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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 46, New Delhi, October 31, 2020

Book Review: A Penetrating Insight into RSS | M.R. Narayan Swamy

Saturday 31 October 2020, by M R Narayan Swamy

by M.R. Narayan Swamy

Title: I Could Not Be Hindu: The Story of a Dalit in RSS; Author: Bhanwar Meghwanshi; Publisher: Navayana; Pages: 236; Price: Rs 399

This book has come out at a time when the RSS has become the de facto ruler in the country courtesy the BJP. In this gripping work, a Dalit who was with the Sangh rips apart the RSS for what he says is its duplicity and for talking about unifying Hindu society while actively ensuring that no member of the depressed classes climbs its leadership ladder adequately enough to take charge one day.

But this is not just a case of grapes gone sour, a sob story of one who joined the RSS to be a part of its grand Hindutva project but realized down the line that he, a Dalit, can never aspire to rub shoulders with the Brahmins and Banias who are in control of the Hindu supremacist body. Once the break happened, the militant Meghwanshi declared war on the RSS.

At one level the book is an eye opener on how the RSS has grown, how it penetrates young minds, how even those who may not have met a single Muslim in their life are driven ideologically to hate the Muslim community, and how low caste Hindus are made to fight dirty communal conflicts while the upper castes who direct them sit safely in their homes. Without being registered, the RSS has now become the world’s biggest NGO, the author says, with organizations running on Sangh ideology receiving the lion’s share of their funding from all over the world, no questions asked.

Meghwanshi was sucked into the RSS at the peak of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement. A resident of Sirdiyas village in Rajasthan’s Bhilwara district, he became a regular at RSS ‘shakas’. When Mulayam Singh Yadav was the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, he was among those who went to Ayodhya to try to raze the Babri Masjid but could not overcome the security forces. But the train journey helped the author see for the first time how Dalits, Adivasis and other young people from the lower castes got used. As the train started to leave the station, Meghwanshi was shocked to see the BJP and VHP leaders, Sangh ‘pracharaks’ and industrialists quietly excusing themselves and getting off.

But despite occasional hiccups, Meghwanshi remained with the RSS, determined to prove his worth for a Hindu Rashtra. The dramatic break came when he had prepared a large quantity of food for Sangh supporters at his house (despite objections from his family) but a RSS leader gently but firmly told him that ‘sadhus’, ‘sants’ and ‘others’ would not like to eat at the home of a lower caste. “His words turned me to stone. Had you cut me, I would not have bled.” Worse was to follow. He packed all the food after being told that they would have it at their next halt. But all that had been cooked in his house was thrown away, for dogs, crows and ants to consume.

“For the first time in my life that day, I stepped aside from my Hindu identity and started seeing the world like a person from a lower caste... I felt intense humiliation and a sense of insult... Was it for this Hindu Rashtra I was working so hard, so ready to kill and be killed?”

Dubbing the RSS leaders he knew as liars and hypocrites, Meghwanshi divorced his past. The Ram temple was no more a priority. Perhaps, he said to himself, the temple building campaign was just an excuse to humiliate the Muslims. From now on, for Meghwanshi, the RSS was the Indian version of the Taliban. “The Sangh is in fact a quasi-military organization, which promotes the arming and militarizing of the Hindu community.”

The author sailed into the Dalit world of Ambedkar, Periyar and Phule. He now realized that Ambedkar’s views on everything were the exact opposite of what the Sangh claimed — that the Dalit icon was a supporter of Hindu Rashtra. Meghwanshi came across a confidential letter of the RSS appealing to the upper castes to make the caste system even stronger. Many Dalit activists in RSS shared with him their disheartening experiences in the organization but they chose not to revolt.

Meghwanshi vents his anger: “Our country, which pats itself on the back for its spiritual superiority, is the biggest hypocrite in the world. Animals are worshipped, cats and dogs are kept as beloved pets, they eat with their masters, but Dalits cannot even be touched.” The Sangh was not happy with his activism, including a journal he had started to bring out. He suffered in the process.

According to the author, for years the RSS has been distorting the history of Dalits, trying to portray them as Kshatriyas in disguise. The aim is to pit Dalits against Muslims. In the process of falsification of history, Backward Castes want to prove their superiority by attacking Dalits while many Shudras actively take part in RSS activities. At the same time, Dalit consciousness has set foot on a new track. The RSS, he says, knows this and uses “anti-Dalit Dalits” to subvert the influence of Ambedkar and others. As his own campaign intensified, the Sangh got in touch with Meghwanshi and offered him a BJP seat the party was sure to win, apologizing for the food dumping incident. He refused to budge.

This is a mind blowing book.

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