India's BJP-Linked Hindu Group Brings Dalit Slavery to America
A Hindu sect (BAPS) with close ties to India’s ruling BJP has exploited hundreds of low-caste men in a years-long construction project, reports the New York Times. A US federal lawsuit filed against the Hindu group alleges that the men brought to the United States under religious R-1 visa had their Indian passports confiscated by the Hindu group. It further alleges that the workers, mainly Dalit men who worked 13-hour days doing heavy lifting for about $1 an hour, were kept as prisoners at the construction site of a massive Hindu temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey. Cases of caste discrimination and exploitation among India diaspora have also surfaced in Silicon Valley.
|Hindu Temple in Robbinville, New Jersey|
Caste Discrimination in America:
Shocking as it is, the New Jersey case of exploitation of Indian Dalit workers brought to America is not unique. Over two-thirds of low caste Indian-Americans are discriminated against by upper caste Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley, according to a report by Equality Labs, an organization of Dalits in America. Dalits also report hearing derogatory comments about Muslim job applicants at tech companies. These revelations have recently surfaced in a California state lawsuit against Silicon Valley tech giant Cisco Systems.
Both caste and religious discrimination are rampant among Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley. Back in 2009, there was a religious discrimination lawsuit filed against Vigai, a South Indian restaurant in Silicon Valley. In the lawsuit filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, Abdul Rahuman, 44, and Nowsath Malik Shaw, 39, both of San Jose, alleged they were harassed for being Muslim by Vaigai's two owners, a manager and a top chef — a violation of the Fair Employment and Housing Act, according to a report in the San Jose Mercury News.
According to the complaint, restaurant personnel regularly used ethnic slurs such as "Thulakkan," a pejorative term for Muslims in Sri Lankan Tamil dialect, to harass the two Muslim cooks. Also according to the complaint, restaurant staff were encouraged to call the plaintiffs by names such as "Rajan" or "Nagraj" under the pretext of not wanting to upset customers who might stop patronizing the restaurant if they heard the men referred to by their Muslim names.
|Modi in Silicon Valley|
The complaint also stated that the plaintiffs were forced to participate in a religious ceremony despite telling the owners it was against their Islamic beliefs. The complaint alleged that the restaurant owners insisted on their participation and proceeded to smear a powder on their foreheads, making the religious marking known as a "tilak."
Upper Caste Silicon Valley
"Dominant castes who pride themselves as being only of merit have just converted their caste capital into positions of power throughout the Silicon Valley," says Thenmozhi Soundarajan of Equality Labs. Vast majority of Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley support India's Islamophobic Prime MInister Narendra Modi. Modi held a huge rally at a large venue in Silicon Valley where he received a rousing welcome in 2015.
Caste vs Race in America:
Contrary to The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) that includes discrimination based on caste, most Indian-Americans argue that race is not caste . Dating back to 1969, the ICERD convention has been ratified by 173 countries, including India. California’s lawsuit reinforces that caste is race. It will now make it harder for companies to ignore caste discrimination. While the US has no specific law against the Indian caste system, the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing has filed the lawsuit against Cisco using a section of America’s historic Civil Rights Act which bars race-based discrimination. Here is an excerpt of an article published in TheWire.in on the lawsuit recently:
"In October 2016, two colleagues informed John Doe, a principal engineer at Cisco, that his supervisor, Sundar Iyer, had told them that he (Doe) was from the “Scheduled Castes” and had made it to the Indian Institute of Technology via affirmative action. “Iyer was aware of Doe’s caste because they attended IIT at the same time,” said the case. The suit says that, when confronted by Doe, Iyer denied having disclosed his caste. In November 2016, Doe contacted Cisco’s HR over the matter. Within a week of doing so, Iyer reportedly informed Doe he was taking away Doe’s role as lead on two technologies. Iyer also removed team members from a third technology that Doe was working on and reduced his role to that of an independent contributor and he was isolated from his colleagues, the lawsuit says. In December 2016, Doe filed a written complaint with HR on the matter."
