – the case went on but no record of punishment is there.
  5. For over 66 years a Telugu Brahmin Rayasum Pappaia, his brother and his son Vayasum Venkatachalam were chief dubashis of the St. George Fort.
  6.  Likewise Nal Vellala Manali Muthukrishna Mudaliar’s family were the dubashis from mid 1700 to the beginning of 1800 – he was assistant to Governor Picot – his son Venkatakrishna Mudali also continued to serve as dubash – the Britishers demolished a temple in the present high court complex – thereafter he brokered with British and earned a lot from it – then he bought a land and invested money and then built the Chennakesava Perumal Temple in Flower Bazar – also the Mallekeswarar Temple in nearby area. ¶ In 1785 Manali Muthukrishanan invited carnatic singer Ramaswamy Dikshadar to Madras – he patronized the family as well – his sons were Muthuswamy, Chinnaswamy & Baluswamy – of the three Muthuswamy Dikshadar later became famous as one of the three carnatic musical stalwarts – Muthuswamy Dikshadar has written 40 Sanskrit kirtans – because of his influence with British rulers, Venkatakrishna Mudaliar used to take Dikshadar along with him to the Fort – after watching the band performance the Dikshadar brought out the idea of including violin in Carnatic music – Muthuswamy Dikshadar beginning to observe keenly the violin music format – only thereafter he wrote the 40 Sanskrit kirtans – these Sanskrit kirtan are till date called the English Notes – Muthukrishan Mudaliar died in 1792 – however his son Venkatakrishnan continued the support to Dikshadar family and rendered all help.
  7. Raja – Sir – Chevalier – Rao Bahadur – S. Ramaswamy Mudaliar – Dubashi – Dymes & Co – amassed wealth within a short span of time – but his father was a building contractor gave yellow notice on insolvency and died – Ramaswamy Mudaliar was a member of Indian National Congress – went to England – he served as the 158th Madras Sheriff – he was also member of the facilitation committee of the 50th anniversary of King Edward (7) & Queen Alexandria – but he did not go to London – he established a choultry near Chennai Central – built health centers at Royapuram and Thirukazhukundram – built a children’s hospital at Cuddalore.
  8. Kovur Sundresa Mudalior – Dubashi – East India Co. – his mansion-house is in Black Town – he was an ardent lover of Thiga Iyer kirtanas – he invited him to his house – there he wrote 5 kirtanas – the starting stanza of Kovur Sundaresa song is very famous – this is the name of Lord Siva of Kovur – but still some controversy lies about whom for this song was sung.        
  9. Kumarappa Mudaliar – Dubashi – Governor Thomas Sanderson (1749).
  10. Poondamaali Thuluva Vellala – Dubashi Family – Subu Devanyaka Mudaliar was the trustee of Chennai Nunkambakkam Agasthiar Temple – a big framed portrait work of him is still in the temple hall – his grandfather has served as dubash under Iyarcoat an army officer (1720).
  11. Ramalinga Mudaliar – Dubashi – Major Bannerman – the one who sent Kattabomman to the gallows.
  12. Vandalur Venkatanarayana Pillai – Dubashi – Charles Bouchier (1767) and also George Strattaon (1776).
  13. Thuluva Vellala Kesava Mudaliar – Dubashi – Temple Trustee – 1700.
  14. Elam Babu Vellala – Dubash Family – acquired many villages and formed estate
  15. Thottikalai Kesava Mudaliar family – Dubashi & Jamindars
  16. Vayalur Kulantee Veera Perumal Pillai – Dubashi – Governors – Thomas Rumbolt (1778) – Lord George Macartny (1781) – Sir Archibold Cambel (1786) – in his WILL of 1793 has written about the Sri Hari Kota estate and Indamdar lands.
  17. Ponna Pillai – Dubashi – 1804 – lost his family in fire accident in cotton stock-up godown.
  18. Nota Vayal Narayana Pillai – Dubashi – Madras Council – Governor Charles Bouchier – also for some more time under George Powney (1750) – he was also called Powney Narayana Pillai.
  19. Venkatrangan Pillai – Dubashi – George Powney – was accused of corrupt practices – a grain godown at Black Town – a Garden House at Thondaiyarpet – a series of tenements at Muthaialpet & Triplicane.
  20. One Thuluva Vellala family man of Ponneri Taluq Mootia Mudaliar (probably Muthaiah Mudaliar) – he has served as dubashi in East India Company’s military secretariat for 40 years – his sons were also served as such for some more time – in the beginning of the 18th century one of his son was awarded the title of “Principal Native Manager & Record Keeper”.
  21. Vandalur Venkatachalam Pillai – Dubashi – (1687) – Governor Elhi Yale – his son dubashi – (1740) – Governor Morse – two of his uncles were dubashis at the time of Warren Hastings – Venkatachalam Pillai was also in the good terms with Nawab Mohamed Ali – there is a written family biography of their servitude.
  22. The first dubashi of Binny & Co. was Challappa Vekatachala Mudaliar.
  23. Paappa Pillai – Dubashi – Madam Duplex – French East India Co. – Kuruva Pillai – French Dubashi – Alakanada Pillai – First dubashi of East India Co. – has donated profusely to Mallikeswarar & Ekambareshwarar Temples.
  24. Some other dubashis are – Sunka Rama Cheey, Kalavai Chetty, Kalastri Chetty & Thibu Chetty.
  25. Beri Dimmappa – Dubashi – Governors – Francis Day – Andre Gogan – he has donated to Chenna Kesava Perumal Temple and Mallikeswarar Temple – his son Beri Venkatadri built the Guindy Lodge i.e. the present Raj Bhavan.
  26. Chinna Tambi Mudaliar – Dubashi & Trader – Madras Port – his three wives had each two children – all were dubashi & jamindar.
  27. Kupuswamy Mudaliar & Sons (1840 – 1911) – Dubashi & Traders.
  28. Devan Bahadur V.Shanmuga Mudaliar (1874) – Dubashi & Trader. 
  29. Muthu Mudaliar (1790) – Dubashi – Nawab Umarathullah.
  30. Chidambaram Ramaswamy Mudaliar -Purasawakkam – Dubashi & Liquor Trader – London Gazatte.
  31. Divan Bhadur C.Natesa Mudaliar – Doctor – served as dubashi at Gorden Woodroffe Co. for some time – fore runner of the Dravidian Movement.
  32. P. T. Lee Chengalvaraya Naicker – Sabedar Major in British Army – conferred the title of “Lee” – Dubashi – Chand & Co. – there are many schools and trusts in his name.
  33. Vempakkam Krishna Iyer (his nickname is Kabal Krishnan) – Dubashi – Grain Merchant – in 1820 engaged in salt business near Masulipatinam – his son Vempakkam Raghavachari (1834) – got high post in police as deputy superintendent. 
  34. Even C. N. Annadurai first joined as dubashi to support EVR – more details about the various dubashis is not readily available. If we get it it will be a very long list

