'Brahmins do not have the right to call themselves Indians!'

(This interview was published in January, 2001, in Rediff.com)

brahmins_ilaiah_copyDr Kancha Ilaiah, associate professor of political science at Hyderabad's Osmania University, is known for his fierce attacks on Hindu religious and political leaders.

In 1996, his first book Why I am not a Hindu was accused of inflaming communal passions. Last month, he published another controversial tract, God as a Political Philosopher: Buddha's Challenge to Brahminism.

Dr Ilaiah, 48, says his tirade against Hinduism stems from the inhuman and humiliating caste-ridden conditions in which he was born and brought up. Born in a backward caste family in Andhra Pradesh's Warangal district, he was lucky to get a university education because of the reservation system.

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A black stone among white marbles

Kancha Ilaiah

kancha_ilaiah_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copy_copyI am among the millions who live a life without a birthday. October 5, 1952 is what my school recorded as my birthday; beyond this, I am as yet unclear of it all. As I retire this month from Osmania University, where I studied, researched and taught over a period of 38 years, it may be of some value to now tell the story of Osmania and of mine.

Osmania is an old village-like university established by Osman Ali Khan in 1918. He did that at a time when millions of Telanganites didn't know who their ruler was and what a university would be. The first and deepest impression of the imposing Arts College building that was built with marble brought here from abroad is still fresh in my memory. I first saw it, and also the imposing portrait of Osman Ali Khan in the library building, as I came to take the entrance test for MA. It was in 1974.

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Ambedkar and the Left

Gail Omvedt

(From her blog 'seeking begumpura')

An article by Anand Telbumbde, "Not Red versus Blue" has been recently arousing controversy. Dalits have attacked it. In attempting to "mediate" between Ambedkarites and Leftists, Teltumbe according to many has fallen into the trap of turning Ambedkar into a semi-Marxist.

In fact, Teltumbe does distort Ambedkar in a subtle way. He writes, ""Ambedkar practiced class politics, albeit not in the Marxian sense. He always used 'class' even for describing the untouchables." The one example Teltumbe gives is to Ambedkar's essay on caste, which was written in 1916 for a seminar. In this essay, "Castes in India: Their Genesis, Mechanism and Development", Ambedkar begins by describing a caste as an "enclosed class." However, this is a beginning point, not a conclusion, and it is far from absorbing castes into a Marxian notion of class. Ambedkar's elaboration of the mechanisms and development of caste make it clear that caste is a very different category from the openness of class as determined by division of labor. He is apparently using "class" in a somewhat general fashion in his phrase, "enclosed class," not in any specific economic sense.

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A Life Lived Well, and Lessons Thereof

Braj Ranjan Mani

phule_savitri_copy

Jotirao Phule, and his wife Savitribai, declared war on brahmanic-casteist culture and religion. This Maharashtrian couple presented the first major anti-caste ideology and led a mass activism against the ascriptive norms and values. Their distinct brand of socio-cultural radicalism was based on uniting all the oppressed, whom they would call stree-shudra-atishudra. (Literally, stree means women, shudra is productive servile caste at the bottom of the caste hierarchy, and atishudra means 'those beyond the shudras', earlier despised as outcastes, or untouchables. In contemporary language, shudras and ati-shudras are other backward classes and dalits, respectively. But the Phules included in their notion of the oppressed, other marginalised groups as well such as adivasis and Muslims.)

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It’s Not Red Vs Blue

Anand Teltumbde

Ambedkar was more about class than caste, but the Left won’t see it that way 

India is a land of paradoxes. But no paradox may be as consequential as the divergent histories of the Dalit and the Communist movements. Both were born around the same time, spoke for or against the same issues, grew or splintered similarly, and find themselves equally hopeless today. And yet, they refuse to see eye to eye. A large part of the blame for wallowing in this attitudinal abyss is attributed to Ambedkar, simply because of his explicit critique of the Communists and Marxism. This is simplistic, if not grossly wrong.

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Supersexualised Market and the New Body Politic

Braj Ranjan Mani

The supersexualised market and its mindless validation encourage the assumption that feminist and all equalitarian struggles have ended, that equality for all women and men has been achieved, and the deserving lot can now have anything they want. Its sexy-selfish template trivialises all social commitment and mocks any serious engagement with arts, literature, politics, or spirituality.

In the market culture, money forms the ties of affection and love. Personal relationships, like other things in life, are the function of wealth and possession. Promotional ads seldom depict a man's economic success without possessing a playgirl or a trophy wife, the more (women) the merrier. This fits in with the concept of possession—possessing property leads to possessing fetching and fertile females. The neatness of the fit between economic success and sexual success is not surprising since both are manifestations of the same dominant ideology and value system. This is in sync with the traditional—patriarchal—concept of woman as a maal (property). The modern capitalist commodification of woman is just an updated version of the patriarchal objectification of woman. The commercial culture just packages the old heterosexual stereotypes in a new feisty vocabulary of female empowerment and an exuberant celebration of the body.

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