A brief study of Hierarchical caste domination in Kashmir
Once upon a time, a situation unfolded between two distinct castes. One, who described himself as superior, a representative of bourgeoisie class, was a charlatan with the intellectually imbecile disposition and chronic emotional dementia. In this caste struggle, nevertheless, he tried to leverage his power by invoking the might of his fairly good ancestral prestige in terms of mindfulness and insight. He was lucky! Born in an elite caste system with every sort of extraordinary privilege, he inherited material wealth and would always boast about his intellectual capabilities, which he thought were genetically transferable. His response to the philosophically rich argument was analogous to the pissed off kid who invariably tried to bull away from the logic by soliciting the support of his father.
“My father would teach you a lesson, my father is this, and my father is that….He is watched over by God…He is very powerful.”
Well, this time things went horizontal.
The claim of superior being was so laughable and idiotic that his ancestral power bank went straight bankrupt. And he no longer could stand up to the logic forwarded by the so-called inferior being.
Accidentally or incidentally, that superior being had a ‘Syed’ DNA while as the other was a vector of ‘non-Syed’. That Syed man had this inconceivable unscientific notion that along with caste, a human being can inherit genes of ‘human cognition, virtue and logic’. Had he read about the fate of Prophet Noah’s son or the immorality of Prophet Yusuf’s brethren or the cruelness of one of Adam’s son, he would have hesitated to harbour that notion. Well, he didn’t know, that is why I referred to him as intellectually dwarf in the first place. Most of these quacks flaunt intelligence and wisdom. By doing so, they try to extort wealth, self-respect and dignity from the inferior victims. Nonetheless, he ignored his ignorance and went on and argued with the inferior.
Do you know that we are the chosen one?
How do you say so?
Well, God’s purgatory is full of fire and fire ain’t hurt us?
Even if you disobeyed Him?
I said fire ain’t hurt us! (Exasperatingly)
The nomenclature written by institutionalised religion dominated mostly by wealthy hedonists did demonise the inferior boy, but it didn’t hurt his intellectual might. He drew out the firepot and requested ‘Syed’ to dip the finger and prove his hypothesis. Superior boy irradiated frustration and confusion. And his fantasy was blown to smithereens by a simple logical comment.
You ain’t sure about the Fire of world, how would you bear the Fire of hell?
For thousands of centuries in Western civilisation, the teachings of Church dominated every aspect of human transactions with nature. The church was the ultimate, and its decrees were deemed as infallible and unquestionable. Socrates’ idea that the highest form of human excellence is to question everything and critically analyse the universal events had no subscribers. The civilisational discourse was categorically divided into the Church authority and the common people. Religious dogma pervaded human life. Logic and philosophy if conflicted with the thoughts of Church were dismissed and its adherents discouraged.
With the reformation and rejuvenation of teachings of Greek philosophers like; Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Cicero etc., who promoted reason and logic over traditional unscientific cognitive processes, in Renaissance period, people started to question the absolute and dictatorial powers of Church. Philosophers from the east like Ibn Rushd’s (Averroes) comprehensive and intelligible commentaries on the work of Greek philosophers was translated into western languages and consequently read by scholars in the west. Ibn Rushd bridged the gap between Islam and west and helped western philosophy not only to revive but provided scholars multiple ways and tools to find alternative answers; answers to the fundamental questions of life which were denied by Church hitherto.
Martin Luther, a 14th-century German Renaissance theologian professor, rebelled against the corrupt theocratic administration of Church. He witnessed the abuse of power by Church officials; identified the fundamentally cruel nature of humans; demythologised the Godly stature of a clergyman and helped the common man to confront criminals even if they served the God. He vociferously advocated for the direct relationship between an individual and the Bible. From now on, individualism would challenge every dominant thought of collective social consciousness. Until now, the common man’s life was dominated by the commandments of institutionalised religion. The Church governed every aspect of his life ranging from morality to economics. He was like a metaphorical equivalent of the robot; controlled and manipulated by the owner; the way he liked it.
It was a new and revolutionary step, but it represented the truth.
The basic and fundamental lesson from this Himalayan event of history is that human beings are fallible and to err is human. Martin Luther questioned the integrity of religious humans when they used and abused the Church for their aggrandisement. He was right in doing that. He helped us understand that even Religious doctrines could be abused. And that one should never stop questioning the officials representing one of the most formidable and powerful societal institutions in the history of human civilisation: religion.
Unfortunately, the philosophical and scientific tradition, though started by the Muslims, was strangulated by religious bigots in the Islamic world and it still continues. Here in this part of world, institutionalised religion- though far in consonance with gospels of God and his messengers and in direct harmony with the interests of religious imperialists, is still regarded as the lion of the jungle and its beneficiaries are the Foxes.
