By Dr. Preetam Singh, Q. C
India said to be a “democratic” country, but only by its governmental institutions, Indians at the grassroots level are basically family oriented. In their Jong history, they have not had the Opportunity to practice democracy. It is not possible for a people to get totally immersed in democratic ways in 3 or 4 decades. The other impediment has been the fact that of the 730 million Indians, some 100 million are Muslims, 14 million Sikhs, 15 million Christians and 1/4 million Parsis. That leaves some 600 million who by law are “Hindus”, but in fact, at least 50% (or 300 million are “untouchables”, Jains and Buddhists. The 300 million 4cast Hindus are using the “untouchables” as a permanent coalition, through privileges which have been built for the scheduled class people in the Constitution. Normally, to belong to a particular religion, is person’s own choice. Only in India, it is that the Constitution declares all persons who are not Muslims, Christians or Parsis, to be “Hindu”. This imposition of the Hindu religion is offensive to Indians whose religious beliefs are Sikh, Budhists or Jains. The large mass of the trampled upon humanity, termed “untouchables” in the Hindu religion, have long since declared themselves as “Ad Dhar mis”:
“We are the original people of this country (India) and our religion is Ad Dharm. The Hindu qaum (nation) came from outside and enslaved us.
- There are 70 million of us listed as Hindus. Separate us and make us free… We are not Hindus; our faith is not Hindu, but Ad Dharm. We are not part of Hinduism, and Hindus are not part of us.'(5). Ad Dharm Report 1920, p14.
It is interesting to note Article 25 (2) b of the Indian Constitution: “(b) providing (the making of laws). For social welfare and reform or the throwing open of Hindu religious institutions of public character to all classes and sections of Hindus,
Explanation I The wearing and carrying of Kirpans shall be deemed to be included in the procession of the Sikh religion. Explanation II In sub clause (b) of Clause (2), the reference to Hindus Shall be construed as including a reference to persons professing the Sikh, Jaina or Buddhist religion, and the reference to Hindu religious institutions shall be construed accordingly.” This makes it clear that Hindu religious institutions are not to be opened to “untouchables”. This must be accepted as being true, historically as well, because the Indo Aryans came to India only some 35 or 36 centuries ago. They then did not have a religion, but over periods of time, they evolved what is now known as the Hindu religion. Membership of this religion was confined to persons born within the 4Castes. The indigenous people were rigidly kept out of the fold of Hinduism. They were known as “untouchables”. They had no place in the social or political life of the people either.
The Dravidian people inhabited parts of India prior to advent of the Indo Aryans in the North. Eventually, they too became converted to Hinduism, and it is a historical fact that “untouchability” was practiced in South India with even more ferocity than in the North or in the West.
The Buddhist religion did not have the caste system. Consequently, about 1200 years of Buddhist rule in India did ease the plight of the “untouchables”. However, with extensive renaissance, Hinduism reasserted itself and banished Buddhism from India for ever. The curse of untouchability was consequently reimposed on millions and millions of poor, wretched humanity.
During Islamic period, the so called “untouchables” did have some respite, and even though the Hindus themselves were subject to various harsh restrictions, in areas where their population was large enough, they treated the “untouchables” like subhuman. During the British period, it is on record that the “untouchables” sided with the British and not with the Congress. Mhatama Gandhi was not viewed by the “untouchables” as their savior, because they felt that by calling them “Harijans”, he was not finding for them places in one or the other of the 4 Castes of Hinduism, e.g., Dr. Ambedkar (an “untouchable” by birth), was a distinguished lawyer and politician, yet he could not be admitted into the Hindu religion say, as a Brahmin. Just before his death in 1956, as a final act of defiance, Dr. Amedkar embraced Buddhism and today millions of his kinsfolk practice that religion. (5)
It might be appropriate here to compare the situation of Mr. Rajiv Gandhi. His father, Firoz Gandhi, Was a zoroastrian born Parsi and his mother a Hindu Brahmini. By the Parsi Law of India three cat wedged:
(i) Persons who are descended from the original Persian emigrants and born of Zoroastrian parents;
(ii) Children of Parsi fathers by alien mothers, who have been admitted to the Zoroastrian religion; and
(iii) Zoroastrians from Iran, who are either temporarily or permanently residing in India.
