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Open Letter To High Court Judge

Open Letter To High Court Judge

Dear Mr Justice V Chitambaresh,

A friend forwarded to me the link to a YouTube video in which you were shown inaugurating a conference of Tamil Brahmins. I would not have watched it if you were a retired judge. Nowadays, retired judges are openly expressing their outlandish views like the one in Rajasthan.

He said that peacocks and peahens were the only creatures which did not copulate to produce their offspring. The fellow should have been sent to a zoo to watch how a healthy peacock and a peahen behaved when they were together. It would have opened his eyes. Now you can imagine the kind of judgements he delivered.

After listening to your speech, I also have some doubts about your ability to view things dispassionately. You began your speech by defining who a Brahmin is. I would have been happy if you had said that a Brahmin is a person who devotes his religious life to the learning, teaching, contemplating and meditating on Brahman.

That is what Sree Narayana Guru who taught the lofty principle of one religion, one caste and one God did in Kerala. He was a Brahmin, though he was born in a backward Ezhava family. If you had defined Brahmin in this way, nobody would have objected to it because everyone could aspire to be a Brahmin.

However, you began your speech in this way: “Now, who is a Brahmin? A Brahmin is dwijhanmana which means he is twice born”. You go on explaining why he is twice-born. It is because of his “poorvajanmasukritam”. Those who do not understand what you meant by this word, let me add, Hindus believe that a person undergoes several cycles of birth and death before he attains moksha.

A person is born a Brahmin because he did some great deeds in his previous birth. Logically speaking, he is entitled to get some privileges. On the contrary,  a "cripple" is born a "cripple" because he did something terrible in his previous life. A person is born with disabilities or in a low caste because he led a questionable life in his previous birth. So, they deserve to suffer. There is no need for any compassion for them because they invited their present status by their past deeds.

You do not stop there. You explain in greater detail who a Brahmin is: “He has got certain distinct characteristics: clean habits, lofty thinking, sterling character, mostly a vegetarian, a lover of Carnatic music. All good qualities rolled into one is a Brahmin”.

You hold a Constitutional post and if you think like this, who can save this country? I also consider myself a twice-born. I was born as the elder son of my parents. I am the result of an accidental collision between a Y chromosome and an X chromosome. That is how I had my first birth. 

I had my second birth when my parents initiated me into the world of reading and acquiring knowledge at the feet of a teacher who loved his students like his children. That was how I had my second birth. 

I consider all those who acquired education as twice-born. Dr BR Ambedkar was one of the greatest twice-born persons this country has produced.

Alas, you seem to believe more in the ancient Manusmriti, than in the modern Constitution. The ancient Guru taught us about how various castes were created. 

"At the top of the hierarchy were the Brahmins who were mainly teachers and intellectuals and are believed to have come from Brahma's head. Then came the Kshatriyas, or the warriors and rulers, supposedly from his arms. The third slot went to the Vaishyas, or the traders, who were created from his thighs. At the bottom of the heap were the Shudras, who came from Brahma's feet and did all the menial jobs".

You seem to endorse this view of creation. One of the essential attributes of the Constitution is that it promotes equality. How can you promote equality when you consider yourself superior because of your birth? 

You explain the qualities of a Brahmin. 1. He has clean habits. What are these clean habits? If a Brahmin is posted at one of the Siachen Glacier heights where the day temperature hovers between minus 10 and minus 20-degree centigrade, forget a monthly bath, even washing the posterior with water is out of the question. What will happen to his clean habits?

2. He has lofty thinking. You hold a secure post. You have all the powers the Constitution grants. And yet, how do you think? You think that you were born Brahmin because you did some good deeds in your previous birth. Can you call this lofty thinking? I will call it low thinking, not lofty thinking.

3. He has a sterling character. A person who possesses such a character is the one who defends the weak against the strong, who stands for truth irrespective of the consequences, who sacrifices his self-interest to serve the public good and who does not consider himself superior in any respect. When you think that you are superior because of your birth, you cannot claim to have a sterling character.

4. He is mostly a vegetarian. Food habits of a person are dependent on the environment in which a person is born. An overwhelming majority of Brahmins in Bihar, known as Maithil Brahmins, eat non-vegetarian stuff. If you were born in Bengal, you would have relished a particular fish from the river Padma. And if you were born in Nagaland, you would have eaten roasted canine flesh. 

4. He is a lover of Carnatic music. You were born in the South. That is why you love Carnatic music. If you were born north of the Vindhyas, you would have loved Hindustani, not Carnatic, music. I am not a Brahmin and I have contempt for those Syrian Christians like me who claim that they were Brahmins before they were converted. I like Carnatic music. Unfortunately, Carnatic music was considered the preserve of the Brahmins. Even Brahmin women were not allowed to sing in public. The condition of Brahmin women was worse than that of Dalit women. If you have any doubt, please read the autobiography of Lalithambika Antharjanam.

