Section 2.07 Hinduism = Spiritual Fascism

As discussed earlier, lunatic and racist theories about Hinduism and India are routinely spitted out of the mouth of Kancha Ilaiah.  In fact, he has made a career out of it and has written books venomously denouncing Hinduism.  Ilaiah is a darling of Christian missionaries and Islamic organizations and is featured prominently in these circles as a representative authority on Hinduism and India.  Dalit Freedom Network, a Colorado, USA based organization run by hardcore Christian missionaries, awarded Ilaiah a post-doctoral fellowship.[1]  On its website, DFN list Ilaiah amongst “Indian Champions”.[2]  One of the members of their Advisory Board, John Gilman is the head of Dayspring International, which describes its goals in India very directly:

The worship of a hundred million gods will disappear.  Idolatry will be cast down.  But, what will replace it?  National Dalit leaders plead to the Church in India, saying, ‘Come and tell us about your Jesus.  Teach us your scriptures.’  They believe this is the only hope for India, a nation that could be on the brink of a bloody civil war – or on the brink of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit unlike any in history.  There has never been a better soul-winning opportunity than right now in the nation of India[3]

FOIL and its members do not distance themselves from personalities like Ilaiah; instead, they wholeheartedly support him and recommend their works as legitimate representations of Hinduism and India.  Such dangerous endorsement is a shining example of how FOIL and its members really feel about Hinduism and India.  On surface, FOIL and its members appear to fight for the oppressed and for all South Asians.  Yet, the ground realities are quite different.

Kancha Ilaiah is the chairman of the political science department at Osmania University.[4]  It is appalling that such people are in any important positions and it reflects negatively upon the university’s credentials.  He is an activist for the Dalit (referred to as the outcastes of India) movement and expresses severe hatred against all things Hindu.  Ilaiah twists and highly exaggerates selective aspects of Hinduism and India in order to demonize the two.  In addition, his penchant for misrepresentation of facts is notorious.  He is a Buddhist but considers Buddha’s realization of truth as more “political rather than religious”.[5]  He also believes that Buddha was basically a non-Aryan and came from a tribal background.   However, [in Buddhist texts], the Shakyas, the inhabitants of Shakya janapada, are mentioned as a Kshatriya clan of Gotama gotra.[6]  His mother, Queen Maha Maya (Māyādevī) and Suddhodana’s wife, was a Koliyan princess.[7] So, Buddha was a Kshatriya Shakya prince.  Playing by Ilaiah’s own twisted logic then, Ilaiah is following the teachings of an ‘Aryan’ prince!

Malhotra and Neelakandan share that The Indian Express reported that he made a strong presentation before India’s National Conference on Human Rights, saying, “We want to kill Sanskrit in this country.”[8]  In an interview, he also advocated, “We should close down the IITs and the IIMs as they pander to the upper-caste economy of the country”.[9]  Similarly, Ilaiah, in an interview with Christianity Today, Ilaiah considers Hinduism “a kind of spiritual fascism because the Hindu books say that Aryans wrote that, and Nazi Germany Hitler believed he belonged to an Aryan race.”[10]  Modern intellectuals know that Hitler and the Nazis misappropriated Hindu spiritual symbols like the Swastika and the concept of Aryans based on popular Eurocentric theories of those times.  However, that doesn’t stop Ilaiah from equating Hindus with Nazis.  He conveniently disregards the fact that symbols like Aum and Swastika are used in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.[11]  Not only that, Swastika is also known to have been found in other ancient religions and cultures around the world, as shown by an exhibit in the Royal Saskatchewan Museum[12].

In his book Why I am not a Hindu, Ilaiah launches a vicious diatribe against Hinduism, Hindus and Hindu deities.  Facts are ignored or misplaced and statements are made as if they are fact.  Ilaiah is suspicious of the Brahmins and Krishna and essentially considers Krishna a character manufactured by the ‘evil Brahmins’:

Who is Krishna?  Why did the Brahmins create such a god?  It is the same Krishna who is said to have authored the most Brahminical text the Bhagavad Gita.  At a time when the Sudras had no right to education, how did a Yadava write the Gita?  How did a Yadava writer not provide any social space for Yadavas themselves, leave alone the other Dalit bahujans? (Page 82 & 83 of English version; P. 101 of Telugu version)[13]

His bizarre view and lack of regard for facts is illustrated in the following few sentences.  Regarding the Mahabharata, Ilaiah says:

The fight was between the minority Pandavas (Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas were always a minority – they constitute 15% of the population) and the majority Kauravas.  The hundred Kauravas stood against Brahminical Dharma and represented Dalit bahujans, whereas the five Pandavas represented the Brahminical minority.  In the fight for land (and for the kingdom) Krishna stands by the minority. The majority were not willing to give up the land they acquired through sweat and blood.[14]

Such sentences are so inaccurate, out of sync with facts and blatantly absent of context that it is extremely difficult to even take them seriously.  Every child in India that has ever read any version of the Mahabharata (save Ilaiah’s of course), has seen any of the TV versions of the epic or heard any stories of the epic knows that the Pandavas and the Kauravas were first cousins from the same family!  They were also educated under the same teachers (who were Brahmins).  Any serious scholar or student of the epic would have major reservations against such unsubstantiated statements.

