By Anand Teltumbde
09 January, 2016
On 27 November DailyO.in, a web edition of the India Today, published an article by one S.N. Balgangadhara, who is a professor in Ghent University in Belgium titled as “Which intolerance is growing in India?.” It was a response to the indignation spreading against him for his abusive references to Dr Ambedkar while speaking in an international conference at the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU), Hyderabad. Instead of being apologetic, he justified his contempt for Ambedkar and repeated his ridicule saying that “he outshines the genius of Alia Bhatt.” Pedestrian insults and invectives as such are not new for Ambedkar but never before anyone in any public intellectual forum had used such a foul language for him. While the right wing ruling establishment is mouthing limitless love and displaying inexhaustible devotion to Ambedkar, it is interesting to hear someone known to be engaged with theorizing greatness of Hindu culture and tradition showering abuses on Ambedkar with impunity.
Balgangadhara may never admit association with the Sangh Pariwar as many of his ilk do but he has repeatedly admitted being a Brahman, and that too with worthless pride. Before that Arun Shouri-- let it be said in his favour that he was not as idiotic as Gangadhara -- in his Worshipping False God had marshaled his pedestrian facts with an aura of discovery to argue that Ambedkar was not a maker of the constitution of India. He and many of his detractors among Dalits did not realize that their belabouring the point was completely off the mark as Ambedkar himself had disowned the constitution and exposed the Brahmanic conspiracy to use him as a hack. He had also said that he did not have any association with the Sangh Pariwar but the fact remained that he was a chosen one to head the most happening ministry to be, the ministry of disinvestment, in the first ever BJP’s cabinet under Atal Behari Bajpeyi. Balgangadhara too would claim no connection with the Sangh Pariwar but the language he speaks in and arguments he proffers inadvertently reveal the truth that he belonged to the same tribe that masked its Hindutva with a secular veneer. In the euphoric excesses the BJP establishment has been committing in eulogy to Ambedkar, this episode uncovered the deep rooted hatred for Ambedkar in the Brahmanic camp.
The three days international conference in which Balgangadhara spoke was on “the force of law and the law of force on Derrida’s theology” and hence obviously Ambedkar or Ambedkrites did not constitute the subject matter except perhaps in illustration of Derrida’s negative theology. Other speakers for instance did not bring them in. But he went berserk calling Ambedkar an idiot and wondered how Columbia University awarded doctorates to him. Incidentally, he needs to be reminded of another, equally hallowed institution, London School of Economics also awarding him a Doctor of Science, incidentally the first one to be given to any Indian. He also called a person (he did not name him but people guessed it was Narendra Jadhav who brought out three volume of Ambedkar’s essential writings) an idiot. Well, it may be so as a plethora of unethical reproductions of Ambedkar’s books in the guise of editing are truly not defensible intellectual works. Then he made derogatory remarks on Islam and Christianity. His speech was fraught with abusive slangs bereft of scholarship becoming of the theme and standing of the conference. For instance, he kept on using bullshit for all that is generally held sacred by the people, perhaps to illustrate the apophaticism in Derrida. He did not spare even the host in EFLU calling it a madhouse obviously directing his ire against its faculty and students having relatively better representation of the non-Brahmans. The next day, when some senior professors engaged with his references to caste and untouchability, he directly mounted vitriolic attack on them and remarked that the students should think about their future when they were taught by incompetent, idiotic “assess with caste certificates”, obviously referring to Dalits, Adivasis and OBCs. Likewise, he spilled his scorn while responding to a question by a Muslim faculty saying that he was spreading terror.
Both students and faculty in his audience were aghast at such brazenly casteist and communalist statements. He unashamedly kept repeating that he was a Brahman. It was particularly audacious to speak at a place like Hyderabad known for its campuses that have history of Dalit resistance. The entire lecture was replete with not only demoralizing remarks against the reserved category of students and faculty but punishable in law under IPC sections 295 (A), 154 (A), and 298, and various sections of the Atrocity Act. There was no question, however, of EFLU authorities, which did nothing to stop him committing these crimes, resorting to legal action against him. The reaction of others also came quite late, more than a week after the event, by way of a petition made by the EFLU faculty to the Vice Chancellor on 11 November although the Deccan Chronicle had carried small news on 6 November itself that Osmania students contemplated to lodge a police complaint against him. In response to this building of anger, Balgangadhara wrote his above said response complaining against the Ambedkarites for their expression of indignation for his unruly statements. Terming that as intolerance, he did not realize that if Dalits had been intolerant, he would have been physically attacked right there.