Caste discrimination is rampant among Indian-Americans and NRIs (Non-resident Indians) in the United States with 67% of low caste Indians reporting being victims of such discrimination in workplace. Muslims also face employment discrimination in some of the workplaces dominated by Indian managers. California state has filed a lawsuit against Silicon Valley tech giant Cisco Systems alleging caste discrimination.
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India’s hockey captain Rani Rampal has criticised the “shameful” racist abuse of a team member’s family, saying it was damaging the country’s quest to boost its sporting image.
India saw a hockey renaissance at the Tokyo Games with the men taking third place – their first medal in 41 years in a sport where they have won a record eight Olympic gold medals – while the women were narrowly beaten by Great Britain in their bronze medal play-off.
The women’s best-ever Olympic performance was tainted by abuse of the family of Vandana Katariya, from the so-called “lower-caste” Dalit community that has faced generations of discrimination.
Youths taunted the family at their Uttarakhand state home saying the Dalits in the team were to blame for the defeat. The family has said that threats were made, too.
“It’s such a bad thing,” Rampal told reporters. “We put our life and soul into it, struggle and sacrifice so much to represent our country and when we see what is happening – what happened to Vandana’s family – I just want to say to people please stop this religious division and casteism.
“We have to rise above this. We come from different religions – Hindu, Muslim, Sikh – and come from all parts of India. But here we work for India.”
The 26-year-old Rampal, whose own father pulled a cart to feed his family, added that it was “such a shameful thing when we see that people behave like this”.
While the team had felt “so much love from people” despite not winning a first medal, she said that lessons had to be learned to end such abuse “if we want make our country a sporting nation”.
India’s 200 million Dalits, once known as the “untouchables”, are regular targets of discrimination and often deadly abuse.
BAPS, a prominent sect, faces accusations of exploiting low-caste laborers from India to run massive temples around the country.
BAPS, which has strong ties with Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, has built temples around the world that draw visitors with impressive spires and arches, intricate stone carvings, gurgling fountains and wandering peacocks. Mr. Modi and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have underscored their connection with the sect as they have sought to shift India from its secular foundations toward a Hindu identity. Over the years, the BAPS organization has grown into the largest Hindu sect in the United States and a global enterprise made up of both for-profit and nonprofit entities.
The organization also pledged the equivalent of about $290,000 to Mr. Modi’s most important election promise: building a temple in the city of Ayodhya, where a mosque had stood before Hindu devotees destroyed it in 1992.
A prominent Hindu sect that operates a New Jersey temple raided by federal authorities earlier this year is facing new accusations that it forced hundreds of low-caste workers to labor at worship sites across the United States under dangerous conditions for little pay.
In a lawsuit filed in New Jersey federal court and amended last month, lawyers representing the workers accused the sect, known as BAPS, of luring laborers from India to work on temples near Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Los Angeles, as well as in Robbinsville, N.J., paying them just $450 a month.
The suit was originally filed in May, on the same day that federal agents descended on the New Jersey temple, removing about 100 workers in an early morning action that was said by several people with knowledge of the matter to be connected to possible violations of labor and immigration laws.
At the time, the lawsuit focused only on the temple in New Jersey, claiming men were brought into the country under false pretenses and then worked seven days a week to build and maintain the sumptuous structures and grounds for as little as $1.20 an hour. The amended lawsuit expanded those claims to include temples around the country where some of the men said they were also sent to work. Hundreds of workers were potentially exploited, the lawsuit claimed.
The lawsuit claimed the temple workers were presented to U.S. immigration officials as volunteers trained to do specialized work such as stone carving or painting, qualifying them for religious, or R-1, visas.
Leaders for the sect, Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha, have strenuously denied any wrongdoing. A lawyer for BAPS, Paul J. Fishman, a former U.S. attorney for New Jersey, said the federal government has routinely allowed stone artisans to qualify for R-1 visas and that agencies had regularly inspected “all of the construction projects on which those artisans volunteered.”
It is unclear if the federal agencies that removed the workers from the New Jersey temple — including the F.B.I., the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor — are criminally investigating the sect. Representatives for the Homeland Security and Labor departments declined to comment; a spokeswoman for the F.B.I. said the agency could not “confirm nor deny the existence of investigations.”
