Manusmriti And the Nation

Justice P. B. Sawant (Retd.)

Manusmriti (MS) is known as the code of religious tenets of the Hindus. It describes the social system which was in existence in this country ever since the Aryans settled here, after invading the country sometime in 1500 BC. The Aryans were a nomadic marauding tribe of the Central Asia in the north, and as all the looters do, they massacred the local inhabitants in thousands, robbing them of all their wealth, and women, destroying their settlements and houses, reducing their cities to ashes and ruining their culture. This country had, by all measures an advanced civilization and culture at the time, in Punjab and on the banks of the Indus river. The people were living a peaceful pastoral life with agriculture and trade as their main occupation. They were almost weaponless and without any defence, not expecting any external threat. They became therefore, an easy prey to the wild, armed and ferocious Aryans. The ancient and advanced civilization and culture ruined by the Aryans, dated back to 3500 B.C., if not earlier to 6000 or 8000 BC, as claimed by some historians. Although there is no light as yet thrown on its social system, its religion and language, it is undisputed that at least since 2000 years prior to the invasion by the Aryans, this country was inhabited by people, who were far more advanced and even urbanized, peaceful and relatively prosperous.
However, almost all historians, have written the history of this land, as if there was no civilization here, before the Aryans arrived. It is true that the Indus Valley civilization was for the first time discovered by the archeologists in the year 1920. But that cannot be an excuse for the historians to ignore the peoples and their habitations, prior to the arrival of the Aryans, and narrate the history of this land, assuming that the Aryans were the first inhabitants of this country. The result of this disregard, deliberate or otherwise, was that in the eyes of the generations, the Aryans became the first race to inhabit this land and the history of this land commenced from the date on which they invaded it. This “original sin” led to many distortions, deceptions and discrepancies, myths, one-sided accounts, perversities and falsehoods, untruths and half-truths, avoidable conflicts, violence and blood-shed, and cultural domination and terrorism. The gods and heroes of the Aryans were foisted on the locals as their gods and heroes, although they were their enemies, and the enemies of the Aryans became their enemies, although they were their gods and heroes. Since the Dharma or religion is nothing but the mores and practices of the society, this can be said to be the first and the forcible mass religious conversion in the history of the world.
The Aryans, soon after settling in this country, proceeded to devise a social system which would ensure that they would forever remain at the top of the society, own all the wealth and command all the power. Their language was Sanskrit which belonged to the family of the Indo-European languages, and was alien to the natives. They used it to their advantage. They made it the language of the regime as well as of the daily chores and transactions. Having mastery over the language, they became the natural leaders of the society in all spheres, material and spiritual. Knowledge became their monopoly and they became the sole interpreters of all matters and events, of good and evil and of the rights and wrongs. Taking advantage of their commanding position, they also shrewdly proceeded to divide the populace in four graded hierarchical groups called castes, assigning to each their duties and obligations. The castes were four – the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas, the Vaishyas and the Shudras, in that descending order of the status and privileges, duties and obligations which were fixed for life, and were based on birth. They were watertight unchangeable compartments. Neither marriages between them nor common eating was permissible. The Brahmins were the super-lords, in fact Gods on earth with exclusive privileges, and the other castes were assigned duties necessary and useful to their i.e. Brahmins’ protection and preservation. Thus, the Kshatriyas were to protect and defend the land, the Vaishyas were to produce food by tilling the land, and tending the animals and plants, and also to trade in the produce, and the Shudras were to serve as menials. Of course, the duties performed by the Kshatriyas and Vaishyas also benefitted them, and the Shudras also served the said two castes, but that was incidental. No physical labour was assigned to the Brahmins who were to use only their brain and tongue, the others being “relieved” of the use of the two organs by mandatory prohibitions. Though the MS declares that the Khatriyas and the Vaishyas had a right to learn, they had no right to teach. The learning imparted to these two castes by the Brahmins was far different from that received by the Brahmins since their functions differed. Even this education to the two castes was stopped after some time, and they could enter the portals of the educational institutions for the first time, only after the Britishers during their regime opened the doors of education to all, without distinction. However, the women of all castes including the Brahmin, had no right to learn. The MS also prohibited foreign travel making it irreligious, and punishable by atonement. The bar on foreign travel ensured that the people did not come in contact with the foreign land and peoples, their social systems and culture, and particularly their knowledge, thinking and philosophy. The social system imposed by the MS, was thus fortified from all sides. It was firmly founded on and governed by the doctrine of inequality – inequality between the caste groups, between man and man and between man and woman.
