Jai Hindutva Not Jai Bheem

 

by Subhash Gatade Courtesy- Kafila.org

 

What is common between Rameshbhai Parmar, Valjibhai Patel and Anandi Parmar or for that matter TikajiBhai ? Well, as the name signifies all of them are Gujaratis, but the more important aspect of their being is that they are that part of the Ambedkarite/Dalit movement in Gujarat which refused to be part of the ‘genocidal politics’ of the Hindutva brigade when the stakes were high. Definitely it has not proved to be a catwalk for them when the post Godhra mayhem organised by the Parivar with due connivance with the state machinery was at its peak. They had to bear the brunt of the Hindutva goons while some of their own people decided to either join hands with their perpetrators or just stood mute. Anandi Parmar, a veteran activist of the dalit movement was himself attacked, Tikajibhai’s, another senior activists’ house was set on fire and Rameshbhai Parmar, one of the founders of the Gujarati Dalit Literature had to face prolonged alienation. As far as Valjibhai Patel ,one of the founders of the  shortlived Dalit Panther movement, is concerned he received series of threats for not falling in line.

 

It need not be emphasised that such people who can think and act independently and yearn for an independent assertion of Dalits as envisaged by Dr Ambedkar do not have any place in the Sangh gameplan. In fact, in the post genocide phase when sinister attempts were on to further intimidate, terrorize the religious minorities planned attempt were also undertaken to browbeat those sections of Ambedkarites or independent dalits and tribals formally into the Hindutva fold who had refused to toe the line.

 

As opposed to Rameshbhai Parmar, Valjibhai Patel and Anandi Parmar Sangh prefers people who may be born into one of those oppressed communities but who are ready to peddle the Hindutva line. People like Ramesh Patange, Kishore Macwana and Madan Dilawar and many of their ilk represent this new dalit ‘face’ of the Sangh Parivar. People who are ready to present a new sanitised image of Ambedkar as a Hindu social reformer, as someone who was opposed to Muslims. People who have found a new commonality between the ideas of Ambedkar and Golwalkar or who find Ambedkar to be an extension of Hedgewar.

 

At present Ramesh Patange is a senior leader of the Samajik Samarasta Manch floated by the Sangh Parivar and also part of the editorial team of their Marathi organ Vivek, Kishore Macwana formally edits the RSS journal Sadhana in Gujarat and Madan Dilawar, is a minister in Vasundhara Raje’s cabinet and one who was said to be instrumental in the anti-Christian tirade in his home district.

 

Of course the creation of Hindutvaised Dalits or devising mechanism for co-option Ambedkar, has not been a very easy affair for the Sangh Parivar. One can say that there was a transition period during which RSS tried its hands at different ways to deal with the dalit issue. For the Sangh which had till then followed a very conservative, non-reformist type of Hinduism, which had no place for the dalits,it had not been very easy for it to arrive at full proof single plan to deal with the challenge posed by Ambedkar. But the key thing to remember is that the man who led the RSS from a Chaturvarnya based exclusive type of Hindutva to a more inclusive type of Hindutva was Balasaheb Deoras, the third supremo of RSS.  He gave a piece of his mind in ‘Hindu Unity and Social Equality’ (1974) .In fact Deoras happened to be the first RSS leader to visit Deekshabhoomi the place in Nagpur where Dr Ambedkar embraced Buddhism alongwith his followers in 1956.

 

Looking back, broadly one can say that RSS tried its hands in two different ways to deal with Phule-Ambedkar or defang the challenge posed by their ideas.

 

i. Stigmatising Phule- Ambedkar, opposing reservation or resisting any struggle for dalit assertion

The book by Arun Shourie ‘ Worshipping False Gods‘ which tried to portray Ambedkar as pro-British politician could be said to be one such attempt of stigmatising Ambedkar. The book by a known Sangh apologist witnessed  tremendous uproar in the dalit movement for factual inaccuracies and misrepresentatin of Ambedkar. A few students of Ambedkar also exposed the manner in which Shourie had tried to concoct facts to suit his thesis and also quoted the legendary leader out of context to buttress his point. It was during this period only when another Sangh activist Bal Gangal, wrote a series of articles castigating Mahatma Phule in a Hindutva centred weekly called ‘Sobat’.

 

The late seventies or early eighties witnessed tremendous mobilisation on behalf of Dalits and other democratic forces on the issue of renaming the Marathwada University. A large body of people wanted that the name be changed to Ambedkar University to commemorate the work in the field of education undertaken by Dr Ambedkar. The year 1978 witnessed anti-Dalit riots in Marathwada when the then Maharashtra assembly passed the bill with a thumping majority. The stamp of approval by the assembly led to anti-Dalit riots in the region which witnessed enough participation of RSS and other Hindutva activists.

 

The RSS network was fully active in the 1981 anti-reservation riots in Gujarat also. One could find maturing of dalit-Muslim solidarity during this period where Muslims had sheltered Dalits at many places. The year 1985 proved to be a repeat of 1981 when Dalits faced the wrath of the same combine. It appears that the growing bonhomie between the dalits and Muslims prompted serious rethinking in the Sangh Parivar itself over its own strategem and it was compelled to change its track. Within one year, i.e., in 1986 during Ahmedabad’s annual Jagannath rath yatra, when riots flared up the Dalits were found enthusiastically supporting the RSS-BJP combine. During the riots all over Gujarat in 1990 in the aftermath of L.K. Advani’s rath yatra, Dalits continued their alliance with caste hindus. The BJP strategy of thus winning over Dalits and thereby consolidating broad sections of Hindus and polarizing the population along communal lines at least bore fruits in Gujarat.

 

ii. Sanitising Phule-Ambedkar, supporting reservation including struggles for limited dalit assertion but simultaneously constructing a new antagonism between the dalits and the minorities.

 

Sangh realised that instead of attacking Ambekdar it would be fruitful to construct his new image which would suit its own worldview.

 

A few affiliated organisations were floated to suit the purpose.The year 1979 saw the formation of Sewa Bharati supposedly to promote educational initiatives among dalits at an all India level whereas Samajik Samrasta Manch ( 1983) was launched basically to target the dalits and their movement in Maharashtra. Other affiliates of the RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal or its political platform Jan Sangh/BJP were also asked to focus their attention on these ‘deprived sections of Hindu community’.

 

To gain wider acceptability among dalit masses, RSS even supported the inclusion of ‘Riddles in Hinduism’ in the  government publications when there was a great uproar in Maharashtra over this spearheaded by Shiv Sena. The Shiv Sena people wanted that Ambedkar’s booklet ‘Riddles In Hinduism’ should not be included in the Collected Works as it supposedly contained ‘objectionable references about Ram and Krishna’

 

The spatial strategies of Hindutva were skillfully employed to help generate new antagonisms between the two communities. And the target of attack had normally been the syncretic traditions of people where members of both the communities – especially belonging to the lower rungs of society – mingled easily. 22

 

Samajik Samarasta: new praxis for co-optation of dalits

The nearly 25 year old trajectory of Samajik Samrasta Manch could be loosely divided into two phases.

 

In the first phase the emphasis was not on asking Dalits to join the Manch rather it was on convincing the non-dalits especially the upper castes that they need to moderate their stand vis-a-vis Ambedkar. The idea was to  present Dr Ambedkar as a Hindu Social Reformer and convince the caste populace that he should also be included in the Hindutva pantheon. Emphasis was on to remove the stigma that the RSS has been an anti-Dalit organisation. Of course, during this initial phase also Sangh tried to attract individual Dalit intellectuals towards its activities. In fact the readiness with which Dr Gangadhar Pantawane, a leading Dalit intellectual and editor of ‘Asmitadarsh’ addressed one of the conferences organised by Manch (1988) created a big furore in the movement. The Manch as well as many other affiliated organisations of RSS started celebrating 14 th April as well as 6 th December at their own level.

 

To begin with, it would be worthwhile if one takes a look at a RSS activists own description of the genesis of Manch. In his writeup in ‘Vivek’ weekly ‘ Ramesh Patange tells us It was the decade of 70s when the word ‘Samrasta’ was used as an idea in the theoretical field.And the credit should be given to Late Dattopant Thengdi. It was a coincidence that the year 1983 saw the birth anniversaries of Dr Ambedkar and Dr Hedgewar falling on the same date.This prompted him to launch a new Samajik Samrasta Manch in Pune with the understanding that it could be used a forum to further new ideas. Mr Thengdi gave a speech on this occasion which was later published as a booklet with the title ‘Samarasta Bina Samata Asambhav’ ( Equality Impossible without Harmony).(quoted in ‘Samrasta Ke Sutra, 2006).