Caste in California: Tech giants confront ancient Indian hierarchy By Paresh Dave
Apple, the world’s largest listed company, updated its General Employee Conduct Policy nearly two years ago to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on race, which it defined as existing categories such as race, religion, gender, age and ancestry. joined together.
The inclusion of the new category, which was not previously reported, goes beyond US discrimination laws, which do not explicitly ban racism.
The update came after the tech sector – which counts India as its top source of skilled foreign workers – received a wake-up call in June 2020 when California’s employment regulator asked Cisco on behalf of a lower-caste engineer. Systems, which accused the two upper-castes. Bosses blocking his career.
Cisco, which denies wrongdoing, says an internal investigation found no evidence of discrimination and that some allegations are unfounded because race is not a legally “protected class” in California. An appeals panel this month rejected the networking company’s bid to push the matter to private arbitration, meaning a public court case could come as early as next year.
The controversy – the first US employment lawsuit about alleged racism – has forced Big Tech to confront a millennium-old hierarchy where the social status of Indians has been based on family lineage, from the top Brahmin “priest” class to Dalits. Until, the “untouchables” and were sent to slave labor.
Since the lawsuit was filed, several activist and employee groups have begun calling for updated US discrimination legislation — and also calling on tech companies to change their policies to help fill the void and stop racism. Is.
Their efforts have produced poor results, according to a Reuters review of policy in US industry, which employs hundreds of thousands of workers in India.
“I’m not surprised that the policies would be inconsistent because that’s almost what you would expect if the law isn’t clear,” said Kevin Brown, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who studies race issues. Include it in US laws.
“I can imagine that … (a) some parts of the organization are saying it makes sense, and other parts are saying that we don’t think it makes sense to take a stance.”
Apple’s core internal policy on workplace conduct, which was spotted by Reuters, added references to equal employment opportunity and race in anti-harassment sections after September 2020.
Apple confirmed that it “updated the language a few years ago to ensure that we prohibit discrimination or harassment based on race.” It states that the training given to the employees also explicitly mentions caste.
“Our teams assess our policies, training, processes and resources on an ongoing basis to ensure they are comprehensive,” it said. “We have a diverse and global team, and we are proud that our policies and actions reflect this.”
Elsewhere in tech, IBM told Reuters that it added race, which already had India-specific policies, to its global discrimination rules after it filed a Cisco lawsuit, though it declined to give a specific date or reasoning. Gave.
The company said that IBM’s only training in which caste is mentioned is for managers in India.
Many companies do not specifically mention race in their core global policy, including Amazon, Dell, Facebook owner Meta, Microsoft and Google. Reuters reviewed each policy, some of which are published internally for employees only.
A bulldozer — celebrating far-right Hindu nationalist violence against Muslims — drove through the streets of Edison, last month at an Indian Independence Day parade. Many New Jersey politicians were present and claim to have been unaware of the bulldozer’s appalling symbolism of praising, even encouraging, the violent oppression of Indian religious minorities.
The backlash is continuing to grow, including calls for the organizers to be held accountable (they have since apologized) and for more people to learn about Hindutva hate.
For many New Jerseyans, the Edison bulldozer scandal is the first time that they have heard about the intolerant ideology of Hindu nationalism, also known as Hindutva or Hindu supremacy. But it is unlikely to be the last time.
I have been studying global Hindu nationalism for years, including a recent focus on Hindu Right goals and tactics in the United States. America, especially New Jersey, is a stronghold for Hindu nationalist groups who provide financial support and ideological guidance for the larger global movement. This extremist ideology — which has roots in early 20th-century European fascism — has flourished for decades, largely unchecked, in our state and has had many harmful consequences.
Hindu nationalists propagate their intolerant ideas in the United States through a network of organizations. Some of the most common include the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad-America (VHPA), and the Hindu Students Council (HSC). Sometimes a Hindu nationalist group registers as a foreign agent, such as Overseas Friends of BJP, which promotes the interests of India’s far-right ruling party. More commonly, Hindu nationalist groups try to spread and normalize their extremist ideas under the ruse of promoting Indian culture, such as at the Edison parade.