In the west, around dark ages, Pope and his associates made ideological weapons out of Church doctrines. By applying age-old evil practices like misinterpretation, misappropriation, and misquotation of religious manuscripts, the Pope would fleece the common man through coercion and consent, and this complete process was projected as something wanted by God. As if God was directly speaking to the Pope; as if he was the lone guardian or chowkidaar of Bible. This religious class struggle came to an end. And people no longer rate or vote humans on the basis of religiosity. The new system of credit rating in the context of human excellence is now measured in terms of deeds or virtues. Questions like; what group does one belong, how much of financial capital he has, to which religious institution does she subscribe, what caste is he of, are of little importance in deciding whether one is morally good or bad.
In the context of caste struggle, different social groups are still fighting for their freedom and right to live a life of dignity and prosperity. In Hinduism, institutionalised religion carved out a definitive manuscript to demonise and terrorise Dalits, who are regarded as the last dregs of Hindu religious society. This caste chauvinism though based on lies and concoction serves a great purpose for superior castes. Caste stratification is like LIC Insurance policy for Brahmins. The invention of this fallacious and barbaric societal distinction with the help of religious doctrines was to ensure and insure Brahmins.
Consequently, they benefitted enormously from this categorisation and also stayed out of competition which Dalits would have offered to them. Regulated competition brings out the best in everything. But in this context, a historically lucky caste of whose success is shaped and boosted by social and cultural advantages obliterated this practice and kept everything to themselves; tremors of which are still prevalent in our contemporary societal framework.
Identical to this much researched and talked about caste discrimination in Hinduism is the plague of caste superiority tradition in one of the schools of Islam called Shiaism. Unlike Hinduism, caste stratification is divided into two sections; the Syed and the other. This barbaric, unreligious and unreasonable practice has concentrated wealth, power relations and enormous political leverage in the hands of Syed Brahmins, who like Hindu Brahmins, were enormously buttressed and patronised by privileged socio-political conditions. Their success and prosperity was not the effect of their hard work, but it was the direct outcome of ‘lucky historical blessing’.
In Shiaism, descendants of Syed dynasty trace their roots to Imam Ali and his offsprings. The anatomical approach (well, the names are so grand and pretentious that we have to do anatomy!) to names of Syed caste strata exhibit two distinct identities. The prefix ‘Syed’ pronounces their blood relationship with Imam Ali and the suffixes like ‘Moosvi, Safavi, Rizvi’ and others determine their kinship with eleven different Prophets who followed Imam Ali in the Twelver Shia sect of Islam.
Given the historically enlightened phase in terms of socio-economic, political and theological domains, the Syed dynasty was able to dominate over other caste systems. Nevertheless, the era of Prophethood and epoch of some pious descendants of Prophets turned out fair and fine for the people who identified with the non-Syed section of society. There was no manipulation and abuse of religious texts in these epochs. Religious feudal lords were less in number, and their efforts of evil abridgement and interpolation of sacred doctrines were repelled.
As has been the practice of materialistically wealthy lords, like in Greek and Roman civilisation, the attempts were also made in the Islamic world to include a new and completely different set of ‘holy’ articles besides the teachings of Quran and Traditions of Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) and his descendants. These articles were projected as equally sacred and obligatory as the words of God. And whosoever imagined to question these interpolations would be penalised and stigmatised and this practice is still in vogue.
The biomagnification and systemic concentration of these cynical evils like; the superiority of Syed individualism, prohibition of inter-caste marriage between Syed and the other, stereotyping individuals who converted to Shiaism and labeling them as ‘non-real’ followers, keeping non-Syed followers away from influential institutions of society, formation of distinct Syed cults with strikingly noticeable behavioral patterns (just have a look at architecture of ‘Syed Ghettos’ with walls higher than that of Great Wall of China and though it goes against the teachings of Quran on developing relations with neighbours, it is well followed), concentration of power in Syed dynasty and their executive authority to collect different forms of taxes and donations from common men in the form of Zakat, Khumus, Fitr, Religious Donations, International aid to religion, wealth of Auqaf markets etc.
All of these monetary donations and the interlinking social power place Syed theocrats in an authoritarian place. Now, this farcical narrative of above-mentioned religious interpolations is mostly the creation of contemporary Syed society, who because of historical events promoted status quo and were apprehensive about working hard in the fields and earning an ethically standard subsistence for them is unbecoming of Syed. They don’t like to work, and this attitude has encouraged self-deification of their beings.