Mudali Street Names in Chennai

Appu Mudali Street, Adanjan Mudali Street, Solaiappa Mudali Street, Sadiappa Mudali Street, Naattu Subbaraya Mudali Street (all in Mylapore). C. S. Mudali Street, Ayalur Muthaiah Mudali Street (Ch-79), Pachaiappa Mudali Street, Manar Mudali Street, Devaraja Mudali Street (Ch-1), Gangadara Mudali Street (Ambattur), Lakshmana Mudali Street, General Muthaiah Mudali Street, Mannarappa Mudali Street, Veeraragha Mudali Street, Damodara Mudali Street, Daanappa Mudali Street, Narayana Mudali Street (Ch-1), Ponnaappa Mudali Street, Bemasena Mudali Street, Vadivelu Mudali Street (Ambattur), Thoppai Mudali Street, Iya Mudali Street(Ch-1), Thambi Mudali Street (Ch-1), Perumal Mudali Street (Ch-2),  Ganapathy Mudali Street (Ambattur), Vinayaka Mudali Street, Strontton Muthaiah Mudali Street, Periannan Mudali Street (Seven Wells), Thaniappa Mudali Street (Parrys), Anantavelu Mudali Street (Perampur), Prakasham Mudali Street (Ch-17), Kandapa Mudali Street (Sowcarpet), V. S. Mudali Street (Saidapet), Kuppu Muthu Mudali Street (Triplicane), Mallan Ponnappa Mudali Street (Triplicane), Krishappa Mudali Street (Triplicane), Balakrishna Mudali Street (Mambalam), Talakulam Mudali East Street (Anna Nagar), Venkatachala Mudali Street (Mint), Babu Mudali Street, Elaia Mudali Street (Jafarkhanpet), Thulasinga Mudali Street (Perambur).

Thus among the street names in Chennai, I guess, there may be more than 25% named after Mudaliars. Why such caste names have been removed intently is bright and clear. Even English people’s street names have also being gradually changed. Other than Mudali street names, other caste people’s name also popular in Chennai streets. But rarely can you see more than one house owned by other castes notable figure name in such streets and yet they were called after them. A majority of Mudaliars were small traders yet they owned at least 5 to 10 houses in each street.  Their rental income was their main source of livelihood. How did they acquire such large number of houses? These were the groups started first constructing small hall in the front portion of their houses and renting it for petty shops in the residential area. Wearing dark bordered dhotis and moving about holding murasoli and viduttalai papers are symbols of their pedantry lifestyle.

