In 1987, as the Ramjanmabhoomi movement gathers momentum, a thirteen-year-old from a village in Rajasthan joins the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. Despite his untouchable status, he quickly rises to the post of karyavah. Ahead of the demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992, he becomes the district office chief of Bhilwara. He hates Muslims with a passion without having met one. He joins thousands of karsevaks to Ayodhya. He mocks Mulla-Yam Singh.
He participates in riots. He goes to jail. He finds Hindutva intoxicating. He is ready to die for the Hindu Rashtra.
And yet he remains a lesser Hindu. He turns into a critic of the Sangh, becomes an Ambedkarite and makes it his life’s mission to expose the hypocrisies of Hindutva.
In this explosive memoir, translated by Nivedita Menon from the Hindi, 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.
‘I’m a truck driver. The book travels with me and I tell others of it’—Balulal Khandela
‘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
‘A remarkable book by a remarkable man’—Christophe Jaffrelot
‘A manual on how to escape the RSS’ duplicity’—Tara Ram Gautam