India Dissents, an anthology edited by the poet Ashok Vajpeyi, is a collection of expressions of dissent spanning nearly three millennia. Beginning from writings Nasidiya Sukta, in the Rigveda, the volume examines the tradition of registering doubts and protest against the Indian state and its traditions and practices. It includes writings from: the Tamil poet Sundarar, who rebukes god for ignoring the devout public; the Sikh guru, Nanak, who writes against the divisive religious and caste systems; the Dalit poet Kalavve, who condemns caste oppression and patriarchy; the writer Ismat Chughtai, who mocks the trial against her on the charges of obscenity; the laywer Siddharth Narrain, who chides the Supreme Court for terming the LGBTQ community in India a “miniscule minority”; the writer Robin S Ngangom, who addresses state-sponsored terrorism and the militarisation of states such as Meghalaya, from where he hails; and the activist Soni Sori, who opposes the state action against Maoist rebels and the tribal residents in Chhattisgarh; among several others. The book emphasises that India—both in its ancient and present forms—has always included a robust culture of dissent and critique.
The following excerpt is by DN Jha, the text of which was part of his 2001 book The Myth of the Holy Cow. (When Jha's book was first published, leaders from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad had called for it to be burned publicly.) In this extract, Jha writes about how various factions of the Hindu right—the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in particular—deny or ignore ancient Indian history when they claim that cow-worship is integral to Hinduism.
Mother cow is in many ways better than the mother who gave us birth. Our mother gives us milk for a couple of years and then expects us to serve her when we grow up. Mother cow expects from us nothing but grass and grain. Our mother often falls ill and expects service from us. Mother cow rarely falls ill. Our mother when she dies means expenses of burial or cremation. Mother cow is as useful dead as when alive.