Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Contemporary Dalit Politics and Ambedkar’s Goal of Caste Annihilation

Ram Puniyani

On 28th Feb (2014) Ramvilas Paswan of Loktantantrik Jan Party joined the NDA alliance. Same Paswan had left the NDA twelve years ago with the beginning of Gujarat carnage, saying that with the violence in Gujarat he cannot be part of NDA. This time his son formulated the face saver when he said that Modi has received clean chit in the Gujarat carnage. Few days ago another dalit leader Udit Raj directly joined BJP, with the assurance of being given a ticket for forthcoming elections. In Maharashtra, Ramdas Athwaley of Republican Party of India had become part of NDA, and succeeded in being nominated for Rajya Sabha, Upper house of Parliament. There are many others dalits in the fold of BJP directly or in alliance with BJP to be in NDA, for pre poll alliance.  Most of these leaders claim to be working on the path shown by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Ambedkar was committed to annihilation of caste and was totally opposed to the concept of Hindu nationalism, as propounded by RSS-BJP.

During freedom struggle when three types of nationalisms were in vogue, Indian Nationalism, Muslim Nationalism and Hindu nationalism, majority of the people of India supported and followed the path of Indian nationalism. Majority Hindus were for Indian nationalism, majority of Muslims were also for Indian nationalism. It was the elite, the landlord, Kings who began communal streams and were later joined in by a section of affluent upper castes of those religions. The British manipulation kept fuelling the fire of religious nationalism. Muslim nationalism turned in separatist direction and their demand for Pakistan came to the forefront. Hindu nationalists accepted the religion based nationalism but denied the demand of Pakistan on the ground that this had been a Hindu nation from times immemorial. This whole formulation of Hindu nation from ancient times is an invalid concept, as the very concept of nation, Nation state is a modern concepts. So in the revised edition of his book, ‘Partition of India’, Dr. Ambedkar opposed the formation of Pakistan on the following ground that formation of Pakistan may pave the way for Hindu Raj and “If Hindu Raj becomes a reality then it would be greatest menace to this country. Whatever may Hindus say, actually it does not make a difference that Hinduism is a danger to Independence, Equality and Brotherhood. Thus it is an enemy of democracy. We should make all out efforts to stop Hindu Raj from becoming a reality.” (Pakistan or Partition of India, Page 358). Here what Ambedkar is referring to Hinduism is Brahmanical Hinduism, the ideological ground of Hindutva, the agenda of RSS combine.

Ambedkar did lay the foundations of dalit movement, and went on to form Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF) in due course; before conceptualizing the Republican Party of India. This SCF in 1951, on the eve of First General elections in 1952; which was to begin the process of adult suffrage, forged an alliance with Praja Socialist Party (PSP) led by Jaya Prakash Narayan. The manifesto of SCF ruled out “alliance with any reactionary party such as Hindu Mahasabha and Jan Sangh (Previous avatar of BJP) (quoted from Gopal Guru EPW Feb 16, 1991, citing Ambedkar Letters to Gaikwad, page 280-296). He was the one who could see the long term agenda of Jan Sangh-Hindu Mahasabha of Hindu Rashtra, the concept totally opposed to secular democratic India. His basic motto was ‘educate, organize and struggle’, for caste annihilation and for the values of substantive Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. He was aware that this process; educate and organize to struggle; is possible only in a democratic set up, so alliance with Hindutva political outfits was ruled out of hand.

Today what is happening? From last several years a new dalit leadership has emerged, which on one hand represents a faction of this group and on the other has also personal-family electoral ambitions. So in short term they, for their personal benefits have been sitting in the laps of communal parties. Namdeo Dhasal, the great poet went with Shiv Sena, which had created hell with the publication of Amdekar’s ‘Riddles of Hinduism’. Ramdas Athwaley is again with the communal forces who have given him the Rajya Sabha seat. Udit Raj has also embraced the party of Hindu raj and Ramvilas Paswan, guided more by personal political ambitions, rather than the long term benefit of the downtrodden, has shamelessly allied with BJP. In the short term these dalit politicians may benefit but at the same time they will strengthen the politics of Hindutva-Hindu raj, the system of inherent hierarchy of caste and gender.

A single example will tell us about the approach of BJP towards the dalit question. Recently a book penned by BJP Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi has been withdrawn, Karma Yoga. Modi in his book wrote “I do not believe that they (Valmiki’s) have been doing this job just to sustain their livelihood. Had this been so, they would not have continued with this type of job generation after generation…At some point of time, somebody must have got the enlightenment that it is their (Valmikis’) duty to work for the happiness of the entire society and the Gods; that they have to do this job bestowed upon them by Gods; and that this job of cleaning up should continue as an internal spiritual activity for centuries. This should have continued generation after generation. It is impossible to believe that their ancestors did not have the choice of adopting any other work or business.” (

On the same issue of scavenging, Dr. Ambedkar makes scathing critique of the social order where a section of people have to do such demeaning and humiliating jobs. While claims are made about the development and ‘concern for all communities’ the conditions of dalits in Gujarat are abysmal, temple entry is opposed at places, there is low rate of conviction for anti dalit atrocities, there is prevalence of manual scavenging still prevalent and this receives glorification from Modi. There is denial of access for water to the main sump at places. Cases of intimidation of dalits wanting to convert to Buddhism have been reported from Gujarat. These are few of the phenomenon prevalent in the Laboratory of Hindu rashtra, Gujarat. What should one say of leadership of dalits who compromise the values of Dr. Ambedkar, the values of long term goals of social justice and annihilation of caste for their short term greed for electoral power for their own self? There is a need for introspection by these leaders and their followers about the opportunism and lack of principles of such people in the positions of leadership of the communities.

Blogger Tricks

Liberal Hinduism versus Sectarian Hindutva

Ram Puniyani

Banning or attacking the books in current times has been aplenty. There have been many reasons given for this intolerant attitude by different social-political groups. The cases of Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie, Taslima Nasreen’s Lajja, book on Sonia Gandhi Red Saree, A.K. Ramanujan’s Three Hundred Ramayans are some of the major examples. There is a tight rope walk between freedom of expression and hurting ‘others’ sensibilities, which keeps fluctuating for same political groups. Those from Hindu right will talk of freedom of expression for Salman Rushdie or Taslima Nasreen, while the Muslim fundamentalists will talk of ‘Hurting religious sensibilities at the same time. In case of ‘The Hindus an Alternative History’ by Wendy Donigar or ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’ the same Hindu right will assert the religious sensibility argument to get the uncomfortable things banished away. The overall victim of this intolerant attitude is freedom of expression and it also shows the ascendance of ‘Taliban’ elements in the social political sphere.
The ‘out of court settlement’ reached by Penguin to pulp its stock of ‘The Hindus-an alternative History’ is a very condemnable move from one of the most powerful publishers, who could have taken the matters further to the highest legal battles and preserved the right of a scholar to disseminate her views, and the right of readers to have access to it. It is in the fitness of things that well known Penguin authors Jyotirmaya Sharma and Siddharth Varadrajan have written to Penguin to pulp their books and cancel their agreements. The case against The Hindus… was filed by one Dinanath Batra of Shiksha Bachao Andolan Samiti (SBAS). In his petition to the court, the book is described as “shallow, distorted...a haphazard presentation riddled with heresies and factual inaccuracies”, and …that Doniger herself is driven by a “Christian Missionary Zeal and hidden agenda to denigrate Hindus and show their religion in poor light”. Interestingly Doniger is no Christian, she is Jewish. In her preface she writes “Part of my agenda in writing an alternative history is to show how much the groups that conventional wisdom says were oppressed and silenced and played no part in the development of the tradition—women, Pariahs (oppressed castes, sometimes called Untouchables)—did actually contribute to Hinduism…to tell a story of Hinduism that’s been suppressed and was increasingly hard to find in the media and textbooks…It’s not about philosophy, it’s not about meditation, it’s about stories, about animals and untouchables and women. It’s the way that Hinduism has dealt with pluralism.”
The two central aspects of the book are, one a presentation of the matters related to sex, which has become a taboo for the self proclaimed custodians of Hinduism. One knows the great creations like Khajuraho and Konark and the depiction of matters related to sex, that’s how it was looked at as and that’s how it prevails in society, before the Victorian prudishness took over. One recalls the classic of Kalidas; ‘Kumar Sambhav’, canto 8, which gives the erotic episode of Shankar and Parvati. And same way Adi Shankaracharya’s, Saundarya Lahiri, which gives graphic descriptions of the goddess, sholaka 78-79 being two examples. 
As far as attack on Doniger’s book is concerned it is part of the long sequence of the agenda of SBAS and the other RSS affiliates like VHP, Bajrang Dal etc, who became more assertive after the decade of 1980s. This is also the period when the touchiness about religious sensibilities and suppression of the freedom of expression became a phenomenon of regular occurrence. It is interesting to note that the paintings of M.F. Husain drawn in the decades of 1960s and 1970s came under attack much later, during the 1980s with the rise of the aggressive presence of politics, which began around the Ram Temple issue.

Wendy Donigar
Courtesy: Wikipedia
Batra, who filed the suit, is the head of the Vidya Bharati’s Akhil Bharatiya Shiksha Sansthan, the educational arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the patriarch of the Hindu right. The earlier major book under its attack was A.K. Ramanujan’s classic essay ‘Three Hundred Ramayanas’, which was part of the syllabus in Delhi University. This essay shows the wide prevalence of diverse telling of story of Lord Ram. These diverse versions are not in conformity with the version of Ram story which gels with the Ram Temple campaign. Even before the attack on this book, the RSS supporters had attacked an exhibition of many tellings of Ram story by Sahmat. In a similar vein RSS’s political wing BJP’s political and ideological partner Shiv Sena in Maharashtra had opposed the publication of the book ‘Riddles of Ram and Krishna’ as in this book Ambedkar, apart from other things, says that he will not regard Ram Krishna as Gods and nor will worship them.

