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Ayushmann Khurrana’s Article 15 wants you to believe caste system came from outer space

No matter how many Ambedkar statues it shows, Article 15 doesn’t call out the continued Brahmin hegemony in power circles.

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Anubhav Sinha’s Article 15 is a film made for the Brahmins on Brahmin supremacy. A ‘casteless’ Brahmin IPS officer, played by Ayushmann Khurrana, goes to a village in Uttar Pradesh and gets a shocking view of what caste looks life — naked and violent.

The film, predictably, becomes more about his internal contradictions and journey to fight a corrupt system, than about addressing the root of the problem — caste.

Anubhav Sinha’s film takes the easy route and offers no answers to uncomfortable questions on who created the caste system and how can it be destroyed. It would like you to believe that caste probably came from outer space.

No matter how many Ambedkar statues it shows, Article 15 refuses to pin the blame on anyone, and doesn’t call out the continued Brahmin hegemony in power circles.

Also read: Ayushmann Khurrana’s Article 15 will make ‘upper’ castes uneasy – as it should

So, why are Brahmin organisations protesting against Article 15? The film, as Sinha rightly said in his Facebook post a few days ago, has nothing that can be called disrespectful to Brahmins. If anything, it shows a Brahmin hero knocking sense into others and saving Dalits from caste oppression.

Why is everyone casteist

In India, you either are oppressed by caste or are ‘casteless’. The latter is a privilege only the ‘upper’ castes can choose to enjoy.

In Ayushmann Khurrana-starrer Article 15, caste system has no villains. It is as if caste system is an aberration caused by aliens, or by the British as articulated by Congress MP and author Shashi Tharoor. According to Tharoor, “We had castes, we did not have the caste system.” He blames the British for codifying and classifying the castes and, in the process, ossifying it. Author Amish Tripathi has a similar take on caste and argues that “the caste system was not based on birth. In ancient times, it was not rigid.”

In Article 15, everyone is casteist. Even the Dalit sub-inspector says: “We are Chamars and the victims are from the Pasi community and the Chamars are superior to the Pasis.” So, being casteist must be okay. In fact, at this point, some audience members in the theatre laugh — probably relieved that Dalits too are practicing untouchability.

B.R. Ambedkar, however, had a different take on this. In his paper Castes in India, presented during an anthropology seminar at Columbia University in 1916, he tried answering how the institution of caste spread among the rest of the non-Brahmin population of the country. He argues – “Endogamy or the closed-door system was a fashion in the Hindu society, and as it had originated from the Brahmin caste it was whole-heartedly imitated by all the non-Brahmin sub-divisions or classes, who, in their turn, became endogamous castes.” He adds, “Brahmin is a semi-god and very nearly a demi-god. He sets up a mode and moulds the rest.”  

This explains why lower castes practice casteism too.

Also read: 6 things an anti-caste woke must be mindful of in Ayushmann Khurrana’s new film Article 15

Gandhian way of engaging with caste system

Ayushmann Khurrana’s Article 15 is being hailed as an anti-caste movie, but in reality it robs Dalits of their agency. This is a very Gandhian idea of engaging with caste and Dalits. To fight untouchability among Hindus, Gandhi founded Harijan Sevak Sangh or Servants of Untouchables Society in 1932 and made industrialist Ghanshyam Das Birla its first president. To date, no one other than the Savarna Hindus have headed this organisation.

You cannot miss “Vaishnav Jan To Tene Kahiye, a bhajan that is now most associated with Gandhi, playing in the background in Article 15.

How to annihilate caste?

Let’s go back to B.R. Ambedkar, the doctor who has best diagnosed the disease called caste system, and his prescription for the annihilation of caste.

“It must be recognized that the Hindus observe Caste not because they are inhuman or wrong-headed. They observe Caste because they are deeply religious…The real remedy is to destroy the belief in the sanctity of the Shastras,” says Ambedkar.

“Caste has a divine basis… this means you must destroy the authority of the Shastras and the Vedas,” he argues.

Also read: How Gandhi made Ambedkar a villain in his fight to be the real representative of Dalits

This is one task we can’t expect a filmmaker, however progressive he or she might be, to perform. The movie Article 15 uses Ambedkar in its iconography and dialogues. The opening shot has a statue of Ambedkar in the backdrop. But the movie fails to foreground Ambedkar’s idea on annihilation of caste in India.