In the recent parade, the celebration of human rights violations was merely symbolic, but it is sometimes far more visceral for New Jersey communities. In 2021, federal agents raided a Hindu temple in Robbinsville, New Jersey and found Dalit men—who are at the bottom of a hierarchy of social oppression known as the caste system—held in bonded labor. Governor Murphy joined the many who condemned the “horrific, unfathomable” conditions of modern-day slavery. What he did not note is that the Hindu temple, part of the BAPS denomination, has strong ties with India’s Hindu nationalist BJP government. As of now, a case is pending in federal court in New Jersey that accuses BAPS of human trafficking in multiple states.
Hindu nationalists regularly attack lots of people—including Dalits, Christians, and the many Hindus who oppose Hindutva—but Muslims are their most common targets. In India, Muslims are subjected to daily violence and harassment, an abysmal situation documented by human rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the United States International Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF). In 2022, USCIRF recommended India for sanctions for the third year in a row due to rapidly worsening conditions in the country, especially attacks on Muslims.
Here in New Jersey, Indian Muslims are mainly safe from Hindu nationalist violence, although not always. In 2019, the Rutgers-New Brunswick Hindu Students Council — a Hindu nationalist group — invited a Hindutva demagogue from India to speak. The off-campus event featured Islamophobic hate speech. It also involved a recent Rutgers-Newark alum — and Kashmiri Muslim — being heckled and physically assaulted by others present. At the time, few noticed beyond the South Asian American community, but it is one brick in a larger edifice of anti-minority, Hindu nationalist hate.
At a meeting of the Edison city council on Aug. 22, a councilmember applauded the activists who had called out the parade bulldozer as a hate symbol: “By you bringing this to our attention, it stops it from going forward... what you’re doing today by bringing awareness is the first step, and that’s the strong step that needs to be done. You’re educating us.” I appreciate his words. But I wonder if he and the other councilmembers have any idea what that education often costs those brave enough to speak.
U.S.-based Hindu nationalists regularly attack South Asian community groups, such as the Indian American Muslim Council, which has been active on the bulldozer issue. They smear individual members and spread Islamophobic rumors about entire organizations, such as when the far-right Hindu American Foundation and its allies attacked IAMC last year. Hindu Right attacks in the United States can put one’s family at risk and even require the use of safe houses.
As a professor who works on Hindu nationalism, I am also subjected to regular Hindu nationalist attacks. I often require armed protection when I speak publicly in America, due to the threat of Hindu supremacist violence. While law enforcement has kept me safe thus far, it has not stemmed the waves of hate unleashed against me and Rutgers, my employer. Hindu nationalists are part of the Global Far Right, and so we sometimes see bleed-over ideas, such as the anti-Black racism lobbed against Rutgers administrators, including President Jonathan Holloway, in a recent propaganda piece by a Hindu nationalist.
Anti-Asian hate crimes are growing in New Jersey. By targeting South Asian Muslims and Dalits, as well as Hindus who disagree with them, Hindu nationalists in the United States are contributing to that alarming trend. If we are to confront and begin to counter such hateful assaults, we must recognize Hindutva’s deep roots and long-standing harms in New Jersey.
A hard truth is that while many New Jerseyans are only now learning the basics of Hindu nationalism, many of our state’s minority communities — especially South Asian Muslims — have lived for decades with the spectre of fear and intimidation imposed by purveyors of this intolerant ideology. It is time for that era to end, and for us to say together — Hindutva hate has no home in New Jersey.
Two teenage sisters have been found hanging from a tree in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh in a suspected case of rape and murder.
Police said the bodies were found on Wednesday afternoon in Lakhimpur district. They have started an investigation after the family alleged the girls had been kidnapped and raped.
Six men have been arrested on charges of rape and murder.
The bodies have been sent for a post mortem examination, police said.
The girls, both below 18, belonged to the Dalit caste at the bottom of a deeply discriminatory Hindu hierarchy.
Despite constitutional protections, the community routinely faces prejudice and violence - a 2020 case involving the gang rape and murder of a 19-year Dalit woman in Uttar Pradesh's Hathras district sparked a public outcry, spotlighting how vulnerable Dalit women were.