Now, a culturally diverse District of J&K State namely Budgam, around 10 KM distance from Srinagar city, dominated by followers of Shia school of thought, is the epicentre of caste discrimination in Shiaism. The ‘Syed’ dynasty here has rigorously used and abused religious text in their aggrandisement. All the powerful societal institutions belong and are controlled by different members of the same dynasty. The revenue collected at hundreds of Masjids, Imambaghas (religious hall), Madrasas, Ziyarat Gahs, (sacred holy places), Marsiahas Centers (religious congregations) and many other powerful institutions straight away goes into the pocket of these religious pseudo-bureaucrats. And worse, there is no accountability. No one asks for a thorough financial audit. No one knows about the procedure of expenditure of this hard-earned money collected mostly from non-Syed people. No one questions this barbaric feudal practice.
This powerful section of Shiaism has for decades blackmailed the population of the religious convert who represents the ‘other’. Rather than empowering them to fight social evils and live a dignified life, these religious neo-imperialists have kept them far from enlightenment and have sometimes invoked sacred texts to prohibit scientific learning and individual development. This all is done by the use of the Machiavellian concept of ruling subjects by fear.
Karl Marx rightly pointed out that religion is the opium of masses. Mostly, the non-enlightened section of society is a victim of universal passivity, religious feudalism, and political subordination. This cultural narrative has been well exploited by the dominant Syed class. Concocted and intentional misinterpretation of religious texts is employed to drain financial, psychological and physical capital from the masses. One could see the unfailing support of these religious demagogues in financing the humongous religious architectures in the form of Imambarghas, and religious schools (devoid of reason and logic), which have been unfortunately reduced to entrepreneurial centres for the unemployed Syed youth. Pertinently, the serious economic donations- a taxpayer’s money to the religious schools have never really benefitted the common men. Majority of the religious scholars, who come out of these Jamias, propagate religious literalism, dogma, unscientific ideologies. They are particularly reserved for the traditions like; glorified Quran recitations (without translation or for that matter interpretation), intercession conferences, and religious congregations. In all these events-at least my interactions with the religious scholars suggest so-their focus has significantly diverted from authentic religious teaching (which was bad enough) to collect donations; stuff every orifice of their body with the mutton or chicken and the worst of all, to shamelessly project themselves as children of God. To put it more precisely, obsessive chicken disorder and post-traumatic mutton disorder has affected their ability to dispense religious duty. They have become mutton and chicken maniacs (just visualise a product of Jamia armed with black polythene, collecting surplus lamb or chicken muscles. I have seen this many times) or the hedonists incarnate. Unfortunately, not a single social reformer has been produced in these high-funded religious institutions, which is certainly a shame. Certainly, this sort of environment is good for Syed demagogues, who are at the helm of affairs. They favour this unscientific paradigm as it doesn’t pose any threat to them. This enthusiasm fades away when non-Syed citizens demand the setup of institutions based on reason and logic, like libraries, schools, and research centres. Relevantly, in Budgam, there is not a single library or research center which focuses on scientific and logical thinking.
On the contrary, numerous religious business centres are constructed now and then, and poor people are tricked to donate their hard-earned money, and physical labour. Every dominant Syed family in Budgam has a separate religious business institution in the form of Imambargah and together with it comes the bonanza of cult followers. There have been instances when the gullible poor public is dragged into the incidents of personal enmity among Syed familial structure. They are made part of issues, which don’t concern them or uplift their personality. This divisive cult based politics has dented the moral fabric of Shia society and has impacted their societal interactions. Notably, in Muharram, a sense of vengeance and antagonism is sown among the cult followers to strengthen the financial and political base, as the month of repentance is the great source of income for Syed imperialists. The serious divisions in Shia society are the creation of Syed dominant class. To feed their parasitic tentacles, they have seriously damaged the social fabric. Also, one of their strategies in the field of ‘belief capitalism’ is to use the religious pulpit for extension of their self-interest. An exegesis of various frantic sermons shows that real life issues are not brought up, rather with the use of mythology, religious ritualism, traditionalism, fear-psychosis, and self-created moral principles, peoples’ minds are tactically conditioned, indoctrinated and sent to some imaginative world. The real world theories are diplomatically avoided by awarding people issues which don’t exist and are also irredeemable. The department of religious preaching is solely controlled by Syed imperialists leaving no chance for the non-Syed scholar to interact with the large swathe of underprivileged section of society. They control the minds, the pulpit, and financial treasure and consequently project themselves as erudite scholars, who need to be feared, adored, revered and above all can’t be questioned. Historically, to muzzle the public enlightenment or for that matter public dissidence, the dominant class have used ideological hegemony to engineer the mechanical, spectator, and passive cultural industry, where people conform to sociological normalisation aimed to benefit the rulers. The same pathological paradigm fashions the mutual sociological interactions among Syed and non-Syed in the contemporary Shia world.
