Tamil Brahmins vs Dalits: This Quora thread explains why the two communities struggle with each other

While the identity of Tamil Brahmins and their conflict with Dalits in the state is much discussed in political circles, a Quora thread tries to neatly sums up the cause of the turmoil between the communities in Tamil Nadu.

Answering the question, "Why is there so much hatred against Brahmins in Tamil Nadu?" Quora user from Chennai, Sagaran explains the issue. According to him, the Brahmin community is misunderstood and other Hindu castes have placed their blames on the Brahmins, since they don't fight back. Sagaran who is a Dalit himself explains that Brahmins are a timid caste and that they should unite with the Dalits. He advises fellow Dalits to be wary of Brahmin baiting by non-Brahmin caste Hindus. This particular thread has garnered a lot of chatter on social media.

Here's a reproduction of the post:

As a Tamil Dalit, my friends who were Brahmin Iyers were the only ones who did NOT question my caste. Everyone else, like the Thevars and Mudaliars criticised the Dalits without knowing which caste I belonged to. Later, they tried to casually talk behind our Brahmin friends’ backs, saying things like “Oh those brahmins propagated caste”. This is a typical pattern used by non-Brahmin caste Hindus and every Dalit should be cautious not to fall into this trap. 

Representational image. Reuters

Representational image. Reuters

It is not hard to reverse this interpolation into history. Probably as some say (and I don’t care much for religious texts of any faith) the caste was based on occupation not birth. The keepers of the rituals were Brahmins but the powerful ones were the ruling, and business castes. It is very easy to imagine the timid Brahmins being threatened by these powerful ruling castes to change this narrative into one of birth. I use timid not in a negative way but only to mean that Brahmins are not proud of aggression, a trait that I see to this day.

Somehow, I am not convinced that the entire caste Hindu population were asked to take up casteism by the Brahmins who still are merely a 3 percent of the population. The Kshatriyas and Vaishyas are an intelligent bunch. Do you think they would blindly listen to a minority? For a poor priest, it does not matter if a Dalit gives him a rupee or a Devar gives him a rupee. Caste matters however for a powerful landowner who works in the land for cheap. An unending supply of cheap bonded labor is what they needed.

Take a look at caste based violence perpetrated against the Dalits. Vitriolic attacks on Dalits usually come from the non-brahmin castes. Devars, Vanniyars and Gounders have taken up the mantle to attack Dalits. The Brahmins on the other hand rarely (if at all) resort to violence. I have personally seen Brahmins married into Arundhathiyar families and coexisting peacefully. I have a friend married to a Brahmin woman and the family rallies around him like he is their own. Again, these are personal examples and cannot be applied to all situations.

Read the entire Quora thread here.

Updated Date: Oct 04, 2016 13:11 PM

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