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Review: A Book That Fights Gracefully The Brahminic Hegemony

Posted on January 13, 2016 in Books

By Kanika Sori

hatred in the belly ambedkarThe recently launched book titled ‘Hatred In The Belly’ by The Shared Mirror Publication is currently the #1 bestseller in Politics on Amazon. Yet, there has been an unusual silence around its narrative in mainstream media irrespective of their political leanings, which is unprecedented for a political book, especially when all political sides are running to embrace Dr. Ambedkar. The scenario reminds one of Ms. Arundhati Roy’s famous preaching, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.”

Ironically, the audience allowed to Ms. Roy to talk about Dalit-Bahujans, has been denied to the Dalit-Bahujan authors collectively referred to as the ‘Ambedkar Age Collective’ in the book. These authors range from students to activists to lawyers to researchers to teachers to office workers to scientists to poets and writers who talk from their social positions, lived experiences and academic qualifications. They come from the length and breadth of India: from Delhi to Kerala, Rajasthan to Manipur, and from across the Diaspora, from London to the Bay area.

‘Hatred In The Belly’ is a collective show of resistance against systemic Brahminic hegemony at large and an attempt to reverse the socializing of prejudice, discrimination, racism and power hunger of a caste society. It was triggered by Navayana’s appropriation of Dr. Ambedkar’s revolutionary text ‘Annihilation of Caste’ which by the way is available for free online and for 45 bucks in print in its original form vis-à-vis Arundhati Roy’s recent annotated version that costs a whopping 525 INR! (A fine capitalist feat for an anti-caste “revolutionary”!) This book covers a wide range of such hegemonic endeavors to erase, suppress, derogate or plain steal many epistemic anti-caste tools of resistance over the ages. It is as much about RSS’ attempts to Hindu-ise Ambedkar as it is about Roy-Navayana project, or the Indian Left’s silent caste genocide laboratory in Naxalism-hit areas, and much more. This is a delightful collection of speeches, interviews, articles, posts on Social Media, poetry, cartoons and drawings with tastefully placed citations from the real ‘Annihilation of Caste’.

Dr. Ambedkar had extensively written about instances of interpolations, forgery, appropriation etc. in ancient India in his seminal work- Revolutions and Counter-Revolutions in Ancient India- of Buddhist literature and Shramanic literature. The Brahminical tradition of appropriation continued with Buddha becoming a prince from a mere citizen of the republic of the Shakyas and the anti-caste philosophical movement of Buddhism being morphed into a religious movement. Similar is the case of Lokayukta or Charvaka school of thought founded by a defiant atheist around 600 BC but now proudly claimed by Hinduism that also claims to house everything else that Vrihaspati, the founder, seems to have spoken against.

Yet another victim is Kabir, the famous poet-saint of 15th Century born to lower caste parents Niru and Nima, who is mythicized into an illicit son of a Brahmin over time to bring his teachings into an all-encompassing collective fold, after some sanitization of course. Even the Keertan tradition of Kabir’s anti-Brahmin revolutionary Bhakti movement has been subsumed into the normative discourse of Brahminical Hinduism as toothless devotional hymns after cleansing it of its essential social message. The cultural appropriation also extends to art forms like Bharat Natyam which was earlier known as Sadir or Dasiattam performed exclusively by “lower caste” Devadasis till it was revived (and purified) by Brahmins like Rukmini Devi Arundale and others in the last century to “gain acceptability” amongst their mainstream cultural discourse.

So the authors see the latest appropriation of ‘Annihilation of Caste’, the most important anti-caste literature of the age, with Roy’s “Messianic” introduction (which they systematically prove to be casual and even out of context in the book) not as an isolated event, but from a historical point of view. The book is essentially a show of resistance against yet another step in the direction of consolidating Brahminical stranglehold on all ideological apparatuses, especially in the cultural and academic field. The book reaffirms poignantly what Babasaheb said in his discussion with Gandhi in 1931: “History tells that mahatmas, like fleeting phantoms, raise dust but raise no level.”

The Dalit-Bahujans clearly do not want a new age Gandhi in the form of Arundhati Roy to undo the small but significant gains made by relentless struggle since independence.

‘Hatred In The Belly’ invokes the ethics of representation and fights gracefully the abusive slurs thrown at Dalit intellectuals and academics for exercising their freedom of speech by questioning this appropriation with stereotypes, denial of space in primetime news discussions and outright equation with Hindutvawadis by the privileged “upper caste” factions of society. It also rejects the reactionary ideation of reverse casteism, much like the reactionary reverse racism claimed by the Whites in the West. The marginalized majority of India puts its foot firmly down with this book and reclaims their spaces in the knowledge production system of the country which has excluded them for millennia.

The text has a message at its core that finds reflection in the following quote of Runoko Rashidi, “Do not allow those that have historically oppressed and continue to oppress you today to define your history, reality and interests for you. To say this is not rocket science. Nor is it racist. It is just common sense.”

Altogether, a fresh read to understand the current dynamics of Indian politics, and the strongly emerging Ambedkarite ideology, its significance in our times and its potential to transform India in the 21st century with its timeless values.