Sunday, December 20, 2009

[ZESTCaste] Rewriting history

Rewriting history
Harish S Wankhede
Posted online: Dec 20, 2009 at 1957 hrs

The contemporary political period is a terrain of democratic
contestation as history is reviewed by multiple claims, intentions and
ideological persuasions. Socio-historical narratives are seen as a
necessary capital which is utilised by the intellectual junta to
develop a concrete consciousness about the past in order to claim
their legitimate space in the present. The Dalit-Bahujans are the new
entrants in this knowledge system with a poised motive to debrahmanise
history in a radical way by applying epistemological tools derived
from their social experiential past. Kancha Ilaiah, one of the
important contributors within this discourse, in his recent work,
locates the difference between the dominant brahmanical values and the
emerging consciousness among the Dalit-Bahujans on the basis of
certain ethical concerns. His latest work, Post-Hindu India is a
journey to explore the nature of social communities in Andhra Pradesh,
which periodically provides a generalised picture of India's
contesting social realities.

The core premise of his argument is based on the formation of a
communitarian robust selfhood of the depressed castes in comparison
with the obsessive individualism of the Brahmanic self. He uses rich
empirical evidences to argue that some tribals have devoted their
lives to enhance human capabilities in several ways. They adhere to
scientific temperament and their social milieu is highly egalitarian
with little offshoots of patriarchal domination. These passionate
judgments prove the parasitic nature of Brahmin castes in particular
and upper castes in general. He argues that the exclusivity of
brahmanic nature has created caste as the divisive force and
consciously condemned the productive labour forces as impure, degraded
and inhumane beings to perpetuate their control over the society. The
usage of new metaphors such as spiritual fascists to demonstrate the
social psyche of Brahminism is innovative.

The Dalit-Bahujan perspective judges the popular interpretations of
India's past as another attempt to camouflage the realities of social
relationships. The author argues that the projected Hindu spiritual
universe is crudely fascistic and crafted under the leadership of
brahmanical elite to avoid dialogue over religious superstitions,
patriarchy, and caste exploitation. He tries to build a collective
Dalit-Bahujan perspective on Indian culture which attacks the
operative dominant elements within society and engages in the
discourse of reinventing alternative non-Hindu perspectives of culture
and tradition. He assumes that it helped them (especially the OBCs) in
strengthening their autonomous identity, acquiring self confidence and
in carving out a new growth path. It also presents a possible roadmap
on what would be the driving force to constitute a future Indian
society in a democratic and egalitarian fashion. In this process the
author lays the foundation for a transformation of the caste-cultural
consciousness among the Dalit-Bahujans, with the aim to wage a final
revolutionary battle to annihilate the dominant social psychology of
brahmanical system.

The book is a passionate attempt to quench the thirst of the activists
who hope for a social revolution. It is a commendable work that
utilises wide anthropological resources to bring forth a variety of
productive tools, customs and food habits of the Dalit Bahujan
communities. Excluding some factual errors eg Manipur is a Christian
majority state (page xx) and South Korea is a socialist country (page
xvii) and using degraded terms like chandala to notify Dalits (page
237) the book sincerely problematises the notion of Hinduism in a
provocative way. It has the capacity to generate a debate over this
very notion.

The writer teaches at Delhi University


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