Burning Manusmriti, anything Sangh doesn't agree with is anti-national

Demanding that copies of ancient legal text be set ablaze publicly was actually a campaign to oppose the code which sanctifies Hindu caste system.

 |  6-minute read |   11-03-2016
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Earlier this week a group of students in Jawaharlal Nehru University burnt several pages of Manusmriti, the ancient Hindu text, which among other issues also codifies the caste system. The protest was staged by former and current members of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad along with other students - those who are affiliated to other organisations and also those who are unattached with any party or group. Those who are still members of the organisation will surely soon become former members once they are charged of indiscipline!

The students -men and women - chose International Women's Day to mark their protest and it served as reminder to the ABVP's - one of the oldest affiliates of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh - ambivalence on the code which lays down the four-step caste order besides terming Dalits or Untouchables as Ati-Shudras or being outside the caste order with no right to even read the Vedas.

The Manusmriti is also a retrograde text because it clearly states that women are the property of the family and have no rights as individual or collectively. There are also several clauses or statements that are entirely derogatory towards women. Sample these: "It is the nature of women to seduce men in this world", "A woman must never seek to live independently", "Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age; a woman is never fit for independence".

Also read - RSS mindset of women exclusion is not 'Indian culture'

The students who protested against the Manusmiriti on March 8 did not decide on the action in attempt to ride the Kanhaiya wave in JNU and secure media attention. In January, much before the infamous incident of February 9 but after the suicide of Rohith Vemula had already begun polarising Indian politics and society, a group of ABVP students in JNU placed their demand to the organisational leadership that activists must publicly burn a copy of this two-millennia-old mouthpiece of the Hindu caste system.

The demand was not made by junior activists but was voiced by the joint-secretary of the varsity unit. Pradeep Narwal, the student leader was one of the three who recently quit the organisation over its support of the government and BJP attack on the university and its academic tradition.

In January, the demand to publicly burn copies of Manusmriti, it was not to campaign against the text for its disrespect of women but to oppose the code which sanctifies caste system in Hindu society. After all, Vemula was driven to suicide because of being victimised for daring to articulate radical political belief despite being Dalit. Believers in the caste system do not grant rights to question fundamental assumptions of the dominant caste and vested interest groups. The radical Ambedkarite had clearly done so by questioning the framework of judging who is a terrorist and if the accused was unfairly pilloried and not given a fair trial.

Despite not following caste system - it does not classify swayamsevaks on the basis of caste or have separate living and dining quarters for Dalits - the RSS has a marked upper caste, Brahminical orientation. This is reflected in its hypocritical emphasis on a fastidious or ritualistic and ascetic lifestyle in which those who are celibate are revered.

The Brahminical spirit is also underscored by importance given to selfless service, firm commitment to textual and non-textual ideals, emphasis on learning - even martial skills and above all the projection of the RSS as a religious sect. While these elements along with the use of symbols most commonly used by Brahmins, the Kshatriya aspect of Hindu order is infused into the RSS by its martial programmes practised in the shakhas every day.

Also read - Will Modi not observe Manusmriti Dahan Divas on December 25?

The second and most influential Sarsanghchalak of RSS, MS Golwalkar in his seminal text, Bunch of Thoughts, states the following on caste:

"The other main feature that distinguished our society was the Varna-vyavastha. But today it is being dubbed 'casteist' and scoffed at. Our people have come to feel that the mere mention of Varna-vyavastha is something derogatory. They often mistake the social order implied in it for social discrimination. The felling of inequality, of high and low, which has crept into the Varna system, is comparatively of recent origin.

The perversion was given a further fillip by the scheming Britisher in line with his 'divide and rule' policy. But in its original form, the distinctions in that social order did not imply any discrimination such as big and small, high and low, among its constituents. On the other hand, the Gita tells us that the individual who does his assigned duties in life in a spirit of selfless service only worships God through such performance."

Clearly Golwalkar's assertion is why the ABVP leadership in JNU rejected the demand to publicly burn a copy of the Manusmriti. In January when this demand was first raised and after the issue was raised with the national organising secretary of the ABVP, Sunil Ambedkar, he explained: "Manusmriti had lost its relevance now under the laws of the country. The demand was rejected because it's an irrelevant issue. No Hindu follows the Manusmriti any more - so, what's the point in burning it?"

Also read - The good, bad and ugly side of religious texts

Yet burning Manusmriti has been declared an anti-national act. Any viewpoint which is outside the narrow perspective of the Sangh Parivar and its howlers is unpatriotic or anti-national. Most modern historians opine that pluralistic societies and countries with wide diversity like India, is a nation in the making. But there is a miniscule section of social scientists (they are so small a community because of being suppressed by the Left-libs!) who argue that what we are has already been explained in our Vedas. These Vedas, Upanishads and codes like Manusmriti have answers for everything.

Why, don't you remember the prime minister telling us that ancient Indians practised plastic surgery with virtuosity and were ace reproductive genetic experts!

Because anything that is anathema to Sangh Parivar is anti-national, academic Nivedita Menon is a target of media-led frenzy. So is scientist and poet, Gauhar Raza. Menon is unpatriotic so because she contended that Hindu society is one of the most violent societies in the world. Raza is a noted Urdu poet but - the logic surely goes like this - because of the language in which it is written in and the metaphors which poets use, there must be "something" anti-national about it.

At this rate, the Sangh Parivar will have to conjure a completely new form of creativity and social discourse. Every form of creative expression of the past and its originator will have to be damned anti-national and heretic. And this will surely include these remarkable lines penned by Sahir Ludhianvi for Guru Dutt's classic film, Pyaasa:

  • Yeh mehlon, yeh takhton, yeh taajon ki duniya
  • Yeh insaan ke dushman samaajon ki duniya
  • Yeh daulat key bhookhey rawajon ki duniya
  • Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai
  • Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai
  • ...
  • Jala do isey, phoonk daalo yeh duniya
  • Mere saamne se hata lo yeh duniya
  • Tumhari hai tum hi sambhalo yeh duniya
  • Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai

Writer

Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay @nilanjanudwin

Writer and journalist based in Delhi. His most recent books are Sikhs: The Untold Agony of 1984 and Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times.

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