“Brahmins Only” Housing


This advertisement for a “Brahmins Only” housing project appeared in a newspaper in April:

Advertisement for "Brahmins only" housing project in Bangalore

The ad in the image shows a aerial photograph of “Shankara Agraharam… the Vedic Village” and lists its various amenities, like “Temple complex”, “Goshala”, “Ayurvedic Hospital” etc. On top, in large print, it says “RESIDENTIAL PLOTS FOR SALE – BRAHMINS ONLY”. And at the bottom of the ad is the description “An Exclusive Brahmin Community Township”. The ad appeared in the Bangalore edition of The Hindu, April 11 2013.

A visit to their website confirms that their objective is the preservation and perpetuation of Brahmanism:

To preserve, protect, propagate and strengthen intellectual identity, integrity and self- esteem of the noble culture of Sanathana Dharma, spanning its various sampradayas and traditions represented by Acharyas and Gurus.

When we posted the image on the Indian Atheists page it got the expected amount of anger, but there were also a handful of commenters who thought this ought to be allowed. This post attempts to tease out the moral arguments for and against. (I’m not neutral on the matter and will make my position clear too.)

First, it appears that this might be legal in India. I got in touch with a Nirmukta acquaintance who’s a lawyer, who sent me the following Supreme Court judgement from 2005: Zoroastrian Co-Operative vs District Registrar Co-Operative. Here are the facts I could gather from going through the lengthy judgement: a group of Parsis formed a co-operative society and acquired land for housing development. The by-laws of the society stated that “all members shall belong to the Parsi Community” and that flats constructed could be “sold only to members of the Parsi community”. A descendant of one of the original owners wished to sell property to a non-Parsi, and hence the court case. The court decided in favour of the society – i.e. it upheld the right of the society to only let Parsis in. The key points in the ruling were Article 19(1)(c) of the Constitution of India which states that “All citizens shall have the right to form associations or unions”, and the Co-operative Societies Act. The judgement contains portions which seem to acknowledge that while this might not be desirable, it is within the letter of the law:

It appears to us that unless appropriate amendments are brought to the various Cooperative Societies Acts incorporating a policy that no society shall be formed or if formed, membership in no society shall be confined to persons of a particular persuasion, religion, belief or region, it could not be said that a society would be disentitled to refuse membership to a person who is not duly qualified to be one in terms of its bye-laws.

and

It is true that in secular India it may be somewhat retrograde to conceive of co-operative societies confined to group of members or followers of a particular religion, a particular mode of life, a particular persuasion. But that is different from saying that you cannot have a co-operative society confined to persons of a particular persuasion, belief, trade, way of life or a religion. A co-operative society is not a state[…]

and

It is true that our Constitution has set goals for ourselves and one such goal is the doing away with discrimination based on religion or sex. But that goal has to be achieved by legislative intervention and not by the court coining a theory that whatever is not consistent with the scheme or a provision of the Constitution, be it under Part III or Part IV thereof, could be declared to be opposed to public policy by the court.

and

Even today, we have Women’s co-operative societies, we have co-operative societies of handicapped persons, we have co-operative societies of labourers and agricultural workers. We have co-operative societies of religious groups who believe in vegetarianism and abhor non-vegetarian food. It will be impermissible, so long as the law stands as it is, to thrust upon the society of those believing in say, vegetarianism, persons who are regular consumers of non-vegetarian food. May be, in view of the developments that have taken place in our society and in the context of the constitutional scheme, it is time to legislate or bring about changes in Co-operative Societies Acts regarding the formation of societies based on such a thinking or concept. But that cannot make the formation of a society like the appellant Society or the qualification fixed for membership therein, opposed to public policy or enable the authorities under the Act to intervene and dictate to the society to change its fundamental character.

This debate boils down to the fundamental proposition that the right is prior to the good. I.e., governments and justice systems (such as the ones in today’s democracies) guarantee rights (in this case, the freedom of association) without taking sides about what is good. There are good reasons for this. As we all know, religions have been forcing their notions of goodness and virtue on people for centuries. So by staying neutral on matters of virtue, individual rights can be protected. My view is that there is a downside to this, such as the segregation illustrated by the advertisement above – where harm is done by protecting certain rights.