The Brahmins were presumed to be guiltless, and could do no wrong, and if any of them did, the offender was to be let off with light punishment. Even the corrupt Brahmin was respectable and a worthy individual. The Brahmin alone was a capable leader of the society, and even the King had to start his day by paying obeisance to him. After all he was the Bhudev, the God on earth.
The Aryans devised the caste system with a two-fold objective. The first was to secure and concentrate in their hand all the pelf and power. The second was to divide the rest of the society into various social groups with conflicting interests and antagonistic to each other. Without such division, the Aryans who placed themselves in the top-most Brahmin caste and were in a microscopic number, could not have ruled the society. To make the social structure permanent, impregnable and unchangeable, they also conferred on it a divine sanction by claiming that it was ordained by the Creator of the universe, Lord Brahma. They achieved both the purposes, the first, by monopolizing the knowledge, and the second, by the caste-system which in course of time developed more than 6000 sub-castes, all birth-based, socially isolated from and inimical to, each other. They prevail till this day, each day growing in animosity with each other by causes fed by and manipulated by the highest caste, for its own survival. On account of the caste system, the country stands to-day riven with numerous social groups who carry with them, hatred, intolerance, hardened prejudices and biases, and distrust of each other, a fertile terrain for permanent disunity.
On account of the graded system of castes, the lowest caste was always humiliated, miserable, discriminated and exploited. The members of that caste were also treated as untouchables, along with the outcastes. With the concentration of all wealth and power in the hands of the top few, and their arrogant use, and the unchangeable iniquitous status of the rest, the society was never cohesive, with the vast majority being compelled to remain an unwilling part of it. There were frequent rebellions against the system. But these revolts were within the fold of the system and soon suppressed. For the first time, in the 6th century B.C., two different religious faiths were born viz. – Jainism and Buddhism which squarely challenged the very basis of the Manuwadi system, its preachings and mandates. Those were the times when the Manuwad was on the backfoot. The Buddhism reigned in this land for about a thousand years, and under the leaderships of Samrat Ashok, spread in neighboring countries where it is thriving even to this day. The Jainism was also embraced by a substantial section of the society, posing a threat to the Manuwad. However, later during the rule of Chandragupta Maurya, a descendant of Ashoka, under the leadership of His Holiness Shankaracharya the First, an aggressive movement for the revival of the Hindu religion was started, during the course of which, the Buddhists and Jains were literally slaughtered in thousands, and their religious places were destroyed, and the Manuwadis regained the upper hand. Although Buddhism prospered in other countries, very few Buddhists survived the Manuwadi onslaught in this land. The Jains met the same fate. What is to be noted and what is successfully suppressed by the Manuwadi historians is that, as pointed out earlier, the Aryans when they invaded and settled in this land, had mercilessly massacred the local population. Their descendants resorted to the same heinous crimes when the Hindutwa was revived, and they massacred the Buddhists and Jains, and destroyed in hundreds their religious places. When the Hindutvavadis of the day, 99.99% of whom claim to be the descendants of Aryans, are not tired of emphasizing the killings of the locals and the destruction of their religious places by the Muslim invaders, they must also frankly admit that their own ancestors had done nothing else. What is more, when the Manuwadis had resorted to the inhuman and horrendous crimes against the Jains and Buddhists, they had inflicted the crimes on their own brothers and sisters in this land, and that too in the name of Hindu religion.
