Black Leadership Analysis

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Caste System

The Annihilation of Caste

The Annihilation of Caste was originally written as a speech for the Society of the Abolition of Caste (Jat-Pat-Todak). The Society wanted Ambedkar to lead the 1936 Conference in Lahore. The Society composed of Dalits and Caste Hindus working to end caste first invited Ambedkar on December 12, 1935. Ambedkar initially turned them down because even liberal Hindus often opposed his views. The Society sent a delegation to Ambedkar in Bombay. He eventually agreed to explain in detail how it is impossible to break caste without annihilating religious notions undergirding the caste system.

Ambedkar prepared the first draft and sent it to the Society for approval. An argument began on whether the Society should publish the speech in Lahore or by Ambedkar in Bombay during the completion of the final draft. Ambedkar held firm to his right to publish his work. The Society sent a representative to Ambedkar to make amends and get a final draft of the address.

When the Society received the final draft, many Hindu members were upset that the speech attacked Hindu scripture and the fundamental morality of Hinduism. The Society then asked Ambedkar to change the address to make it more palatable to all the members. Ambedkar refused. The Society specifically asked him to explain how Hinduism is fundamental to the Caste System. If they had a problem with his speech, the Society should have rejected the first draft. Criticizing the casteism within Hindu scriptures is fundamental to Ambedkar’s prescription for Indian progress. The existence of caste inside scripture makes the religion of Hinduism antithetical to equality. Ambedkar canceled the conference and left the Society with the following quote:

But What can anyone expect from a relationship so tragic as the relationship between the reforming sect of Caste Hindus and the self-respecting sect of Untouchables where the former have no desire to alienate their orthodox fellows, and the latter have no alternative but to insist upon return being carried out?

The Annihilation of Caste

India must annihilate caste to facilitate unification. Without unification, there will never be a large enough population resisting British rule. Even if Britain granted independence to a divided India, persecution of the lower castes will continue. The divisions with in the country will retard India’s growth if not rip it apart.

The caste system is a system that divides India into thousands of sub-castes due to birth. Also, the caste system created a hierarchy in which sub-caste in the highest positions have more rights and privileges. There is no unifying moral belief that everyone must follow. All morality is contingent on caste. One is also born with this caste and cannot change it. Therefore conversion is not possible. If one were to adopt Hinduism, they would not have a caste and would not intermingle with other believers. India has a large population of people that still live in tribes uninfluenced by Hinduism.

The term “Hindu” is derived from Arabic to describe the people they conquered in India. Before the Islamic invasion, no word unified all the people in the sub-continent. Essentially, Indians never saw themselves as one united people. The caste worshiped Hindu gods in separate cults. There was never a unifying ethos or praxis in the religion.

Separation due to caste had always weakened India. Muslims and Sikhs stood united against oppression, whereas Hindus understood people of other castes would not support them. That is why so many invaders took over India. Hinduism and the caste system have left India weak. India’s failure to repel a conqueror proves it. The Hindu culture has survived thousands of years only because no conqueror saw it necessary to destroy it. Hinduism is not uniquely resilient.

Many Indians, including Mr. Mohandes Gandhi, favored replacing the caste system with Chaturuvarnya. The Chaturuvarnya classified people into four castes Brahmin (Priest), Kshatriyas (Soldiers), Vaishya (Retailers), and Shudras (Menials). The idea was that reducing the hundreds of castes in India currently would be the first step in unification. Also, the Chaturvarnya doesn’t forbid anyone from learning a profession outside their birth occupation. It only prohibits earning a living from it.

Ambedkar explains Chatruvarnya will not work because people don’t fit into simple categories. People are much too complicated for that, and classification is only superficial. Determining one’s profession by birth hinders people from fulfilling market needs. People need the flexibility to change jobs when needs arise, such as war. If India were to be invaded and only Kshatriyas could serve in the military, there would not be enough soldiers for defense, as seen many times in Indian history.

