Reality Check India

Affirmative action or reverse discrimination ?

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on January 27, 2007

Just want to document this news item. This is something you will not read about in papers like “The Hindu” nor hear about it in the mainstream news media.

Source : Deccan Chronicle (link may be temporary) Story copy is here.

Chennai, Jan 26: The DMK government headed by chief minister M. Karunanidhi, well known for his atheist views, has ensured that no Brahmin is appointed as trustee in any of the major temples across Tamil Nadu. Perhaps this is the first time that the community, closely identified with priesthood, has been so comprehensively kept out of temple administration. While the norms that a dalit and a woman should be accommodated in the five-member temple committees have been followed, the state Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments Department (HR&CE), which administers most of the temples in Tamil Nadu, has ensured that the Brahmins are kept out of these prestigious positions.

Asks SV Shekar (MLA Mylapore) :

By keeping the Brahmins out of the temple committees, the DMK government is only baring its inborn vengeance for our community. Why is chief minister Karunanidhi appointing his party members as arangaavalars (trustees) even while claiming that the DMK is a rationalist party? There will be divine justice and God will punish these people some day. I am not saying this as a politician but as a believer in God

Replies DMKs TKS Elagovan :

This action is not aimed at the Brahmins. We are only acting in favour of the people who had been so far kept out of temple administration. We have given such sections a chance now to be in charge of temple administration

This story points out another requirement. In addition to data, we need anti-discrimination laws too. The state in this instance has arbitrarily snatched away opportunities from an entire social group on flimsy grounds.  Can anyone tell if castes like Chetties, Naidus, Naickers, Mudaliars, Gounders, Thevars, Pillais have traditionally been excluded from temples ? No, they have been the traditional trustees.  So the entire premise of giving ignored communities a chance falls apart. 

The only thing that can straighten this out is data. There is simply no way 95.4% of a state can be backward if the condition of the remaining 4.6% is so pathetic (socially, educationally, economically).  Currently, the only check against abuse of the “backward” tag – is the hope that self-respecting communities would not want to use the backward tag to avail of benefits intended for the really deprived.  This check alone is not enough.

31 Responses

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  1. Brahman said, on January 27, 2007 at 9:32 pm

    Why is this not a surprise to me? Thanks for posting the link. At this rate, I do not know if TN will still be a part of India sixty years hence. Maybe Barbarindian was right in a previous posting, India might get broken up into multiple pieces at this rate. I also heard that in the last 4 years, there has been no Brahman recruited into the TN Govt services at any supervisory level.

  2. Reason said, on January 28, 2007 at 4:47 am

    The DMK chief has just discovered the power of religion after a life of anti-Brahminism masquerading as rationalism/atheism. May be you should give him some more time 🙂

    You forgot to mention that Brahmins have 100% hold on Agama-based temple priest jobs.

    In my opinion, Brahmins should leave those temple priest jobs and take up something else – it may be easy to retrain them as purohits for personal religious functions, or any other job for that matter. If there is any organization working with this aim, I want to donate and also spread their name. I say this as a Hindu who believes God does not manifest in Miracle Rings and God will understand.

    Temples in Tamil Nadu have fallen on hard times and maladministration for a long time anyway. Even ancient temple towns like Srivilliputhur have nothing but stink of urine. This talibanic assault on culture and morals will not leave anything for anybody.

    ‘self-respecting’ communities? You must read it from – there are now ‘backward tamils living in foreign countries’ who will oppose creamy layer – Veli naattil vaazhum pir-paduthappatta tamilargal.

  3. aks said, on January 28, 2007 at 5:55 am

    “There will be divine justice and God will punish these people some day. I am not saying this as a politician but as a believer in God”

    Ya sure…if brahmins arent appointed then god will punish us…of course makes a lot of sense.

  4. Reason said, on January 28, 2007 at 7:03 am

    >> Ya sure…if brahmins arent appointed then god will punish us…of course makes a lot of sense.

