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Mainstream, VOL LX No 5, New Delhi, January 22, 2022

How Dalits Were Separated from Shudras? | Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

Friday 21 January 2022, by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd


Dalits are historical Shudras. They were part of the Harappans who built the pre-Aryan agrarian and urban civilization by 3000 BCE. But now in our times despite the fact that we all live in modern constitutional democracy, not only the Dwijas, but Shudras also treat them as untouchable. There is no social cohesion among Indians in spite of the fact that this great democratic constitution was given to us by Dr.B.R Ambedkar who was born as an untouchable. But later he liberated himself and engendered a new ‘Idea of India’ where there should not be caste and untouchability. For this to be achieved the realization of the Shudras how their own fellow productive Dalits were separated from them . They should also realize through this division how the Dwija control over both of them got tightened.

The Dalits were separated from Shudras and rendered untouchable sections of the Shudra varna with a design of negative spiritual ideology, which was/is more a superstition. In contemporary India the Shudras constitute 52 per cent of the population and Dalits, as per the 2011 census, constitute 16.6 per cent. Though the Dalits constitute more in number than the Brahmins, Banias, Kayasthas, Khatris and Skatriyas together who roughly might constitute about 5 per cent or so, they are made modern untouchable slaves. As per the 2011 census the total population of Hindus is 79.8 per cent [1]. What exactly is the number of the Shudra/OBCs and Dwijas will only be clear when caste wise census is taken at some stage in future. As of now the numbers are hazy. But one thing is certain that the caste contradictions pose a serious developmental issue to India as caste played a very negative role throughout known Indian history. The problem started with writing of Rigveda as a spiritual book of Brahmins around 1500 BCE. The builders of the Harappan civilization were made the slaves of non-food producers and were made their slavery permanent. They were divided into touchable and untouchable slaves and further into many castes.

The social disease of untouchability, it appears, was not there in early Vedic Brahmanism as the Rigveda did not mention untouchables with any name and called it fifth varna. The Shudra varna was the last and its assigned duty was to work hard around all kinds of productive domains and serve the three above varnas—Vaisya, Skatriya and Brahmin. That itself was a slave status of the Shudras [2]. At that stage there could not have been a lesser social section than that. It only shows that the present population of Dalit was part of the Shudras for long time in ancient India.

It appears that once Brahminsm declared leather and leather related instruments untouchable and the section of Shudras who specialized in leather related industry were declared untouchable [3]. It was, however, certain that during the Vedic period, though the economy was called pastoral, we can assume that leather instruments were part of the economic life. Evidence for the work specialization comes from our present Adivasi society which is very similar to the Vedic pastoral society.

Even in our own time Adivasi (Tribal) deep forest village economies also developed specializations in work. To make the leather instruments a group of people have specialization in transforming animal skin into leather and also leather into bags, ropes and other essential commodities. All the Adivasi adults cannot handle this specialized task of making leather instruments. Many Adivasi villages used leather instruments which are prepared within their own community of the skin of the animals they hunt and also by using their own domesticated cattle after they are dead. In all ancient histories the Adivasis covering their body with leather could also be seen among certain tribes. The Adivasi God Shiva who later was included in the Brahmin-Kshatriya pantheon of Gods always, though semi-naked, appears in leather clad form, with a snake around his neck. But in the Adivasi society the specialists in leather technology are not treated untouchable to the rest of the society. They are part of them. This is a universal process of growth of human societies. But Brahminsm in India introduced new principle called human untouchability which is worse than slavery.

Leather As A Marker Of Untouchability

 In modern times all over India leather industry is a Dalit industry and only Dalits work in that industry [4]. The leather work is talked about as a marker of untouchability between Shudras and Dalits in village India. Of course, after Islam came to India the converted Muslims, without having a clear caste identity, also worked in the leather industry. The Dwija and Shudra/OBC do not work in the leather industry now. The entire village level leather instruments like ropes, bags, chappal, shoe, belts and so on are products that are made by only Dalits  [5].

At what stage the leather related artisanal occupation was made untouchable to Shudras is not known. But it is presumable that the practice came into being with the intervention of Brahminism through ritual segregation into the labour process making leather related work as a marker of human untouchability between Shudras and Dalits. They also treated production related field work as pollution as it was being done by the Shudras. Thus, division between Shudras and Dalits with an added layer of human untouchability, apart from the Shudra and Dwija division, on caste/ varna basis, is a Brahmin ritual introduction and it went into the human psyche very deep now. Historically this idea of human untouchability took root because of several layers of brainwashing to practice the Brahminic superstitions among the Shudras. This inculcation took place, over a period of thousands of years of Brahminic ritualism, more as a superstition than as a religious practice. Brahminism essentially is superstition but not a religion.

The RSS/BJP networks that function with Brahminsm as their parampara do not have an agenda to abolish untouchability. The solution to this problem should come from a combination of Dalit and Shudra philosophers who could study the Indian history of production very carefully. Even today the Dwija forces are outside production and in fact they are anti-production by evolution and training. Positive egalitarian principles cannot come from those who have no roots in production and struggle with nature. It is nature that would shape up our relations in our day to day engagement with it. The touchable and untouchable relations were not an everlasting human relationship. If we start working for the abolition of such inhuman relations they will disappear from this land.

