Ambedkar sans Ambedkar-ism

April 14 comes, April 14    goes. And political parties of all hues celebrate Ambedkar’s birth anniversary with a lot of fanfare only to ignore his principles. They have been garlanding this great champion of social justice to enjoy political comfort and derive extra mileage in elections.. The latest in Ambedkar praise club is AAP party, a product of Rashtriyaswayam Sevak Sangh (RSS) backed Anna Hazare movement. Somewhat ironically various affiliates of Hindu nationalism are in lead in celebrating this day and undertaking many programmes to show that they are also for Babasaheb. This year around various RSS organisations are projecting Babasaheb’s work on social welfare, empowerment and representation of Dalits in the social processes. They plan to visit Dalit households to spread the message about Central Government schemes which are supposed to specifically benefit the Dalits.

This may be the biggest paradox of present times. The RSS affiliates stand for Hindu nationalism, the concept which is totally antithetical to what Ambedkar stood for, the concept of Indian Nationalism with secularism, socialism, democracy and social justice. He saw caste-varna system as backbone of Brahmanical Hinduism propagated by Hindu nationalists.

 In response to Indian Constitution, the main opposition came from the RSS camp that held that Constitution does not have the ancient values of India (meaning Manusmriti). They were totally against reservations, and on this issue there were anti- Dalit riots in 1980 in Ahmadabad and anti-OBC riots again in 1986. With Mandal Commission being implemented they did not oppose it directly but brought forward Kamandal, Ram Temple issue to polarise the communities.

Given the changed political context in India comes a change in RSS strategy. Rather than showing their true agenda of maintaining caste and gender hierarchy they floated various organisations to co-opt and subjugate Dalit-OBCs. They floated Samajik Samrasta Manch (Social Harmony Forum). In contrast to Ambedkar’s annihilation of caste theory they talk of supplementary role of castes. The same has been presented by their ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhayay, as ‘Integral Humanism’.

It was this social engineering due to which they could mobilise Dalits and Adivasis against the projected external enemy, the Muslims. They have adopted multiple strategies to work among Dalit-OBC communities. Focus is on ‘Hindu unity’ against the principal enemy Muslims. With Dalits and Adivasis in their fold they won’t have any problem in maintaining their majoritarian status and win elections smoothly.

In Adivasi areas, Shabri and Hanuman have been lionised. In areas with majority of other marginalised communities, many of the local icons have been resurrected and promoted with anti Muslim slant, like Suhel Dev, icon of Rajbhar-Pasis. He has been given big projection while twisting the history that Suhel Dev fought for Hindu religion against Muslim Gazi Miyan.

So while their political agenda is Hindu Rashtra, which Babasaheb said will be a calamity for large sections of population, Dalits in particular, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is reaping big electoral gains from the recent swing of Dalit voters to the saffron brigade. Right from elections of 2014, in many Dalit-OBC areas, BJP is doing very well.

 Presently in Parliament 84 seats are reserved for Dalits. In 2014, the BJP won 40 of them, according to a study by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS).

 Despite all this BJP’s policies are systematically resulting in erosion of reservation of Dalits. No doubt the change in RSS strategy through its mass front affiliates towards the marginalised sections has richly rewarded them at electoral level.


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Vol 54, No. 44, May 1 - 7, 2022