Dravidianism and Anti-Brahmanism

From Sangam Age up to Vijayanagar Kingdom was establishment, there was no big caste rivalries, cultural clashes in Tamilnadu. Kalappirar’s suppression was possible only because of caste and cultural unity is an open truth seen by everyone. Nayanmars and Alwars constituted from all castes shows their literary prowess.  Among Nayanmars, 13 were Vellalars. Ramayana fame Kambar, Peria Puranam fame Sekkizhar and Ottakuthar were Vellalars. All the aforesaid dubashi should have been adequately literate to do as such popular jobs. The caste Hindus who fought along with Brahmins in the Independence Movement were they not literate?

Even Adi Shankara, the supreme realization propagator of Brahma Jnana who as confronted and asked a Puliya to clear his way, when he put out the question of asking him “to move aside with his body or soul”, was instantly enlightened and sang the Maneesha Pancha Ratna. Appothi Adigal was Brahmin, Thirunavukarasar was a Vellala. Even without seeing him he named his name for the following, cow and calf, utensils for cooking, annadanam service, and water pandals. Paada Puja without physically seen him when he visited his abode, his son went out to pluck plantain leaves for his feast and bitten by a snake, hiding the incident he served the food. All this reveal not an iota of caste or cultural differences. Likewise Ramanuja is a Brahmin and Thirukacha Nambi is a Vellala, did he not cleanse his feet and show his devotion. Brahmin Madura Kavi Alwar’s de facto guru was Vellala Nammalvar. Thirugnana Sambandar always kept along with him Thiruneelakanda Yazhpanar to accompanying him with Yazh music in spite of the latter being from untouchable caste. U. Ve. Sa. is a Brahmin, did he not devoutly study Tamil under Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai. And we can add many such queer combinations.

East India Co. was wound up and the official British Rule was functioning from 1858 only. Even prior to this, land ceiling, stoppage of money flow from the treasury, withdrawal of post and titles (Sir, Rao, Bahadur, Diwan, Jamindar, Mirasdar, Inamdar, Lee, Bethro and Chevalier). All who ruled the roost were affected enormously. Also these Dravidian hawks were as devout as Brahmins, wearing cross threads, tilaks, rudrakshas and panchakacha etc., but dramatically changed wearing trim black coat, wearing the foul-smelling jaree turban and angavastram to please the Britishers. Later Brahmins were also copying the same fashion is true. Brahmin’s who quickly mastered English were the much sought after.

After seizure of several government jobs, political influence and governing prowess got a beating. Freedom movement of the congress was widely supported by Brahmin strength and their resounding influence only created jealous cleaving of other Hindus. This was their greatest disappointment. Until yesterday, the Brahmins who eked out a living by seeking alums by writing poems about land lord’s hospitality and philanthropic acts (Bharati also wrote like this on several occasions due to his poor condition, half-heartedly), Brahmins clad the VIP with parivattam  and poornakumbham whenever they visit temple to felicitate. Now because of their English education sitting in all higher post of government as advocates, judges, and dictating terms to others’ lives. This ended up with unlimited jealousy and unscrupulous twisted tongues began to fuel the anti-Brahmin temper. (The learned caste Hindus abuses are given in later paragraphs below). They shamelessly began to wag their tails around the English lordship. The people who served under these upper caste Hindus also followed their master’s footprints pitiably.        

The Brahmins, the most wanted one for powerful governing services. As soon as he took the freedom flag in his hand, the British totally shaken and began to pull down his meritorious services by cunningly ruining his friendship circle, adopted the divide and rule weapon of Brahmin and non-Brahmin, Arya and Dravida dramatics. Also in the census before 1871 Britishers mentioned Vellalars as Chur Shudra and sowed the seeds of hatred, i.e. the tactics of British. Apart from this out of 30 core of India’s population, British brought 7 cores of people under the Criminal Tribes Act. In the 1911 population census they branded 1) Hindus, 2) Spirit Worshippers & Adivasis, 3) Outcastes (Untouchables). Yes? This was the portrayal of our country. First time the word “untouchable” was coined by the British administration in the census record. (Even from Purana period this type of separatism was there but all the time lot of Hindu monks and social leaders attempted to minimize the difference and to some extent they were successful also). To accuse the Brahmins of all such absurdity is clearly unreasonable.

The Brahmins sure did have an inherent class unity, to up-lift the poor and suffering lot the men in power did help adequately.  This was evident not only during their predominant period even when Mr. Baktavatsalam ruled started filling large government postings with Vellalars. Even Periyar was anti-Brahmin, anti-Mudaliar, and anti-Malyalee, and anti-minority stirs were frequently conducted.

