Former Supreme Court judge Justice Markandey Katju’s comment on the ongoing ‘Smash Brahminical Patriarchy’ row is self-contradictory. Recently, Twitteratis went berserk over Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s picture holding a poster that read ‘Smash Brahminical Patriarchy’, which was gifted to him by one of the Indian women journalists during his visit to India. Justice Katju took to Twitter to express his disappointment.
'Brahminical Patriarchy'&'Brahminism' r offensive 2 Brahmins.Although Im against caste system, de r hurtful to me, bcoz I was born a Brahmin. Y hurt feelings wen same meaning can be conveyed by using neutral word 'caste' which doesn't hurt feelings? I thot u had some sense @BDUTT
— Markandey Katju (@mkatju) November 20, 2018
Expressing his disagreement, he also wrote an article on Why not smash the myths around ‘Brahminical patriarchy’ first? The article fails to distinguish between Varna vyavastha from the caste system, which are essentially two different but overlapping domains. Division of labour is not a problematic deal, but the question is- who is the person (or a group of people) to decide this ‘division of labour’? Who gave them the authority to decide who will do what?? Should division of labour and choice of vocation be based on birth? Is it justified to punish people who are willing to change their profession and are not ready to accept this superficially imposed division of labour? Is one vocation higher than the other and should people be discriminated against based on the nature of their jobs? Why can’t a person belonging to the Shudra community (lower caste) perform rituals in temples?
Even if we do accept Katju’s arguments that aims to ‘break myths around Brahminism’, can we call the caste system a liberal, flexible, and voluntary institution? Does it allow every individual to chose what he wants to? I don’t think he has the answer for this. Caste is essentially a closed institution which not only decides the people’s profession, but also their cuisine, dressing, habitat, status and standard in society at the time of their birth itself. Such an institution doesn’t even allow individuals to make basic life choices. Katju claims that this system led to the extraordinary development of Indian civilisation! Really?? How can a society be called developed if it doesn’t allow the majority to harness their potentials and realise their capacities and talents? I suggest him to read Jawaharlal Nehru’s work that reflects on how the varna system led to the moral, intellectual and material degradation of the society. Therefore, his justification of Varna and caste system is a farce!
Further, Justice Katju tried to validate the point that slavery also led to the development of ancient Greek and Roman Civilizations. Everyone understands the evils of slavery and that it can never lead to any development as it kills the individual’s creative consciousness and makes them physically and mentally handicapped. These individuals who were slaves might have made a far more significant contribution to those civilisations had they not been enslaved. Caste institution in India, as Jyotirao Phule writes, is nothing but a form of slavery.
The title of the article is ‘Why not smash the myths around Brahminical Patriarchy’, but in the entire article, there is no discussion, argument on patriarchy and status of women in the society! Justice Katju must understand that criticising Brahminism or Brahminical system doesn’t mean attacking the caste itself, but slamming a feudal mindset which tends to give validation to an unequal, unjust and hierarchical social order. A Dalit can also be Brahminical in his mindset. Therefore, he shouldn’t be offended from these terms. A person becomes Brahminical from what they think and not from the caste in which they are born. People from so-called upper caste need shouldn’t take this as a direct personal attack on them but as an attack on a poisonous thinking which makes them feel superior and others as “lower”.
Also, Brahminical Patriarchy is something he needs to understand rationally. The so-called “upper castes”, always considered them to be superior and they take pride in the name of purity of their castes. The purity of caste means purity of blood, as according to them they have the purest blood and others have “ganda Khoon”. To protect this purity of blood, they put restrictions on their women as they are the primary vectors of this purity. Their entire “izzat” is confined to their women. And this is the root cause of patriarchy in this country. Otherwise look at the tribal societies and many agrarian classes, they don’t have this farce concept of ‘izzat’ in their minds as for them honour means nothing. They don’t have ‘honour’ because they are already denounced. This concept of keeping women in ‘purdahs’ (veil) and behind the walls of the house has contaminated the so-called lower sections of society as a result of ‘Sanskritisation’. Therefore, Brahminical Patriarchy translates to a mindset that has been nurtured by both caste and patriarchy. And, this is the root cause of exploitation of people from ‘lower caste’ and women.