In the early Vedic period the Shudras being majority they must have divided themselves into several occupational specialists because human interests, skills do not develop in uniform ways even among the Tribal societies. Interests and specializations form in any society that is collectively operating and struggling with nature to use it in different modes for their survival. Work specializations develop even in the pastoral or tribal economies. Until perhaps the Brahmin priestly forces declared that the leatherwork as more impure than cattle rearing and doing early agricultural work of the pastoral economy itself, the entire Shudra community would have lived as one unit of the Shudra slaves to the Dwija forces—that is to the three other varnas— Bania, Skatriya and Brahmin. The Brahminic books—Vedas, Upanishds and also epics do not tell the story of different occupations and their production related activities. They are completely silent about the whole animal and agrarian production systems. The Shudras who were the main food producers do not find much place in Vedas or in epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata, except in very marginal ways. The Dalit life stories also do not figure in those textual narratives. There are no parables or proverbs that give an idea of these communities in those texts. They mainly deal with their gods, Brahmin rishis, Skatriya kings, wars, yagyas, yagas kratus and wars. Production and distribution of goods and commodities where the Shudras and Dalits operated do not figure in their narratives [6].

There is no divine solution to the problem of caste and untouchability in any Brahmnic book. Generally religious books provide solutions to all problems suggesting ways and means through divine intervention. But Rigveda created a problem of social division, which later led to graded caste inequalities and also human untouchability, but it did not provide a solution. In other words the Shudras and Dalits are made to believe in books wherein they do not exist, except to tell them that they were/are unworthy to be treated as human beings. Their whole production work, their human relationships are kept out of the Brahminic Sanskrit books.

The RSS and BJP are now telling the Shudra/Dalit masses as part of their political propaganda that they must treat the Vedas, Uapanishads, and epics as their books as well as their own ancient book based civilization and as their parampara too. Their children are being forced to read them as part of their studies all through school, college and university education. If a Shudra or a Dalit owns Rigveda it should show them a way for his/her historical problem of untouchability and inequality. If a spiritual book does not show any solution to the problems that itself created then the society suffers as the Indian society suffered for millennia. No spiritual book in the world created a structure like caste and untouchability and put the nation to a huge loss and suffering.

This is a common modern problem before all the Shudras/Dalits and Adivasis that what is not theirs is being forced to believe as theirs. They are all now called Hindu, without showing any evidence that they are part of Dwija history. However, let us focus on the occupational divisions and how the Shudras treated Dalits as untouchable even to them. This is a major problem now. Until and unless the Shudras join hands with the Dalits to abolish untouchability and caste system they will not get into a new phase of life.

Why Writing On Leather Scrolls Avoided? 

Of all the tasks, the involvement in leather work by people is a key issue in institutionalizing human untouchability. But it is a most surprising thing that in the history of human development leather was a key part of the agrarian activities in the whole world. Leather played a key civilizational developmental role in human life. The Brahminic writers treated leather so untouchable that they did not write any of their books on the leather scrolls [7]. Instead they chose to write on palm leaves called Talapatras [8]. Vedas for a long time were only orally recited. Only around 2-3 century BCE were they written on Talapatras [9]. Obviously Talapatara as an ancient instrument for writing cannot be compared to the leather scroll which was used by all great writers of the ancient world. Bible, Greek philosophy and early philosophical books of Egypt were written on scrolls. Chinese thinkers like Confucius and others also wrote on leather scrolls. Taoism as a Chinese religion came into existence based on books written on scrolls. Though I am not sure whether the Quran was also first recorded on leather scrolls. It said that the Quran was first written on Vellum which is a more sophisticated version of leather scroll [10]. The view that the Quran first was recorded on Vellum. (Historically, vellum was made by stretching calf skin over a wooden frame and processing it ) [11]... But no other country used talapatra as a writing template.

The disadvantage of writing on talapatra, which is a small sized leaf, is that its durability would be far lesser in time frame than that of leather scroll. Preserving talapatra text is very very difficult. Scroll was the best writing template that the leather makers made for writing when there was no printing paper in the ancient world. The books, that too spiritual books, remained for a longer time if written on scrolls whereas written on talapatras suffered major losses. Sustaining a written word on leather scrolls was more durable than the written word on talapatra. The Brahmin writers chose talapatra because leather was defined as spiritually untouchable. If only the Shudras and Dalits were allowed to read and write perhaps they would have used leather scrolls in ancient times for their writing. But gradually the disease of untouchability around the leather industry that the Brahmin thinkers and writers practiced was extended to Shudras through brain wash mechanism by invoking spiritual authority of the Brahminic divinity. Campaigning about divinity that promotes human equality helps the process of economic development. But imposing the ideology of divinity that promotes human inequality also destroys the productive abilities of the people. This is what exactly happened in India. Not only Dalits but even the Shudras fell victim to this spiritual ideology of Brahmanism. As a result the productive forces of India were so weakened even if other forces were not to intervene also India would have been a very backward country.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was of the opinion that the present day untouchability came into existence in the process of persecution of Buddhism [12].

According to him all the Buddhists were declared untouchable as Brahminism started persecuting them. In other words the present Dalits were outcast Buddhists. Though he cites other reasons along with this, one major historical problem with this argument is that by the time Ambedkar entered into research and politics hardly Buddhist symbols were seen in Dalitwadas. If they were deeply religious Buddhists some symbols should have survived in some Dalit families, at least. In Tamil Nadu region Ayothee Dass (1845—1914), a Dalit icon,who died few years after Ambedkar’s birth embraced Buddhism and propagated it. But at the mass level among Dalit families Buddhist presence was not there in nay part of India. Of course, after Ambedkar embraced Buddhism it spread quite fast in Maharashtra and also in other states. In Punjab and other parts of Western India Dalits embrace Ravidasism a few hundred years before Ambedkar started his conversion programme. Because Guru Ravidas (1450—1520) lived and taught his version of Sikhism along with abolition of untouchability in late 15th and early 16th centuries. Ravidas as a Dalit Guru was present in many Punjabi Dalit families by the time India achieved independence. Religious foot prints remain quite strong in human social and family life for a long time.