The author is a senior journalist. Views are personal.

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  1. बकवास जातिवादी वामपंथी वेबसाइट द्वारा एक बकवास जातिवादी लेख !
    जातिवादियों द्वारा हिन्दू धर्म विरोधी लेख !
    हिंदुत्व से वेदों व शास्त्रों की अहमियत खत्म करने का सपना देखने वाले जातिवादी, पहले अपने पंथ से अपने धर्म ग्रंथों को खत्म करें ! जातिवाद खत्म करना है, तो पहले जाति प्रमाणपत्र खत्म करो ! जाति प्रमाणपत्र हाथ में लेकर जातिवाद खत्म करने की बात करना, और अपना धर्म बदल बदल कर भी, जातिप्रमाण पत्र लेते रहना, दोगलेपन की निशानी है, जो आज के सोशल मीडिया के युग में नहीं चलने वाली !
    पहले समाज में बराबर आने के लिए धर्म बदलो, और कहो कि हम जिस धर्म में जा रहे हैं वहां जातियाँ नहीं हैं, फिर धर्म बदलने के बाद भी आरक्षण का लाभ लेने के लिए जातिप्रमाण पत्र लहराते रहो !
    अरे, जब धर्म बदलने से समाज में बराबर आ गए, तो जातिप्रमाण पत्र क्यों बनवाया ! और बराबर नहीं आये, तो धर्म क्यों बदला !
    जातिगत आरक्षण केवल हिंदुओं के लिए हो, धर्म बदल कर हिंदुत्व को गालियाँ देने वालों के लिए नहीं !
    अपने पंथ को संभालो, हिंदुत्व को संभालने के लिए हिन्दू काफी हैं ! चले हैं, हिंदुत्व से वेदों व शास्त्रों की महिमा खत्म करने ! अपनी जातिवादी सोच के सहारे हिंदुत्व पर प्रहार करने वालों को आज के जिओ मोबाइल युग में सच का सामना करना पड़ेगा !
    जिनके साथ मिलकर हिंदुत्व से वेदों व शास्त्रों को खत्म करने का ख्वाब देखा जा रहा है, पहले उनका इतिहास, और जोगेंद्रनाथ मंडल की कहानी जान लो ! हिन्दू संस्कृति ही है, जो सर्वधर्म समभाव पर चलती है, इसीलिए तो महात्मा बुद्ध भी जातक कथाओं में स्वयं को राम का अवतार कहते हैं !

  2. As the movie maker has an opinion and can put that in his film. Mr. Dilip Mandal can have an opinion too and he’s putting it forward. So why so much hatred against against him? Because he’s highlighting the concerns and issues in way you are not comfortable.
    Article 15 shows bheem army doing things they never did, trying to put them in bad light. Secondly, showing that SC st and obc people as sweepers and scavengers and claiming that they should be treated equally seems like they own and will own (in future) those jobs only.
    Thirdly, the death of Nishad shows that dalits are powerless and can’t use force or claim for equality but the equality should be given and if they will try to use power to get what they deserve, they will be killed.

    This movie doesn’t seem disrespect to bhrahmins but ego boost for them instead.

    • This is a very immature and even misleading take on what the film does.
      “Article 15 shows bheem army doing things they never did, trying to put them in bad light.” No name was given to the group. The things they were “shown” doing were later clearly indicated to be orchestrated by the bigger forces trying to malign them.
      ‘Secondly, showing that SC st and obc people as sweepers and scavengers and claiming that they should be treated equally seems like they own and will own (in future) those jobs only.’ It is as if you have never seen a SC person outside social media and those progressive placard rallies. Their nature of caste-based jobs is a major excuse used to discriminate against them. If the film says “Hey, no matter what job anyone does, even the meanest one,they still are equal to us”, you somehow find a way to criticize that too.
      “Thirdly, the death of Nishad shows that dalits are powerless and can’t use force or claim for equality but the equality should be given and if they will try to use power to get what they deserve, they will be killed.” Nishad, and most intellectual dalit leaders, always adviced against use of violence. They are not passive, but they wont killyou for discrimination either. Remember another guy who prophesed the same and was later killed? We call him “Bapu” today, and no one ever calls him a coward.
      “This movie doesn’t seem disrespect to bhrahmins but ego boost for them instead.”
      This comes from a mentality that thinks a brahmin cant fight against casteism, a man can’t fight against gender discrimination, a rich person can work towards poverty elimination, a straight person cant work for LGBT rights. I am sorry you didn’t see your Dalit hero massacring all upper caste Hindus and snatching their “equal” rights, followed by their own hegemony as a compensation for past. Better luck next time.

