Saffronizing Ambedkar to serve Hindutva Ideology
If Hitler were alive, would you be amused if he had laid a floral wreath at theAuschwitz? Well, facts are sometimes stranger than fiction. And that is why don’t be surprised to learn that on April 14 of this year, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who heads the BJP party – a Hindutvadi fascist party, laid the foundation stone of Dr. Ambedkar International Center in New Delhi. Vinay Katiyar, the former head of Bajrang Dal and who now who heads BJP in UP, has been declaring that Ambedkar was a great supporter of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra.
In recent months, Hindutvadi forces inside India seem to be hijacking Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s image claiming him to be one of theirs. Such claims are amusing some but confusing many people. After all, Dr Ambedkar – a rights leader – was well-known for his relentless fight against the Hindu caste system inside India. He was at loggerheads with the Hindu fundamentalists, esp. the Hindu Mahasabha – the forerunner of the RSS and the BJP – led then by V.D. Savarkar. Ambedkar exposed Hindutvadi ideologue Savarkar's authoritarian intent by saying, "Mr. Savarkar wants the Hindu nation to be the dominant nation and the Muslim nation to be the subservient nation under it." Suffice it to say that the legacy of Ambedkar and Hindu fundamentalism is irreconcilably hostile to each other.
"Inequality is the soul of Hinduism," wrote Ambedkar. He characterized the oppressive caste system as the tyranny of Hinduism and renounced Hinduism. He said, “I was born a Hindu, but will not die a Hindu.” He also said, “At the root of the Hindu social system lies Dharma as prescribed in Manusmriti. Such being the case, I do not think it possible to abolish inequality in the Hindu society unless the existing foundation of the Smriti religion is removed and a better one laid in its place. I, however, despair of the Hindu society being able to reconstruct on such a better foundation.”
It is relevant to note here that while both K.B. Hedgewar and M.S. Golwalkar, the founders of the RSS, upheld Manu and thus rationalized the caste system inherent to the Hindu religion, Dr. Ambedkar even burnt copies of the Manusmruti through a campaign "Manu Smruti Dahan Din" on December 25, 1927.
In his lifetime, in the undivided India, Ambedkar had also opposed the Congress Party of Gandhi and famously said, “The Congress cannot expect any sane person who knows anything about conditions in India to agree to the government of the country being placed in the hands of the Hindu majority, simply because it is a majority. The Congress chooses to forget that Hinduism is a political ideology of the same character as the fascist or Nazi ideology and is thoroughly anti-democratic. If Hinduism is let loose—which is what Hindu majority means—it will prove a menace to the growth of others who are outside Hinduism and are opposed to Hinduism. This is not the point of view of Muslims alone. It is also the point of view of the Depressed Classes and also of the non-Brahmins.” (Writings & Speeches, Volume 17, Part One; Dr B.R. Ambedkar and his Egalitarian Revolution—Struggle for Human Rights; Dr Ambedkar Foundation, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of India)
Dr. Ambedkar was opposed to Mahatma Gandhi’s views on the uplift of the untouchables within the fold of Hinduism. It is not surprising that BJP and its patron RSS have been exploiting such anti-Gandhi views to influence the Dalit (Untouchable, Scheduled and Depressed Class) community. [Lest we forget, Mohandas Gandhi was killed by Nathuram Godse, a close confidant of V.D. Savarkar and fanatic believer in Hindutva.] RSS, which once recruited only from amongst the highest caste Brahmins, have been reaching out to recruit amongst the Other Backward Class (OBC) and Shudra communities. The OBC youth were taken to Hanuman Vyamshalas and not schools. Instead of books, trishuls were distributed among them, and they became their henchmen and executioners against Muslims. They are also used to attack churches and mosques. It is a clever ploy since Brahminical Hinduism with its highly racist worldviews cannot grow and needs new recruits to grow in a democracy.
