Hindutva And The Dalit Question
By Bhanwar Meghvanshi
19 August, 2011
Of late, the RSS has been making a tremendous hue-and-cry about what it calls the ‘social assimilation’ (samarasta) of the various castes. The curious fact, however, is that it has no intention whatsoever of promoting the genuine ‘assimilation’ of, leave alone equality between, the various castes. A clear indication of its attitude to the caste question is that from the very beginning it has been strongly opposed to reservations or any other form of protective discrimination for Dalits, Adviasis, OBCs and religious minorities.
The truth is that ‘samarasta’ for the Hindutva camp means that the varna system should remain, as should the different castes and the hierarchies and inequalities that divide them. So, too, must untouchability, and poverty and the enormous differences between the rich and the poor. The Hindutva forces want that the present system, wherein some people continue to have a virtual monopoly over resources and power, while millions of others live in the most pathetic conditions, continues unscathed. It wants, in other words, that the status quo in terms of caste and class relations should continue and that no one should in any way revolt against this. This is what is meant by its jargon about samarasta, which Hindutva ideologues constantly harp about. So that the oppressed Dalits and others do not begin to assert themselves for their rights it is necessary for the Hindutva forces to keep talking about the mirage of samarasta.
The Hindutva forces have always been opposed to social equality. When two brothers cannot be the same, Hindutva ideologues often argue, how can there be equality in society at large? That is why, they say, equality is impossible, and the most that one can seek is samarasta, as they understand the term. In other words, for them the ‘high’ and the rich must remain high and rich, the ‘low’ and the poor must remain low and poor, but society must somehow ‘assimilate’ the two categories harmoniously, as if this were possible.
It requires no great intelligence to understand that this defence of the status quo by Hindutva forces in the name of samarasta brilliantly serves the interests of the exploiting classes, such as capitalists, the feudal class as well as the priestly class, and that is why these three classes are among their most staunch supporters. This trio of classes faces the greatest threat from social equality. The priests want that they should be left to monopolise their profession so that they can continue to fleece people, exploit their faith and comfortably live off their donations. The former rajas and maharajas still want to fancy themselves as rulers of this land and the rest of Indians as their subjects. The Banias want to maintain their hegemony in the economic sphere, and they want no change in the system wherein a tiny class owns almost all the wealth, while the rest are landless, poverty-stricken labourers. For these three classes, the slogan of samarasta serves to maintain the iniquitous system that favours them. To maintain this grossly unequal system in the guise of samarasta, these days Hindutva forces are now trying to woo the Dalits and Adivasi and fool them by presenting themselves as committed to their welfare. Their activists tour Dalit and Adivasi localities, and try to win them over by eating with them or by setting up religious centres for them. In this way, they are trying to create and reinforce the completely fallacious notion that there is no one so committed to the Dalits and Adivasis as they themselves.
But the real face of the Hindutva forces, their true stance on Dalits and other oppressed castes, is easily understood from their position on reservations for these communities. This brutal reality strips the masks under which they seek to hide. From time to time, Hindutva leaders, including top bosses of the RSS, issue confusing statements about reservations for the oppressed castes, but, overall, these are calculated to negate their importance and seek to do away with them. Some years ago, Sudarshan, the then head of the RSS, issued a statement that such reservations had become a tool to mobilize votes. Indresh Kumar, another important RSS leader, declared that reservations on the basis of caste had divided India against itself and had even, so he had the gumption to claim, threatened its unity and integrity and the love and harmony between its different classes. Devendra Swaroop, a key RSS ideologue, also stridently opposed reservations as allegedly undermining democracy and as promoting advancement through greed and by means of crutches. Moreover, he condemned reservations as supposedly divisive and anti-national. He contended that students who believe in ‘merit’, ‘all intellectuals’, the media, the industrialist class, the judiciary and other ‘Constitutional bodies’ ‘have stood up in opposition to this divisive and anti-national reservation policy. A massive movement [against the policy] is beginning to emerge throughout the country.’
Another top Hindutva boss, Pravin Togadia, General Secretary of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, once infamously declared that by providing reservations to the Backward Classes, the government was ‘fulfilling the incomplete task of Khilji and Ghazni’—this being an allusion to medieval supposedly anti-Hindu Muslim invaders, whom the Hindutva forces regard with horror. ‘Through reservations, a conspiracy is being carried out to divide the country’, he announced. Summing up the Hindutva stance on reservations for the oppressed castes, BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi quipped, ‘It is wrong to provide reservations on the basis of caste.’ The Shiv Sena, a key member of the Hindutva combine, is notorious for its consistent opposition to reservations for the oppressed castes. It is said that the almost defunct Hindu Mahasabha, at one time in the recent past began showing signs of being revived in order to oppose such reservations. Himani Savarkar, top Mahasabha leader, and daughter-in-law of one of its key founders, VD Savarkar (she belongs to the Godse family), announced, ‘The Hindu Mahasabha has always been opposed to reservations. Even before Independence, the Mahasabha, at its Karnavati and Bhagalpur conventions, had opposed reservations based on caste and religion.’
The RSS keeps harping that ‘All Hindus are Brothers’, but when it comes to reservations for the oppressed castes, it turns, as these examples illustrate, against its supposed co-religionists—the oppressed castes. Hindutva forces are also said to be campaigning under the cover of various other outfits to end the system of reservations, sometimes hesitating to reveal their true intentions for fear of losing the support of the oppressed castes. So much for its claims of being committed to the ‘assimilation’ of the different castes and for its rhetoric about social ‘harmony’.
Bhanwar Megwanshi is a noted social activist from Bhilwara, Rajasthan. He edits the Hindi monthly ‘Diamond India’, a journal that deals with grassroots’ social issues. He is associated with the Rajasthan-based Mazdoor-Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org
(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)
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