Mainstream Weekly

Home > 2022 > if The Shudras Do Not Rebel, the Hindu Rastra Will Be Established For Their (...)

Mainstream, VOL LX No 26-27, New Delhi, June 18 & June 25, 2022 [Double issue]

if The Shudras Do Not Rebel, the Hindu Rastra Will Be Established For Their Peril | Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd

Friday 17 June 2022, by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd


The modern Indian state, with such vast tracts of land and a massive population of 1.3 billion, is unique in history. Before 1947, or even after partition, a single government with absolute sovereign power from one national capital did not rule the country’s entire population. Not even the British Governor General ruled as many people as the present Prime Minister of India rules. However, even with a modern democratic constitution, the massive number of people living in such a vast land may go directionless. Only the rule of law that promises hope to its people—that every citizen can get his/her due and also justice in the social, spiritual, economic and political domains—can persuade them to be respectful to each other as well as to the State, the Constitution and the law itself. Otherwise, a civil war is likely to break out. Like many of our neighbouring countries, which started with constitutional democracy but ended up as dictatorships, India too will slip into dictatorship, opening avenues for the emergence of many frivolous constitutions that could be changed again. The cost of any one of such developments will be severe. It will have the most brutal repercussions for India. If the Dwijas, who ruled India for a long time without a challenge, do not understand the possibility of such a disaster, all Indians will suffer. Suppose they do not come to terms with human equality for all castes and communities, a civil war will be an inevitable Indian reality. The Shudras will have a crucial role in such a civil war or in sustaining the present form of constitutional democracy for a long time to come.

The Indian constitutional democracy has not changed the fundamental hierarchies within civil society. Therefore, such a society’s direction remains undetermined, especially when more and more people get educated and become aware of their rights. When India’s historical, civil and spiritual society formulated its social, economic, political and linguistic caste controls, it did not fundamentally transform such controls. There was no spiritual upheaval in the system at any point in time. They have been the same as they were in any monarchical system or the British regime—Brahmin, Bania, Kshatriya, Shudra, Dalit, Adivasi—in that order. Though the present constitutional democracy has institutionalised democratic apparatuses like the parliament, judiciary and the executive, the caste structure has retained its old hierarchy with an iron grip.

Although the Constitution’s Preamble declares that India or Bharat is a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic, it has been difficult for the republic to put all these ideals in operation. No doubt, it is a sovereign democratic republic. However, it has been struggling with the arduous task of handling the idea of secularism. While institutionalising the principle of secularism, it has encountered stern resistance from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which does not believe in secularism. Islam has its own fundamentalist existence in India. Sikhism, which created the problem of Khalistan, had more profound implications for sovereignty. The Kashmir question is interlinked with the question of the relationship of the Indian Muslims with the Pandits of that region and the question of the region’s autonomy. So far, in the last 75 years, the threat to the sovereignty of the Indian state has emerged only from these two—Kashmir and Khalistan— sources. The larger Muslim question concerning the anti-Muslim ideology of the RSS has created many rioting situations. The major one was the Gujarat Riot of 2002, which produced a leader like Narendra Modi, who captured the power at the centre, fulfilling the agenda of the RSS and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Although he has got an OBC (Other Backward Class) certificate, he has not become the Prime Minister out of the social reform agenda he presented before the nation. Nor has he led any social reform movement for the OBC self respect or advancement before became the Prime Minister in 2014.

On the contrary, Modi became the PM by bringing the BJP to power with a strong anti-Muslim agenda of his party and by playing a very aggressive role in that campaign.
The RSS/BJP captured the state apparatus by repositioning the varna dharma ideology, and it did so by simultaneously weakening the Congress. The decline of the Congress has been gradual, and we have no clue where that will lead. The party’s internal electoral system and its democratic process suffered as the Nehru family control has not allowed any new national leadership to emerge. The BJP may dominate national politics and power for some more years. The biggest concern, therefore, is that its communal and casteist politics, guided by the RSS, may create a civil war situation. Rupur Sharma, a BJP militant spokes person’s statement against Prophet Muhammad lead to a major internal and external crisis in June 2022. The whole Muslim world threatened the Indian nation state itself. The Muslims within India came into streets in every major city leading to firings and some deaths.

The Hindutva Brahmin-Bania forces may completely take over the country and establish the Hindu Rashtra by using the anti-Muslim sentiments constructed by these forces among the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis over a period of decades. Eventually, it may crush every section of the society and try to re-establish the classical varna dharma state and society. The only way to stop India from going in that direction is the consolidation of the Shudra productive masses against the Hindutva forces. Otherwise, they will be re-enslaved in the medieval mode. Thus, they must fight a decisive battle against Brahminism in all spheres—mainly spiritual and intellectual.

