This question may be answered both in terms of ‘yes’ or ‘no’. But what is certain is the shrinking space for ‘democratic contestations’ and ‘rational argumentations’. The reasons are conspicuous and rooted in the schematic design of Brahminical arrogance.
The ideology is no more working in disguise. It is rather undergoing through ‘coming out’ phase.
It is reflected in the flamboyant expression of the ‘Brahminical vindictiveness’ against Prof. Kancha Ilaiah, my senior colleague and an eminent social scientist.
Recently, Prof. Ilaiah, who now prefers to be called a ‘shepherd’, had to face the wrath of local Brahmin groups based in Hyderabad for calling “Brahmins as class historically remained away from productive labour.” He was earlier terrorised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and later threatened for life by the so called Brahmin saviours.
Ironically, there is an attempt to co-opt and place Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in the league of VD Savarkar, MS Golwalkar and Deen Dayal Upadhyay despite his prolonged campaign against Brahminism whereas Dr. Ilaiah is castigated for similar radical stand by the Brahminical right-wing forces.
Dr. Ambedkar is now portrayed as the ‘hero’ whereas Prof. Ilaiah is treated as ‘devil’. Is it because the subtle connection of Dr. Ambedkar with Brahminism as drawn by the right wing groups?
Is it because appropriation of Dr. Ambedkar is easy due to his criticism of Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan shrewdly projected as anti-Muslims or the affection of his Brahmin teacher Mahadev Ambedkar who lend his “Ambedkar’ surname to him or his Brahmin wife Dr. Sharada Kabir?
Or is the appropriation of Dr.Ambedkar merely to reap electoral dividends? Whatever may be the case, unlike Dr. Ambedkar, appropriation of Prof. Ilaiah for Brahminical cause is difficult as he has declared himself an outright enemy of Brahminism by writing ‘Why I am not a Hindu?’ and consistently campaigning against the fraudulent schemes of the Brahminism.
At the same time, he is neither having explicit opinion on Muslim questions nor loved by a Brahmin teacher nor having Brahmin wife to be easily manoeuvred as Hindu-cum-Brahmin icon.
Strikingly, the habits of Brahminical right-wing groups are to use ‘instigatory style’ to shape every phenomenon in narrowly frenzied terms using the hazy lenses of communal singularity to disguise their casteist bias. Prof. Ilaiah in my personal conversation rightly argued that “Brahminical class lack inclusive democratic tools to address the challenges posed directly to them.”
He also pointed out that “the frozen rigidity of Brahminism is not only to put the possibility of egalitarian India in perpetual cold storage but to reap electoral dividends to their clientele party and thus perpetuate Brahminical power.”
However, the story has an additional problematic dimension. It is reflected in the rising aggressiveness of the right-wing organisations like ABVP, Bajrang Dal, VHP, Sri Ram Sena, Hindu Mahasabha and so on. These radical wings of Brahminical design are allowed to commit senseless violence against the “imagined other” with a great sense of impunity.
In fact, they act like ‘super sovereigns’ and treat every other as their ‘subjects’. It was visible in the selective outrage of these groups in New Delhi’s Patiala House Court, in Rohit Vemula’s case, Dadri incidents and more recently in the case of Prof. Ilaiah.
Straightforwardly, the so called “sovereign citizens” are intoxicated with the rightist lies and are trained to believe that “you cannot make an omelette without breaking a few eggs”. What horrifies our rational sensibility is to see the perpetrators committing violence not for their individual reasons but for religious, cultural, moral or national cause. This single minded obduracy is setting a wrong trend in India and need to be seriously challenged.
As a natural consequence, India is experiencing an efflorescence of symbolic or physical violence against those who do not uncritically idolize the right-wing monolith-cum Brahminical thinking. Individuals having diverse and dissenting opinion are now the special objects of opprobrium and disproportionate hostility.
As it appears that the possibility of dialogue between diverse culture, faith, opinion and people are postponed for perpetuity. Is it not a resolute war of Brahminical mindset against the diversity and secularity of India?
There is nothing left to explore what is hidden beneath the surface when Dr. Ambedkar is tactically co-opted and Prof. Ilaiah is subjected to Brahmanical bashing. It is just to advance the cause of radical purity of an imagined Brahminic Rashtra along with active and substantive support from its ideological affiliates with following prolonged strategy.
First, easy and irrational generalisations are made about the credibility of the existing pool of free thinking individuals and institutions to create a climate of opinion against them.
Second, an image of the existing pool of so called intellectual resources is carefully carved out in terms of “they” as a threat to not only India but illusionary Hindu civilisation and circulated in the society through best possible means like print and electronic media, social networking sites, ghost writings, academic portals, meetings, myths, rumours and gossips.
Third, pools of right-wing intellectual resources are created as a replacement of the “old” who are trained in rightist ideology and can converse in rightist idiom, metaphor, clichés and platitude.
To actualise their master strategies, the “free thinking” intellectuals are given a stark choice by the right-wing groups: convert, leave or die.
There are good numbers of scholars, activists and writers who were earlier known for their impartial, fair and unprejudiced stand exercised their choice of conversion by accepting the sovereignty of the monolith thinking and thus co-opted by the right-wing establishment.
However, the conversion of these scholars may be because of the fear (ie. humiliation by the “super sovereign citizens” and marginalisation by the present regime), fervour (ie. sharing the so called vision of Sabka Sath Sab Ka Vikas or Hindu/Brahmin Rashtra) or favour (i.e. gaining positions of importance from the present regime.
On the other hand, a host of inconvertible intellectuals have been identified by the Brahminic right-wing groups against whom a highly intense anger was shown in public domain. They are subjected to Brahminic bashing for their alternate perception on confrontational realities expressed in their writings which question the growing intolerance of right-wing against “free thinking”.
The case of Prof. Ilaiah is no different as he has now become the object of malicious generalisations, character assassinations, bullying and abuse, threat and violence both in physical and cyber space at the hand of Brahminic groups. However, these tactics are not new but the part of old pattern.
As we have seen, lot many “free thinking” intellectuals in the past have became neutral observers or adopted seclusion due to the law of unintended consequence.
The most unworthy of all this is the strategy which aims to engineer a high magnitude of customised violent reactions with the help of the so called “super sovereigns.” The main object is to keep “the threat” alive before the eyes of free thinking intellectuals.
The paradigmatic examples of extermination and criminal intimidation include the cold blooded murder of M.M. Kalburgi, Satyampete, Govind Pansare, Narendra Achyut Dabholkar and most recently Rohit Vemula.
Undoubtedly, our confidence on governmental sensibility certainly got staggered when the so called “super sovereign citizens” express vengeance against philosophy by killing the philosopher and the ruling elites of the country remain silent.
This sinking space for dissenting opinions is turning everyone unaccountable including government, media and people. We need to accept that the world is changing and so is India. Monolith Brahminical thinking is neither solution nor a possibility. Indian society is too diverse to be governed solely by Brahminical thinking. This ruling elites must realise that the tactical deployment of exclusive nationalist-cum communal idioms are transitory and ephemeral and lack potential to permanently trap people into that vicious mode of Brahminical thinking. There is a compelling need to foster democratic values and sense of belonging. Let the ruling elites learn to live with India’s natural diversity.
Afroz Alam is an Associate Professor & Head of the Department of Political Science, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad