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Preaching to the Converted


Vasanthi Srinivasan

UPROOT HINDUTVA: THE FIERY VOICE OF THE LIBERATION PANTHERS
By Thirumaavalavan . Translated by Meena Kandasamy. 
Samya, 2004, pp. 248, Rs. 200.00

THE VEDAS, HINDUISM AND HINDUTVA
By Kumkum Roy , Kunal Chakrabarti, Tanika Sarkar
Ebong Alap, Kolkata, 2005, pp. 126, Rs. 100.00

THE WRONGS OF THE RELIGIOUS RIGHT: REFLECTIONS ON SCIENCE, SECULARISM AND HINDUTVA
By Meera Nanda
Three Essays Collective, Gurgaon, 2005, pp. 118, Rs. 150.00

VOLUME XXIX NUMBER 12 December 2005

All three books address the menace of hindutva and attempt to counter it either through direct struggle or greater historical understanding or scientific temper. The first, a translation of Thol Thirumaavalavan’s speeches presents the powerful and passionate voice of Tamil dalit liberation panthers. Tirumaavalavan has relentlessly exposed the unspeakable atrocities on cheri (dalit colony) people under Dravidian rule since the 1990’s. His speeches “compel people to bear arms, reiterate their belief in revolution, and are so passionate that it leaves them disturbed and shaken by the vehemence and force of its arguments” (p.xxvi).   A running theme in these speeches is that violence against dalits has not been taken seriously by any of the progressive forces be they Dravidian parties or Left organizations or even Ambedkarite outfits. He laments that casteism has not been targeted as much as communalism and with the same force (p.26). Under Dravidian rule, dalits have been regularly prevented from contesting reserved panchayat constituencies through dire threats, dummy candidates and sometimes, through brutal violence (pp.10-11). In ordinary times, they are displaced, beaten up, forced to eat excrement, raped and burnt in the dead of the night. Wherever they have asserted their rights even minimally, they have been attacked by ‘caste Hindus’ like Mudaliars, Naidus, Kallars etc. And the ‘khaki clad gang’ defends the killers by registering ‘death under suspicious circumstances’ and courts deny justice by delaying it. Given the collusion between politicians and caste Hindus, he declares that the ‘legislative assembly is not the field for us; For sycophants only scream so that Amma (Jayalalitha) hears them or waste time discussing whether Karunanidhi got prison food or homemade food’ (p.50).   These speeches must arouse righteous indignation in anyone who reads, brahmins, caste Hindus and dalits. Claiming that he is not subtle or mature or measured like others, he asks “can Eelam be attained without tigers” (p.74). Like all revolutionary rhetoric, Thirumavalavan’s speeches stir the passions of the poor and attempt to mobilize them on oversimplified identity tags. “The battle is only between the immigrant Brahmin and indigenous cheri people. The caste Hindus are those who ingratiated themselves with the Brahmins” (p.5). The logic of identity politics compels that Karunanidhi, Sonia Gandhi, Vajpayee or Jyoti Basu be clubbed as brahmins so that battle lines can be clearly drawn. Would it not be better to address these atrocities on a case by case basis so ...


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