Caste and Constitutional Democracy

From the early days of the adoption of constitutional democracy, the question of caste discrimination has not been seen as a problem at all, except for untouchability and the safeguards for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. While the entire Shudras were unequal in several spheres and graded inequality existed at multiple levels, the Constituent Assembly did not even debate the Shudra status in Hinduism. Hinduism was/is seen as the religion of all castes. However, it does not give equal spiritual rights to all castes. The layered Indian society of castes, as Dr.B.R. Ambedkar called it, is a society of graded inequality. Thus, even after the adoption of the constitution, the basic structure of the society has remained the same. If the Shudras do not understand the philosophical underpinnings of the caste system, the Dwijas will use them against their own interests and their children’s interests. The Shudras have been the largest historical group. However, the way the RSS has used them for the last hundred years shows that they have not acquired the necessary mental energy to use constitutional democracy to promote their interests. The Dwijas have brainwashed the Shudras about the imagined danger of Muslims and Christians while leaving no space for them to raise the question of the Brahmin and Dwija domination, which is older than the Muslim domination or the British rule.

Moreover, the hard truth is that the Dwija domination has increased manifold with the growing capitalist economy, which is concentrated in the hands of very few, as shown in our book, The Shudras—Vision For a New Path. Brahminism has taken a very modern globalised form. The intellectuals of the RSS/BJP know this very well. The Hindu spiritual system is entirely under their control without any change in the Shudra/Dalit status in the temple spiritual system and economy. Such a situation leaves ample space for establishing the Hindu Rashtra.

Thus, the RSS’ plan of gradually transforming the Indian democratic republic into a Hindu Rashtra is a possibility because the Shudras, who constitute 52 per cent of the total population, have not yet become conscious of their position. Nor has any intellectual force emerged from the Shudras to checkmate the Hindu Rashtra getting established. Unless the controlled masses become conscious of their status, the controlling forces will keep on controlling and also work out new strategies to control the controlled for a longer time. The Shudras seem to lack the necessary spiritual and philosophical vision even to ask for equal rights in that domain. They must understand that their food production is a true nationalist work.

Nationalism cannot be defined based on the fictional narratives of ancient or modern times. While books do not produce food, they construct narratives and produce knowledge that spreads from one place to another. However, books written in the ancient period did not spread ideas about production. Instead, they mainly spread the ideas of war and violence. Thus, India has not become a strong nation as it has used those books. Many outside forces occupied India quite easily. And yet, the RSS is trying to construct the ’Idea of India’ out of ancient texts such as Vedas, Ramayana, Mahabharata and so on, which is mythical nationalism. However, the actual nation is built using spades, bricks, ploughs, carts, cattle, etc. In other words, the actual Indian nation has its civilisational roots in the animal economy, agriculture and artisanal technology, not in Vedas, Ramayana and Mahabharata. The nationalist process had begun much before the book culture—oral or written—started in India. When the pre-Harappans and Harappans built the villages and cities, there was a language, a spade, a pot, a hammer, and a sickle, but there was no book. In the Harappan civilisation, there was an idea of God and some sort of religion. However, the RSS brand of history has been unconcerned about that production-civilisation all along. The pre-Aryan Shudras had built that civilisation, in which there was no Dwija role in any form. That is obvious since they did not exist in India at that time.

In this chapter, more than the strength of the Dwijas, we need to examine the weakness of the Shudras since such weaknesses are likely to allow the process of establishing the Hindu Rashtra to continue.

The Question of Shudra Identity

The historical Shudras’ identity loss happened during the broad anti-British campaign, starting with the First War of Independence (1857). The heavily taxed farmers first rebelled against the British administration in myriad forms. They evaded tax, abandoned farming, escaped into forest zones, and rebelled against the Indian officials (mostly Dwijas) in the British Government. After settling down, the British rulers wanted to bring vast areas of new dry and wetlands into cultivation. However, the wages paid to the labourers, mainly Shudras and Dalits, were meagre.

In some cases, the deforestation and cultivation of new lands were allowed for free with the promise of land grants. However, once the lands were brought under cultivation, the British began taxing them and forced the farmers to produce particular kinds of crops they needed. They did not allow the traditional crops like jowar, rice, or other millets. Thus, the farmers’ immediate food needs were wholly neglected. In such a situation, the farmers were deprived of their needs of daily food items and family survival. A critical caste component of this social mass was that almost all farmers were Shudras. Dalits were also part of the agrarian labour and were more marginalised than Shudras. They were assigned leather and dead cattle-related economic activities. During the British regime, the Adivasis were mainly in the forest zones. They were trying to protect their forest produce from the British and the Indian Dwija official loot. Hardly any Dwija castes like Brahmins, Banias, Khayasthas, Khatris and Kshatriyas were involved in agrarian physical labour. They primarily worked around temples, with the British administration, in village supervision-related jobs like Patwari, Police Patel, Kotwal, etc. Or they were working in the Brahminic cultural domain. Such officials were more loyal to the British by supervising the Shudra farmers according to British rules and guidelines. Since the classical Brahminic (now Hindu) education system denied education to the Shudras and Dalits—whether farmers, artisans or cattle herders—getting Government jobs was impossible. Brahmins were the most educated within the Dwija communities. Khayasthas and Khatris were equally well educated, but Brahmins certainly took the ideological and spiritual lead. The Brahmin-British collaborative network becomes evident from Sahu Maharaj’s letter to the former Governor of the Bombay Province, which I have reproduced in another chapter. Mahatma Phule’s writings also show how such collaboration was detrimental to the Shudra-Ati-Shudra farmers.