A fatal assault, a cremation and no goodbye
This case too has triggered protests by locals and opposition parties.
Police said the girls knew the accused but the family denied this and said they were abducted.
Local media reported that the girls' mother said the pair had been taken by men on motorcycles. She says she was attacked when she tried to stop them.
The family said they began looking for the girls and eventually found them hanging from a tree.
District police chief Sanjeev Suman said the girls were taken to a sugarcane field where they were raped and strangled to death.
"The accused then hanged their bodies from the tree to make it look like suicide," Mr Suman added, according to NDTV channel.
One of the accused was arrested following a "police encounter" or a shoot-out when he was trying to escape, police said.
According to local media, the police met with some resistance when they went to the girls' home on Wednesday night, where locals had joined the family in protest.
There is deep suspicion of the police among the Dalit community. Authorities were accused of apathy and of protecting the upper caste accused following the assault in Hathras. The victim's family also alleged that she had been cremated without giving them a chance to say goodbye.
Uttar Pradesh, in Indian's north, is the country's most populated state with over 200 million people - and has a record of violence against women and Dalits.
Critics say that despite all the coverage and new anti-rape laws - there is no sign that crimes against women are abating in India.
The death of the two sisters has provoked anger against Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath with opposition leaders accusing him of running a lawless government in Uttar Pradesh.
"In the Yogi government, goons are harassing mothers and sisters every day, very shameful. The government should get the matter investigated, the culprits should get the harshest punishment," Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party wrote on Twitter.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati said that criminals in Uttar Pradesh had no fear because the government's "priorities are wrong".
Priyanka Gandhi from the Congress party also attacked Mr Adityanath and said that "giving false advertisements in newspapers and TV does not improve law and order".
"After all, why are heinous crimes against women increasing in UP?" she asked.
Soundararajan, Thenmozhi. The Trauma of Caste (p. 64). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.
Rama immediately leaps into his flying chariot and spies a mystic hanging upside down from a tree in an act of spiritual asceticism. It’s the Shudra Shambuka, who explains to Rama he is doing this rigorous penance in hopes of knowing the divine. Rama doesn’t even let him finish his sentence. He just slices Shambuka’s head off. All the gods cry out, “Well done!” Flowers from the heavens rain down on Rama, and the dead child of the Brahmin comes back to life.32 This story terrified me as a caste-oppressed child. I could not understand what was wrong with wanting to aspire to know God. Even more tragic than the existential implications of this story, today this kind of ritual decapitation occurs as the violence prescribed in scripture has spread across the subcontinent. Scriptural edict has become material violence.
Soundararajan, Thenmozhi. The Trauma of Caste (p. 65). North Atlantic Books. Kindle Edition.
Hundreds of people are killed each year for falling in love or marrying outside their castes or against the wishes of their families, the Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud said today while speaking on morality and its interplay with the law.
The CJI made the statement while referring to an incident of honor killing in Uttar Pradesh in 1991 as carried in a news article by the American magazine, Time.
The article shared the story of a 15-year-old girl who eloped with a man of 20 from a lower caste. They were later murdered by the upper castes of the village, and believed their actions were justified because they complied with the code of conduct of society.
The CJI was delivering the Ashok Desai Memorial Lecture on the topic ‘Law and Morality: The Bounds and Reaches’, addressing questions on the indissoluble link between law, morality, and group rights.
While talking about morality, the CJI said that expressions of good and bad, right and wrong are often used in everyday conversations.
The CJI said that while the law regulates external relations, morality governs the inner life and motivation. Morality appeals to our conscience and often influences the way we behave.
‘We can all agree that morality is a system of values that prescribes a code of conduct. But, do all of us principally agree on what constitutes morality? That is, is it necessary that what is moral for me ought to be moral to you as well?’ he asked.
While discussing what constitutes ‘adequate morality’, the CJI said that groups that have traditionally held positions of power in the socio-economic-political context of society have an advantage over the weaker sections in this bargaining process to reach adequate morality.
