Caste-based discrimination and untouchability have been the cornerstones of the Indian social order. The religious sanction accorded to the twin practices has been opposed time and again. In the 19thcentury, Jotirao Phule pioneered the tradition of deconstructing the myths to extract the truth from the mass of disinformation. Many people, notably Dr Ambedkar, took this tradition forward in the 20thcentury. Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu was one such truth-seeker. Here, Kanwal Bharti reviews Jigyasu’s writings. This first instalment is a review of the book Bharat ke Adi Nivasiyon ki Sabhyata, which was published in 1937.
The Dalit-OBC castes began to have a yearning to unearth their past at the beginning of the 20th century. Their quest for knowledge about their past culminated in the Aryan Invasion Theory. Dalit thinkers arrived at the conclusion that their history, literature and philosophy were inextricably woven around the conflict between the Aryans and the non-Aryans. This theory formed the basis of Swami Bodhanand’s treatise Mool Bharatwasi Aur Arya published in 1930. Bodhananand was the progenitor of the backward-class movement in Uttar Pradesh. In the same decade, Swami Achhootanand launched the Adi Hindu movement. He contended that the Shudra and the Ati-Shudra castes were real Hindus while the dwijs were non-Hindus. Achhootanand wrote many plays and poems on the ancient history of the Hindus. Chandrika Prasad Jigyasu was a friend of Achhootanand and a devoted disciple of Bodhanand. Jigyasu’s worldview underwent a radical transformation after coming in contact with the two Swamis because earlier, he had been an Arya Samaji. Jigyasu took the indigenous inhabitants theory forward and through his literature, laid the foundations of India’s very own socialism. His first book Bharat ke Adi Nivasiyon ki Sabhyata delineates this Indian version of socialism. The book’s first edition was published in 1937, the fourth revised edition in 1956 and the fifth revised edition in 1965. In the foreword to the first edition, Bhadant Bodhanand, says that the book, though complete in itself, is only the fourth chapter of Jigyasu’s voluminous treatise. The other three chapters of this treatise were published under the title Srishti Aur Manav Samaj ka Vikas. Only one edition of that book was published and is unavailable now. In the revised edition of Bharat ke Adi Nivasiyon ki Sabhyata, Jigyasu writes, “As soon as the third freedom struggle began, we found ourselves in a difficult situation that forced the closure of not only the national publications but all else too. Today, in the year 1956, the question that still begs an answer is: why are the castes that form 80 per cent of Indians socially, economically and educationally backward? Who is throttling them? And what is the identity of the oppressed, backward castes? On the other hand, the educated members of these oppressed, backward classes seem to be keen to see through the strategies of their decadent exploiters. Against this backdrop, I hope this new revised edition of this book will prove useful.”