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By Rajendra Chenni / News Click

Devanuru Mahadeva is amongst the most well-known and highly-regarded literary voices in Karnataka. He is also an outspoken critic of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and recently wrote and published RSS: Aala Mattu Agala—RSS: It’s Depth and Width. The book, which retraces the footsteps of the countrywide expansion of the RSS, instantly sold thousands of copies and quickly became available in translations, also flying off the shelves. The success of Aala Mattu Agala reveals the extent of anger and dissatisfaction in Karnataka and beyond over the expanding footprint of the RSS and its political offshoot, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Rajendra Chenni recently spoke with Mahadeva about why he wrote the book, its unusual publication style, and what worries him most about the RSS and BJP’s growing hegemony and control over institutions and politics. He says citizens must be able to identify the root causes of the “destructive chaos caused by fringe groups of the RSS”.

Rajendra Chenni (RC): Criticism of right-wing ideas are not new to your writings or works. Many of the articles in your work Edege Bidda Akshara offer harsh criticism of such ideas. However, in this work, you have attempted to capture the soul of the RSS. What motivated you to write this book?     

Devanuru Mahadeva (DM): I do not usually use the terms ‘left-wing’ and ‘right-wing’. Once, at a meeting, the details of which I do not remember, someone called me a ‘leftist’. I told the gathering that in the time of the French empire, people who wanted change seated themselves towards the left of the emperor and those who did not, sat towards his right. I then asked the person who made the comment, “So, are you a leftist or a rightist?” and he said, “I am a leftist.” Today, these words are not alive. So, for the sake of simplicity, I use the words ‘forward’ and ‘backward’ instead.

My attempt to capture the soul of the RSS was motivated by a variety of reasons—the instigation of the RSS, the shenanigans by the BJP government, and the destructive chaos caused by the fringe groups of the RSS. A few incidents had been bothering me for quite a while. I had written briefly about reservation for the EWS. I had also prepared some notes on the Karnataka Protection of Right to Freedom of Religion Bill, 2021 which, in reality, prohibits religious conversion.

At a time of such deep turmoil, the textbook controversy broke out. The government caused a lot of trouble in this matter. When I objected to the inclusion of Hegdewar’s text in the curriculum, the honourable education minister B.C. Nagesh disregarded it. He did not, even for a moment, consider my objections. My intention was to ask how Hegdewar would be introduced to the students. I wanted to discuss if it would be appropriate for the education of children to introduce Hegdewar as the founder of the RSS, which was based on the Chaturvarna stratification of the Hindu religion. I stated that such saffronisation of the curriculum was an ongoing programne of the NDA government since the time of Murli Manohar Joshi who was then the MHRD minister. The honourable education minister B.C. Nagesh responded to this statement by saying, “Devanoora Mahadeva is correct. The Vajpayee government had many notable achievements to its credit. There were good roads developed.”

Now, how do I respond to such a statement? During this entire incident, the BJP leaders and pro-RSS intellectuals were all up in arms. There were others who were making scurrilous statements. When the Sanehalli pontiff wrote to the chief minister about the distorted portrayal of Basavanna in the texts, the chief minister replied saying, “Yes, there have been some minor errors. They will be rectified.” Basavanna’s portrait is present, but its soul has been carved out and removed. If they can term such a distortion a minor error, what can be said about such a matter? This caused deep turmoil in me. To come out of this turmoil, I spent a month reading more about the issue to be able to get to the root of it. I struggled for another two weeks to write about it. It took me more than a month to edit it to make it clear and simple.

This story was originally published in newsclick.in . Read the full story here