Doniger has been a Professor at School of Oriental and African Studies in University of London. She has two doctorates in Sanskrit and Indian studies and has written several works of scholarship on Hinduism. She says that Sanskrit and vernacular sources are rich in knowledge of compassion for deprived sections of society, women and pariahs as well. An example of this is in order, she is critical of Manusmiriti as it denigrates the women, at the same time she appreciates the sensitivity with which Vatsayanan’s Kam Sutra deals with women.

The tirade of SBAS and other RSS progeny against differing versions of Hinduism, and iconography is a part of its political agenda. It harps on the Brahamanical version of Hinduism bypassing and undermining the other Hindu traditions, Nath, Tantra, Bhakti, Shaiva, Siddha etc. The construction of RSS brand of Hinduism is a part of its Hindutva project, which took place during colonial period. Hindutva is the political ideology of this supra political organization, RSS. Hindutva picks up its version of Hinduism from the elaboration of European Orientalist interpretation of Hindu traditions. Orientalist scholars were in tune with the monotheistic worldview and that was reflected in their reading of Hinduism. In their rendering Hinduism got straight jacketed into monotheistic, monistic one and this puritan monolithic notion of Hinduism came to be presented as the Hinduism. The Colonial powers’ monotheistic worldview could not fathom the diverse richness of Hinduism’s philosophical, spiritual, religious and aesthetic expressions. Their understanding of religion revolves around a single Prophet. Hinduism as a religion as such is a conglomeration of multiple traditions which were prevalent here. Brahmanism was just one of them. During the colonial period by selectively projecting Brahmanical texts and values as Hinduism, the Orientalist scholars and British rulers gave legitimacy to caste and gender based Brahiminical tendency as ‘The Hinduism’. Brahmanism started becoming projected as the Hinduism. It is due to this that Ambedkar went on to say that ‘Hinduism is Brahmanic theology’. He was criticizing the social inequality prevalent in the name of Hinduism. Opposed to Brahmanical stream was the Shramnanic traditions of Hinduism, which by that time were out of the horizon of scholarship of Westerners and the British policy makers. In due course the declining sections of Hindu Landlords and upper caste resorted to the politics of Hindutva, which in the name of glorious Hindu traditions wanted to uphold the status quo of caste and gender, wanted to retain its hegemony in social and economic sphere. The freedom movement and its leader Gandhi’s Hinduism was away from this Brahmanical-Hindutva stream. It was more in continuation with liberal Hindu belonging to Shramanic tradition. It is the Hinduism with which the large sections of Hindus could identify.

Hindu Mahasabha and RSS brand of Hindutva was a marginal phenomenon as it was elite Brahamnical and harped on the values which were at deeper level undermining the status and dignity of women and dalits. That’s how RSS and the elite supporting them kept aloof from the social changes of caste and gender during this period, and stuck to their agenda of Hindu nation based on their own sectarian interpretation of Hinduism. The RSS, in pursuance of its agenda floated SBAS, which was the one which was instrumental in communalization of the history text books during the NDA regime, led by BJP-Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The same organization is the one which is at the back of the multitude of educational endeavors and promotes the divisive-sectarian history through many Sarswati Shishu Mandirs, Ekal Vidyalayas amongst others. So, for them Doniger’s book is a red rag as it talks of rich diverse traditions of the people and is not prude enough to suppress the narrations related to sex. Doniger talks of liberal Hinduism while RSS wants sectarian Hindutva imposed on the society. The struggle between liberal Hinduism and sectarian Hindutva is in full flow around the debate on this book.      

Swami Aseemanand and Art of ‘Statement Withdrawal’

Ram Puniyani

Swami Aseemanand emerged as the alleged kingpin in the series of blasts, starting from Malegaon, Makkah Masjid, Hyderabad, Ajmer Dargaah and Samjhauta express blasts, which rocked the nation from 2006 onwards. Just to recall, the initial investigations into series of blasts allegedly done by Hindutva groups, were led by Hemant Karkare, who was later killed in 26/11 2008 Mumbai terror attack. Later Rajasthan ATS took over and the long trail of investigation led to the unearthing the network of the Hindutva activists inspired by the ideology of Hindutva and working for different groups close to or associated with RSS. Many of them are currently in jails. Recently Swami and three others have been formally charged (Jan 25, 2014) in Samjhauta Express blast, Swami being accused number one.

After his arrest he confessed to his crimes in front of a metropolitan Magistrate The confession was voluntary was recorded under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code before Metropolitan Magistrate Deepak Dabas at Tis Hazari courts on December 18.  Swami had refused legal assistance and the statement was recorded after 48 hours of judicial custody, to ensure that no sort of pressure or intimidation is working on the mind of the confessor. In this statement he confessed that he and other Hindu activists were involved in bombings at Muslim religious places because they wanted to answer every Islamist terror act with “a bomb for bomb’’ policy.  This was a 42 page confession and was widely reported in the media.

