Om Birla was an unknown commodity before he became the Lok Sabha Speaker. He was a junior Ram Bhakt, hardly recognized outside his home state Rajasthan. But suddenly he was cherry-picked for the Speaker’s chair. Indians Googled Om Birla to find details. I think his name Om must have endeared him to Hindutva hotheads. Om 🕉 is so sacred to the Hindus. Recently, a fake news did rounds at the WhataApp University. It was claimed that the sound of Om is heard from space also! Om Shanti Om. Om is chanted to bring peace to this restless world. And the Speaker’s surname is Birla! Birla is music to the ears of the BJP, a party of capitalists. When I was a kid, Tata-Birla meant super rich people in India. Ambanis and Adanis were unheard of in 1970s. So Om Birla combines both Hindutva and capitalism! When Shakespeare said “What’s in a name? he didn’t consider Om Birla.
Om Birla is an MP from Kota. Kota is India’s coaching capital as well as the suicide capital. This Rajasthani town revolves round coaching centres. Thousands of young boys and girls reach Kota with stars in their eyes. They join coaching factories to become IITians, doctors and other professionals. But coaching can be nerve-wrecking. Tension takes its toll and many young boys and girls take their lives. The Chambal river flows nearby. Teenagers jump into the river, taking their parents’ dreams to the unforgiving river bed. Kota is a brutal place for students.
Many political analysts believe that Narendra Modi is using Om Birla to cut Vasundhara Raje to size. Modi has never been comfortable with the Maharani. Perhaps the chaiwalla suffers from an inferiority complex when he encounters a queen. Om Birla is Modi’s answer to Vasundhara Raje.
But why am I discussing Om Birla at length? Because some pearls of wisdom have tumbled out from the honourable Speaker’s honourable mouth. OM BIRLA HAS SAID THAT BRAHMINS ARE SUPERIOR BY BIRTH! This is Manuwad at its worst. Does Om Birla owe allegiance to the Indian Constitution drafted by Ambedkar or has he shifted his allegiance to Manusmriti, the abominable text that justifies all sorts of atrocities against Dalits and women? After all, Om Birla is not a “sadak chaap” political worker. He holds a constitutional post, equivalent to the Vice President of India. The Vice President presides over the Rajya Sabha and the Speaker chairs Lok Sabha sessions. Om Birla’s predecessors as the Speaker include giants like Rabi Rai, Somnath Chatterjee. Personally I hold Somnathda in high esteem. He was a man of principles and as the Lok Sabha Speaker refused to attend the state banquet thrown in honour of the visiting US President George Bush. If Om Birla had been the Speaker, he must have taken a selfie with Bush!
The caste system has always been a bane of the Indian society in general and the Hindu society in particular. The varna-system degenerated into the inhuman caste system marked by appalling inequalities. Soon, untouchability became a part and parcel of caste system. Millions of human beings were dubbed “untouchables”. When Swami Vivekanand, the great reformer, visited Kerala he called it a lunatic asylum, a mad house. Hinduism has become Don’t Touchism, lamented Swamiji. He continued: The kitchen is a temple. Cooking utensils are gods. And the mantra is Don’t Touch, Don’t Touch. In Kerala, distance pollution was practised. If an “untouchable” came within certain distance of a Namboodiri Brahmin, the holy Brahmin was supposed to take a bath!
Gandhiji was so upset with untouchability that he stopped visiting Hindu temples. In 1934, the Mahatma came to Deoghar to ensure Dalits’ entry into the famous Shiva temple. Gandhiji was attacked by blood-thirsty pandas at the Jasidih railway station. His car was damaged. Gandhiji’s damaged car can be seen at the Gandhi Museum in Patna. (Though, few Patnaites have seen this car. They are busy eating pizzas and burgers at food courts!)
After a long and arduous struggle against untouchability, there was some light at the end of the tunnel. The Constitution of India under Article 17 prohibits untouchability in all forms. On the 30th March, 1998 when I was SP, Deoghar I ensured that a Dalit named Ramchandra Paswan was made the Temple Magistrate.
It is in this context that Om Birla’ utterances make me hang my head in shame. If Brahmins are superior by birth, it means that non-Brahmins are inferior. It is an outrageous suggestion. Non-Brahmins include millions of Dalits, Adivasis and OBC’s. Muslims, Jews and Christians are also non-Brahmins. So, Om Birla is bringing the concept of Brahmin Devta back. In fact, his remarks constitute a cognizable offence under the SC/ST Act!
When Nepal was a Hindu Rashtra , Brahmin criminals were not given capital punishment because “brahman-hatya” is a cardinal sin according to Hindu traditions. Fortunately, Nepal is no longer a Hindu Rashtra and Brahmins are not above the law any more.
Om Birla should know that a man becomes good or bad as per his deeds. Birth is only an accident. I am not going to consider Vijay Mallya a superior human being because the fugitive businessman is a Saraswat Brahmin. And I am not going to look down upon Gandhiji because he was not a Brahmin. Om Birla should apologize to the nation for his silly statement. The Speaker shouldn’t become a loud speaker and talk loosely!
(Mr. Amitabh Kumar Das is a 1994 batch IPS Officer. His views are personal.)