The leather work untouchability remained in every village for millennia. Even now that can be seen in the villages as a marker of human and social untouchability. Brahminism constructed very deep spiritual touchable and untouchable relations around occupational work. Graded inequality among the Shudras also is based on their caste occupation. For example, no other caste except dhobi caste would take up cloth washing of other families. Similarly no other caste would take up body shaving except nayee (Barber) in the villages. They are lowest in the Shudra caste hierarchy. Thus, occupation played a key role in fixing the social status and changing occupation in ancient and medieval times was almost impossible, because of brahminical restrictions.

What We Lost By Not Writing On Leather? 

In the most ancient times when the writing was just starting leather scrolls were the most scientifically advanced material for that purpose. That was the age in which the human being was just learning how to develop a natural paper and pen to write and leather scrolls and plant liquids to write with bird feathers as the process began. Human beings were just developing the scientific tools of advancement. Once the leather workers were declared untouchable by the Brahmin pandits the division of the Shudra agriculturalists and Dalit leather workers would automatically start because Brahminism declared a great ancient scientific instrument itself untouchable. The Shudras must have thought that the Brahmins were great people since they were not involved in such untouchable work. The theory of productive and technological work untouchability gradually reached to tilling of land and harvesting crop in a most destructive manner. It created a psychological tension both among the Shudras and Dalits. This happened exactly when in Israel, Greece, Egypt and China writing on leather was taking place by constructing a philosophical vision for human advancement. Agriculturalism was reaching a positive philosophical status in China and Europe. It was assigned the topmost position in the realm of God in Israel, Europe and China.

Ancient Greek history tells that they wrote books on leather scrolls much before any religious idea around God took a definite shape in that country. That could be much before the Brahmins in India composed the oral Rigveda. Israelites wrote their early Old Testament on leather scrolls starting with Moses, who wrote the first five books of the Old Testament— Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy— much earlier than the Brahmins even evolved an idea of Brahma the Purush. The evidence for such a situation comes from the content of the writings of the early Brahmins. The Greek thinkers wrote about fine tuned philosophical issues whereas the Rigveda, the first book is about praise of Brahma, Indra, Agni, Vayu and so on. All of them had no positive philosophy for human survival and development. The Shudras could not understand what was going on in the world and Dalits were being crushed for developing the leather technology. Because the negation of science by the top varna—the Brahmin— only composed Vedas orally for memorization purpose. Actually writing of those books on Talapatras took place much later around 3rd century BCE, according to one version. There is a view that Kautilya’s Artha Shastra was the first book that got written on Talapatras [13] and subsequently the earlier books were put into text form on Talapatras. That also means writing took shape in India centuries later after it was done in other countries. In Israel the scrolls of prophet Isaiah’s writings that appeared as Book of Isaiah in the Bible, who lived and wrote in the 7th century BCE, were discovered at the end of the 20th century. They are now preserved in a museum of ancient Israel manuscripts. [14] The RSS Dwija leaders are now propagating that Brahmins are Viswva Gurus (teachers of the world). Millions of Shudras and Dalits—that too educated ones—believe them not knowing that the guruhood they performed was spreading myths, mythology and anti-science. That guruhood was meant to sustain the Shudra/Dalit slavery.

This leather untouchability was the starting point of the negation of development of science in India. No religion in the world did this. Israel was the birth place of the biggest religion in the world. Jews were people who created a first coherent book of religion. They never lived a stable life like that of Brahmins. They were homeless for several centuries. They lived a migrant labour life all over the world. Yet they, apart from writing a coherent religious book, Bible, on scrolls, paved a way for scientific development in many fields. But Brahmins in spite of such stable life and command over the Indian spiritual and social system and also on the Shudra slaves went on producing anti-science ideas and went on implementing them. The same underdeveloped minds of Shudras went on accepting their ideas and lived a dehumanized life. The Shudra philosophical underdevelopment is a unique thing in the world. The Brahmin operation is a global exceptionalism, which made the Shudras to walk on their heads. That mental status of the Shudras kept the Dalits physically and mentally oppressed by Brahminism. If the Shudras were to reject the Brahmin control, human untouchability would have disappeared from India a long time back.

Agrarian Work Is Still Common For Shudras And Dalits 

As of now even the Shudra castes distinguish leather work, removal of town (there is no such need in the villages) level night soils, village, town. city cleaning and beef eating and other agrarian tasks in which they too involve along with Dalits. They treat the leather and cleaning of public spaces as Dalit tasks and culture but not Shudra tasks and culture. Shudras would not take up them as they see them as pure Dalit tasks. But agrarian field related tasks were/are shared by all Shudra castes, Dalits and Adivasis including Reddys, Kammas, Jats, Patels, Marathas, Lingayat, Vokkaligas, Nairs and so on depending on their economic need. It is the class status of the Shudras that determines their involvement in field work. But there is no notion among them that field work is impure and those who do it should not be touched or interacted with. Family relations between the poor Reddy or Kamma or Velama, or Patel or Jat, who perform wage labour or agrarian tasks and those Shudras who employ them to do those tasks determined by caste status. Even marriages are possible with two classes but not within two castes.

