[INDOLOGY] Ananya Vajpeyi on Hindutva, caste, and Brahminical values

Nityanand Misra nmisra at gmail.com
Sat Oct 10 00:58:10 UTC 2015

On Sat, Oct 10, 2015 at 12:42 AM, Tyler Williams <tylerwwilliams at gmail.com>

> As for me, the question about empirical sources (which do agree that
> religious minorities, particular castes, women and ethnic minorities suffer
> violence in India from particular groups of actors; the extent of that
> violence seems to be the issue in question) is not as interesting as the
> type of question that Vajpeyi raises: how is it that the violence
> perpetrated by groups of non-state actors is made legible as 'caste
> hierarchy enforcement', 'communal violence', and so forth through
> structural and ideological alliances between the aforementioned groups (the
> Sri Ram Sena, RSS, etc.) with the state (in this case, the BJP-ruled
> government)?  In other words, there is plenty of empirical evidence that
> violence is perpetrated upon these groups, that is not the object of
> debate; the question is how these are all read by the public-- including
> the victims themselves-- as a kind of cultural policing in the service of
> building a Hindu nation.

> But just as one cannot condone, say, the refusal to acknowledge that gun
> violence exists in the United States and has claimed the lives of many
> people, I find it difficult to condone a position that seeks to deny the
> existence of violence in India against religious minorities, women, certain
> castes, and again, scholars who hold certain views.  Such a lack of
> compassion is, frankly, frightening.
Nobody can deny there is communal violence in India. There is also violence
against women and caste-based discrimination (caste-based violence is less
common though). The news reports and data are out there for everybody to
see (more on this at the bottom of this email). What is debatable is to
link or attribute such violence, or the claimed increase in it, to specific
political and non-political organizations only, especially when such
violence has happened under rule of political parties of different hues –
right of centre, left of centre, socialist, etc. – at the centre or in the
states. What is also debatable is the one-sided view of Hindu-Muslim
conflict as violence against Muslims.

Coming specifically to Dr. Vajpeyi article, she links many things to Prime
Minister Modi and what she calls the ‘government of Hindu Right.’ It is not
entirely justified to link the some of the events mentioned in the article
to the PM and the government. Examples include:

(1) Mohammad Akhlaq’s lynching. This occurred in Uttar Pradesh, a state
ruled by a socialist party. Under the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution
of India, police and public order are state subjects (see page 270 here:
and it is primarily a responsibility of the state government to prevent and
investigate crimes including religious violence. In this context, to link a
crime in a state with the government in centre but not hold the state
government accountable is not completely fair.

(2) Perumal Murugan’s silencing. Murugan lives in Tamil Nadu, a state
dominated by Dravidian parties for decades. The protests against him were
by the Kongu Vellala Gounder community which is identified as a backward
caste, and may not subscribe to what the author calls medieval Brahminical

(3) Narendara Dabholkar’s killing. Dabholkar was killed in August 2013,
when Maharashtra was ruled by the Congress-NCP alliance and India by UPA.
Can that be linked to Modi’s government which came to power in May 2014?

Dr. Vajpeyi also seems to ignore that the RSS has been working for some
time against caste-discrimination in Hindus. An example is its recent
slogan of ‘one well, one temple and one crematorium’ for all Hindus (read
more here:

I remember Dr. Vajpeyi herself shared an article by Ashish Nandy with this
list on August 15 (http://bit.ly/1ffB431). Her post was titled: ‘On
Spirituality and the new gods and goddesses of Modi's India.’ In the
article, Nandy does not mention Modi or BJP even once in his article. He
cites largely social and economic reasons like massive transition, social
mobility, search for certitude, ability of spiritualists to connect with
people, replacement of ishta devatas, displays of wealth, et cetera. None
of the reasons given by Nandy are related to Modi or the NDA government.
However, Dr. Vajpeyi’s subject line mentioned Modi for a reason I cannot

I end my rather long post (and the last on this thread) with data on
communal violence in India. It may not be interesting to some friends like
Tyler but is relevant to the claim that violence has increased since NDA
came into power in 2014. Here are the links to data on state-wise incidents
of communal violence in India from 2010 to 2014, as released by the
Ministry of Home Affairs under UPA and NDA rule in response to Unstarred
Question numbers 6502 (answered on May 7 2013 by R P N Singh) and 2251
(answered on March 10 2015 by Kiren Rijiju). 2015 data may be available
next year.



The annexures are available in HTML format here

Definition of an Unstarred Question as per

“An Unstarred Question is one which is not called for oral answer in the
House and on which no supplementary questions can consequently be asked. To
such a question, a written answer is deemed to have been laid on the Table
after the Question Hour by the Minister to whom it is addressed. It is
printed in the official report of the sitting of the House for which it is
put down. Only 230 questions can be listed for written answer on a day. In
addition to this, 25 more questions can also be included in the Unstarred
List relating to the States under Presidential Rule and the total number of
questions in the list of Unstarred Questions for a day may not exceed 255
in relaxation of normal limit of 230 questions.”

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