Dalit author Ilaiah changes name in caste protest

  • Sudipto Mondal
  • Updated: May 28, 2016 07:39 IST

HYDERABAD: One of India’s most prominent anti-caste authors says he has changed his name in protest against relentless attacks on him over his alleged anti-Brahmin remarks.

Hyderabad-based Kancha Ilaiah became Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd to reportedly break away from caste-based hierarchies. He alleged the decision was forced by days of pitched media coverage and mobs from upper-caste associations outside his office asking why he called Brahmins “lazy and gluttonous”.

The 64-year-old denies the allegations, saying he is facing the “most significant” attack on his scholarship. “When I take on a name that symbolises my productive capacity, I am getting out of the caste system. A shepherd treats every individual in his flock equally. I am a follower of that democratic and powerful Shepherd god,” he told HT.

The row follows a similar campaign last year against Dalit Tamil writer Perumal Murugan, who gave up writing after protests over his book. Hyderabad incidentally triggered a nationwide debate on caste-based discrimination after the January suicide of PhD student Rohith Vemula. Ilaiah Shepherd says his effigies are being burnt and abusive calls pouring in.

“Brahmin welfare corporations use an image of Parasurama, with a large axe. By showing the axe, they are trying to threaten somebody. This is really scary for Dalit Bahujans and minorities because these groups are state-sponsored,” he said. At a lecture earlier this month, he reportedly argued that Vedic culture had delegtimised labour.

“How many Brahmins are employed as cobblers, potters, construction workers, agricultural labourers, sanitation workers? We live in a society where people who turn mud into food are called muddy people and considered inferior. How will the country progress like this?”

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