That apart, the caste system devised by the MS, as pointed out earlier, had led to the emergence of the exclusively privileged first class citizens who were in a microscopic minority and the vast majority of the rest as the second, third and fourth class citizens, and the outcastes who were not even recognized as members of the society. The natural consequence was a fragmented society dictatorially ruled by a few, with the vast majority treated unequally, exploitatively, humiliatingly and slavishly, with the lowest cast of the Shudras and the outcastes suffering the most inhuman treatment. The two revolts mainly against the caste system viz. Jainism and Buddhism were sought to be suppressed by torture and killings on a mass scale as stated earlier. The advent of Islam first through the trade on the Western coast in the 8th century A.D., and later through the Mughal invasion in the later half of the 16th century, provided a way for the discontented, exploited and humiliated, to escape the tyranny by joining the other religion – Islam. Most of those who converted to Islam were from the most oppressed caste, the Shudras, and the outcastes. There were converts to Islam from the other castes as well, including the Brahmin. But they were not en mass. They were individual cases, and they had converted themselves to Islam for better material benefits. Contrary to the propaganda made by the Hindutwavadis i.e. Manuwadis, not more than 5% of the Muslims in this land are forcible converts. In other words, whether forcible or voluntary converts to Islam, they were all not only inhabitants of this land since prior to the invasion of the Aryans, but were also willingly or unwillingly in the fold of the same Manuwadi social system as the rest. The inhabitants of this land, including the followers of Manuwadi social system were called “Hindu”, for the first time, by the Muslims, since they were living on the banks of the river Sindhu (the letter ‘S’ being pronounced by them as ‘H’). The word ‘Hindu’ is thus of foreign origin.
The conversion to Islam during the Mughal period which lasted for about 250 years, was followed by the conversion to Christianity during the successor English regime of about 150 years. The conversion was by the lowest caste in a significant number, for the same reasons as conversion to Islam, and by the others for status and power. The conversions were again voluntary with a few cases being of induced conversion.
The conversion to Islam was large in number. Most of the converted Muslims gained both in status and power, and even became landlords. They were concentrated in large number in certain western, northern and eastern regions of the country. There were consequently frequent religious conflicts between the Hindus and the Muslims in these regions which ultimately led to the partition of the country on religious basis, on 15th August 1947. Thus the casteism of the Manuwadi social system, now called the Hindu religion, created an irreparable rift in the otherwise homogenious society, and divided the country on religious ground, creating Pakistan to the West and the present Bangladesh to the East. MS thus not only fractured the society in several antagonistic and unequal social groups, but also divided the country permanently.
The disunity created by the MS had made the country an easy pray to the foreign invaders like the Mughals, the Dutch, the Portuguese, the French, and the British. However, not till the advent of the British rule, the country was united politically and administratively. What is noteworthy is that under all the foreign regimes, the social structure ordained by the MS remained intact, and the high castes, continued to reap the benefits. In fact, they co-operated with and actively supported all the foreign rulers during their regimes, by occupying crucial offices at all levels, from bottom to the top, in all the departments of the governance. They even propitiated the aliens as their most obedient and loyal servants.
Knowledge is power and knowledge makes the man. The monopoly of knowledge leads to monopoly in all walks of life. The MS denied knowledge to women of all castes. They were not to do any intellectual work, since they were supposed to be born to do only the domestic work, and rear children. This injunction of MS was followed obediently by the Manuwadis, till as late as the first quarter of the last century, and explains the strong opposition of some of the then fiery political leaders to impart even primary education to them. The MS though permitted learning to the upper three castes, had prohibited the Shudras not only the learning but also the hearing of any words of enlightenment. Even the audition by them of any preaching was considered a crime deserving severe punishment including the loss of the hearing power.