There is yet another important method that we can employ to map the historical positioning of the castes, agrarian-artisanal work and Government jobs during the British regime, i.e. through an analysis of the present situation in rural India. Though we live in postcolonial India, that too in the 21st century, only the Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis work in the agricultural fields. The Dwijas and, particularly, Brahmins and Baniyas are not seen doing physical labour. Most Government and private sector jobs are in the hands of the Dwijas. If not for the reservations, the entire executive job sector—public and private—would have been in the hands of the Dwijas. The 27 percent reservation system was brought into force after so many struggles by the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), who are part of the agrarian production and economy. During the freedom struggle, Dalits and Adivasis also got their share of population ratio reservation as part of the historical guarantees. It was a pre-Independence agreement between Dr. B.R Ambedkar and M.K. Gandhi. The constitutional guarantee of reservations for the Scheduled Castes and Tribes could be obtained since Ambedkar was the Chairman of the drafting committee of the Indian constitution.

The 1857 war resulted from the Shudra rebellion against the British because of the British state’s agrarian loot. Without the Shudras, the rebellion would not have impacted the colonial Government. However, in all the written texts on the First War of Independence, the Shudra rebellion was never discussed. It was shown as a war of sentiment against cow and pig fat. The Shudra soldiers had no problem with cow and pig meat or fat. However, the Brahmin and Muslim soldiers, who were just a handful and had problems with cow and pig meat and fat, respectively, are shown as the main drivers of the revolution. The truth was, the Shudra peasants and soldiers from the peasant families rebelled against the British Raj as it was becoming impossible to survive. However, they have been assigned very little space in the history of that rebellion. The more fundamental question is, even in the later freedom struggle after the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885, why and how Shudra identity did not take a concrete shape? Why and how did they get submerged in the Dwija-controlled Hindu identity?

Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel’s Parampara

The identity of the Shudras as an agrarian and artisanal productive force of India is historical. However, they could not sustain their identity during the freedom struggle. The Shudras produced just one tall leader in Sardar Vallabhabhai Patel at the national level in the Indian National Congress. He never consciously worked out an agenda for their postcolonial identity, rights and development. Though Patel was educated for a short time (one year) in England and was a working lawyer in his home state, he did not spare time to read modern world philosophies—particularly the West—and interpret them to suit the postcolonial Indian social system. Critically evaluating the caste system and formulating ways and means to suggest philosophical directions to take India on a path of equality was a necessary precondition for rebuilding an India of equality after the British left. Merely reading Brahmin literature did not provide a philosophical vision against caste, as it was the same literature that had constructed the caste system spiritually and justified its origins, growth and continuation. Also, the very same literature stood against the productive forces and the process of labour as life. The Brahmin literature constructed a god (Brahma), who was against labour and production. We do not have any recorded vision of Brahma about the future of humanity. Most of the gods mentioned and propagated in the ancient Sanskrit books originated in the Kshatriya caste. When gods themselves have caste origins, will they allow the abolition of caste?

The entire Brahmin spiritual literature did not talk about any casteless universal God. When Mahatma Gandhi invoked Ram as God and propagated the idea of Ram Rajya, Patel did not seem to understand that Ram was a Kshatriya king working under the guidance of Brahmin gurus like Vasista. Did it not strike him that the Shudras—including his productive agrarian community—had no rights in that rajya? In the brahminic theological discourse, which Gandhi endorsed, anti-Shudra and anti-agrarian philosophical ideology has been embedded. How could a Shudra leader allow his people to be ruined in future even after the British left? Democracy, in a real sense, emanates from the spiritual democracy where all human beings are supposed to be equal before God. When God belongs to a hegemonic caste, how does equality come about? It is a fundamental spiritual question that the spiritually enslaved must address to overcome their slavery. Ambedkar addressed it, but Patel did not even think about it, as he considered himself a Hindu.

Such a caste construction of god/gods is an antithesis of human divine philosophy. A new set of philosophical literature was necessary for reshaping India. In the global context, one had to read a range of literature on slavery, racial identities, and the abolition of race-class systems. In order to work out a useful framework for a constitution for new India, one should have read many other constitutions that had provisions to abolish sectional inequalities in different parts of the world. Sardar Patel did not do such a serious reading to understand global theories to examine in the light of those theories what to do back in his nation. He did not work out the principles of social justice and develop a theory on how to apply them to the caste society of India. How to handle the question of the Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis vis-a-vis the Dwijas of India? Formulating a futurist liberation goal for the oppressed communities was a complex issue in India. Such a serious spiritual, social and ideological issue needed elaborate intellectual writing. Patel was not equipped to do that. He became an ardent follower of Gandhi and mobilised masses and money for his activities and Ashram management.