    The familiar straw-man approach – S.V.Shekar did not say God will punish them for not appointing Brahmins. He said –
    “Why is chief minister Karunanidhi appointing his party members as arangaavalars (trustees) even while claiming that the DMK is a rationalist party? There will be divine justice and God will punish these people some day.”

    Leaving God out, what happens to EQUITY. EQUALITY. REPRESENTATION. (typing these words in caps because I learnt that doing that is enough to make anything done in their name unassailable).

  5. Sharan Sharma said, on January 28, 2007 at 7:32 am

    > Ya sure…if brahmins arent appointed then god will punish us…of course makes a lot of sense.

    No. When you bring cheap politics into a place of worship *then* it makes a lot of sense. Brahmins or no Brahmins.

    Hi ‘Reason’,

    > You forgot to mention that Brahmins have 100% hold on Agama-based temple priest jobs.

    But who cares for a lowly temple-priest job. There ain’t no money there.

    Being a trustee/part of the administeration committee is the real thing. A great opportunity to siphon off funds, make tons of money in grand occassions like the temple Kumbhabhishekham (contracts to relatives), illegally give land around the temple to shops (forget the fact that shops are not allowed as per traditonal rules) and collect weekly ‘hafta’, etc. etc. (“Those pesky Brahmins always ruin the plan. They’re stuck on this God thing saying that he/she/it will get angry or something if we loot the temple. Look at us. No problem”).

    Specifically on:
    > Brahmins have 100% hold on Agama-based temple priest jobs.

    I guess you know this but : It’s more about the specific community than about being a Brahmin. A regular Brahmin priest cannot even try to apply to say, the Madurai Meenakshi temple. You have to be born into the specific community that has traditionally conducted the rituals in these temples through the ages.

    Of course, right now in some ‘famous’ temples even if you were born into that specific community and spent 12 years rigorously studying the Veda/associated temple rituals, you still have to bribe the temple trustees to be ordained as a priest. The last i heard in one ‘famous’ temple in South India, the going rate was Rs. 25,000/- which for a temple priest family that earns about Rs. 2,000/- a month is a lot.

    Some temple-priests i met in the US were really happy that they were out of India! According to them, they are able to perform the rituals better here than back home. (“No VIPs and trustees to interrupt the worship schedule” , “Our knowledge is given its due” etc.)

  6. xyz said, on January 28, 2007 at 4:26 pm

    Dear friends,
    You are confusing many issues.
    Though temple priests are a part of our community,there is a distinct dividing line between the temple priests and ‘vaidika’ priests.I don’t want to play up the differences.But the priests in large temples have substantial revenue.They are also looked up to by the lay non-brahmin community,though there are stray cases of harrasment by HR&CE officials.

    The lot of the priests in poorer temples is bad.But the worst is over for them.They face discrimination in education and jobs.They also have little exposure to modern ideas and values.Also few members in their sub-sect have modern education.Even in earlier times,they were not very keen on vedas and upanishads.Now they are keen on modern education.

    Temple priests among vaishnavas are more integrated with the vaishnava community.This is due to important theological,metaphysical and literary and emotional differences between Sri Shankara and Sri Ramanuja.

    The great bhakti movement in the pallava age was as much a celebration of tamil as of bhakti.Nammazhwar synthezized vishnu bhakti and tamil literary traditions.Ramanuja opted for tamil monotheism rejecting iswara,murugan,amba and even atma -vichara.Sri vaishnavas differ from madhvas,gaudiya vaishnavas and others in their rigid monotheism and espousal of tamil.

    The saiva vellalas are ardent devotees of siva, though they reject the avatars of vishnu.

    Both saivas and vaishnavas lay great emphasis on tamil and temple worship, which was patronised by kings and vellalas.

    The smartas or vedantins, followers of shankara,have a pan indian outlook.Though they respect tamil,they do not use tamil as a part of their anushtanam.Temple worship is not crucial for this sampradaya,though not neglected.Greater emphasis is placed on sandhya upasana,vedic learning and contemplation.Itihasas and puranas have an importantant place in this sampradaya.