The knowledge was not only confined to a very small section of the populace, it was also insulated. The Vedanta (the Vedas and all the literature, which went with them, such as Upanishads, Brahmanyakas, Aranyakes etc), were propagated as the words falling from the sacred mouth of the Divine Deity. They were the last word on any subject they touched. Nothing was to be omitted from it or added to it. It had to be followed strictly, without questioning. As stated earlier, a precaution was also taken to ban foreign travel, lest the people were contaminated by a different set of knowledge and culture. The knowledge was thus stunted, circumscribed and enslaved for self-service by the dominant class. The country failed to grow. The vested interests glorified the status-quo and the nation continued to live in the ancient era till long after the other countries, particularly of the West, had travelled into the industrial age. We still say that India lives in villages, and are proud of it.
The key role that the language played in restricting the spread of knowledge has also to be noted. The Aryans brought with them their language viz. Sanskrit which is an Indi-Aryan language belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. It was completely alien to the prevailing indigenous languages, and as the rulers made it the language of communication for all purposes, from agriculture to administration, the education was naturally imparted in it. The indigenous regional and local languages (the Prakrits) subsisted as the languages of the masses for their daily chores, while the Sanskrit, totally foreign and mystical to the masses, became the language of all the elite activities. That brought about a cultural transformation in all aspects of social life, from religion to literature and art to trade. The learning, being restricted to some sections, had already created two divisions in the society, one that of the small coterie of the privileged and the other of the vast masses of the deprived and the disadvantaged. This social inequality was widened by the foreign language of the elite, namely Sanskrit with its different orientation, diction, idiom and grammar. Even those permitted to learn had a big hurdle to cross, to pick up the crumbs of knowledge.
As stated earlier, the MS treated women of all castes, including, Brahmins, as miserably and unequally as Shudras. Though it lauded them as the bearers and rearers of children, for all other purposes, they were subordinate to men and no better than the domestic menials. They were considered to have no intellect and understanding, and even as witnesses in Court were not accepted as reliable, their evidence being treated as worth half the evidence of the male witnesses. The doors of education were shut for them and any activity outside the doors of the house was forbidden to them. It was Shri. Jyotirao Phule who started the first school for girls in this country in Pune, in Maharashtra, in 1848, where he and his wife Savitribai taught, facing a strong opposition from the Manuwadis. Ironically, the first girl students of the school were Shudras and outcastes, since the others observed the taboo on girl’s education, strictly. The attempt made by the English missionaries to start a school for girls in the West Pargana district of the then Bengal province in 1844, had failed as the “Bhadra lok” opposed it tooth and nail. The result was, the country lost, for centuries, the contribution of about 50% of our population in all walks of life. This is apart from the miserable and inhuman treatments meted out to women by such horrendous practices as Sati (the burning of the wife on the funeral pyre of her husband, which practice was prohibited by the Britishers by a statute in 1862); the marriage of teen-aged girls to the aged males; the tonsuring of the heads of the widows; prohibition of remarriage of the widows, and the subordination and enslavement throughout the life.
Thus, whether it is the three lower castes or women of all castes who were all denied learning, the country was for centuries deprived of the contribution of the vast human power to its development and progress. Whatever little advance has been made is by a small empowered section of the society. Being interested in protecting and promoting its own interests, the puny section soon degenerated into a puddle of a self-serving group. Its contribution has been more to itself, than to the nation. In fact, it considers itself as “the nation”. One wonders as to what scale of prosperity this country would have attained at this stage of the human history, if all its population had, from the beginning the right and opportunity to develop its inherent talent and skill and contribute to its progress. There is enough evidence to make an intelligent guess about it when we experience to-day, that even the first generation of the educated among the hitherto deprived, has achieved laudable success in all fields, from science to sports and music to mathematics.