Introduce Carnatic music to Dalits, they will sing as good, if not better than some of the great Carnatic singers. Give them an opportunity and do not deny them education as was done to Eklavya who was unable to practice what he learnt. What was done to him was like asking a person who did a PhD in law not to practice law in any form.

5. Finally, you say that all good qualities rolled into one is a Brahmin. Even if a person acquires all the good qualities, he would still be not considered a Brahmin if he had not done some good deeds in his previous birth. How do you know that? If you had done good deeds, you would have taken birth in a Brahmin family. It does not behove a judge of the High Court of Kerala to think on these lines.

I may appear childish if I tell you that a Brahmin is not different from a Dalit or a Christian or a Muslim because he is also born in the same process they are all born, has the same kind of blood flowing in his veins and also dies in the same manner. What is great about a Brahmin? Give the same opportunities to the poor boy living in a slum in a city or an interior village, he will prove equally good in studies. Do you know that your caste title gives you entry to many places closed to the others?

Have you ever thought why the President’s name is Kovind, not Govind? He is the first citizen of the country. Why did he face a problem when he visited the Puri temple? Did occupying the highest post in the country equip him to have the privilege you enjoy because of your birth? 

After explaining the essential characteristics of a Brahmin, you touch upon another controversial issue. Let me quote you: “It is time for you to deliberate as to whether the reservation should be based on community or caste alone. Occupying a constitutional post, it may not be proper for me to express any opinion - I am not expressing my opinion at all. But I am only kindling your interest or reminding you that there is a platform for you to agitate or to voice your concern about economic reservation alone, and not caste or communal reservation.

“Of course, there is a 10 per cent reservation for the economically backward classes, introduced by the Modi government at the Centre. A son of a Brahmin cook, even if he falls within the non-creamy layer zone, will not get any reservation. Whereas, a son of a timber merchant who belongs to other backward communities will get a reservation if he is within the non-creamy layer zone. I am not expressing any opinion at all, it is for you to deliberate and put forward your opinion."

The Supreme Court has already deliberated on the issue of reservation. It was the court which introduced the concept of creamy layer and put a ceiling on reservation at 50 per cent. I do not know how the 10 per cent reservation for the economically poor will be adjusted when the ceiling for reservation is 50 per cent.

Do you know that many jobs are reserved for certain castes in the country even without reservation? Recently, a Dalit man died of suffocation while cleaning a manhole? Have you ever come across an upper caste person doing such cleaning work? Why not a single poor Brahmin has taken up such a job? 

You mentioned a poor Brahmin cook. How many poor Dalit cooks would be employed in this country? Recently, the owner of the Saravana Bhavan group of restaurants was in the news. His restaurants all over the world have the trappings of a Brahmin hotel. I read somewhere that he wanted to camouflage the fact that he was a backward caste person. 

In my childhood, I had seen many Brahmin Hotels. I had never seen a Pulaya or Paraya or Ezhava Hotel.

You are a constitutional expert. Reservation was introduced for the socially and educationally backward people, not economically poor people. Yesterday, in Delhi, a man jumped down from a multi-storied building with his child in hand. He had incurred a debt of Rs 8 lakh. He owed it to the credit card companies. He died poor. Did he deserve reservation?

You are a judge getting a good salary. If you squander your money by living beyond your means, you will become poor. In that case, will you be entitled to reservation? Are not all jobs of priests reserved for Brahmins. Forget those priestly jobs, how is it that a majority of high jobs in the government are occupied by those whom you call twice-born?

Finally, you argue that “a Brahmin is never communal, he is always considerate, he is an ahimsavadi (proponent of peace). He loves people, he is one who liberally donates for any laudable cause. Such a person should always be at the helm of affairs for which this Tamil Brahmin meet will be a turning point." We have seen a Shankaracharya being accused of murder. We see a Brahmin presiding over an organisation that preaches violence against minorities.

You virtually incite the Brahmins to protest against reservation, while repeating that you do not want to give any opinion as you hold a Constitutional post. It is like Mark Antony saying repeatedly that Brutus is an honourable man. 

Now, let me conclude. Your premise that you are special has no basis. All men are born equal. There are dimwits among Brahmins as there are among other castes. There are criminals among Brahmins as there are criminals among other casts. True, they enjoy certain privileges not because they merit them but because they couch their claims in religiosity. 

Forget your caste, Sir. Believe that every Indian has a right to reach any position. A person should be judged by his qualities of head and heart, not by the status of his birth. Ambedkar was born in a Dalit family. He knew that "annihilation of caste" was a must for the progress of the nation but the present dispensation believes that it was casteism which insulated Hinduism against foreign influences.

How I wish you had said that every human being has Brahman in him and by leading a virtuous life, everyone can reach a state of purity that will make this country a land of the pure!

Yours etc

( ajphilip@gmail.com)

(Published on 29nd July 2019, Volume XXXI, Issue 31)