Shri Kancha Ilaiah via the ToI and Churumuri

Let me start by quoting from the blurb before the actual interview –

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:

It would be interesting to  know why Shri Ilaiah’s “liberties with historical validity” are not such a problem for a major newspaper and a popular blog that advertises this ideologue. I’m not propagating censorship, but querying if there have been or are any efforts to question the liberties Shri Ilaiah takes. As one will shortly see wrt this interview and linked blog post at least; there are no such efforts by the liberal media/authors to get at the truth.

Please see the rest of this interview with my notes alongside:

– Namaste

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.

– Presumably, the “Varnas” that Shri Ilaiah excludes as being opposed to the “Bahujan” i.e. Dalits, tribals and the backward classes, are the Brahmana, Vyshya and the Kshatriya. Per him the Bahujan is at “war” against these three Varnas. Further, he says Hinduism has failed to convince the Bahujan that they are part of the mainstream. At the same time this ideologue admits that the Bahujan have been “the carriers of all science and technology for centuries”. Incredibly, he also asserts Hinduism has failed to negotiate with reason and science; whatever that means.

Now, assuming for a minute that Shri Ilaiah’s conceptualizing Caste as also Varna is correct (which I disagree with here), and Vyshyas being traders who were also allegedly non-productive – who would this Varna have interacted with to engage their trade and trading partners? They need products to trade with? If yes and they (the Vyshyas) never produced anything along with the other lazy (by Shri Ilaiah’s implication) Kshatriyas and Brahmanas, then should it not fall to reason that the Vyshyas depended on the Bahujan for their wares? If this latter is true, then how can we say Hinduism did not accept the Bahujan and engage reason and science? The Vyshyas after all can only sell what is in demand. Innovation certainly was.

Can Shri Ilaiah enlighten us here?

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.

– There can be no innovation under duress and by miserable states of mind. So if the non-Bahujan Varnas were indeed taking away the Bahujan’s produce, production would have fallen sharply due to lack of capital to purchase resources. Yet Shri Ilaiah waxes justifiable pride in Bahujan innovations. This is a paradox surely.

Shri Ilaiah says the Bahujan were humiliated. How? Marriage outside of Caste was prohibited (But this is true of all castes and tribes), thus obstructing free interchange of knowledge (then how is Shri Ilaiah speaking of great innovations? Where did they come from?), it was said that God doesn’t approve of working with hands (how then did the Brahmana conduct the yagnya (involving mud, brick, flora, fauna and fire), how did the Kshatriya train to defend and kill? How did the Vyshya trade in the leather and the soap that the Bahujan produce?)

Shri Ilaiah also says science and technology stagnated. Would he like to place a timeline on all such stagnation? Would he like to admit that such stagnation occurred with the advent of popular mass Buddhism on the scene? With the advent of Muslim invaders who burnt entire libraries and killed students studying in universities, along with Buddhist monks in their monasteries?

Because if Buddhism did inspire science and technology and the Brahmana “killed” it and therefore killed science and technology; would Shri Ilaiah agree that Hinduism changed post Buddhism? After all the Brahmana ate beef before the Buddha’s message took hold of empires. (Please read the entire debate here)

How does Shri Ilaiah account for such contradictions in his “history”?

Be that as it may, it would be very interesting to see Shri Ilaiah’s reactions to Buddhism induced untouchability in Japan and Korea.

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.

– I would challenge Shri Ilaiah to carry out his threat. We know about the various “movements” for recognition of the Dalit Christian and the Dalit Muslim. So much for equality in Christianity and Islam. We know about the separate Church pews and the inter-caste strife within Islam.

So, Shri Ilaiah is a very interesting person who calls himself a OBC and also a Buddhist. I thought his Buddhism offered “complete equality”? 

The more important point is that Shri Ilaiah’s voice is not shared by the vast mass of the Bahujan (he means the Shudra Varna and former untouchables/outcastes). He is scared to admit it himself and hopes his opponents don’t find out for themselves. He dwells in the atmosphere of an immense sense of guilt that liberal Hindus carry – that also closes their minds to his “liberties with historical validity”.

The “editing” of sacred texts has been taking place within the Hindus tradition for the last couple thousand years and more at least. They are called “interpretations and re-interpretations”. The Buddha himself is one such noble example but not unique.

Such “editing” has occurred within Christianity only in the last few hundred years. Not at all in Islam.


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