in India — by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd
What is known as Devulapally Venkateswar Rao (DVR) defenders team, attacked my recent article on Usaa Barber. One of their objects was to assert that DVR, a vegetarian conservative Brahmin, who pretended to be a revolutionary is intellectually superior to the Shudra communist intellectual Tarimela Nagi (TN) Reddy. I take this attack as the appropriate occasion to compare and contrast the role of Shudra leaders and Brahmins in Indian communist movement.
T Nagi Reddy was a student of M.A. Economics and the most brilliant of all the communist leaders of India of his times right from student days. He was the author of India Mortgaged and also held the positon of students’ union president of Banaras Hindu University in his college days.
DVR claimed that he was a great revolutionary intellectual and Nagireddy was his follower. This is a joke to say the least. Nagi Reddy as student Union President has shaken the British administration and wrote a brilliant monograph for his M.A course on economic ideas of Muhammad Bin Tughluq, who was being portrayed as a mad man by the whole range of nationalist leaders, including the communist Brahmins like P.C.Joshi, Dange, Ranadive and so on.
So far none of these so-called Nagi Reddy followers published that monograph. Nagi Reddy’s argument, as I remember from reading it in the 1980s, was that Tughluq printing currency by using copper and leather by avoiding using silver and gold was the most advanced economic thought in India and even the world of his times. He laid the transitory road map to printing paper currency from leather and calling him mad for that betrays the ignorance of Indian economists and historians of his times. Even later, the Brahminical economists did not change their mad Tughluq narrative. Let us not forget the fact that when Nagi Reddy was studying in the Banaras Hindu university most conservative Brahmin Vedantic philosopher Sarveppally Radhakrishnan who converted the Rastrapathi Bhavan into a vegetarian Tamil Brahmin Bhojanashala, was the Vice-Chancellor and he must have been doubly opposed to him as he was brilliant and a Shudra from Andhra (Rayalaseema). He knew very well what varna/caste was the Reddy-Kapu community of Andhra belongs to. Subsequently, Nagi Reddy was expelled from the university for his militant activism.
Two groups which are claiming the Nagi Reddy ideological tradition must be having his early writings, particularly his write up on economic ideas of Tughluq must be released to Countercurrents.org so it should be available in public domain. The DVR group, in the 1980s, was headed by Bhaskar Iyer and the Nagireddy group was headed by Simhadri Subbareddy. The Iyers were anti-Periyar brahmin force that spread all over India to oppose social change. The Nehruvian state gave all sorts of central jobs to them with contempt against Periyar, the greatest Shudra revolutionary after Mahatma Phule.
The DVR defenders must release all of Nagireddy’s early writings and also of DVR’s if any as student intellectual. Then a comparison of their contributions would be easy. Both of them were of the same age–exactly born in 1917. Let the readers decide who is of greater intellectual calibre and why that communist Shudra intellectual thrown to the corner history at the all India level? For instance, look at what Wikipedia in its very small bio on Nagireddy says about his early education and the commitment that he had to socio-economic change. It says “Tarimela Nagi Reddy (1917-75) often called “TN”, was a communist politician from Andhra Pradesh, India. He was born in a wealthy family in Anantapur district of Andhra Pradesh. He completed his schooling from the Rishi Valley School India (English medium), Andhra. He would later study at Loyola College in Chennai and at Banaras Hindu University in Varanasi. During his student days, he got involved with nationalism and Marxism. His political activities got him jailed in 1940, 1941 and 1946. He revolted against his father who was a landlord and donated his land of over 1000 acres to landless labourers.”
Andhra, unlike Bengal and Kerala, produced many outstanding Shudra communist leaders, including Puchalapally Sundarayya (a Reddy), Chandra Rajeswar Rao (a Kamma), Kondapally Seetharamaiah (a Reddy) Chandra Pulla Reddy, apart from Nagireddy. There was only one outstanding Dalit communist revolutionary in that whole team, and that was KG Satyamurthy an underappreciated young colleague of them, a brilliant poet and slogan generator. For a long time, he was seen as a Brahmin due to his Brahmin-sounding name Satyamurthy. His caste background came into the public domain only after he came out of the Maoist party and worked with Usaa Barber. Now his full story is available in a book Ants Among Elephants written by his sister’s daughter Sujatha Gidla from America.
