Repeating A ‘Big Enough Lie’
by Anand Teltumbde
In the wake of the controversy around the ban on the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) by the IIT Madras authorities, the mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) wrote an exasperating but a confused editorial Unmasking Pseudo Ambedkarites against the protesters terming them reds. It accused them of not knowing Ambedkar that he was pro-Hindus and against communists and of course justified the ban on APSC.
Interestingly, it began with a quote from Annihilation of Castes to create an impression of buttressing its point in bold: “Brahminism is the poison which has spoiled Hinduism. You will succeed in saving Hinduism if you will kill Brahminism.“ Apart from serving the Goebblesque intention of repeating a lie by whatever means, one wondered why the quote that implied no eulogy or sympathy for Hinduism was used at all. Ambedkar while addressing reformist Hindus in 1936 tried to explain what ailed Hinduism and said that Brahmanism was the disease. The question arises could Brahmanism be isolated from Hinduism. Actually, they were the synonym, as Ambedkar himself explained elsewhere. Historically speaking, there is nothing like Hinduism; it is a medieval term for Brahmanism, the religion that existed beyond the Sindhu River.
Before jumping to this quote, the editor could find a better quote of Ambedkar right in the preface to the book: “I shall be satisfied if I make the Hindus realize that they are the sick men of India and that their sickness is causing danger to the health and happiness of other Indians.” This is enough to see what Ambedkar thought of Hindus and Hinduism. If the RSS is still keen to hear, Ambedkar said in his Thoughts on Pakistan “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”
Ambedkar’s another tract Philosophy of Hinduism analysed Hinduism “as a way of life” and summarily trashed it as antithetical to ‘liberty, equality, fraternity’ and failing on both, justice as well as utility dimensions. He is certainly not flattering Hindus when he writes, “Hinduism far from encouraging spread of knowledge is a gospel of darkness” or “the philosophy of Hinduism is such that it cannot be called the Religion of humanity”. Of course it may not deter the followers of Goebbels in persisting with their lies that Ambedkar was a great Hindu!
The editorial indulged into another preposterous ploy that the protesters against the ban on APSC were reds. Were the well known scientists of the country writing to the Director against his undemocratic action reds? As liberal in the USA is construed as communist, rational and democratic is taken by the RSS as red! The Indian campuses were never red as alleged by the RSS. Had they been so, the RSS would have never been able to come out of its fringe. The larger point it makes, however, is in relation to Ambedkar again that he was anti-communist.
It is true that Ambedkar himself once said that he was against communists. He said it because he saw them belonging to its own breed and creed, a bunch of Brahman boys, parroting Marxist dictums but displaying Brahmanic character in ignoring the ground reality of castes. His anti-communist attitude was built up with his bitter experiences with the contemporary Bombay communists who even after his asking would not correct the discriminatory practices against Dalit workers in textile mills under their control. It was only after threatening that he would break the strike they would relent. Despite this, he had cooperated with them in joining the historic strike of 1938 but the rift could not be bridged; communist taking an open anti-Ambedkar stand in 1952 elections and Ambedkar hurling anti-communist curses.
While much of Ambedkar’s anti-communism was thus influenced by the communist practice viz-a-viz castes, there is a balancing load of evidence in his writings that points to his sympathies for it, certainly far more than for Hinduism. Influenced deeply by Fabianism in his formative days, it is true that Ambedkar was not a Marxist. He expressed his disagreement with Marxism but never discussed it at the level of its foundational theses in dialectical materialism, historical materialism and scientific socialism. He did not even challenge the obviously challengeable ‘structure-superstructure’ dogma that informed the communist practice viz-a-viz castes. Rather, he himself fell into the trap and belaboured in proving that political revolutions were always preceded by religious revolutions, thereby accepting that castes were indeed the superstructure. Ambedkar only once engaged in relatively detailed discussion and that was when he compared Marxism with Buddhism in a conference in Kathmandu just a month before his death. He clearly stated that the goals of both, Buddhism and Marxism, were the same but they differed in method to accomplish them. In explanation he faulted Marxism on two counts: One, Marxism used violence as its method and second, it did not believe in democracy. Notwithstanding the fact that he still relied on practice and not the theory of Marxism, it made clear what his discomfort with Marxism was. As he did not have any disagreement with Marxism as regards goals, his only anxiety was to find its equivalent sans its defects and he convinced himself that it was Buddhism. It should become clear to the RSS that its efforts to paint Ambedkar anti-red and pro-saffron can verily boomerang on them.
On the one hand the RSS has been desperate in coopting Ambedkar as a saffron icon but on the other it would not tolerate his radical reflection as the APSC episode clearly revealed. The editorial tried justifying the ban on the APSC as a disciplinary action of an autonomous institution, which had nothing to do with the government. It is utterly insulting on its part to think Indian people do not know the dubious methods of the BJP’s HRD Minister Smriti Irani. Singularly unqualified for the job, she has been using the same ‘prerogative’ to appoint singularly unqualified persons to head national institutions of academic importance in various central government controlled bodies and institutions including the IITs and the IIMs. All of this shows her overbearing ways to promote RSS’s hindutva agenda. In view of this, her prompt cognisance of an anonymous complaint and IIT Madras’s overzealousness action banning APSC was surely not a routine administrative action.
As the issue was allowed to simmer, all facts of the case have come into open. The so called guidelines which were purportedly violated by the APSC were in fact the post-facto action. They were issued on 18 April, four days after the APSC meeting in question. The Dean who withdrew their recognition had earlier expressed his displeasure with the names of Ambedkar and Periyar, amply exposing his Brahmanic proclivities. Paradoxically, it was alleged that APSC activities were polarizing students. The fact remained that the other right wing student bodies propagating hindutva ideology such as Vivekanand Study Circle, RSS shakhas, Hare Rama-Hare Krishna, Vande Mataram, Dhruva, etc., obviously polarizing students along communal lines were being variously patronized by the IIT authorities. Was IIT Madras’s decision to have a separate vegetarian mess under the influence of the hindutva organizations not polarizing students? As a matter of fact, the APSC had taken out a “wheat or meat, don’t segregate” campaign against this move in 2014. Anyways, after so much ignominy and bad publicity the IIT authorities had to beat retreat and restore recognition to the APSC, vindicating the stand of the protesters against the RSS’s fascist game plan.
The APSC victory has inspired students in many campuses to start similar study circles and resist hindutva overtures. Another campus of a prestigious Film and Television Institute of India is already aflame in protest against one more such hindutva appointment. Bravo students, only you can bring truly acche din for India!
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