Upper caste superstitious as they aren’t close to nature: Kancha Ilaiah

The social scientist was in Thiruvananthapuram to attend a literature festival.
Upper caste superstitious as they aren’t close to nature: Kancha Ilaiah
Upper caste superstitious as they aren’t close to nature: Kancha Ilaiah
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Those who work with land, those who till and harvest, are much closer to nature, and do not tend to nurse superstitions, said Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, social scientist, writer and activist for Dalit rights. Addressing an audience at one of the halls of the Mathrubhumi Festival of Letters in Thiruvananthapuram, he had an interesting theory about people in agriculture and superstition. He said that it is mostly the marginalised castes involved in agricultural productivity that understand social science better. And those who study science somehow miss the connection.

“The upper caste in south India goes into engineering and medical studies --  the IIMs and IITs. It is generally the Dalits and OBCs (Other Backward Castes) who study social science. Over a period of time, they are likely to become part of the mainstream intellectual force; whereas the engineers and doctors are likely to become conservative religious practitioners. They don’t believe in the rationality of knowledge. While they use science in everyday practice, the religious upbringing is too strong,” Kancha Ilaiah said.

He extended the theory to the Sabarimala issue in Kerala, where women in large numbers opposed the entry of menstruating women accorded by a Supreme Court order to the Lord Ayyappa temple. “It is the upper caste women that opposed the entry because they didn’t work close to nature, they didn’t till the lands -- as opposed to the lower caste women who were involved in the productivity of land, and who didn’t believe their menstruation was impure. Their menstruation was acceptable to god, they believed.”

Kancha mentioned four names to support his theory: Mahatma Phule who wrote “the very liberating text called Slavery” belonged to a community that are traditionally gardeners and vegetable vendors; Sree Narayana Guru of Kerala from whom “a most fundamental philosophical statement” came belonged to a community that worked in toddy tapping; Periyar EV Ramaswamy, the Dravidian leader and rationalist was also close to agriculture; and BR Ambedkar, who is the “epitome of social science knowledge”.

It is Ambedkar’s photo and the preamble of the Constitution that you see raised in most protests on the street now, not religious symbols, Kancha noted. “But their (BJP government) idea is to make India a vegetarian nation. A big part of India’s food basket is meatarian. I wouldn’t use non-vegetarian. Nowhere in the world does any religion define god as vegetarian. And they are afraid of universities, because students learning social science is a threat to them. That’s why they are trying to close down JNU. But you need to sustain the universities, particularly the study of social science, with battle,” Kancha added.

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