How is this harmful? Well the thing to note is that “Brahmins only” is actually very different from (say) “No pet owners”. This is because in the case of casteism, we aren’t just dealing with individuals – we are dealing with social systems which privilege certain groups and oppress other groups. There is no equivalent social system which privileges non-pet owners and oppresses pet owners. Hence, these preferences do not have the same moral weight and cannot be treated as morally equivalent. Similarly, excluding gay couples from a housing society is different from excluding (say) car owners – because while there is a social system (heterosexism) in the case of the former, there is no equivalent social system in the case of the latter. This distinction between individuals and social systems – and how they interact – is key to understanding social life as we know it. “Brahmins only” is in fact different from “Parsis only” too – because the Parsis are a dwindling minority in India. I’m still not sure whether it should be allowed, but hopefully you can see that the two do not carry the same moral weight.

Here is the flip side of “Brahmins only” segregation:

In a recent trend, Ahmedabad is witnessing ‘only-Dalit’ residential societies around 300 of which have come up in the last few years. However, for most Dalits, it is not a matter of choice, but of compulsion. “Even if a Dalit can afford a flat in areas dominated by the upper castes, they are often denied by the builders or the seller”, retired IAS officer P K Valera, who lives in one such Dalit society in Ramdevnagar, says.

…Socio-political scientist Achyut Yagnik says, “There are more than 300 Dalit societies in the city. In Chandkheda alone, there are 200 societies, most of which have come up after the 2002 riots when people moved out from Gomtipur, Bapunagar and Dani limda area. You will find construction contractors who only build Dalit societies.”

…Jayantibhai Jadav, a Congress councillor from Chandkheda and a builder-constructor, said, “In case a Dalit approaches a upper caste builder for accommodation, he is either directly discouraged or tacitly denied. The upper caste buyers don’t even approach Dalit builders.”

Jadav points out that while a Dalit from Gujarat cannot find a house in the upper caste societies, things are different for Dalits, who are non-Gujarati. “As the unfamiliar surnames do not reveal the caste of non-Gujaratis, Dalits from other parts of the country stands better chance to get accommodation in mixed societies”, he adds.

…Ashok Shrimali, who moved from Gomtipur to Shyam Bungalows, one of the Dalit societies in Chandkheda post 2002 riots, said, “A quest of safety took me to various Hindu-dominated housing societies in Ahmedabad. But I was denied an accommodation everywhere as I am a Dalit”, says Shrimali. Even in Chandkheda, he could not find accommodation in any of the mixed societies. “Finally, I moved to this society, inhabited by Dalits only”, he says.

…Builders and real estate agents say selling property to even one Dalit family in a society becomes detrimental to sales. Pulin Modi of Modi Constructions says, “Buyers do check out their neighbours before they book a flat in any area. Caste plays an important role as people want to live with their own class of people”. He further said that people even avoid the builders, who sell houses to Dalits.

…Manjula Pradeep of Dalit Shakti Kendra says, “It is not always that people move to such ghettos because they were refused houses elsewhere. Even if a Dalit manages to find a house in such areas, the moment his identity is disclosed, his neighbours start avoiding him. This fear of rejection, social isolation and a need for social security has pushed most of the Dalits to such ghettos”, Pradeep adds.

And here:

Some time ago I visited a Dalit hamlet in Rewa district. It was hemmed in on all sides by the fields of upper-caste farmers, who refused to allow any approach road to reach the hamlet. There were short roads inside the hamlet, but they stopped abruptly at the edge of it. The hamlet felt like an island, surrounded by hostile territory.

And here:

According to the writing, the Dhanwada Panchayat has created a water distribution system based on caste. People from the upper caste will have access to water for the first two hours in the morning. The writing says Rajputs and Patels will get water from 8 am to 10 am. Then, from 10 am to 12 noon, it is the turn of the Bharwads and Vaghris and lastly, Harijans and other untouchables for the next two hours. […] Such water distribution system can be seen not only in this village but in most villages,” claimed Ramila Parmar, project coordinator of Navsarjan Trust, an NGO. “We have found in our survey that the Dalit Falia is always situated outside the village or in an isolated area. Sometimes they are not provided ample water or they get it after other castes get their supply. Hence they always have to face water scarcity,” added Parmar.

To take another example, there is housing segregation of Muslims too: here are newspaper reports on the issue from Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai.

So my position is that all freedoms of association are not the same, and some need to be curtailed by law.

