Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Manusmriti doesn't mention untouchability, Ambedkar knew it, Hindu scriptures don't favour casteism: HAF

A demonstration seeking respect to Hinduism in US
By Our Representative
Taking strong exception to the activists’ and academics’ campaign in California, US, which led the local education officials to agree to include caste system as part of ancient Indian, especially Hindu , civilization in the sixth and seventh grade textbooks (click HERE), a senior official of the Hindu American Hindu (HAF) has claimed that “hierarchical” caste system was never part of ancient Hindu scriptures.
Even as agreeing that the “familial and discriminatory caste system” can be found in the later texts such as the Manusmriti – the most hated of all ancient texts among Dalits – the HAF official said, the Manusmriti texts “are not the source of the spiritual teachings of Hinduism”, arguing, “Very few Hindus are even familiar with these texts today.”
Asserting that untouchability is the “most repugnant form of caste-based discrimination and still afflicts many parts of India”, the official, Swami Venkataraman, HAF executive council member, however, says, “Even texts such as the Manusmriti make no mentio"n of untouchability.”
HAF has for long been one of the strongest organizations supporting Modi in the US ever since he was denied a visa in 2005, and has praised Modi’s understanding of “Hindu teachings” about human dignity, mutual respect, selfless service, and pluralism.
Venkataraman, in an article in a “right-liberal” site, underlines, “In his book ‘The Untouchables – Who were they, and why they became untouchables’, Dr BR Ambedkar clearly states that there was no untouchability in the time of Manu and traces the rise of untouchability to somewhere between the 2nd and 6th centuries CE, while the Rig Veda was composed no later than 1500 BCE.”
Venkataraman, whose article comes close on the heels of the HAF’s massive defeat in California to avoid caste as part of curriculum, says, “While acknowledging that Indian society, including its religious elites, practiced untouchability during the medieval period, there is no sanction for this practice in Hindu scripture.”
Venkataraman particularly takes strong exception to the US-based academics’ group South Asia Faculty Group (SAFG) and a US-based Dalit activists’ group, South Asian Histories for All (SAHFA), which, according to him, contended that “Hinduism is inseparable from caste-based discrimination, which has been a feature of the religion right from the beginning”, and that “HAF is looking to erase the experience of Dalits and other low castes”.
Venkataraman says, “The caste system did indeed become hierarchical and based on family of birth, but that developed over many centuries, and is not intrinsic to the practice of Hinduism.” He adds, “Contrary to SAFG and SAHFA’s claims that Hinduism’s sacred scriptures prescribe a birth-based caste system, there is actually direct evidence that caste was NOT based on birth.”
He argues, “The idea that different individuals of the same family can have different varnas and that individuals had a choice of varna are actually present in the Rig Veda itself”, adding, “The Upanishad goes as far as to say that, leave alone one’s family of birth, even scriptural knowledge is not adequate to make one a Brahmin and that only actual experience of one’s own divine nature through meditation suffices.”
In fact, says Venkataraman, the Mahabharata “has many verses which affirm that one’s varna is not determined by birth. That a shūdra with the qualities of a Brahmin is a Brahmin, while a Brahmin with the qualities of a shūdra is a Shūdra, and that the wise consider character alone as the primary factor in deciding one’s varna (Mahabharata 3.177.20-32).”
Agreeing that Hindu tradition does consider Valmiki and Vyasa as “Brahmins,” despite their birth among the “low castes”, Venkataram says, “The Valmiki community is officially one of the Dalit communities in modern day India, which leads to one of many conclusions, all contradicting the … central thesis of rigid birth-based caste.”
Insisting that Hinduism in the US be “afforded the same treatment as other religions in California textbooks”, Venkataraman asks, “Are slavery and Spanish genocides taught as an intrinsic and inseparable feature of Christianity?”

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