Knowing one’s strengths and limitations is a good quality, but not trying to understand the world and the socio-spiritual status of one’s person, family, tribe and community is an intellectual inadequacy. Patel’s blind following of Gandhi and his sympathy for K.B.Hedgewar and M.S. Golwalkar, assuming that he too was a Hindu like them, even though he was not a Brahmin or Bania but a Shudra farmer, caused immense damage to India. It led the RSS/BJP to own him for quite a long time, not because of his intellectual stature but because of his strong army approach with an iron will, which gave him the title ’Iron Man’. In contrast, Gandhi got the title of Mahatma, Nehru got the title of Pandit and Hedgewar got the title of Guruji. Narendra Modi himself believes in that kind of iron will and bending the backs of the opponents. However, he too has surrendered to the Brahmin spiritual philosophy without fighting for reforms in the Hindu spiritual system. He owned Patel because he was like him—a Hindu follower without raising philosophical questions. Now, the same RSS/BJP has built the tallest statue of Patel in Gujarat for two reasons. One, the Gujarat Shudras should get mesmerised. Two, the strong Patel community would be with them regarding votes and power. However, it appears that Patel’s stature cannot be compared to that of Mahatma Phule, who too was a Shudra. We can now see Phule’s image and stature although he was much less educated, turned to intellectualism and caste, social and educational reform in India in the nineteenth century.

Mahatma Jyotirao Phule and Sardar Vallbai Patel should be examined in comparison because they come from the Shudra background from the same Western India. Both were educated and worked for a national cause all their life. Phule has become a source of liberation for every Shudra slave. But, as of now, no OBC owns Patel as his/her liberator. Although he became the tallest Shudra leader at the national level by 1947 and became the first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister of India, why is he not seen by the toiling Shudra/OBCs as their liberator? The reason is that he has not raised any philosophical questions about Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis communities who had suffered throughout Indian history.

On the contrary, the RSS that was established to perpetuate the Varna Dharma parampara. And it was established to protect the historical interests of Dwijas—mainly Brahmins that owns Patel. The same RSS/BJP ruling forces installed Patel’s tallest statue as ’The Statue of Unity’, which serves merely a tourist purpose, but not any transformative purpose. Moreover, the top agrarian Shudras have not realised the importance of their transformation into a philosophical force. Instead, they seem willing to live as subordinates to the Brahmins in the philosophical domain and Banias in the capitalist financial domain.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar worked out a thorough modern philosophy for the liberation of the Dalits, who suffered an additional problem of untouchability and more exploitative caste oppression during his lifetime. He also created a philosophical vision for the annihilation of caste, and the Shudra liberation is a part of it. Mohammed Ali Jinnah and Allama Iqbal (both converts to Islam from Dwija background) worked out a theory and philosophical argument for Muslim identity, which subsequently lead to the country’s partition on religious lines and colossal violence. On the other hand, Ambedkar developed a philosophical vision to work out ways and means to abolish untouchability and caste oppression of the Dalits in a gradual non-violent way without partitioning the country further and further. But, Patel went in a blindfolded manner in M.K. Gandhi’s path, maybe because Gandhi was already a globally recognised leader because of his work in South Africa and was a Gujarati Bania from a former ruling family. Even the first-ever significant Shudra peasant movement Patel had led before Gandhi came to India, Bardoli Satyagraha (1) in Gujarat, was left to Gandhi’s credit.

Gandhi constructed a modern varna dharma Hindu nationalist philosophy in which the Shudra identity was subsumed. His Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad became a new experiment for future Hinduism, through which the Banias and Brahmins systematically managed to manoeuvre the consciousness of the Shudras, as Patel was seen around him most of the time as a loyal follower. Gandhi systematically injected into him a modern Shudra obedience that Hanuman carried to Rama in the book of Ramayana. This uncritical obedience made Patel withdraw his presidential nomination in favour of Nehru in the 1946 Congress session at the wink of Gandhi. Patel’s inability to become the first Prime Minister may or may not be a huge loss to the Shudras. But, the Shudras have lost a lot because of the emergence of the whole ideology of whitewashing the Shudra identity and the invention of a modern Hanuman role for Patel, instead of the role of a philosophical visionary who could write the Shudra philosophy of his epoch-making times. 15 August 1947 was the birth of the new India, which initiated an era of democratic equality with self rule.

From then on, India would be a new nation state. There had been no India of that kind with one political establishment with a modern constitution in our living history.
If only Patel had realised his philosophical role in the new India by standing for complete caste-free equality, the situation would have been very different. His naive faith in Gandhi and his adoption of the Jain-Bania food cultural campaign, which propagated the myth that vegetarianism was India’s ancient civilisational path, must have converted the whole of Gujarati Shudras, particularly the Patel community, into vegetarians. Although Patel never talked about his food culture, he seems to have adopted Gandhian vegetarianism in his personal life too. It is the same food culture that the RSS, right from its inception, propagated as the authentic Indian historical food culture, which has now created a massive conflict over food culture in the whole of India. More than anything, the productive masses cannot sustain their economy with a pure vegetarian economy. Hard physical labour in productive fields needs high protein food, which is what the Indian Shudras/Dalits/Adivasis have been eating all along their existence in this land from the pre-Harappan days.