A bit later he retracted the statement saying that this was given under coercion. It came as a lot of surprise as one knows that the statements given in front of police authorities can be under pressure or coercion but in front of a judge it is another matter. His 48 hours judicial custody was a time enough to consider all aspects of the issues involved. It seems more of a turning around, an afterthought to protect his associates and the parent organization. It reminds one, of the statement of Nathuram Godse in the trial of Gandhi murder that he had no links with RSS. Later his brother Gopal Godse in an interview said that the denial of their links with RSS was deliberate to protect their colleagues in that organization ( ). Swami after accepting the legal assistance; retracted the statement.  

There seems to be a repeat performance from his side. Once his interviews were published in Caravan, a lot of turmoil was created. Immediately Swami went on to retract his content of the interviews he gave to the reporter. The reporter and the editor of Magazine have stood to their version and have also released the parts of the audio tapes to authenticate the interview’s contents. This Caravan story not only reconfirmed most of what Swami had confessed in the Court but added other dimensions also. The said article is very explosive as it takes the terror link right to the top of the RSS organization head. Caravan report points out “..[A]seemanand’s description of the plot in which he was involved became increasingly detailed. In our third and fourth interviews, he told me that his terrorist acts were sanctioned by the highest levels of the RSS—all the way up to Mohan Bhagwat, the current RSS chief, who was the organization’s general secretary at the time. Aseemanand told me that Bhagwat said of the violence, “It’s very important that it be done. But you should not link it to the Sangh…

Aseemanand told me about a meeting that allegedly took place, in July 2005. ..In a tent pitched by a river several kilometers away from the temple, Bhagwat and Kumar met with Aseemanand and his accomplice Sunil Joshi. Joshi informed Bhagwat of a plan to bomb several Muslim targets around India. According to Aseemanand, both RSS leaders approved, and Bhagwat told him, “You can work on this with Sunil. We will not be involved, but if you are doing this, you can consider us to be with you.”

(The Believer: Swami Aseemanand’s radical service to the Sangh, by LEENA GITA REGHUNATH | 1 February 2014, Caravan Magazine,
In this report the writer, Leena Gita Reghunath tells us that she met Swami for four times over a period of last two years and talked to him at length. This detailed account elaborates about the activities of Swami Aseemanand, who was part of Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, which is a RSS associate organization. Aseemanand is a trained RSS swayamsevak who undertook the work in the Adivasi areas, was the main person to organize Shabri Kumbh in Dangs. He makes his agenda clear in a very explicit way. His goal was to bring Adivasis into Hindu fold through a process of Ghar Vapasi. He was not interested about their real issues as such. The issues of Adivasis, those related to their welfare, their rights did not matter at all. I too recall that as a member of concerned citizens group, while visiting Swami’s Ashram, one could see the malnourished-semi clothed Adivasi children shouting Jai Shir Ram to our team which was studying the phenomenon of planned Shabri Kumbh.  Some parts of the story carried by Caravan, related to his work in Adivasi areas and his being core organizer of Shabri Kumbh has earlier been reported through section of media and the inquiry reports which went in to investigate the attacks on Christians in the area of Dangs. Many of these facts are spilling out from the horse’s mouth now.
The other highlight of the Caravan story is the pride with which Swami tells that all this is a part of his political agenda. He is also proud that he is in the same jail cell in which Nathuram Godse was lodged before his hanging. During the course of his interview he also tells that he hosted planning sessions, selected targets, provided funds for the construction of IEDs, and sheltered and otherwise aided those who planted the bombs. This was part of his confession to the Metropolitan magistrate as well. 

As per Aseemanand “Bhagwat said of the violence… If you do it, then people won’t say that we did a crime for the sake of committing a crime. It will be connected to the ideology. This is very important for Hindus. Please do this. You have our blessings.”

Now the whole thing will lapse in the quagmire of the authenticity of the interview, the forensic test of the tapes and what not. If Swami could retract the statement given to the Magistrate, disowning the interview is no big game. This aspect of alleged RSS related activities need to be thoroughly and professionally investigated irrespective of the stature of those directly or indirectly involved in the acts of terror.  

Friday, 7 February 2014

Myth of Clean Chit: Gujarat Carnage and Narendra Modi

Ram Puniyani

In a recently televised interview the Vice-President of Indian National Congress, Rahul Gandhi (Jan 2014) raised the storm when he said that some Congressmen might have been involved in 1984 Sikh Massacre and that Narendra Modi has a blame to take for the Gujarat carnage of 2002.
There were multiple responses to this interview. Already Arvind Kejriwal had promised to set up SIT into Anti Sikh violence of 1984 even before elections. Now his Government seems to be taking it up more seriously and it is likely that a SIT will be formed to investigate the Delhi tragedy. One can say that it may be too late by now as lot of valuable evidence might have been lost or destroyed. Still whatever of process of law can be retrieved, should be saved and justice should be done to victims of Delhi. It goes without saying that the justice should be done to the victims of communal violence irrespective of the fact as to which religious community they belong to. The Kashmiri Pundits also need to be given required justice and rehabilitation even today. The tendency to flaunt Kashmiri pundits or anti Sikh massacre, after every talk of justice to violence victims of Gujarat or any other place is an attempt to deflect the attention from issue on hand. 