(Parsi Marriage Act, 1936; Sir Dinshaw M. Pitit and Sir Jamnsetji Jijibhai (1909) 11 Bom L.R.85 AT 112113; and Jamshed Irani and Benu Irani, (1966) 68 Bom L.R.794),
Accordingly, as Rajive Gahdhi did not fall under either category (i) or (ii), he could ‘not claim to be Zoroastrian Parsi. Not being born of a Cast Hindu either, but he was also not an “untouchable”. Being the grandson and son of 2 Prime Ministers of India, he is privileged enough to have been now admitted to the inner sanctum of Hinduism, into which: poor Dr. Ambedkar could not be, inducted.
Such is the despicable attitude of Hinduism towards those who had the misfortune to be born “untouchables” that even though Article 17 in part III of the Indian Constitution “abolished untouchability in all its forms”. These unfortunate people are, nevertheless, termed members of Scheduled Classes. Under S.C. order 1950— 51, erstwhile “untouchables” were given special privileges. By these, it has become possible for the government in power to gamer the votes of the Scheduled Class People: their children are given special scholarships, and there are reserved quotas for them in Provincial and Central parliaments and in the posts in government agencies, (5)
Interestingly, some Ambedkarite and Christian political leaders contend that the government, by taking the best and brightest of the Schedule Class Youth for its own agencies, and by then prohibiting government employees from being active in political organizations, it Is effectively depriving the Scheduled Class Organizations of their best hopes for leadership. Paradoxically, although these government benefits are intended to integrate the “untouchables” into the general Indian Society as equals, infact, these have the effect of ushering them into a new society, in which their sense of alienation both from the Hindu Society and from the Scheduled class grass roots, is total. Cutoff from the lower caste cultures that they have rejected, Scheduled Class Moderns experience the alienation that de Tocqueville called “the lone liness of democracy”. (5)
In the freer atmosphere of Britain members of the communities who, in India, are still Schedule Class people, have begun to reassert themselves as Ad Dharmis or Buddhists by religion, and by positively declaring that they are neither a part of the Hindu religion and society or do they wish to be so degraded, (5).
This adds confirmation, if such were even needed, that followers of the Hindu religion in India are not a majority community; by giving special privileges to the Scheduled Class people (who are numerically almost as many as the Caste Hindus themselves), the Hindu community has artificially and artfully enlarged its numerical strength and made it impossible for Scheduled Class people to be free: to make their own political alliances.
Historically, the Hindus had been relegated to second class citizenship for thousands of years and, they have, for the first time in the last 3 decades, found themselves to be able to build in for themselves both an overall majority and first class citizenship. Consciously or otherwise, they have not found it possible to rid themselves of their past experiences, and they have consequently not been able to show empathy and compassion towards the other minorities, who, in a democracy ought to be free to forge their own coalitions. This is a clear case of obtaining electoral advantages through bribery and corruption, but the whole world has been fooled into believing that India is the world’s largest democracy and Hindus the majority community of India. The Sikh Rule in Punjab lasted for over four decades. The Sikhs were a minority community, but they treated both their Hindu and Muslim subjects equally. That Guru given attribute “Manus ki jat sabh ek hi pehchanbo”, (Recognize all Homo Sapiens as one), helped the Sikhs to maintain cordiality with their fellow human beings. They were the first of the rulers, who freed the Hindus of the Jezia, a tax which, during the Islamic Rule, the Hindus had been subjected to for centuries. .
History records that the down fall of the Sikh society comes about, when its members forget or ignore the teachings of their Gurus. The Sikhs are consequently conscious that the need is for all the Sikhs to stand shoulder to shoulder one with the other. They have to relearn the requisite discipline, and to appreciate the absolute necessity for so doing. Otherwise, there can be no future for the successful maintenance of great religion.
Article extracted from this publication >> February 12, 1988