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Why the British and Christians hated the Brahmin's

A legacy of imperial belief

(I am using the word "Brahmin" exactly as it is ment to be used: the class that represented the intelligentsia of Brahmic society: be it Hindu, Sikh, Jain or Buddhist.)

To be against "Brahminism" is part and parcel of the political correctness of "progressive" scholars in twenty-first-century India. This indicates that something is very wrong with the Indian academic debate. Promotion of animosity towards a religious tradition or its followers is not acceptable today, but it becomes truly perverse when the intelligentsia endorses it. In Europe , it took horrendous events to put an end to the propaganda of anti-Semitism, which had penetrated the media and intelligentsia. It required decades of incessant campaigning before anti-Semitism was relegated to the realm of intellectual and political bankruptcy. In India, anti-Brahminism is still the proud slogan of many political parties and the credential of the radical intellectual.

Both anti-Semitism and anti-Brahminism have deep roots in Christian theology.

The contemporary stereotypes about Brahmins and the story about Brahminism originate in Christian theology. They reproduce Protestant images of the priests of false religion. When European missionaries and merchants began to travel to India in great numbers, they held two certainties that came from Christian theology: false religion would exist in India; and false religion revolved around evil priests who had fabricated all kinds of laws, doctrines and rites in order to bully the innocent believers into submission. In this way, the priests of the devil abused religion for worldly goals. The European story about Brahminism and the caste system simply reproduced this Protestant image of false religion. The colonials identified the Brahmins as the priests and Brahminism as the foundation of false religion in India. This is how the dominant image of "the Hindu religion" came into being. Theological criticism became part of common sense and was reproduced as scientific truth. In India, this continues unto this day. Social scientists still talk about "Brahminism" as the worst thing that ever happened to humanity.

In the same manner as some Jews began to believe that they were to blame for what happened during the Holocaust; many educated Brahmins now feel that they are guilty of historical atrocities against other groups. In some cases, this has led to a kind of identity crisis in which they vilify "Brahminism" in the English-language academic debate, but continue their traditions. In twentieth-century Europe we have seen how dangerous anti-Semitism was and what consequences it could have in society. Tragically, unimaginable suffering was needed before it was relegated to the realm of unacceptable positions. In India, anti-Brahminism was adopted from Protestant missionaries by colonial scholars who then passed it on to the secularists and Dalit intellectuals.

Anti-Brahminism has a long history in India, being a dominant theme of the long period of foreign rule. In the last thousand years India was primarily governed by non-Hindus - Muslims and Christians - who certainly cannot be called pro-Brahmin in their policies. When India was invaded by foreign powers, the Brahmins proved to be the greatest obstacle, particularly against religious conversion.

As one has to destroy the intellectual class of a religion or culture in order to convert it: Muslim rulers made special efforts to convert or even kill Brahmins. They destroyed Hindu temples in order to deprive the Brahmins, who were mainly temple priests of their cultural and religious influence in order to islamize. The British rulers of colonial India targeted the Brahmins and dismantled the traditional educational system that the Brahmins upheld in order to de-nationalize the population.

Both Islam and Christianity were very well aware of the fact that Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, And Jains owe all the great traditions they have to the Brahmin/intellectual elite that created them.

"The British were not wrong in their distrust of educated Brahmins in whom they saw a potential threat to their supremacy in India. For instance, in 1879 the Collector of Tanjore in a communication to Sir James Caird, member of the Famine Commission, stated that "there was no class (except Brahmins ) which was so hostile to the English." The predominance of the Brahmins in the freedom movement confirmed the worst British suspicions of the community. Innumerable CID reports of the period commented on Brahmin participation at all levels of the nationalist movement. In the words of an observer, "If any community could claim credit for driving the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community. Seventy per cent of those who were felled by British bullets were Brahmins."

To counter what they perceived, a Brahminical challenge, the British launched on the one hand a major ideological attack on the Brahmins and on the other incited non-Brahmin caste Hindus to press for preferential treatment, a ploy that was to prove equally successful vis-à-vis the Muslims.

In the attempt to rewrite Indian history, Brahmins began to be portrayed as oppressors and tyrants who willfully kept down the rest of the populace. Their role in the development of Indian society was deliberately slighted. In ancient times, for example, Brahmins played a major part in the spread of new methods of cultivation (especially the use of the plough and manure) in backward and aboriginal areas. The Krsi-parasara, compiled during this period, is testimony to their contribution in this field. Apart from misrepresenting the Indian past, the British actively encouraged anti-Brahmin sentiments. A number of scholars have commented on their involvement in the anti-Brahmin movement in South India. As a result of their machinations non-Brahmins turned on the Brahmins with a ferocity that has few parallels in Indian history. This was all the more surprising in that for centuries Brahmins and non-Brahmins had been active partners and collaborators in the task of political and social management.

(source: The Plight of Brahmins - By Meenakshi Jain - The Indian Express, Tuesday, September 18, 1990)

The Brahmins were identified as the ‘clergy’ or the priests of Hinduism. An explicit hostility towards the heathen priesthood was not helped by the inability of the messengers of God’s word to convert Brahmins to Christianity. In Brahmins, they came across a literate group, which was able to read, write, do arithmetic, conduct ‘theological’ discussions, etc. During the first hundred years or so, this group was the only source of information about India as far as the missionaries were concerned. Schooled to perform many administrative tasks, the Brahmins were mostly the only ones well-versed in the European languages – enough to communicate with the Europeans. In short, they appeared both to be the intellectual group and the most influential social layer in the Indian social organization. Conversion of the heathens of India, as the missions painfully discovered, did not depend so much on winning the allegiance of the prince or the king as it did on converting the Brahmins.

As Francis Xavier stated about the Brahmins: "If there were no Brahmins in the area, all the Hindus would accept conversion to our faith."

The Brahmins were unimpressed by the theological sophistication of the Christian critique of Hinduism. This attack was born out of the inability of Christianity to gain a serious foothold in Indian society. The ‘red race’ was primitive – it could be decimated; the ‘blacks’ were backward – they could be enslaved; the ‘yellow’ and the ‘brown’ were inferior – they could be colonized. But how to convert them? One would persecute resistance and opposition. But how to respond to indifference? The attitude of these Hindu heathens towards Christianity, was exactly this: complete indifference.

Astara Chandra, Brahmanists vs. Abrahmanists

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