It is something of an article of faith in some circles to place the ills for much that is happening in
The above argument may be true; especially if the first half of these arguments can be established. Control over institutions and resources presents groups with not just economic capital, but social and cultural resources that allow for dominance in society. One can be recognized as dominant not purely through physical domination and economic might, but by also being recognized as providing ‘high culture’. And this is where I would like to introduce a spoke into this pleasant idea that we can blame the Saraswats for every ill in
The emphasis on Brahmins as the object of attack for creating a caste-violence free society obfuscates the issues rather than contributes to addressing the matter. Being anti-brahmin is not enough. On the contrary, it is not what is required in the first place. What is required is a hostility to the entire edifice of Brahmanism that is propped up by brahmanised groups that are not always Brahmin. For example, the Chardo landlord who hates the Brahmin is not being anti-caste, but merely fighting a caste battle for dominance. When he wins this battle, it does not translate into any form of liberation for the dalit below him. A friend succinctly captured the sentiment when he remarked “For the Chardo being anti-brahmin, is being anti-caste”.
In early 20th century
An anti-brahmanical ideology twines the two factors of class and caste to move away from the casteist strategy of blindly identifying a single or couple of caste groups as the enemy. Employing such an ideology we realise that among the Goan Catholic the all-encompassing terms of bamon and chardo don’t capture sociological reality. They are merely umbrellas that club dominant bamons and chardos with the dalit bamons and chardos in the same group. By erasing the difference between the so-called ‘first class’ and ‘second-class’ bamon and chardo we erase also the clarity that the interests of these two groups are not the same. The ‘first-class’ group has more in common with each other and with the Saraswats and the Dessais, than with their ‘second-class’ compatriots. However, by placing them in one group, we create the illusion that they have common interests. One has only to take up this analytical lens and use it to explore the dynamics of the Goan upheaval (fitna) to realise how things clearly fall in place after one has done so. The cobwebs are swept clean and the logics for associations (i.e. GBA) are as clear as day.
When asked to define who was a ‘Dalit’, a Dalit scholar remarked that a Dalit is one who practices equality. Sanskritisation is a process that stands at counter to the realization of a Dalit identity. Among the Hindu, the process encourages one to mimic sanskritic ritual and identify with it. What this implies is a lack of respect for one’s own position and an acceptance of the hierarchies that Brahmanism sets up. In the current political context, it also encourages dalit groups to see themselves as opposed to those who are not Sanskritised. Thus, rather than fighting for radical equality that destroys caste and class hierarchies, these dalit groups become the foot-soldiers for Hindutva, a logic that privileges upper-caste norms. Like foot-soldiers, it is these who die on the battle-field allowing the generals to gather the spoils. Among the Catholic too, Sanskritisation plays a role, as the ‘first-class’ among them accept Sanskritic virtues as defining both the qualities of Indian-ness, as well as the marker of ‘high culture’. This acceptance of Sanskritic virtues can coexist with their ‘Western’ ethos, since Brahmanisation exists in a symbiotic relationship with Western imperialism. For the ‘second-class’ among the upper-caste groups, and the dalit Catholic, mimicry of their Sanskritised co-religionists ensures that they expend money in conspicuous consumption, as they try to become the bhatcars of old.
It is possible that the Saraswat may control most of the significant institutions in our State and define what high culture is. But this is possible only because of the active support of other caste groups, and the unquestioning attitude of the dalit. The Dalit route would be not to attack the Saraswat (and thereby become casteist) but to attack the inequalities within the system. The Dalit route would set up parallel goals, the achievement of which will signify social mobility and achievement. In other words, the Dalit agenda in
(Published in the Gomantak Time, 25 March 2009)
 Saraswat or Gawd Saraswat Brahman is the dominant Brahmin caste in
 Chardo is a Catholic dominant caste that sees itself as Kshatriyas.
 I distinguish here between dalit (a person who is oppressed) and Dalit (a person who possesses Dalit consciousness).
 Bamon is the Konkani version for Brahmin, in particular I am making reference here to the Catholic Brahmin.
 Dessais are another dominant caste group in
 Bhatcar is the Konkani term for land-lord.