The Cunning Casteism of The Brahmin — Ravi Shankar Etteth

Priyadarshini Ohol
May 10, 2018 · 5 min read

An invite came over my feed the other day.

“Please join us to celebrate the release of ‘THE BRAHMIN” a novel by Ravi Shankar Etteth over canapes, cocktails and kalaripayatu on Wednesday 10th May 2018, 7 pm.”

I’m horrified. Prima facie this raises questions:

  1. Should public declarations of caste be the social norm?
  2. Should brahmin supremacy be a normalized element of pop culture, eligible for mass publishing?
  3. Should assertions of caste pride be supported and amplified by publishers like Amazon?
  4. Is it right to celebrate one’s caste location with a history of oppression and colonizing the survivors resistance while he is being subject to a nation wide hunt?
  5. Isn’t this an act of reinforcing casteism and the caste-based social structure?

The text goes on to mention this brahmin celebration is going to be at the Taj Mansingh in Delhi — the heart of the country’s capital swarming with elite urban India, and gives an RSVP email of an Amazon India rep.

Ravi Shankar Etteth has written a whole book celebrating Brahmin Supremacy playing on the casteist beliefs and myths that work in favour of the brahmin — the highest beneficiary of the caste system.

He is celebrating it over Kalaripayatu — appropriating a survivor caste resistance martial art of the Ezvahas — a group designated untouchable by the brahmins.

This is akin to a white supremacist publishing a book titled “THE WHITEST MAN OF ALL” then celebrating racism over Black Karate at the St. Regis with complete impunity and social sanction.

All happening in the heart of urban India in the country’s capital at The Taj Mansingh.

Absurd isn’t it? This is everyday dystopia for survivor castes in India as their oppressors profiteer off them.

Oppressor caste elites love to flaunt their caste pride. I’m always amazed at how they love to celebrate all that is wrong about India , about casteist art & casteist culture over canapes, cocktails and whichever culture appropriated from whoever they’ve oppressed and wish to profiteer off that day.

Nice?

This vulgar display of casteism makes a mockery of the struggle for egalitarianism that is being fought in India since time immemorial. A belief in Brahmin Supremacy is the root of casteism. It’s the same belief that sanctions division of mankind, assigns high to low value to human life, and sanctions lack of rights based on these assigned values.

Brahmin supremacy is an ideology that is anti-equality, liberty and justice, thus inherently anti-democracy. It is the reason why we hear statements so often by saffron ideologues about subverting democratic institutions and ideals. Their idea of a Hindu Rashtra is the ideology of Brahmin Supremacy implemented with a social structure defined by the laws and rules of the caste system.

Brahmin Supremacy is implicitly fascist. Casteist is the more appropriate term in the Indian context, however casteism is so normalized here that Indian people identify with and are more outraged by an Italian term than it’s Indian counterpart. In the Indian context, it is casteism through casteist propoganda that will pave the way to totalitarianism.

There is a caste-hunt going on in this country and this man is off celebrating his Brahminism through a protagonist in a book. And he has easily found the ecosystem to publish it in Westland Books -an Amazon publishing company. I wonder if jeff bezos is aware of the subversion of his company by people with discriminatory agendas here in India.

This is not literature for all. To anyone who has borne the brunt of casteism, the title is obnoxious, insulting and makes a mockery of their daily lived reality. All their struggles against caste-based prejudices nullified by one act of normalizing oppressor caste pride and making it an element of pop culture. This is literature of The Brahmin, by The Brahmin, for The Brahmin.

Ravi Shankar Etteth has managed to insert “Brahmin” 594 times in 247 pages. In many instances, the word could have been replaced by pronouns but it isn’t for the sheer purpose of repetition. In the first chapter itself, the word brahmin is mentioned 45 times and repeated at least 3 times per page. I leave it up to you to compare this with any other books with a protagonist and say it’s not propaganda disguised with figures of speech of English prose.

The brahmin is characterized as feared, with a smooth golden-skinned face. He has an inscrutable expression, and unflinchingly looks at the Emperor with his hooded expressionless eyes. He has a warrior’s body and is the only officer of the court allowed to turn his back on the king. In short he is flawless and superior just like the mythical prejudice about the Brahman.

The protagonist could be named anything or anyone, however the author, Ravi Shankar Etteth has chosen to represent all the members of the caste through the protagonist of his book and celebrate their place on the top of the caste pyramid. Why not use one’s writing to reinforce the caste system a bit more in Indian consciousness?

Through popular culture now, all brahmins, good or bad, get a bit more privilege because of their caste. After all, the caste-based violence we have in abundance around us is not enough. The author felt the need to elevate and reinforce the status of the brahmin further through his work.

How insensitive can you get? However this is normal to casteists. This is the reality of the caste system that the brahmin sits on top of. This othering, dehumanizing, objectifying, exploiting, disregarding and discarding a large section of humanity as long as the benefits are passed on to the top of the caste pyramid to maintain brahmin supremacy.

What is more abhorrent is that Indian society is influenced by opinion makers comprised predominantly like the author is in his roles as a editor of popular dailies, tabloids, and newspapers. Hence it is a trend especially in urban metros, to cultivate hypocrisy as a principle by denying the existence and practice of casteism in this age whilst simultaneously propagating brahmin supremacy.

These very casteists who would celebrate and propagate brahmin supremacy and caste hierarchies openly in 5 star restaurants will mock and trivialize the concerns of the survivor castes as they continuously battle caste-based sexual violence, caste-based physical violence, caste-based exploitation, caste-based bullying, caste-based exclusion, caste-based denial of opportunities in communities, schools, colleges, workplaces and other social networks.

Mr. Ravi Shankar Etteth could next conduct workshops on how all oppressor caste Indians can capitalize on their accumulated caste privilege, flaunt and celebrate their castes publicly in an environment where caste-based rapes, lynchings, murders, and institutionalized casteism is on the rise?

His workshop may aptly be named “How to insidiously reinforce casteism without being obvious whilst being oblivious to all it’s evils.”

Call to Action :

If you read this, do any of the following:

1) tweet the article with #changethebrahmin at @jeffbezos , @etteth , @minarishah , @amazonin , @amazon, @westlandbooks @karthikavk @somakghoshal or share on other social media with the #changethebrahmin

2) email your comments with this article to: jeff@amazon.com, publicity-westland@amazon.com, ravi@newindianexpress.com, amazon-pr@amazon.com , samraj@amazon.com, india-comms@amazon.com

3) Republish this article as it is or with a commentary.

4) Call this PR Agency that handles Amazon India

Shashank R

Weber Shandwick India

Srathod@webershandwickindia.com

+91 8722224778

Correction: The original article mentioned that the word Brahmin is repeated 500 times in the book. The word is repeated 594 times in 247 pages.

Priyadarshini Ohol

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Priyadarshini Ohol is an internationally acclaimed artist and activist.