Why Have the Brahmins Not Produced a Voltaire? – Answered by Babasaheb Ambedkar


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Today all scholarship is confined to the Brahmins. But unfortunately no Brahmin scholar has so far come forward to play the part of a Voltaire who had the intellectual honesty to rise against the doctrines of the Catholic Church in which he was brought up; nor is one likely to appear on the scene in the future.

It is a grave reflection on the scholarship of the Brahmins that they should not have produced a Voltaire.

This will not cause surprise if it is remembered that a brahmin scholar is only a learned man. He is not an intellectual. There is a world of difference between one who is learned and one who is an intellectual. The former is class-conscious and is alive to the interests of his class. The latter is an emancipated being who is free to act without being swayed by class considerations. It is because the Brahmins have been only learned men that they have not produced a Voltaire.

Why have the Brahmins not produced a Voltaire?

The question can be answered only by another question. Why did the Sultan of Turkey not abolish the religion of the Mohammedan World? Why has no Pope denounced Catholicism? Why has the British Parliament not made a law ordering the killing of all blue-eyed babies?

The reason why the Sultan or the Pope or the British Parliament has not done these things is the same as why the Brahmins have not been able to produce a Voltaire. It must be recognised that the selfish interest of a person or of the class to which he belongs always acts as an internal limitation which regulates the direction of his intellect.

The power and position which the Brahmins possess is entirely due to the Hindu Civilisation which treats them as supermen and subjects the lower classes to all sorts of disabilities so that they may never rise and challenge or threaten the superiority of the Brahmins over them.

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As is natural, every Brahmin is interested in the maintenance of Brahmanic supremacy be he orthodox or unorthodox, be he a priest or a grahastha, be he a scholar or not. How can the Brahmins afford to be Voltaires?

Dr Ambedkar on Voltaire

A Voltaire among the Brahmins would be a positive danger to the maintenance of a civilisation which is contrived to maintain Brahmanic supremacy.

The point is that the intellect of a Brahmin scholar is severely limited by anxiety to preserve his interest. He suffers from this internal limitation as a result of which he does not allow his intellect full play which honesty and integrity demands. For, he fears that it may affect the interests of his class and therefore his own.

But what annoys one is the intolerance of the Brahmin scholar towards any attempt to expose the Brahmanic literature. He himself would not play the part of an iconoclast even where it is necessary. And he would not allow such non-Brahmins as have the capacity to do so to play it.

If any non-Brahmin were to make such an attempt the Brahmin scholars would engage in a conspiracy of silence, take no notice of him, condemn him outright on some flimsy grounds or dub his work useless.

As a writer engaged in the exposition of the Brahmanic literature I have been a victim of such mean tricks.

Source – The Untouchables Who Were They And Why They Became Untouchables? Book by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

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Dr. Ambedkar’s Speech at G.I.P. Railway Depressed Class Workmen’s Conference, Nashik

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  1. 1
    Prem

    I think you are referring to Martin Luther and not Voltaire. Martin Luther is the one who took on the Catholic church and then initiated the reformation.

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