Inequalities in the mission of Equality Labs

T Soundararajan seems to have a bigger and deeper agenda than it meets the eye at the first instance

T Soundararajan seems to have a bigger and deeper agenda than it meets the eye at the first instance
T Soundararajan seems to have a bigger and deeper agenda than it meets the eye at the first instance

In the perfect world, equality is the state or quality of offering “equal” opportunities for all (inclusivity) and respecting individuals with physical, mental, social, religious, political, economic, educational, professional, and gender differences (diversity). The Equality Labs (EL) founder, Thenmozhi Soundararajan (TS), a self-proclaimed Dalit Diva and a transmedia artist/ activist, titled EL mission as, “A Political Home for South Asian Progressives.” One must wonder why not a more inclusive title, “A Home for South Asian Communities” excluding the qualifiers such as “Political” and “Progressives?[1]” The first inequality kicks in because the ‘home’ for South Asians deserves to discourage and dispel disparities for economic, social, political, and other reasons. The ‘progressives’ by whose standards- the EL, TS, or who else? As discussed below, TS seems to have a bigger and deeper agenda than it meets the eye at the first instance.

I have been familiar with EL for some time, but my interest peaked because of its increasing attempts of gaining political notoriety by falsely using the British inspired and concocted caste system to malign India, Hindus, and Hinduism. A review of a recent book, “Caste, Conversion- A Colonial Conspiracy… “by Satish Sharma states, “Caste – an interesting word which though of European origin has become synonymous with Hinduism and Hindus[2]. Want to whip a Hindu throw the C word! But how does a varna system that sustained one of the most glorious civilizations of yesteryears survive so long if all it means was exploitation? Or are there some missing pieces about the ‘history of caste‘ that has been kept hidden from us?” Another reviewer writes, “how they (Britishers) cleverly perverted the varnas into “caste” (a hierarchical, endogamous and essentially hereditary concept alien to Indian civilization before that), how this obtained legal sanction under the British Raj and led to the introduction of “Dalits”/ untouchables who got generally ostracized over a period of time.” It is about time that TS internalize this fact-based book, change the stated EL mission for correctness, and stop her own perverted plan of caste pronouncement as a protected category.

If TS chooses to remain ignorant after the revelations in the new book and continues misinformed activism about the caste-apartheid of the yesteryears in India with no such concept in the United States, her progressivism is as evil.

It seems that TS was influenced to take on the caste issue because her mother was a Dalit and faced challenges in India. No one can deny the unfortunate incidences of inter-caste violence in rural India over 50 years ago. India had gained independence from British Raj in 1947 but old habits don’t die, and dictates don’t change overnight. Since then, India has decidedly changed and changed for the better every day except for the caste being exploited for political reasons.

I come from a village and visit India each year with little evidence of the caste-based conversations or differences. As well-educated as TS is, her progressive side and activism should have been better cast in storytelling by celebrating her parents’ adversity and caste-related challenges in India because of which they are stronger and successful. Her choice of “Progressives” in the title reflects her own character with a regressive approach to modern-day India, United States, and the world. We have gone to the Moon and Mars and live in a highly interconnected world of technology yet TS is driving her agenda of “political base-building…to end the oppression of caste apartheid, Islamophobia, White supremacy, and religious intolerance.” Note the use of the word ‘political’ again at the exclusion of economic and social factors to build an inclusive and perhaps stronger research base.

What is caste apartheid? Apartheid, an Afrikaans word that means “separateness”, or “the state of being apart”, first used in 1929 to amplify the separation between Whites and Blacks in Africa under British rule. Sundararajan, in the name of progressivism in the 21st century, is politicizing caste-apartheid to separate Hindus from other Hindus and the rest. Interestingly, the colonial conspiracy created a wedge in Africa using “apartheid” and “caste” in India. What more one can say except suggesting that TS read the book and understand the authors’ statement, ‘Almost everyone on the planet has heard of the “Ancient Hindu Caste” system and somehow, almost everyone knows how horrible it is, but what if it wasn’t ancient and it wasn’t Hindu?’ I can safely call the British empire being evil to divide and rule philosophy, but they are long gone. If TS chooses to remain ignorant after the revelations in the new book and continues misinformed activism about the caste-apartheid of the yesteryears in India with no such concept in the United States, her progressivism is as evil.

According to TS’s Wikipedia biography, it is alleged that being a Dalit, she, “faced discrimination from almost all of the Indian professors in her campus, who refused to advise her on projects[3].” I am awed, appalled, and horrified about her serious allegation of discrimination from “Indian professors,” presumably at UC Berkeley. Having spent more than 35 years in higher education as a professor and in academic administration and meeting thousands of students and professors from everywhere, her allegation is anything but the truth. It seems that her evil mind was seeking notoriety even as a youth or shall we say an “opportunity” for her claim to fame even before founding EL. It is important to note that she is accusing professors of only Indian origin, where her mother faced unwelcome challenges in the village. What a sinister, resentful, and revengeful mindset against India and Indians rather than let the bygone be bygone?

I surmise that the membership of an organization with tax-free status in the United States may be discrimination against people of other religions, regions, and castes not included in the above statement.