The class/clan affinity of Brahmins was for superior to die-caste hatred stance of some Hindu caste mongers.  That is why even this day the Dalits are suppressed. Brahmins lived on isolation whereas some caste Hindus totally kept them away. The aforesaid two attitudes are basically and substantially different. With such isolation only can the Brahmins continue his ordained religious duties? As relationship and societal influence will alter one’s basic qualities, this he has always duty bound to insulate himself.   

“In Tamil Nadu the Brahmins represented in 1891 only 3% of the population and were concentrated in the Kaveri delta. Correlatively, Tamil society was more fragmented and fluid. If the Vellalas – a caste of Shudra cultivators claiming the statute of Kshatriya – represented 12.42% of the population, no caste, even not this one, extended its domination over more than one district. In fact, in most districts the Vellalas shared the dominance with warrior castes, migrated from Andhra Pradesh between the 15th and the 18th century and with castes of craftsmen and merchants.”

Vellalars should be called “vaishyas“, this was suggested in Varuna Chindamani, a literary piece published by Kanaka Sabai Pillai. For this Bharathiar wrote a poem as a preface or forward. He deeply supported such a stance of Vellalars. Professor Manonmaniam Sundaram Pillai also stubbornly opposed the word “shudra”. The fragrant flower of the Dravidians is the Vellalars, he declared. Shankarachariyar called the Vellalars as shudra was a common accusation. That was why Brahmin’s also openly call them as such, that was another charge. Sekkizhar, the Vellala author of Periyapuranam, calls himself proudly as “Sar Shudra” caste. The rise and influence of Buddhism, Jainism and the long foreign domination of the soil was the backdrop of such discriminating practices of varnasrama which went out of sight of our culture several centuries ago. To rekindle such abhorrent practices with ulterior motives of dividing the peace of the society atmosphere is absurd. Whether a Brahmin or a Vellala, who ever does it is totally unjustified. The greatest folly and mockery of the situation is the Vellala, who accused the Brahmin for varnasrama system, sought the status of vaishya in that abhorrent varna steps.  To-day no one calls anyone as shudra.  Brahmins calls others as non-Brahmins. Even after the disappearance of these shudra castigations, parpan, parayan and parpana budhi, para budhi which are still alive and who are responsible for such mean stances. Where did the other caste mongers budhi run and hide?  

In 1917, Pitty Thiagaraja Chetty, in the Justice Party first conference said that “Brahmins who without following their ordained tradition of religious practices, were well learned in English and thereby usurped governing jobs, advocates and judges positions and mastering the art of inquiry and dictating terms for others was his basic grudge. They should revert back to their traditions of Veda adhyayana under a banyan tree or riverfront, performing homams & offering ahudis, receive and give alms, continue their spiritual inquiry and then would the other communities slowly learn the administration techniques in phased manner and come up in life.  If not the Brahmins are the real stumbling block in the latter’s advancement and livelihood.”

Apart from this, Vellalar Vedachalam alias Maraimalai Adigalar, once in a Nellore public speech (1923, March 22) openly stated that Brahmins influence in this area is alarming. “Oh when will the Brahmins go out of sight from India without a trace of their foot prints?”         

In 1917, Ra. Pi. Sethu Pillai repeated “Ozhukkam udaimai kudimai izhukkam  izhinda pirappay vidum”, and while explaining the meaning of this kural he poured venomous condemnation of Brahmins. At present day our people own earned money are not spent for the education of their children instead, spending the money for the welfare of vadiar parpan foolishly without any thought process. Caste, kula divisions and difference are the creation of Brahmins is a great drawback to our country’s advancement, these one and all should perceive. Can anyone continue to feed venomous snakes or dare to cure a tiger from diseases? Is there anyone like that in the world? Did anyone give weapons to the enemy whose sole aim is to kill us? The sermons go like this!

Such were the venomous outpouring of even the well-educated and elite groups who took staunch anti-Brahmin hegemony. Yes literates, prominent poet and adinamada heads were also included in the hate campaign.

In Vellala caste plenty of gems of people contributed to Tamil literature, culture and religion. Starting from Kamban, Ottakoothar, Sekkizhar, Va. U. Se, Thillaiadi Valliammai, Shanbhaharaman, 13 Nayanmars and the list goes endlessly. Once Tamilnadu was in the forefront for whole of India in guiding principles. Such people’s heirs now engaged in all false propagandas due to alien brain wash. People called Rajaji as the conscience of Gandhi but the Dravidian people call C. N. Annadurai who wrote Kambarasam and calling him as South Indian Gandhi. Why such countless literate and ill-literate filthy stuff always claiming Dravidian superiority and roaming still is my anguish. Such were the venomous outpouring of Dravidians who took staunch anti-Brahmin hegemony.  

