Meet India’s newest toilet cleaners, the Brahmins

FRANCOIS GAUTIER has a new video up on YouTube on how Brahmins and Upper Caste Hindus have become a minority in India. Once belonging to the priestly class, many now drive taxis, clean toilets, carry headloads as coolies, make tea on the roadside, and work as masons and domestic helps to earn a living.

“Population-wise, Brahmins are a minority. And 80 per cent of Brahmins are financially poor,” is the claim made by Tamil writer Seetharaman in the video.

The video has some revealing and controversial placards:

# 50 per cent of the rickshaw pullers in Delhi’s Patel Nagar are Brahmins.

# 70 per cent of people employed in the 1,783 public toilets in Delhi are upper caste Hindus.

# 75 per cent of domestic help and cooks in Andhra Pradesh are Brahmins.

# 44 per cent Brahmins drop out of primary school and 36 per cent drop out by mariculation. Nearly 70 per cent of Brahmins and Other Upper Castes don’t go beyond 12th standard.

# All purohits live below the poverty line, according to a book Brahmins of India, by J Radhakrishna, published by Chugh Publications. And 53.9 per cent of upper caste population live below poverty line.

# A priest’s salary in Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tamil Nadu is Rs 300 per month and a measure of rice; the government staff at the same temple earn Rs 2,500.

# 52.4 per cent of Brahmins and Other Upper Castes do not own more than 100 cents of land, according to a paper presented by D. Narayana of the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum.

There is nothing called the “other side” in the documentary by Gautier, a French journalist who has lived in India for 33 years, and proudly bats for the Hindutva cause with more fervour than the average Bajrang Dal activist.

Still, the points he throws up in this one-sided documentary are worth debating.

Are Brahmins the new Dalits of India, oppressed and marginalised? Has votebank politics pushed a once proud class to the brink? Do the upper castes deserve this for what they are condemned to have done over centuries? And since nearly a third of India’s population comprises upper caste Hindus, is there an electoral future for a new political party that addresses their needs, issues, and demands?