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A Rejoinder To Dr. Iniyan Elango’s Article "Pot Calling The Kettle Black "

By S. Anand

22 October, 2012

S Anand responds to Dr Iniyan Elango's allegation, on the basis of a gross misrepresentation of Anand's work, that he is a “brahmin supremacist”

This refers to Dr. Iniyan Elango's piece in Counter Currents, Pot Calling the Kettle Black , which turns out to be largely a personal attack on me in the guise of defending Aamir Khan's Satyamev Jayate against my criticisms of its bland and monochromatic portrayal of modern Dalit life . His defence of Aamir Khan is not of particular interest to me. But when Dr. Elango uses this defence as a platform to allege that I am a “brahmin supremacist” on the basis of a gross misrepresentation of my work as a journalist I must respond. Let me try to answer his most egregious charges…

Dr. Ilango begins by invoking a story in Outlook filed on 11 April 2005 on the Brahmin reaction to the arrest of Jayendra Saraswati, an article misleadingly titled, “Dalits in Reverse”. He fails to provide a link to the article so here it is:  http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?227026 . While the headline is absurd, the blurb is even more misleading: “From being the dominant community at one time, the Tamil Brahmins are facing the effects of a new casteism.” I did not write either the headline or the blurb . Anyone reading the report will realise that it nowhere says brahmins are like dalits. Any journalist, editor or reporter knows that a reporter has no say in the headlines and blurbs that are given, especially in conventional print magazines. Back then, when I read this headline, I was angry; I froze: I even shot off an email to Outlook's editors and desk, wondering how they could come up with a headline so totally contrary to the spirit in which the article was written. I made phone calls. A senior editor later told me this was the handiwork of some brahmin at the copy-desk who apparently held a grudge against the series of devastating reports I had filed on the Jayendra affair, starting Nov 2004, and thus he took revenge.

But the damage had been done; in print. And it has stayed for Dr. Ilango to now selectively exhume it. Yet for those who read the story a different picture emerges. I filed the story since I saw Tamil brahmins foolishly and perversely imagining that the tsunami of Dec. 2004 was a result of the state persecuting a figure like the “pontiff”, Jayendra Saraswati of Kanchipuram. Tam-brahms had gone into a sulk; and I found that terribly amusing. This piece was in fact the culmination of a series of reports that I had filed after the arrest of the so-called Sankaracharya, for the murder of fellow-brahmin accountant Sankararaman. While Outlook did bungle majorly in the misleading title it gave to this latter story on Tamil brahmins' false sense of persecution, I am grateful to Outlook that it allowed me to file reports that were unabashed in their criticism of the Kanchi Math and its misdoings at a time when most mainstream media chose to sympathise with the “pontiff” and the Math. Readers who read these stories in Outlook will readily discern where my sympathies lie. 

29 Nov 2004 , Swami and Fiends:  http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?225795

29 Nov 2004 :  http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?225797

6 Dec 2004 :  http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?225895

13 Dec 2004 : http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?225945

20 Dec 2004 :  http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?226022

17 Jan 2005 : http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?226249

7 Feb 2005 :  http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?226434

Better still, readers can look up the belligerent letters that followed each of these reports. A sample or two will suffice to demonstrate: 

1.  This writer Stephen Anand or whatever his real name is, has been writing nonsense about Hinduism for some time now. … If he has the guts he should reveal his real name or email address. Outlookindia has some very good writers and Anand is not one of them….

2.  The government must conduct an investigation as to how the Christian bigot Stephen Anand is privy to so much information which is not even known to the Supreme Court…. The editor of Outlook should now act and sack Stephen Anand for wilfully misleading the innocent reader and for his hate-filled and crude attempts to denigrate a venerable Hindu institution. …Why does Stephen Anand have so much hatred against us Hindus?

Why this ire? Because Outlook had the temerity to have headlines like “ How the Gods Fall ” with blurbs like: “Cold-blooded murders, allegations of child abuse, sexual harassment. The killing of Sankararaman is one, the closets of the Kanchi math seem to be full of gory stuff.” Moreover, well before the scandals in the Math became public, I had filed a report, called Kanchi Silk ( 25 March 2002 ) using as a peg Jayendra's meddling with the Babri-Ayodhya issue, and in that I had clearly stated, in the print edition:

Though he wields considerable political clout, Saraswati's math at Kanchi isn't among the four peethas—Puri, Badrinath, Sringeri and Dwarka—established by Adi Shankara. The official website of the Kanchi math, however, claims that Shri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetham was established by Adi Shankaracharya in the year 482 BC. History tells a different story, though—Shankara didn't come before Christ. (The date currently accepted is 788-820 CE [common era or AD].) The other peethas don't recognise Kanchi as one among them. Originally located in Kumbakonam, the math was relocated to Kanchipuram in the 20th century by the late Chandrasekhara Saraswati.

This sent the Kanchi Math and its defenders into a tizzy; people like former president, R.Venkataraman, were ruffled; the Math threatened to sue Outlook for defamation. In my defence, I merely submitted a Supreme Court ruling that refused to recognised the Kanchi Math as one of the Maths founded by Adi Sankara. (Readers keen to follow this thread may read here . Also on Jayendra and Ayodhya, see this 9 July 2003 report,  http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?220693 )

To come back to Dr. Ilango's charges, he avers, “Another news report of S. Anand filed in the Outlook magazine again ludicrously claimed that Brahmins in Tamil Nadu are being persecuted like the Jews during World War II (“We are like the Jews”, Outlook, April 11, 2005), again on the pretext of the arrest of a Brahman pontiff on charges of murder.” But I didn't say that! The entire piece was in the voice of Asokamitran, the Tamil fiction writer who I'd interviewed. Any reader who bothered to examine the piece would instantly recognize this; it was one of a series of interviews with ordinary brahmins as well as brahmin intellectuals and writers that Outlook commissioned. Where Dr. Ilango and I agree is that what Asokamitran said is outrageous. If I was indeed brahminical, I should have sought to ‘protect' poor Ashokamitran and not exposed his totally false sense of persecution. Instead, I saw this as a “good story”; a good exposé. And that, it seems, is my crime. For those who wish to read it, here's Ashokamitran's piece, “We are Like the Jews”:  http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?227027

Any reader who still entertains doubts about my political and ethical sympathies should look at the over 200 reports I have filed in Outook over 6 years, and subsequently as an occasional columnist, and see for themselves whether there is even a shred of truth to Dr. Elango's characterization of me as a “brahmin supremacist”.

How to explain why Dr. Ilango has ignored all this evidence about my journalism and politics in the public domain, instead choosing to wildly misrepresent facts? I can only guess. But I now recall that a year ago he attacked me in Counter Currents for a piece I wrote in Outlook (some eight years ago) on Periyar's frayed legacy and how dalits today were critically engaging with that legacy. (See http://www.outlookindia.com/article.aspx?225173   20 Sept 2004 .) I have dignified Dr. Elango with this response only because I am a regular follower of Counter Currents, a forum where many of my anticaste friends write. It is unfortunate that Dr Elango was able to use this valuable platform for his verifiably dishonest attack, and I thank Counter Currents for allowing me to set the record straight.

S. Anand
(Anand is the publisher of Navayana )






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