It seems to be all about Chennai these days (Power to the Dalits!); however welcome comments about how crap Pakistan is (this is BP after all).
What is interesting is that there are only so many Aakar Patel and World Bank articles about caste in Pakistan (because as Kabir correctly notes it’s an institution without real religious sanction in a nation that is redefining itself on religious grounds); however there is a virtually inexhaustible supply of caste discrimination in the home of Casteocracy, Aryavarta or Bharat Mata.
I for one welcome Dalits into the ranks of Pundits & Pandits as Sid correctly notes it would dramatically rebalance the discourse and dialogue; until then it is left to this Mleccha/Kaffir (along with Amir Khan) to raise awareness.
Oh and by the way if Kumbaya Baha’is practise any form of caste, colour or creed discrimination please let me know and I’ll write into Head Office to complain; they’ll probably get around to it after a couple of inter-spiritual devotionals & meditational sessions on world peace and what not.
In India’s Tamil Nadu state, a lawsuit by upper-caste Brahmins has kept lower-caste Dalits from taking up jobs as priests, the tradition domain of Brahmins.
So when the government of southern India’s Tamil Nadu state offered to train Hindus as priests regardless of their caste — a calling traditionally limited to upper-caste Brahmins — he leaped at the opportunity.
Four years after completing the yearlong program, however, he and 206 mostly lower-caste classmates are still waiting for jobs as a lawsuit filed by Brahmin groups wends its way through India’s Supreme Court. While the state owns and runs most temples in Tamil Nadu, the suit says, it has no right to meddle in priest selection or administration. Angry and frustrated, the Dalit trainees say the long delay only underscores Brahmins’ entrenched power in Indian society.
“We’re all doing makeshift work to survive,” said Kesavan, 26, who, like many southern Indians, uses one name. “It’s a tough fight.”
Frustrating their ambitions are Brahmin religious groups, politically minded Hindu nationalists and traditionalists keen to defend one of the last overt structures protecting the 4,000-year-old caste system.
Traditionally, Dalits have occupied the bottom rung of this complex hierarchy. They are viewed as unclean and relegated to jobs such as collecting human waste in a country where two-thirds of households lack a sewer connection. Although outright discrimination in cities has eased in recent decades, with Dalits edging into business and politics, religion has remained largely off limits. And on the social front, customs and prejudice remain entrenched, especially in rural areas.
“The priests are the last vestige, the root of Brahmin power,” said S. Kirupanandasamy, a port executive and lawyer advising the trainees in their struggle for recognition. “We’re not asking them to appoint some thief to the temple. These boys are well-trained and qualified.”
The wannabe priests say they are not trying to take over India’s most famous temples or push Brahmins out. In fact, India has a significant priest shortage amid changing lifestyles that has left thousands of temples of all sorts shuttered. Rather, they just want jobs in some of Tamil Nadu’s 34,000 state-run temples, they say, in keeping with a constitution that outlaws caste and other discrimination.
The real problem isn’t Dalit impurity or tradition, they argue. Rather, it’s that Brahmins don’t want to share money or power.
Officially, priest salaries are modest, often $50 to $150 a month. But earnings from weddings, blessing ceremonies and funerals can be substantial. Top priests also rub shoulders with elite politicians, businessmen and socialites, opening various social and economic doors.
“They arrange deals with VIPs,” said Sathguru, 28, a Dalit who completed the course. “And they don’t want to let others in.”
Further upsetting tradition, the Dalit trainees want mantras and blessings to be said in the local Tamil language rather than ancient Sanskrit, which they believe further safeguards Brahmin power. “Even pious people can’t understand what they’re saying to the gods,” Kirupanandasamy said. “It’s a dead language.”