Gandhi and RSS have changed that food cultural narrative and weakened the nation further. Despite being Brahmins, Savarkar and Nehru did not agree with the vegetarian cultural nationalism, but Patel voted for it. In our own times, the dominant caste groups that propagate vegetarianism are levelling violent physical attacks against meat/beef eaters across the country. Food culture is also a philosophical question. Philosophically, the RSS wants to convert the entire country into one homogenous vegetarian nation. In essence, this will result in the shortening of human life on this earth for the simple reason that there are not enough vegetables to feed the entire population of this nation. Most Shudras/Dalits/Adivasis, leave alone Muslims and Christians, survive on meat foods. Moreover, the rest of the world will not go with this self-destructive pure vegetarian path. Although Patel, as a Shudra, was in a position to negate the massive Gandhian campaign of vegetarianism, he chose not to do so and submitted himself to it. No nation can survive with pure vegetarianism as humans have a long life, unlike some vegetarian animals. Humans need to eat meat, and veg items like most Shudras/Dalits and Adivasis have been doing it historically. Patel should have realised this historical evolution of humans as someone from a hardworking agrarian family belonging to a Shudra caste. The Shudra work and food cultural evolution is a natural phenomenon, whereas the Brahmin—Bania work and food cultural evolution is the opposite. Humans must take up every kind of work without attributing the trivial notions of purity and impurity to work and food.

That is the fundamental difference between Ambedkar and Patel. Ambedkar seriously studied Brahmin history, their books and life practices which were reframed as Hinduism for postcolonial political purposes. Hinduism has not been a spiritually democratic religion with equal rights for all occupational groups and communities. Since the different social groups were arrested in their own caste cultural immobile units, they needed a new philosophical medicine to liberate themselves. Patel did not seem to have understood the immobile nature and character of the Shudra castes and the hegemonic place of Dwijas within the Gandhian brand of Hinduism. A brief reference to Hinduism by Sardar Patel in one of the letters to Ambedkar on 1st September 1946 reads, “This Congress aims at the assimilation of the Scheduled Castes into the general Hindu community and proposes to take all measures to secure that end, while your present proposals indicate that you still intend to provide safeguards which would perpetuate the separation of the Scheduled Castes from the general Hindu community” (Raja Sekhar Undru, Ambedkar, Gandhi and Patel, 2018, Bloomsbury, Delhi). This little reference to the Hindu religion and Patel’s status in that religion is wholly misplaced. When the Shudras were not assimilated as spiritual equals within Brahminism or Hinduism, as it was renamed in the early years of the freedom movement, by denying the priesthood and Sanskrit education rights, how did he think of assimilating Dalits into Hinduism? Patel was a wellknown lawyer, so he must have read Manu’s Dharma Shastra, which criminalises Shudras with its prescription of detailed brahminic codes with worst punishments, and a codification of standards of living and serving. Though there are many other codes against Shudras, the code of Manu should have shocked Patel if only he had read it with self-respect. If that had happened, he would have worked with Ambedkar. Manu says, "Even if a Brahmin frees a Shudra from slavery, the Shudra continues to be a slave as he is created for slavery. Nobody has the right to free him". (Manu VIII-50,56 and 59).2 Ambedkar burnt Manusmriti on 21 December 1927. By then, Patel was already a prominent leader in the Congress as he had joined the party in 1917. Patel should have read Manusmriti again and again to understand why Ambedkar burnt it, but he never seemed to have done so despite the massive controversy created around Ambedkar’s action. As an intelligent lawyer, if he were to read it, he would have definitely joined Ambedkar.

Even the kind of Hinduism that Gandhi constructed through his writings and speeches was based on varna dharma gradedness, in which the Shudras were placed at the feet in that order. Of course, the Dalits were/are outside that varna system as untouchables. Gandhi wanted only the untouchability to go but varna dharma order to remain forever. Patel did not realise his position vis-a-vis Nehru and Gandhi in that varna order. He was not equal to them in that religion. If his son or other relatives wanted to take the job of a priest in a Hindu temple, it would not have been allowed. Even today, the Shudras do not have that right. Patel knew that no Shudra priest was allowed in a Hindu temple during his entire life. This further shows that he had not made any philosophical enquiry into Hinduism as his guru Gandhi was constructing, leave alone the RSS and HMS, which were constructing a religion of all castes into Hindutva.

The Brahminic spiritual texts and practices do not allow the assimilation of Shudras, leave alone Dalits. If Patel were to emerge as a philosopher, thinker and writer like Ambedkar and also an administrator, the roots of Indian Brahminism would have been cut to size by now. We know that Patel did not get much time to administer the country for long. He died within eleven months of adopting the constitution in 1950. However, in his 75 years of life, he could have written quite a lot. While Ambedkar wrote so much along with his everyday political activism and despite his economic problems within a lifespan of 65 years, Patel could have done even more within his long life and with better economic resources at his command.

Patel’s guru, Gandhi, went on writing about his philosophical vision in which the Shudra identity was not even acknowledged. Gandhi made the varna dharma Hinduism a religion of Shudras but without according them the status of equal spiritual citizens. A whole range of Brahmin writers and Congress leaders galvanised themselves in support of Gandhi to keep their hegemony intact. They wrote many books in support of Gandhian Hinduism. Gandhi knew that the Banias were not equal to Brahmins within the Hindu spiritual and ritual systems, but they had the enormous economic advantage in the given Hindu spiritual system and in the newly-formed free postcolonial India. In the graded Hindu caste system, they would control money as people belonging to the traditional business caste. Gujarati Banias were also in leading businesses, and Bombay (Mumbai) was gradually coming under their financial grip through mill and oil, grocery, gold and diamond business ownership. Birlas and Goenkas were already the leading Bania industrialists promoting Gandhi. Now, we see how the Bania capital has grown, and the Hindutva ideology got full support from that capital. Adanis (Gautham) and Ambanis (Mukhesh and Anil) replaced Goenkas and Birlas with massive wealth. They may even extend their support for establishing the Hindu Rashtra because the wellbeing of Indians is not on their agenda. Their only objective is the accumulation of wealth. The caste-centric religion enriches the Dwija castes by simultaneously exploiting the productive castes. Patel knew the situation of the Shudras in Western India, where the Brahmin Peshwas ruled for a long time with a brutal force with total control over every sphere of Shudra and Dalit life. Mahatma Phule’s rebellion against Batji-Shetji (Brahmin-Banias) as a liberator of the Shudra and Ati-Shudras took place in that historical context.