The Dwija castes—Brahmins, Banias, Kayasthas, Khatris and Skatriyas— on the other hand, treat agrarian field work as Shudra/Dalit untouchable work. This is a very critical occupational and spiritual human touchable and untouchable relationship that the caste system brought into operation. This ideology of agrarian production getting treated as untouchable has worked as a major barrier in the developmental process of this nation from ancient days and even today this is a major problem. The RSS/BJP as religious socio-political networks do not have new solutions to this problem. Rather they want to reinforce the classical Shudra/Dalit and Dwija relations in many ways. While the 75 years of constitutional democracy, operating on secular principles has weakened the touchable and untouchable relations between the Shudra/Dalits, the RSS/BJP want again to strengthen the pre-democracy values by re-imposing the Sanathan values. Their essential direction in opposing what they call the Western values and culture is to take India back to ancient relations.

While the Shudra- Dalit relations in the agrarian fields are positive their social relations in the villages and markets is negative. The village and market relations are guided by Brahmin in the temples and also occasional ritual activities that the Brahmin priest performs in the homes of Shudras. The priest constantly reminds them of the touchable and untouchable relations as necessary spiritual condition to the Shudras and he normally does not go to Dalit homes. Those Shudras who accept this ideology of Brahmin are only considered Hindu. Some of such Shudras are also part of the Hindutva networks that are used against Muslims and Christians. At the same time the RSS does not want any changes in the Brahmin/Shudra/Dalit relations as they were constructed by ancient Brahmin rishis. The fact is that among the rishis that RSS leaders talk about, there are no Shudra or Dalit rishis. Brahminism encircled the Shudras and Dalits from all sources and the RSS uses that historical encirclement for its advantage.

The Land Question

Apart from this the economic issues that crop up between the Shudras and Dalits are rooted in the land question. The Shudras own agrarian land in sizable quantities as they are main tillers. Among the Shudras there are a few landlords, BUT large numbers of them are middle farmers and also landless labour. The Shudra landed to try to exploit the chief labour of the Dalits, which became more vulnerable because of the landlessness of the Dalits. It is here that caste and untouchability have been interlinked and it works against the interests of the Dalit landless labour in a very inhuman manner. As long as human untouchability remains, the labour of Dalits would be cheaper than Shudra labour. But the real landlords are the Dwijas in all part of the country. The monopoly capitalists who happen to own vast areas of land. And more and more land is shifting into their hands. Caste and untouchability are market managers. Thus caste and untouchability have deep links with Hindu spiritual system and also economic markets. This socioeconomic system is quite useful for the RSS/BJP forces because they can use one caste against the other and collectively they use most Shudras against the Muslims and control all. However, they cannot remove Islam from India or from other countries. Their main aim is to sustain caste and untouchability so that the Dwijas can control the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi forces for longer time to go.
Shudra Feudalism And Caste Relations 

The Shudra Dalit gap widened once the Shudras in an historical course differed in ownership of agrarian land. As I said earlier across the country the Shudras, though divided into several classes, maintained social and personal distance from Dalits both human untouchability and also ownership of land. A section of Shudras own land and most Dalits along with landless Shudras work as labour in Shudra owned fields. It is difficult to estimate exactly at what stage the Shudras started owning land by overcoming the dictum of Manu Dharma Shastra that Shudras should not be allowed to own land as they were feet born fourth varna in the Vedic system. However, by the time India became independent the Shudras had the right to own land legally and Dalits also have legal rights but in reality many Shudra agrarian castes owned land and very few Dalit families owned cultivable land in the whole of India.

There were landlords or rich peasants from castes like Reddys, Kammas, Velamas of Andhra pradesh and Telangana. Jats, Patels, Maratas in North India Lingayats, Nairs and Naikars in Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. At the same time in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Odissa most landlords are Dwijas—Brahminis, Kayasthas, Ksatriyas and Bhumihars. Brahmin temple and land control is historical even much before Shudras were allowed to own land. Indian feudalism is essentially Brahmin feudalism which fundamentally differs from European feudalism. In India the Brahmin feudalism was rooted in the caste gradedness and also inhuman untouchability which destroyed many productive knowledge systems that the Shudras and Dalits discovered from time to time. The Brahmin spiritual system always looked down on agrarian scientific discoveries. If the whole world was to have similar caste and human untouchability even the capitalist advancement would not have seen the day. Because the religious institutions also need to recognize and co-operate with scientific experiments that take place in the fields of production. Brahminism never allowed such experiments to happen. When people experimented once the Brahminic forces came to know about such experiments they stopped them with social, spiritual and legal threats. The RSS owns that kind of past as great parampara. They never critique that past as negative and India should look for a scientific future.

The Shudra landlords too were not educated and the Brahmins refused to teach them Sanskrit and Muslims also did not teach them Persian. They mostly were illiterate with a feudal cultural aura. The land rights and actual ownership to Shudras must have come in two historical phases. 1) Shudra individuals after the monarchical systems were established became kings and they were isolated from the community and were given the Ksatriya status by the Brahmin priests. In spite of the fact that such individuals were relocated in Kshatriya status, such Shudra kings must have overlooked the dictum of Manu Dharma and Vedic injunctions and granted land rights to Shudras as their caste connections cannot be cut so easily. If an individual became a king his relatives still remained as Shudra agriculturists. Social and caste relationships are long established. The historical records show that from Maurya Chandra Gupta onwards several Shudra individuals were said to have become kings. Several generations of individuals from those dynasties ruled big and small kingdoms. There were Yadava, Reddy, Velama, Maratha dynasties that ruled in small and reasonably big states in different stages of history. For example, Shivaji was a Maratha ruler. By the time India achieved independence several Shudra kings were ruling small kingdoms with a subordinated status to the British Raj. Kolhapur, Baroda, Mysore states were under the Shudra rulers. But records do not show that there was any Dalit ruler in any part of India at the time of independence. The point, however, is that the Shudra rulers must have granted land rights to Shudras who were actually in the tilling profession. The Dalits, on the other hand, were till then also not allowed to own land in many parts of India. The problem of untouchability and landlessness made the Dalit-Shudra relationship problematic.

