By Ramachandra Guha / Scroll
In the Kannada literary world, Devanura Mahadeva first made his name through short stories and a novella, Kusumabale, of striking originality and power. He has since won respect for his political integrity and his moral courage, for his refusal to succumb to the seductions of state patronage, and for his identification with the disadvantaged and the oppressed. He is a passionate advocate of inter-faith harmony, his commitment to pluralism witnessed most recently in his going to a market in Mysuru to buy halal meat when a ban on the product was sought to be imposed by thugs of a Hindutva persuasion.
In July, Mahadeva published a tract outlining his views on the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh. A week after it was printed, the website The News Minute reported: “A critical exploration of the RSS, the book has been flying off the shelves since its release, prompting the state’s rightwing ecosystem to unleash all its arms to discredit both the book and its author.” MPs of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as those who pass as “intellectuals” on that side of the political spectrum, unburdened themselves with a torrent of abuse aimed at the author. No matter; the tract sold tens of thousands of copies, being discussed and debated in the farthest corners of the state.
Happily for those of us who do not read Kannada, Mahadeva’s pamphlet is now to appear in other languages, including Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. I have recently been reading the English translation, by SR Ramakrishna, which is soon to be published as a book.
Endorsing caste inequalities
The main text begins with quotations from MS Golwalkar and VD Savarkar, the two ideologues who have shaped Hindutva as it is today. Here we find Golwalkar justifying the caste system and its in-built hierarchies, on the grounds that they have scriptural sanction, and Savarkar urging worship of the Manusmriti, notwithstanding the fact that its endorsement of caste and gender inequalities is so antithetical to the Indian Constitution. The Savarkar quote chosen by Mahadeva is especially telling:
“Manusmriti is that scripture which is most worshipable after Vedas for our Hindu Nation and which from ancient times has become the basis of our culture-customs, thought and practice. This book for centuries has codified the spiritual and divine march of our nation. Even today the rules which are followed by crores of Hindus in their lives and practice are based on Manusmriti. Today Manusmriti is Hindu Law. That is fundamental.”
Another quote from Golwalkar has the RSS ideologue calling the federal system of a union of states “poisonous”, urging instead a unitary political system based on the homogenising principle of “One Country, One State, One Legislature, One Executive’’.
Devanura Mahadeva draws our attention to the crudity of what passes for thinking in the RSS. The Sangh’s Bible, as it were, is a book of Golwalkar’s entitled Bunch of Thoughts, but, as Mahedeva writes, “If you look inside this book for anything that could be considered a ‘thought’, or ‘chintane’, you will find absolutely nothing. What it offers is only a set of random, dangerous beliefs, and that too from a bygone time.” (Having read the book several times myself, I entirely concur with this judgment). The RSS’s ideology is so narrow-minded that, as Mahadeva remarks, “forget about anyone else, no sensible Brahmin even can accept this devilish view of the past that the RSS presents”.
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