Vegetarianism is anti-nationalism, says Kancha Ilaiah


LUCKNOW: Known for his immensely controversial book, `Why I am not a Hindu’, Kancha Ilaiah, on Thursday said that vegetarianism is anti-nationalism.

“For me, my nation starts with eating beef. Unfortunately, we gave up eating beef and our brains are not growing now. There is no enough protein,” said Ilaiah while speaking on Dr BR Ambedkar’s political empowerment in a function held at Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University to celebrate 125th birth anniversary of Dr BR Ambedkar.

Currently, the director of the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Maulana Azad National Urdu University and former associate professor at the department of political science in Osmania University, Ilaiah said that though he is not very tall and strong but his brain is working because he ate a lot of goat brain in his childhood.

“Vegetarianism will destroy the brain capacity. You cannot compete with vegetarian nationalism with China, Korea, Japan and America who are full scale `beefarians’, `porkians’, fisharians and even `frogarians’. Whatever is now poison they are eating, there brain is growing,” sais Ilaiah getting a round of applause from the audience, mainly consisting of dalits, who make 50% of the university’s population.

However, Ilaiah’s 10-minute speech on the importance of beef left the upper caste audience sulking.

“The whole steel industry is collapsing from here to England because China is producing steel in such a manner that all our economists are in doldrums, nothing is being understood by Indian economists. This is because, the Chinese brain has gone so sharp, our economists vegetarians brains are not working.”

From Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Swach Bharat campaign to Shankaracharya Swaroopanand Saraswati’s latest remark that women entering temples will increase rape, Ilaiah had salvo ready for all.

“We didn’t know whether he was guiding or misguding us. His speech was more destructive and less constructive, giving students ideas on how to create discrimination,” said a political science student.

“At times, the PM sweeps the road. I said when you were a shudra you were doing that. What are you doing now. Ask Arun Jaitely or Arun Shourie to sweep the roads. I am very happy to know that PM is learning English. At least a Shudra is trying. The only problem is vegetarianism doesn’t have a quick learning. He should eat good food,” said Ilaiah.

 Slamming the upper castes, particularly Brahmins, Ilaiah said at a time when Socrates and Plato were writing about justice and republic, scholars here were busy writing about Kamasutras.
“Do we need to write a book about that (kamasutras)? Animals know how to live a sexual life, why are you teaching it at 1st century AD,” said Ilaiah who coined a new slogan, `Bhim Bhoomi ki Jai’ for India, which according to Ilaiah will reflect the land of tilling, aspirational shoemaker, pot-maker.

Vegetarianism is anti-nationalism: Kancha Ilaiah on Ambedkar’s food democracy

Known for his seminal but immensely controversial book, Why I am not a Hindu (1996), Kancha Ilaiah, does not mollify his audience — an experience I have lived firsthand, having attended Ilaiah’s lecture series at the Asian College of Journalism. Currently, the Director of the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Maulana Azad National Urdu University and former associate professor at the Department of Political Science in Osmania University, Ilaiah’s works have often been described by his critics as “cheap rhetoric”, provocative, while some others point to the inconsistencies in methodology, lack of academic rigour. He acknowledges that he has been told be “mild” and that he “should not be writing what he does” by many in his lifetime.

Perhaps that is true for most writers who write on Hinduism, Hindu Culture and Brahminism: Wendy Doniger’s Hinduism: An Alternate Historydrew ire from the religious right wing outfits, Perumal Murugan’s book about ritual, One Part Woman was not accepted by right wing groups and the author decided to withdraw books from sale.  Late MM Kalburgi, noted scholar on Vachana literature was shot dead; he found that the worship of Ganesha was not prescribed in texts, but a myth. Last year, a case was filed against Ilaiah by the VHP for hurting religious sentiments over his article published in a Telugu daily titled — Devudu Prajasamya Vada Kada (Is God a democrat?); around the time IIT Madras clamped down hard upon Ambedkar Periyar Circle, a student group that engages in socio-political discussions. More recently, Rohith Vemula’s suicide exposed the seedy cracks in the walls of higher education, where caste discrimination is bona fide.

Ilaiah circles around a miscellany of topics when he speaks — he has examples, stories and tales, ready for your eager consumption. Ilaiah also keeps his ears to the ground and reacts whenever there is a need. Soon after Rohith Vemula’s suicide, Ilaiahwrote in an op-ed that dalit students like Vemula were creating a “new cultural idiom” and by that he meant engaging in a quest for transformation. Ilaiah is quick to correct me when I drop the word, identity: The struggles at JNU, University of Hyderabad, Jadavpur University, IIT-Madras’s issue with Ambedkar Periyar Circle, beef festivals in Osmania or EFLU are “not a struggle for identity” according to Ilaiah — these are about “transformative, political, ideological issues.”

