by Bhanwar Meghwanshi
Review by Meraj Rizvi, followed by an excerpt
If you want to understand how the RSS operates on the ground, you must read Bhanwar Meghwanshi’s auto-biographical exposé, “I Could Not Be Hindu”. Despite the immense work by the Bahujan scholars, and leaders and activists, the RSS has been successful in recruiting Dalit youth as its foot soldiers. Bhanwar Meghwanshi’s auto-biography tells the story of such a young Dalit, who within a deep love for his country and his people, was trapped in the web of lies spun by the RSS that has its ideology rooted in the Manusmriti; the same Manusmriti that commands that the name of a Shudra must denote something contemptible – Let the first part of a Brahman’s name denote something auspicious, a Kshatriya’s be connected with power, and a Vaishya’s with wealth, but a Shudra’s express something contemptible. (Manu II. 31.)
The biography is a harrowing narrative of how the RSS fills the hearts and minds of impressionable, unsuspecting youth with hate and bigotry, and uses it to leash them into a life of mutual distrust and rage. The narrative is unassuming, and the story unfolds organically. The story begins with the protagonist’s excitement of being a part of something noble, but soon he is met with the reality of caste discrimination. The food he prepared with so much love and reverence is thrown away because the savarna “‘Bhai Sahebs”’ could not antagonize the Sadhus whose purity was at “‘risk”’ of getting violated had they eaten the food prepared in a Dalit’s house. The psychological and emotional trauma pushed him to the edge, and the fall from that edge caused wounds that went deeper than the skin. You can feel the pain of these wounds spilled all over the text, demanding more than just your intent reading or a sigh of discomfort. It demands that you think beyond the story of this boy who is still searching for his alchemy, wandering across the boundaries of religious identities, crisscrossing the lengths and breadths of India, trying to heal the pains of division, and building bridges.
If you have ever wondered: How could a Dalit have lived through all of this? How has the RSS been successful in pitting Dalits against Muslims? How have they been successful in polarizing India to the brink of a total breakdown of social harmony? This is the book you must read. Here I am reproducing a chapter from this remarkable book (with due permission obtained from the publisher Navayana Publishing Pvt. Ltd.) and letting it speak for itself.
The Conspiracy to Defeat Dalit Consciousness
Many leave the RSS and remain away from it for years, but though they are not active, they act as sleeper cells. They don’t oppose the Sangh and, from time to time, whenever necessary, they may be reactivated. In the Sangh’s understanding, no swayamsevak ever really leaves; no swayamsevak was one. Once a Swayamsevak, you are one for life, whether you attend shakha or not. In this sense, I too was regarded as a swayamsevak, if one in the category of being ‘negatively active’. Ever since the demolition of the Babri Masjid, I have been exposing the hypocrisy of the Sangh and its affiliates. Using their own weapons, I have kept fighting them. While they often attacked me with ferocity, at other times they tried to bring about a reconciliation. When I sometimes ran into my old Sanghi acquaintances, they would ask with sadness, what went wrong? How did we lose a swayamsevak like you? What are you angry about, really?
The reason for my anger has been explained many times in writing as well as in speech, as these people know very well. They kept trying for an opportunity to meet with me and counteract my anger, make it dissolve, and I never took their pretend concern seriously. I knew what the strategy was, to keep me close to themselves and slowly suffocate my voice. They are most affected by my accusation of hypocrisy regarding Hindutva, that their proclaimed ideology and their politics show far apart in the actual and inhuman treatment of Adivasis and Dalits. Whenever we raised the question of discrimination in temples and the widespread practice of untouchability in villages, the Sangh and its affiliated outfits would become defensive. At the local level, the Sangh’s tame Dalits acted as a shield for the RSS, landing up where Dalit struggles were going on, to give casteist savrarna Hindus the clean chit. Some of them are allotted this specific task by the RSS in different parts of the country. The job of such anti-Dalit Dalits is to subvert any influence of Ambedkar, Buddha, Phule or Kabir anywhere, by the invocation of puranic stories to mislead and confuse Dalits and Shudras.
The Sangh has highlighted every possible legend and myth that encourage Shudras to remain faithful and devoted servants of the caste system. From the story of Valmiki, the supposed Dalit who wrote about the glories of Ram; to Sabari who innocently tasted the berries she then fed to Ram; to Eklavya, the archer who gave up his thumb, and with it his skill, to his Brahmin teacher Drona as guru dakshina—- all of them Dalits, Shudra and Adivasis who bowed humbly before their savarna lords. For years the RSS has been distorting the history of Dalits, trying to portray them as Kshatriyas in disguise. They began with the Valmiki-isation of the mehtar or sweeper community, taught them they are direct descendants of the writer of the Ramayana. They opened RSS schools in their neighborhoods. Drew the educated into their web of seductive words. The results are for all to see. The sections that Hindu society pushed to the bottom as the most inferior, treated in the most inhuman way are now ready to sing the praises of the very system that oppresses them. They feel honored to be recognized as the children of Valmiki himself, this is their reward.
I wonder why the descendants of the Rishi Valmiki whose hand wielded the pen to write the Ramayana, find their heads with baskets of rubbish? But who can resist Sanghi propaganda? Dalit castes are being persuaded that the cause of their current pathetic situation are the Mughals, Greeks, Pathans, and Muslims; because before they entered Bharat, there were castes but no discrimination based on caste. It was Muslim rulers who introduced these hateful practices. Hindus have nothing to do with the five-thousand-year old Brahmanical and Manuwadi varna and caste system, which has oppressed and enslaved lower castes in the most inhuman ways possible. Rather, Dalits are being taught that their ancestors are warriors who bravely fought the Mughal and other Muslim invaders, and when they lost, were made into slaves.
According to the Sangh, the root cause of caste oppression is the Muslim, not the casteist Hindu. How cunning this ruse is, Hindus get away free and clear, dumping the responsibility on others. But what can be done? The poisonous creeper of the RSS, planted in 1925, is abloom now with flowers. Such histories continue to be written. For instance, a writer beloved of the Sangh, Vijay Sonkar Shastri, wrote histories of three Dalit castes, released by Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat. Even the titles of these books appear Manuvadi, insulting, and intended to subvert Dalit consciousness—-Hindu Charmkar Jati, Hindu Khateek Jati, and Hindu Valmiki Jati. The prefixing of ‘Hindu’ to these oppressed castes—-of leather workers, butchers and cleaners—- and the propagandist books that eulogize their occupations reinforce the caste ideology of Manu. It is clear that through such books, the RSS wants to free itself from any responsibility for the shameful system of caste discrimination and oppression, and pass that burden on to Muslims, thus pitting Muslims and Dalits against one another.
Appeal by the reviewer: The insights presented in this book are a consequence of a lifetime of work under threat and intimidation. Even the publishing of such work has its share of risks in contemporary India. When you purchase a book, you don’t only learn but also contribute to the important work of bringing out these stories to the people. Ever since the Kindle version of this book came out, the publisher lost significant revenue due to piracy. My sincere appeal to the readers of this review is to purchase this book to support the author and publisher in continuing their important work.