There are a few objections which can be raised to this position. The first is, “Segregation is going to happen whether this is legal or not.” It is true that segregation will continue. It happens via subtle discrimination and chilly climates, via a gulf in social and economic capital, and via collusion with real estate agents who can quietly steer “suitable” people to certain societies and keep others out. Schelling’s work on segregation models suggests that even mild individual preferences like “I want 30% of my neighbours to be like me” result in heavy segregation at the macro level. But this cannot be a reason to not address the problem via legislation, because legislation can at least make it harder for segregation to occur. Civil Rights legislation in America might not have solved segregation there, but surely it increases the “cost” of it, by offering legal support and deterrents, and by altering social norms and values – today the idea of a “Whites only” sign instantly provokes a feeling of revulsion, as it should. So let’s have legislation, and keep fighting segregation via social activism as well.

Another objection would be to turn the argument around: “You’re a progressive atheist type, how would you feel about religious fundamentalists moving into your housing society?” I confess that a part of me would rebel against the prospect of fundamentalist neighbours, and I don’t have a solid justification for this. I think my counter-argument would again be based on notions of virtue and on the prevailing systemic conditions – atheists wanting to exclude religious fundamentalists is not the same as religious fundamentalists wanting to exclude atheists, “heathens” and “untouchables”.

(Readers unfamiliar with the caste system might want to watch the excellent documentary India Untouched. On Caste Privilege is a good piece written from the point of view of someone with caste privilege. The website Round Table India regularly publishes news articles and opinion from Dalit-Bahujan voices.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. machintelligence says

    Another objection would be to turn the argument around: “You’re a progressive atheist type, how would you feel about religious fundamentalists moving into your housing society?”

    I would have no problem at all. Most fundamentalists are decent people who have beliefs that do not survive well when they come in contact with reality (or even other belief systems.) I suspect that they would become more tolerant, and their children less likely to follow their fundamentalist religion because they would be unable to avoid contact with their neighbors. Most fundamental belief systems depend upon the forced ignorance of their young.

  2. jimvj says

    Just curious; how does someone prove their Brahmin status?
    Is there an organization that investigates family trees?
    If I claimed that my Brahmin family lives in a remote village, would they spend resources to check that out?
    Does Brahmin imply “practicing Brahmin”, i.e., knowledge of Sanskrit, rites, etc? No secular Brahmins?
    Does the one drop rule apply? I.e., any non-Brahmin ancestor is disallowed.

    Welcome to FTB; I’m very pleased to find Nirmukta..

  3. Pierce R. Butler says

    At least the Ayurvedic Hospital and Institute of Alternative Medicine will help to reduce the population of Brahmo-bigots in this neighborhood.

  4. says

    @2. jimvj,

    Caste is so deeply ingrained into our culture that there are a number of markers that give away your caste. Starting from your name, the dialect you speak, your dietary habits, the way you dress, and so on. So it is easy to show that you belong to a particular caste. Further proof of your status is maintained by your family and your community. You are not supposed to marry out of your caste. But if you really have to, the rule of thumb is that men are allowed to marry lower and women are allowed to marry upper. The male determines the caste of the progeny. Of course a lot of this has changed with the number of intercaste marriages rising, but a scarily large number still marry within caste. Even in intercaste marriages, it is rare to see a non-dalit marry a dalit (Dalits occupy the lowest rung in the hierarchy).

    Also a Brahmin doesn’t need to imply a “practicing Brahmin”. Many of them don’t really care about learning Sanskrit or practicing rituals, though they are likely to be taught those.

  5. Anita J says

    ”Well the thing to note is that “Brahmins only” is actually very different from (say) “No pet owners”. This is because in the case of casteism, we aren’t just dealing with individuals – we are dealing with social systems which privilege certain groups and oppress other groups. There is no equivalent social system which privileges non-pet owners and oppresses pet owners. Hence, these preferences do not have the same moral weight and cannot be treated as morally equivalent.”

    This should be highlighted in BOLD. :)

  6. Eristae says

    I find that I am more pained by the defense of this kind of thing than I am by the actual implantation of it.

  7. David Marjanović says

    At least the Ayurvedic Hospital and Institute of Alternative Medicine will help to reduce the population of Brahmo-bigots in this neighborhood.

    …I was going to say.

    your dietary habits

    I know a Brahmin who is a vegetarian simply because that’s how he was brought up, and whose parents are so strict they don’t even eat plant parts that grow in the earth.