Sardar Patel failed intellectually to assess the Brahmin writers of ancient India and the intellectual strategy of Gandhi and Nehru within his party ranks and V.D. Savarkar, K.B. Hedgewar and M.S. Golwalkar in the RSS/HMS. But, Ambedkar could. At present, the Shudra masses are directionless. It appears that, suppose the Brahmin thinkers from the Hindutva ranks propose the idea that, if they succeed in establishing the Hindu Rashtra, then they would bring the whole Muslim and Christian world under their control, the Shudras might believe them and support the establishment of such a Brahminic rule by sacrificing everything that they have. This is because they lack the intellectual vision and power, and thus they believe anything that a Brahmin theoretician proposes. They have not cultivated the habit of reading and writing philosophical books. Without a philosophical orientation, they cannot acquire intellectual leadership status. Patel’s life is an example in modern times. Since Gandhi and Nehru read books and wrote books, they became more visible and acquired the status of sophisticated leaders. Shudras must learn their lesson from Patel’s life. Iron bodies and militaristic brains do not change human life. The Shudras did all the physical work needed for the Dwija well being. That is what slavery is. In our modern times, they are leading a life of intellectual slavery. RSS leadership knows this mental status of Shudras.

Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, C. Rajagopalachari and P.V. Kane (an academician whom Nehru awarded Bharat Ratna for writing about Hindu Dharma Shastras) and many others wrote texts that supported the Gandhian Hinduism. K.P Jayaswal (1881-1937) was a Bania and wrote the book, The Hindu Polity, which glorified the Hindu religion but concealed the caste system. Except for Ambedkar, there was no other Shudra writer, thinker, or historian to assert the role of Shudra production in building India as a nation, during the freedom movement and in the Constituent Assembly. Instead of representing the Shudras, Sardar Patel represented the Dwijas whenever required. In contrast, Ambedkar, through his consistent philosophical engagement, contested the Gandhian Hindu thought and succeeded in keeping the issue of Dalit identity and their liberation alive in postcolonial India. His thought was critical in protecting OBC reservations in the context of massive opposition from the Dwija forces in the 1990s. He successfully created a crisis in the Dwija camp by working out a methodology of reservation, which has been playing a major transformational role. From the South, the DK and DMK political forces played a dynamic role in pressuring the central Government to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations after the V.P Singh government declared 27 percent reservation in 1990. The reservation system divided the Shudras into two camps: the Reserved Sudras, officially known as the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), and the Non-Reserved Shudras (called ‘General’ Shudras). Since no philosophical discourse exists around the historical category of Shudra, a unified identity has never been possible. Patel could have crafted that intellectual framework in the freedom movement. But he did not.

If Patel had stood for the historical Shudra mass and contested the idea of Dwija superiority over the productive Shudras, and had he constructed an historical narrative about the social and spiritual philosophy of production, the Shudra life-world would have become the primary source of Indian civilisation in both the pre-Vedic and post-Vedic India. The Vedic discourse would have been marginalised, and the autonomy of the Shudras would have been established. The RSS/HMS ideologies would not have found a place in India, and their construction of Vedas as a source of everything of ancient and modern India would not have been easy. The fear of Shudra rebellion among the Dwijas would have laid a better foundation for human equality and development in India.

But no Shudra thinker emerged and developed the much-needed philosophical vision for them and their history of production with an independent philosophical vision, which was in store in an unwritten form. Mahatma Phule and Periyar Ramasamy did some foundational work. But that is not enough. Without a philosophy of production, this nation would not have survived. The ancient and medieval Brahmin philosophy and Islamic philosophy that settled down in India in the late medieval period kept the Shudras and the whole production philosophy under the layers of Indian soil. Somebody has to excavate it now. Establishing regional parties or coming to rule in the states or Delhi by the Shudra politicians alone cannot confront the foundational Brahminism without attacking its philosophical sources. There were Shudra kings earlier, and there are Shudra Chief Ministers now. But, they ruled and will rule as per the Brahmin philosophical and spiritual guidance. The spiritual control by the Brahmin is the master key, not political power. The spiritual master key must be taken away from them.

The Indian Muslim thinkers were so tunnel minded that they too did not write anything about the Shudras. The Nawabi and feudal Muslims used the Shudra labour and agrarian and artisanal skills for their leisurely life. They were never interested in the philosophical visions of India or the world. Their tunnel mindset was confined to occasionally reading the Quran in Arabic, even though they did not understand it creatively. Their mindset and the so-called secular Brahmin mindset had many common characteristics. Even now, both these groups operate around the ideology of pluralism, which makes very little concrete sense.