Two wrongs don’t make a right. Violence against one religious community can’t give justice to another religious community which has been wronged. On the same level to turn a blind eye to the atrocities on Muslim minorities in India because Hindus are being persecuted in Pakistan or Bangla Desh is totally inhuman and vice versa. Justice should be demanded for all religious minorities, in all the countries, all the time. Tolerating injustice at one place is like tolerating injustice everywhere. 

In response to Rahul Gandhi’s comments on Gujarat, the BJP spokespersons lashed out that Modi has been given clean chit by SIT in Gujarat and also by the court of law, by legal process. This is a false propaganda. Right from the beginning of Gujarat violence, the comments of National Human rights commission indict Modi for his role in orchestrating Gujarat Violence. Though Special Investigation team (SIT) commented that there is no case against Modi, in the findings of SIT, there has been a strong element which indicts Modi for his acts of commission and omission. The apologists of Modi will point that in Delhi the military was not called for three days, while forgetting that in Delhi violence was contained in three days and in Gujarat process of violence went on unabated till May 2002, starting from 27th February. This stoppage of violence in Gujarat could happen only when the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee sent K.P.S. Gill as the special officer to overlook the control of violence in Gujarat. Modi personally got adverse comments all through, right from the beginning as his role was too glaring to be undermined at any stage of time. 

In the initial period the Hon’ble Supreme Court first pulled up the State government and observed “The Nero’s in Gujarat fiddled as Gujarat burned” ( Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee had to reprimand Modi that Raj Dharma should be followed. The type of atmosphere created in Gujarat resulted in Supreme Court asking for shifting of the two major cases away from Gujarat, as an intimidating atmosphere was created in Gujarat due to Modi’s high handedness. Even after the latest judgment of the Magistrate’s Court, the human rights’ activists Mallika Sarabhai was forthright to comment, “Silly to have expected anything else but clean chit for Narendra Modi from a Gujarat court.” 

Even the interpretation of the report of SIT is fallacious. Supreme Court had appointed the SIT and also Amicus curiae, Raju Ramchandran. To say that SIT gave a clean chit to Modi is not true. The fact is that the SIT in its 2010 report clearly said: In spite of the fact that ghastly and violent attacks had taken place on Muslims at Gulberg Society and elsewhere, the reaction of the government was not the type that would have been expected by anyone. The chief minister had tried to water down the seriousness of the situation at Gulberg Society, Naroda Patiya and other places by saying that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Ramu Ramchandran based on same report pointed out that there is enough evidence in the SIT report to prosecute Modi. 

One recalls that NHRC much before all this had concluded its report 31.5. 2002 and said that “there was a comprehensive failure of the State to protect the Constitutional rights of the people of Gujarat” Amicus Curiae in his final report, recommended the prosecution of Narendra Modi under Sections 166 and 153a and 153b of the Indian Penal Code. So where is the clean chit? If we see three major factors, The National Human Rights commission has indicted Modi. Second, based on SIT observations Supreme Court appointed Amicus Curiae holds that Modi can be prosecuted. Third, the process of justice through Courts in Zakia Jafri has begun. After the Court verdict Ms Jafri said that she will appeal to the higher courts. Our process of justice begins with Magistrates Court, does not end with that. Proclaiming that Modi has been given a ‘clean chit’ for his role in Gujarat carnage is far from truth. It’s a clever propaganda, which has been dished out with a deliberate purpose. 

At another level, Modi acolytes, Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani are in jails for their role in the carnage. The Tehelka sting shows the collusion between the Babu Bajrangi clan and the state led by Modi. The tribunal set up by Citizens for Justice and Peace with eminent jurists like P.B.Sawant also outlined Modi’s role in a very clear manner. There has been some justice in few cases of Gujarat. And that is due to yeomen struggle for justice launched by the victims and human rights defenders. The process of justice needs to be pursued. The state of Gujarat has created all possible obstacles in the justice being given to the victims. The claims of clean chit hold no water, we need to look beyond the propaganda and the truth will show the blood tainted hands of Modi.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

The Base Text and Its Commentaries: Problems of Representing and Understanding the Cārvāka/Lokāyata - PART III & IV

Ramkrishna Bhattacharya

Jayantabhaṭṭa, a luminary of the Nyāya-Vaiśeṣika school (ninth century C.E.) was a domicile in Kashmir although he was a Gauḍa brāhamaṇa by origin. His exegetical work Nyāyamañjarī (NM) contains stringent attacks against the Cārvākas. Speaking of the instruments of cognition, Jayanta at one place says: “the Cārvākas say that there is only one kind of pramāṇa, which is perception (pratyakṣa).”17 Jayanta assures his readers that he would establish the validity of inference (anumāna), which the Cārvākas allegedly do not admit as a pramāṇa.

