Will Kancha’s “post-Hindu India” ever emerge?

By Madhu Chandra

This article reflects on Prof. Kancha Ilaiah’s Post-Hindu India published by Sage Publications, New Delhi, in 2009 with specific reference to caste civil war which, he predicts, will bring an end to casteism. Kancha has campaigned Dalit-Bahujans rights globally. First, will Kancha’s Post-Hindu India really be possible? If yes, then how?  Second, Kancha believes Hinduism is a dying religion and will die in India as it has in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia. Brahmins and Hindutva fascists accuse Islam and Christianity as major causes of Hinduism’s death. He refers to Nepal, which is taken over by Maoists, as a rejection of Hinduism from the Himalayan kingdom. In India, Hinduism is losing ground in the North East states - Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya and partially Manipur. In the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, a huge number of Dalits have left Hinduism and embraced casteless religions in recent years.

Third, Hindutva fascists, fanatics and militants hold responsibility for the downfall of Hinduism. Anti-democratic and anti-secular nature of these forces has damaged the image of Hinduism. The upper castes attacks on Dalits and Shudras in the name of castes is one of the gravest violations of human rights. Attacks on Muslim and Christian minorities are onslaught on Indian secularism. The Kandhmal episode has proven this. It was ethnic cleansing of tribal and Dalit converts to Christianity. The attacks were more agaisnt their socio-economic and educational rise which improved substantially after deserting Hinduism. Hindutva forces specifically targeted them in order to uproot the economic, educational development ensured by Christian missions. They want the Dalits and tribals to remain backward as has been their lot for centuries.

Eruption of Civil War – end of Casteism: Kancha’s last chapter deals with civil war. In his view, this is the final end for Dalit-Bahujan communities in response to his preceding chapters - Unpaid Teachers, Subaltern Scientists, Productive Soldiers, Subaltern Feminists, Social Doctors, Meat and Milk Economists, Unknown Engineers, Food Producers, Social Smugglers, Spiritual Fascists and Intellectual Goondas. Kancha predicts that the civil war will turn into physical violence between upper caste minorities and the majority communities of Dalit Bahujans.

The predicted civil war implies a violent conflict across the country fought by organized groups that aim to take power at the centre or in a region, or to change government policies. In America, Abraham Lincoln accepted Civil War as the only means to save the Union. The prediction of Kancha is a civil war which will bring about equality of Indian society by dismantling the caste hierarchical society which will result in end to casteism. Reading the signposts around India, the symptoms of civil war are found in recent past and are likely to erupt in the future.

What kind of civil war is Kancha predicting? It is a civil war of ideology in quest of equality among all sections of society against Brahmins and upper castes. It is also a civil war of spirituality between spiritual democracy which Dalit-Shudras have been longing for against spiritual fascism in search of spiritual equality, irrespective of caste, creed, religion, race and colour. It is also a civil war of nerves and physical violence, which must be avoided.

Symptoms of Civil War: The physical civil war has been attempted by upper castes time and again, particularly when any affirmative initiatives are taken by either Union Government of India or state governments. The implementation of Mandal commission during Prime Minister VP Singh tenure in 1990 and the UPA Government’s OBC reservation in higher technical institutions in 2006 have witnessed a civil war-like violence by upper castes against Dalit communities. Shudras and Dalits refrained from any physical form of civil war until today, yet no one should underestimate the volcanic anger boiling underneath as reaction against the caste oppression. Kancha recognises Gujarat 2002 carnage, Kandhmal 2007-2008 and red corridors of Maoists uprising in tribal regions of India as symptoms of civil war between upper castes and Dalits. The momentum of the anti-reservation movement in 2006 shows the same arrogance demonstrated by upper castes as in 1990.

The highest form of civil war is the war of nerves, which will lead to the war of weapons causing massive casualties, damage and destruction. A spiritual civil war will erupt before the eruption of physical violence. The spiritual civil war will erupt between the spiritual democracy and spiritual fascism. To fight the spiritual fascism and get rid of caste oppression in search of spiritual equality, a spiritual civil war in the form of spiritual migration from one religion to other will erupt. Indeed, this migration began with Ambedkar when he renounced Hinduism and embraced Neo-Buddhism in 1956 along with half million Dalits at Nagpur. Ever since, this migration continues. This spiritual migration will leave Hinduism as a micro minority and it will suffer the most if it continues to hold on its caste practices. The Brahmins and upper caste forces will retaliate against this spiritual migration through the might of political and legislation by attempting to establish anti-conversion bills which are already law in eight states of India. Kancha believes that spiritual liberation is much harder than the physical liberation but it will eradicate casteism permanently.

What causes Civil War and who is Responsible?: The oppressive nature of Brahminism is forcing the exploited to challenge and rise against the very religious system that has been keeping them under bondage for centuries. Hinduism teaches untouchability, inequality and designates caste-based jobs to oppressed sections. Doctrines of creation taught by the Law of Manu in which Brahmins are created by God from the head to dominate all human beings and to control all temple economics, Kshatriyas from the shoulders to rule and control the tax economy under the instruction of Brahmins, Vaishyas from the thigh to control market economies under the supervision of Brahmins and Kshatriyas, and Shudras the lowest caste created from the feet to suffer oppression and serve the caste hierarchy. Dalits who represent one fourth of Indian population are taught in the Law of Manu that they are not created by God, meaning they are outcastes or casteless, considered less than human beings and that they pollute communities. The Law of Manu sanctioned highest form of human rights violence to Sudra and Dalits; thus Manu’s doctrine of creation is the sole cause of the civil war. Unwillingness of the policy makers to provide and implement affirmative actions along with the anti-reservation movements will cause civil war.

Anti reservation propaganda in AIIMS during Mandal Commission 1990 and OBC reservation 2006 provoked this civil war. The current campaign against reservation in JNU today is a symptom of this war between upper and lower castes.

This civil war could be averted if Brahmins and upper castes are willing to do away the casteism. But this solution is next to impossible because Hinduism cannot survive without casteism and vice versa. Affirmative actions and programmes for Dalits and Shudras both in educational and employment arenas could help avoid or at least delay this civil war.

The writer is a research scholar and social activist based in Delhi

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-30 June 2011 on page no. 2

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