Now anti-Brahmanism is a blunt-edged sword. So anti-Vadugars, Tani Tami Desiyam is the perpetrators of Dravidian hawks. Their basic claims are 1) “Achieve Dravidanadu or else Sudukadu” — yes this slogan only got buried and dropped the Dravidanadu; 2) “Duty, Dignity & Self Respect” — everything lost its charm and thrown to the winds like a kite now catches thread of power, positions and title are the dominant social fervor. Dravidians, whose object anti-Brahmanism was the feeding stock of the profounder, prostrated before a Brahmin lady. Even after her death, the Dravidians just to retain in power still shamelessly saluting the lady who got a jail number award in the court case for illegal wealth.

References

  1. The Dubashes of Madras, Susan Neiled Basu, CUP, Rochester;
  2. Politics and Social Conflicts of South India, Eugene F. Irschick;
  3. The Madura Country, J. H. Nelson, Madras Government (1868);
  4. Indigenous Society, Temples and the Early Colonial State in Tamilnadu (1700-1835), Kanakalatha;  
  5. Madras Pattinam, Narasaiah (Tamil);
  6. Dravida Iyakkam Punaivum Unmayum, Malarmannan (Tamil);
  7. Caste Politics in North, West and South India before Mandal: The Low Caste Movements between Sanskritization and Ethnicisation, Christophe Jaffrelot, Paris.

» Vedam Gopal is a retired company official with an interest in Tamil history, politics and society. His articles in Tamil appear on the Tamil Hindu website and Hindu Unity blog. This article was translated from Tamil to English by V. Ramachandran. 

Caste-based Reservations

Logic behind the perversion of caste – Ram Swarup

Caste

Ram SwarupThe self-styled social justice intellectuals and parties do not want an India without castes, they want castes without Dharma. This may be profitable to some in the short run but it is suicidal for all in the long run. – Ram Swarup

Today casteism is rampant. It is a new phenomenon. Old India had castes but no casteism. In its present form, casteism is a construct of colonial period, a product of imperial policies and colonial scholarship. It was strengthened by the breast-beating of our own “reformers”. Today, it has acquired its own momentum and vested interests.

In the old days, the Hindu caste-system was an integrating principle. It provided economic security. One had a vocation as soon as one was born—a dream for those threatened with chronic unemployment. The system combined security with freedom; it provided social space as well as closer identity; here the individual was not atomised and did not become rootless. There was also no dearth of social mobility; whole groups of people rose and fell in the social scale. Rigidity about the old Indian castes is a myth. Ziegenbalg (1682 – 1719) writing on the eve of the British advent saw that at least one-third of the people practised other than their traditional calling and that “official and political functions, such as those of teachers, councillors, governors, priests, poets and even kings were not considered the prerogative of any particular group, but are open to all”.

Nor did India ever have such a plethora of castes as became the order of the day under the British rule. Megasthenes (ca. 300 BCE) gives us seven-fold division of the Hindu society; Hsuan Tsang (ca. 650 CE) the Chinese pilgrim mentions four castes. Alberuni (973 – 1048) too mentions four main castes and some more groups which did not strictly belong to the caste system.

Even the list of greatly maligned Manu contained no more than 40 mixed castes, all related by blood. Even the Chandals were Brahmins on their father’s side. But under the British, Risley (1851 – 1911) gave us 2,378 main castes, and 43 races! There is no count of sub-castes. Earlier, the 1891 census had already given us 1,150 sub-castes of Chamars alone. To Risley, every caste was also ideally a race and had its own language.

Caste did not strike early European writers as something specially Indian. They knew it in their own countries and saw it that way. J. S. Mill (1806 – 1873) in his Political Economy said that occupational groups in Europe were “almost equivalent to an hereditary distinction of caste”.

To these observers, the word caste did not have the connotation it has today. Gita Dharampal-Frick, an orientalist and linguist [currently at Heidelberg University], tells us that the early European writers on the subject used the older Greek word meri which means “a portion”, “share”, or “contribution”. Sebastian Franck (1499 – ca. 1543) used the German word rott (rotte) meaning a “social group”, or “cluster”. These words suggest that socially and economically speaking they found castes closer to each other than ordo or estates in Europe.

The early writers also saw no Brahmin domination though they found much respect for them. Those like Jurgen Andersen (1669) who described castes in Gujarat found that Vaishyas and not the Brahmins were the most important people there.

They also saw no sanskritisation. One caste was not trying to be another; it was satisfied with being itself. Castes were not trying to imitate the Brahmins to improve social status; they were proud of being what they were. There is a Tamil poem by Kamban (ca. 1180 – 1250) in praise of the plough which says that “even being born a Brahmin does not by far endow one with the same excellence as when one is born into a Vellala family”.

