Lathis And Books
By Kancha Ilaiah
16 May, 2003
The basic idea behind the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad's campaign of distributing trishuls (tridents)
is to send signals to intimidate the minorities. But there is a signal
to other sections as well. The Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and
Other Backward Castes who are trying to form alternative organisations
and set alternative agendas are also warned.
As a response to this Hindutva
agenda the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh started distributing swords
and the Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar started distributing lathis.
Even before this competitive
distribution of weapons began, we have been witness, every other day,
to leaders of political parties being presented with swords never
with books as a mark of victory or of the growing strength of
Where does this celebration
of lethal weapons in civil society and the construction of warring ideologies
around them weapons lead to? When some organisations seek justifications
on spiritual and social grounds for distributing weapons, others who
cannot find suitable arguments in their traditions will be forced to
distribute weapons covertly.
All this will only lead to
an anarchic civil war. The change that people like the VHP leader, Praveen
Togadia, and the RSS chief, K.S. Sudarshan, want will only see a lot
of blood spilt without any socio-economic transformation. Any cornered
community would resort to terrorism, as it finds no alternative for
The justification put out
by the Hindutva forces for handing out trishuls is that they are `divine
weapons' and therefore no legal hurdles should be created in their distribution.
Similarly the RJD and the Samjwadi Party came up with their own socially
sanctified alternatives. A point to note is that the youth to whom all
these organisations and parties keep distributing weapons come from
the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Castes.
No English-educated child
of the forward castes Brahmin, Baniya, Kshatriya or neo-kshatriya
is willing to carry a trishul or a sword or a lathi in his or
her hands. The political parties or organisations are not starting English
medium schools for the children of the poor or distributing books that
give them knowledge so that the youth coming from the Dalit-Bahujan
communities could also compete with their own children.
Do the children of top leaders
of RSS or VHP carry trishuls? Do the children of the Samajwadi Party
leader, Mulayam Singh Yadav, or of the RJD chief, Mr. Laloo Prasad Yadav,
keep carrying swords and lathis? Mr. Mulayam Singh who opposed English
all along got his son (now an MP) educated in English-medium schools.
How liberating is a spiritual
and social tradition that hands down weapons but not books to its adherents?
All the ancient Gods were war heroes. Except the Buddha, who was born
in a ruling tribe and lived outside the fold of ancient Hindu thought,
no prophetic figure could gain status and currency without holding weapons
within the fold of ancient and medieval Hinduism.
No Hindu thinker could construct
a spiritually democratic text that could be distributed among the youth
belonging to all castes. Though in the modern period, the Bhagavad Gita
was projected as the single spiritual book of Hinduism on the
lines of the Bible and the Quran - the priestly class never believed
in distributing even that book to the children of all castes and training
them in its study.
The Arya Samajists claimed
that Dayanand Saraswati's `Satyarth Prakash' is a great spiritual democratic
book. But the mainstream Hindu Brahmin priests did not accept it as
spiritual text to be used for prayer in the temples and also at the
time of marriage and death. Neither did the Arya Samajists themselves
distribute it to the children of all castes in the villages.
The VHP does not have a spiritual,
democratic book to distribute, as opposed to the Bible and the Quran,
in a context where many educated youth want to have such a reference
point with which to attack untouchability, inequality and indignity
of labour. Quite cleverly, therefore, it resorted to weapon distribution
so that the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward
Caste youth could be involved in violence against the minorities. It
is an attempt to build muscle power around the oppressed communities
to use in the cause of Brahminism.
Without understanding the
implications of the Hindutva project of weapon distribution other parties
are aping it. Such an agenda will have long term negative impact on
society. These weapons can in no way empower the Dalit-Bahujans and
the poor. Obviously, the Hindutva forces have decided to waste the financial
resources of the state. Even Mr. Laloo Prasad might justify the distribution
of colourful lathis as a socially accepted weapon in the hands of lower
castes or as he said "it was a weapon in the hands of Mahatma Gandhi
too". But it is better to distribute books and not weapons of any
Youth belonging to the Scheduled
Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Castes have been
brutalised, and their humanity suppressed, by their having been used
as muscle power; considered good only for using weapons. All fascist
forces had celebrated weapon-using youth within their organizations.
The spiritual-fascist tradition
that handed down the tradition of weapon wielding and pushing people
into bloody wars did not do this nation any good even before Islam and
Christianity took root. The people fought among themselves. As a result
this nation fell prey to any small invasion. We had trishuls, chakras,
bows and arrows all around and yet the invaders walked over all these
The reason was that the people
of this country were never unified on the basis of common book that
a shoemaker, a pot-maker, a shepherd, a school teacher and a priest
shared, debated and discussed. A weapon is not a source of knowledge
or a social source of unity. Any war weapon is a source of division
Let the Togadias distribute
books among the Dalit-Bahujan youth. Let the VHP distribute one book
that children of all castes could read with pride and let all these
social forces teach the illiterate youth how to read those books. Let
all of them stop distributing weapons.