How Much Grip Does Hinduism Has On Indian Communists? | Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd


The role of Hindu religion on the Indian state and governing forces is coming up for more and more discussion after the Bharatiya Janatha Party and the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh came to power in 2014 and 2019. However, one also needs to examine whether Hinduism has its grip on Indian communists. Only then we can understand their role around caste system.

The communists generally are passed off as rationalists who do not believe in God. Therefore, an opinion was created that they are not Hindus also. While religion is in the centrality of the nation’s political discourse it is important to examine whether the communist main leaders, who control their politburos and the central committees, have no relationship with Hinduism? Or they do not work under the influence of the Hindu religion?

Most of them came from upper caste Hindu families and were brought up in their childhood and adult formation days under the influence Hinduism. Reading of Ramayan and Mahabharat, particularly Bhagvad Gita, which hardly talk about production and distribution systems in ancient India, were the main texts of reading in their homes. As children many Indian communist leaders were fed with those textual stories. Hardly any upper caste children read Buddhist literature in their childhood. Since Gandhi and other nationalist leaders deployed these texts in a major way they influenced the Indian upper caste society quite deeply.

This is what I wrote in Why I am Not a Hindu in 1996 about the Indian communists. Since their atheism does not find cultural alternative at birth, marriage, death, celebrational festivals their families operate in Hindu cultural realm only.

“ Did the communist ‘upper’ castes give up the Hindu way of life? Certainly not. Their social relations continued to be within their caste circles. Marriages took place within the caste structures; their personal friends remained within their caste circles….They may say that they do not go to temples as ordinary Brahmins and Baniyas do, but they simply forget the fact they have converted their central committees into Hindu power management centers”. (P.61)

The fact that till today the CPM refuses to take even one Dalit and one Adivasi into the Politburo even after 23 years of my agonizing statement about them shows how stone minded and deeply Hinduised they are. Meanwhile the BJP/RSS have used that space quite carefully and took away the Dalit/Adivasi vote into their fold by showing some leaders in their top ranks. Prime Minister Narendra Modi as OBC is an every day crisis creator in their ranks. Their silence about caste in such a situation is only leading to end of the communist era in India.

The communist general ownership of secularism as the public domain ideology does not keep them disconnected to Hinduism which is their family spiritual cultural anchor. In the communist ranks, so far, the SC/ST/Muslims/Christians have not been allowed to emerge as top leaders who could guide their political actions. Whether this disallowing of SC/ST/Muslim/Christian leadership to emerge and control the top structures of the parties ( mainly the CPM and CPI) has not to do anything with their Hinduness? It has something to do with Hinduism.

The Indian communist party and the RSS were formed in the same year–1925. Structurally the RSS did not allow any SC/ST/Muslim/Christian to head the organization as it is Hindu. Caste culture is part of that Hinduness. But tactfully now pushed Modi o the helm and that has worked take control of the state apparatus.

The CPM structures also did not allow an SC/ST/Muslim/Christian to head the party structure by allowing one among them to become the General Secretary of the party. That is because in my view they basically are Hindu in operation, their casteism is also part of that.

This could be one of the main reasons that the communist leaders kept Dr.B.R Ambedkar, a Buddhist, more far than they kept Mahatma Gandhi, a Hindu. All top communist leaders’ names show their religious and caste connection. In West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura where they were/are more pronounced and were in power, no SC/ST could emerge as a top leader.

In those states also they took all the care to see that no SC/ST/Muslim/Christian leader could emerge. In Kerala there is one leader called M.A.Baby,a Christian, but he is not a decisive force.

In these three states where they were in power for long Ambedkar’s ideological entry was systematically checkmated. They hated the identity movements and reservation assertion of Dalit/Tribal/OBCs for long.

In the recent past the Telangana wing of the CPM departed from its Hinduness and seriously tried to engage with Ambedkarism. It adopted Ambedkar, Mahatma Phule along with Karl Marx in a new experiment. It started two networks: one, T-MASS (Telangana social organization network) for which I am the chairman. Second, to fight the elections along with many other Dalitbahujan organizations and small parties called the Bahujan Left Front. It gave a slogan ‘Laal–Neel Zindabad’ and Jai Bhim Laal Salaam.

Sitaram Yechury, the General Secretary of the Party and B.V. Raghavulu its Politburo member, occasionally shouted these slogans in the public forums. Once the elections were over their Politburo took a unilateral decision that formation of the BLF is wrong and they would not promote Ambedkar from their platforms. They issued a public statement to that effect, shockingl all the Dalit/Tribal/OBC/minority activists and sympathizers who worked with them. I was also shocked because I thought the party was changing and was willing to work with Phule-Ambedkarites.

The new Telangana experiment is in a mess now. B.V Raghavulu who is known for his anti-Ambedkar stand took the lead and went back from the Laal-Neel Zindabad and ‘Jai Bhim Laal Salaam’ slogans creating an impression that the communist leaders do not change.

This stand they took at a time when the BJP/RSS were trying to own Ambedkar, even though he is a Buddhist. But the Indian communist leaders never took a stand that Buddhism has a progressive religious ideology than Hinduism and communists should promote Buddhism as against caste and untouchability centered Hinduism. They were silently preserving Hinduism and casteism in various ways.

Their reading of Marxism was always uncreative. They never understood that Marxism has grown in a religious culture which believed in social ideology of “treat your neighbor as thyself’. That neighbor could be of different religion.

One of the sayings of the early Christian Apostles is “For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat”. Thessalonians 3:10 ESV.

The famous statement of Vladimir Lenin, “He who does not work shall not eat” came from this Biblical background

This command of the Bible was the basis for the socialist thought in Europe. The Hindu communists could never objectively study Indian history where Buddhism has more productive shramanism as against the ‘production is pollution’ theory of Hinduism.

If they were to study the two streams of thought around production and pro-labour and anti-labour spiritual thought process in ancient, medieval and modern Indian history they would have adopted a different course. The communist ideology would have produced a different socio-political leadership from the productive communities.

They have now created a condition where an average lower caste person would think that the RSS/BJP leadership is more open to change than the communist leadership. This will not only kill the communist mass base in Bengal but it will kill their mass base everywhere.

Any creative Dalit/Adivasi/OBC activist working in the communist parties (CPM, CPI) would not work with a dream that he would one day reach to the top of the party. This kind of caste block in the communist structure is definitely because of its Hindu basis. However, D.Raja’s elevation as the General Secretary of CPI, an articulate and capable Dalit leader, has given some hope.

Now it definitely gives a feeling the CPM is opposed to Ambedkar based on his Buddhist religion, apart from his anti-caste writings and movements. The fact, that it did not create a space for even minority religions like Islam, Christianity shows that they were/are also equally averse to Buddhism.

Even when the upper caste communist leaders were in underground in the fifties and sixties their adopted names also show that they were/are culturally Hindu. I have pointed out several times how Muppala Laxamana Rao the top Maoist leader’s underground name was Ganapathy—which is very Hindu divine name. They never respected Buddhist or other religious cultures and practices.

Even after death of many leaders their kharma Kandas were/are performed in Hindu style. But actually even if they were to consider they are atheists the Buddhist rituals were/are very close to atheist rituals. But they never adopted such a policy of progressive and egalitarian spirituality.

If they continue in the same spiritual and social thinking and practice they slowly become oblivion. If you see their new recruitment only the Dalit/Adivasi/OBCs youth are joining their student wings. Hardly any upper caste youth are joining their ranks. But with the present Hindu approach of the communist top leadership they are getting disillusioned within no time.

It is for them to re-position themselves or get abolished, while classes and castes continue to exist.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is political theorist, Social Activist and Author




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