    Srivaishnavas consider srirangam as the “Bhuloka Vaikunta”.Their important centres “divya desams”(108 in number), are found mostly (80) in TN,chief among them being srirangam,kanchi etc.They regard the tamil prabhandams as canonical.

    Saivas and vaishnavas have a long history of conflict in TN.for supremacy.The vaishnava tradition is markedly brahminical,though temple worship and divya prabhandams have a significant place.

    The tamil scholar A.S. Gnanasambandhan has described sankara as anti -tamil and not in conformity with tamil tradition,because sankara has accorded prime importance to “Jnana Marga”.

    This is not true as tirumoolar,the most famous tamil saivite savant was an advaitin from kashmir.Even in ancient times there was intellectual intercourse in india.But Tamil nadu was a marked exception even then.The Tamil bhakti poetry followed secular poetry, while in other indian languages the earliest literary works were renderings of Ramayana or Mahabharatha.

    Nor should one construe that sankara was cast in the mould of a Plato.While fully alive to local sentiments,Shankara upheld the upanishadic tradition.He upheld indian unity.One should not conclude that shankara was a sophisticated brahmin supremacist or atheist.Shankara is not someone who can be communicated in simplistic terms.Any one with an yearning for truth can ‘understand’ his teachings.

    The tamil saiva and vaishnava traditions are tamil traditions with emphasis on sectarian worship,tamil patriotism and temple worship.The poor generally worshipped in local mariamman temples.

    Today there is a bhakti revival in TN.But it comes mixed with tamil patriotism,though indian patriotism is not altogether absent.Many motives like genuine religious feelings,social mobility and the anxieties of modern age contribute to the revival.
    Saivas and vaishnavas have a compact tamilnadu based ideology.On the other hand, tamil smarthas identify themselves as from thanjavur,tirunelveli,madurai,tiruchi,north arcot etc.Sub consciously they identify themselves to the ancient chola and pandya kingdoms which existed before the tamil bhakti movement and which predate ‘tamil’ consciousness and patriotism.
    The region surrounding madras was a part of a region called “thondai mandalam” which was always susceptible to northern influence.

    I hope “Reason” does not take umbrage at my comments.We need to strive for unity on the basis of noble ideals.Unity in Diversity is our motto.

  7. rc said, on January 28, 2007 at 5:21 pm


    Thanks for all the info. Simply brilliant. I might have a few questions for you later for my research.

    Whatever be the cultural background. This seems like a clear cut case of discrimination simply because other dominant communities such as Chetties are not excluded even though they have been traditional trustees (If I am not mistaken both Madurai Meenaksi and Kapali have chetti domination right ?) Shouldnt they be excluded in favour of say Narikuravas who have never been trustees ?

    This simple contradiction is enough to puncture the flimsy grounds of social justice.

  8. Brahman said, on January 29, 2007 at 3:19 am

    It is worth examining what exactly has been the result of the “social justice” policies and who has actually benefited from this. I reproduce the following article with acknowledgment.

    OBC reservation and TN model
    The judiciary’s intervention on educational quotas may culminate and the process may be a long haul, to place matters in perspective understanding some important issues may be necessary.
    The judiciary’s intervention on educational quotas may culminate in judgments parallel to those in Indra Sawhney vs. Others. As this process may be a long haul, to place matters in perspective understanding the following seven issues may be necessary.

    One, the Centre’s decision was in the context of Article 15(5), but the validity of this Article has been challenged. Two, as the decision has more to do with Article 15(4), the basis on which it was taken and the modalities for its implementation, need explanation. As of now there is no Central list of OBCs for educational reservation. The list prepared was for job reservation under Article 16(4) but the educational reservation contemplated is under Article 15(4). The accent of Article 16(4) is on social backwardness; that of Article 15(4) is on social and educational backwardness.

