Medical Strikes: Revisiting few Elite Myths

Fellow reader Open to Discussion asks me some valid questions following my earlier post on the topic . I have decided to publish my answers here as well for more general readership.

OD asks:
1. why so much of poison my dear friend?
2. no where in india were the rulers were brahmins
entire UP and bihar had been ruled by Yadavs(OBC), rajasthan by jats (OBC), in tamil nadu all except Brahmins come under reserved cat, so some body amongst them must be ruler.
3. algebra questions are never asked in medical entrance!!
u set any syllabus, it does not matter, toppers will remain toppers.
for indigenous med, we have separate ayurvedic collages. there is no need to include it in allopathy

I respond:
Dear Open to Discussion:
The reason behind my relatively long posts is that I explore the forest, not stick to trees. If you will read the entire post, it merely says that it’s a wrong thing for elite students to protest against possibility of equal opportunity for students who have been historically denied the privilege, owing to their socio-economic class.

To further this humble opinion, I have cited examples to show how the ruling classes guard their interests and growth by NOT sacrificing their privilege.

I do not wish to influence you into believing one way or the other, but I do not wish to find your words in my mouth either. Hence, my quick responses to your questions:

1. There is no poison. But yes, lots of anger. Because I possess a privileged ‘caste’ background myself, and I would not wish to support such protests being done by people coming from my social locations. Therefore I feel something in me is at stake too. Coming from Orissa, I have witnessed firsthand the violence against the so-called lower-caste and untouchable people. By not denying my privilege, I have understood to what extent I am a part of the oppressive sphere. And by seeing that the cycle is not being allowed to change, again by the ruling classes in Orissa, the Brahmin Bureaucracy and the Patnaik governance, I would be naïve not to see the role of my social class in perpetuating the crisis. For all I know, if I took my resume to a place of work in Orissa, (or anywhere in India), I will not have to feel conscious of my surname and no one will make assumption that by family name, such as, ‘you are good only to mend shoes’. And you know what, I am born with this great privilege. Hence it’s not a poison. Its an understanding of being privileged and expressing resentments when such privilege is mis-utilized, as at the current juncture by some fellow medicos.

2. I do not like to be dragged into this, because I personally think some of the Indian rulers I will name now are my favorites too. However, my point was not to say that Brahmin rulers should not be there, but to say that we must reserve seats for rulers of other caste varieties too (and overwhelmingly so, since they represent a much wider people). However my friend, to refute your supposition, following are few exemplars:

Historically, yes Brahmins were never the rulers. In fact, Hardly ever! But they surely collaborated with the local kings to help the caste division take place according to their sacred texts. We are well aware of the Brahmin sponsored Mauryan coup against the Nandas. Or several such dynasties. Since my post is mostly about current India, we will focus on the here and now (the India which began in 1947).

First, there needs to be a distinction between who are the actual rulers. As you know, there are thousands of people in the power structure but only a few really implement the policies. There are very many different Nations inside India. Only a few govern them through federal laws. I will refer to them here; (note, not all of them are Brahmin supremacists at all…quite the contrary, many are very progressive indeed. But this was beyond the point…since you need the statistics..)

The prime ministers: Nehru, Indira, Rajiv (one family that actually ruled..!), P.V. Narasimha Rao, Morarji Desai and Atal Bihar Vajpayee… (did I leave out any other name…Shastriji?)…Whoa…that’s called real power.
Being the prime minister of India, being able to change national languages, being able to divide Tamil Nadu, being able to annex Tripura, being able to destroy Babri Masjid, being able to cause Bofors ….

Looking at the huge majority of PMs and all the Prime Minister’s Men (ministers, bureaucrats), India has been ruled ALWAYS by the Brahmin caste, if that answers your curiosity. It’s the prime ministers alone who decide over the fate of this country, alongwith their clouts of bureaucrats. Unless you want to include presidents, and we can talk of V.V. Giri, Shankar Dayal Sharma etc.