The CJI further built an argument that vulnerable groups are placed at the bottom of the social structure and that their consent, even if attained, is a myth. For example, Max Weber argued that the Dalits have never rebelled.
He pointed out that the dominant groups, by attacking the etiquette of the vulnerable groups, often prevent them from creating an identity that is unique to themselves.
The CJI elaborated on the same by sharing an example of clothing being one of the tools employed by dominant castes to alienate the Dalit community, where it was a wide-spread norm that the members of the Dalit community must wear marks of inferiority to be identified.
The CJI further spoke about how, even after the framing of the Constitution, the law has been imposing ‘adequate morality’, that is, the morality of the dominant community.
To witness such incidents even in this day and age is not only disheartening but should shock the conscience of the nation.
As per the statistics provided in the NCRB report, atrocities/Crime against Scheduled Castes have increased by 1.2% in 2021 (50,900) over 2020 (50,291 cases).
Uttar Pradesh (13,146 cases) reported the highest number of cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes (SCs) accounting for 25.82% followed by Rajasthan with 14.7% (7,524) and Madhya Pradesh with 14.1% (7,214) during 2021. The next two states in the list are Bihar accounting for 11.4% (5,842) and Odisha 4.5% (2,327). The above top five states reported 70.8% of cases of atrocities against Scheduled Castes.
Furthermore, as per the report, Atrocities/Crime against Scheduled Tribes have increased by 6.4% in 2021 (8,802 cases) over 2020 (8,272 cases).
Madhya Pradesh (2627, cases) reported the highest number of cases of atrocities against Scheduled Tribes (STs) accounting for 29.8% followed by Rajasthan with 24% (2121 cases) and Odisha with 7.6% (676 cases) during 2021. Maharashtra was next in the list with 7.13% (628 cases) followed by Telangana at 5.81% (512 cases). The above top five states reported 74.57% of cases of atrocities against Scheduled Tribes.
In terms of ratio to the overall population, Dalits (SCs) are estimated to be at 16.6 per cent of the population and Adivasis/Indigenous peoples (STs) at 8.6 per cent.
We look at some of the most shocking instances of crimes against Dalits and Adivasis in 2022.
Ramcharitmanas is counted by many scholars to be among the world's greatest literary creations. Celebrated author Pavan Varma calls it "a deeply philosophical work" which "is akin to the Bible for many Hindus".
Composed by Tulsidas, the poem is a retelling of Ramayana, the Sanskrit epic written by Hindu sage Valmiki 2,500 years ago. It's widely believed that Tulsidas's version, which is written in Awadhi - a dialect very similar to Hindi - is what made Ram's story accessible to the masses and why it became so popular.
The story of the crown prince of Ayodhya and his victory over the demon king Ravana is performed every year during the Dussehra festival across India. He is a god who's revered by millions of Hindus for his sense of justice and fair play.
But in the past few weeks, politicians on opposing sides have been arguing over whether the text is derogatory towards women as well as Dalits, who are at the bottom of India's deeply discriminatory caste system.
This is not the first time Tulsidas's epic, written more than 600 years ago, has been criticised, but what sets it apart this time is the scale of protests by both its supporters and critics. General elections in India are due in a year and politicians from both sides accuse each other of using the controversy over the book to polarise voters along caste lines.
Since January, protesters have burned pages allegedly containing excerpts from the book - and counter-protests have been held, demanding critics of the work be arrested.
At least five people, accused of desecrating the sacred text, have been arrested and, at the weekend, police invoked the National Security Act (NSA), a draconian law that makes bail nearly impossible, against two of the arrested men.
Trouble started in January when a minister in the northern state of Bihar said the book was "spreading hatred in society". At a gathering of university students, Education Minister Chandrashekhar (who uses only one name) recited a few lines from Ramcharitmanas to prove his point.
"It says that if people from lower castes receive education, they become poisonous, like a snake becomes after drinking milk," he said.
A few days later, Swami Prasad Maurya, a prominent leader of a socially-disadvantaged community known as Other Backward Classes (OBC) and a member of the regional Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh state, expressed similar sentiments.
Insisting that some verses of Ramcharitmanas were "offensive", he demanded that they be removed from the book.
