- Oliver D’Souza
It was first in 2015 and later in 2018 that Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) strongman Dattareya Hosabale was first expected to be elevated to the post of the General Secretary of the RSS. A blue eyed boy of the RSS since his ABVP days, Hosabale enjoys particular favor with the present breed of RSS thinkers and ideologues. However, he had to wait till 2021 to become the number two in the RSS.
The 65-yeay-old Hosabale took over from 73-year-old Suresh ‘Bhaiyyaji’ Joshi, who was Sarkaryawah for four successive terms of three years each. The Sarkaryawah (General Secretary) post is considered as Sangh’s number 2 in command after Sarsanghchalak (Chief) which is currently held by Mohan Bhagwat.
Dattarayea is the RSS’s ideal cadre. A Bhumiar Brahmin, schooled at Hosabale village and in Sagar (taluka headquarters), he was under RSS influence from the age of 13, coming from a family that have been staunch RSS cadres. He later earned a master’s degree in English literature, studying in Bengaluru and later at Mysuru University, all the while remaining active in ABVP activities, becoming a General Secretary in 1978 and remaining one for 15 years. He was imprisoned for a year during the Emergency and was the founding editor of Aseema, a Kannada monthly.
There is no doubt that the RSS has continued its practice of reserving the top posts only for illustrious Brahmins with a penchant for hardcore RSS ideology.
Bhumiar Brahmins, also known as Babhans in the North, according to Wikipedia claim to be descendants of Brahmins who held land grants, a theory supported by Jogendra Nath Bhattacharya.
“However, Bhattacharya also promoted a more popular narrative according to which they were a “low caste” group who were promoted to the status of Brahmin on the order of a Raja who wanted presence of a large number of Brahmins to celebrate his religious festivals,” says wikipedia.
The other popular version is about their origin. They are said to have belonged to a low caste tribe called “Bhuyans” who acquired land and presumed themselves as Brahmins.
“A class of Bhumihar also claim descent from Rati Raut, a gwala (cowherd) who ruled Rati pargana in the north Bihar. Other communities also do not give them the ritual status of priestly Brahmins, as most of them were cultivators during the British Raj.”
Wikipedia goes on to say that “some of the early censuses of British India categorized Bhumihars of Bihar as Shudras, the lowest of the four varnas. This was considered insulting, especially since several zamindars (land-owning aristocrats) were Bhumihars.”
According to Wikipedia and other caste genealogical sources, Bhumiar Brahmins come from the same family as Chitpavan Brahmins and Chitpavan Brahmins are the ones who invented the RSS and have been at its core for the most part..
Whatever the controversies about the origins of the Bhumiar Brahmins, the reality for thousands of years has been that, as the word ‘Bhumi’ suggests, Bhumiar Brahmins are traditional landlords with large land holdings in the areas that they are found in, though Hosabale family is said to have only around 13 acres of land. The total land held by the Bhumiar Brahmins in Shimoga is said to be more than the total land held by all other castes.
Because of their large land-holdings the Bhumiar Brahmins in Shimoga are very powerful and influential though numerically small as compared to the total population of the district.
Known for his hardliner views on core Hindutva issues – such as those that are communal -, as well as his liberal side which sees the need to be friends even with Pakistan, worked enormously in his favor. He is the choice of both the RSS and of Modi-Shah duo.
Between the two, what perhaps tipped the balance in his favor was his close proximity to both PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah. Hosabale has helped them both to resolve many RSS and BJP conflicts in the past. Now these outfits not only face growing discontent among BJP MPs over Modi’s administration, but sections of the RSS are also said to be unhappy with the Modi-Shah duo’s performance. Hosabale will be needed to keep peace between the two outfits and in maintaining order within both the outfits in pursuance of their common agenda.
The functional reasons why why the RSS , as well as the Modi-Shah duo favored Hosabale, however, are threefold.
First is the RSS-BJP’s coveting of South India. Though the RSS has presence in the South, it fails to have make any significant social gains viz a viz communal polarization. Rather it is usually found to be present as a culprit wherever there is communal strife and violence.
Secondly, the RSS seeks to dispel the impression that the outfit is largely a Maharashtra and North Indian dominated one. This has led to a flurry of appointments of South Indians to various senior posts in the RSS. Hosabale’s appointment is part of that strategy.
Thirdly, the BJP, which needs RSS’s ground strength, and for whom the political ground is prepared by the RSS , is currently in power only in Karnataka, that too purely through subterfuge, and has very little political presence in the South. Popular among those of the same bent of mind, and known as Dattaji, Hosabale is expected to further the fortunes of the RSS-BJP in the South through his identity as a South-Indian and his knowledge of Kannada, Hindi, English, Tamil and Sanskrit which, apart from the exception of sanskrit, are commonly spoken and understood in the South.
In the current situation in the country, though, it remains to be seen what line Hosabale takes, especially on the farmer issue. We have a 8-month long agitation against new farm laws that small and marginal farmers are convinced will leave them in penury.
Being the son a farmer, albeit a prosperous and privileged Brahmin one, he knows the struggles that farmers face. He is aware of the toil, the struggle, the poor remuneration and the exploitation by landlords.
Most importantly, being an educated man, he knows that the farm laws spell disaster not only for farmers but for the nation as a whole.
Hosabaleoften refers to himself as a son of the soil. Will he now sympathize and empathize with the farmer’s legitimate demands? Will he protect the nation’s food security? Or will he continue to toe the RSS-BJP strategy of handing over the nation’s food supply to a few and hold the nation at ransom to further the RSS’s destructive Hindurashtra agenda based on Manumsriti?