‘Sociologist’ Nandini Sundar, professor at Delhi University and wife of the founding editor of The Wire, has found herself a new punching bag: Brahmin Sambar Powder. She said the product, which is hosted by Amazon, should be ‘banned for promoting casteism’. She added, “If there was a will there are laws. But this country is now openly casteist and communal”.
The product advertises itself as ‘direct from a Brahmin home’. Like almost everything related to advertising, it’s most likely to be a marketing gimmick. However, it was enough to send the Left into a frenzy. Amusingly, these are the same people who had erupted into a raucous cheer when Zomato said, ‘Food has no religion‘. It appears people who believe food has no religion do believe it has a caste.
Brahmin cuisine or Tamil Brahmin cuisine essentially is ‘satvik’ food which does not include onion or garlic. Some traditional TamBrahm households also do not include drumsticks, bottle gourd, carrots, etc because they are not considered ‘satvik’.
This isn’t the first time that the issue of ‘Brahmin food’ has popped up in Leftist discourse. Not too long ago, Akshaya Patra of Iskcon was attacked by the Left and slandered for providing a Satvik diet at schools during midday meals. It was demanded that the government terminate its midday meals contract with the organization on grounds that it was providing children nutrition-deficient ‘Brahmin diet’.
As it turned out, one of the activists at the forefront of demonizing Akshaya Patra is a rabid anti-Brahmin bigot who believes ‘Brahmins obstruct India’s development’ and that ‘brahmins should be actively taken out of certain key spaces.’ Later, Akshaya Patra received a shining endorsement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself and was also awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize.
In the case of ‘Brahmin Sambar Powder’ as well, it appears to be a recipe or a cuisine specific ingredient, rather than anything sinister. ‘Chinese cuisine’ or ‘Continental cuisine’ does not refer to anything sinister, these are just varieties of food. The ‘direct from a Brahmin home’ reference may be an effort by the sellers to advertise its authenticity more than anything else. ‘Chinese food made by the Chinese themselves’ is likely to attract more customers than ‘Chinese food made by a Bengali chef from Jadavpur University’.
There’s nothing wrong with that. If no one sees any problem with various cuisines named according to regions or cultures or specific groups of people, what’s wrong with Tamil Brahmin cuisine? If no one has any issue with Jain Pav Bhaji (the one which is made without use of root vegetables), and they shouldn’t, why does anyone have an issue with ‘Iyer Sambar Powder’, which in all possibilities is cuisine specific to Tamil Brahmins and does not contain onion-garlic?
There’s no crime involved here, no one is being oppressed by sambar powder unless the suggestion is that people are oppressed by the very mention of Brahmin surnames, which could very well be the case here.
Intriguingly, while the likes of Nandini Sundar rant on and on about ‘Brahmin food’, they never seem to find the time to highlight the extremely problematic aspect of Halal meat. It’s far more problematic than any ‘Brahmin food’ could ever be even at its absolute worst. However, as usual, a stoic silence is maintained on Halal while the Left outrages about the other.
Halal can only be performed by a Muslim man. Thus, non-Muslims are automatically denied employment at a Halal firm. There are certain other conditions that must be fulfilled that makes it quite clear that it is intrinsically an Islamic practice. Guidelines for the procedure make it clear that non-Muslim employees cannot be employed in any part of the slaughtering process. Even the labelling of the meat can be done by Muslims only. The guidelines also say that if at the time of slaughtering the name of anyone else other than Allah is invoked (i.e. animal sacrificed for him/her), then the meat becomes Haram “unlawful.”
The pervasiveness of the practice and the insistence of the Muslim community on consuming only Halal meat has resulted in Muslims effectively creating a monopoly over the process for people of their community. It is a process through which non-Muslims are deliberately denied employment while being fed meat that goes against their religious beliefs. Now, the process of Halal certification has also been expanded to include vegetarian and other products which is little more than forcibly extracting money from the businessman for people of their community.
However, as fate would have it, the Left flagrantly ignores the monumental bigotry that is deeply embedded in the Halal process. Instead, they squabble about and rage against ‘Brahmin food’. Halal is more widespread in society than ‘Brahmin food’ could ever be. The process of Halal by its very definition discriminates against people of other faith. And yet, the Left prioritizes ranting against ‘Brahmin Sambar Powder’ rather than the former. It does appear that the Left has its priorities set straight.
Nandini Sundar, herself, has an extremely shady past. She was accused of a tribal man’s murder in Chhattisgarh’s Sukma. The Supreme Court in November 2018 refused to quash the FIR against her and ordered the Chhattisgarh government to submit its report. It was only after the Congress party came to power in the state after winning the state elections later that year that the Police gave her a clean chit in the case in February 2019.