Kancha Ilaiah is a political theorist, writer and Dalit rights activist. He writes in both English and Telugu. He headed the Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at the Maulana Azad National Urdu University in Hyderabad and also served as a member of Indian Council of Social Science Research (ICSSR).
Prof Ilaiah’s book “Samajika Smugglurlu Komatollu”, a searing critique of caste in Hindu society, angered the Arya Vysya community as he has called them social smugglers. Prof Ilaiah was attacked in a public place and an FIR was registered against him for hurting the sentiments of the community. However, the Supreme Court has refused to ban his book. Prof Ilaiah is now virtually living under ‘house arrest’ as he is apprehensive of another attack.
He has said he is ready to withdraw his book if the community representatives are prepared to earmark 5 per cent jobs in their establishments for Dalits, Adivasis and members from washermen and barber communities.
In an e-mail interview to ABHIJEET ANAND, Prof Ilaiah said the ruling BJP is protecting the interests only of the upper castes and its agenda is limited to cow protection and Yoga, among other things.
Your book has drawn criticism from only two states. So is it based on research that is specific to a region?
No, the Telugu version made them get on to the streets, without even reading the chapter from my major book called Post-Hindu India published by Sage in 2009. This book has the potential to expand the anticaste debate to new areas, where Dr B R Ambedkar left it. This is the book that draws a line between productive castes and unproductive castes ~ namely Banias and Brahmins ~ in many parts of India. Only in certain pockets they are in productive spheres.
Does your book say that Banias or Arya Vysyas were responsible for all the inequality that is there in India?
They are the richest caste in India which controls business from village markets to the monopoly capital of India. The Bania capitalists have now become the Indian Wall Street. The whole OBC, Dalit and Adivasi mass has become the Indian working class without rights to improve their lot. The BJP has changed the system much more fundamentally with a Bania mindset. It is not that all inequalities are created by this caste. But this is the richest caste, with Ambani, Adani, Laxmi Mittal, Vedanta and so on belonging to it.
They created conditions of establishing caste monopoly in the Wall Street of India. That has enough potential to destroy many lives. It has no progressive capitalist face. It supported the cow rights agenda of RSS as against the human rights agenda of any capitalist economy. That became a source for destroying the entire human rights of Dalits and Adivasis.
This caste capital has brought Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to political power. They have no concern for agrarian castes. All Shudra castes like Jats, Patels, Gujjars have no role in the capital or in the running of the nation.
The Banias, Brahmins and Jains, who are also mostly Banias, are running every institution. It is they who made cow the national legally protected animal, even though they were never involved in cattle grazing labour. They wrote books about cow’s sacredness. No Shudra has a role in that writing. The BJP’s main agenda is Bania economy, Brahmin bureaucratic control, cow protection, Sadhu protection and Yoga. All these things have nothing to do with production to sustain the nation in agriculture and artisanal economy.
These communities are not part of the main army that lives on the borders and fights for protection of the nation. The BJP supports only vegetarian nationalist agenda, while talking about general nationalism. They hate meat-eaters. Whatever number of Dalits die or OBCs starve they do not care.
Going by your ideas, privatisation and the growing corporate culture will prove a hindrance for inclusive development.
It is going to destroy the social basis of the democratic fabric of India. Caste capital with total nexus with caste politics from above not from below would have huge implications.
You have written about Hindutva-Mukt Bharat in your book. Does this imply that the BJP government has not been able to protect the interests of Dalits and Adivasis?
Absolutely right. When a ruling party is more interested in protecting the interests of the rich upper caste from above, defending their spiritual and social culture as the core of nationalism, 92 per cent of Indians suffer enormously. Their wage system, livelihoods, their food culture and so on will be attacked as anti-national. They have already done this. In other words all OBCs/Dalits and Adivasis get defined as anti-nationals. This is a dangerous situation.
You have demanded that there should be reservation for Dalits and Adivasis in private set-ups. How do you justify that demand?
All productive castes that are the source of monopoly wealth have no share in it. All the foot soldiers, all the constabulary and all those have their roots connected to the Harappan city civilization have no share in the wealth of the Aryan upper castes. Look at the way the Banias call themselves Arya Vysyas. It is a clear racist name.
Are you worried about freedom of speech in India?
I have gone through torture. The richest community of two Telugu states was on the streets threatening me with death, abusing me, urinating on my photographs and printing my photo on gunny bags and forcing Dalit/OBC and Adivasi labourers to crush it under their feet. If they refused to do that they were threatened. All this was done just for writing an academic book. Mahatma Gandhi must have turned in his grave.