Dr.Bhimrao Ramaji Ambedkar, the name which resonates in our mind when we come across phrases like -the champion of the downtrodden and the architect of the Constitution of India.
Ambedkar is one of the most revered political figures in modern day Indian politics, and his stature seems to be touching new heights as Indian politics seeks a messiah for a caste-ist political ideology which has become the new norm. These days it seems every politician relates his ideas to Ambedkar, not as a homage to his noble and revolutionary ideas but for the crowd which his identity as the ‘champion of the Dalit’ draws. Ambedkar’s championing of the cause of the downtrodden makes political parties seek shelter under his philosophy for the purposes of furthering his ideas as their political campaigns. Nothing patently wrong in it, since it acts as a mechanism for the socio-economic development of the Dalit populace, who were subjected to perpetual discrimination since centuries. However, what is surprising is the sudden romance BJP has shown to Babasaheb since Modi has taken residence in the 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, Delhi. And it’s not just the BJP but the involvement of its ideologue, the RSS, which makes the whole case quite interesting.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a conservatice volunteer Corp, has envisaged India as a nation of the Hindus (not religiously, but culturally) and identifies Hindus as the soul of mother India. But their ideology of Hindutva and the socio-political philosophy of Babasaheb is not only different but starkly opposite. Even then, the political right of India has begun to show a paradigm shift in their ideology and approach to Indian politics by trying to assimilate the Dalits, and other backward castes within their support base, by way of using Babasaheb as their mascot. One can only ask, is it solely for consolidating a larger electoral base or a genuine case of including the Dalits as a part of Hindutva identity?
Surprisingly, RSS has been flashing Ambedkar as a person who supported RSS. They often cite this comment by Ambedkar from 1939: “This is the first time I am visiting the camp of Sangh volunteers. I am happy to find absolute equality between Savarniyas(upper caste) and Harijans(lower caste) without anyone being aware of any such difference existing“. Interestingly, they forget Ambedkar’s unequivocal criticism of Manusmriti, one of the Dharmashastra, to which RSS pays homage to. Moreover, he publicly burned Manusmriti to symbolise the end of caste discrimination. On the contrary, RSS’s second chief M.S. Golwalkar held Manusmriti as a masterpiece of ancient Indian legal code, which he fondly used to quote Guruji’s take on Manu as ‘the first, the wisest, and the greatest lawgiver in the history of mankind’. Not only this, Babasaheb’s categorical condemnation of Hinduism and its Varna system is surprisingly ignored by Sangh and the BJP. Ambedkar famously said; “though I was born a Hindu, I solemnly assure you that I will not die as a Hindu“. Moreover, he backed up his statement with practice when he later adopted the Bodhi Dharma. But RSS covers this up by stretching the concept of Hindutva as devised by V.D.Savarkar’s. They point out that he decided to convert along with his followers not out of Hinduism, but only changed the Sect from a Vedic to non-Vedic one when he converted to Budhism. Further they back this up with the pronouncement that he did not decide to switch to any of the Abrahamic religions, such as Islam and Christianity, further proving his affinity for Hindusim.
Not only this, Ambedkar clearly shunned even the philosophy of quite pacifism in Hinduism, including Gandhian Vaishnavism. When he replied to Gandhi on the question of reclaiming Dalits back into the Hinduism, he said, “..a bitter thing cannot be made sweet. The taste of anything can be changed. But poison cannot be changed into nectar“, while referring to Hinduism and its caste system.
Curiously RSS has forgotten all this and has nit-picked his literature for its own benefit. Following suite, BJP has shown absolute support to Babasaheb, be it the observation of the Constitution Day or releasing commemorative coins on his 125th birth anniversary. The Government even notified changes in SC&ST Prevention of Atrocities Amendment Act on Ambedkar Jayanti. It also tried organizing the Dhamma Chetna Yatra last year to woo Dalits by invoking Buddhism, but in vain as the Yatra failed. They also linked demonetisation to Ambedar’s idea of replacing currency in every ten years to fight black money, found in his article on ‘Problems of the Indian Rupee’.
One cannot clearly discern the true underlying motives behind this sudden reverence, but one thing is clear, that caste based politics, if one looks at the positive side of things, does not always push political organisations towards communalism and sectarianism, rather it sometimes pushes them to accept untouchables as a given in the political scheme of things.