There was sanskritisation though but of a very different kind. People tried to become not Brahmins but brahmavadins. Different castes produced great saints revered by all. Ravidas (ca. 1450) a great saint, says that though of the family of Chamars who still go through Benares removing dead cattle, yet even most revered Brahmins now hold their offspring, namely himself, in great esteem.

With the advent of Islam the Hindu came under great pressure; it faced the problem of survival. When the political power failed castes took over; they became defence shields and provided resistance passive and active. But in the process, the system also acquired undesirable traits like untouchability. Alberuni who came with Mahmud Ghaznavi (971 – 1030) mentions the four castes but no untouchability. He reports that “much, however, as these classes differ from each other, they live together in the same towns and villages, mixed together in the same houses and lodgings”.

Another acquired another’s trait; they became rigid and lost their mobility. All mobility was now downward. H. A. Rose (1867 – 1933), Superintendent of Ethnography, Punjab, from 1901 to 1906, author of A Glossary of Punjab Tribes and Castes, says that during Muslim period, many Rajputs were degraded and they became scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Many of them still retain Rajput gotra of Parihara and Parimara. Similarly, G. W. Briggs in his The Chamars, tells us that many Chamars still carry names and gotra of Rajput clans like Banaudhiya, Ujjaini, Chandhariya, Sarwariya, Kanaujiya, Chauhan, Chadel, Saksena, Sakarwar; Bhardarauiya, and Bundela, etc. Dr K. S. Lal (1920 – 2002) cites many similar instances in his recent Growth of Scheduled Tribes and Castes in Medieval India.

The same is true of Bhangis. William Crooke (1848 – 1923) of Bengal Civil Service tells us that the “rise of the present Bhangi caste seems, from the names applied to the castes and its subdivisions, to date from the early period of Mohammedan rule”. Old Hindu literature mentions no Bhangis of present function. In traditional Hindu rural society, he was a corn-measurer, a village policeman, a custodian of village boundaries. But scavenging came along with the Muslim and British rule. Their numbers also multiplied. According to 1901 Census, the Bhangis were most numerous in the Punjab and the United Provinces which were the heartland of Muslim domination.

Then came the British who treated all Hindus equally—all as an inferior race—and fuelled their internal differences. They attacked Hinduism but cultivated the caste principle, two sides of the same coin. Hinduism had to be attacked. It gave India the principles of unity and continuity; it was also India’s definition at its deepest. It held together castes as well as the country. Take away Hinduism and the country was easily subdued.

Caste in old India was a cooperative and cultural principle; but it is now being turned into a principle of social conflict. In the old dispensation, castes followed dharma and its restraints; they knew how far they could go. But now a caste is a law unto itself; it knows no self-restraint except the restraint put on it by another class engaged in similar self-aggrandisement. The new self-styled social justice intellectuals and parties do not want an India without castes, they want castes without Dharma. This may be profitable to some in the short run but it is suicidal for all in the long run.

In the old days, castes had leaders who represented the culture of the land, Who were natural leaders of their people and were organic to them. But now a different leadership is coming to the fore: rootless, demagogic and ambitious, which uses caste slogans for self-aggrandisement. – The Indian Express, 13 September 1996

» Ram Swarup (1920–1998) was a Sankhya philosopher, yogi, and colleague of historian Sita Ram Goel. Together they founded the publishing imprint Voice of India in New Delhi, to give Hindu intellectuals a voice when the mainstream media refused to give them any time or space .

Glossary of the Tribes and Castes

Where is the Brahmin, seeker of the highest truth? – Makarand Paranjape

Brahmin

Prof Makarand R. ParanjapeIndia is filled not only with Brahmin-baiters and Brahmin-haters, but also of brainwashed and de-brahminised Hindus. … The main strategy is to ascribe all the evils not only of the caste system but of Hinduism itself to “Brahminism.” – Prof Makarand Paranjape

No right-thinking Indian can justify the ancient régime of varna vyastha, whose injustices, inequalities, and indignities have survived into our own times. Yet, arguably, it is caste, not ideology, that is still the driving force in Indian society and politics. This contradiction of repudiation-reification makes us pose the moot question, “Has the Brahmin disappeared from India?”

Some 20 years ago, Saeed Naqvi, in The Last Brahmin Prime Minister of India, conferred that dubious distinction on P. V. Narasimha Rao. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s ascension to the august office proved Naqvi wrong. Rani Sivasankara Sarma’s autobiographical account in Telugu, The Last Brahmin, published soon after Naqvi’s, also asks similar questions, though from a socio-religious, rather than political, standpoint.

