What is in the name? Highlighting ‘Ramji’ in Ambedkar’s name!
Written by Dr. Ram Puniyani
Currently many a dalit’s leaders are up in arms and criticizing the move of UP Government of adding ‘Ramji’ in official records of Bhimrao Ambedkar. It is true that Babasaheb signed the Constitution as Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, but as such not too often Ramji is added to his name. The addition may not be challenged technically but it reminds one that this addition is a part of political symbolism, part of co-opting him for Hindutva politics. For BJP Lord Ram is the central figure for communalizing the society, be it Ram temple issue or violence unleashed on the eve of Ramnavami. With coming to power of Modi-BJP government one can clearly see two antagonistic trends at the same time. One is the rise in the atrocities against dalits and second is organizing Ambedkar Anniversaries on grander scale with the show of public respect for him by Hindu nationalists.
During last close to four years, we saw the clamp down on Periyar Study circle in IIT Madras, the institutional murder of Rothith Vemula and anti dalit violence in the name of beef in Una. The Saharanpur violence of May 2017, with Yogi as Chief Minister of UP, there occurred burning of dalit households. Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Ravan, despite getting bail, is still in custody allegedly for the violence. This burning of dalit households was in the aftermath of the procession taken out by BJP MP, chanting slogans “UP mein Rahna hai to Yogi Yogi Kahna Hoga” and ‘Jai Shree Ram’. In Maharashtra Bhima Koregaon violence against dalits was instigated. Dalits have been compared to dogs by VK Singh in 2016, and recently by Ramakrishna Hegde in Karnataka. In UP, Kushinagar, when Yogi was to visit Mushars; the officials distributed soap bars and shampoos for cleaning up before the visit of Yogi.
Ambedkar was for Indian nationalism, for ‘Annihilation of Caste’ and attributed the caste and untouchablity to the Hindu scriptures. In an attempt to distance himself from these values he went on to burn Manusmriti. He also drafted Indian Constitution where the core values of freedom movement. On the other side we see that Hindu Mahasabha which began with the Hindu Rajas and Landlords harped on ‘back to the glorious past’, which was dictated by the scriptures where varna caste is regarded as being of divine making. From here the concept of Hidnutva was highlighted. The Hindutva or ‘Total Hinduness’, aims at Hindu nation (as per Savarkar) with Aryan race and culture. This politics was further taken up by RSS.
Madhav Sadshiv Golwalkar and most other Hindutva ideologues upheld the scriptures opposed by Ambedkar. Savarkar stated that Manusmriti is the Hindu law today. Golwalkar; went on further to declare Lord Manu as the greatest ever law giver, whose laws are relevant even today. He had said “…Brahmin is the head, Kshatriya the hands, Vaishya the thighs and Shudra the feet. This means that the people who have this fourfold arrangement, that is, the Hindu people, is our god. This supreme vision of godhead is the very core of our concept of ‘nation’ and has permeated our thinking and given rise to various unique concepts of our cultural heritage.”
In the wake of Indian Constitution coming into fore; RSS mouth piece organizer wrote an editorial running down the same. The RSS, and even Union minister Anant Kumar Hegde, have publicly spoken of “changing the Constitution “Following Ambedkars putting forward Hindu code bill, there was a sever opposition to it. Ambedkar stood his ground and stated “You must not only discard the Shastras, you must deny their authority, as did Buddha and Nanak. You must have the courage to tell the Hindus that what is wrong with them is their religion – the religion which has produced in them this notion of the sacredness of caste,”
What is happening currently? The Caste is being upheld in various ways. The dilution of anti Dalit atrocities act and removal of reservation clause for teachers in Universities is a direct affront to the social justice credo, the central mission of Ambedkar.
Hindu nationalist politics is based on the values in which caste and gender hierarchy is the central part of its agenda. They have on one side to bypass the aspirations of dalits and on the other to woo them for electoral goals. The latter is manifest in their tokenism towards the issues of dalits and especially paying obeisance to Babasaheb Ambedkar. At the same time the strategy of cooption of dalit sections to their agenda is to be mixed up with their own core agenda, which is centered on, Lord Ram, Holy cow, stepping up religiosity with targeting religious minorities.
There is running down of the principles and values for which Ambedkar struggled all his life, while on surface he is being eulogized. Now comes another dimension to Hindu nationalist politics, to strength politics of Ram using the name of Ambedkar.