Sunday, December 13, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Our Levitating Prejudice

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 50 Dated December 19, 2009


Our Levitating Prejudice

Ilaiah's latest book intoxicates but threatens to overdose


KANCHA ILAIAH is known for books with explosive titles like Why I Am
Not a Hindu and Buffalo Nationalism, but with spiritual content. This
book, his latest, follows in the same tradition. At a time when many
intellectuals are morbidly worried about the resurgence of Hindutva,
Ilaiah boldly sees Hinduism on course of its death because of its
"failure to mediate between scientific thought and spiritual thought".
The book is a reflective account of his own journey through castes and
communities and highlights everyday clashes of caste cultures and
conflict between "the productive ethic of Dalit-Bahujan castes and the
anti-productive and anti-scientific ethic of Hindu Brahminism".

The contents page would catch the fancy of any reader with its catchy
phrases like 'intellectual goondas", "spiritual fascists", used for
Brahmins and "subaltern scientists", "meat and milk economists" for
the Dalit- Bahujans. The first thing that crossed my mind is that the
marketing wing of any publication house will be simply overjoyed with
brand 'Kancha Ilaiah,' with its potential appeal to the vast market
spanning three out of four spiritual worlds (Christian, Islam and
Buddhist, excluding Hindu), to make use of his phraseology. Indeed,
with his passionate promotion of Dalit-Bahujan and outlandish
interpretation of mundane details of life, he has created a unique
place for himself among subaltern writers.

Kancha Ilaiah
Sage Publications
316 pp; Rs 295
Reading this book gives you a feel of travelling in a Maglev train —
an illusion of running on rails but in fact levitates over a thin
layer of air. While traversing through its arguments, the book creates
an illusion of being based on truth but is distanced from it by a thin
layer of prejudice. There is an overdose of culture and spirituality
which could intoxicate readers without them realising it.

If one is not so 'spiritually' intoxicated, one suffers from mundane
doubts nibbling at his intellect: is this conjoint term
'Dalit-Bahujan' sociologically viable, given the huge load of material
contradictions between these two population groups that have been
precipitating into most heinous caste atrocities? How and why did
these worthy 'spiritual democrats' or 'spiritual revolutionaries' come
to emulate the caste hierarchy of Brahmins, the spiritual fascists,
within themselves and zealously preserve it? If the Dalit- Bahujans
were so accomplished in terms of their scientific and technological
prowess, how could they be enslaved by a handful of scheming and
spiritually degenerate Brahmins for millennia? The book succeeds in
establishing the superiority of Dalit-Bahujans, but doesn't it
essentially follow the very same Brahmanic ethos of

The value of Kancha Iliah's book lies not so much in its thesis but in
the richness of its observations not only on the castes of India, but
also on the many people and events in the world.

(Teltumbde is the author of Khairlanji: A Strange and Bitter Crop)

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 6, Issue 50 Dated December 19, 2009


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