    Three, Article 15(4) empowering the State to make special provisions for the advancement of socially and educationally backward classes or the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes has been in force for 55 years. Assuming that reference to special provisions is to different instruments of affirmative action, their use for 55 years and the rationale for sudden introduction of reservation now may come under judicial scanner.

    Four, unlike job reservation which was explicitly mandated by the Constitution, educational reservation has been by interpretation of Article 15(4). This interpretation is likely to be re-examined by the judiciary.

    Five, the Tamil Nadu experiment has been in the context of a single state, mainly through common entrance tests for professional courses with separate cut-off marks for SCs, STs, MBCs, OBCs, and Open Category, conducted by one university. Since central institutions are of different types, which have to address the educational needs of students of different streams from different parts of the country, whether the Tamil Nadu experiment can at all be replicated in central institutions needs debate.

    Six, the implementation of educational (and employment) reservation from 1951 (from 1927 to 1950 through the communal GO) has not made Tamil Nadu a land of milk and honey as made out by politicians. If anything, other states and the Centre have a lot to learn from its quota conundrum. The 1970 report of the Tamil Nadu First Backward Classes Commission observed that nine castes, accounting for 11 percent of the BC population, had cornered 37 percent of the non-gazetted and 48 percent of the gazetted posts, 44 percent of the engineering and 47 percent of the medical seats; and that if the upper crust in each caste is not removed from competing with the less privileged, the object of social justice, especially distributive justice, will not be achieved.

    The state did not find these observations politically expedient. The later increase in reservation for OBCs by the MGR-led AIADMK ministry, from 31 to 50 percent, had no legal or sociological basis.

    The data available for 1981-82 in the report of the Tamil Nadu Second Backward Classes Commission reveal the following: Of the BC students admitted to professional courses, more than three-fourths were from 34 of the 222 BCs, accounting for only two-fifths of the BC population; of the total number of BC scholarships, the total amount of these scholarships, and candidates of all grades selected by the Public Service Commission, two-thirds again went to this small number; even within this small number, just about one-third, accounting for one-third of the total BC population, had cornered two-thirds of the BC admissions to the professional courses and more than half of the scholarships, scholarship amounts, and BC candidates selected by the Public Service Commission. The state did not do anything to correct such usurpation.

    If reservation is to bring about group-level equality, for at least the last three decades Tamil Nadu has been having a strong case for excluding several groups from the OBC list.

    The state has not done this. If such exclusion may be unfair to the backwards within each group, the state should have eliminated the creamy layers within each. It has not done this either.

    Data on Government employees for 1999 reveal that the representation of SCs (eligible for 18 percent reservation) was only 13 percent and 18 percent in groups A+B and C+D respectively; of STs (eligible for 1 percent reservation) only 0.4 percent and 1 percent; and of MBCs and Denotified Tribes (eligible for 20 percent reservation) 16 percent and 15 percent. The corresponding figures for BCs (upper layer of OBCs) were 55 and 46 in groups A+B and C+D respectively – well above the 30 percent quota for them.

    As over-representation of the BCs indicates that they have already crossed the Rubicon, and as they have been neck and neck with the open category in marks obtained for admission to professional courses, the state can peg the BC quota at a realistic level, say, 20 percent, to provide more scope for open competition; and exclude creamy layers even from this reduced quota, so that only the really backward will depend on the state.

    In the 7+ population 37 percent of the SCs and 59 percent of the STs are illiterate. The figure is only 24 percent for the rest of the population. In the 15+ population only 2.2 percent of the SCs and 1 percent of the STs are graduates. The percentage is 5.4 for the rest of the population. If the SCs and STs are so backward in employment and education, whatever has happened to the implementation of the constitutional provisions for their social and educational advancement during the past 55 years, and in what sense Tamil Nadu is a model to the rest of the country?

    Seven, if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has to honour his assurance to the students of a fair, just, inclusive, and robust education system, addressing the needs of the heterogeneous ensemble that makes up the student community in the melting-pot of the education system from primary to tertiary levels by fostering existing institutions and creating new ones commensurate with the perceived and projected demand for education should be a national imperative.