The falsification of history in order to conceal their sins and crimes, and to project themselves as the saviours of the nation, was not unexpected of the Manuwadis. The records of most of the rebellions against the extant system, and of the preachings and philosophies of the rebels, have been destroyed. The opponents were not only demonised but also physically eliminated. False gods and heroes were enthroned and imposed on the people. The cultural terrorism practised through constant propaganda, preachings, literature, public exhibitions and performances, rituals, social sanctions and boycotts, crowd hysteria and lynchings ensured unquestioned compliance and servile following. The untruths and half-truths soon became the truths, unquestionable and unverifiable. There cannot be a better example of a consent manufactured by a few and prevailing over centuries. Gobbels, must have learnt his art from us. Repeat untruth several times, it becomes truth. We have been repeating several untruths, and for centuries.
Those who command, dictate. Lest it is thought that the supremacist attitude of the high caste, generated by the caste system, is a thing of the past, let it be recalled that a few months ago a Brahmin judge of the Kerala High Court addressing a Brahmin convention, enumerated some special traits of the Brahmins which according to him, made them alone capable of ruling the country. A few days later, the Brahmin Governor of the Gujarat State reiterated the same view. If those holding high constitutional offices still persist with such mind-set, we cannot blame the laity for observing casteism in their day to day life. That is not all. The present RSS Chief addressing a public meeting in Pune about two years ago, defended the caste system i.e. the chaturvarnya, by impliedly warning the audience that if there was only one caste (Varna), instead of the four, there would have been a disaster in the country. Neither the RSS nor its BJP government has ever spoken against the caste system, forget about their condemning it. There lies the inspiration to the crowd, which burnt our Constitution, with slogans glorifying the MS. In most of our rural area, even seventy years after the Constitution came into operation, it is the MS which prevails as the Constitution for all purposes. The atrocities on the dalits, that we often hear and read about, are traceable to the casteism that percolates from the high to the low. Dr. Ambedkar burnt MS in 1927. The need is to burn the Manuwadi mindset.
Casteism will be uprooted only when the castes get abolished, and the castes will not disappear unless there are inter-caste marriages, as of vogue. This will not happen unless all the castes come up to the same cultural level. To attain the equal cultural level, there has to be a comparable educational, economic and social advancement of all castes. To-day even the marriages within the same caste, take place between the families with the same cultural level. The provision for reservations in education and employment for the backward classes has to be viewed from this angle as well. There cannot be unity and integrity of the nation, unless all have the same stake in the development and progress of the country. The caste system sanctified by the MS, is a huge, obdurate and deeply rooted stumbling block in the integration of the nation. And yet, it is sought to be preserved and strengthened by the Manuwadis. Who is then acting against the interests of the Nation and who is unpatriotic, the Deshdrohi?
Our country is large. It is multi-caste, multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-lingual and multi-cultural. Our Constitution has set before us a large vision which is humanist, universal, rational and scientific. It aims to unite, and not divide people. It seeks to empower all men and women. It desires to provide all, equal rights and opportunities. The inherently inhuman, iniquitous and unjust scriptures like Manusmriti are an anathema to the aims and objects of our Constitution. To implement it, we require equally large hearts. Unfortunately, we have small minds, and every day attempts are assiduously made to make them small, smaller and smallest, from the childhood. At present, there is a mushrooming of centres, where teen-aged boys and girls are taught to hate others, only because they belong to different caste, religion, region, race and even ideology. The centres assume different forms, including those of political outfits. As days pass, instead of progressing, we are regressing to the ancient past.
Those who are sponsoring such anti-human movements and activities; have indeed little minds, whatever their age and education. They will not mature either in vision or wisdom. They do not realize the elementary truth that the birth is an accident of life. Nobody is born in a particular family, of his own will. There is therefore no reason to glorify one and condemn the other. Will those who believe in the theory of rebirth tell us, in which family and where, they will be born in their next life? Should they not therefor insure their next life, at least for the selfish reason, that they may enjoy it with peace, security and dignity? For the insurance, the only premium they have to pay in this life, is to love, respect and befriend all. LIVE AND LET LIVE.