Kancha Ilaiah’s New Book



Kancha Ilaiah is a fascinating thinker and writer. He first made waves with his book Why I am not a Hindu. Parts of that book even appeared in the famed Subaltern Studies. He has to be credited for his concept of ‘dalitization’ which is a very useful sociological concept. He is often difficult to agree with, as his ideas take liberty with facts referred to. But, his works always will provide you insights that are uncommon. He is provocative. Ilaiah is a must read. Here is a review of his new book by Anand Teltumbde, which appeared in Tehelka. Although Teltumbde is critical of this book, you will notice he admits to Ilaiah’s strength of observation. Teltumbde is a fine thinker too. Check out the review.

KANCHA ILAIAH is known for books with explosive titles like Why I Am Not a Hindu and Buffalo Nationalism, but with spiritual content. This book, his latest, follows in the same tradition. At a time when many intellectuals are morbidly worried about the resurgence of Hindutva, Ilaiah boldly sees Hinduism on course of its death because of its “failure to mediate between scientific thought and spiritual thought”. The book is a reflective account of his own journey through castes and communities and highlights everyday clashes of caste cultures and conflict between “the productive ethic of Dalit-Bahujan castes and the anti-productive and anti-scientific ethic of Hindu Brahminism”.

The contents page would catch the fancy of any reader with its catchy phrases like ‘intellectual goondas”, “spiritual fascists”, used for Brahmins and “subaltern scientists”, “meat and milk economists” for the Dalit- Bahujans. The first thing that crossed my mind is that the marketing wing of any publication house will be simply overjoyed with brand ‘Kancha Ilaiah,’ with its potential appeal to the vast market spanning three out of four spiritual worlds (Christian, Islam and Buddhist, excluding Hindu), to make use of his phraseology. Indeed, with his passionate promotion of Dalit-Bahujan and outlandish interpretation of mundane details of life, he has created a unique place for himself among subaltern writers.

Kancha Ilaiah
Sage Publications
316 pp; Rs 295

Reading this book gives you a feel of travelling in a Maglev train — an illusion of running on rails but in fact levitates over a thin layer of air. While traversing through its arguments, the book creates an illusion of being based on truth but is distanced from it by a thin layer of prejudice. There is an overdose of culture and spirituality which could intoxicate readers without them realising it.

If one is not so ‘spiritually’ intoxicated, one suffers from mundane doubts nibbling at his intellect: is this conjoint term ‘Dalit-Bahujan’ sociologically viable, given the huge load of material contradictions between these two population groups that have been precipitating into most heinous caste atrocities? How and why did these worthy ‘spiritual democrats’ or ‘spiritual revolutionaries’ come to emulate the caste hierarchy of Brahmins, the spiritual fascists, within themselves and zealously preserve it? If the Dalit- Bahujans were so accomplished in terms of their scientific and technological prowess, how could they be enslaved by a handful of scheming and spiritually degenerate Brahmins for millennia? The book succeeds in establishing the superiority of Dalit-Bahujans, but doesn’t it essentially follow the very same Brahmanic ethos of superiority-inferiority?

The value of Kancha Iliah’s book lies not so much in its thesis but in the richness of its observations not only on the castes of India, but also on the many people and events in the world.

(Image of Ilaiah and the book are from Tehelka.com)

4 responses »

  1. Professor Kancha Iliah is an excellent academician and orator. I listened to his speech on Ambedkar’s Birth Anniversary in 2010 in Acharya Nagarjuna University Campus. He spoke in such a way that my self and most of the people… felt that he had really washed all our brains. He just polished our brains telling us of how Indians doesn’t think with brain and he mentioned the reasons about why India couldn’t produce a single scientist. He also spoke about the caste system in India… how the people follow the customs and traditions blindly. Im looking forward to listen to his speech…

    I have to thank Dr. Raja Sekhar sir (Associate Professor, English Dept, A.N.U) for introducing him to our University. Thanku

  2. martin luther once said “history is an one sided affair but it can be certainly brought to justice”. by writing such books sir is certainly bringing justice.

  3. kancha iliah some times sound emotional not intellectual. he says cows are
    revered as they are white. there are balck/brown/mix colured ones too. cows are revered as they are mostly seen in the North and our religious literature etc is basically from North. he has missed an important charcterstic of pracising
    Hindus( as commonly known)- lack of dignity of labour.This is the basis of
    casteism.If the so called lower castes go on strike uppercastes starve.
    Fundamental point is labour is divine. Working classes/castes should respect
    their work and rever it and should not feel ashamed of their work.moreover
    there is nothing like pure caste.if people believe in so called pure
    caste etc it only exposes their ignorance. there have always been marriages between different castes and “cross breeding” resulted. for any person who
    believes in science caste has no place

  4. Sir, dalitulanu anaga dokkindi agra varnala vallu.. so manam brahmins and kshatriya vallanu hate cheyali, kani, total hinduism ne enduku hate chestunaru.. iam also belongs to KURUMA comunity.. manam anukunantha matrana hinduvulamu kakunda pothama. mana thatha mutthatha lu hinduvule kada… so agra varnalanu hate cheyandi, kani hinduthvani hate cheyakandi please.. ye sri krishnudu mana yadava kulam, dalita kulam vadu kada..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s