Dalit writer and activist Devanur Mahadeva’s recent book “RSS – Aala Mattu Agala (RSS – the Depth and Breadth)” has received a massive response in Karnataka, with thousands of copies sold and several translations also in the works. .
The 72-page book criticizes the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and addresses concerns about the anti-conversion law, the threat to federalism and democracy, and majority rule, and claims that the RSS tries to impose the system of Chaturvarna castes.
A bestseller at a time when Karnataka had some communal controversies – from the hijab row and trade ban for Muslims near temples to the Textbook Review Line and the Anti-Conversion Act – the book was not well received by the BJP and several Hindu right-wing organizations, who claimed it was “propaganda” against the RSS.
“He wrote this book as a servant of Congress and doesn’t have much to say about ‘RSS – Aala Mattu Agala’ as the title claims. It looks like he wrote the book based on Rahul Gandhi’s speeches, that’s why opposition leader Siddaramaiah is promoting the book,” said Mysuru-Kodagu MP Pratap Simha of BJP.
Meanwhile, Siddaramaiah backed Mahadeva on Thursday. “What’s wrong with what he says about RSS?” The RSS will get angry if anyone dares to tell the truth. They don’t like the truth. This is an act of obstruction of a fundamental right of freedom of expression,” he said.
In an interview with The Indian Express, Mahadeva shared her thoughts and concerns on the current scenario in the country.
In the book, you mention that the situation in the country is worse than it was during the emergency and that the pillars of democracy have been affected. Can you elaborate?
Mahadeva: You don’t have to think too much. See how the media is today. Even during the emergency period, in the time of Indira Gandhi, the media were hounded. But there was frustration in the media and they were biding their time. A few of them broke the system and were hailed as heroes. But today, instead of questioning the government in power, most of the media is busy praising the government and supporting the system. If someone opposes the system, they are called anti-national. More than me, you (the media) should know better.
You also talked about the threat to federalism. What do you consider to be a major concern for the company?
Mahadeva: In my book, I haven’t talked about it much but there are definitely signs. If you disagree with that, if you’re willing to share your opinion, I’m ready for a debate.
What is the reason for having six editors? What was the response to the book? Is it translated into other languages?
Mahadeva: Initially there were six editors and now others may have come forward, I have to check. Three publishers printed 5,000 copies each which were sold out in just two days. Young people from Mysuru created a publishing house and printed 2,000 books. I don’t know who they are. I don’t know the economics behind it. Based on saving one book, they should have set a minimum price of Rs 60, but they set it at Rs 40. People who buy more than 100 get Rs 25 for each. How do publishers benefit from this? Publishers could respond to readers (requests).
The rights to the book belong to the author but he does not have to obtain an honorary commission. If publishers set a price above Rs 40, they will have to pay a 10% commission. It’s been 15 days and I’m told that over 50,000 books have been printed and there’s still demand. We plan to translate it into all Indian languages, as well as English.