In 1987, a thirteen-year-old in Rajasthan joins the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Despite his untouchable status, he rises through the ranks. He hates Muslims. He joins the karsevaks to Ayodhya. He is ready to die for the Hindu Rashtra. And yet he remains a lesser Hindu. In this explosive memoir, Bhanwar Meghwanshi tells us what it meant to be an untouchable in the RSS. And what it means to become Dalit.
Born in 1975, Bhanwar Meghwanshi joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh at the age of thirteen. Since leaving the RSS in 1991, he has been an activist and a journalist chronicling the Dalit movement. He divides his time between overseeing the Ambedkar Bhavan in Sirdiyas and his political work that takes him across the country. Main ek swayamsevak tha (2019) is his first book.
Nivedita Menon, professor of political thought at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, is the author of Seeing like a Feminist (2012). She is one of the founders of the collective blog, kafila.online. In 2016, she translated Geetanjali Shree’s Hindi novel Khali Jagah as The Empty Space.
In the media
An interview with Bhanwar conducted by Mahtab Alam appeared in The Wire.
An excerpt from the book detailing Bhanwar’s confrontation with ABVP.
‘This remarkable book by a remarkable man teaches the reader a life lesson, as it is as moving as informative’.—The Wire
‘Reveals RSS’s process of indoctrinating its cadre, its glorification of violence’—Caravan
‘I Could Not Be Hindu has the potential to undo all the RSS scheming. This unputdownable work must be made compulsory reading for all’—Indian Express
‘While facing countless threats from the RSS, Bhanwar worked tirelessly to fulfil Ambedkar, Phule, Kabir, and the Buddha’s visions. Who could better understand the profound and true meaning of revolution?’—Firstpost
As the Supreme Court ruled in favour of the construction of the Ram Temple at the site where Babri Masjid originally stood, an excerpt from I Could Not Be Hindu was published in Scroll detailing Bhanwar’s experience of the Masjid’s demolition.
‘A chronicle of Bhanwar’s eyes being opened to the truth, and his turning into RSS’s fiercest critics’—Forward Press
‘An eye-opening chronicle of the Sangh’s activities’—Caravan
‘Meghwanshi’s book is a clear-eyed reckoning of his personal journey’—Open
A video feature on the book was published on Quint Hindi.
Caravan Hindi published an interview with Bhanwar on issues and events surrounding I Could Not Be Hindu.
‘This book is an outsider’s perspective of an inside man. It is a hard-toned, confessional paradox of an ex-sanghi, who hoped for justice in a Brahmin republic’—Hindu
‘Has the potential to undo all the RSS scheming: a compulsory reading for all’—Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, Indian Express
‘A hard-toned confessional paradox of an ex-sanghi who hoped for justice in a Brahmin republic’—Suraj Yengde, The Hindu
‘This remarkable book by a remarkable man teaches the reader a life lesson’— Christophe Jaffrelot, The Wire
‘Fulfils the visions of Ambedkar, Phule, Kabir and the Buddha, in the face of countless threats’— Yogesh Maitreya, Firstpost
‘The personal journey of the Dalit who got out’—Bhavya Dore, Open
‘Opens one’s eyes to the truth’—Anil Varghese, Forward Press
‘Reveals the RSS’s process of indoctrinating its cadre, its glorification of violence’—Caravan
‘A memoir like this is nothing short of a miracle’—Perumal Murugan
‘A searing, painfully honest memoir in fluent and lucid prose’—Shashi Tharoor
‘Every Indian must read this. It will open your eyes and free your thoughts’—Benyamin
‘A powerful exposé of Brahmanical politics’—Cynthia Stephen
‘A revelation. This insider account of the RSS exposes Hindu nationalism’—Jean Dreze
‘I’m a truck driver. The book travels with me and I tell others of it’—Balulal Khandela