Turning Ambedkar into an icon bereft of his principles

The latest in Ambedkar praise club is AAP party, the product of RSS backed Anna movement, to declare Babasaheb as one of their two icons.

Turning Ambedkar into an icon bereft of his principles

Written by Prof. Ram Puniyani :

This 14th April (2022) we will again witness different political outfits celebrating his anniversary with pomp and show. Last few decades most of the political parties have been garlanding this great champion of social justice. The latest in Ambedkar praise club is AAP party, the product of RSS backed Anna movement, to declare Babasaheb as one of their two icons. Various affiliates of Hindu nationalism, the BJP and company, has lately been in lead in celebrating this day and undertaking many programs to show that they are also for Babasaheb. This year around various RSS organizations are undertaking programs on this occasion. BJP is planning ‘Social justice week’ (Samajik Nyay Saptah). They will be 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 benefit dalits and marginalized. RSS affiliate ABVP aims to propagate his work of social inclusion in different parts of the country.

This may be the biggest paradoxes of our times. These 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 his struggles for reform within Hindu society he was not at all supported by Hindu Mahasabha- RSS. Be it Chavdar Talab or Kalaram Mandir the Hindu nationalists kept aloof from his efforts. He on one hand went on to burn Manusmriti as a rebellion against caste and gender hierarchy inherent in Brahmanical Hinduism, the ideological base of Hindu nationalism, and on the other went on to be the chief architect of India’s Constitution, which strove for Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.

When he was burning Manusmiriti a decade later RSS Chief Golwalkar was singing praises of the same book. This book upholds the caste hierarchy as something which has given stability to Hindu society. In response to Indian constitution, the 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 1980s 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 polarize the communities.

Here comes a change in strategy. Rather than showing their true agenda of maintaining caste and gender hierarchy they floated various organizations to co-opt and subjugate dalit-OBCs. They floated Samajik Samrasta Manch (Social Harmony Forum). In contrast to Ambedkars annihilation of caste 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 mobilize 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 enemy Muslims, who can be blamed for all the ills of Hindu society. This was seen in Gujarat carnage of 2002 when dalit-Adivasis were incited to undertake violence against Muslims while the organizers of the violence prepared the lists of those to be targeted.

During elections in UP in 2017, one of the propaganda was that Congress and Samajvadi Party are pro Muslims and it is only BJP, which can be for Hindus (dalit-Adivasis). The work of RSS affiliates, Samajik Samrasta Manch, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Seva Bharati, VHP and others dalit-Adivasi areas has been very consistent in wooing them over to Hindu nationalism.

In Adivasis areas, Shabri and Hanuman have been ionized. In areas with majority of other marginalized communities, many of the local icons have been 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.

RSS affiliates’ charity work and educational work services (Seva) amongst dalit areas is not like the right based approach of UPA, where Right to information was backed up by Right to food, Health and Education. Here a charity model is implemented and projected. In elections in 2022, the free ration scheme was backed up by the propaganda that it is due to BJP that poor are getting benefit of free ration; they are Labharthi (beneficiaries) of BJP schemes.

The very presence of these Hindu nationalist organizations is a big factor in marginalized getting attracted to BJP. They also increase Brahmanical religiosity in the areas of their work. In tune with Sanskritization, the dalit and other marginalized communities feel honored and recognized by upper castes, and thereby shift their electoral loyalties to BJP. On the top of this it seems only RSS affiliates are in constant touch and interaction with dalit communities.

So while their political agenda is Hindu Rashtra, which Babasaheb said will be a calamity for large sections of population, dalits in particular, BJP is reaping big electoral rewards of its non electoral affiliates working for Hindu Rashtra. Right from elections of 2014, in many dalit-OBC areas, BJP is doing very well.

BJP's massive win in the 2014 general election was greatly helped due to Dalit votes. 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). Similarly in another CSDS study of post-poll analysis after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, it was concluded that between 2014 and 2019; support for the BJP among Dalits, Adivasis and Other Backward castes has more than doubled. Not to be left behind even in the 2021 post-poll survey also; we see that this support is becoming much higher among Dalits and OBCs than among upper castes.

All this despite BJP’s policies which are resulting in erosion of reservation of dalits. Also there is increase in the cases of atrocities against them during last few years. The change in RSS strategy through its affiliates towards the marginalized sections has richly rewarded them at electoral level.