I was startled to learn that on his last visit to India in 1985, the great philosopher and teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti raised the same question in his conversation with Professor P. Krishna at Rajghat, Varanasi (A Jewel on a Silver Platter: Remembering Jiddu Krishnamurti by Padmanabhan Krishna). Krishnamurti is quick to clarify that “Brahmin” is “Not by birth, sir, that is so childish!” As the conversation unfolds, Krishnamurti narrates a story to illustrate.

After defeating Porus, Alexander is impressed by the efficiency of the former’s administration. Alexander hears that the person responsible, Porus’s Brahmin Prime Minister, has left the capital after the loss. Sending after him, Alexander is further surprised at the Brahmin’s refusal to call on him. Deciding to visit him instead, Alexander asks, “I am so impressed with your abilities. Will you work for me?” “Sorry,” says the Brahmin, “I must teach these children; I no longer wish to serve emperors.”

Krishnamurti’s tale is a variation of the story of Alexander the Great and the Stoic. The latter refuses to give up philosophy even in face of the monarch’s threats or blandishments; clearly, this story has both Greek and Indian versions. Krishnamurti concludes: “That’s a Brahmin—you can’t buy him. Now tell me, Sir, has the Brahmin disappeared from this country?”

In thus defining a Brahmin, Krishnamurti is following a tradition as old as the Buddha. In Canto 26 of the Dhammapada titled, “Who is a Brahmin,” the Tathagata says, “who is devoid of fear and free from fetters, him I call a Brahmin.” Verse after verse clarifies, enumerates, and explains the qualities: “He who is contemplative, lives without passions, is steadfast and has performed his duties, who is free from sensuous influxes and has attained the highest goal—him I call a Brahmin” (386). “Not by matted hair, by lineage, nor by birth (caste) does one become a Brahmin. But the one in whom there abide truth and righteousness, he is pure; he is a Brahmin” (393).

Traditionally, those born in the Brahmin jati were supposed to aspire to and espouse such high ideals, whether Vedic or Buddhist. But in these contentious times, the Buddha’s words themselves have been politicised. There are many “modern” translations of the Dhammapada where the word “Brahmin” has been removed completely. The Vedas, of course, are rejected altogether for being “Brahminical.” The object is clearly to attack, denigrate, and destroy the abstract category called “Brahmin.”

Often, the main strategy is to ascribe all the evils not only of the caste system but of Hinduism itself to “Brahminism.” Actually, the latter word was invented by Orientalists to refer to the worship of “Brahman” in contra-distinction to the Buddha, which was called Buddhism. The rule of Brahmins, though there was possibly never such a thing in actual Indian history, should more properly be termed “Brahminarchy”, a term no one uses. Much misinterpretation has also entered our own languages through the back translation of “Brahminism” as “Brahmanvad.” The latter is understood as the ideology of Brahmin domination promoting a hierarchical and exclusionary social system.

Maharaja NandakumarThe history of anti-Brahminism should not, however, be traced to Phule, Periyar, or even Ambedkar, who were all trying to reform rather than destroy Hindu society. The real culprit was more likely British imperialism. If the Muslim invaders tried to annihilate the Kshatriyas, the British attempted to finish off the Brahmins. After the East India Company assumed the overlordship of Bengal, their first execution was of “Maharaja” Nandakumar, a leading Brahmin opponent of the Governor-General, Warren Hastings. On 5 August 1775, Nandakumar was hanged for forgery, a capital crime under British law. But how was such a law applicable to India?

Macaulay, though an imperialist, called the execution a judicial murder. He accused Elijah Impey, the first Chief Justice of the Calcutta Supreme Court, of colluding with Hastings.

The hanging of Nandakumar took place near what is now the Vidyasagar Setu. The entire Hindu population shunned the British, moving to the other bank of the river, to protest against British injustice and to avoid the pollution caused by the act.

Today, India is filled not only with Brahmin-baiters and Brahmin-haters, but also of brainwashed and de-brahminised Hindus. My own university, JNU, is full of pamphlets and posters against Brahminism, one even blaming “Brahminical patriarchy” for the disappearance of Najeeb Ahmed, who went missing on 15 October 2016. Anti-Brahminism, however, is never considered hate-crime or hate-speech. Why? Don’t Brahmins have human feelings or rights? Brahmins, moreover, are soft targets, scripturally and culturally enjoined not to retaliate. As the Dhammapada (389) puts it, “One should not strike a Brahmin; neither should a Brahmin give way to anger against him who strikes.”

Is it time intellectually to re-arm Brahmins so that they maintain both their own dignity and the veneration of their inherited calling? Does the ideal of the Brahmin continue to be relevant to India, whether we define a Brahmin as one who cannot be bought, a seeker of the highest truth, or a teacher and guide? Shouldn’t such a person, regardless of the jati she or he is born in, continue to be a beacon of light and leadership? As to those born into the community, they may well remember the Kanchi Paramacharya’s sage advice: Fulfill the responsibilities but do not expect the privileges of your birth. – Swarajya, 6 January 2017

» Prof Makarand Paranjape is an author and teaches English at JNU, New Delhi. 

