June 11, 2016

India: Nationalists and shame - Ananthamurthy's Hindutva or Hind Swaraj (Ramachandra Guha)

The Telegraph - 11 June 2016

Nationalists and shame
- Ananthamurthy's Hindutva or Hind Swaraj
Politics and Play - Ramachandra Guha

When the Kannada novelist, U.R. Ananthamurthy, turned eighty in December 2012, I wrote in these columns that "no English writer in India has anywhere, like the social standing of Ananthamurthy, the deep, lifelong connection with his readers and his public. When one of my tribe dies, his passing may (just possibly) be noticed in the bar of the India International Centre. When Ananthamurthy meets his Maker, his writings and his legacy will be discussed and debated in every district of Karnataka".

Ananthamurthy died a little less than two years later. I was then in Bangalore, where I was witness to the extraordinary affection he commanded among the Kannadigas. His body lay in state outside the city's Town Hall, draped in the national flag. Thousands of mourners had lined up to pay their tribute, the line curving on and around J.C. Road towards Cubbon Park. Students, teachers, actors, home-makers, and people representing other walks of life (and struggle) were in the queue. Many had come from Shimoga, Davangere, Mysore, and Dakshina Kannada districts, which would, in the weeks to come, hold their own commemorations of this courageous, colourful and (sometimes wilfully) controversial writer and intellectual.

Ananthamurthy's death was met by the offering of tributes; floral, written and spoken. But, since a writer is known in part by his enemies, his passing also sparked several 'celebratory' meetings, held by Hindutva groups whose violence and bigotry he had long and vocally opposed. In his last months on earth Ananthamurthy had completed a short book entitled in Kannada, comparing the ideas of V.D. Savarkar and M.K. Gandhi. Now, two years after his death, this has appeared in English, translated by Keerti Ramachandra and Vivek Shanbhag. Hindutva or Hind Swaraj is a short, sparkling, albeit sometimes meandering, tract, rich in epigrammatic wisdom, through which Ananthamurthy addresses his friends, admirers, sceptics and critics from beyond the pyre.
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FULL TEXT HERE:http://www.telegraphindia.com/1160611/jsp/opinion/story_90512.jsp