  8. jefferylanam says

    The owners at the Parsi-only society are going to have difficulty selling their houses, if they haven’t already. The population of Parsis in India is declining by about 10% each census. Source

  9. estelm4 says

    On the “right vs. good” question, no matter how undesirable the opinion motivating the association, the point of rights are to empower the individual in order to ensure that no opinion (whether good or bad) is forced as an absolute on anyone else. The flip side of denying the right to association is that the regime denying this (no matter how good the intention) is authoritarian. Enforcing diversity is just the same as coerced homogeneity – it denies the individual any agency in the matter.

    Incidentally, the idea of ownership of property is the example the nirmukta site uses as a corollary to free speech- one cannot expect a private group (formed by exercise of the right to freedom of speech and association) to allow trolls free reign into the website (property) that is owned by such private group? [at http://nirmukta.com/2010/09/08/trolls-and-other-disrupters-a-pragmatists-guide-to-moderating-online-freethought-groups/ The group is moderated to ensure that a safe haven is created for like-minded people, based on the same first principles- that people have a right to associate with others who think like them and have the right to exclude those who do not, because tolerating them is not the reason that the association was set up in the first place.

    The same goes for the right to association as well- you may be free to say what you like, but if I don’t like what you’re saying, I need not be forced to put up with it at all. While a ‘whites only’ board does invoke revulsion, ‘men only’ organisations (for instance, the many freemasonic orders that deny membership to women) hardly make anyone bat an eyelid. With all of these, I take someone’s right to that liberty as seriously as I take my own right to criticize and ridicule casteism.

    That being said, I personally think that bigot-shaming and chilly climes are the best solution for the particular issue at hand. It’s astonishing how many (and I say this from general experience) people have absolutely no qualms in professing extremely prejudiced opinions, whether it be on subjects relating to caste or religion. There are many Modi supporters who are completely comfortable in their support of him despite the genocide charges. Worse still: some are comfortable supporters because of the genocide charges. In short, by and large, the privileged do not feel shame or expect someone to feel shame / guilt in unearned privilege unless they themselves face some kind of marginalisation (such as subjugation of the Indians by the Brits – compare the celebration of General Dyer’s actions against revulsion felt by Indians to the reactions of caste Hindus to the Gujarat riots). However, it may be noted that segregation policies in US private schools changed not due to law, but due to change in social attitudes, thanks to massive mobilisation against racism.

    On a similar note, there are certain other solutions that are viable without affecting rights – Slum rehabilitation in Mumbai for instance: The government provides incentives to developers who rehabilitate slum-dwellers by providing them with apartments (free and small, but better alternatives to slums the same size) in the housing complexes that they develop, in exchange for the right to build higher apartments (they are granted the right to construct buildings with floor spaces greater than what would otherwise be permitted) and gain profits from sales of those extra flats. [for more info: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2010-08-12/millionaires-get-neighborly-with-slum-dwellers-in-space-challenged-mumbai.html. Perhaps these kind of governmental incentives can entice to willing developers into the caste battle in the same manner as the economic privilege battle?

  10. says

    “Brahmins Only”
    Hell yeah! I really really hope that everyone else other than brahmins too help to implement this wish in it’s entirety. All non-brahmins must totally boycott visiting this place… No non-brahmin domestic help, no non-brahmin paper wallah, no non-brahmin iron wallah, no non-brahmin milkman, no non-brahmin driver, no non-brahmin electrician, no non-brahmin plumber, no non-brahmin carpenter, no non-brahmin doctor, no …. You get the idea, right? All these people too must be ONLY brahmins- like ONLY brahmin domestic helper, ONLY brahmin paper wallah, ONLY brahmin iron wallah, etc :-)

    Such reverse discrimination by the non brahmins might help in forcing these bigoted assholes to reconsider their ideas.

  11. Arvind says

    Well there’s so much discrimination in our caste based politics that there’s no surprise such things happen. I totally don’t support this even though I’m a Brahmin and I hope there’s a court order that makes such discrimination (and in other forms) illegal. I’m quite sure that most Brahmins would find this ad ridiculous. Yet I find it strange that people point this ad out, when there are so many matrimonial ads that ask for “reddys” or “christians” or “iyengars” or whatever. Let’s face it, we currently live in a government sanction caste-ist society. If one can discriminate based on class for education or employment or spouses, I don’t see how such things are to be specifically frowned upon.

