I’ve written about caste-based reservation in the past, more than once. Caste-based reservation has been mainstream political fait accompli in this country since independence. However, there is a small but vocal group of people taking the contrarian position on this and arguing that brahmins are in fact the most oppressed community. Like in this video:
Now, most of the video is just a display of some mixture of hubris and self-pity from people who think they deserve better: “I’m a Brahmin and this is what my life has come to. But I tell you I will starve to death, but not clean toilets for a living.” There’s nothing I can say or do that will make their lives better, and barring that, I have no right to say they shouldn’t be bitter about how their lives have turned out.
What I can do, however, is list the statistics that the video quotes, sometimes with references, and show you how the makers of the video are trying to mislead you. My comments are in red, right under each statistic quoted (or simply made-up) in the video. Read the entirety of what I have to say, if you have the time. If you don’t (or won’t), here’s the short-version: the makers of the video have deliberately misquoted statistics, taken statistics out of context, or simply made up data that you or I have no way of checking. So:
1. 50% of the rickshaw-pullers in Patel Nagar in Delhi are brahmins.
I leave to you to guess how the makers of the video went about determining this statistic. More importantly, I leave you to guess why they think this statistic matters in making national policy. ‘75% of the brahmins living in the house next to me are idiots. I therefore demand that the government announce free special teaching for brahmins.’
2. In the 5-18 age group, 44 per cent brahmin students stopped education at the primary level and 36% at the matriculation level.
That’s 80% of Brahmins who have no more than a class 10 education? Does that seem reasonable to you? Here’s a study from the Azim Premji Foundation that compiles data on education and caste and other social factors. Go to p. 36:
Almost all empirical studies in the field of primary education, in different parts of the country, demonstrate the fact that the social status in terms of caste affects the schooling patterns of children. Scheduled caste and backward caste children have a lower chance of enrolment, grade attainment and completion of primary schooling compared to the upper caste children. (Acharya 1994, Unni 1996, Duraiswamy 1998, Dreze and Kingdon 2001, Vasavi and Mehendale 2003, Jha and Jhingran 2002, Ramachandran Vimala 2003, Visaria and Visaria 1993, Kanbargi and Kulkarni 1991, Sheriff 1991, Kaul 2001, Sipahimalani 1996, Vaidyanathan and Nair 2001, Reddy Shiva et al. 1992).
3. The last 400,000 brahmins of Kashmir are refugees in their own country.
The ouster of the Kashmiri pandits from Kashmir had nothing to do with their being brahmin. (Also, Kashmiri pandits are refugees in India, not in their own country.)
4. 75% of domestic help and cooks in Andhra are brahmin.
This is bull. I know of no census that goes around asking domestic servants for their caste, but I’m hardly all-knowing so I did a search which, not surprisingly, turned up nothing. That you can make up random statistics doesn’t make you right. And it definitely doesn’t mean you should be allowed to set national policy.
5. 70% of brahmins rely on their hereditary vocation. Hundreds of families survive on Rs. 300 a month as priests in temples. (Department of Endowment Statistics)
Hundreds of families and 70% of brahmins in the country are not the same thing. A class 2 kid could have told you as much. Maybe the makers of the video were right about the education statistics… NOT.
6. At TN’s Ranganathaswamy temple, a priest’s salary is Rs. 300 a month and one measure of rice per day. Govt. staff at the temple receive Rs. 2500 a month.
More than enough reason to quit the priest’s job and take up the better paying job, wouldn’t you say?
7. Brahmins and other upper castes constitute 36% of the population of the country (National Sample Survey ’99 report).
The first caste-based census since 1903 was done last year, and the statistics are still being worked out. Depending on how you define ‘other upper castes’, this statistic can always be defended.
8. ‘Brahmins of India’ by J. Radhakrishna says that all purohits today live below the poverty line.
And if J. Radhakrishna says it, it must be true.
9. A paper by D. Narayana, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum (CICRED Seminar on Poverty and Health, Feb 2005) shows (if you follow the link and look at the paper, you’ll see that the paper deals with one grama panchayat in Wayanad, and that trying to decide national policy from this sample would be stupid. But the people making the video haven’t even quoted statistics from the paper truthfully)
(a) 69.8% of brahmin and upper castes never went past 12th class.
Compare this to what was said in (2). Did these people think that nobody would bother to check if the numbers add up? Moreover, that the number quoted above is typical of all castes in that panchayat, and university education is dominated by the upper castes (25% of the upper caste population has a university education.)
(b) 52.4% of brahmin and upper caste farmers don’t own land bigger than 100 cents.
Compare this number to the number for other castes (85% for OBC, 78% for SC/ST), and you’ll know that the makers of the video are not so much ill-informed as actively disingenuous and divisive.
(c) 53.9% of the upper caste population is below the poverty line.
More bull. The number for the entire country is about 35%. SCs and STs in this country are poorer than the upper castes, and at least the SC/STs seem to be getting relatively poorer (according to this study about the 1990s and this study from 2010.
10. 70% of the people employed by the 1783 public toilets in Delhi are upper caste hindus.
Whichever bodily orifice the makers pulled this number out from, I have to ask what this obsession with public toilets is about. Gandhi was an ‘upper caste hindu’ and cleaned his own toilet. I believe his reasoning was that the toilet wasn’t going to clean itself.
I discovered after I wrote this that somebody else has talked about this video as well, although I see nothing even remotely approaching skepticism. As I’ve shown here, though, pretty much every statistic used in the video is ‘fudged’ in the sense that it’s either used out of context or simply made-up.