Like it or lump it, S.L. Bhyrappa‘s latest novel Aavarana is the hands-down literary sensation of the year.

On the one hand, it has gone into several reprints and won the overwhelming approval of readers worldwide “for saying it like it is”. And, on the other hand, its topic, tone and technique have come under question from “secular” intellectuals, who accuse the author of seeking to sow the seeds of enmity between communities and advancing the cause of Hindutva.

In this video-interview, Dr Bhyrappa addresses his readers worldwide and answers his critics at home. As to why he wrote this novel now, the philosophical concept behind it, and the political and ideological inhibitions that have prevented his co-writers from taking up such a controversial subject.

Dr Bhyrappa says there is no agenda, hidden or otherwise, behind the novel. That the purpose of his novel is the search for truth. And that most of those who are opposing his book are politically-correct leftists, and those claiming to champion the interests of Dalits.

Controversially, the best-selling author says India’s social harmony, which his critics accuse him of seeking to destroy through the book, is “superficial, artificial, and therefore not permanent.”

“The kind of harmony you are speaking, since independence, does it exist? It doesn’t exist because you are starting on a false foundation. Most of our Constitution framers were Hindus, most of them were upper class. Alladi Krishnawamy Iyer, K.M. Munshi. Babu Rajendra Prasad, C. Rajagopalachari. All of them unanimously abolished untouchability, saying that those who practice it should be prosecuted and jailed, that Dalits should be given special privileges, and those those who intermarried with Dalits should be given special incentives.

“That means, they (the Hindus) realised the mistakes in our society which was historically practised and tried to rectify it. Have Muslims tried to do overcome their mistakes? The Hindus have clearly realised that untouchability and social inequalities were practised from certain points in our history. We are open about it and we are ashamed of it. Have the Muslims realised what they have done is wrong and what is the source of what they have done?

“The source of what they have done is in their sacred religious texts. Now, are they prepared to go back to it and say these are the portions which we want to disown? Till they are prepared to do that, this social harmony is based on false foundation. Therefore to say that just because a certain truth is spoken, to say that it disturbs social harmony… for how long can you live with the delusion of building social harmony under false foundation.

“You must have the freedom to criticise every religion in the world: Judaism, Christianity, Shintosim, Hinduism, etc etc. Now to say you have every freedom to criticise different streams of Hinduism or Christianity, but you should not speak anything Islam, shut up… when you come to that point, is that fair? Progress is possible only when there is free criticism, which the western people have reached.”

Also read: S.L. Bhyrappa versus U.R. Anantha Murthy

‘URA should stop preaching, start writing’