Though it doesn’t happen now very often, the stories of non-Syed ancestors regarding their exploitation by Syed dynasty are very horrid and equate to that of apartheid practices in Europe. As said by Michel Foucault that Power is not only repressive where sovereign institutions terrorise non-conformists, it is also a normalising concept. Sophisticated and intellectually rich propaganda is used to derive consent from the gullible population, who are constantly forced to accept the narratives which are profitable for the dominant class. The stories of intentional or indirect propagation of unscientific rituals by Syed preachers that there is the blessing (Shifa) in every form of leftover ever tasted and owned by them is entirely hilarious and horrific. Non-Syed people are still caught in this ritualistic dogma propagated as religion; they pounce on the water bottle tasted by a Syed preacher, throw themselves on the streets treaded by a Syed monarch, kill and injure themselves under the banners of Syed bigotry, loot their own relatives, colleagues and companions just because a Syed with different ideology told them so, and this propagandistic narrative about the nobleness of Syed is so labyrinthine and well orchestrated that non-Syeds follow this with more enthusiasm than they follow the teachings of God and his Messenger. The practical implication of this narrative which is central to the formation of falsified collective consciousness is the continuous undying support and political loyalty of thousands of Shias to the MLA Budgam. Despite ruling for a decade and doing nothing for the citizens, he is still very much loved and consequently elected to the chair as he happens to be an heir of Syed genealogy. He is a Syed; therefore he is the chosen one. We are his subjects, and he is our master. This pathological ‘herd mentality’ has cost non-Syeds dearly.
The concepts of equality and liberty in human civilisation saw revolutionary changes. Commentaries of Greek philosophers like Socrates, Plato or Aristotle gave hope to underprivileged and dispossessed to pursue their goals, and this paradigm was followed by renaissance philosophers after the 13th century. Despite their undying philosophical discussions on individual rights and freedom, the world is still busy in promoting countless cultural evils; caste segregation compounded with caste discrimination is one such barbaric practice. To name a few here is the fundamental bone of contention between Syed and non-Syed section.
When a person can barely afford a meal a day, he doesn’t disturb himself on issues of individual rights. The concept is alien to his thought process, thereby stimulates a strong sense of political and social passivity in him. While as on the other hand, a socially and theologically dominant class craves rights like a person craves oxygen. With the instruments of power, the dominant class wishes for an ‘identity cult’, participants of which share the same sense of identity, thought process, desires and so on. This sense of psychological and behavioural pattern is the bedrock of intra-caste marriage in Syed cults. The idea that their identity or social establishment would be in jeopardy by promoting inter-caste marriage sends shivers down their spine. Caste homogeneity and preservation of Syed gene pool is central to this hierarchical social system.
The majoritarian view of the social contract in Human civilisation determines that the offspring of a couple would inherit the name and ‘identity’ of his/her father. This civilisational and so-called ‘normal’ paradigm has the seminal role in determining the inter-caste marriage in Syed dynasty. Though male persons in Syed society are discouraged from engaging in marital relationships with the non-Syed females, this social connection is more or less allowed to consummate. The main objection and institutional resistance are prevalent in the case of the marriage of Syed female with a non-Syed male. In this particular case, the thoughts of identity crisis and subtle obliteration of dynastic empire rage the policy-makers of the dominant class. It is believed that doing so will discontinue the lineage of royal blood which in turn would be detrimental for this caste empire.
Interestingly enough, there are some cases where the decision maker of a Syed family allows his daughter to marry a non-Syed spouse. This unconventional social contract is permitted if the groom is financially better and has comparatively a significant amount of wealth. Though there are countless such cases, I have encountered a specific case in Mirgund area of Budgam, which is incidentally a Syed-dominated area. The family explains this dissident diversion in terms of the consensual contract and impresses upon the right of an individual to choose her life partner. This double standard and opportunistic philosophy of life are okay if it works for the dominant class and is strenuously resisted if the non-Syed groom happens to be an underprivileged person.
Nature exudes beauty; it is diverse. Diversity makes the life worthwhile. For centuries with brief pauses and now it is regaining its strength; a cult of humankind has always tried to homogenise everything. From the west where a protectionist, misogynist and a megalomaniac President is trying to stir the xenophobic feelings to the east in India, where a religious bigot is unfailingly spinning hatred and furtively encouraging his army to damage the human fabric, the world is turning into homogenised ghettos. Any kind of discrimination whether that is racial, caste, gender, religious, hierarchical is detrimental to the prosperity of societal metamorphosis. God is creator and cherisher of diversity, and we humans ought to preserve it.