The Shudra Feudalism Was Embedded In Brahmin Feudalism

However, during the British colonial Raj more and more lands were brought under agriculture and the need for expansion of farmer society increased. Deforestation of lands and bringing them under plough was mainly done by the Shudras, though in many cases, they used the forced labour of Dalits both in deforestation and cultivation activities. The Shudra land ownership expanded during the colonial agrarian operations, both for native use and export to Europe. The Brahmin temple economy also expanded in the rural areas during that time, as they too had Agrahara temple lands, which even the British approved and granted pattas in the name of Brahmin priests and families. The North and South Indian Brahmin feudalism expanded quite hugely during that time. The Brahmin anti-production values were injected into Indian feudalism where the development of capital from the womb of feudalism was stalled. The feudal surplus was used on the Brahmin rituals and massive consumption. The Shudra feudal lords also followed the same lifestyle and British rulers used that negative culture as an advantage. Brahmin incomes have grown up both because of feudal and ritual economy. By the time India was entering into the anti-colonial struggle phase the Dwijas —mainly Brahmins and Baniyas entered into English medium education both in India and England. The English education spread within the Dwija communities—leaving even the Shudra landlords unexposed to English education. Macaulay, whom they abused later, put the Dwija forces on the international map and now they share power and positions in the Christian democratic world, leaving the Shudra/OBCs in the lurch.

The Shudra/OBCs did not get into English education much later also. Neither the feudal Shudra landlords nor the Shudra kings sent their children to study in England while Gandhi and Nehru, along with many other Dwija youth were studying there. An exposure to Western and Christian religious values would have engendered a new philosophical vision among the Shudra youth. But quite unfortunately Shudra rulers and landlords did not send their children to the West and got them educated. The only Dalit, Dr.B.R Ambedkar, who went and studied in America and England became a philosopher, economist, sociologist and legal expert and went on to write many great books and also the Indian constitution. But not a single Shudra young man or woman went and studied abroad and emerged like Ambedkar, Gandhi, Nehru and so on. They were content with local landed power.

Without a philosophical vision opposing a deep seated practice of untouchability and caste inequality would be impossible. It required a serious study of the Brahminic books either in Sanskrit or in English as they were first translated into English during the colonial rule. The Shudras of India have not waged war against their own community’s historical ignorance, against Brahminism and also caste practices. Shudra landlords were ignorant and arrogant at the same time. By and large Shudras remain in the same ignorant status in the 21 century. Some landed wealth or feudal control over the poor with power to oppress Dalits and other Shudras is not good civilizational status of a given community.

There is a need for a socio-spiritual revolution in Indian society. The Shudras need to take a philosophical control of the spiritual system by sidestepping the Brahmins. This needs an educated civil society within their own communities. The regional parties that are controlled by the Shudras must introduce English medium education in all the Government schools and a massive cultural re-positioning has to take place.

Temple, Food And Human Untouchability

At what stage of Indian history the Shudras and Dalits became untouchable to each other is not exactly known. As I said earlier Dr.BR. Ambedkar’s argument was that the present form of Dalit untouchability came into in its full form after persecution of Buddhists. The persecution continued over a long period of time from Pushyamitra Shunga’s period to Adi-Shankara’s period. He thought that all the present Dalits are former Buddhists and imposing untouchability on them became the ultimate persecution. Since most Buddhists were forced to become untouchable to the rest of the society, Buddhism also did not get the support of the Dwijas and Shudras. The second reason he talked about was that Dalit were eating beef, mainly of dead cattle’s and that also became an added reason for untouchability. He never mentioned the role of leather and Brahminism treating leather work as untouchable from Vedic times onwards. If Brahmin writers claim that they wrote books or their scriptures much earlier than the Israelites, Greeks and Chinese and if they were not practicing leather and dead animal body related work as untouchable, why they did not write on leather scrolls but wrote even by that time on an unscientific instrument, Talapatra?

The post-Aryan migration and formation of varna dharma theory and the division of the society into four varnas itself was in a way the beginning of practice of untouchability of all food production and development of scientific instrument process. The Shudra untouchability gradually limited to leather workers’ untouchability because the service of the Shudras for the Dwija castes would have been impossible unless they were treated humanely touchable and spiritually untouchable. This process of Shudra spiritual untouchability continued for long time till the Muslim kingdoms were established. As large Shudras were becoming Muslim slowly the Brahminic temple entry of Shudras was allowed because of if all Shudras become Muslim there will be none to feed them by producing food. The ancient and early medieval food of all Indians included beef. Without eating beef along with other food items that were naturally available in nature even the Brahmin/Bania/Skatriya survival would have been impossible. However, the most negative development that happened with Shudra life was, apart from denial of education, their food culture was/is being controlled by the Brahmin priest who has no love lost to them.

