Who are We?
What do we do?
Brahmins the Dalits of today?
Francois Gautier | May 23, 2006 | 16:41 IST
At a time when the Congress government wants to raise the quota
for Other Backward Classes to 49.5 per cent in private and
public sectors, nobody talks about the plight of the upper
castes. The public image of the Brahmins, for instance, is that
of an affluent, pampered class. But is it so today?
Doctors in arms
There are 50 Sulabh Shauchalayas (public toilets) in Delhi; all
of them are cleaned and looked after by Brahmins (this very
welcome public institution was started by a Brahmin). A far cry
from the elitist image that Brahmins have!
There are five to six Brahmins manning each Shauchalaya. They
came to Delhi eight to ten years back looking for a source of
income, as they were a minority in most of their villages, where
Dalits are in majority (60 per cent to 65 per cent). In most
villages in UP and Bihar, Dalits have a union which helps them
secure jobs in villages.
At Ground Zero of the quota protests
Did you know that you also stumble upon a number of Brahmins
working as coolies at Delhi's railway stations? One of them,
Kripa Shankar Sharma, says while his daughter is doing her
Bachelors in Science he is not sure if she will secure a job.
"Dalits often have five to six kids, but they are confident of
placing them easily and well," he says. As a result, the Dalit
population is increasing in villages. He adds: "Dalits are
provided with housing, even their pigs have spaces; whereas
there is no provision for gaushalas (cowsheds) for the cows of
The middle class deserves what it is getting
You also find Brahmin rickshaw pullers in Delhi. 50 per cent of
Patel Nagar's rickshaw pullers are Brahmins who like their
brethren have moved to the city looking for jobs for lack of
employment opportunities and poor education in their villages.
Even after toiling the whole day, Vijay Pratap and Sidharth
Tiwari, two Brahmin rickshaw pullers, say they are hardly able
to make ends meet. These men make about Rs 100 to Rs 150 on an
average every day from which they pay a daily rent of Rs 25 for
their rickshaws and Rs 500 to Rs 600 towards the rent of their
rooms which is shared by 3 to 4 people or their families.
Did you also know that most rickshaw pullers in Banaras are
Do our institutes connect with the real India?
This reverse discrimination is also found in bureaucracy and
politics. Most of the intellectual Brahmin Tamil class has
emigrated outside Tamil Nadu. Only 5 seats out of 600 in the
combined UP and Bihar assembly are held by Brahmins -- the rest
are in the hands of the Yadavs.
400,000 Brahmins of the Kashmir valley, the once respected
Kashmiri Pandits, now live as refugees in their own country,
sometimes in refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi in appalling
conditions. But who gives a damn about them? Their vote bank is
And this is not limited to the North alone. 75 per cent of
domestic help and cooks in Andhra Pradesh are Brahmins. A study
of the Brahmin community in a district in Andhra Pradesh
(Brahmins of India by J Radhakrishna, published by Chugh
Publications) reveals that today all purohits live below the
Eighty per cent of those surveyed stated that their poverty and
traditional style of dress and hair (tuft) had made them the
butt of ridicule. Financial constraints coupled with the
existing system of reservations for the 'backward classes'
prevented them from providing secular education to their
Who are the real Dalits of India?
In fact, according to this study there has been an overall
decline in the number of Brahmin students. With the average
income of Brahmins being less than that of non-Brahmins, a high
percentage of Brahmin students drop out at the intermediate
level. In the 5 to 18 year age group, 44 per cent Brahmin
students stopped education at the primary level and 36 per cent
at the pre-matriculation level.
The study also found that 55 per cent of all Brahmins lived
below the poverty line -- below a per capita income of Rs 650 a
month. Since 45 per cent of the total population of India is
officially stated to be below the poverty line it follows that
the percentage of destitute Brahmins is 10 per cent higher than
the all-India figure.
There is no reason to believe that the condition of Brahmins in
other parts of the country is different. In this connection it
would be revealing to quote the per capita income of various
communities as stated by the Karnataka finance minister in the
state assembly: Christians Rs 1,562, Vokkaligas Rs 914, Muslims
Rs 794, Scheduled castes Rs 680, Scheduled Tribes Rs 577 and
Brahmins Rs 537.
Appalling poverty compels many Brahmins to migrate to towns
leading to spatial dispersal and consequent decline in their
local influence and institutions. Brahmins initially turned to
government jobs and modern occupations such as law and medicine.
But preferential policies for the non-Brahmins have forced
Brahmins to retreat in these spheres as well.
Caste shouldn't overwrite merit
According to the Andhra Pradesh study, the largest percentage of
Brahmins today are employed as domestic servants. The
unemployment rate among them is as high as 75 per cent. Seventy
percent of Brahmins are still relying on their hereditary
vocation. There are hundreds of families that are surviving on
just Rs 500 per month as priests in various temples (Department
of Endowments statistics).
Priests are under tremendous difficulty today, sometimes even
forced to beg for alms for survival. There are innumerable
instances in which Brahmin priests who spent a lifetime studying
Vedas are being ridiculed and disrespected.
At Tamil Nadu's Ranganathaswamy Temple, a priest's monthly
salary is Rs 300 (Census Department studies) and a daily
allowance of one measure of rice. The government staff at the
same temple receive Rs 2,500 plus per month. But these facts
have not modified the priests' reputation as 'haves' and as
'exploiters.' The destitution of Hindu priests has moved none,
not even the parties known for Hindu sympathy.
The tragedy of modern India is that the combined votes of Dalits/OBC
and Muslims are enough for any government to be elected. The
Congress quickly cashed in on it after Independence, but
probably no other government than Sonia Gandhi's has gone so far
in shamelessly dividing Indian society for garnering votes.
From the Indian Express: 'These measures will not achieve social
The Indian government gives Rs 1,000 crores (Rs 10 billion) for
salaries of imams in mosques and Rs 200 crores (Rs 2 billion) as
Haj subsidies. But no such help is available to Brahmins and
upper castes. As a result, not only the Brahmins, but also some
of the other upper castes in the lower middle class are
suffering in silence today, seeing the minorities slowly taking
control of their majority.
How reservations fracture Hindu society
Anti-Brahminism originated in, and still prospers in anti-Hindu
circles. It is particularly welcome among Marxists,
missionaries, Muslims, separatists and Christian-backed Dalit
movements of different hues. When they attack Brahmins, their
target is unmistakably Hinduism.
So the question has to be asked: are the Brahmins (and other
upper castes) of yesterday becoming the Dalits of to