|'All spiritual texts will have to be re-edited'
Kancha Ilaiah, professor of political science at Osmania University, is known for his outspoken views on the caste system in India. In his first
and most famous book, Why I Am Not A Hindu, he dissected the Hindu social system in an earthy style, though often taking liberties with historical validity. In Delhi recently for the release of his latest work, Post-Hindu India, he spoke to Subodh Varma:
What do you mean by post-Hindu India?
Hinduism is in a state of crisis, facing a kind of civil war within. The primary reason for this is the stranglehold of the varnashram system which keeps 750 million Hindus subjugated and humiliated. These are the Dalits, tribals and the backward classes. Hinduism has failed to convince them that they are part of it, despite the fact that they were the carriers of all science and technology for centuries. Hinduism is the only religion that has failed to negotiate and engage with reason and science. No social reformer, except Phule and Ambedkar, challenged the caste system. Other religions are now competing to win over these people hence there is an imminent explosive crisis.
How did Hinduism suppress science and reason?
The technologies for human survival from agriculture to leather tanning to metal-work were all developed by the labouring sections, that is, the Dalits, tribals and backward classes. The upper castes simply took away the fruits of their labour and invention. The tanners developed the art of leather tanning. The best technology of washing through use of soaps found in soils was discovered in India. The barbers, who wielded the razor, developed the science of surgical treatment of ulcers and boils, and so on. But they were all treated as outcastes. Instead of according them honour and upgrading their sciences they were humiliated. Marriage out of one's caste was prohibited, thus obstructing the free interchange of knowledge, as happened in other religions. It was said that God doesn't approve of working with hands; it is impure. In this way science and technology stagnated and its practitioners got subdued.
You claim there is a war in progress.
You may not see it on the surface now, but in the hearts of the oppressed castes there is anger and hatred. Today it is a war of nerves. Tomorrow it may erupt as a war of positions. There are only two options: either complete equality is granted to the Dalit-bahujan communities or they embrace other religions like Buddhism, Christianity or Islam. Granting equality would mean embracing Dalits and all lower castes and tribals, eating with them, treating them as equals, and an end to the allegation that they are merit-deficient. All spiritual texts will have to be re-edited. It is difficult to see this happening. The other competing religions offer spiritual democracy, as opposed to the spiritual fascism of Hinduism. This competition is the war.
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