But it is unthinkable that Shudras and Dwijas never ate beef from the days of writing the Brahminic books, mainly Vedas. Vedas themselves are telling that beef was part of ritual offerings and part of human food culture at that time. More importantly in Harappan civilization, the present Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis mainly depended on animal food, including the meat of bulls, cows, buffaloes, sheep, goat,deer and so on. Their food also consisted of fish and milk at that time. The human food surplus mainly came from dried animal meat, which still is a source in many Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi homes. Our Adivasis kill many animals whenever they could get them and both the skin and meat are processed for long time use. In plains of India all shepherd and Dalit families preserve dry meat called Vatti Tunukalu and also dry fish called Vatti Chapalu even today. Meat and fish are not untouchable foods in all Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi temples. They are not untouchable even in Bengali Brahmin, Kayastha families in the temples. Their food offerings consist of fish items. It is mainly the South Indian Brahmin-Banias and now the RSS/BJP and their sister organizations propagate pure vegetarianism in temples, marriages and other rituals. Both Mahatma Gandhi’s campaign in the freedom movement, with almost a Jain adherence to pure vegetarianism, and subsequently the RSS and Hindu Maha Sabha headed by mainly Brahmins and other Dwijas expanded the pure vegetarian practice by weakening the physical and intellectual strength of India. This happens more among the poor vegetarians who cannot eat rich vegetarian food like Ghee, milk products, fruits and also would not eat cheap more protein meet foods by force of childhood training. In both physical and mental health, we are no way comparable to China.The Brahmin priest and the RSS Dwija leaders have now converted India into a vegetarian weak country.

The Shudras, more so in North India, have fallen into the trap of Brahminic-Hindutva forces who fed them with an idea that any meat eating is anti-divine and now most Shudra/OBCs are unable develop their mental and physical faculties that could overcome the Brahminic tricks. The post-modern identity and self respecting cultures of all brahminic practices and values and their spiritual and philosophic guidance needs to be rejected by the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis, if they want to overcome the historical mental and physical backwardness. They cannot surrender to Brahmin gurus and overcome their superstitious mental blocks. It is here that we must examine the Shudra backward mind set that treats fellow human productive forces, Dalits as untouchable, a culture imposed by Brahminism. This practice can be abolished by philosophical repositioning by the Shudras first. There must be a Shudra philosophical rebellion against Brahminic superstition in general and the RSS/BJP cultural and political ideology which essentially came from the Brahmin brain. There is no contribution of Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi brain to that philosophy and ideology. There is no single thinker who wrote a book about Hindutva philosophy from the Shudra/OBC background. They are only being used as muscle power for the Dwija advantage.

Of course, it is the Shudra who treats a Dalit as untouchable not not Dalit that treats a Shudra as untouchable. This situation deformed the cultural history of India and it has impacted the historical development of science and production negatively. Any nation that treats its own people as touchable and touchable that nation would suffer massive talent and organizational loss. The RSS/BJP which mobilize masses in the name of nationalism but do not want unity of people by completely erasing the old compartmentalization of the nation is going to lose but not gain. For example China, Bangladesh and Pakistan do not suffer from these spiritual and superstitious blockades. Human mind and body need a lot of protein food and open scientific thinking. Historical Brahminism and the present RSS/BJP and their other networks are meant to control the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi forces from not developing into scientific thinkers and writers. For the last hundred years the RSS successfully did that by all means. The secular and liberal Brahmins also were fully with them on this particular issue. Though the RSS/BJP were telling that the beef and meat food culture is Islamic not of Hindus, the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis were/are meatarians all along. The real sufferers with that campaign was not Muslims but it were/are the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis. Philosophically the Muslims did not get influenced with RSS/BJP Brahminic spiritual and social thought. Their thought and ideology are intact, as they were globally well connected.

Brahminism exists only in India and Nepal and both countries suffered its superstition for millennia. The Shudras got influenced and the practice of human untouchability by such a large community destroyed its creative energies. The practice of untouchability does not only destroy the energies of the untouchables but it destroys the energies of touchables. Since every person has hidden philosophical and scientific energies, caste and human untouchability have killed the scope of getting people educated and experimenting with new ideas. That is what happened to the Shudra mass intellectual energies. That is the main reason why there are no great Shudra intellectuals. Unless the Shudras realize this problem it is impossible to overcome this historical tragic trap that the nation is in. Without Shudra intellectuals emerging from central and state universities continue the mantle of massive research and continue the life time work of Phule, Savitribai Phule, Ambedkar, Pariyar and so on it is impossible to overthrow the control of Brahminism from the Shudra lives.

In my view the ritual purity and pollution ideology was certainly a Brahmin destructive theory. Such ritual theory also seems to have existed in Israel at the time of Jesus. The Samaritan community was an untouchable community with whom Jesus interacted. After that interaction the Samaritans became his followers and gradually that practice of untouchability seems to have been abolished, as there is no such practice among Jews now. But in India once the brahminic ritual practice, in a superstitious manner, was set up the touchable and untouchable relations, those relations passed on through several stages of Indian life. In everyday life while drinking water, eating food, touching one’s body in the daily routine functions of production and in man-woman relations the touchable and untouchable relations determined social interactions and rankings. But the final form of it got expressed in the temple system. The Sanatanic Brahmin temples are now called Hindu temples. The temple entry has passed through several stages of both Shudras and Dalits getting treated as untouchable for a long time. But now the human untouchability has come to a stage only Dalit get treated as untouchable in the temples. The idea of not allowing Dalits into Hindu temples comes from the priest—who is invariably a Brahmin, but the Shudras do the physical act of stopping them from entry. Thus the Shudras do the job of spiritual policing as against Dalits at the command of the Brahmin priest. The Brahmin priest operates as a mythological god and a Shudra mind never grasped this unproductive man controlling their brain and body. This lack of philosophical grasp of the Brahmin mind destroyed the Shudra brain more than any other organ.