  3. We are not ashamed of castism,we will condem any one who points to its religious sanctioning.
    Oh how we love lies and violence
    We will destroy all legitimate history.
    It’s our greatest trait and we are proud of it.

  4. Those from non savarna group should only comment….
    An impression is being tried to bring upon that caste system is not brought by the Hindu Dharma nor it was nurtured by Brahmins

    Dear Savarnas you can’t do justice to them….
    At least learn to stay quiet… NO No don’t think you know nothing … You definitely know nothing…

    Don’t comment and insult their struggle…
    You just say sorry and say sorry for thousand times and for thousand years…

  5. Mr.Mandal, it is very sad to see such an un-intelligent writing about caste. You are exactly saying the point but in a different lens. The movie tries to raise to question, any medium of art raises question not solves the situation for a tradition which you very rightly said, did come from outer space! Look again at what you have written, your argument is no argument at all. Why would the agency of Dalit go away, if the protagonist is shown to be a Brahmin? nonsense! The structure of caste has many sub structures, as much as Dalits are to be talked about, the caste’s own whimsical concept of Dalit as defined by the upper castes is to be talked about, like what you wrote on different castes system spoken on in the movie. Also, you write somewhere ‘B.R Ambedkar however has a different point of view,’my dear journalist, B.R Ambedkar had the only one inclusive view which cannot be debated on caste, especially on the Hindu caste system.

  6. The caste system was not codified by the British. It is and was sanctioned by the Shastras and observed by the upper castes in manners that treated the lower castes as less than humans. It was Pandit Nehru under whose leadership the constitution was framed by Dr Ambedkar which ensured that it had enough teeth to prevent the exploitation of the lower castes and the minorities. What Dr Ambedkar did not realize that the upper castes would subvert the constitutional protections and continue to ensure that the lower castes remained powerless.

  7. A Shambuk killed by Lord RAM or a Draupadi refusing to marry Karan(& advised by Lord Krishna) because of him perceived as a ‘Sut-putra’ , Dronacharya refusing to teach Eklavya because of his low caste..yet they caste is a British construct on account of some surveys.. u r either Denying the lived harsh reality of thousands of people living across ages or u r Denying the shastra urself..r not u?!

  8. Pathetic journalist, vomiting his decayed preconceived notions and biased hate through this article. Now, people with ulterior motives are getting the access to news platforms with an objective to spread hate and conflict. Shame on you.

  9. Mandal is a 3rd rate journo and Mental. He has neither read the Shastras and Vedas nor Ambedkar. I will just refer him to read the origin of Sudras as researched by Dr. Ambedkar, he can Google it. Such crap should not be published under Swachch Bharat 😉

    • It is true that the movie does not comment about the origin of the caste or how it is to be anihilated. It does not intend to do so. Whatever it shows is the actual state and the condition of the Dalits due to caste system. Hateful attitude of the higher castes towards them causes an easy target for rapes on the teen aged girls, secondary treatment to them amongst the police employees, taking advantage of their illiteracy and the selfish leadership to give a lift to the upper caste leadership with the communal intentions and lastly very cruel end of an honest leadership with guns. No other movie has dared to show these facts of Dalits till date. This movie very loudly accepts the existence of the caste system and its evils. This acceptance is the first step towards the abolition of this system. This is better than saying like “I don’t follow caste system” or “where is it? It has been already lost its existence”

  10. MR. Mandal seems to have caste on his mind. He sees everything through a caste lens. I a waiting for his analysis of Brahmin domination in the Indian Cricket team next.

  11. Just like so called “Stereotypes” people believe in authority of vedas, you believe in authority of Ambedkar. As if whatever he said with his limited knowledge is true in all type. I believe you have theorely studied Ambedkar literature, I request you to study vedic literature from Bonafide source and then write a useful article which is information and transformative both.

