Daipayan Halder

Why the BJP can’t digest Arvind Adiga

Posted in Uncategorized by daipayanhalder on December 17, 2008

Published on subalternstudies.com on Nov 5, 2008

When the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance lost the last elections in India, I was working with the Pioneer, a right-wing newspaper (some would say a BJP mouthpiece). The mood in the newsroom was gloomy as most senior journalists of the paper were staunch BJP supporters and the editor Chandan Mitra wrote a front page piece titled WHY? for the next day’s edition trying to make sense of the defeat. I don’t remember now what Chandan wrote, but in the days that followed newspaper columnists and television commentators concluded that one of the main reasons for the defeat was the BJP’s audacious Rs400 crore India Shining campaign.

While the BJP claimed that India is shining, in reality vast swathes of the country still lived in darkness. India shone, but only for a tiny percentage of the population.

For the vast majority, unemployment was growing, conditions in public hospitals were abysmal, government schools remained neglected, public transport was in shoddy state and the majority of Indian citizens didn’t have access to basic amenities like clean drinking water.

“Given these vast glaring inequities, how can one say India is shining?” asked Dipankar Gupta, professor of sociology at Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi.

More, castesim and communalism continued unabated in a country that sends unmanned rockets to moon. And Muslims and Dalits were raped and killed in the name of Hindu gods.

Between 2004 and now, India hasn’t changed much.

As the BJP prepares for another election, the party and its spokesmen it seems are still unmindful of this other India, the India Whining.

On October 26, in Pioneer, Kanchan Gupta wrote that this year’s Man Booker winner Arvind Adiga’s portrayal of India would be shocking to most Indians. Why? Because Adiga’s hero mocks the many Gods that the majority of Hindus in India worship. Because he is amoral, unscrupulous at times.

Coming from darkness, he dreamt of crossing over to the other India, the India Shining… and did, even if it made him a murderer and a thief to do so.

Because Balram, that’s the name of the guy, fought poverty, casteism, illiteracy and other hurdles to become a self-made entrepreneur…. and in the process, shed his morals and his faith.

A BJP man like Kanchan can’t be expected to be happy with such a hero. He would rather that people like Balaram kept worshipping the many gods that their religion had thrust upon them and remained where they were. That, after all, is the very basis of caste in India that the BJP so obviously endorses. People like Balram, coming as they do from the lower castes, are expected to accept their lot and stick to their traditional professions of menial labour. The Hindutva brigade would have it no other way. For them, a cow’s life is more precious than a Dalit’s. Some years ago a few Dalits were lynched near Delhi by suspected Sangh Parivar men for allegedly skinning a cow. So how dare a Balaram cross over from the darkness to the mainstream. How dare he make fun of Hindu gods, laugh about kissing their arses for getting a job done. How dare he challenge his destiny. For the upper caste BJP, a Balram Halwai, born to lower caste in a remote village should accept the social order that Manu endorsed, which said that the Brahmin came from the head of Vishnu and the Shudra (the Dalit) from his feet and that is where they should remain. Respect the 36,000,000 Hindu gods, accept caste, hate the Muslim, drink cow urine. That’s what the BJP tells you, not always in Delhi’s social dos, but everywhere in middle India, the very heart of Hindu conservatism. No wonder Kanchan isn’t amused with Adiga.

Read Kanchan Gupta’s article here:



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