Even within the Chatruvarnya, there is no motivation for a Kshatriya to defend the rights of a Shudra. There is no motivation for a Brahmin to use his intellect for the good of the Shudra. Hierarchies naturally lead to exploitation. People in every community depends on experts. However, all societies should allow all citizens access to education and self-defense as both are vital needs.

Socialists, in contrast to supporters of Chatruvarnya, wanted to end caste. However, they saw it best to do this indirectly with the inevitable socialist revolution. Once workers owned the means of production, all the workers would unite regardless of caste. There was no need to attack caste directly; the natural progression of society would end caste.

Here the socialist are class reductionists, and Ambedkar reminds them that money is not the only source of power for many people. Religious and social statuses are also a source of power. Muslims will sell their last possessions to go on Haj. Wealthy Hindus will obey penniless gurus. The idea that money is the primary method to obtain power comes from an analysis of modern-day Europe. India is a very different creature, and the socialist theorist had not evaluated the intersectionality of economics, religion, and culture.

The socialist revolution will require all workers to unite. Worker unity is not possible without the abolition of caste. Those of low caste will not trust high caste leadership. Those of high caste would not follow leaders of low caste. The people of India must foment fellow-feeling as a prerequisite to solidarity.

It is essential to remember class is not the same as caste. Classes are not separated socially. Nothing is stopping the poor woman from eating with the rich woman, no reason to kill a poor man that marries a rich woman. Castes are separated in every area of intercourse and suffer stiff penalties for transgression. Dalits are not allowed on the sidewalk at the same time as a Hindu because the Dalit shadow could pollute the Hindu. Dalits had to wear a pot around their neck to catch their spittle and a broom on their waste to sweep away their footsteps. No poor person in Europe had to go through this level of humiliation.

Caste is also not based on race or ethnology. Even in the 1930s, ethnologist agreed that no one is racially pure. Even the ethnologists that support the idea of race do not believe races represent different species. Even if race was the basis of caste, there is no reason to think there would be a scientific justification for hundreds of subcastes. It is also important that those that support eugenicists, those that believe races are different species, are also supporting the idea that Indians are pygmies, and 90% are unfit for military service.

Ambedkar did not believe all men have equal ability. He did believe there is no way to predetermine a person’s ability. Ability is dependent on physical heredity, environment, and personal effort. These factors interconnect in complex ways that are difficult for outsiders to understand. From a practical standpoint, Society should be organized in a way to allow for as much equality from the very start. Equity is the only way to get the most out of each member of Society. The following quote is the best summary:

Treat all men alike not because they are alike but because classification and assortment is impossible. The doctrine of equality is glaringly fallacious but taking all in all it is the only way a statesmen can proceed in politics which is a severely practical affair and which demands a severely practical test.

One must destroy the religious underpinnings of caste to eradicate it from Indian Society. That means an abdication of the Vedas, Smirtis, Shastras, and Sadachars. These texts do not serve as a moral code and are only a set of rules. Ambedkar thinks Hinduism should be reformed as a state religion with the following parameters:

  1. There should be one and only one standard book of Hinduism acceptable to all Hindus
  2. Priesthood should be open to all citizens, and heredical priesthood should be abolished
  3. Only licensed priest can perform ceremonies
  4. State should discipline priest that break moral or civil codes
  5. State should limit the amount of priest based on population

After the annihilation of caste, Indians can establish fellow-feeling amongst themselves. This fraternity is the basis of democracy. There will not be campaigns to promote inter-dining or intermarriage because those things will not be needed. India needs and deserves more than a new system of government. Indians need an equitable society.

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India and the Pre-Requistes of Communism

This work was unfinished.

One must first understand how the Hindu social order differs from free social order.

In a free social order, society sees the individual and his development as an end in itself. Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity are the cornerstones of the societies values. To justify man being the impetus for creating a society, Ambedkar uses a quote from French philosopher Jacques Maritain that states that people are unique in the universe because they possess a divine spirit.

