Caste & the Tamil Nation
On Hinduism, Caste & Indian 'Democracy'
Dr. Iniyan Elango, M.D.
President, Tamilar Human Rights
Letter to Boston Globe, USA
23 November 1999
"...Even though India likes to call herself a
democracy, it is only a fake democracy as far as the Dalits are concerned.
Large scale bogus voting and preventing Dalits from voting are very common
in India...The tragedy is that the caste system is being spread rapidly even
in the United States by the Brahmans and other caste Hindus who have
emigrated to the USA during the past forty years. For example, in the Hindu
temples built in the USA, only those who are born into the most superior
caste of Brahmans are allowed to be priests. Even in the USA, lower caste
Hindus and outcast Dalits are not allowed to touch the idol in temples to
perform religious rites. ... In 1989, when I was a student in Los Angeles,
the priest (Brahman) in a Hindu temple in California who knew my background
prevented me from entering the room (sanctum sanctorum) where the idol was
kept because I was a Dalit. Upper caste Hindus in the United States and the
Brahmans in particular, who live in large numbers in the USA vigorously
practice the caste system. ..I know many castes Hindu friends in the US,
especially Brahmans, who credit their academic achievement to their
intellectual superiority (over Americans) due to their "natural"
intelligence inherited “genetically” through "caste superiority"... In
effect, the Hindus have managed to bring untouchability and the caste system
into the United States in the garb of religious freedom even though it
violates the Civil Rights laws of the United States..."
I was amused to read the article “Baptist book spurs march by
Hindus” by Mr. Thomas Grillo in “The Boston Globe” edition dated 11/22/99. I was
amused because those who believe in one of the most intolerant and bigoted
religions in the World were complaining of intolerance by the Baptists. As a
victim of Hindu bigotry and a witness to the social misery bred by Hindu
intolerance, I pray for an opportunity from “The Boston Globe” to register my
protest and to unmask the hypocrisy of the Hindus.
Hinduism espouses the division of people into hierarchically placed groups
called “castes”. These castes are placed in a stepladder of ascending
superiority and descending inferiority. People who are born into these castes
should follow the ordained caste professions and marry only within their caste
through arranged marriages. The beneficiaries of this system were the various
Brahman castes who by virtue of their birth were free to follow intellectual
pursuits at the advent of British colonial education making them modern India’s
intellectual, scientific, and bureaucratic class. The various “Vysya” (trading)
castes, placed below the Brahman castes and the Royal (“Kshatriya”) castes, have
enjoyed the monopoly in trading activities for centuries, by virtue of their
birth, thus becoming modern India’s corporate and business class. The “Shudras”
are the various lower castes in the hierarchy who are considered as Hindus and
members of caste Hindu society.
The “Dalits” (which is a Hebrew derivative meaning “broken people”) are the
"outcasts" and “slaves” of the Hindu society of hierarchical castes. That is why
the Dalit people are considered untouchable and made to live in segregated
colonies outside the towns and villages where the caste Hindus live.
All the political parties in India are controlled by caste Hindus. When the
British offered to give the Dalits "separate electorates" to enable them to
participate in democracy more securely, the so-called "Mahatma" (Gandhi) who
strongly believed in the caste system went on protest fast until death. The
Dalit leader Dr.B.R.Ambedkar had to refuse the British offer (of separate
electorates) because he was afraid that if Gandhi died by fasting the Hindus
will use the opportunity to organize wholesale massacres of Dalit people all
over India. Mahatma Gandhi was a bigot belonging to one of the “Vysya” castes
who believed in the concept of graded superiority of birth espoused by the Hindu
The recent killings of Christian missionaries, burning of Churches and gang
rapes of Catholic nuns by Hindu fanatical elements belonging to the vast
supportive network of the BJP party and the RSS (“Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh”)
known as the "Sangh Parivar", is motivated by the caste bigotry of the Hindus.
The caste Hindus want to preserve the outcast status of the Dalits and tribals
by preventing the Christian missionaries from educating and converting the
Dalits. The Hindus feel that the work of the Christian missionaries will destroy
the Dalits' bondage to outcast status through education, conversion and
spiritual liberation. Even last month a Catholic nun was stripped naked and
urinated upon by a gang of Hindu fanatics in north India. A Catholic priest Rev.
Fr. Arul Das was murdered by the same Hindu fanatic (Dara Singh) who also burnt
an Australian missionary (Mr.Graham Staines) and his two little sons alive until
they died in great pain.