This is where the role of the RSS should have been actually nationalist. It should have declared that human untouchability, food taboos, spiritual and social casteism are anti-human and also anti-national, if its leaders have any respect for the land, as the source of our food that we all live by. They should have proclaimed that all tasks and commodities, leather or spade, mud or woman’s menstruation all are the source of life. But its ideology and day to day practice and the organizational structure shows that more than nationalism this organization is brought into existence to protect the Indian parampara, of which caste system is the main, and see that the oppressed caste do not go into Islam or Christianity. The threat to Brahminism came from these two religions, which operated with a spiritual idea of God/Allah that is abstract and universal. There are minimal obstacles to the scientific experiments. Islam and Judaism have pork food taboo but that is being opposed within those religions. Whereas Brahminism operates on the spiritual idea that Brahma is Brahmin and Vishnu is a Ksatriya. Their gods themselves are fixed in a caste. The idea of leather untouchability and beef and meat untouchability and violence around food culture has broken the back of the Indian civil society.

The RSS in its more than 5 years existence never took up a campaign against any form of untouchability as much as, at least, Mahatma Gandhi took up during the freedom struggle. Ambedkar, though himself organized a temple entry movement in early days of his activism, he treated such a movement with disdain later when Gandhi was organizing the temple entry. Because he thought that the Brahminic forces would not change hence it was a futile exercise. He also must have thought the Shudras who have not produced a philosophical mind of his stature, they too do not stop putting their physical strength both in numbers and in terms of handing over wealth in Brahmin cause. They collect money through ritual tasks and also own a huge amount of land and other movable and immobile properties. Through their ownership of landed property they constructed such feudal values that abolition of untouchability in the civil society and temples was/is impossible. Pandit Nehru remained totally away from the caste problem as if it was no issue at all. Sardar Vallabai Patel also remained indifferent to that activity because the Shudra Brahmin collaboration was needed for achieving freedom from the British. Unfortunately he also did not proposed any philosophical agenda for abolition of untouchability for the future after independence was achieved. He has not written anything philosophical in his long life of seventy five years. He just remained an iron man. What does Ambedkar do in such a situation of national Shudra leadership. Periyar Ramsamy Naikar was an atheist without much English writing to support Ambedkar and was largely a regional leader. The Shudras had no national level intellectual brain at a time Brahmins started the RSS for continuing their hegemony for a long time to go.

But the RSS remained totally indifferent to even that movement and mainly focused on anti-Muslim and Christian campaigns. In a country of historical inequality, oppression, human untouchability and man-woman inequality, the forces in power must constantly strive for social reforms and economic development. The RSS/BJP are anti-social reform and have no theory of their own about economic development as they never had a theory of both these democratic agendas. It is in this situation of our nation we must examine the role of Shudras in spiritual and intellectual domains. The Congress Party in its long rule of the nation, the power was mainly handled by the same Dwijas with a secularism as their theoretical arm, where the religious inequality and human untouchability were conveniently overlooked. They were hiding themselves under the cover of secularism and vague socialist ideas that both the Marxwadi Dwijas and the Congress Dwijas promoted. On the question of caste and untouchability both Manuwadi Dwijas and Marxwadi Dwijas had similar opinion— silence. And they also did not allow the Shudras to enter into sophisticated global English medium education and hence no philosophers and thinkers who could shake the system emerged from them in any region. Thus, lack of philosophical vision among the Shudras sustained the Shudra-Dalit untouchabe relations and oppression. This human untouchability was conveniently used to exploit Dalits more brutally than they could exploit Shudras.

Atrocities On Dalits And The Shudra Imbroglio

As of now the tension between the Shudras and Dalits is more in the rural agrarian fields and villages. Across India the Dalits, by and large, are agrarian labour whereas the Shudras are divided into various classes. The Dalitwadas are also generally outside the village where the rest of castes live inside in caste clusters. Among Shudras there are landlords, rich farmers, small farmers and also huge numbers of pure agrarian labour. Apart from these, there are various cultural castes with nomadic and semi-nomadic life among the Shudras. Their caste status changes from state to state. Yet the human untouchability between Dalits and all classes of Shudras is a common phenomenon. This deepened the practice of caste based graded inequality and untouchability that went beyond the temple and priest controlled mechanism of spiritual untouchability. Most post-Independence atrocities, including rape and killing of Dalit women and men came from the deepened untouchability consciousness of the Shudras. Major post-Independence atrocities like Belchi (Bihar), Karamchedu and Chunduru (Andhra Pradesh), Kharlanji (Maharastra), Una (Gujarat), Jajjar (Haryana) and so on were mainly committed by the Shudra youth and post-Ambedkarite Dalit movement fought these Shudra atrocities in a more organized way than ever before.

