Whether the proposed inauguration of Manusmriti at Telugu University, Hyderabad be stopped ?
As per reports appearing in a section of the press, the The Veda Dharma Prachara Trust has translated and published Manusmriti from Hindi to Telugu which will be inaugurated in a mass programme to be held at Telugu University in Hyderabad on 11 th of Feb 2023.( https://maeeshat.in/hindutvas-religious-text-manusmriti-to-be-released-in-telugu-in-hyderabad/)
What has irked a section of legal fraternity and civil liberty activists is the way the whole programme has tried to glorify Manusmriti as the ‘ancient Constitution of India’ despite knowing it very well that Dr Ambedkar had termed it as “gospel of counter revolution” and which he had symbolically burnt in a public programme held at Mahad ( 25 th December 1927)
One can still recall the resolution which was read out on the occasion which was proposed by Gangadhar Sahasrabuddhe emphasised that it was the ‘[f]irm opinion of this conference that Manusmriti, taking into consideration its verses which undermined the Shudra caste, thwarted their progress, and made their social, political and economic slavery permanent.. is not worthy of becoming a religious or a sacred book. And in order to give expression to this opinion, this conference is performing the cremation rites of such a religious book which has been divisive of people and destroyer of humanity’ ( Page 351, Mahad The Making of the First Dalit Revolt, Anand Teltumbde, Navayana, 2017)
Around 23 years later when the Indian Constitution was promulgated, Dr Ambedkar said that it had ‘ended the rule by Manu’
A petition addressed to the concerned authorities demanding them to ‘Stop this proposed inauguration’ raises important points. It underlines that the claim that Manusmriti was the ancient Constitution of India is baseless and laughable because 1) the Nationhood concept was relatively modern; therefore, there was no Nation, and none commissioned none to draft a constitution. 2) At best, it’s a religious scripture whose foundation was laid on oppression and social regression. 3) It contradicts the spirit of the Constitution. 4) State university permitting such an event is Objectionable. (https://www.change.org/p/stop-its-inauguration-of-manusmriti-on-11-02-2023-at-telugu-university-in-hyderabad-at-2pm?recruiter=76124&recruited_by_id=bf917740-09f2-0130-1b6d-4040ea65fa16&utm_source=share_petition&utm_campaign=share_petition&utm_term=share_for_starters_page&utm_medium=email0
Definitely this is not the first time that attempts have been made to glorify Manusmriti or present it in a sanitised form.
It was only last year that Justice Pratibha Singh of the Delhi High Court had created a furore of sorts by talking about it in glowing terms in a programme in Delhi held under the auspices of FICCI, wherein she had said that Manusmriti gives “a very respectable position to women” She was roundly criticised for statement for propounding regressive ideas ‘which reek of casteism and classism’ (https://www.outlookindia.com/national/left-women-leaders-slam-justice-pratibha-singh-for-comments-hailing-manusmriti-news-215815)
As the 90 th anniversary celebrations of the Mahad Satyagraha were in full swing, merely two weeks before them, a leading ideolgoue of RSS Indresh Kumar, in a public programme held in Jaipur, similarly presented a sanitised version of Manu. He told the audience that Manu was not only against the caste system, but he was also against inequality. He suggested that historians had presented a confusing picture of Manu. Manu, he said, was the world’s first jurist in the field of social harmony and social justice. The said programme was organised by Chanakya Gana Samiti and the focus of the discussion was Adi Purush Manu ko Pehchanein, Manusmriti ko Janein (Know Adipurush Manu, Understand Manusmriti). In fact, the invitation to the event described the Manusmriti as ‘opposed to caste discrimination and the caste system’.
It is the same Jaipur where a statue of Manu is still standing erect in the Jaipur highcourt premises for more than 30 years when it was installed during the BJP regime in the state ( 1989). What is significant though is that it has faced resistance from day one. A petition challenging this installation is still pedning before the Jaipur High Court. (https://indianexpress.com/article/india/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-manu-statue-in-the-rajasthan-high-court-5421545/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CIt’s%20a%20tragedy%20that%20in,Jaipur%20and%20the%20only%20living
Subhash Gatade is a left activist associated with New Socialist Initiative