Ilaiah continues his attack on Krishna and the Mahabharata and superimposes the ‘struggle of the outcastes’ on the epic.

Finally, Krishna resorts to violence. After the defeat of the majority in struggle for land, the Gita was used to create a much stronger consent system to ensure that no serious revolts emerged from the Dalit bahujan social base.

Whenever such attempts were made, either by Yadavas or by other Dalit forces, Krishna’s Gita was effectively used to manipulate them into submission.” (p.85 & 86. Eng; p.105 Tel.).[15]

One struggles to ask questions such as why would some first cousins be Brahmins and others be some Dalit bahujans?  Where is the evidence that Kauravas stood against ‘Brahminical Dharma’?  When did the Kauravas ever acquire the land through ‘sweat and blood’?  Where is the evidence that the Gita was used a hegemonic ‘consent system’ to suppress any revolts?

“In his latest book, titled Post-Hindu India, Ilaiah constructs a racist ideology of hatred against Hinduism in general and Brahmins in particular.”[16]  “In his attempt to revive pseudo-scientific racism, he purports to study what he terms as ‘Brahmin psychology’ and then goes on to characterize Brahmins as sub-humans, stating that Brahmin communitarianism ‘acts like the communitarianism of penguins and sheep, which hardly builds the energy for individual struggle for survival’”.[17] “He states that Brahmins are worse than animals, because in their case, even the animal instincts are ‘underdeveloped’”.[18]  “He concludes that the Brahmin childhood formation itself has ‘genetic and social characteristics of non-transformability’”.[19]

(i)     Advocating a Civil War in India

Based on this hatred, “he envisions a civil war in India, urging the Dalit-Bahujans to start a civil war at the macro and micro level.”[20]  He suggests the following:

Historically-upper castes have suppressed the lower-caste masses with weapons, as the Hindu gods’ origin itself is rooted in the culture of weapon usage.  The SC/ST/OBCs will then have to turn to a war of weapons in the process of elimination of Hindu violence from India.[21]

“Predicting a ‘major civil war’ on the lines of violent upheavals that happened in Europe, Ilaiah sees is a ‘necessary evil’ and claims that ‘Dalits have enormous potential to lead the civil war in India’ with inputs from ‘Buddhism and Christianity…growing into planthood’”.[22]  “However, Ilaiah’s mention of Buddhism is only lip service in order to build up a unified army against Hinduism, because elsewhere in the book he states that Indian Dalits find Jesus to be a more powerful liberator than Buddha.”[23]  Furthermore, Ilaiah’s inaccurate views on Buddha have also been demonstrated earlier.

(ii)     FOIL and Kancha Ilaiah

Ilaiah is a resource for FOIL to demonize Hinduism as a non-pluralistic, oppressive tradition.  For example, in July 1997, FOIL’s Biju Mathew and Chris Chekuri interviewed Ilaiah in response to the “force-fed celebration of 50 years of independence”[24] of India. The text of the interview, titled as The State of Dalit Mobilization: An Interview with Kancha Ilaiah, was transcribed by fellow FOIL members Vamsicharan Vakulabharanam, Radhika Lal and Mir Ali Raza in the November 1997 edition of its newsletter Ghadar.[25]  FOIL highlights several points made by Ilaiah in special boxes as if endorsing his views.  For example, as Figure 3 shows, Ilaiah blames Hinduism for having “…created untouchability within its caste structure…”[26]   Similarly, Ilaiah, takes the position that Brahminism (which is what he calls Hinduism) is “anti-labor and anti-production”[27], a theme that resonates with the communist ideology of FOIL.    