 

In the present second phase when the Sangh Patriarchs felt that enough groundwork has been done to present a sanitised image of RSS, it went all out to to attract even Dalit masses towards its activities. To propagate the message of Manch it brought out booklets,( e.g. Samrasta – Dr Hedgewar, Dr Ambedkar), held workshops, organised conferences,  took out Sandesh Yatras throughout Maharashtra supposedly to propagate the ideas of reformers like Phule-Ambedkar. Interestingly it even organised exhibitions of Buddha’s life when lakhs of people gather every year to commemorate the 1956 conversion to Buddhism. But one of the most daring steps taken by the Manch was the support it rendered to the publication of ‘Riddles In Hinduism’. Taking advantage of the birth anniversaries of Hedgewar and Ambedkar (1990) the said Sandesh Yatras throuhout Maharashtra were organised

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Commenting on the ‘Samrasta’ experiment, political scientist Suhas Palshikar explains that the RSS wanted to consolidate its image by upholding Ambedkar and at the same time did not wish to lay claim to the radical  transformative legacy of Ambedkar. According to him Sangh accomplished this feat in the following manner : 23

a.To begin with, the RSS conceded that Ambedkar was a national symbol and an icon of national stature (not just a leader of dalits)…

b. Secondly, Samrasata Manch sought to project Ambedkar as being favourable to Hindu interests and Hindu unity….

c.Having once asserted that Ambedkar was interested in the welfare of Hinduism, the Samrasata Manch further sought to depict Ambedkar as religious reformer within Hinduism…

d. Having pushed Ambedkar into the Hindu reformist framework, the Samrasata Manch further strengthened Ambekdar’s place as a Hinduist thinker by projecting that he was anti-Muslim…

 

It is for everyone to see that the appropriation of Dr Ambedkar’s radical legacy could not be resisted in any meaningful manner. The split within split in the dalit movement and the confusions rampant in the Dalit intellectuals themselves created a situation that Sangh did achieve a limited success in its expansion.

 

Reclaiming the real Ambedkar – Reinvigorating the Movement

The saga of Hindutvaisation of a section of Dalits or the appropriation of one of the biggest leader of the oppressed does not end here.

 

It is a tragedy of epochal proportions that the section which has been at the receiving end of the Brahminical system for hundreds of years  is today metamorphosing itself into the biggest defender of a project committed to building Hindu Rashtra

 

It is disturbing that a significant section of the dalits ( and the tribals) who would form the backbone of any revolutionary transformation in future seem to have crossed over to a camp which is engaged in furthering hate and peddling its exclusive agenda.

 

It is no less shocking that the man who fought all his life against the injustice structured in the Hindu religion and ultimately embraced another religion asking his followers to be ever vigilant about the use of Hindu gods in any form, is slowly being turned into a Hindu reformer and a Muslim baiter.

 

It is disturbing to note that an organisation which opposed the assertion of Shudra-Atishudras and which is committed to such an exclusive agenda is today in a position to present itself in a ‘new look image’ couched in a liberal/sounding rhetoric.

For an external observer the absence of any significant theoretical-political challenge to the dangers posed by Hindutva may lead to the inference that the juggernaut of Hindutvaisation of the subalterns is unstoppable.

 

Nothing can be farther from the truth.

It is true that the internal dynamics of the dalit movement coupled with the chronic weaknesses of the radical transformatory or other democratic movements, and an ascendant Sangh Parivar which has operationalised a multidimensional action plan to coopt the dalits has definitely complicated things for all those forces who feel concerned about this new turn in the Dalit mindset. But with passage of time there is growing realisation in the ranks of the radicals within the dalit movement as well as the progressive forces which are committed to a revolutionary transformation of society that they need to introspect their mistakes and forge long term solidarities to face the onslaught.

 

One is finding new commonalities of interest and purpose in all those formations/movements who are in one way or other opposed to Brahminism,Patriarchy and Capitalism and want to usher into a society which has done away with discriminations, deprivations based on these categories.

 

They have realised that they need to reclaim the real Ambedkar, a legendary who asked the workers to fight against the twin enemies of Brahminism and Capitalism, a visionary who prophesised that “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” 24 has never been so urgent.

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