Saturday, March 13, 2010

[ZESTCaste] His Canon Spiked


His Canon Spiked

Kancha Ilaiah's Homeric rage and his idea of a grand armada that would
sink Hinduism holds little water
Ajoy Bose
Post-Hindu India: A Discourse On Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual And
Scientific Revolution

By By Kancha Ilaiah
Sage | 340 pages | Rs 295

Kancha Ilaiah's Post-Hindu India should be essential reading for all
who get panicky about Mayawati's brand of Dalit politics. Unlike the
bsp supremo's bid to empower marginalised groups through the levers of
electoral democracy by wooing a wider 'sarvajan samaj', Ilaiah wants
to launch an all-out civil war between Dalit Bahujans and Hindu
society. This is an angry, provocative book written by a leading Dalit
thinker, who is convinced that Hinduism is the root of all evil in the
country. Indeed, virtually every sentence here drips with venom
against Hindu society, underlining why we need Mayawati's social
engineering skills to succeed.

Despite the outrageous nature of Ilaiah's onslaught on Hinduism, it
would be unfair and inaccurate to describe him as just a poseur. He is
no armchair scholar but a self-made 'organic' intellectual who grew up
in an impoverished shepherd Kuruma Golla (not Dalit, but poor backward
caste) family in the forests of Andhra Pradesh. His mother, who cast a
seminal influence on his thinking, was a fierce fighter for his
community and was actually killed while battling forest guards. So
there is a ring of genuine commitment and passion in whatever Ilaiah
says, however confrontational it may be.

There is also much to learn from the author, a political science
professor at Osmania University, Hyderabad, as he painstakingly
unravels the scientific talent and social skills of various tribal,
Dalit and backward caste communities, albeit mainly from Andhra.
Ilaiah is right that much of these customs and practices have remained
little known, because established social anthropology and history have
sought to highlight only the life and times of dominant caste groups.
The other refreshing, rather curious dimension of the book—considering
the author is a man—is its vigorous espousal of women's rights even as
Hinduism is criticised for keeping down the feminine gender along with
other underclasses.

Unfortunately, despite these thought-provoking insights, the book
loses much of its credibility because of the author's obsessive zeal
to deprecate Hinduism. This lack of balance is evident from Ilaiah's
attempt to tarnish the Hindu faith as "spiritual Fascism" as opposed
to "spiritual democracies" like Islam, Christianity and Buddhism. Even
if one was to concede that unlike Hinduism, the others are unburdened
by a codified caste hierarchy, to glorify them as all-embracing
democratic religions is way over the top, particularly in the case of
Islam and Christianity. He seems to conveniently forget the many
iniquities of the two faiths as they have been practised over the
centuries, and that even if they did not have an internalised caste
system, they were no less guilty than Hinduism in ill-treating or
ostracising others, both within and outside the community.

Ilaiah describes Hinduism as "spiritual fascism", as opposed to the
"spiritual democracies" of Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.

Nor does Ilaiah's utopian dream of a spiritual democracy propelled by
any united push from Dalits, backward castes and tribals have any
basis in the real world. We have seen how, in the only state where
Dalits have managed to achieve political empowerment, their main
opponent has not been the Brahmins or other upper castes but the
Yadavs, a community which the author places firmly in the bahujan
social segment. Indeed, this fierce hostility between the Dalits and
one of Ilaiah's chosen bahujan communities is the result of the
standoff between the former, who are landless, and the latter, who are
their landlord oppressors, which renders fallacious the author's
logic. Similarly, Muslims, another social segment in Ilaiah's proposed
coalition, are not unanimous in their approach to Dalits or tribals.
In fact, there are many Muslims, particularly in the upper crust, who
would much rather have a Brahmin-Hindu leadership. Even tribals and
Dalits are not always on the same side, as seen tragically in the
Kandhamal carnage when tribals massacred Dalit Christians.

Clearly, Ilaiah's prediction about the demise of Hinduism based on the
future formation of a giant anti-Hindu congregation is far-fetched.
Interestingly, the author, otherwise publicly supportive of Mayawati
and her politics, is silent in the book on her social engineering
experiments in Uttar Pradesh and the remarkable success she has had in
manoeuvring Brahmin-dominated political parties and communities to
empower Dalits.


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