  12. says

    @11. Arvind,

    Reservations are not government sanctioned castieism. It’s the same bullshit privileged castes have been saying since the day they were introduced. They exist because there is discrimination in the society. The article links to a documentary “India Untouched. On Caste Privilege”. That would be a good start for you to learn how pervasive the discrimination is.

  13. Anitha says

    Hi,

    Why concentrate on a small ad when the total reservation system for everything is based on castes… ?

    Right from basic education, through graduation system till the placement of jobs reservation based on caste is present – with the term “minority”. Talk about family planning – govenment says we two ours two, but then some religion says there is no limitation on the offsprings and hence the law need not be uphold/excused for those following the religion.

    we need real reforms to come out of this system.

    Anitha

  14. says

    Why concentrate on a small ad when the total reservation system for everything is based on castes… ?

    Reservations are based on caste because discrimination is caste based. This maybe one “small” ad, but it is emblematic of the greater problem, to which you too contribute.

    Right from basic education, through graduation system till the placement of jobs reservation based on caste is present – with the term “minority”. Talk about family planning – govenment says we two ours two, but then some religion says there is no limitation on the offsprings and hence the law need not be uphold/excused for those following the religion.

    In basic education what usually happens is this – the privileged castes normally can afford to send their kids to elite institutions, and then to coaching centers where they’re taught in dept how to game the entrance exams. If they don’t get good scores, they then buy their way into college in India and/or abroad. That’s why even today you’ll find a much relatively higher percentage of privileged castes in most sought after professions when compared to their percentage in the Indian population. But still people like you whine about how reservations have robbed you of opportunities.

    And your bias against the lower castes seems to have impaired your ability to perceive reality. In placement of jobs, there are no reservations. Companies come to colleges and select whoever passes their recruitment criteria. If you applying for a government job, only then there are reservations.

    Also there never was a law against having more than two kids. It was the norm for everyone to have more than two kids a few decades ago. But now a days most don’t, including Muslims. Again, your bigoted stance towards Muslims seems to have disconnected you from reality.

  15. Anitha says

    hi,

    @sathish: i personally do not have any discrepancy towards any religion or caste. providing a voice doesnt mean its in me.

    yes i agree the reservations were once started because of certain actions and to ensure fair chance. There is always a case where the original intentions are overriden n the rule being used for benefit. Depending on the current circumstances, things needs to be revised. If the reservation is based on financial stability as to who can afford and who cannot, or some other valid/applicable criteria, then it atleast understandable.

    I am sure all of us have at point of time witnessed and felt frustrated about reservation based on caste, be it for privileged or under privileged. Example counselling session for colleges, which should be purely based on the child’s ability-n-merit and not in any way discrimnated because of caste. Make is based on rural category, financial status (where the kid is bright, but cannot afford), rather than denying entry for a kid with 95% score and allowing a kid with 45% score.

    reality is financially well-to-do is not necessarily associated to caste. check out some survey information n you would know. In short, reservations, should not be based on caste and that is just my view point.

  16. says

    I am sure all of us have at point of time witnessed and felt frustrated about reservation based on caste,

    That reveals the extent of the problem and also gives a reason why reservations are still needed. “All of us”? Why is your default assumption that everyone here belongs to the privileged castes? Why is it that when ignorant views like “reservations should be based on financial status” are aired on the Internet, you don’t find anyone who benefited from reservations say “Hey, you are wrong about how reservations work. They are intended to correct for the social discrimination faced by us. Being financially disadvantaged is different from being socially disadvantaged”. What made you think the readers of this blog will automatically sympathize with your appeal to you-must-have-also-been-a-victim-of-reservations?

  17. Anitha says

    hey, i am not assuming anything… i guess you are! voicing out a thought doesnt mean personally affected.

    financial vs socially disadvantage – it was a suggestion as you referred to ppl not able to attend classes due to lack to funding. i am pro any productive help, not blind reservations. all yours, have a nice day.

  18. Jerry says

    @9, ethel4m said:

    However, it may be noted that segregation policies in US private schools changed not due to law, but due to change in social attitudes, thanks to massive mobilisation against racism.

