Book Review: ‘Hatred In The Belly’ Holds A Clean Mirror To The Present-Day ‘Ugly Bharat’

Posted on January 12, 2016 in Books

By Sahil Sood

hatred in the bellyHatred is not a self-perpetuating mechanism. It’s a seed planted, with calculated deliberation and thought, in the evolving quarters of education, labour, economy, society, and politics, and nourished with sunshine and water of the hands and minds of those who intend to spread its poisoned abundance, with an aim to establish a hegemony by the few, over the riches of others. The vectors that aid in pollination carry it in blind faith, or sometimes under the burden to maintain the stronghold established by their predecessors. Thus, hatred is constantly taught, fed, and perpetuated.

When asked what the book ‘Hatred In The Belly’ is about, I’m often confused what to reply. To say that it is a scathing critique of the Arundhati Roy-Navayana project to publish Babasaheb Ambedkar’s founding text on caste-based practices in India, ‘Annihilation Of Caste’, with a weightier, self-aggrandizing introduction that seeks to delegitimize Ambedkar’s philosophy, would be taking a reductionist stance. The book is not a mere critique, for neither the word ‘scathing’ nor ‘critique’ intensify the sense of disquiet and urgency behind every word of the text.

‘Hatred In The Belly’ is a dossier on caste politics in India; a treatise on how the casteist thought is embedded and kept alive in our collective psyche. Keeping in view the criticism of the Roy-Navayana project — in response to which the collection emerged – it offers a variety of perspectives on how, wittingly or unwittingly, the Brahminic society — the class at the highest rung of caste hierarchy in India — does grave injustice to the Dalits — a community considered to be at the lowest rung of caste hierarchy in India, and how the age-old Brahminic hegemony is preserved and perpetuated through the established knowledge systems.

I was struck by the variety and breadth of thought process. The essays help one sharpen his/her intellect while offering curious insights on the topic in discussion. The writing is astute and succinct, accompanied by passages from ‘Annihilation Of Caste’, and a series of short poems and caricatures. Sample how K. K. Baburaj, a notable cultural critic and political commentator based in Kerala, challenges Roy’s romantic affiliation towards Maoism in light of people’s movements and class struggles in India:

The critical difference here is that the theme of the politics of the marginalized is ‘survival’, while a Marxist agenda is determined by ‘class struggle’. “[…] In short, a political and military revolution that is arrived at by drawing a straight line from Marxism will not consider marginalized sections or other religio-socio diversities, or sexual minorities, as political agents. […] To be beyond the state, to detest urbanism, to urbanism, to understand class domination a historically, to fail to recognize emerging social subjectivities, and above all, to have no trust in democracy” —are not these merely the natural convictions arising from her belief in a simplistic modernism?

One pertinent question remains to be addressed, though: ‘Who are these people?’ A casual glance at the back pages will reveal a list of writers, academics, students, and activists who refer to themselves as ‘Ambedkar Age Collective’. To call them ‘romantics’ would be a misnomer in terms of terminology, as they don’t strive for a poet’s utopia; their discourses aren’t ‘polemics’; their protests are not ‘mob outrage’; they’re all those who have—and still do—unstintingly, vehemently struggled to bring out the truth buried under the irrational prejudices and indoctrinated teachings that have led to the condensed hostility of the Brahminic India towards the Dalits, and in the process hold a clean mirror to the present-day ugly Bharat (India). They attempt to rid our minds of the carefully planted and nurtured ‘seed of hatred’, whose vegetation has been infesting for generations. Thus, ‘Hatred In The Belly’ is a necessary, sanitizing experience of our times.