Terrorism, not Intolerance
Firstly, calling murders of Dr Narendra Dabholkar, Com. Govind Pansare and Dr Kalburgi or violence and fatal assaults on ordinary citizens (as in Dadri, UP; Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir), etc., as intolerance is erroneous and gross understatement. The right word for it is terrorism. Because this social violence by organized gangs backed by the complicit state is not just a behavioural characteristic of certain individuals or groups as non-toleration of the opinions different from one’s own but the terrorist acts against those who dare to oppose them. Balgangadhara amply gave a glimpse of his hyper wisdom justifying lynching of Dadri murder using fabricated facts that Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched and his son Danish was brutally beaten for having stolen a cow from the stables of another person. They deserved it as people were lynched in ancient Europe and America for stealing cattle. He made similar foolish remarks about Kalburgi that he was himself an intolerant man and also went on suspecting his “moral and intellectual integrity” that put “the legendary Chhota Rajan to shame.” He insinuates that his murder might have had to do with his allegedly loose morals. The quality of simile and his overall arguments in these snippets of wisdom would rather firmly establish him as an idiot. Instead, the hundreds of intellectuals, artists, litterateurs who returned their awards to the government in symbolic protest against its complicity in these acts were rather idiots, ignoramuses exhibiting “an abysmal ignorance of human history”. More than 135 scientists who had drawn a picture of apocalypse, saying peace and harmony in the country are being “threatened by a rash of sectarian and bigoted acts that have recently escalated” were also idiots to say so! It is only the Brahman in Balagagadhara who was an epitome of wisdom!
What is his claim to wisdom beyond raising such idiotic questions as “Is there a caste system in India?” and indulging in quibbling of words like “Worlds without Views and Views without the World” (an extended title of his Ph D thesis), which the Brahmans are traditionally good at. As for the caste question, his answer is in negative accusing the British missionaries who brought with them the Christian theology, especially the Protestant theology, mired by its corrupt clergies and other evils of Catholic religion, having interpreted Indian society as caste society. So the castes against which the entire shraman tradition revolted and which the majority of Hindu Dharmshastras vehemently protected were a chimera, a figment of imagination of the Christian clergies which were inexplicably taken as real by all of us! He dished out such nonsense through the Centre for the Study of Local Cultures (CSLC) at Kuvempu University, at Shimoga, of which he was a director. The hidden Brahmanic schema of his ‘research’ was exploded by many. A casual glance at the various write-ups by and about him reveals that he belongs to the “long live Sanatana Dharma brigade”. He is shrewd enough to weave a cobweb of words to fool the West to sit up and take notice of him as profound scholar. But make no mistake; he basically belongs to the pseudo scholars’ brigade of the Pariwar to intellectualize its decadent project.
Return to Ambedkar
It is no surprise then that Ambedkar who challenged Brahmanism will be an anathema to such a person. Ambedkar did not indulge in sterile quibbling of words passed as scholarship; he dealt with substantive issues of humanity through the integration of theory and practice towards the goal of establishing a society based on liberty, equality, fraternity, unlike arm-chaired pontifications of Balgangadharas of this world. Ambedkar may be wrong, grossly wrong, as any human. But calling him an idiot is just exhibiting one’s own idiocy. To comment on Ambedkar demands high degree of intellectual honesty and integrity, which apparently Balgangadhara does not possess. He is contemptuous of “asses with caste certificates” but does not have an elementary intellect to understand that this hackneyed argument of merit has repeatedly boomeranged at those who made it. While it is not the justification of reservations, which I always considered having been detrimental to Dalits in net terms, but this merit argument could be simply busted by the history of slavery the so called (upper caste) meritorious people gave this subcontinent so rich in natural endowment. They should be ashamed of their past but instead they seek to recreate it through their hindutva project.
It is not the matter of dealing with some abusive Balagangadhara, who can be easily dealt with by any ordinary Dalit. It is a matter of knowing what the entire hindutva camp really stands for. On the one hand it seeks to create a cult of Ambedkar by memorializing everything that he set his foot on but on the other it condemns him as intellectual nobody. It is this hindutva core Balagangadhara inadvertently exposed, which is of value to the people in general and Dalits in particular. This hydra-headed camp would unleash Balagangadharas to test out waters with provocative statements and distance itself from its consequence. It wanted to puncture the entire Ambedkarite project by making out castes in India as mithya and colonial conspiracy. It is no scholarship; it is the Goebbels’s infamous stratagem to keep repeating a big enough lie until it is taken as plausible and eventually accepted by people as truth.
(I would express my thanks to Karthik Navayana, a research Scholar at EFLU for providing me necessary material)
Anand Teltumbde is a writer and civil rights activist with CPDR, Mumbai.