    You very carefully said “private” schools. For people who do not know this shameful part of U.S. history (segregation), private schools could only be desegregated because public school segregation laws were found to be unconstitutional. A court case “Brown vs. Board of Education” in 1954 required public schools to be opened to all races. After much public protest, such as marches and boycotts, and a decade later new laws (Civil Rights Act of 1964), public amenities and private businesses open to the public were also forced to be desegregated. The door to the first public school to be desegregated was personally blocked by the state governor, and the first non-white student (a little girl) had to be escorted inside by federal troops. Desegregation, a huge upheaval in race relations, required more than a mere change in emotions out of shame or goodwill. I question the interpretation, whether private school desegregation was really due to a change in social attitudes, or rather a more direct result of the changes in the laws (resulting from marches, protests, which, yes, resulted from the change in social attitudes). The very narrow individualistic interpretation of social change, entirely skipping the governmental aspects, mainly follows from that very narrowly crafted example. Was the contrived phrasing and outcome deliberately so narrow in order to exclude the critical effect of government action? (That sounds like a Libertarian-like viewpoint, which is hard to support.) The later example used in comment 9, building development by promoting private incentives, also excludes the effect of direct government action. In the U.S., high-rise development in a dense urban area would require either a builder purchasing entire blocks and forcing out all of the residents (incredibly expensive and time-consuming) or much more cheaply bribing I mean convincing local politicians to invoke the governmental power of eminent domain to condemn older buildings, literally clearing the way for new private development, not just the modest incentives to the builders and dwellers mentioned above. I welcome your thoughts on the effect of governmental action to desegregate public schools on private school integration, as well as clarification as to what actually took place in the prelude to the Mumbai high-rise development.

  19. Kavana Ramaswamy says

    @Jerry:

    I did very carefully say ‘private schools’ – that is the distinction I have been trying to bring in to this disussion. There is a very good reason for the distinction between the public and the private spheres, as mentioned earlier, this relates to the right to autonomy. I’m sure everyone here will agree (having exercised this right almost everyday) that an infringement of this right would not be acceptable to us. The public-private sphere separation is a natural extenstion of this. Our personal autonomies liberties should be as good as everyone else’s personal autonomy. Ergo, I will not have a right to coerce another person into doing anything, nor will I have the right to harm another person except in protection of myself.

    While I understand the role of the government in desegregation, with the US examples on public school desegregation, the US laws permitted slavery and segregation in the first place which led to strengthening the bigotry that was probably already present. Desegregation in public schools was a move towards legal & formal equality, something that’s already in place here. In India, constitutionally, public institutions cannot practise discrimination (except for positive discrimination for upliftment of backward classes). So as far as that goes, direct government action is already accounted for in our laws, though its implementation may not be as effective. As for protection of black students – it is possible to have the same kind of protection implemented for lower castes that face threats on entering public spaces, and such action should be taken where required.

    This is however, not done due to lack of implementation which I think the government can and ought to do. Indeed, the whole issue can also be extended to the reservation being enforced in private schools. This is in fact, direct government action being taken in furtherance of their pursuit of equality, far more than the US government would (or could, probably, given the private-right culture that is ingrained into their social and legal systems, though I am not fully well versed in their laws to comment on the possibility) take – desegregation was a right in public schools and a privilege in private ones. Under the Compulsary Education Act, private schools are required to ensure desegregation and at their own cost. I do support the measure of reserving a certain number of seats in educational institutions, but not the fact that the private entity will have to bear the cost of it – I think the government (in another and more essential move) should also bear the cost of this affirmative action. (I would certainly not call myself libertarian – I believe the government ought to be involved and invested in social activities- establishing schools, hospitals and PSUs, but consider myself liberal in that private individuals acting within their legal rights ought not be tread upon).

    I’m not sure what your question is in relation to the building incentives. The self professed objective of the government in providing the incentives was to clear out slums and ensure better living conditions for slum dwellers who cannot afford any better. In this, the government could have pushed out eminent domain and executed all the development activities itself, either way works.

    However, in practice, private land developers are more likely to attract buyers than government ventures for the commercial constructions associated with slum redevelopment and so incentivising private companies to execute these programs might actually be a better option. The land that these developers use for the development- this is usually the land where the slum currently stands, together with adjoining plots that may acquired privately by the developer. The eminent domain of the government for private companies is rarely used for residential development – it is usually only used in case of public utility works such as establishment of electric power projects etc. (of course the bribing et al exists, but these also ususally do not face up to legal suits against the acquisition).

