how secular is the secular brigade?

from the article 'holy cow and unholy dalit' by siriyavan anand in the november 2002 issue of himal (which thrust itself again on me today):

While the mainstream media and the ‘secularists’ run shy of such instances of caste-based aggressions, they find it much easier to focus on episodes of violence where the obvious faces of Hindutva – Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), Shiv Sena, Bharatiya Janata Party – are involved. These outfits are seen as representatives of a militant form of pan-Indian Hinduism from which the secular brigade – that otherwise indulges in caste – seeks to distance itself, not realising its own role in creating and sustaining these social monsters. In Thinniam, where no such Hindutva outfit was involved, and where Subramani and his family had no significant affiliation to any political party, the aggression was simply a result of a thevar-supremacism. Subramani and his family do not identify themselves as ‘Hindu’ nor do they act in the name of ‘Hinduism’. If they did, the RSS-type Hindus would distance themselves from such ‘caste Hinduism’ more forcefully than the secularist Hindus would. For instance, the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch chief, S Gurumurthy, viewed the VHP-Narendra Modi actions in Gujarat as un-Hindu and even ‘Islamic’. In his perverse understanding of the carnage in Gujarat, ‘Hinduism is getting Islamised’ (Outlook 23 September 2002).

Ezhavas in Kerala, gounders in Tamil Nadu or jats in Haryana do not victimise dalits to defend ‘Hinduism’ as much as they do to secure their caste supremacy. And when the dalits of Meenakshipuram (in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu) famously embraced Islam in 1981, they did it not to escape Hinduism, to which they anyway did not belong, but to liberate themselves from the oppression of the thevars. The Hindutva groups descended on the area, and on Tamil Nadu in general, only after the Meenakshipuram conversion. The assertion of caste supremacy by the shudra groups is today being increasingly expressed through Hindutva outlets like the VHP and Bajrang Dal – as seen from the experience that the targets of Hindutva are invariably the dalits and Muslims. In fact, Hindutva, as we have seen it since the 1990s, is basically an organised, pan-Indian expression of casteism to which even ‘Dravidian’ parties like the DMK and shudra outfits like the Telugu Desam Party lend legitimacy. A casteism backed by brahmins and other upper castes but acted out by the shudras.

how secular is 'the secular brigade', that, as anand says, 'otherwise indulges in caste'? those castes in india which find it necessary to assert their 'supremacy' do so in their efforts to go up the ladder, to claim the little or mostly unavailable space at the top. and mostly to hold onto their assigned rungs. when the shudras and the dalits went around killing hapless muslims in gujarat in 2002- moments like those, perhaps, are the only times that space at the top seems easily accessible, even welcoming, to them? hindutva and secular politics reign from the same perch.

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