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REVERS DE FORTUNE ET ISOLEMENT DES BRAHMANES DANS L’INDE MODERNE

REVERS DE FORTUNE ET ISOLEMENT DES BRAHMANES DANS L’INDE MODERNE

{ {{Au cours d’un tout récent voyage en Inde du Nord, notre correspondant trinidadien Deosaran Bisnath a pu se rendre compte du rapide démantèlement de la structure des castes en Inde, au profit de celles autrefois reléguées aux champs.

Voici son rapport, suivi d’un article du WS Journal qui décrit les mêmes problèmes comme ils se posent aux Brahmanes du Tamil Nâdou (Inde du Sud).

De quoi nous documenter et chambarder aussi nos préjugés éculés. J.S.S.}} }

In several posts during the past few weeks I have described the dismantling of the caste structure in India, as witnessed during my visit in September/October 2007.

In Vrindavan, Agra, Varanasi, Kolatta, Jaipur - everywhere I went - non-brahmins are actively invoved in the tourism and hospitality sector, some earning more than many brahmins.

A few years ago, these people were confined to the fields.

Non-brahmins are in control of many sectors of the economy in Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and many areas in India.

The technological and economic advances have rendered the caste system archaic and obsolete. The auto and bicycle rickshaw drivers are not brahmins, they are of lower castes but they are moving up the economic ladder; most of the small businesses are owned and operated by non-brahmins, and education and economic opportunities are available to most Indians, of whatever caste.

Construction is booming - we ate dust the whole journey from Delhi to Haridwar, from 10 pm to 4 am, as the roads were jam-packed with trucks and construction equipment, operating day and night. Homes, apartment complexes, factories, schools, shopping malls, and entertainment centers were going up all over India, in rural and urban areas.

Sure, in many rural areas, and the old boys network, there are still remnants of this odious system, which is NOT Hindu. Hindus who know their religion never ascribed to Caste and class divisions. The British Raj and greedy brahmins created the caste system for their own benefits. Those remaining clusters of boat and birth brahmins in the Caribbean who continue to perpetrate a caste system in Hinduism - as if still in the 19th and 20th centuries, frozen in time - are truly a pathetic lot, for whom the younger and enlightened Hindus, have only contempt.

Everywhere I go in Trinidad, and parts of Guyana, very few Hindus care about caste and such nonsensical oppressive societal structures. It is not only brahmins who are scholarly or who are the custodians of scriptures and religious information - the internet has opened up these vast treasures of information to everyone.

In India, caste is so yesterday, practised by a rapidly dwindling number of misguided and foolish higher castes who will either soon see the light of day or will be swept away by the dramatic changes as India moves on to superpower status. Those who still believe caste is of any importance in India need to take a fresh look because your previous impressions of a casteist society in India are no longer valid. Hindus, as well as most rational thinking people, believe all human beings - no matter race, religion, nationality - are equal. Do not allow bigots and the unenlightened to divide us.

{{Deosaran Bisnath}}
_ Editor, International Jahajee Journal
President, Hindu Council of the Caribbean
_ Moderator, Caribbean Hindus Network.

___________

{{Reversal of Fortune Isolates India's Brahmins
_ By ERIC BELLMAN
_ CHENNAI, India –}}

Brahmins, as Hinduism's priestly and scholarly caste, have traditionally occupied a place of privilege in India.

Brahmins have been advisers to Maharajas, Mughals and military rulers. Under British rule, they served as administrators, a position they kept after Indian independence in 1947.

But in 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.

R. Parameswaran has suffered that reversal of fortune. The 29-year-old starts every day with a prayer to the Hindu god Shiva, marking his forehead with red and white powder to let the world know he is a Brahmin. In his home village, his caste's mark brought him respect, but since he moved to Chennai, a sprawling high-tech city in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, in the late 1990s, he has found his status a liability.

In Tamil Nadu, nearly 70% of government jobs and public-college slots are reserved for people from lower castes and other historically disadvantaged groups.