"Why hurl abuse in the name of religion? I respect all religions. But if in the name of religion, a community or caste is humiliated then it is objectionable," The Indian Express quoted him as saying.
Prof Hemlata Mahishwar of Delhi's Jamia University told BBC Hindi that "it's not just one or two lines but there are several verses" in Ramcharitmanas that are derogatory to women and Dalits.
"There's one couplet that says that a Brahmin is to be worshipped even if he's full of bad qualities. Whereas a Dalit, even if he's a Vedic scholar, cannot be respected. So how can we accept a book that's so biased?"
Some experts, however, say that Tulsidas was not a reformer and did have his biases, but the controversial lines are spoken by his characters and can't be taken to be a reflection of the author's opinion.
Akhilesh Shandilya, an expert on Ramcharitmanas, told BBC Hindi that the lines appear derogatory to Dalits and anti-women only when taken out of context and read in isolation.
But critics say that Ramcharitmanas has to be approached in the present-day context and deserves scrutiny and discussion, especially as it is a book that has such a hold on the imagination of Indians.
in Life/Philosophy — by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd —
The anti-Shudra, Dalit and women language of Tulsidas in his Ramcharitamanas engendered a major controversy in North India. Its impact could also be seen in the South, which already had a strong Shudra mobilization history. He equated them with animals and drums and wanted to keep punishing them forever. The new consciousness of the Shudras, Dalits and women is not going to accept this kind of writing. They do not want their children to study these historical humiliating books in the schools, colleges and universities. It is a known fact that the RSS/BJP want to impose all such books in our educational institutions.
All over the country the Shudra consciousness is opposing such books. Regional language articles and opinions keep appearing in the South Indian languages. It will not die down soon, because the defenders of Tulsidas are not saying that such abusive sentences were interpolations, not of original writer, as they do in the case of ancient Sanskrit books that used caste cultural abusive language. They earlier were making the Muslims and colonial rulers and writers responsible for caste division among the Hindus on caste lines to sustain their political power and economic exploitation.
This line of argument was first developed by the RSS supporting Dwija writers and speakers, as there were hardly any Shudra or Dalit writers in those ranks. All the defenders of Tulsidas and his book as their spiritual grandh are Dwija RSS/BJP leaders or the saints, sadhus, who are Brahmins. No Shudra/Dalit from the RSS/BJP ranks can defend this kind of abuse of food producers, cattle grazers, pot makers, leather workers, barbers, weavers and so on. This abusive language of Tulsidas is against the nation’s wealth creators, which in essence means against the nation. The Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis working in RSS/BJP cannot defend that language, as they too have self respect.
Tulsidas wrote this book during Akbar-Jahangir rule. As information available on the internet shows that it was written in the end of 16th century. That in essence means that it was written during Akbar’s rule. Akbar died in 1605 while sitting on the throne. Tulsidas died in 1623. That was the time Shudras/Dalits were struggling with nature to bring vast areas of land under cultivation. Deforestation, agriculture expansion were the main burden of the Shudras and Dalits. The Dwijas, more particularly the Brahmins, to which community Tulsidas belonged, were not even respecting agriculture work as spiritually respectable. They designated all agricutural operations as Shudra kaam (work). It was then he was writing that “ढोल गवाँर सूद्र पसु नारी। सकल ताड़ना के अधिकारी।(ḍhōla gavāomra sūdra pasu nārī. sakala tāḍanā kē adhikārī). “A drum, an illiterate, a Shudra, a beast and a woman — all deserve punishment”.
Punishment by whom? Punishment by his God Rama and by the Mughal State, which was imposing heavy land taxes on the Shudra farmers. Agrarian masses- men and women–were starving. But the Dwijas had protective valves in Akbar’s administration.
Tulsidas knew that the Mughal state during Akbar rule was run by Birbal and Todar Mal. According to Wikipedia Birbal, was a Saraswat Bhatt Brahmin advisor and main commander (Mukhya Senapati) of the army in the court of the Mughal emperor. . He had a close association with Emperor Akbar and was one of his most important courtiers, part of a group called the navaratnas (nine jewels).