You bring up the question of Bihar and UP and cite OBC rulers. Clearly OBCs may not be equally disadvantaged. But partly also because they are more than 60% of population in those states. On a closer look, even as they are majority in UP, what do we see? Time after time, “Presidents Rule”. Don’t forget Romesh Bhandari’s weapon to destabilize UP! Or creation of Jharkhand and the perpetual poverty that plagues Bihar, once the most treasured state of India. To even think that Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party or Rashtriya Janata Dal have ever ruled the country is a lie. Not even DMK or AIADMK. Although I will come to Tamil Nadu now.
Her Highness Jayalalitha is also a Brahmin. Not just that, she is a loyal ally of the BJP! So when you say “in tamil nadu all except Brahmins come under reserved cat, so some body amongst them must be ruler”, you need do more research.

Kushwant Singh had given a statistical interface to suggest Brahminical hegemony in India long back. Those were the days when the right wing had not even seized India. Now situation is far worse. But here is a pointer to some of his findings:
The Brahmins control over 70% of the top decision-making posts in the political system, administration, judiciary, army, police, press, media and academics (Statistics on composition from 1935 and 1985)
For example, in 1935, during the Anglo-Brahmin Colonial Era, the 5% Brahmin caste group held most of the gazetted positions among Indians in the upper echelons of the administrative machinery. In 1985 one finds that out of 3,300 Indian Administrative Officers (IAS), 2,376 are Brahmins; from the rank of deputy secretaries upwards, out of 500, 310 are Brahmins; of the 26 state chief secretaries, 19 are Brahmins; of the 16 Supreme Court judges, 9 are Brahmins; of 438 district magistrates, 250 are Brahmins; and so on in other circles of power and policy in the Indian state. If we also include the “twice born” Brahmanical castes, mainly comprising the Banias and Kayasths, the combined state power of theirs jumps from 70% to almost 95%.

Now that says clearly something! We can look at all chief secretaries of India and confirm the statistics even in 2006. Lets not forget Romesh Sharma either! These are again instances of not Brahminism so much, as they are instances of an absence of lower castes and tribes in the actual power structure of India.

And what is the percentage of Brahmin population in India? Five %

3. As regards, Algebra in entrance tests, again we miss the point when we look at certain question papers in some states than looking at the entire philosophy. First off, only students who have science backgrounds are usually eligible to sit for these tests. Which essentially demands knowledge of mathematics. And yes, when I said Algebra, it also meant Formulae and Values in Physics, which are integral to the examinations. The point I was making is that many complicated concepts make up for the entrance test, and most are foreign to students of minority community, ESSENTIALLY because they cannot afford a two-year coaching preparation education to know these concepts!

Since a ‘good’ education that can help someone fit into the system’s demands requires Money with a big M, its not so simple to say that “Toppers will be Toppers”. Toppers are those people who have access to the best of resources in their fields of studies and have incentives good enough to motivate them to secure that position. Please take it from me, as I have topped in many exams (state level, university level etc) myself, and I have to feel humbled to say that it was nothing so extraordinary to have achieved what I did, which others with similar environment could not have. Its only a systematic deprivation of sections of society from availing the resources that undernourishes them. Even to get loans for coaching, one needs to have a rich men network, to begin with. Unless we block the desired number of seats for the backward people and coach them for free (while continuing to charge the rich for their kids’ education), we will be only part of the same oppressive ancestors who subjugated the country, territorially, and now as we realize more and more, mentally too.

Regarding Ayurveda, the point of reference was that the respect traditionally attached to Allopathic medicine science is because of the exclusivity and professionalism attached with Medical profession (reason why seats are always limited to begin with). And what I was offering was basic assertion that all of the medicinal practices (Allopathy, Ayurvedic and what we have…) need not gear towards becoming ‘elitist’. Since health is the most common factor for survival, the attitude of practitioners should be to “massify” their skills, not “classify”.

I am open to discussion as well. But more open to an understanding AND empathetic discussion geared towards social justice for people who are most marginal in our society; than towards justice for students who hold banners in their hands to shamelessly protest against equal opportunity (yes social equality needs sacrifice of individual liberty at many junctures). I can understand why the elites need to guard their class interests, but can never support their stands.


Author: Saswat Pattanayak

Journalist, Generalist, Atheist, Poet, Lover, Photographer, Communist, Third wave Feminist, LGBT ally, Black power comrade, Peacenik, Anti-capitalist, Critical media theorist, Radical film critic, Academic non-elite…

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