The eating of beef, exercising the right to freedom of speech and being a human without the politics of caste, is the “transformation” he means. “I am more bothered about transformation of society where equality is the goal. These are not identity issues, but equality issues, these are issues of Indian democracy becoming mature. Identity is just a low grade of that, transformation is the next level,” he asserts.

A conversation with Ilaiah is never linear, but one that meanders. Elaborating upon Ambedkarism, Ilaiah decides to make a point about democratic food culture being a pertinent aspect of the doctrine. To illustrate this point, however, Ilaiah resorts to grand rhetoric that unabashedly trespasses into the absurd — “vegetarianism is anti-nationalism…if a whole (sic) nation becomes vegetarian, its protein levels will go down. You know why West Indies won all the games? It is because they eat protein rich food.”

Kancha Ilaiah says things how they are. Image Courtesy: Facebook/Kancha Ilaiah

Despite such digressions, Ilaiah tells me, “everyone should be free to consume what they want, pork or beef,” — an appropriate critique of the State that is currently obsessed with regulating its citizens’ lunches and dinners.

As far as Ambedkarism is concerned, it is hard to miss that political parties across all leanings have embraced Ambedkar in the recent past, including the RSS. Most posters have his image and speeches are not made without invoking his name. How does Ilaiah understand this? “Ethicality of equality is missing in Hinduism” and the RSS cannot pick and choose ideas.

The Congress, Ilaiah feels is on the heels of repositioning itself into importance by deploying Ambedkar’s thoughts into their political strategy. “Rahul Gandhi has taken a radical position, he likely to become a reformist politician.”

Ilaiah’s beef with most parties is with their dilly-dallying on aspects of Indian history and not taking a solid stand on any of those aspects, especially Buddha and Ambedkar’s relationship with Buddhism. Again, always one to poke the grizzly, he makes statements about how the RSS must embrace Buddhism.

Ilaiah is also not particularly enthused by Communism’s tepid treatment of ancient Indian history — “they want to take everything combined from (sic) Hinduism is good, Vedas are also good…Socialism is good and Vivekananda is also good or that Shankaracharya is also good…no! This doesn’t work. This puts them in a confused status.”

Caste politics are updating across the country, protests have sparked in various regions over gaining the ‘Backward Caste’ tag — Jats, Harayana’s farming community members sought to be included in the OBC list in 2008, Kapus from Andhra Pradesh, Gujjars from Rajasthan, Patels from Gujarat, Marathas from Maharashtra also demanded the reservation tags. This renewed interest in claiming the backward caste tag, according to Ilaiah is “dalitisation” — a term he coined in his 1996 book, he had ideated that a time would emerge when people would look for spiritual equality — “Dalitised mode of thinking, God has made all humans equal,” he explains. “Today the caste which did not want want reservations, Jat, Gujjars, Patels and Kapus are asking for reservations,” and the solution he says is to give them their position in society, in the community. “What is an open quota? In essence it is a Brahmin quota,” he slickly pronounces. The Dalitisation process “will happen more and more, labour will be respected” he says.

When I ask him about how things have changed since Independence, he says that while there has been gradual progress, the oppressed are still oppressed. “There is a quantitative change, but there is no qualitative change,” says Ilaiah, his disenchantment is manifest. He attributes positives to the Constitutional provisions, such as the right to vote, employment and education but strongly espouses the idea that the caste system is “rigid” and benefits those in the upper echelons: Brahmins.

The Shudras, according to Ilaiah have been kept away from the spiritual and intellectual domain — Brahmins still have a tight grip on areas of “policy formulation and transformation.”  He says in an exasperated tone, “change is very little,” and explains that if men and women are burnt alive for marrying into other castes, there is no change; “Shankaracharya saying women entering temples will increase rape is not Ambedkar’s India,” he adds. Often understood as a staunch anti-Brahmin or one that is looking to annihilate an entire race through his “venomous” writings, Ilaiah addresses these with ease, “We are not saying that there Brahmins should have no place in this country or that we should be violent. In our religion, as Ambedkar has given, equality in every sphere.” The envelope needs to pushed — “where we are free equal human beings.”

First Published On : Apr 14, 2016 16:42 IST


Corrupt, fraud Kiran Bedi: let Ms Bedi go to jail


Ms Bedi, how dare you?

