“In spite of what others say the Hindu will not admit that there is anything evil in the Caste System and from one point he is right. There is love, unity and mutual aid among members of a family. There is honour among theives. A band of robbers have common interests as respects to its members. Gangs are marked by fraternal feelings and intense loyalty to their own ends however opposed they may be to the other gangs. Following this up one can say that a Caste has got all the praiseworthy characteristics which a society is supposed to have. It has got the virtues of a family inasmuch as there is love, unity and mutual aid. It has got the honour known to prevail among thieves. It has got loyalty and fraternal feeling we meet within gangs and it also possesses that sense of common interests which is found among robbers.” ~ Babasaheb Ambedkar in “Triumph of Brahminism”
Yesterday, India witnessed a Diwali ahead of Diwali. What was different about this Diwali was that instead of celebrating just Ram’s homecoming, it celebrated the supreme leader PM Narendra Modi. It was rather a celebration of Hindu Religion, marking its presence and a decalaration of victory through this Hindu orchestra, directed by their king. While I was witnessing this mayhem, I was enraged by the diyas and the sound of conches being blown. People went to the extent of chanting Jai Shri Ram and Bharat Mata ki Jai.
I was enraged to see this vulgar display and felt a disdain towards these Modi bhakts. My Facebook was also filled with similar worries and contentions from many left and left liberals. Although their worries were devoid of any rage or inkling of blame towards the Hindu religion. Then, on thinking more, I realised all these upper caste leftists and left liberals also happily celebrate Diwali, presenting the same picture like last night. Their objection was merely that Modi had initiated this celebration, and they backed their contention with the understanding that Covid-19 cannot possibly be affected by this orchestration, scientifically. Some were also worried about the environment.
I wondered then what is the scientific explanation of celebrating Diwali on the day of Diwali. Do you believe that Ram Lalla is returning home, as a principlel of science?
Another set of peoole were the ones that this act is a demand from Modi as a power trip and bhakts are feeding his thirst for power by following him. True. Modi is responsible for the creation of this circus but this argument tells us that he has taken away the agency from Hindus. Is it okay when Hindus celebrate Diwali as agential beings?
Hinduism provides no individual agency but only a collective one as Babasaheb has already theorised. Then, is it worse for these Hindus to be infantilised by Modi than Hinduism itself?
I completed my graduation from Ramjas College, Delhi University and felt very lucky and privileged to have entered this space as a Dalit woman. I interacted with students and professors belonging to the right as well as the left, in terms of political ideology. What was interesting was that both the fronts were defensive anytime I brought up a critique towards the Hindu religion. While the left even encouraged me when I critiqued Hindutva or fascism, or mock BJP/RSS bhakts or advocate freedom of speech. In 2017, a conference in my college, which was organized by “us”, was attacked by ABVP goons. I had to fight for a conference against ABVP in which the panel consisted of only upper castes academicians. Pointing this out would be a deflection from the central fight against the “fascist forces of BJP”. This fight between left and right capitalises on and appropriates Dalit labour in their protests.
Upper caste feminist professors appreciated feminist thinking only until you treated men as a homogeneous category. Feminism as taught to me in DU, often served in the elite modern way of brahmin women who do not take their brahmin husband’s surname: consisted of talk of wearing western clothes, being able to drive a car and discussions on upper caste feminists with tea–basically ‘fangirling’ sessions. Any emancipatory action of dalit woman would easily fit into the category of brahminisation, as they personified it, or infamously, “sanskritization”.
In various phrases, any critique of Hindu religion was subdued and frowned upon. It is also then redirected towards a secular patriarchy, Hindutva or their favorite ‘Brahminism’. They make a point to differentiate between Brahmins and Bramhinism which confused me immensely.
For left or right, you remain a dalit who has the ability to bring the “caste angle” to every topic, ruining everyone’s mood. The heresy of bringing negative opinions towards Hindu religion would only lead you towards isolation and a slight but visible aversion from students as well as professors. The vocabulary of the defense for Hinduism transcends the political ideology of left and right in these university spaces.
Now I ask myself: what part in this Hindu religion makes so many people defensive, across political ideologies! I found multiple answers: but what was the most pressing, least shocking and mildly disappointing one was that all those people were upper caste Hindus. Hindu religion is the common denominator between them, which makes us even more isolated and lonely in our fight.
Everyone born in Hinduism is born into a caste. It is not possible to take birth in Hindu religion without being in a born in a caste. Then how do these academicians write hundreds of paper on caste, brahminism, feminism without critiquing Hindu religion? It is not such a big mystery: it is indeed a way to maintain their status quo and fit in the frame of Hindu saviors.
Vaishali Khandekar is pursuing her Masters in Sociology from University of Hyderabad.