Ambedkar uniquely defines equality and fraternity. Equality further specified as moral equality, the belief that all people deserve to have their rights respected. As the Declaration of Independence states, “All men are created equal” meaning they begin equal. Ambedkar does not mean that all men have equal ability. Fraternity is defined by reverence for the fellow man and the desire to be in unity with him.

Liberty has two parts, civil and political. Civil Liberty is the freedom of movement, speech, and action. Whereas, political liberty is the right for individual people to share in lawmaking and governance. These two aspects of liberty are intertwined and inseparable.

In contrast, the Hindu social order does not recognize individuals or individual responsibility. Instead, caste serves as the basis for social order. The four castes are Brahmin (Priest), Kshatriya (Soldiers), Vaishyas (Retailers), Shudra (Menials). In addition to the four major castes, there are over 3,000 subcastes. These castes are solidified, and individuals do not pursue their purpose to maintain social order. The base institution of society is caste. Marriage and inheritance are the only subjects in which Hindu society recognizes family. Castes are a division of society by occupation given at birth. Hinduism further separates caste for purposes of dining and marriage.

The three unique features of the Hindu Caste System:

  1. Worship of a Superman
  2. The Brahmin serves as the object of worship for the lower castes. The lower castes, especially, the Shudra exist to serve Brahmin. The servitude of Brahmin lasts until death. Hinduism does not permit Shudra to retire. In the same vein, a Brahmin has no obligation to a shudra.

  3. King is responsible for maintaining the Social Order
  4. The king must maintain social order. If he fails in doing this, he will suffer prosecution like any other criminal. The king also heads a legal system in which penalties are dependent on the caste of the victim and perpetrator. If someone of lower caste injures a person of the higher caste they receive a harsh sentence. The reverse is also true, to the point that someone outside the Caste system could be killed a will by a Brahmin with no penalty.

  5. The social order was ordained by Brahma (God)
  6. It is believed the Brahmin sprang from God’s mouth. The Kshatriya from God’s shoulders. Vaishya came from the thighs, and Shudra came from the feet. The origin of each caste is different, and therefore, so should their station in life. Because the caste system is divine, no modification or change is valid. Ambedkar reiterates that caste is not equivalent to class. Class is something one can ascend or descend depending on individual efforts.

There is also an interesting discussion of the revolution in the book. Three conditions lead to rebellion. The first is a wrong being committed to a group of people. The second is the capacity for the people to realize they suffer a slight—finally, the availability of arms or other means in the overthrowing government. The Hindu social order exists because Hinduism keeps people blind to the fact they suffered wrong. Hindus believe the social order is divinely prepared. Ambedkar lists Nazi and Muslim examples of societies that allow their people to realize they were wronged and then violently suppress the rebellions once they happen.

In the last paragraph, Ambedkar differentiates between Savarna, caste observing, Hindus and Avarna, non-caste observing, Hindus. Ambedkar says there is a class division between them, but not much other information is available.

There is no discussion on Communism because the work is unfinished.

Essay on Untouchability II: Social Undergirding of Caste

When most social analysts study India, they see the chief division as religion, Hindu vs. Muslim. However, it is also essential to understand caste divisions. These divisions are recognized by those that practice all the religions of India. Those in the lower caste, namely: primitive tribes, criminal tribes, and untouchables make up 60% of the population or 79.5 million people. Since the caste system is disenfranchising a larger number of people than the population of Japan, one cannot ignore the division.

As stated early, the lower or avarna castes: primitive tribes, criminal tribes, and the untouchables are unique on the subcontinent. Primitive tribes exist in the wilderness of India, living a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The criminal tribes earn their name by raiding neighboring villages and committing assisinations. One clan called the Pindharies can muster up to 20,000 in Calvary. The clan of hired assassins is called, The Thugs. The government considers their acts legitimate business, and they pay taxes. Untouchables live observing Hindu culture and law. However, touching them would pollute a Hindu and require him to be cleansed at a temple.