The communist movements of India of all streams have, so far, not produced a Nagreddy level intellectual and Satyamurthy level poet and Sundarayya level organiser and a mass leader.
Look at the list of Brahmin leaders in the communist stream at the national level. M.N.Roy, P.C. Joshi, Dange, B.T.Ranadive, E.M.S.Namboodripad, D.V.Rao, Charu Majumadar, Vinod Mishra, Sitaram Yechuri and the list would be too long. All of them were projected as great intellectual leaders without producing any original text. Namboodripad has become the communist Adi shankara of Kerala with his not so original books being in every village library. The Kerala Nairs–leave alone other Shudra caste leaders, never contested his theoretical authority on communism. S.A. Dange wrote a book discovering socialism in Vedas and no Shudra leader in the country challenged him.
All other Brahmin leaders, writers and poets and did not reflect the agrarian and industrial productive masses because Brahmin childhood life always even today is anti-production and anti-labour. They never soiled their hands. As Gaddar says their hands never became ‘Matti-Chetulu’ (soiled hands) but they always lived with “Vatti Chetulu” (empty hands) with a mischievous pen in the hands. They were in every stream of Indian thought as leaders–nay, as the priests.
They produced vedic and puranic minds but not production-oriented and creative minds. Simply because dialectically Indian Brahmins are always outside production without understanding the relationship between land, nature and labour as a Shudra/Dalits could understand they are bound to fail every revolution. That is the reason why though communist streams lead by Brahmin intellectuals failed to cause any revolution in India whereas the same Brahmin leadership in Congress and RSS/BJP succeeded, because they operated in the Vedic, Kautilya and Manu structures and successfully fooled and enslaved the Shudra/Dalits and continue to rule. Communism as an ideology of releasing massive production forces and was supposed to establish egalitarian distribution and never could have been led by Brahmins. Having led by them, it failed as expected. Their caste/varna cultural roots negate all their efforts. As Marx rightly said, their consciousness is conditioned by Brahmin anti-production and anti-egalitarian living process and communism is opposite of that. From the communist camp, they handed over India to Congress and RSS/BJP Brahmins quite successively. They did not even succeed as much as the Nepali Brahmins succeeded in bringing the communist party to power by seriously attacking the Kshatriya monarchy and Brahmin liberal party of Nepal. We can see them in power today. But where are the Indian communist Brahmin intellectuals today?
DV Rao (only known Brahmin in Telugu region) was promoted to the Communist Party of India central committee, with a Brahmin support at the Politburo and central committee level at a very young age. He was projected as intellectual in a usual brahminic channel of promotion through rumors and not through worth and work. That fact that Sitharam Yechri was also promoted like that in our generation is well-known straight from Jawaharlal Nehru University to the central committee and Politburo and till today that party does not find a single SC/ST leader suitable to become Politburo member. Isn’t it a classical example of Brahminic manipulation of highest order? Does that party have any sense of shame? Absence of shame and guilt is one of the fundamental characteristics of a Brahmin. If the communist Brahmins have a basic sense of accountability and shame they would have assembled at some Ambedkar statue and kneeled before him and asked for forgiveness for their ancestors cooking up caste and untouchability. But they never do that. They behave as if they were the real productive force of India. They talk of rubbish secularism in a country of such brutal caste and untouchability.