Further down the interview and also illustrated in Figure 3, on FOIL’s question regarding “creating a mass base for consciousness-raising about civil rights”, [28] Ilaiah agrees with the Communist view of “counter-violence”[29] and doesn’t see a need to give up such violence.  He maintains:

Hinduism is a religion of violence. All Hindu gods killed their enemies and became heroic images. This is the only religion in the world where the killer becomes god. Whom did they kill? From Brahma to Krishna, those who were killed were Dalitbahujans. Now these images and the stories and narratives and everything is out there in the civil society. Now, because of this, the consciousness of worshipping the killer or worshipping violence did not give any space for human rights.[30]

In 2002, FOIL and its affiliates started a group called Campaign to Stop Funding Hate as a campaign to against “Hindu ultra-nationalism”[31].  In its introduction, CSFH states that it “stands in absolute solidarity with all groups, South Asian and non-South Asian, that fight hatred”[32].  Yet the group has only targeted the Indian American charity called India Development and Relief Fund, as well as the American Hindu youth association called Hindu Students Council.  There is no mention of the atrocities against Hindus Pandits in Kashmir, the denial of rights to minorities in Bangladesh, the ill treatment of Hindus in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime or the inferior status of Hindus in Pakistan.

But, in the context of FOIL’s support for Ilaiah, it is important to point out that amongst the “Resources for a Progressive Hindu”;[33] CSFH suggests Kancha Ilaiah’s venomous works.  Similarly, a 2009 book Against Stigma: Studies in Caste, Race and Justice Since Durban, edited by Balmurli Natrajan of FOIL, carries an essay by Kancha Ilaiah, called Caste, race and nation: a discourse in binary history/Kancha Ilaiah.[34]


[1] Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan, Breaking India. Western Interventions in Dravidian and Dalit Faultlines, (India: Manipal Press Ltd, 2011), 225

[2] See the left Side-Bar on “Indian Champions” at http://www.dalitnetwork.org/go?/dfn/about/C25/, accessed July 5, 2011

[3] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 222

[4] See the entry on Kancha Ilaiah at Wikiquote, http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Kancha_Ilaiah, accessed July 5, 2011

[5] Nisha Venugopal, “Kancha Ilaiah: ‘God as political philosopher’”, in discussing the book “God as Political Philosopher: Buddha’s Challenge to Brahminism” (Ilaiah, 2000), http://samyukta.info/site/book/export/html/216, accessed July 5, 2011

[6] See the entry on Shakya in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shakya, accessed July 5, 2011

[7] See the entry on Gautama Buddha in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gautama_Buddha, accessed July 5, 2011

[8] Malhotra and Neelakandan, 225

[9] Ibid.

[10]“Interview with Dr. Kancha Ilaiah – Leading Dalit Rights Campaigner in India”, November 12, 2005, http://www.christiantoday.com/article/interview.with.dr.kancha.ilaiah.leading.dalit.rights.campaigner.in.india/4495-2.htm, accessed July 5, 2011

[11] See the entry on Swastika in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika, accessed July 5, 2011

[12] The Museum, in response to questions “Why is there a Swastika on the saddle in the First Nations Gallery?” provides a brief explanation of the existence of the symbol in many ancient Native American cultures. http://www.royalsaskmuseum.ca/research/faqs/ex_8.shtml, accessed July 5, 2011

[13] M.V.R. Shastry, ‘A Critical Review of Kancha Ilaiah’s Why I am Not a Hindu’”, http://voiceofdharma.org/indology/Ilaiah.html, accessed July 5, 2011

[14] Shastry, Ibid.

[15] Shastry Ibid.[13]

[16] Malhotra and Neelkandan, 226

[17] Malhotra and Neelkandan, 226-227

[18] Malhotra and Neelkandan, 227

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.[18]

[21] Ibid.[18]

[22] Malhotra and Neelkandan, 228

[23] Ibid.

[24] Vamsicharan Vakulabharanam et al, “The State of Dalit Mobilization:  An Interview with Kancha Ilaiah, Ghadar: A Publication of the Forum of Inqualabi Leftists Vol. 1, No.2, November 26, 1997 http://www.proxsa.org/resources/ghadar/v1n2/ilaiah.html, accessed July 5, 2011

[25] Vakulabaranam et al, Ibid.

[26] Vakulabaranam et al Ibid.[24]

[27] Vakulabaranam et al Ibid.[24]

[28] Vakulabaranam et al Ibid.[24]

[29] Vakulabaranam et al Ibid.[24]

[30] Vakulabaranam et al Ibid.[24]

[31] See the “About Us” section of http://stopfundinghate.org/about.html, accessed July 5, 2011

[32] Ibid.

[34] Balmurli Natrajan and Paul Greenough, “Against Stigma : Studies in Caste, Race and Justice Since Durban”, Orient Blackswan, 2009.  See description of Content at http://www.vedamsbooks.com/no61310/against-stigma-studies-caste-race-justice-since-durban-edited-by-balmurli-natrajan-paul-greenough, accessed July 5, 2011

Advertisements

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 )

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s