Of the three avarna castes, Untouchables are the only group that has a social condition that cannot be changed. If a member of the primitive or criminal tribes decides to leave his group and enter Hindu society, they would be welcomed with open arms. An Untouchable could become the leader in his industry and would still cause a Hindu to be polluted. Therefore, Untouchable has a unique struggle in society. Ambedkar uses the analogy that Hindus relate to untouchables as a man relates to his shoes. Untouchables are just a means to an end.

The idea of caste causes separation in marriage, dining, and occupation. The specifics of the Caste System has changed as evidenced by records of foreign travelers to India. At the time of publishing of the treatise, Gandhi wanted Untouchables added to the least powerful caste, Shudra (Laborer). The Untouchables would not have permission to change occupations. The only difference would be, they would not pollute a person of a higher caste.

Aside from the fact that Hinduism promotes the caste system, the religion is also invalid because the highest form of religious experience is trance. It is absurd to think an abnormal psychological condition produced by artificial means is the sign of enlightenment. Trance (Samadhi) was just another aspect of Hindu metaphysics that prevented the population from moving toward rationalism. It is rationalism that will advance society and end discrimination.

Caste is a social order made sacred by the religion of Hinduism and enforced by Hindu law. The laws supporting caste are as old as antiquity, but they were rarely invoked. The laws supporting caste ended in 1850 with the Caste Disabilities Removal Act. The Caste system stayed intact despite not having legal bases. The fact the caste system survived without legal undergirding shows that religion served as the caste system’s base.

Hinduism was exceptionally robust in enforcing caste because it was a religion of a book without a prophet. Ambedkar defines his position by referencing Professor Max Muller’s work on classifying religions as natural vs. revealed. In the natural category, he groups the religion of aboriginal people such as Iroquois. The natural faiths classify objects and people as sacred or taboo and don’t use a personified being as supreme. The revealed religions are those that have a book revealed by a prophet. In the revealed camp, one would find most of the Abrahamic religions and Zoroastrianism. The Vedas are Hinduism holy book, but a prophet did not reveal them to the worshipers. Therefore the credibility of the book cannot be questioned by attacking the character or historical validity of a prophet.

The Caste System occupied a scared space in Hinduism. No other religion deemed any social order sacred. There have been those that have fought against the system such as the Buddha and King Vishvamitra. Yet the idea has persisted. Most religions consider economic activity outside the purview of religion. Combining religious/ social and economic disadvantage was a dangerous combination.

Ambedkar objected to Gandhi’s proportion that caste was the ideal form of society. In fact, caste is not founded on the cooperation of various professions, but their antagonism and class war. To justify his position, Ambedkar uses allegories from sacred Hindu texts that show that Kshatriya and Brahmin had a bloody civil war over the right to perform sacrifices. Bloody conflict is the inevitable result of the Caste System.

Manu and the Shudra

In this treatise, he gives some background and explanation of Manusmriti, the book that codified caste law. He explains many of the rules that affected Dalits and other lower caste people.

According to Manu, the person/demigod that codified rules of Untouchability, the world is composed of those inside the caste system and those outside the caste system. Of those inside the caste system, there are priests (Brahmin), soldiers (Kshatriyas), vendors/traders(Vaishyas), and servants (Shudras). These castes were listed in descending order.

The book goes into detail on various ways in which Dalits were marked and insulted.

  1. Had to leave town from 3 pm to 9 pm to not cast a shadow on higher caste
  2. Had to hang a pot around his neck to catch spittle
  3. Had to wear black necklace, black wristband, carry broom to sweep away footsteps, or wear horn
  4. Had to wear old or torn clothes
  5. Can’t build more than a one story house
  6. Not allowed to cremate their dead

One interesting point in the book was his thoughts on Shudra forming their political party and electing the best candidate that was Shudra. Ambedkar says that the action of selecting someone just because they are Shudra is no better than choosing someone just because they are Brahmin. The Shudra are attempting to dominate in the same way as the Brahmin

Ambedkar never published or completed this work.