    Back to the present issue, the government is fully entitled to acquire these brahmin only plots and, say, establish a free hostel for backward castes in its place. Constitutionally, they are fully entitled to continue acquiring every plot of land that is ever bought by this community of bigots for establishing brahmin only communities and doing what they will with the land, frustrating them into giving up altogether. However, they cannot (and must not) make it illegal for the bigots to establish their own community of bigots in the first place.

    Also, @Ganesh – Excellent idea, that.

  20. Ashwin says

    “Brahmins only” is in fact different from “Parsis only” too – because the Parsis are a dwindling minority in India.

    I disagree, neither should be allowed. By the same argument, “Reddys only” and “Nairs only” would be acceptable since they aren’t Brahmins.

    We should note that Parsis can be considered a caste if we apply the criteria of endogamy, etc.

  21. Ashwin says

    @ jimvj and @satish

    The part about the “practicing Brahmin” doesn’t really matter. For most of history, Brahmins didn’t know Sanskrit– most of them don’t know it now. And as for the rituals, with the exception of the sandhya rite, I doubt that would be an extensive cultural marker since most Brahmins weren’t priests either.

    Brahmins actually held a large number of secular positions– from horse tamers, to wrestlers, to agriculturalists, to warriors, it is privelege , not occupation that has tended to mark a Brahmin.

    I think this ad is interesting because it plays to a Romanticized image of the Brahmin that has gained currency in Brahminical self defense, which has come about since anti-Brahminical movements started. This image posits that Brahmins were spiritual people who spent their time in meditation and lived in squalor because they didn’t care about money. This is very far from the actual truth, as you can see from the diversity of positions Brahmins held. But the myth is powerful, hence the inclusion of a Pathshala and an Ayurvedic hospital in the complex.

  22. Nikhil says

    @Satish,
    Caste system is a real bummer halting the financial,intellectual and ethical development of the nation and a black mark to Hinduism, and India in general.It’s just another sick,perverted form of racism.Fault lies in certain upper class people who leave in the old 19th century India where they are superior and Dalits are to be dominated.Fault also lies in government which has failed to solve this issue.

    But when it come to perceiving the world with outdated notions and belief on casteism ,unfortunately you are not far ahead either,or maybe you were letting emotions guide your writing in place of rationale and facts.I can clearly feel your malice and anger toward the members of the “privileged castes”.

    I know that serious caste related discrimination and crimes do take place in India( Role of Brahmins in most of them is almost negligible,if you were to read the reports),However, most of them take place in rural part of India and more in underdeveloped states,issue is not reservation in these situations.If that was not the case,Governments continued and increased imposition of reservations in education from the past fifty years should have done better in improving the situation.

    -I have a friend from TN who used to study for almost 10-12 hours everyday.But there is this Futuristic,Secular government there who thought there is no better social justice then imposing 60%(or 70 I am not sure,somewhere around there) reservation.So to put it in his own words,If you are a Brahmin and don’t have a score of atleast 192/200 you can give up any dreams of pursuing engineering in TN but an Sc or ST category student need to score 130 or 140.His misfortune,that he happens to be a Brahmin(or should I say “Privileged caste”) and had to give up his dream…So please pardon him for insulting your intellect by his upper-caste bullshit when he says “reservations are bad”.

    -This is what I was talking about when I said,you need to come out of your world paradigm of preconceived notions and face the facts.I will not bore you with financial statistics,even if I had them,on why “privileged castes” normally can’t afford to do all that which you say they can.You just have to travel around enough to see Brahmins leaving in extreme poverty(especially the small temple priests who depend exclusively on donations and Homas,Pujas etc in “non-privileged caste people’s home” ). Generally,people who reside in urban India and are wealthy can afford to do all that you are talking about.

    And let me tell you something(Based on my own experience of having education in two different towns and two different cities till now),Youths of today(especially in urban India) no longer live in their parents age.Who do they befriend does not depend on their surname.Nor do they discriminate against anyone based on caste.