    Politicising the education system as a vote-bank and offering sops to a few will be worse than even concession, the nemesis of which (concession) as R.H. Tawney said in his classic work Equality, is death by dilution.

    Source: P Radhakrishnan,
    Professor of Sociology at the Madras Institute of Development Studies

    The NewIndian Express

  9. Brahman said, on January 29, 2007 at 4:20 am

    Interesting link to RTI, maybe it is already known to RC and others

    Looks like it is quite active and many corrupt and moronic policy judgments can be unearthed by posting requests here.

  10. Reason said, on January 29, 2007 at 6:43 am

    >> I hope “Reason” does not take umbrage at my comments.

    Nope, and I dont know if I ever did. I do remember a discussion following attacks on temples in Tamil Nadu, where I disagreed that Dravida attacks on Hinduism distinguish between Vaishnava and Saiva sects.

    Your comment about Tamil Vaishnavas, Saivas and Smartas was interesting. Smartas worship both Shiva and Vishnu.

    Vaishnava tradition in the south is identified with Ramanujacharya. Shankara understood Advaita as the essense of Vedas. Ramanuja’s philosophy was Visishtadvaita. Philosophy is distinct from Worship. Shankara included the six different worships (Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu..) in his tradition. Given his period, he may have had a reason to be inclusive.

    I have read that the ‘Namboodhiri’ brahmins of Kerala were people who migrated from the Chola region. Some commonalities like ‘front tuft’, ‘family deities’ are cited. And there is another sect of Brahmins in mysore region who say they may have migrated from South Tamil Nadu /Travancore regions (Sankethi).

    ended up being a rambling comment 🙂

  11. Revathi said, on January 30, 2007 at 8:47 am

    I think that responses like ” God will punish you” are high irresponsible. It is like ” I dont want to commit myself to any action-God will take care of it”. He should have said “I am going to fight against it and God is on my side” if was a true believer. If he was such a coward, he need not have said anything at all.

  12. srinias said, on January 30, 2007 at 9:35 am

    I sincerely request the priestly class of Tamil brahmins to come out of the profession slowly and take up some other jobs leaving the temples to atheists where they will subsequently place periyar statues inside and start worshipping and atheism too will become a religion.

  13. xyz said, on January 31, 2007 at 2:58 am

    dear friends,
    my remarks seem to be over written and besides the point.
    1.Brahmanas are being excluded from trusteeship positions.Why?There is a power struggle on.Trustee posts,as sharan pointed out,are positions of power.
    2.Today brahmanas have been eliminated from positions of influence in administration,judiciary,medicine,public works engineering,education.We cant find them in most places in TN.
    3.Still,some might want to play useful functions in temple management,because of devotion to a particular kshetra or murthi.Will they be able to gel with other political appointees? remarks on temple worship were somewhat condenscending.i apologise.The importance of ‘ishta devata’ upasana cannot be undervalued.Temples reach out to huge numbers.I was pointing out the context.Temples have traditionally supported numerous artisans and artists and devotional tamil.

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  16. […] of reverse discrimination against the Tamil Brahmins. For example, in 2007, the party announced Brahmins will be kept out of temple administration, completely. Isn’t this oppression against the Tamil Brahmins? This is just resulting in […]

  17. Ravi Basera said, on September 2, 2011 at 11:37 am

    Namaskaram. I am a Kshatriya from Uttarakhand, where Namboodari Brahmins are in service to Badrinath Temple. I want to request to you alll , please utilise your energies for fighting against Reverse Discrimination, in making a counter -ideology to present nationalist ideology on Indian nation -state, which is totally politcally captured by Reservationists.
    One , more thing I want to suggest that this fight can be done keeping all the General cateory as a single unit of Identity , not only Brahmins, or Kshatriyas or Hindus for that matter,as there are general category groups in other Indian religions too.

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