TS should have used her skills, education, and energy in a positive direction, connecting with her roots of the ancient culture of India, exploring changing India, and making the ancestral village community better and richer with her progressive ideas. Instead, she chose to join hands with many evangelicals and self-identified progressives like herself with disdain for Hindus, Hinduism, and India. She perhaps looked for and found like-minded progressives and founded EL to accelerate her activism for the wrong reasons. I wish, her progressivism was used to change the world for the better by promoting and valuing inclusivity, equality, and diversity at a deeper level among youth, tomorrow’s global leaders.

Other inequalities are rooted in Islamophobia and religious intolerance. The former originates from Islam (a religion) then why not other religion associated phobias such as Hindu-phobia, Christian-phobia, and Jewish-phobia just to name a few. In my view, singling out one religious-based phobia in the context of South Asians, TS is advocating and promoting religious intolerance. TS could be a more effective storyteller about the common tenets of all religions which make us better human beings and promote unity in religious diversity. Any kind of intolerance is just the state of our minds and the activist like TS is exploiting it for her own notoriety.

There is no question that some bias and intolerance exist against each religion but Islamophobia, at best a confusing concept, is often used as an accusation of the same severity as anti-Semitism or homophobia[4]. One last point, about Islamophobia in EL’s mission – does it signify EL’s association with the tenets of Muslim Brotherhood an Islamist organization that seeks to create a state that is governed by Islamic law (Shari’ah)? Knowing what I now know about EL’s founder, I surmise that her sinister agenda is to malign India and all thing Indian like Indian professors and India’s ancient varna system (not caste) which implies that all trades and professions are essential to meet social needs.

The mission of EL also states, “Our membership includes Dalit (formerly known as the “Untouchable” people), Adivasi (indigenous people of South Asia), Bahujan, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, and Christian South Asians.” Once again, TS has created a major inequality by not including all the religions among South Asians such as Buddhism, Jains, Zoroastrians. Does EL not welcome atheists or others who may wish to associate with more than one religion but not specify? Why restrict the membership based on religion, origin, or any basis and promote “inequality?” I surmise that the membership of an organization with tax-free status in the United States may be discrimination against people of other religions, regions, and castes not included in the above statement.

I am aware of EL supporting the allegation of discrimination by an employee (a Dalit Hindu) of a global tech company against another Hindu Brahmin. EL is also making inroads to have the “caste” declared as a protected category. Am I surprised? Not at all because TS through EL is fishing for reaffirmation of her own ill-conceived and unfounded allegation of discrimination by “Indian professors.” Does TS believe that every God-fearing Indian in the United States is out there to discriminate based on the caste conspiracy forced upon India during the evil British Raj? The topic of EL leading the caste-based discrimination has been part of several articles in this publication and thus no point repeating. Let me just add that if EL succeeds, it will be a travesty for the Indian diaspora in the U.S. and elsewhere and will cause significant damage. The collective excellent reputation of millions of hardworking and committed employees in global tech companies is at stake with far-reaching consequences in all workplaces.

Many inequalities in EL’s mission discussed above appear to be the brainchild of an individual with a past such as discrimination by Indian professors because a mother of Dalit origin gave her birth. I do not doubt that her parents like millions of Indians are living an American dream with dignity. I wonder what dream TS is living if EL is all about selected but highly controversial, divisive, conspiratorial, and almost hateful words or phrases with no clear explanation. As an immigrant parent of two daughters, I expect our children to live their dream with the best of the two worlds – the ancient and mystic Hindu heritage and culture which gave us Yoga and meditation coupled with values like celebrating and respecting diversity in the U.S.

A final piece of advice: with the recent book demystifying the colonial conspiracy, every Hindu and Christian must read and know about caste should give EL and TS food for thought[2]. Let us hope EL of the future will become a home for promoting and celebrating true equality, diversity, inclusivity, and above all humanity in the spirit of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, a philosophy that the whole world is one irrespective of one’s faith, religion, culture, color, region etc.

Note:
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

References:

[1] OUR MISSION – A Political Home for South Asian Progressives – Equality Labs.org

[2] Caste, Conversion A Colonial Conspiracy: What Every Hindu and Christian must know about Caste Paperback – Amazon.in

[3] Thenmozhi Soundararajan – Wikipedia

[4] Islamophobia – The origins of a confusing conceptOct 23, 2020, European Academy of Religion and Society

Born in village Kotah (Saharanpur), Vijendra Agarwal, left India in 1973 after Ph.D. (Physics) from IIT Roorkee but always remained connected with his roots. A researcher in Italy, Japan, and France, he came to US in 1978. He served as faculty and academic
administrator (Assistant Vice President, Associate Vice Chancellor, and Dean of the College of Science and Engineering) in several universities, and an Executive Fellow in the White House S&T Policy during Clinton administration. Following his voluntary retirement in 2014, he and his wife co-founded a US based NGO, Vidya Gyan, to serve rural India toward education, health, and empowerment of girls and overall development. An Indian at heart, his passion for writing has no boundaries. This includes policy, politics and people, and social/cultural activities promoting community engagement. Currently he is the Brand Ambassador for Times of India and frequently blogs on Linkedin on various topics.
Vijendra Agarwal

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