Could Not Be Hindu — The Story of a Dalit in the RSS
I read Bhanwar Meghwanshi’s I Could Not Be Hindu — The Story of a Dalit in the RSS in one sitting and started writing this review before its gush of ideas, acts and truth could escape me. It is admirably plain-spoken, and it offers hitherto unknown facts about the 95-year-old Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. I am glad this book appeared while I am alive and working.
After Narendra Modi, a Bania with an OBC certificate became prime minister, there was and is a feeling among both Dalits and Shudras that the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party have opened up to all castes and tribes. For decades, when they were perceived to be Brahmin/Bania fiefdoms, the possibility of their capturing power in Delhi and other states was remote. Over the decades, the Sangh has thrown up the odd Shudra leader (Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti, and others), only to use them and cast them aside.
At this juncture, the publication of Bhanwar’s book, first in Hindi and now in English, has the potential to change the opinion of Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis with definite proof of the Sangh Parivar’s anti-national Brahminism. Bhanwar, a Dalit from Bhilwara in Rajasthan who joined the local RSS shakha at the age of 13 thinking it was just fun and games, became privy to the operational structures and ideology of the Sangh. In about five years, despite his willingness to give his life for the organization, Bhanwar realised that Manu dharma governs the functioning of the RSS. Brainwashed, he participated in the kar seva in 1990, harassed Muslims, was high on toxic nationalism and spent time in jail.
One day in 1991, when kar sevaks on an asthi Kalash (funerary urn) yatra led by senior RSS and VHP leaders passed through his village, Sirdiyas, Bhanwar hosted a meal at his home. By that time he was a karyavah, the district office chief of RSS’s Bhilwara unit. But the dwija Sangh leaders turned down the food, saying that eating at an untouchable’s home was not part of the plan. They told him to pack the food; they would eat it on the way. But the next day he found that they had dumped all the puri and kheer by the wayside some kilometers away, and dined at a Brahmin home. Bhanwar realised what his true place in the RSS would be. His world was turned upside down.
Facts first. Of the six sarsanghchalaks who have headed the RSS, five (KB Hedgewar, MS Golwalkar, MD Deoras, KS Sudarshan and Mohan Bhagwat) are Brahmins and one is Kshatriya (Rajendra Singh). Sourcing internal information, Bhanwar says that in 2003 in a 36-member Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha, the highest policy-making body of the RSS, 26 were Brahmins, five Banias, three Kshatriyas and two Shudras (who comprise nearly 50 percent of the population). No Dalit or Adivasi can make it to the top echelons for the next 50 years, nor can a Shudra of any caste become sarsanghchalak. The RSS is structurally and philosophically controlled by Brahmins (three percent of the population). The Banias (three percent) control Sangh finances. Money collected in donations is kept in their homes, never in banks. The RSS is not a registered body, and these unaccounted sums are laundered in Bania homes. Banias have operated the usury market for centuries, entrapping the poor into paying extortionate interest rates. The RSS makes money out of money. The Shudras who form the rank and file are not deemed dependable for this task.
The Sangh’s daily ritualistic prayer, “namaste sada vatsale mathrubhoome”, swearing “eternal dedication to the Motherland” is a consent-construction instrument that brainwashes people into the dogma of Hindu parampara. This is why the RSS catches the likes of Bhanwar and thousands of others at the school level so that they do not enter university education or adult life with an open mind. They need the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi cadre for muscle power. They are made to believe that Muslims are the enemy, and this works like a drug. But the hard truth is that even if all masjids in India are destroyed, the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis will never become the Brahmin’s equal.
What also struck me was the absence of any talk in the Sangh ideology of people involved in productive labour. Their literature and speeches are only about mythic stories with vague ideas of falsified past glory. Labour, wages or the science of advancing food production are never mentioned. It follows that those who work in the fields are the despised mlecchas. The tillers of the land, graziers, shepherds, potters, fishers, carpenters, smiths, shoemakers — all get mobilised as unequal to the Brahmins, Banias and Kshatriyas (dwijas) of the Hindu Rashtra. Shadow enemies are constructed on a daily and hourly basis so that the enemy within, caste, is not exposed.
Bhanwar’s book has the potential to undo all this scheming. This unputdownable work must be made compulsory reading for all schoolchildren and college and university students, especially among Shudras, Dalits, Adivasis, and women. Nivedita Menon’s translation from Hindi is elegant and Navayana has produced the volume handsomely.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is the author of Why I am Not a Hindu and Buffalo Nationalism