The Social Vision of Anticaste Intellectuals
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The bhakti radical Ravidas (c 1450–1520), calling himself a ‘tanner now set free’, was the first to envision an Indian utopia in his song “Begumpura”—a modern casteless, classless, tax-free city without sorrow. This was in contrast to the dystopia of the brahmanic Kaliyuga.
Rejecting Orientalist, nationalist and hindutva impulses to ‘reinvent’ India, Gail Omvedt threads together the worldviews of subaltern visionaries spanning five centuries—Chokhamela, Janabai, Kabir, Ravidas, Tukaram, the Kartabhajas, Phule, Iyothee Thass, Pandita Ramabai, Periyar, and Ambedkar. These are contrasted with Gandhi’s village utopia of Ram Rajya, Nehru’s hindutva-laced brahmanic socialism and Savarkar’s territorialist Hindu Rashtra. Reason and ecstasy—dnyan and bhakti—pave the road that leads to the promised land.
Gail Omvedt is the author of Dalits and the Democratic Revolution, Buddhism in India: Challenging Brahmanism and Caste and Ambedkar: Towards an Enlightened India among other books.
‘Marks a watershed in the battle to uncover the hearts and minds of the oppressed and powerless’—Himal