None of the above leaders’ credentials matches that of Nagi Reddy. The only leader who could be said to be above him with long term mass work was Sundarayya. But Sundarayya lacked Nagireddy’s originality and linguistic skills in thought and ideology. D.V.Rao an intellectual Vaman before a giant intellectual Mahabali was said to have been always intellectually, ideologically and morally above him. See how this brahminic, as dull as a communist document kind of write up, in this website, says about Nagireddy and D.V “TN was an illustrious comrade-in-arms of DV Rao for decades, and died in 1976, while DV Rao died in 1984 (both were born in 1917, both died while leading UG lives). TN was always in the central leadership, and both are always and inseparably referred to as founder leaders of APCCR and later UCCRI-ML”
Since DVR was from the central leadership even before the days 1964 split, TN was always treated as his follower. However, DVR could not match the intellectual talents and mass mobilization abilities of T Nagireddy. He was never allowed to get into the CPI central committee. Unfortunately, the Shudra leaders in the communist stream thought that they should hold gun or shout slogans on the roads and get beaten up by the police and go to jail but never sit and read and write like Marx, Lenin and Mao. That job was left to uncreative Brahmins.
The problem in the communist parties was deep-rooted, Brahmin leaders whose intellectual capacity about a new thought was dogmatic and they should have realised that. The Shudra civil society all over India along with the Dalits should have given rise to more leaders and Brahmins should have gone into the cadre system as they were not suitable to do any creative thought production. They should have worked in the productive fields learning from them. But from the days of S.A Dange, P.C Joshi to Sitaram Yechuri, DV Rao included, they claimed great intellectual leadership. They did not change their privileged historical path of reading and writing uncreatively. One of the main reasons for they continuing that was many Shudra leaders like Sundarayya, Chandra Rajeswarao were weak in the English language, but Nagireddy did not have that handicap. His English and intellectual capabilities were far ahead of P.C Joshi, Dange, B.T.Randive, Namboodripad, DV Rao and others.
The second problem of Brahminism in communism was that the Shudra leaders at all India level always remained inferior with the historical baggage of Shudraness, which they never identified and fought like Ambedkar in the general nationalist movement. Brahmins were everywhere in those days and also even now. They control temples with the power of priesthood; they control political parties with all India English medium education and the social and financial capital that came from all kinds of sources. Media was in the hands of Brahmin intellectuals which would promote if a leader belongs to the Brahmin caste. International connections were in the hands of Brahmins. Even Shudra landlords were regional language educated without many outside connections. Their village, region or their state was their operational domain. Even feudal Shudras behaved like backward peasant mind as Lenin opined.
But most tragic part of Indian communist movement was that the Brahmin leaders were most uncreative and most manipulative. It was in this atmosphere till 1964 and later a brilliant communist intellectual leader was limited to Telugu region. He was not allowed to write much because the party channels closed all creative writing possibilities for the party members. Even today except for Nagireddy’s book India Mortgaged, there is no other book that engages general readers on economic issues. He could have written many original books but he could not. P.C. Joshi, Dange, Ranadive, or D.V Rao has not written a single book with a title that attracts readers’ eye like India Mortgaged. After Dadabai Naoroji’s Poverty and Un-British Rule in India with a theory of Brain Drain, this is one of the classic books that could be read with interest.
Let me narrate a personal experience in the Andhra Pradesh Civil Liberties Committee where I worked with K.Balagopal (General Secretary, K.G Kannabiran (President), G.Haragopal (Vice-President) and I was one of the joint Secretaries. All three come from Brahmin background, which they have not chosen as I did not choose my Kuruma (Shepherd) background. Our birth in families and castes was accidental. My self and Balagopal were writing in English on many issues. A campaign to project Balagopal as a great intellectual even from the very dais where I was invited to speak was a regular thing. Haragopal would say if only if he were to continue in his profession of mathematics, he would have brought a Nobel Prize to India. But now he is like Bertrand Russell –a great philosopher and civil rights thinker. Balagopal would be right there on the dais to speak at the end as mastermind of all-generation civil rights thinker. He would not say a word against Haragopal, who does praise business if someone is Brahmin. They would never take my name as a worthy intellectual anywhere. It was this Haragopal who stopped me from becoming a professor in the Hyderabad Central University in the 1990s with all the pyravi (network) resources at his command.