By Kancha Ilaiah

Team Anna has been arrogant and self-righteous ever since it launched the Jan Lokpal movement. Its Jantar Mantar hungerstrike yielded quick results, as the Congress government itself gave the team a boost by constituting a committee to draft a bill and by including five members from the team in it. Among them was former cop Kiran Bedi, who behaved as if she were an angel and all others in the country either corrupt or of no consequence. But now this angel has been caught for fraud and cheating organisers that invited her to speak at their functions.

Ms Bedi has claimed that she did it all for public good, as the money earned by submitting wrong invoices was used for her NGO. Ms Bedi wants us to believe that all the money she made by lying was spent on the wellbeing of poor children. This is ridiculous, to say the least. Look at the kind of money she earned through cheating. According to a newspaper’s estimate, Ms Bedi, in 12 air trips, claimed Rs 3,89,062 whereas the amount she spent on these trips was Rs 1,18,277, thus pocketing Rs 2,70,785. Ms Bedi, as a recipient of the President’s Gallantry Award, gets a 75 per cent discount on air tickets, which she happily availed but didn’t disclose.

This is a major crime. The purpose for which that fraudulently earned money is used is not the issue. The issue here involves cheating a trusted organisation which is paying you without even asking for your boarding pass. I also travel and give lectures, as Ms Bedi does. Most organisations treat us “speakers” so well that there would be an immense sense of shame to cheat them.

If Ms Bedi were honest and morally upright, she would have asked for a donation from the organisation for the poor children she is so keen on helping. If Ms Bedi were honest and morally upright, she would not have cheated the organisation by serving an invoice for money she never spent. A chain of lies becomes part of such travel racketeering. The bigger the profile of such persons, the easier it is for them to earn huge amounts of money this way.

This “earning” is not accounted for; one does not have to pay taxes on this. Should such a practice be treated as corruption? I think it is corruption of the worst kind because this fraud is pulled off on the basis of one’s reputation and the trust of an organisation that considers you valuable enough to invite you to talk to them.

First is the moral corruption. Ms Bedi, and others like her, travel like royalty, without having to carry their own baggage or boarding pass. Nor do they take the ticket receipts that the airline generates. All the more easy to generate a fraudulent invoice of a fraudulent travel agency. This act involves a series of lies that need to be transacted between individuals and institutions.

Second, this method of making huge amounts of money deceives institutions that also have a public purpose. So while Ms Bedi may be on the dias of, say, an educational institution, talking passionately about public figures and their corrupt ways, hectoring students and teachers to act against corruption, she herself has no qualms about cheating them.

This angel of morality was just yesterday waving the Indian flag as a leader of the anti-corruption bureau that Anna Hazare established while sitting in a Yadav Baba temple in Ralegaon Siddhi, which works only according to the principles of varnadharma. We all know that in several TV debates this angel of morality and merit used to abuse the reservation system as a legal mechanism that produces a “merit-less” class of people who join government institutions only to make money through corruption. Arvind Kejriwal tells the nation — after Swami Agnivesh exposed him — that he put about `2.9 crore which was given in the form of donations to Mr Hazare’s movement in the account of India Against Corruption, his own NGO.

Ms Bedi runs an NGO with money that is fraudulently collected from public and private institutions and Mr Kejriwal runs an NGO that pockets money given to Mr Hazare. Let them remove Mr Hazare from their team and ask for donations. Then we’ll see how much money they will collect. How come the shining stars of public and personal probity did not open an account in the name of Team Anna itself? Why did they not form an organisation with Mr Hazare as its chairman, without whose signature money could not be withdrawn? Who is operating that money now?

We now understand why they were struggling to keep NGOs out of Lokpal. They wanted a Lokpal that would monitor peons, clerks and small section officers in the government sector, perhaps with a view that more than 50 per cent of small job holders come from reservation background. Would they now introduce a clause in Jan Lokpal Bill where a corrupt peon should be respected for taking bribe as long as it is for a worthy cause?

By Team Anna’s own demands and insistence on stringent action against corruption, should not an example be set by sending Ms Bedi to jail for cheating organisations in this manner? Why is Mr Hazare allowing her to continue after several organisations issued public statements that she cheated them? If Ms Bedi can wash off her guilt and sins by returning the money ( Rs 16,346 only), why don’t we extend that same courtesy to A. Raja, K. Kanimozhi and Suresh Kalmadi? If we accept this principle, why not give them a chance to return all the money they earned through kickbacks and return to being powerful and respectable again?

Team Anna can’t invert the moral discourse when it pleases them. Ms Bedi’s plea of innocence fools no one. If they want to regain credibility, let Ms Bedi go to jail now.



The writer is director, Centre for the Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Maulana Azad National Urdu University, Hyderabad

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