Found in the book The Selected Works of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar found online for free.

The Origins of Caste (Caste in India)

The Origins of Caste is an early work of Ambedkar written in 1916. The treatise gives a preliminary explanation of the origin and propagation of caste. It also critiques the interpretation of castes provided by others. In the end, he reiterates this theory is preliminary and could require more research.

He summaries the root caste from others to begin. The other theorists say the caste system is rooted in myths of lineage, traditional occupation, or ceremonial purity. Ambedkar describes all the opposing theories as partially correct. However, he makes his case for the root of the caste system being the prohibition of intermarriage between castes.

When a person understands the root of the caste system is the prohibition on intermarriage, many other customs can be easily explained. The prohibition on intermarriage, each group, must ensure there is an equal number of males and females. If a spouse dies, then there is a surplus man or surplus woman. This adult with no sexual partner would have the incentive to look for a mate from outside the caste. To prevent the widow from a cross-caste marriage, she can be thrown on the funeral pyre or take a vow of celibacy. For a widower, he can be forced into celibacy or given an underage girl to wed.

He criticized that the rule of caste was set forth by one authoritarian ruler, Manu. It would be difficult for one man to enforce these laws during his reign against the will of the people. It would be even more challenging to create a lineage of rulers that did the same thing. It is also unlikely the Brahmin forced caste rules on the lower caste for the same reason.

Ambedkar theorized that the most likely explanation is the Brahmin decided to close themselves off by forming a caste. The next highest social class then converted themselves into a caste to improve their social standing. This behavior continued until finally those at the bottom of society were completely shut out. To support the claim Ambedkar calls to the attention of the reader; there are fewer purity rules the further a person’s caste is from the Brahmin.

The treatise is crucial because it provides a basis for Ambedkar’s struggle for the rights of women with the overall social justice struggle. As women win the right to marry and love as they wish, the foundations of caste will be destroyed.

A copy of this treatise can be found on Google Play or from the below link from Columbia University.

Who were the Shudras?

In this treatise from 1946, Ambedkar focuses on the origin of the Shudra (Menial) class. It studies Vedic scripture to get a clear picture of the origin of the castes system. The treatise also refutes the Aryan invasion theory, that is popular today and in the time of Ambedkar.

Some background on the caste system will be needed. The caste system is a social structure in which people are segregated into groups that are typically associated with professions. People can’t marry outside of caste or get an occupation that is reserved for another caste. Certain types of contact from lower caste can cause the higher class to need cleansing. A ceremony conducted by a Brahmin (priest) can fill the cleansing requirement. There are four Hindu castes: Brahmin ( priest), Kshatriya (soldiers), Vaishyas (traders), Shudras (menials). The Dalit (untouchables) are considered to be a caste by some. However, most Dalits feel that they are outside Hinduism. Dalit are not covered in this treatise.

The prevailing theory of the origin of caste in 1940 was the Brahmin descended from a central Asian tribe called the Aryans. The Aryans conquered the native Dravidian people. The Brahmin are those with the purest Aryan blood, and the lower castes are mixed until finally, the lowest class was pure Dravidian. Aryans had a white skin complexion and Dravidians had a dark-skinned complexion. This idea of mixing of race degrading a people was used to segregate people all over the world. It also was also used to justify white rule in India and other places.

He begins by laying out his main premise.

  1. The Shudra were an Aryan community
  2. There was a time only three castes were represented Brahmin, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas
  3. Shudra were Aryans and part of the Kshatriyas (soldier class)
  4. The Shudra began a feud with the Brahmin on the exclusive rights to religious ceremony
  5. In retaliation, Brahmin refused to perform Upanayana on Shudra, Upanayana are the rights that are a prerequisite to land ownership and education
  6. The prohibition on Shudras from owning land or being educated led to the degradation of the Shudra.