Although he says he graduated near the top of his high-school class and had strong test scores, Mr. Parameswaran couldn't get into any of the state engineering colleges. His family had to borrow from friends to send him to a
second-rate private college.

He now teaches English at a small vocational school. On a salary of $100 a month, Mr. Parameswaran can't afford an apartment, so he sleeps in the classroom at night. "I am suffering," says the intense young man, using the exaggerated enunciation of an English teacher. "Unfortunately, I was born as a Brahmin."

Although the role of Brahmins has never been synonymous with accumulating wealth, many are affluent enough to educate their children in the better private schools. On average, members of the caste, who make up about 5% of India's population of 1.1 billion, are better educated and better paid than the rest of Indian people.

The term Brahmin has come to be used globally to describe those at the top of the heap with an attitude to match, as in Boston Brahmins. Yet close to half of Brahmin households earn less than $100 a month, according to the Center for a Study of Developing Societies, a New Delhi think tank. For these Brahmins, the array of state-mandated preferences for other groups present a high hurdle.

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.

The ugliest Brahmin bashing in India ended years ago, but Mr. Parameswaran says that in college in the late 1990s, he still faced ridicule as a Brahmin. He says one student tried to break his sacred thread, a simple circle of twine Brahmins wear under their clothes.

After college, he had an internship in a state-owned chemical company, but says he was told he wouldn't be hired, as there were openings only for lower-caste applicants. He says he took exams to join national railways, state banks and other government agencies, such as the immigration department, but found most posts closed to all Brahmins except the most brilliant.

From his makeshift home where he sleeps with a blanket on a desk most nights, Mr. Parameswaran still applies for government jobs. He pulls out his latest application form and shows a visitor where he always gets stuck: the three squares where he has to write the abbreviation indicating his caste. "I want government work," he says, shaking the application, "but they have no jobs for Brahmins."

Mr. Parameswaran has tried to adapt to the lessening of caste distinctions taking place in many parts of India today, especially in cities. The changes are less in villages such as the one where he grew up some 200 miles away. There, his grandfather, who is 101 years old, still won't wear Western clothes and won't eat outside of his home for fear of mixing with lower castes.

Mr. Parameswaran's father has a job with the state telephone company and is more liberal. He dresses in shirts and pants, doesn't mind eating at restaurants and doesn't expect lower-caste neighbors to take off their sandals in his presence.

Mr. Parameswaran has had good friends from lower castes all his life, many of whom have used their communities to grab good government jobs, he says. He won't eat meat but has no qualms sharing a meal with people of any caste or creed. His 22-year-old sister, R. Dharmambal, is even more liberal, he says. "She will take non-vegetarian food," he exclaims, using the common Indian term for
eatin

Mr. Parameswaran often visits the sister in the Brahmin enclave of Mylapore. On a recent day there, dozens of shirtless priests in the traditional Brahmin uniform of a white dhoti and partially shaved
head were standing around at a Hindu-scriptures school, hoping for work. For as little as 100 rupees, about $2.50, they offered to perform complicated rituals and blessings required when any Hindu has a baby, a wedding or a new home.

"My sons can't support me, so I have to survive by performing Hindu rituals," says K. Narayana, an 81-year-old scholar. "If we had been from another community, we would have had better opportunities."

Nearby stands the Kapaleeshwara Temple, with towering gates of colorful carvings from Hindu mythology. It is one of the most important places for worship for followers of Shiva, the Hindu god
of destruction. The temple used to be surrounded by rows of simple single-story homes, each with its own courtyard and well so the Brahmin families wouldn't have to share water with other castes.

Most houses have been replaced by concrete apartment blocks and small stores.

At the temple's back gate, Brahmins beg for spare change or look for odd jobs as cooks or even bearers of bodies to funeral pyres, normally a lower-caste pursuit.

"I see so many Brahmins begging" in Mylapore, Mr. Parameswaran says. "It's very difficult to see. It makes me totally upset."

_ Source : Wall Street Journal,
_ December 29, 2007; Page A4

[ICI->http://online.wsj.com/article/SB119889387595256961.html?]

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