‘I’ve written it for entire mankind’: Kannada writer Devanur on his popular RSS book – The Federal

Devanur’s book ‘RSS: Aala Mattu Agala’ is making history in terms of sales as it sells almost 3,000 copies a day and is fast flying off the shelves. The book will be translated into English, Telugu and Tamil
It’s not a book, it has become a movement of sorts.
That sums up the bestseller booklet, RSS: Aala Mattu Agala (RSS-Depth and Breadth), penned by the prominent Kannada writer Devanur Mahadeva. The Padma Shri awardee Mahadeva was in the news in May this year demanding that his writings be removed from the Kannada language textbooks part of the Class 10 SSLC (Secondary School Leaving Certificate) syllabus to protest the BJP-ruled state government’s move to revise school textbooks.
It’s true the 72-pager book, critical of the RSS, doesn’t quite offer anything new or provides any new insights to those who are already in the know, but there’s enough for the uninitiated to grab. Neither does it live up to its title, as most of the narrative skims the surface with no depth, as it briefly sketches the life of RSS founder KB Hegdewar, inception of RSS, its history, and its journey till the present times.
The book also quotes the writings of Golwalkar, Savarkar and Hegdewar – who all had a role in shaping the right-wing organisation’s ideology. Their quotes show how they justified the caste system and opposed the Constitution and federalism.
While BJP and RSS describe the book as not more than a pamphlet, it has stirred curiosity among the young about the RSS, which is about to celebrate its centenary soon. It is also allegedly one of the few books in Kannada on the RSS.
The target of this book is clearly the young, digital-savvy crowd, as the easy-to-read fonts and the simple language reflect. In a conversation with The Federal, the book’s author, Mahadeva reflected on his target audience: “I think I have written this book addressing the entire mankind including the sensible Brahmins. Mainly, I have kept in mind high school, pre-university students and the children who have a future to contend with.”
On whether he is worried about “hatemongers” attacking him over the book, Mahadeva replied cryptically, “My inner conscience was in a dilemma and I decided to pacify it by expressing it.”
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Setting off a new trend
This book has made waves also because of its unique publishing model. RSS:Aala Mattu Agala has six publishers who printed 9,000 copies together from a PDF manuscript Mahadeva shared. The Bengaluru-based Gauri Media Trust, named after the slain journalist Gauri Lankesh, is one of them. It has reportedly sold all the copies.
However, in a novel move, the writer and the publishers have given up the copyright of the book to enable its publication by anybody in any form. Mahadeva explained, “This book can be published by anyone. For example, if 8-10 boys and girls collect ₹2,000 and send it to us, we will publish 2,000 copies in their name and send them. Karnataka has 200 taluks and people from many taluks have come forward to print and sell the book.”
However, there will be copyright fees to be paid to Westland publications if people price their printed copies above ₹40 (In Kannada it is being sold for ₹40 only).
“If the book is priced above ₹40, they will have to pay 10 per cent royalty,” said Mahadeva. “There’s a reason for this, I grow grains and cereals and if someone asks for a ‘Dasoha’ (free food for the poor), I will give it all for free. But if someone wants to sell the book to make profits, I will also charge for it,” added the author, who has six books to his name.
The PDF version of the book has been anonymously uploaded online and that too has gone viral on social media. It has been downloaded by thousands of people.
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RSS:Aala Mattu Agala has become a model for such crusade-driven books. This model doesn’t offer any financial gains for the writer or for the original publisher. But, they are more than compensated by the extensive reach of the book.
It’s indeed making history in terms of sales as the book is selling at the rate of almost 3,000 copies a day and is fast flying off the shelves. “Several people are now booking online in advance,” said a bookseller in Rajajinagar, Bengaluru.
Targetted at the younger generation
Around 56,000 books of RSS: Aala Mattu Agala (RSS-Depth and Breadth) have been sold all over Karnataka and the numbers are going up every day. Though, publishers said that this book is being purchased by people in the 21-50 age group, young people are the ones who are largely gravitating towards this book.
Ramesh Udupa, executive director, Nava Karnataka Prakashana, Bangalore, said that he sold 3,000 books in a single day on July 12. He had published the book on his own. Now, he is also getting 3,000 more copies to cater to the orders that are pouring in. “Nava Karnataka has also sold another 1,000 copies published by other publishers,” he said.
Calling it the first “bestseller” in recent times, Abhiruchi Ganesh of Abhiruchi Prakashana claimed he has already sold around 9,000 copies. “Even though the PDF format is circulating, the demand for the book hasn’t diminished,”  he said.
Also read: Spread of Hindutva is blurring caste divisions and regional faultlines
Pan-India reach
After the book’s phenomenal success, national publishers are queuing up to publish its English version. According to Mahadeva, the book will be translated and published in English by Westland publishers and Hyderabad Book trust will take up the Telugu version. While Kanakaraj will translate this book into Tamil.
Regional publishers felt that they knew the book would do well because it is coming at a time when communal tensions are running high in Karnataka.
To a question on death threats received by writers and thinkers from hatemongers, he said that it is difficult to hate him. “Love may blossom in the hearts of the haters too,” he said, adding “Dweshisuvvarige preetinoo huttabahudalla?” (‘Haters can also love, right?’!)
Who is Devanur Mahadeva?
Born in 1948, Mahadeva is a native of Devanooru in Nanjanagood Taluk of Mysore district in Karnataka. Mahadeva was awarded the Central Sahitya Academy award for his well-known novel Kusuma Baale. The Centre awarded him the fourth highest civilian award Padma Shri for his literary works.
He rejected the Nrupathunga award in 2010 expressing his disapproval over the official language issue. He wanted Kannada to be made the medium of learning at least up to the college level. The intrepid writer has also rejected Rajya Sabha’s nomination under the writers’ quota.
Devaoor’s literary works include Dyavanuru, Odalaala, Kusuma Baale, Edege Bidda Akshara and Devanura Mahadeva Avara Krithigalu.

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