Blame it on Mr. Shubhendu Bhattachrya, Ms. Meena Kandasamy, the much talked about Professor Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, Voltaire, or Evelyn Beatrice Hall, I just did what I have never done on this blog: copying wholesale from another blog (see https://rajnishmishravns.wordpress.com/2014/07/16/indian-caste-system-a-reappraisal-by-sudershan-rao-yellapragada-posted-on-tuesday-september-25-2007/). I also did what I have not been doing for over six months now: posting something without the tags “kashi/varanasi/banaras”. Why would I do so? To defend the Professor’s freedom of speech, or to fix my target before it was removed from the original blog, neither, or,maybe both.
I am not the type who gets drawn into the larger spheres of action and thought. I am easily and fully satisfied, sans any kind of intellectual adventure or warfare, with my Banaras. Still, when I saw my friend Shubhendu’s facebook post : “Share meenas sentiments”, and was led from thence to Ms. Kandasamy’s view: “Prevention of Atrocities act must be extended in scope to throw such luminaries who praise/justify caste into jail. #Mywishfortheday“; I naturally read the Times of India article “Ancient caste system worked well, ICHR head says”.
The article mentions:
The newly-appointed chairman of Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) Yellapragada Sudershan Rao appears to be a votary of the caste system (bold mine). In a blog written in 2007, Rao had said that the “positive aspects of Indian culture are so deep that the merits of ancient systems would be rejuvenated.”
In the blog-article titled, ‘Indian Caste System: A Reappraisal’, he wrote: “The (caste) system was working well in ancient times and we do not find any complaint from any quarters against it (bold mine). It is often misinterpreted as an exploitative social system for retaining economic and social status of certain vested interests of the ruling class”
He added, “Indian Caste system, which has evolved to answer the requirements of civilization at a later phase of development of culture, was integrated with the Varna system as enunciated in the ancient scriptures and dharmasastras.”
On that fateful day of September 2007, the day on which Halo 3 was released that year, in the year 1639 the first printing press in America had started working and in 1956 the first trans-Atlantic cable went into service, Prof. Rao had committed his virtual suicide, unknown to himself. If the hard deterministic stance is granted space, it was his upbringing, his samskaras, that made him post his unforgivable thoughts on his blog. Had he known it then that he would become the Chairman of ICHR one day and then, his past deeds would be sniffed, dug out, scrutinised and put on public display, he would have remained totally quiet on the blogosphere. Well, he did not. So, he did what he should never have done: he made his views public and that, when his article is full of fallacies. But that does not give his critics any right to commit fallacies of their own. At least I would never join a group opposing the professor, when I know that the same group has people weak in logic and intellect. How else can one explain the claim made in the very opening statement? The writer declares his intent in the very first sentence, but he fails to adequately deliver what he promises. Thus he makes argumentum ad hominem.
Rao makes absolutist claims with the repetition of the key word “any”. His claim is either pseudo history, or arrogance generated out of the surety that ignorance of all that has been said and done in the department of anti-caste complaints in the past engenders. Who would not see through Rao’s intellectual (?) and uncritical leanings and the designs of his school of history in his school bookish equation: “Indian religion, which is popularly known as Hinduism”, i.e. Hindu = Indian, and vice versa? And who would not find the Professor’s self-contradictions comic when he declares: “The Caste system as such is based on social classification which is a common feature of all organized civil societies round the world but not unique to India alone”? Following the statement with a couple of others to finally prefix “Indian” to “caste system” and then declaring: “Indian Caste system, which has evolved to answer the requirements of civilization at a later phase of development of culture, was integrated with the Varna system as enunciated in the ancient scriptures and Dharmasastras.”
The topping to his cake of fallacy comes as: “The Varna classification and Caste system are not one and the same. They differ in respect of aims and functions in many ways. The caste system classifies the community while the Varna classifies the functions of an individual”. This, while his case depended on the equation of caste with varna and then showing varna positive, ergo, caste positive too.
C=V; V=P; C=P
Elementary, my dear friend.
The Times of India article on Rao has:
The ICHR chief’s views have triggered a debate among historians. Historian D N Jha said, “Rao’s article is reflective of his primitive mentality. It is gross revivalism (bold mine). If ancient caste system is justified in modern context, why not have a brahmin PM instead of Narendra Modi. Rao has been appointed by an OBC PM.”
As far as the primitivism of Rao’s mentality is concerned, it may be a matter of debate, but when revivalism is called primitive, I must interrupt. Revivalism, the key element of the modus operandi of Fascism can never be called primitive. It’s a sophisticated and very lethal weapon. Jha’s sentence that follows does show the rogh logic of primitive kind, Rao is suave and convincing thoughout.
The article criticising Rao also mentions:
Rao also argued that questionable social customs in India pointed out by the English educated Indian intellectuals did not exist from ancient times (bold mine) but “could be traced to this period of Muslim rule in north India spanning over seven centuries.” He said,
“Misunderstandings of the system may be ascribed to misreading of the texts of Dharmasastras and the impact of the modern ‘democratic’ and electoral politics. Ancient system of caste organization has been turned into casteism, which negates the very purpose of the system.”
Rao’s post has some sense in it too, especially when it mentions: “According to the Dharmasastras all individuals are born as Shudra and they acquire the Varna through Samskaaras or training or tapas”. It’s the simple division of labour argument, wearing the Sanskritised garb. Rao is in company of the likes of Adam Smith and Durkheim when he legitimizes the division of labour. The problem arises when he claims, oh so ironically that the “The modern and Western intellectuals have not properly understood and [have] misinterpreted the Varna and the Caste as one and the same”, when he himself first praises the varna, then superimposes caste upon it in order to legitimize it.
Historiographically and rhetorically speaking, the Professor does not present a convincing case. An article, even if it’s on someone’s blog, ought to maintain at least the acceptable minimum level of coherence and unity. Moreover, when it comes from someone in the academia, it ought to maintain its level, the level that separates the scholarly papers from non-scholarly ones. The kind of writing whose samples litter Prof. Rao’s blog, bad prose and weak history, in no way appear to be written by a person suitable to hold the position of the Chairperson of ICHR. In comparison to Prof. Rao, the person who wrote the piece on him has definitely made lesser and less dangerous mistakes. After looking at the arguments made on both the sides, it can be said that fallacy is the fundamental state of the process of human argumentation. Left to his own, man will invent fallacies to suit his taste and cause and be happy in his blissful state of ignorance.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.