Hindu society is a wasteland of hatred spawned by the bigotry of the
hierarchically placed Hindu castes. Apart from bickering with one another, the
Caste Hindus, whether they are upper or lower in the caste hierarchy are united
in their hatred for the Dalits. No attempt has been made in the 50 years of
India's independence to integrate Dalits with the mainstream of society. State
sponsored services such as primary schools, medical clinics, offices of
government departments or a public telephone, are always established in the
caste Hindus section of the village or town and not in the segregated colonies
where the Dalit people are forced to live.
The Hindu identity is forced on all Dalits (despite being outcasts of Hindu
society) and also on all atheists. According to the Hindu Civil Law all those
who are not Christians and Muslims are "Hindus". Those Dalits who convert to
Christianity are made to lose the concessions provided in state employment and
education. Thus the victims of the caste system are kept in perpetual bondage by
law and those who seek to escape this bondage by conversion are penalized.
The single most factor that makes the Dalits suffer and live in fear is the
violence unleashed on them almost on a daily basis by the Hindus. Every hour, a
Dalit person is raped or killed in some part of India. In the district of
Cuddalore in Tamil Nadu State in India, four Dalit women (Sakunthala, Victoria,
Ponnaruvi and Susheela) were gang raped and killed by caste Hindus during the
past year. In all the cases none of the culprits were arrested and no
investigation was done. Arbitrary arrests, imprisonment and framing of Dalits
for crimes they have not committed are a common practice. In north Indian states
such as Bihar wholesale massacres of Dalit villages occurs regularly.
The police force of the Caste Hindus is the worst oppressor against the Dalits.
Dalit women are raped in the police precinct itself by the cops. In a famous
case that occurred in 1993, a Dalit woman named Padmini was gang raped by five
cops in front of her husband at the police station of Annamalai Nagar in
Chidambaram district of Tamil Nadu State in India. The cops then killed her
husband after gang raping Padmini. None of the policemen were punished for the
capital offence. They were slapped with minimal sentences for the gang rape. In
a tribal area called "Vachathi" in India, the police posse, which came to catch
a brigand gang, raped almost the entire female population of the tribal
settlement. None of the cops who indulged in the mass rape were punished for
this gruesome crime which happened in 1994.
Rape is the most common risk faced by a Dalit woman in the Hindu society.
The English language dictionary even now carries the word "Pariah" (which is the
Tamil name for the large population of Dalits living in Tamil Nadu in India) to
convey the meaning of "outcast".
Even though India likes to call herself a democracy, it is only a fake democracy
as far as the Dalits are concerned. Large scale bogus voting and preventing
Dalits from voting are very common in India. During the recent parliamentary
elections, Dalits (Pariahs) living in the parliamentary constituency of
"Chidambaram" in India where attacked, molested and their huts burnt to ashes by
the caste Hindus placed at a lower hierarchy called “Vanniyars” to prevent the
Dalits from voting. The bigoted police force actively participated in the
violence and arson against the Dalits. Totally 17 Dalit villages were burnt to
ashes and three Dalits were killed in the Chidambaram area. Around 50,000 Dalits
could not vote and all the Dalit votes were fraudulently cast by the caste Hindu
Vanniyars whose PMK (Pattali Makkal Katchi) party candidate in alliance with the
Hindu fanatic BJP party was declared elected in Chidambaram. He (Mr.Ponnusamy)
is now a minister in the cabinet of Prim e Minister Vajpayee.
In short, the Hindus of India are so bigoted and hateful that they will never
allow the Dalits to taste a sense of equality and dignity. Even though the
present President of India is a Dalit he is just a constitutional figurehead
without any executive power.
The tragedy is that the caste system is being spread rapidly even in the United
States by the Brahmans and other caste Hindus who have emigrated to the USA
during the past forty years. For example, in the Hindu temples built in the USA,
only those who are born into the most superior caste of Brahmans are allowed to
be priests. Even in the USA, lower caste Hindus and outcast Dalits are not
allowed to touch the idol in temples to perform religious rites. In effect, the
Hindus have managed to bring untouchability and the caste system into the United
States in the garb of religious freedom even though it violates the Civil Rights
laws of the United States.