Brahmin & Moghul

See also

For Britain, lessons from the Empire as it exits EU? – Rafia Zakaria

Tipu Sultan's mechanical tiger attacking a wooden Englishman

Rafia Zakaria While Britain’s relationship with the rest of Europe was certainly not the exploitative one that defined its colonial enterprise, there are some commonalities of tone and tenor here that are worth noting. Chief among them is the premise that Britons generally give more than they receive. It is, in sum, a message to fellow Britons: we have done much “good” in the world, and the world has not paid us back. – Rafia Zakaria

That the castles and museums of the United Kingdom are filled with the treasures of its former colonies is a fact well known to all. Upon entering Windsor Castle one sees the crown (among various others) of the kingdom of Togo. Also on display are other things from other kings: the finery of Maharaja Ranjit Singh stares from inside one glass case; a 500-year-old Persian carpet adorns the cordoned-off centre of another room. The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) houses one of Tipu Sultan’s swords and the infamous musical organ carved into a wooden sculpture of a tiger felling a British soldier.

If the British feel any remorse about their plunder, it is not made explicit in the arrangement of such objects. Instead, how these artefacts are curated, presented and lit all seem to reiterate what the British very likely believe: the exemplary safekeeping and artful exhibition is a favour to those to whom these objects belong, who would have otherwise destroyed, smuggled or sold them off.

One of the latest exhibitions mounted in the V&A follows a similar line. Comprised mostly of objects from the museum’s extensive collection, the exhibit titled Lockwood Kipling: Arts and Crafts in the Punjab and London commemorates the career of the man who was father to Rudyard Kipling and the force behind the Mayo School of Industrial Arts, now National College of Arts, in Lahore. It is a tale compellingly told through Kipling’s sketches of local craftsmen, intricately carved doors from Chiniot and beautiful silver inkwells.

The arrangement of the objects, and the anointing of Lockwood Kipling as a curator, illustrator, architectural sculptor and visionary par excellence presents a very particular thesis regarding the British and their activities in India. Pages from The Journal of Indian Art, his crucial role in the establishment of art schools in Bombay and Lahore, his training of craftspeople, and his conversion of ordinary objects into objects of art all point to the larger premise that the British hold dear: without them there would be no Indian art, and definitely no appreciation of art.

This, then, is the more pernicious thesis about empire, increasingly en vogue and cherished in post-Brexit Britain. The day I happened to walk through the exhibit was in fact Brexit Day, the official occasion when British Prime Minister Theresa May delivered the letter to her European Union counterparts. The year since the Brexit vote has undoubtedly been one of great uncertainty for the British. Those who voted to leave allege that being in the EU was a raw deal, not quite worth it. There had never been enough reciprocity, never enough gratitude.

All of these premises are interesting to consider when walking through the Lockwood Kipling exhibit at the V&A. While Britain’s relationship with the rest of Europe was certainly not the exploitative one that defined its colonial enterprise, there are some commonalities of tone and tenor here that are worth noting. Chief among them is the premise that Britons generally give more than they receive. It is, in sum, a message to fellow Britons: we have done much “good” in the world, and the world has not paid us back.

All of this is, of course, a lie. The British plundered India, used its natural resources, eviscerated its existing institutions and generally created a hierarchy that they dominated and that enabled them to cart away India’s treasures for the sort of “safekeeping” they still claim to be undertaking. The former colonies who suffered under them have long known these British claims to be untruths; they have also been forced to reckon with the aftermath, with the realisation that the lost glory of the past—whether it was Mughal or Ottoman or Rajput—cannot be the basis of the victories of the present.

Perhaps, for the first time since Partition, Britain is once again in retreat. Seventy years ago, it looked away from India, carrying away its spoils and treasures to the extent it could, leaving behind borders and hatreds that still bleed today. Now, it turns away from Europe with the same sulky petulance, the same attitude of having been inadequately rewarded for its imaginary magnanimity.

This second retreat, however, while different in character and circumstance, suggests an inwards gaze that the British have perhaps not seen since the colonial era. If the British Empire in retreat created revisionist histories that placed colonisers at the heart of the preservation of the subcontinent’s art and heritage, post-Brexit Britain will similarly create ones that suit the purposes of the present. In a supreme irony, the conquering British of the past can, in this sense, learn from those it once conquered who are used to looking back, indeed, very far back for consolation and confirmation of their own glory. – The Asian Age, 6 Apri;l 2017

» Rafia Zakaria is an author and a columnist for Dawn in Pakistan.

British crown with Koh-i-Noor diamond (front cross center)