Parallel to Gandhi, others like Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalakar built a philosophical vision of pure sanathan Hindu ideology by constructing the image of the Muslim and Christian as the enemy, which could brainwash the Shudras. The Shudras in subsequent years got divided between Gandhism and Hindu fundamentalism. They had no thinkers emerging from their social fold who could sustain the autonomy of their productive history, which was superior to Brahminism and Gandhism. All that they have been able to manage is some electoral power bases in some linguistic states owing to their numerical strength and the landed assets in the regional rural sector. But in Bengal and Orissa, the Shudras have not even got a visible place in the political system. Both the national and regional parties in these states are still under the control of the Bhadralok. Educational institutions and intellectual and capital resources are entirely under their control. No Shudra intellectual or political leader worth the name has emerged in these states.

The RSS went on to argue that the main enemies of the Indian nation were Muslims and Christians. By constantly presenting this false narrative to the Shudras, it has managed to shift attention to the minorities from the Brahmin and Dwija hegemony over the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi masses. The Brahmin Bania anti-production exploitative life was never allowed scrutiny in the process of nation building. On the contrary, the Brahminic anti-productive ethic was represented as a great national cultural resource. The Hindu Mahasabha and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh strategised a slightly different version of Hindu nationalist thought than that of Gandhi. Gandhi, of course, symbolically recognised the dignity of labour by cleaning Dalitwadas, feeding goats in the Ashram and spinning cotton. But, the RSS/HMS never allowed that kind of pro-labour ideas to get into their networks. They tried to create an anti-labour middle class of the Shudras which would be loyal to them and campaign in favour of the Brahminic mythology, and remain subordinate to the Brahmin leadership who would keep on writing and disseminating their theories. Today, the Shudra youth don saffron clothes and act as the muscle power of the RSS and HMS. Their middle status within the right wing networks has not improved their philosophical status. Education has not been their priority. The RSS networks have not produced a single Shudra intellectual who could critically examine what their theoretical strategy was. The RSS has managed to turn the Shudras into its network of muscle power by supplying resources to sustain themselves and their families and attack the minorities. In the absence of any intellectual imagination among the Shudras, whatever the Brahmin theoretician and the leader dictated them to do, they diligently carried it on as their duty. While the Brahminical forces have shown mythological Ksatriya kings as gods and Brahmins as gurus and poojaris, no Shudra king has been projected as God, and no Shudra could become a guru or poojari in a temple. The whole of Vaishnavite religious history is of Ksatriya kings, donning as gods, and Brahmin gurus and poojaris.

Though the Gandhian Hindu nationalism talked of nonviolence, the RSS/HMS and their other networks showed that Ahimsa, nonviolence, has not been in their DNA. Gandhi was wrong, and the RSS was right. Violence and nonviolence are not just abstract ideas. They are rooted in the philosophical evolution of castes and communities in India. Brahminism has survived through systemic violence. The history of worshipping violence is not a Muslim or the colonial rule phenomenon in India. It got institutionalised in the Vedic times and has continued throughout. The Shudras and Dalits were the primary victims of this historical violence. In the name of Hindu Rashtra, if a Brahminic state is established, the varna dharma order will prevail, destroying the Indian constitution. If the Shudra philosophical forces do not emerge and fight for equality in every sphere of life, particularly the spiritual life, the RSS will drive India into the classical vyavastha (system) in the name of Hindu Rashtra.

Though the RSS/HMS ideological framework does not fundamentally differ from that of the Gandhian Hindu nationalist thought and Brahminism, they have convinced the Shudras that they are different. The vast Muslim presence in India has made the Shudras blindly follow the Brahmin leaders of the RSS. The two ideologies were different in one respect. While the RSS went on constructing an anti-Muslim ideology in the name of patriotism and nationalism, the Gandhian Hindu nationalism remained silent on the Muslim question in a self defensive manner. However, Gandhi was killed by Nathuram Godse on the very question of a Muslim nation-state for Pakistanis and the distribution of resources between India and Pakistan.

In this ideological operation, the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis were used as muscle power to fight the communal battles against Muslims and Christians. On the other hand, the Gandhian school mobilised the Shudras around freedom from the British but treated them as inferior beings according to the varna dharma. Freedom from the British was a necessary condition for the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis but not Hindutvaization. Unfortunately, Sardar Patel was with both the schools and never thought of his school of thought with which the real Indian civilisation builders—the Shudras- would have acqured their own identity and philosophy. That Shudra selfhood is lost out now. The Brahmin-Bania selfhood is fully realised in postcolonial India.

The Jamaat- E- Islami, a Muslim fundamentalist organisation, also trained its youth to fight communal battles. If we call both Hindu Mahasabha and RSS combined ’the Hindutva network,’ this network made sure that not a single Shudra from its network entered modern English education and became a great thinker because it knew that it would take away the muscle power that runs the machine of violence. Muslim leaders have also trained their muscle-power force from the poor topi-clad people of the bastis. They have been feeding on each other.

