A new Kannada book criticizing the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is flying off shelves in Bengaluru ahead of its official release.
A 72-page newsletter entitled “RSS: Aala Mattu Agala” (“The Depth and Breadth of RSS”) hit bookstores on Saturday. One store sold its entire inventory of 500 copies by Sunday. Others are waiting to get their hands on the book as publishers are nearly sold out.
Written by Devanur Mahadeva, one of Karnataka’s leading writers, it quotes from the writings of Golwalkar, Savarkar and Hegdewar – all of whom shaped the ideology of the right-wing Hindu organization – to show how they justify the caste system and oppose the Constitution and establish federalism.
Mahadeva lingers on the wave of majoritarianism, and the book shows how he violates constitutional values of equality and freedom, says activist and freelance journalist Shivasundar.
He says it’s not hard to see why Mahadeva’s book is so well received: “He wrote it when right-wing communalism and Hindutva were rising, and the source of that political ideology is RSS.”
Aakruti Books in Rajajinagar sold all 500 copies in one day. Owner Guruprasad DN says he’s never seen such an enthusiastic response to a Kannada non-fiction book. “We didn’t take any pre-orders. We have not made any (pre)announcements. The sale was spontaneous. An engineer bought 10 copies to give to friends and family. Lecturers picked up several copies for their students,” he says.
This may be because there are not many books examining RSS in Kannada, with one notable exception being RSS Antharanga by AK Subbaiah, the BJP’s first president in Karnataka, says Guruprasad. “Or perhaps this reflects public anger at current politics,” he notes, referring to the textbook revision in BJP-ruled Karnataka cited in the book.
RSS: Aala Mattu Agala has six publishers who have collectively printed 9,000 copies of a PDF manuscript shared by Mahadeva. Gauri Media Trust, named after murdered journalist Gauri Lankesh, is one of them and is based in Bengaluru. It has sold all copies.
His co-editor Mutturaju says, “We knew the book would be well received because it was coming out at a time when community tensions were high in Karnataka and the Congress leader, Siddaramaiah, was calling RSS an Aryan organization.” Even Manava Bandhutva Vedike , an NGO active across Karnataka, and Mysuru-based Abhiruchi Prakashana have used up their first print runs of 1,000 and 2,000 copies respectively, we’re told.
Navakarnataka Publications, which runs a bookshop in Gandhinagar, has sold about 850 copies from an initial stock of 1,000. H. Puttappa, manager, says non-fiction has generally done well. A recent bestseller was a book on reservations by former High Court Judge HN Nagamohan Das, Misalati Bhrame Mattu Vastava.
Jeerrunde Pusthaka, an online store, sold 600 copies in three days and there are 100 left. Most of the orders came from the northern districts of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. Owner Dhananjaya N attributes the rush to Mahadeva’s writing style, rich in metaphor and vernacular.
Mahadeva is also seen as a “figure of unification” and the book could be a rallying point for opposition to BJP policies, says Shivasundar. In 2015, Mahadeva was among the many authors who returned their Padma and Central Sahitya Akademi awards. The book costs 40 rupees.
One book, six publishers: Devanur on a new model
“RSS: Aala Mattu Agala” is an experiment in decentralized publishing, said noted writer Devanur Mahadeva Metrolife on Tuesday.
Did you expect such an enthusiastic response to the book?
No, not on this scale. We had planned a decentralized publishing movement. Six publishers brought out 9,000 copies of this book for the first edition. Gauri Media Trust published 2,000 copies and the entire print run was sold out in just three days. That was unexpected. Given the growing demand, they are now releasing 5,000 copies. This issue will be published tomorrow (Wednesday). Other publishers rely on 3,000 and 5,000 copies. My personal opinion: Isn’t it possible to print 1,000 or 2,000 copies of each Taluk and sell them there? Chikkanayakanahalli and Tiptur Taluks have already done so.
How long did it take to write the book?
It took me three months to read and prepare for it. The writing took 15 days. Making the writing simple and straightforward took another month. Why are things like this? I had to confront questions without answers. I tried to understand. I turned to young readers and explained my thoughts.