Odd as it may sound, through its Hindutvadi programs, the BJP in recent years has been able to make much headway amongst the Dalit voters. In the last general election, the proportion of Dalits voting for the BJP rose to 24 per cent from 11 per cent in 2009. That is a huge jump in just five years, from 1 in 9 to 1 in 4! Obviously, the fascist Hindutvadi forces are winning, and it is an ominous sign for the entire South Asia.
It will be a great injustice to Ambedkar and his legacy to parade him as a supporter of Hindutva. In fact, throughout his life he was a great opponent to the politics of Hindutva. Those who are now in the business of rewriting, or more correctly guillotining history need to be told what Dr. Ambedkar felt. He said, “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.” According to him the pet slogan of Hindutva—Hindustan for Hindus—is not merely arrogant but is arrant nonsense.
Sadly, in today’s India Hindutvadi majoritarianism is manifesting itself virulently. It is banning the slaughter of bulls, old buffaloes and cows (Maharashtra and Haryana); attacking churches (Delhi, West Bengal and now Uttar Pradesh); and hounding Muslims out of “Hindu” areas through intimidation (as in Bhavnagar in Gujarat). As noted by eminent journalist Praful Bidwai, hate speech has become the new norm in Indian politics. Chronic inaction against Hindutvadi criminals has created a culture of impunity for anti-minority atrocities. That's the message from the just-delivered Hashimpura verdict – on the gruesome killing of 42 Muslims in 1987 in Uttar Pradesh by the Provincial Armed Constabulary (PAC) personnel. The state took nine years to file a charge-sheet. The accused were never arrested despite 23 non-bailable warrants. They were all acquitted. As Outlook magazine (April 6) has revealed, the massacre was an act of revenge by an army officer whose brother, an RSS member, was killed in a communal clash. The government knew all this, but did nothing.
A day after Hashimpura, the PAC joined a mob in killing 72 Muslims in Maliana next door. This trial hasn't even crossed the first stage—despite 800 dates. Only three of 35 prosecution witnesses were examined in 28 years.
These terrible failures of the justice delivery system have encouraged uniformed personnel to brutalize citizens in places like Muslim-majority Kashmir state of India. The latest episode in Nalgonda (Telangana), in which five Muslim men under-trials were killed, falls in the same category. According to Mr. Bidwai, the state won't bring the culprits to book unless public-spirited citizens and political parties intervene.
What Dr. Ambedkar had feared about the Hindu Raj is coming to fruition in India.
With Narendra Modi in power, the BJP and the Sangha Parivar claim that India is for Hindus, and it is a Hindu Rashtra. They also claim that they are the true protectors of the Dalit. But facts belie their assertions. In the state of Gujarat, their model state, Dalits are not allowed near common water. They are given different glasses. In Modi’sIndia today, according to National Crime Records Bureau, a crime is committed against a Dalit by a non-Dalit every 16 minutes. Every day more than four Dalit women are raped by upper caste. Every week 13 Dalits are murdered and six are kidnapped. And as it has been for decades, only 10 percent of the rapes against the Dalit women are reported in India.
Hindutvadi forces have never been friends of the Dalit community because by doctrine and practice they are opposed to true emancipation of the downtrodden untouchables. But in a democracy, they need the Dalits for political expediency. It is not difficult to understand why they are now in the business of hijacking Dr. Ambedkar’s legacy – the much revered figure within the Dalit community – claiming him as one of their own. Their ideology and politics, however, remains the opposite of Dr. Ambedkar's. He had nothing but disdain for Hindutva, with its narrow faith-based definition of nationhood, as opposed to citizenship cutting across ethnic-religious identities.
To defeat the Hindutvadi forces, the truth must be told loud and clear so that the Dalit and OBCs are not fooled by cunning and conniving zealots of the Hindutva. Dr. Ram Puniyani of the Center for Study of Society and Secularism (CSSS) has recently done an excellent job in compiling various essays on Dr. Ambedkar. This e-digest “Ambedkar’s Appropriation by Hindutvadi Ideology” is very timely to arrest a miscarriage of Dr. Ambedkar’s image. I recommend this e-digest wholeheartedly for keen observers of Indian politics.