Book Name- I Could Not be a Hindu – A Story of Dalit in RSS
Author- Bhanwar Meghawanshi
Publication & Year- Navayana 2020
Bhanwar Meghwanshi, a renowned Ambedkarite activist, writer, and journalist from Rajasthan does not need much introduction. His work in the field of Dalit activism and the Ambedkarite movement in Rajasthan is admired nationally by many scholars and journalists.
The book ‘I could not be a Hindu’ is a must read due to many reasons. First, it is written by a former RSS member; second, it gives detailed ideas about what RSS is; third, it exposes the caste system in RSS; forth, it gives a clear idea how RSS makes ground in rural India especially in Rajasthan; and lastly explains the roots of Brahmanism in Indian Society. According to Christophe Jeffrelot this book, enlightens the readers about the situations of Schedule Caste in India in general and Sangh in particular.
Recently on 9th November 2019, the final judgment on Ayodhya dispute was declared by the Supreme Court. And according to the judgment, the disputed land has to be handover to a trust to build Ram Temple. During this socio-political warmth, this book by Meghvanshi came to the limelight. First, the Hindi version, named ‘Me Ek Kar Sewak Tha’ launched and then the English translated version published (Translated by renowned Feminist Writer and Professor Nivedita Menon). The book is an autobiography of the author (Bhanwar Meghwanshi) where he shared his experiences with RSS and the reasons to quit.
Meghwanshi says that when I finished writing the book (Hindi Version), I knocked on many doors of publication houses but no one was ready to publish the book. Everyone said that the book is well written but no one could publish it since it is directly challenging the RSS, which is the largest and strongest organization of Hindutva ideology. Finally, the Navarun publication published the Hindi version, and Navayana published the English version.
The Hindu Identity- A Pride
Meghwanshi joined the RSS Sakha at the age of 13 years out of interest in sports and exercises. Gradually he started participating in the events of RSS and was keen to devote his life to the RSS and its ideology. Without much knowledge about the aims and objectives of Sangh, he actively engaged himself in the activities despite his father’s opposition. He said that his father never wanted him to engage in Sangh’s activities according to him Sangh had no place for deprived people like them, but he did not listen to him. I wanted to become a true Hindu Nationalist who could do anything to save religion and nation, he added. He started taking pride in his Hindu identity and hatred for Muslims, as they are not Indians. He wrote I learned from Sangh’s Sakha that the Muslims and Christians are our direct enemies and secular people are indirect enemies so we have to protect ourselves from these groups.
He was active in the Sangh from 1987-1991 and participated in the first ‘Kar Sewa’ in 1990 to breakdown the Babri Maszid but could not succeed. Mulayam Singh Yadav from Samajwadi Party was CM of UP at that time; he stopped ‘Kar Sewaks’ from reaching Ayodhya. Meghwanshi writes we (in the Sangh language) use to call him ‘Molana Mullayam’ because he was not a pakka Hindu in our idiom. Meghwanshi got arrested in Agra and spent 10 days in Jail. Not a single senior person from Sangh was with us in the journey, we were told that they would all join us in Ayodhya only.
Meghwanshi wanted to be a pracharak (A full time worker of Sangh) but he was stopped and was told ‘brother, we need more vistarak (expander) than pracharak’. I was told to go and visit rural India, village by village, enlighten the hindu people about Sangh and devote my life to Sangh. The Sangh never used the ‘Dalit’ in its shakhas, so I also never felt that I was from lower caste or something.
He cites an important incident that made him quit Sangh and introspect. He writes “We had organised an event of Sangh in my hometown, I was heading the event as I was the most active and passionate worker in my area. I had planned to make food at my home only for the senior guests and the priests who would join the event. My father strongly opposed and said that they would never eat food cooked by us. I did not listen to him, because he was a congress supporter and congress is an anti-Hindu party. I cooked good Rajasthani food with pure ghee and invited them. They did not come home but said that ‘you just pack the food we will eat it in the next village, as we are running out of time’. I packed the food for them, I later learned that they did not have my food but threw it in a naala. As the District Chief, I got angry with them and asked the reason, but did not get satisfactory answers. I was reminded of my father’s words that “people like us did not own any place in the Sangha” it solely belongs to the upper caste. After the incident, I introspected and came to know that it is solely a Brahmanical organization, and Dalit people like me could never get that status. This is how I quit the Sangh and after that regularly questioned the position of a Dalit in the Sangh and their proposed Hindu Rashtra’?
Meghwanshi shared much internal information about the Sangh which indicated that a Dalit has no place in the organization. According to him, out of six sarsanghchalaks five are Brahmins including Mohan Bhagwat and one is khatriya (Rajendra Singh). He said, the Sangh is fully controlled by Brahmins and Baniyas philosophically, structurally and financially. The whole money collected through donations is kept in Baniya’s homes, not in banks.
A Dalit or Ambedkarite Identity- Actual place
After the thought provoking incident, Meghwanshi quit the Sangh and started looking at Indian society or Sangh from a Dalit point of view. He started reading Ambedkar and realized that caste based discrimination and Hinduism could not be separated, that is how he finally understood that conversion was the only way to conquest untouchability. He, like the other Dalit activist and writers, was inspired a lot from Ambedkar and even wrote a wonderful chapter ‘towards Ambedkarism’ in this book.
He writes that I read Ambedkar in Sangh too, but that Ambedkar was different from the Ambedkar I read post-Sangh. In the Sangh, Ambedkar is read as Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, he was a true nationalist who had written the Constitution of India and he also wanted that Sanskrit to be our national language. He had some disagreements with the Hindu religion so he joined Buddhism which is also one of the branches of Hinduism. Post Sangh, I met different Ambedkar from the Ambedkar who was introduced by the Sangh. The first book I read was Riddles in Hinduism; it stuck to my intellect and introduced me to the real Hinduism which was totally opposite to the Hinduism I was learning in the Sangh. After that, I wanted to read more about Ambedkar and I got Annihilation of Caste, this was more than a book which gave a clear and detailed understanding of the caste based hierarchies in Hinduism. The more I read Ambedkar, the more I learned about the real face of Sangh.
Gradually I also read Phule, Kabir, Periyar, Kanshiram, and other Dalit and Bahujan thinkers who lead the Dalit socio-political movements in India, he wrote. According to Meghwanshi, in the Sangh’s so called Hindu Rashtra the SC/ST/OBC would only be slaves and other religious minorities like Muslims or Christians would be treated as second class citizens.
The book is an inspirational text for people like me who are born and brought in a Brahminical society but could not understand its roots. After the ‘Why I Am Not Hindu’ book by Kancha Ilaiah, this book directly influenced me. It is a must read book for all of us who are working, reading, and writing against Brahmanishm or its subjects.
Hemraj P Jangir is currently Ph.D scholar at Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS) New Delhi, India. Earlier he has been completed M.Phil from University of Delhi and Master in Social Work (MSW) from Central University of Rajasthan (CURAJ). His area of interest lies around Ethnography and community studies, Nomadic and De-notified tribes, Caste, Stigma, Social Exclusion and Discrimination. He employed Qualitative methodology in both of his dissertations (MPhil and PhD). He has published research articles in various journals. He has attended various national workshops on marginality issues and research methodology.