Saturday, Dec 03, 2022

Embracing Lord Manu

BSP's move to ally with BJP in UP is suicidal to Dalit interests

Embracing Lord Manu
Embracing Lord Manu

But what about the upholders of the values of Babasaheb Ambedkar, Rammanohar Lohia etc? What are they doing sitting in the lap of this Neo Brahminical party, which is the progeny of RSS and the vehicle for Hindu Rashtra? Can any party wedded to the interests of backward castes, dalit-bahujans ally with a party whose hidden (now open) agenda is Hindu Rashtra? Whose avowed goal is to abolish democracy and the constitution in India?

Dalit-bahujans are facing the major brunt of the adverse impact of globalization. The land reforms have long been forgotten. The anti-Dalit atrocities are aplenty. The carnages of the type of Laxamnpur Bathe are not much far behind. The plight of dalit women is too painful to be recounted. Pain and misery abound all around in the outskirts of villages and the slums of cities where most of the dalits are huddled.

After Independence, industrialization, especially of the public sector, provided a large space for the aspirations of dalits for social justice. The limited land reforms also changed the situation a bit. The reservation in jobs and educational institutions ensured that a positive attitude towards education was imbibed by the Dalit masses as a whole.

But by 1980s, the situation started changing. The first indication of this came in the form of Anti-dalit riots in Gujarat on the issue of reservations. The clever change in the target from dalits to Muslims paid rich dividends to the upper caste class party; BJP, and it cleverly manipulated the anti-dalit aggression of upper caste/class into an anti-minorities tirade.

This anti-minority tirade served the purpose of distracting the attention from social affairs to the so called religious issues and halted the slow growing process of social transformation towards social and gender justice. The game was very cleverly played by the upper caste formations. BJP started building social bridges to different sections of Hindu Samaj and kept co-opting sections of dalits and OBCs. A section of dalit-bahujans, which benefited from the reservations, was aping and aspiring to be, the upper caste by adopting the upper caste mores. The Sanskritization process -- adoption of upper caste culture by lower castes -- was in full swing.

However, large sections of the deprived continued to be denied the fruits of democracy. Mandal Commission Report's recommendations, which aimed at alleviating the lot of dalit-bahujans, remained in the deep freeze till V.P.Singh brought them out as a political ploy to counter  the clout of Devi Lal, letting the genie out of the bottle, as it were.

The whole hell broke loose. The ascendant polarization of upper caste/class occurring around Ram Janmbhumi assumed a
new aggressive tone after Mandal. In the after math of Mandal, the polarization got razor sharp with the response to Advani's clever Rath Yatra becoming more and more menacing.

At one level, BJP was caught in a pincer. If it supported Mandal in the real sense,  the consolidation of its upper caste vote bank was jeopardised.. If it rejected Mandal, its cooption of dalits was threatened. The clever ploy of Ram Temple lies here. It gave a message to the elite to come around BJP while BJP paid lip sympathy to Mandal, leaving open the option of
incorporating dalit-Adivasis in its ambit. By and by, it went from strength to strength, riding on the chariot of Ram lalla.

By this time, the Dalit leadership was totally rudderless. Gone were the days of Ambedkar's Independent Labor Party, gone were the days of Dada Saheb Giakwad launching a massive agitation for land rights.

With hindsight, one can recognize the wisdom of Babasaheb many times over. He not only took up the issues related to dalit self respect (Chavdar Talao, Kalaram Temple, Manusmriti Dahan) but also focused on the material uplift of the dalits, Labor party, education and other facilities for them.

In the true mould of Babasahed, Dadasaheb went up to take up the land issues in a serious way. Further down, one sees the serious attempt by Dalit Panther to give verbal expression to the thoughts and struggles of Dr. Ambedkar in the form of definition of dalits as all the exploited and oppressed, taking it beyond the birth based definition.

Unfortunately the challenge of Panthers could be co-opted by the system in no time.

In this backdrop, the emergence of Kanshi Ram as a leader of Bahujans was a landmark. But marred by his underestimation of the threats of BJP-RSS, he took it to be just another Manuwadi party. His party could not and does not see that this was and is a Manuwadi party with a difference. It is qualitatively a different formation; the one capable of abolishing the democratic space in the deepest possible sense. It is the one whose father RSS is totally opposed to the Indian constitution. It is the one
committed to a Hindu Rashtra, the nationhood totally opposed to the interests of dalit-bahujans.

While democracy means affirmative action, and so the reservations for dalits, the pioneers of Hindu Rashtra assert it is an injustice to the deserving Hindu children and their merit. While secularism means that minorities be protected and given opportunities to keep their identity for a period of time, the Gurus of Hindu Rashtra cry foul at this and raise a hue and cry of minority appeasement, projecting it as an injustice to Hindus.

The aims and agenda of RSS-BJP are crystal clear without any ambiguity: Hindu Rashtra, a la the German Nation of
Hitler. It is here that one has to see the decision of Kanshiram-Mayawati to ally with BJP and give support to its agenda, which is unfolding bit by bit.

Now there are contrasting goals. On one hand to do away with democratic constitution, affirmative action for weaker sections of society, protective clauses for minorities and the like (BJP), and on the other, a longing for social economic and gender justice, an absolute and non-negotiable need to preserve the Indian constitution, and to promote the Dalits and minorities. How can these go together?

During the last three years, more than ever before, the Sangh Parivar's different wings have been co-opting different social groups in its ambit. It is the dalits and adivais who have become the storm troopers of the parivar. While those sitting in
Keshav Baliram Hegdewar Bhavan (RSS head office) make the strategy, the section of dalit-bahujans spill their blood and also spill the blood of others to achieve their goals.

BJP has been successfully using the ex-socialists and the opportunists of various hues -- DMK, Mamatas, and Ajit
Singhs etc. -- for advancing the agenda of Hindu Rashtra. The Kanshiram-Mayawati duo cannot be an exception to the guiles of the Parivar. They will be helping the Hindutva agenda in more ways than one.

While castism was used by upper castes to keep the lower castes out of the gambit of social benefits of development, the low castes had to use this weapon to improve their own lot. The two are not the same. Today's elite politics looks down upon caste politics because it demands and tries to get concessions for the Children of Lesser Gods (we are all aware about
the caste-specific Gods which we have).

The things are all messed up between the real politic and long-term directions. We have no Ambedkar today, when he is so much needed, to steer clear of falling in the trap and lap of Hindu Rashtra politics. When disgusted and frustrated by the
grip of Lord Manu on Hinduism, as an escape he chanted, Buddham Sharanma Gacchhami, today those who claim to be his followers are chanting Manu Sharanma Gacchhmai, the same Manu to oppose whose edicts, Babasaheb burnt the
tome called Manusmriti.

(The author teaches at IIT Mumbai and also works for EKTA, Committee for Communal Amity)


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