In 1989, when I was a student in Los Angeles, the priest (Brahman) in a Hindu
temple in California who knew my background prevented me from entering the room
(sanctum sanctorum) where the idol was kept because I was a Dalit. Upper caste
Hindus in the United States and the Brahmans in particular, who live in large
numbers in the USA vigorously practice the caste system. This is evident from
the way they psychologically despise African-Americans, arrange marriages for
their children strictly within their caste and harbor feelings of superiority
because of their caste Hindu heritage. I know many castes Hindu friends in the
US, especially Brahmans, who credit their academic achievement to their
intellectual superiority (over Americans) due to their "natural" intelligence
inherited “genetically” through "caste superiority".
No wonder Adolf Hitler chose the Hindu symbol of "Swastika" to represent the
political message of superiority by birth of those born into his race.
Hindus who protest the Baptists’ criticism of Hinduism should ponder how the
Hindu Civil Law has forcibly converted outcast victims (Dalits) who were never
allowed membership into the society and religion of the Hindu castes. The
segregated dwellings of Dalits all over India, the denial of admission to Dalits
into Vedic schools which teach Hindu scriptures and the ban on Dalits from
working as priests in Hindu temples obviously prove how the Hindu identity is
thrust on the very people who are victimized by it.
Hindus should wax eloquently about the intolerance of other religions after
destroying the hierarchical bigotry of castes and other inherent evils in the
Hindu faith. Burning brides for dowry, killing people for caste bigotry,
sanctioning inequality and segregation in the name of God, preventing widows
from marrying, burning widows in the funeral pyre of their husbands, allowing
slavery of Dalits and tribals in the form of bonded labor, female infanticide,
forcing women into prostitution at temples in the name of serving God (Devadasis)
are all some of the evil practices of Hinduism which are still prevalent in many
parts of India. Baptists are fully justified in their remarks about Hinduism.
Hindus should criticize Christian missionaries for their drive to convert Hindus
into Christianity after scrapping the Hindu Civil Law in India which "forcibly
converts" all non-Christians and non-Moslems, (including atheists, outcast
non-Hindu Dalits, tribals, Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains) into the Hindu religious
People living in glass houses should not throw stones.
Dr. Iniyan Elango is a general
physician and psychotherapist practicing at Chennai, India. He also edits a
monthly periodical called “Dalit Times.” He recently shot a video
documentary about the violence and arson that prevented Dalits from voting
in the Chidambaram area in India. The TIME magazine in its issue dated
August 02, 1999 published his letter about the relationship between violence
in motion pictures and campus violence. He is also the President of the
“Tamilar Human Rights Organization” and a co-founder of the “Dalit Media
Network”. He is 34 years old.
|Comment by Hari Venkatachalam
21 July 2005
Interesting article but I'm not in
Recently I read an article on your site by Dr. Iniyan Elango
of the Tamilar Human Rights Organization stating that Hindus in the
United States were unjustified in their protest against the Baptist.
I am a backward caste individual who was born to both
Because they were not of the same sub caste, one could call me a mutt of
However, my parents and I are strict Hindus and
follow our religion with the same vivacity as we followed it in India.
The Hindus marching in the USA and the Dalits marching
in India are searching for the same goal of tolerance in an intolerant
society. Both our goals are the same.
For Ilango to ridicule our cause here forces me to
overlook the better parts of Ilango's arguments.
For one, Ilango equate all American Hindus with the
upper echelons of Hindus society in India. This is an unfair and cruel
comparison. Among my family friends, we have brahman, kshathriya, vaiysa,
sudra, and untouchable friends. We all spend time together, eat
together, and intermarriage between the castes has become very common.
More of my friends are non brahman than are brahman.
However, we all were equally offended when in a public announcement one
of the most powerful leaders of the Baptist church denounced our faith
This is no different from a Shiv Sena leader screaming
anti-Islamic propaganda. The point of our protest was for our faith to
be accepted in the greater American identity.
For Ilango to say we are unjustified in our actions
until the caste system is completely destroyed is similar to an Israeli
individual saying he'll give the Palestinians rights the day Muslim
terrorist actions cease.
For centuries, the lower castes, to which I belong to,
were defaced and grouped into an amorphous mass of human society.
Today, Ilango defaces all practicing Hindus and clump
us all into a group of caste-ridden bigots...
We fight for minorities who are being oppressed by the
Bible oriented government that exists in the United States. We are
fighting for homosexuals to be given common rights, for separation of
church and state, and for a society that treats its minority faiths in a
Your article was so bitter, it doesn't incite change;
it incites anger.