An attempt by a pro-Hindutva organisation to release the Telugu version of Manu Smriti has been foiled by some Dalit and social justice organisations in Hyderabad.
Veda Dharma Trust, the organiser of the programme, has postponed the book release event of Telugu version of Manu Smriti scheduled at Telugu University Auditorium, Hyderabad, on Saturday (February 11).
Telugu University revokes permission for event
Following vociferous protests from the activists and a campaign against the event on social media, Telugu University has revoked the permission granted to the Trust to hold the programme.
Noted Telugu scholar and Avadhani Dr Maduguala Nagaphani Sarma, Advisor to Government of Telangana Dr KV Ramanachari, former chief secretary of Andhra Pradesh Dr LV Subramanyanm, and Prof Kasireddy Venkatareddy of Jatiaya Sahitya Parishad were to participate in the event.
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The book was translated into Telugu from Hindi by Dr Marri Krishna Reddy as Pracheena Bharata Rajyangam, Siksha Smriti (Ancient Indian Constitution, A Penal Code).
Many Dalit and social justice organisations took objection to the programme as the book is being promoted as the ‘Ancient Indian Constitution’. A couple of organisations gave a call to stage a dharna in front of the Telugu University against allowing the government institution to become the stage for an event that has a potential to create tension among various communities.
Dr Navayan spearheads campaign against event
Noted advocate and activist Dr Karthik Navayan launched an online petition requesting the Telangana chief secretary, DGP and Hyderabad district collector to stop the inauguration of Manu Smriti and to direct the organisers to stop calling Manu Smriti an ancient Constitution of India. They alleged that Manu Smriti is “anti-Constitutional and reinforces every form of inequality”.
Dr Navayan also dashed off a letter to the Vice Chancellor of Telugu University stating that, “… it is illegal and a violation of the constitutional spirit to allow the propagation and call the Manu Smriti as ancient Constitution of India on the premises of a state university.”
Social scientists such as Prof Kancha Ilaiah, Prof Prabhanjan Yadav and Prof S Simhadri also voiced concern over Telugu University for letting its premises to release a controversial book. Finally, the Telugu University withdrew the permission granted to the event. Sources in Telugu University confirmed that the university had cancelled the permission given to the event but refused to comment further.
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Veda Dharma Trust unfazed, to reschedule event
However, the unfazed Veda Dharma Trust said they would soon announce the new date and venue of the programme. Releasing a press note on the cancellation of tomorrow’s programme, the Trust said the program was temporarily put on hold.
“The Telugu University VC, following the pressure from the people and organisations opposed to Manu Smriti, revoked the permission accorded to hold the book release event in the auditorium. The programme stands cancelled,” reads the press note.
“Since the Telugu University is a state government institution the anti-Manu Smriti forces planned to disrupt the programme. We will release the book at a private venue. Let them oppose. We will mobilise our own forces,” said Dr Marri Krishna Reddy, the translator of the book, told The Federal.
‘No intention to fight with organisers’
Talking to The Federal, Dr Navayan, the man who took the lead in opposing the programme, said they had no intention to attack or fight with the organisers. “We have ideological objections to Manu Smriti. We are against propagating the Manu Smriti as the Constitution of ancient India as if all Indians need to abide by it. The book is a symbol of social inequality and repression. Calling such a book the Indian Constitution carries a message to perpetuate all types of injustice done to the vast majority of the people in the name of religion and caste. We oppose any attempt to portray the book as the Constitution of India, peacefully,” Dr Navayan said.
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Expressing similar views, convener of Social Justice Joint Action Committee (JAC) Prof Prabhanjan Yadav said highlighting the Manu Smriti was an attempt to undo the empowerment the ‘shudra’ communities achieved in the past 120 years since the days of Jyotiba Phule.
“Lower castes following many sacrifices and heroic battles have achieved few democratic rights which include education and reservations. These sections are fighting for share in the political power. Unable to tolerate the rise of the lower castes, the Hindutva forces now want to revive the Varnashram Dharma the Manu Smriti strongly advocates. It will undo all the progress achieved by the productive castes and mandate them to slavery. We oppose the campaign to revive the Manu Smriti in any form. We see a hidden agenda to get constitutional validity to the outdated book,” he said.
Dr Navayan and Prof Prabhanjan also added that they continue to oppose the promotion of the book but do not indulge in any show of strength. “Ours is an ideological battle through constitutional means,” they said.