We should not be deceived by the superficial ideological lables such Left, Liberal or Right. Rather, a few consolidated castes such as Brahmins, Banias, Kshatriyas, Kayasthas and Khatirs (The Dwija Bhadralok of India) form a gang who, all over the country, saw to it that no Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi joins central universities, IITs, IIMS and so on as faculty with a bogus theory that they were/are not suitable even in the reserved posts, keeping all the backlogs. Only when their relatives or Dwija youth came to the interviews, they were found eligible and were made faculty members. This is also the case in media. Even Reddy, Kamma, Jat, Gujjar, Yadav, Patel, Maratha youth were also denied jobs quite deliberately and they talk of secularism. They never allowed the reservation system to be implemented in the private sector.
When I was part of them, my book Why I am Not a Hindu was published in 1996. It received all kind of reviews ranging from praising to attacking the book that was published widely in English media. It has gone into the brains of university students all over India. It underwent many reprints. But they never refer to the book; never discuss it either appreciatively or critically. Total silence was the rule. Balagopal would write reviews on all kinds of books but never wrote anything on Why I am Not a Hindu, even after it was translated into Telugu and was influencing people all over.
Whenever there would be a discussion on great poets only Varavara Rao and Kaloji Narayana Rao (another liberal Brahmin, who was given Padma Bhushan award by friend P.V. Narsimha Rao as Prime Minister) get mentioned. They would never talk or discuss the great poetry of Shivasagar (KG Satyamurthy) or great lyrical writing of Gaddar.
D.V.Rao was great intellectual but Nagireddy never figures, K Balagopal was a great civil rights philosopher, Kancha Ilaiah never figures and Varavara Rao was great poet, never Shivasagar and Gaddar figure. This is Brahminism in its worst form as it came through the communist channels that destroyed creativity of others–Shudras/Dalits/Adivasis. The road then was smooth to Congress Brahmins to rule and now the BJP/BJP Brahmins to come to power. The communist Brahmin intellectuals now are shifting the base to US/Europe and private universities, schools, colleges within India.
To fight this massive inbuilt Brahminism in Indian communism, we need audacity, tenacity and far more intellectual rigour than them. Usaa Barber joined me in this fight and remained in the fight till his death. The tragedy like many Shudra/Dalit communists faced, he too did not acquire grip over English, which was and is communist Sanskrit. I managed it, as I said in my memoirs by reading and re-reading Marx and Engel’s Communist Manifesto itself.
Nagireddy though came from a feudal Shudra family, knows what agriculture was, what tilling of land was, what labour was. Luckily unlike other feudal Reddys, Kammas, Velamas, Jats, Yadavs, Gujjars and so on he got an opportunity to study in one of the best schools, college and university in India itself, unlike the Dwija intellectuals of his time. Most Dwija intellectuals of his time have studied in England. If he were to ask one simple question when all caste people are being described as Hindu why only Brahmins were heading all the temples as priests, why only Brahmins and Banias (as there was Bania Gandhi as leader of the Congress) were heading all political parties, including the communist party–CPI? Why are only Brahmins in the media? Why are only Brahmins literary figures? Why were only Brahmins peetadhipathis? Why only Brahmins were journalists? And most importantly, why Brahmins were not in the production fields, at tilling the land, at planting, at cutting the crops and grazing the cattle? Why as a community were they eating better food all over the country and living in better houses and wearing better clothes?
No doubt he was in a better intellectual train than that of Kattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy, once the Vice-Chancellor of Andhra University. If only he read Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste and understood he would have raised a question: why all these Brahmins put together did not produce one Voltaire, leave alone Marx, at any stage of Indian intellectual history. He would have realized the role of Varna/Caste in Indian history. From that intellectual train, he would have got into an intellectual flight. He missed that flight and died at an early age when he was just 58.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is political theorist, social activist and author