The Shudra were an Aryan community

The word “Aryan/Aryas” was never used to mean race in the Vedic text. It derives from a Sanskrit word that meant plowed land. The term was used to differentiate the Aryan people from less sophisticated scavenger and nomadic tribes. After Vedic times Aryan meant nobleman or respected person. The only physical description of the Aryan people describes them as long-headed. Long-headed people could have any skin color.

Not only do the Vedic text not imply that Aryans have white skin. Many of the main characters in the Vedas that are Aryan are said to have a dark complexion. Rama, Krishna, and Rishi Dirghatamas all are said to have had dark skin. It is most likely that Aryans were white, copper, and black in complexion.

Also, the Vedas say that Dravidians/Dasus would convert and become Aryans. That leads Ambedkar to believe Aryan and Dravidians are early cults of Hinduism. Individuals could experience Aryan culture and determine they wanted to switch. The ability to change Varna would not be possible if Aryan denoted race. Also, the word “Varnas” which is normally translated as color, actually derives from the Sanskrit word for faith.

There was a time only three castes were in Hinduism

References to the four castes are found in the Purusha Sukta, which Ambedkar proves is a late addition to the main text of the Rig Veda. Therefore, there was a time only three castes existed: Brahmin, Kshatriyas, and Vaishyas. These three are the only ones mentioned in the Rig Veda main text.

Shudras were Aryans part of the Kahatriya (soldier) caste

The Shudras are the mythic progeny of the Vedic character Sudas. Sudas was a king in ancient India. Sudas coronation was conducted by Brahmin, a sign that he was Kshatriyas. Sudas was also said to be wealthy and respected before the skirmish.

The Shudra fought the Brahmin for the right to perform religious services.

Ambedkar uses passages of the conflict between Vasishtha and Vishvamitra as an allegory about the conflict between Brahmin and Kshatriya’s priest. Both were performing religious rights. Vishvamitra was a Kshatriya and wrote some of the Rig Veda’s hymns. Vasishtha was Sudas chief priest. Sudas fires Vasishtha and hires Vishvamitra. Also, Vasishtha’s son is killed by Sudas. Vasishtha’s son questioned Vishvamitra on an important matter. To hold Vishvamitra’s honor, Suda’s murdered the young lad. The sons and all the progeny of the two sides continued the feud. The Purusha Sukta and the Manusmirti hold the information on this conflict.

In retaliation, Brahmin refused to perform Upanayana on Shudra, Upanayana are the rights that are a prerequisite to land ownership and education

To retaliate on the Kshatriya’s priest, the Brahmin refused to perform Upanayana on the Shudras. Upanayana was an initiation rite that allowed a person to be educated and own land. Conducting sacrifice according to the Vedas was the primary reason for property ownership. The Vedas also say the Shudra of that time were few. The Brahmin held power to perform Upanayana and deny it to anyone for any reason.

The prohibition on Shudras from owning land or being educated led to the degradation of the Shudra.

Because the Shudra did not have education or land, they could not do anything other than menial tasks. They were not genetically deficient or fated to live in a servile state. The denial of Upanayana to women caused the same situation.

Also, the modern day Shudra are not descendants of the mythic Sudas. Shudra came to mean “low-class” or uneducated person. All those not Dalit or upper class got the epithet. If people understood the modern Shudra were not the descendants of Sudas, violence against them would stop.

Ambedkar also debunks the Aryan invasion theory. The Vedas have no record of an invasion. If the Aryans were conquerors, they would boast about their conquest. Both Aryans and Dravidians were native to India and are not related to Europeans. The Aryan Invasion theory was started by Europeans to justify conquest and accepted by upper-caste Indians to justify caste rule.

Why is “Who are the Shudra” important”

Who are the Shudra shows how important it is to study something through many cultural lenses. Had Europeans and upper-caste Indians been the only ones looking into the subject, many biases would not have been uncovered.

Also, the roots cause of disparity between groups is the denial of education and land. Systematic economic disenfranchisement is true in Indian history, African history, and American history. There is no situation in which a people with full access to education and property over the entire history of a country ends up in a servile position.

The full-text can be found HERE

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