    Secondly, Dharma sastras are basic guide to humanity. according to time place and circumstances scholars can ammend it, if not this dharma SASTRA anyways we are going to follow some kind of shastra like our constitution. If our house is broken or leaking somewhere, solutions is to repair it not to demolish whole house down, this is foolishness.

  12. Caste system coming from Space and is caste system considered as evil… I ask is caste system coming from Islam… Is caste system coming from Christianity… Is caste system coming from USA or UK or Europe.. Or Middle East.. Is caste system in Evil… Some people justify caste… And find Evil in corruption or poverty.. Is caste Evil or not.. ?

    • Is any one in this group without having caste by birth… Even in another religion are they not aware of their caste

  13. A billion things happened in India and abroad in the past one week – g20 summit, us – Iran conflicts, health index, special economic zones granting. But ThePrint will shamelessly stick to controversial news and baseless hate mongering. Why? Because MONEY!!!

  14. However people may justify it on either side , the truth is this is the reality of the present scenario in india specially villages .
    Casteism will always remain in the minds and behaviour of majority of upper castes people !
    Time for introspection !

  15. The film was hopeless, no new ideas, no creativity, no regret, no message, no entertainment. At the end you thing what was the film about.

  16. Funny how people see anything anti casteism as anti hindu or even anti national…Goes on to show that we still have a long way to go before caste system is truly annihilated …Despite this, I think the writer is expecting too much from a Bollywood movie…At least it is talking about the issue which must be commended.

  17. In real life victims were all from morya caste and guilty who commited this heinous crime were from some other obc caste .
    None were general or as you might understand better were brahmins .
    If you destroy sanctity of shastra and vedas than very well you destroy sanatan dharm ultimately dividing and breaking india in pieces.

  18. सालो चूतियो पढ़के तो आते जाओ article लिखने से पहले जातिवाद मनु ने अगर चालू किया तो वह एक क्षत्रिय था नाकी ब्राह्मण. और हर जगह ब्राह्मण को बीच गाली देना यही तुम्हारी नियत है , जुटे मारने चाहिए तुम जैसे पत्रकारों को. जल्दी से ऐसे targeted article लिखना बंद करो नही तो .

    • Manu was greatgrabdson of brahma in whose mouth someone put something so spitted brahman , armsweated kshetriya , jhangasweated vaisya & footsweat sudra who onbamani , kshetriyani, vaisyani produced chandal, khatta & ayogya thus were the origin of castes / mixed caste as per manusmarti wrote by mau, ask googal .

      • The movie is an eyeopener. An insight for those oblivious to caste reality in India. Mr. Mandal please its a film not a phd thesis on “understanding caste in India and ways of elimating it”. You seem to be looking at this film from the lens of a phd guide. I think you should not be in the business of film review.

      • I want to ask something did you born through mouth or shoulders or stomach or through proper reproductive organ

    • जितना जातिवादी औऱ divisive mindset ब्राह्मण का होता है उतना किसी का नहीं होता।
      बाकी जाति तभी खत्म हो सकती है जब अन्तर्जातीय विवाह होने लग जायेंगे बड़ी संख्या में।

  19. Watch STEREOTYPES a short film on YOUTUBE, you may find an answer…Or at least start thinking about it. JAI HIND

  20. Rightly said!
    That is the problem with us.We don’t take any art form just as an entertainment especially movies.We just start fighting over it.
    Though every thing comes with pros and cons.

  21. You people are so biased free lance media..what do you want to be showed in the movie that brahmins created the caste system? From your article it can completely be understood that you want riots to be broken out in this country. Why dont you write an article says that film makers should show in their movie that wo are the creaters of terrorism in the world.

  22. We are Chamars and the victims are from the Pasi community and the Chamars are superior to the Pasis.” hi first of all Mr. Dilip Mandal should further do research on caste system then write this nonsense article. This article seems antihindu and anti-general category people of India.

  23. Sir,
    U r correct in what you an indian I feel ashamed and I agree with your remedy. However, this is just a movie… having an expectation that it will set things straight is quite unfair…in a country where Kabir Singh earns more money,, we need to give as much support as possible to these thought provoking movies… may not be perfect but it might inspire some more movies creating further awareness

    • Rightly said!
      That is the problem with us.We don’t take any art form just as an entertainment especially movies.We just start fighting over it.
      Though every thing comes with pros and cons.

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