Apparently, Jayanta is here going by the Cārvāka aphorism: “Perception indeed is the (only) instrument of cognition” (BHATTACHARYA 2009: 80, 87).18 So far so good. Had this been the only example of going by the literal meaning of an aphorism, we could have dispensed with Jayanta. After all, he takes the words of the aphorism as they appear in the base text and stands firmly on its basis. However, he soon changes his track; instead of the sūtra work, he takes his stand on a commentary, presumably the Tattvavṛtti written by his fellow Kashmirian, Udbhaṭabhaṭṭa. Jayanta does not name him anywhere in his work but refers to him in various indirect and ironical ways and refers to Udbhaṭa’s view three times in successive pages.19

After referring to the alleged one-pramāṇa position of the Cārvākas (quoted above), Jayanta writes: “The Cārvākas, the well-learned ones (suśikṣita), say that it is really impossible to specifically state the number of pramāṇa-s.”20 In another instance Jayanta complains that the Cārvāka, the cunning one (dhūrta), does not explain the principle (tattva) but merely expatiates on “the impossibility of making a specific rule regarding the number and definition of pramāṇa and prameya (the object of cognition).”21 It is no longer the number of pramāṇa-s but those of prameya-s as well. On yet another occasion Jayanta derides the Cārvākas by saying: “The nāstika-s, not having enough intelligence to determine the power of the pramāṇa-s have been clamouring in vain that in the case of pramāṇa-s, there is no specific rule as to the number.”22 The same kind of contempt is manifest again on the same page: “By declaring before the assembly of the learned that tattva is nothing but the impossibility of determining (the true nature of pramāṇa and prameya), they (sc. the Cārvākas) have only revealed their dullheadedness.”23

It is to be noted that Jayanta does not ridicule Udbhaṭa alone, or even those who allegedly adhere to his views, for holding this agnostic position regarding the number of pramāṇa-s and prameya-s. In the first two instances he does so, but in the last two he condemns the Cārvākas as a whole, not a section of them or a particular individual.

The charge is not true, for it goes against the statement made earlier by Jayanta himself that the Cārvākas admit one pramāṇa only, as the sūtra says. Even though we have to work on the basis of very few Cārvāka fragments, we at least know that Udbhaṭa in some respects differed from the ancient (cirantana) Cārvākas (NM II: 257) and that Cakradhara himself tells us, as does Vādidevasūri that Udbhaṭa sought to explain some sūtra-s in quite unconventional and novel ways.24 Therefore, Udbhaṭa’s view concerning the number of pramaṇa and prameya should not be taken as the opinion generally held by all nāstika-s or Cārvākas, past and present.

Moreover, Udbhaṭa’s view flatly contradicts the sūtra, which specifies that the principle is earth, air, fire and water and nothing else (iti) (I.2) (BHATTACHARYA 2009: 78, 86). Udbhaṭa himself was aware of his departure from the old way of interpretation. He tried to reinterpret the word iti in the text in a tortuous way by saying that here iti does not denote the end but instead is illustrative.25

Jayanta, then, is inconsistent in representing the opponent’s view (pūrvapakṣa). He knew full well that the Cārvākas interpreted the sūtra in a very different way than the wording suggests. At least three commentators, Purandara, Aviddhakarṇa and Udbhaṭa, took pains to point out that although they did not consider inference to be an independent instrument of cognition, they did not reject inference as such. Only such inferences as are drawn from scriptures or unverifiable sources are rejected by them; inferences established in everyday life and verifiable by sense perception are admitted by them (BHATTACHAYA 2009: 81–82, 88–90, commentaries 3, 12, 18). Jayanta in fact paraphrased the view of those whom he calls “the better educated ones” (suśikṣitatarāḥ)26 as follows:
Indeed who will deny the validity of inference when one infers fire from smoke and so on; ordinary people ascertain the probandum by such inferences though they may not be pestered by the logicians. However, inferences that seek to prove a self, God, an omniscient being and the other-world and so on, are not considered valid by those who know the real nature of things. Simple-minded people cannot derive the knowledge of probandum by such inferences so long as their mind is not vitiated by cunning logicians (NM I: 184; BHATTACHARYA 2009: 86, 92, verses 18–20).
By refusing to abide by the commentator’s interpretation of the sūtra concerning the partial validity of inference but by generalizing the same commentator’s purely personal opinion about the impossibility of determining the number of pramāṇa and prameya to be the original Cārvāka view, Jayanta merely betrays his personal antipathy for Udbhaṭa in particular and the Cārvākas in general. He would at one point go by the literal meaning of a sūtra in the base text but at another point accept the commentator’s view rather than what the sūtra says. No doubt the commentator (Udbhaṭa in this case) provided an opportunity to an opponent of his system by resorting to a far-fetched interpretation; Jayanta makes full use of it. Instead of bringing the charge of sūtrabhaṅga, going against the aphorism (which Udbhaṭa definitely does while interpreting iti in the Cārvāka fragment I.2), he refers to the view as if it represents the true position of the Cārvākas. On another occasion, he refers to the sūtra itself just because it suits him. On yet other occasions he conveniently forgets the sūtra and picks up Udbhaṭa alone. If he believed that a particular commentator’s view properly reflected the intention of the sūtrakāra, why did he suppress the same commentator’s interpretation of a vital sūtra (III.1, discussed above) and stick to the letters of it instead?