    I find your arguments are neither creative nor solution oriented.It is rather vengeful and counter-productive.
    Solution would be to:
    1) financial and moral support to socially disadvantaged(Since in almost all of them are also financially disadvantaged).
    2)Attacking the problem at it’s base, by dealing with every report of caste discrimination and crimes ruthlessly,impartially and swiftly and preferably by a less local agents
    3)Implanting the idea of Equality and acceptance in Children by various initiatives.eg: “A class divided by Jean Elliott”

    Reservations are needed,no doubt.But should be actively regulated,should exclude creamy layer,and should be of limited duration.And most imortantly, instead of wholesale distribution of seats,It should take region of the person into account,Giving more preference to more sensitive area.Basically system of reservation should be more specific and intented towards social upliftment instead of a new weapon in the politicion’s arsenal.
    Regards

  23. says

    Nikhil,

    Why is your comment addressed to me? Did I say that anything specific about how reservations are to be implemented? Why are you putting words into my mouth? I was making a general point about reservations. The comments I was responding to are typical of the arguments used against any type of affirmative action. There is a refusal to even accept the ground reality of how caste discrimination operates in India. You too are not free from that bias. Read the article in its entirety. Watch the documentary linked to at the end. Then come back and say with a straight face that there is no caste discrimination in urban settings and developed parts of the country. And maybe also reevaluate your knee-jerk assumptions about me.

  24. Nikhil says

    @Satish

    I would like to begin by apologizing for the clumsiness of my writing,I did cite your comments before my paragraphs.but it did not appear in the text.I must’ve used the HTML attributes wrongly.

    My fourth paragraph which is the first paragraph in the double qoutation was in response to “Reservations are not government sanctioned castieism. It’s the same bullshit privileged castes have been saying since the day they were introduced”

    Fifth paragraph was in response to”the privileged castes normally can afford to send their kids to elite institutions, and then to coaching centers where they’re taught in dept how to game the entrance exams. If they don’t get good scores, they then buy their way into college in India and/or abroad”

    Most of the students from general category are not unhappy about reservation in general , but the extent of it..A reservation of more then 50% is common in almost all the states which denies huge number of otherwise hardworking general category students,an opportunity to secure good education.And good number of them are not financially advantaged to either send their children abroad or buy them a payment seat.

    Present form of reservation clearly has not done much in improving the situation of caste system,What it is,is that it’s a political weapon to win votes, And only purpose it serves perhaps is more of an “eye for an eye” justice, which is not a way to look ahead to the future.

    I regret to having deviated from the main article with this side-track. Regarding the main article, It’s again like a “white only” clubs in India during pre-independence era..Not a healthy development.Inter-caste groups,inter-caste marriages and inter-caste relationships is What India needs.
    regards

  25. says

    @Nikhil,

    People have been making the same arguments even before from independence where there was talk of positive discrimination for the depressed classes. Your ignorance of this fact and your insistence of painting the whole matter of reservations are just an “eye for an eye” tool belies where you biases lie.

    Reservations are not meant to fix the caste system. That is a misconception a lot of upper caste people have. Another strawman argument you rely on is “there are poor upper caste people, so reservations are bad”. No matter what implementation of affirmative action you come up with, there will always be someone from the other group who is poor. So there will always be people who use that as an excuse to complain about affirmative action. Policies like that should be seen as acting on systems rather on than individuals. A political system like democracy has many flaws. Many people suffer because of it. But when all is considered it is the best option and we have to work with it, ironing out any inefficiencies. By saying reservations are an “eye for eye” tool, what you are doing is the equivalent of calling democracy a tool of empowering ignorance as it allows anyone to vote. You think you are merely pointing out the inefficiencies, but your “eye for an eye” comment reveals that you have a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of reservations.

    If you actually make the effort to understand what the dalits are saying, you’d know how much reservations have helped them. You’d also know that there is a lot of debate amongst them on if reservations are being fully effective or not. They too are humans like us and so are fully capable of perceiving what is fair or not. But in my experience what I’ve typically seen from the upper castes on the topic of reservations is the unilateral nature of the dialogue. There is an implicit assumption that they know what is best unlike the lower castes who can only play votebank politics. The comments here, including yours, are no different.

  26. Nikhil says

    @Satish,
    I pick my own comments from my previous posts
    “Reservations are needed,no doubt.”
    “reservation should be more specific and intented towards social upliftment instead of a new weapon in the politicion’s arsenal.”
    I have not said reservation in itself is eye for eye.What I said is that reservation in current form is bad and counterproductive.
    What I am saying is that reservation should be implemented so that there is a balance between social upliftment and ‘right to education’ of all sections of the society.
    You are saying we should iron out the inefficiencies of the system(reservation).Perhaps we are saying the same thing

  27. esaroha says

    very thought provoking! thanks for sharing the legal facts around this issue.

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