Such Shudra-Dalit conflicts also lead to huge number SC/ST Atrocity Act related cases against Shudras. This confrontational situation created a anti-democratic atmosphere in the country. In the urban areas in the Government and private offices and other industries where the employment is under the roof, the Dwijas are involved in more atrocity cases than Shudras. Educated Shudras, particularly those Shudras who got jobs because of reservation tried to co-exist with Dalit employees as all of them face discrimination from the Dwija officials. In the non-productive public service employment the Dwijas—i.e.Brahmins, Banias, Kayasthas, Ksatriyas and Khatris— who involve in sophisticated atrocities, through various forms of discrimination. Many upper middle class Dwijas and the Dalits working within the urban offices clashed in the office spaces and the SC/ST Atrocity Act related cases against Dwija officials are normally seen. However, the question is unless the Shudra-Dalit relationship changes in the rural India serious change in the socio-cultural and also economic system would not take place in India. Once the Shudras stop treating Dalits as untouchable, the urban setting will also change. However, the religion and temple remain the key message senders on the questions of caste and untouchability. So long as the Shudras do not take control of the religion the priestly Brahmin keeps on playing tricks and abolishing caste and untouchable relations become impossible. Thus, the Indian civil society became an enmeshed cobweb.

Shudra-Dalit Intellectual Relations 

There is no intellectual crop among the Shudras. When we are talking about intellectualism we are not talking about the food production intellectuality. We mainly talk about writing texts about ourselves and their history. The Shudras were kept out of this activity even in modern times—more particularly during the freedom struggle and also in post-independence times. The historical brahiminic forces and more particularly the Hindutva stream of thought brainwashed them that their main role, apart from food production, is in physically fighting the Muslim and Christian, Other. The intellectual field was divided among three schools in modern India—the liberal Brahmininist, Manuwadi Brahminist and Marxwadi Brahminist. The only challenging school that emerged in text writing intellectual domain is the Dalit intellectual force. There is a fairly good crop that emerged to carry the intellectual mantle of Ambedkar in post-independence India. But over a period of last two-three decades the Dalit intellectuals were concerned about the Shudra atrocties on Dalits, even at the cost of electoral and intellectual alliances between Shudra/OBC and Dalit masses. The relationship between the Dalit intellectuals with sparsely emerging Shudra/OBC intellectuals in the universities and literary realms is not very intimate with an understanding of abolition of caste and untouchability as a goal.

The Shudra exploitation and atrocities on Dalits is a serious problem of India. At the same time the Dalit intellectual disengagement with the Shudra slavery and intellectual bankruptcy is equally problematic. There is no systematically written Shudra/Dalit history. Particularly at a time when the RSS/BJP are pushing the Hindutva brahminic literature as main teaching material in the schools, colleges and universities writing of history from the Shudra/Dalit point of view is a critical project. The Dwija intellectual history shows that both Shudras and Dalits do not exist in that. Now the Hindutva ideology will make them perpetually non-existent. Hence the need for going to the roots of construction of the idea of untouchability and how it sustained through the sustained process of deployment of brahminical manipulative hegemony. The RSS/BJP is the most organized network that controls the national power. Such a situation demands a collaborative intellectuals battle by both the Shudra and Dalit intellectuals.

[3Dalits in the Telugu villages are known as Tolupanollu (leather workers) and they are treated as untouchable mainly because of that work.

[4See Kancha Ilaiah, Post-Hindu India—A Discourse on Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution, Subaltern Scientists pp 25—48, Sage, (New Delhi), 2009


[6In the Ramayana and Mahabharata, which are made very popular through multi-media propaganda, Shudra and Dalit life, their productive struggles with nature, do not figure in any meaningful way. In Mahabharata, for example, only when reference to Karna comes, his Shudra background is mentioned. But he was also shown by birth a Ksatriya as he was a son of Kunti herself. In Ramayana Sri Rama and his family represents the Ksatriya community and all other rishis represent the Brahmins. No significant figure represents Shudra or Dalit communities, who were the main food producers of India.

[7    The earliest biblical texts were written on scrolls made from papyrus (a plant-based paper) or parchment (animal skins that had been scraped, burnished, and stitched together). It is very likely that all biblical books were initially written on scrolls. Only in the second or third century C.E. did scribes begin to write on papyrus or parchment that was folded and stitched into a codex, which more closely resembles our modern print book. After the invention of the codex, Christians tended to copy their scriptures into codex form, whereas Jews traditionally continued to copy their scriptures in scroll form. (

[8Palm-leafmanuscripts are manuscripts made out of dried palm leaves. Palm leaves were used as writing materials in Indian subcontinent and in Southeast Asia reportedly dating back to the 5th century BCE. Zhixin Shi; Srirangaraj Setlur; Venu Govindaraju. "Digital Enhancement of Palm Leaf Manuscript Images using Normalization Techniques" (PDF). Amherst, USA: SUNY at Buffalo. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2010-06-16. Retrieved 2009-06-23.(

[9The Vedas have been orally transmitted since the 2nd millennium BCE with the help of elaborate mnemonic techniques. The mantras, the oldest part of the Vedas, are recited in the modern age for their phonology rather than the semantics, and are considered to be "primordial rhythms of creation", preceding the forms to which they refer.[25] By reciting them the cosmos is regenerated, "by enlivening and nourishing the forms of creation at their base." (

[10verses 282-286, from an early Quranic manuscript written on vellum (mid-late 7th century CE),

[12See Dr.B.R. Ambedkar, The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchable? Chapter 9 to 14 wherein he says “The Broken Men hated the Brahmins because the Brahmins were the enemies of Buddhism and the Brahmins imposed untouchability upon the Broken Men because they would not leave Buddhism. On this reasoning it is possible to conclude that one of the roots of untouchability lies in the hatred and contempt which the Brahmins created against those who were Buddhist”.

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