The Brahmin leaders of modern India know that education is the key to either liberate a social force or keep it as a slave forever. Thus, they had kept the Sanskrit education away from the Shudras, who, thus, remained the spiritual and social slaves of the Dwijas until the modern constitutional system was set up. However, the Dwijas also knew that it would be impossible to keep the Shudras completely illiterate forever. Hence, they strategically devised the dual education system: English education for the Dwijas and regional language education for the Shudra/Dalit/Adivasis. Although the Shudras, Dalits and Adivasis are defined as Hindus, the Dwijas kept Sanskrit, the Hindu spiritual language, under their control. They also fed mythological literature to the Shudras even though most of such literature was against the Shudra/Dalit masses. How can a social mass of people who cannot read and understand what is against them and what is in favour of them liberate themselves from the slavery of millennia? Thus, the intellectuals must take up their fundamental task of constructing a theory of such people’s liberation. The Shudras still have no such systematic theory constructed by their intellectuals.

Controlling the reigns at Delhi for about eight years with a full majority of their own in the parliament, garnered from the Shudra votes, the RSS/BJP appropriated Gandhi in their political, spiritual and social propaganda. In every poster of Amrut Mahostav (seventy-fifth Independence), Gandhi sits as their man quite comfortably. Sardar Patel got the world’s tallest statue, ‘The Statue of Unity,’ standing on the bank of river Narmada in Gujarat. The question of Patel being owned by them, and he seems to be fitting comfortably in their scheme, has serious implications for the Shudra samaj of India.

The Shudra status in Hinduism has not changed, and the RSS/BJP combine does not seem to think there is any need for such a change. The Shudras, so far, except fighting a bitter battle against the farm laws that the RSS/BJP brought, have not raised any questions about their spiritual, social and economic equality. Such was the position of Patel as long as he was alive. As the country’s first Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, he forced all the princely states to accede to the Indian state. In the Hyderabad state, where a Muslim Nizam was ruling and in Kashmir, where a Muslim rebellion against the idea of accession to India was active, Patel used force to complete the task. The RSS/BJP’s apparent tribute to him through installing the ‘Statue of Unity’ is not just in recognition of this work. Supposing Abul Kalam Azad were to be in his place as the home minister and did the same as Patel had, would they have installed Azad’s statue as they have now for Patel? No way!

Patel is more important to them because he did not raise the identity question of Shudras and went with the ideas that the Shudras are Hindu, though unequal. That is the most critical role that he played in the strategic interests of the Brahmin-Bania leadership of the RSS/BJP. His silence on the caste question gave them the strength of many elephants. If only he were to construct a philosophy of the Shudra liberation from the fourth varna status, they would not have accepted him as they have done now. For establishing Hindu Rashtra, philosophically silent Patel is a significant icon.

What is the Future of Shudras?

The future of Shudras depends on their intellectual growth. Their intellectual growth will remain fettered unless they surmount the spiritual slave mindset. As long as they remain controlled by the Brahminic spiritual fascism, which I have elaborated in Buffalo Nationalism, India as a nation will not move in the direction of respecting productive work culture and human equality. So far, the Shudras have not realised that the human idea of God is sustained around the notion that God is a worker and the saviour of humans, but not a killer. There is no notion or human consciousness anywhere in the world that God kills people to preserve justice. The Brahminic idea implanted in their myriad books that God killed somebody to maintain the so-called dharma (which is not equivalent to justice) is actually Anti-God. They have not mentioned a single god who respects agriculture, animal husbanding, fishing, carpentering, pot making, or, at least, positive interaction with such human work and struggle for survival. Yet, the Shudras believe in such books, the stories of anti-production gods, and the Brahmin mantras that have worked against the Shudra spiritual, social, economic and political growth and advancement. The Shudras have never been allowed to comprehend the ancient Indian idea of God, who had initiated the Harappan civilisation and culture much before the Brahmin thought took shape in India.

Any common-sense knowledge would tell us that God does not need weapons and does not keep strategising wars. If spiritual books are written to control productive masses through weaponised divine agencies, the victims of such books should have rejected them a long time ago. To avert such a rebellion by the Shudras, the Brahmin writers prevented them from learning Sanskrit, in which language they wrote these books. Through such anti-Shudra books written by Brahmins, the state was made anti-Shudra, and the Ksatriyas were made to handle it. Vaishyas controlled the temple and societal business. And all of them conspired against the Shudras, the main producers of food and other human resources during the ancient and medieval times.

In modern times, except for Mahatma Phule, no Shudra tried to go to the root of the problem. Now, more and more Shudra thinkers and scholars need to write and talk about Shudra life and history with a profound philosophical understanding. More and more studies need to come on the Dwija historical methods of management and their ideological strategies. Human aspects such as production, the dignity of labour and equality should be the central issues for God and people. Indian history must be studied from the point of view of spiritual civilisational equality and respect for humanity.




(Author: Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a Political Theorist, Social Activist and Author. His books God As Political Philosopher—Buddha’s Challenge to Brahminism, The Weapon of the Other, Why I am Not a Hindu, Post-Hindu India and Buffalo Nationalism, The Shudras—Vision For a New Path (edited), Untouchable God are well known. He was very active in the Pro-Mandal Movement and also in the present on going Anti-Caste movements. The author thanks Dr.N.Manohar Reddy Assistant Professor, NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad for improving the quality of the essay.)

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy|
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.