The social and political hounding of Ilaiah with death threats is another dark page in the recent turn of events, where the state is a mere bystander.
Kancha Ilaiah
Image Courtesy: The Wire

Kancha Ilaiah had ensued a controversy through his book Samajika smugglurlu komatollu (“Vysyas are social smugglers”).The prominent Dalit scholar has been facing threats to his life for over a month now. Claiming that the title and content of the book have derogatory elements with regards to their community, the Arya-Vysya communities have demanded the book to be banned.

Ever since the book was translated and published in Telugu, Ilaiah has been under constant attack (metaphorically and literally) by the Vysya community as well as the higher authorities. However, the Supreme Court on October 13 refused to entertain a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought a ban on the social scientist’s book.

Some Dalit and backward class organisations arranged a felicitation ceremony for Kancha Ilaiah in Vijayawada, over the verdict given by the Supreme Court for his book. Ilaiah had expressed that he would attend this felicitation at any cost. Whereas the Brahmin and Arya Vysya leaders had warned that they would stop this felicitation with every effort. And unfortunately but not surprisingly, the police placed the Dalit writer under house arrest in Hyderabad today to stop him from leaving for Vijayawada to address the public meeting. Police personnel were deployed outside his house in Tarnaka. A team from Andhra Pradesh conveyed to him that he will be arrested if he steps out of the house.

The social activist was served a notice by the police on October 27, informing that he has no permission to hold the public meeting in Vijayawada as prohibitory orders were in force in the city. The Hyderabad High Court on Friday had refused to give directions to Andhra Pradesh Police not to grant permission to Ilaiah to conduct a meeting in Vijayawada. The court was hearing a petition filed by Arya Vysya Sangham. The joint committee of Arya Vysya and Brahmin communities had threatened severe consequences if Ilaiah was allowed to visit Vijayawada and hold the meeting.

In the past few months, there have been multiple instances of books getting banned, threats of violence and police cases against writers because their content was found objectionable by those in power. These instances reflect the hopeless situation writers find themselves in when the system decides to act against the knowledge they produce. The State indulges in both the direct and indirect intimidation of the writers.

The term ‘social smuggling’ used in the title was coined by Ilaiah as an “Indian English concept”, referring to the role of certain castes as the ‘middlemen’ in trading. The book is a Telugu translation of Ilaiah’s book Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution, published in 2010. The book deals with “the intellectual imagination of the dominant communities” and is a critique of Brahmanism and the caste system in India.

Condemning the targeting of Ilaiah by the Arya-Vysya leaders, CPI(M) Telangana State Secretary Tammineni Veerabhadram opined that this particular attack is an abuse of constitutional rights and freedom of expression.

Prior to the police house arresting him, Ilaiah had put himself under a self-house arrest, to protest against the continuous threats. He said “till 4th October 2017, I impose a Self-House Arrest on myself and remain at Home. If I need to go out on personal needs like (medical and other) I will inform the Osmania Police Station.” He had also said that he would remain silent for all the media networks of the state.

The social and political hounding of Ilaiah with death threats is another dark page in the recent turn of events, where intellectuals in the country have been at the mercy of hoodlums and fanatics of all hue and colour, while the state is a mere bystander.