Hemacandra, the Jain savant (twelfth century C.E.) also criticizes the nāstika, or heterodox view in his Anya-yoga-vyavaccheda-dvātriṃśikā (AYVD) solely on the ground that it does not admit inference as a valid instrument of cognition (verse 20). Malliṣeṇa (thirteenth century), in his Syādvādamañjarī (SVM), a commentary on the AYVD, identifies this nāstika with the Cārvāka. Rightly so, for the two words are synonymous (see above). Malliṣeṇa then explains the point as follows: the Cārvākas accept only perception as the sole instrument of cognition; hence they do not accept anything else, not even inference, as a means of valid knowledge.27

We have already seen that this is a common charge brought against the Cārvākas by many of their opponents, both Vedists (Brahminical, such as Jayanta) and non-Vedists (the Jain, Hemacandra in this instance. See also KAMALAŚĪLA, II: 520, but see also II: 528, quoted below). In fact, the point that the Cārvākas accepted nothing but perception as pramāṇa is so widely – almost universally – believed by so many authorities, both ancient and modern, that it may appear to be an exercise in futility to question the veracity of this oft-repeated objection. Yet the fact is that long before Hemacandra wrote this, Purandara, a Cārvāka philosopher (fl. eighth century C.E.) whose name is connected with both the base text of the Cārvāka/Lokāyata system of philosophy as well as with a short commentary (vṛtti) on it,28 had clearly stated: “The Cārvākas, too, admit of such an inference as is well-known in the world, but that which is called inference [by some], transgressing the worldly way, is prohibited [by them].”29

Purandara was not alone in asserting this view. Aviddhakarṇa (not later than the eighth century), another commentator on the Cārvākasūtra, also declared:
It is true that inference is admitted by us as a source of knowledge, because it is found to be so in general practice; (but what we only point out is that) the definition of an inferential mark is illogical (BHATTACHARYA 2009: comm. 3.81, 88).
And last but not least, Udbhaṭa, the last known commentator on the Cārvākasūtra, who in other respects was rather atypical in his interpretation of certain Cārvāka aphorisms (see above), states the Cārvāka position vis-à-vis inference more elaborately:
Failure of concomitance is not seen even in the case of probanses well- established in the world; so also it is not noticed in the case of the probanses established in the scripture; so, on the basis of the quality characterized by ‘non-perception of failure of concomitance’ being common to them, the probanses established in the scriptures are admitted as being gamaka. It is because of this that inference is secondary. Now the knowledge of non-failure of concomitance in respect of worldly probanses is instrumental in bringing a bout the knowledge of the probandum. But that is not there in the concept of probanses established by the scriptures. So it is not proper that non-perceptible things should be known with the help of these. Hence it is said that the ascertainment of things is difficult to attain by dint of inference (BHATTACHARYA 2009: comm. 12.81–82, 88).
The position of the Cārvākas is perfectly clear. They do not admit inference as an independent instrument of cognition on a par with perception, but at the same time they do admit the limited validity of inference insofar as it is confined to the material world, which is perceivable and verifiable by sense experience. It is in this sense that Udbhaṭa in response to some opponent makes a distinction between “incapable reasons” and “capable reasons” (BHATTACHARYA 2009: comm. 14.82, 89). Jayanta certainly knew all this. Hence, he makes “better educated ones” declare this in clear terms (as quoted above).

Given the incredible mobility of mss from Kashmir to Kerala and the custom of getting such mss speedily copied in various local scripts from Śāradā to Nāgarī to Malayalam, it is inconceivable that Hemacandra (respectfully called the “omniscient one of the Kali era,” kalikālasarvajña by the Jains) did not know any of them. Ratnaprabhā (fourteenth century), another Jain scholar, echoes the view of the three Cārvākasūtra commentators mentioned above:

The Cārvākas, however, contend that they admit inferences which are of practical utility, such as the inference of fire from smoke, and deny only those which deal with such supernatural matters as the heaven, the unseen power (apūrva) which generates in a next birth fruits of acts done in a present life, etc. etc. (VADIDEVASURI 1967: 540).

Guṇaratna (fifteenth century), yet another Jain commentator, also repeats all this 30 as do both anonymous author of the Avacūrṇi to the ṢDSam (1969: 508) and another digest-writer of a small, anonymous and undated work called the Sarvamatasaṃgraha (BHATTACHARYA 2009: 58).

