A prominent activist associated with the Right to Food campaign, Dr Sylvia Karpagam, who wants Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meals contracts terminated appears to have her actions motivated by anti-Brahmin bigotry and the desire to uproot “Brahmin hegemony”.
The Akshaya Patra has come under criticism recently for not including onion and garlic in its mid-day meals for school children. M.R. Maruthi, Joint Director, State Mid Day Meal Scheme in Karnataka claimed that not including onions and garlic in its meals is in violation of the memorandum of understanding signed between the Karnataka government and the foundation.
The Akshaya Patra, however, defended itself and claimed that its meals were in compliance with the MHRD directive. It said in a statement, “We would like to clarify that our freshly cooked meals are in compliance with the nutrition norms prescribed by the MHRD and Government of Karnataka. It is our constant endeavour to contribute to the Government’s efforts in promoting good health and nutrition amongst children which is essential for their holistic growth and development. Akshaya Patra is committed to serve quality, hygienic and nutritious food to school children every day and implement Akshara Dasoha, the flagship mid-day meal programme of the government of Karnataka.”
Since then, activists an civil rights groups have written to the Karnataka government demanding that Akshaya Patra’s contract be terminated. While Karpagam and other activists cite nutritional reasons for demanding the termination of the contract, some of Karpagam’s views appear very problematic.
In April, this year, an article by Karpagam was published on Round Table India which had the headline, “Brahmins obstruct India’s development”. In the article, Karpagam states, “The presence of Brahmins as key decision makers in India has adversely affected our progress on many fronts. Their deep-rooted social, cultural and religious mindset often persists in spite of contrary scientific, social or humanitarian logic. If India really wants to and needs to progress at a pace that is appropriate and necessary, then brahmins should be actively taken out of certain key spaces.”
She says about Brahmin doctors, “Brahmin doctors mislead patients about nutrition, promoting vegetarianism in spite of all scientific knowledge and medical guidelines pointing to the contrary.” She states further, “The basic belief by the brahmin doctors that only they own and should possess knowledge makes them very reticent to engage in health education where communities are able to take health into their own hands. This abuse of power means that most people are often left confused about what is good for the health of themselves and their family, and are often not given information that reduces the need for doctors in their lives.”
Karpagam also states that Brahmins have created “havoc” in the field of nutrition. She says that Brahmin nutritionists drink cow urine. She states, “They claim that India is predominantly vegetarian and bring out nutrition policies that erase eating habits of the majority of the population and undermine the value that these foods add to the health of the country and indeed the general capacity for work, growth and development. When beef eaters are being massacred in the country, no brahmin nutritionist has come forward to argue in the strongest possible words about the health benefits of beef and why populations should not be criminalised for eating a healthy source of nutrition. Instead, they drink cow urine and claim to worship the cow.”
Apart from Brahmin doctors and nutritionists, Karpagam has problems with Brahmins in bureaucracy, education and academia, research, feminism, literature, media, judiciary, civil society, banking, economics, politics, industry, basically in every field under the sun. The entire article is a virulent spectacle of anti-Brahmin bigotry and resembles the kind of propaganda that was run against Jews in Nazi Germany. That the opinions of such bigots are treated so respectably in mainstream media is a grave cause for concern. Such vile hatred against any community should not have any place in any society. That these bigots have enough power to make demands of democratically elected governments and have sufficient influence to ensure that their demands are met does not bode well for our country.
In August 2017, Karpagam wrote an article celebrating the fact that ISKON had terminated its contract with the Andhra Pradesh government for mid-day meals. She had written, “The decision of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) to terminate its mid-day meal contract with the state government of Andhra Pradesh is a welcome move and much required in all other states of the country as well where the NGO supplies mid-day meals.”