Hemacandra and Malliṣeṇa do not shift their position from the base text to the commentary (as Jayanta does) in their criticism of the Cārvākas. They err in completely ignoring the commentaries and thereby, like many others before and after them, misrepresent the Cārvāka view of inference. In fact, as has been shown time again by other scholars before, partial acceptance of inference distinguished the Cārvākas (among other things) from the earlier materialists, some of whom might have held one-pramaṇa position as alleged by their opponents.31 Very much like Jayanta, he too conveniently avoids mentioning the view of the “better educated Cārvākas” in this regard.


One last word. Why did Jayanta and Hemacandra, two stalwarts in the field of Indian philosophy, make such injudicious choices between the base text and the commentary? It will be insulting them to say that they did not know or understand the actual position of the Cārvākas in regard to inference. Yet to say that these savants deliberately distorted their opponent’s view will be equally ungenerous. Then why?

The only explanation I may venture to offer is that their desire to trounce their opponent blurred their vision and made them recourse to the shortest and easiest way. By damning the Cārvākas as ‘wretched’ (varāka) and undeserving of any serious discussion (NM I: 299),32 both chose to portray them as simpletons, which they were not. Jigīṣā (desire to conquer) is the greatest enemy of objectivity, as a learned friend of mine is fond of saying.


17 NM, I: 43. Translation in: C/L, 154.
18 For variant readings of the same (III.1), see BHATTACHARYA 2009: 60, n. 23.
19 CAKRADHARA, author of the Granthibhaṅga, a commentary on the NM, identifies the person/s referred to in such ways (suśikṣita and dhūrta) as UDBHAṬA and others (I: 52, 100). CAKRADHARA is corroborated by VĀDIDEVASŪRI who quotes at length from UDBHAṬA’s commentary on several occasions and provides the title of the work (Tattvavṛtti) as well (265). Tantravṛtti (270) in all probability is a misprint. See BHATTACHARYA 2009: comm. 11, 13. 81–82, 89.
20 NM I: 52. Trans. in: C/L, 154.
21 NM I: 100. Trans. in: C/L, 155.
22 NM I: 101. Trans. in: C/L, 156.
23 Ibidem.
24 CAKRADHARA I: 100. Cf. VĀDIDEVASŪRI (SVR 764): “This respectable veteran twice-born is revealing to us a novel way of answering criticism.” (comm. 15 in: BHATTACHARYA 2009: 82, 89).
25 Cf. VĀDIDEVASŪRI (SVR 1087), and BHATTACHARYA 2009: comm. 16.82, 89–90. Cakradhara too points out in relation to other sūtra-s that Udbhaṭa’s explanations go against the conventionally proposed ones. Also BHATTACHARYA 2009: comm. 8, 81, 88; NM I: 100, 257–258.
26 Unfortunately, Cakradhara does not identify these persons as he did in case of the welleducated
Cārvākas and the cunning Cārvāka (see n23 above). The use of plural may be ironically
honorific. On the basis of the extract quoted by VĀDIDEVASŪRI (SVR comm. 12.
81–82, 88.265–266) we may safely conclude that this person cannot but be Udbhaṭa.
27 For a detailed study of SVM, chapter 20, see BHATTACHARYA 2009: 167–168.
28 See BHATTACHARYA 2009: 67.
29 As quoted by KAMALAŚĪLA in TSP II: 528 (on TS, Ch. 18, verse 1481, comm. 18 [in:] BHATTACHARYA 2009: 82, 90).
30 TRD, on ṢDSam verse 83, 306.13–15; C/L, 273.
31 Whether all pre-Cārvāka materialists too held such a one-pramāṇa position is open to further enquiry. A passage in the MBH mentions three pramāṇa-s, namely, perception confirmed in the world (lokataḥ sidddhaṃ pratyakṣam), doctrines having the Veda to support them, and the practice of eminent persons, śiṣṭa-s (13.147.9). Dandekar has noticed that inference is absent in the list but suggests that presumably inference is understood to have been included in perception (critical edition, Anuśāsanaparvan, notes, 1119). This would suggest that inference was required to be confined to this world only and not to be derived from the Veda, etc. to prove the existence of supernatural objects. Cf. Nyāyasūtra 1.5: tad (sc. pratyakṣam) pūrvakam. See also MBH 12.211.26–27 where reasoned-out truth (kṛtānta) is called nothing but perception. See BHATTACHARYA 2010a: 426.
32 Cf. HEMACANDRA 1926 (Yogaśāstra 2.38, f. 96b). Śilāṅka (19) also uses this insulting word to denigrate nāstika-s who speak of five elements (on SKS


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Ramkrishna Bhattacharya taught English at the University of Calcutta, Kolkata and was an Emeritus Fellow of University Grants Commission. He is now a Fellow of Pavlov Institute, Kolkata.

This paper was first published in Argument: Biannual Philosophical Journal, Vol. 3, no. 1 (2013), pp. 133-149 (


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