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Shiv Sena Dangles Carrot For Dalits

By Ram Puniyani

Last few months have seen the politics in Maharashtra taking an
interesting turn. The Ambedkar baiter Shiv Sena has turned 180 degrees and
offered to ally with dalits. It has put forward as an attractive
formulation, Shiv Shakti+Bhim Shakti=Deshbhakti (Shiv Power+Bhims Power= Patriotism, Shiv Senas clout+ Dalits clout=Patriotism)). Initially it
sounded as a big joke as to how can Dalits even think of going along with
Shiv Sena, which in the past has been at the forefront of Anti-Dalit
tirades in the form of anti-Namantar movement (The agitation for change of
name of Marathwada University to Dr. Ambedkar university), Riddles
controversy (Shiv Senas opposition to publication of Dr. Ambedkars book
Riddles of Hinduism), it had opposed Mandal commission implementation and
what have you. But it seems the Shiv Senas heir apparent Uddhav Thackeray,
who mooted this idea was not totally shooting in the dark. there are
elements in the dalit movement who do favor this alliance.

The coming in of this proposal at precisely this juncture is very curious.
It is a time when Shiv Sena, an unshakable ally of BJP, who in turn is the
handmaiden of RSS and its Hindu Rashtra project, is going to face the
assembly elections. The BJP-Shiv Sena alliance is trying to break new
grounds to come to power next time around in assembly elections, which is
not too far. It is also at a time when the most prominent dalit party
Bahujan samaj in UP is sitting in the lap of BJP for short-term gains of
power. It is also the time when the stalwarts of Sangh Parivar are using
Dr. Ambedkar for their Hate propaganda by saying that Amdekar was anti
Muslim etc. Can, should these two streams come together for political

Dalit aspirations took strong political articulation with Dr. Ambedkars
struggles for social, economic and political rights of oppressed sections
in general and those of dalits in particular. Ambedkars struggles for
social justice, Chavdat Talab, Kalram mandir and Manusmiriti burning were
the nidus around which the movement crystallized it self. These were
supplemented by the formation of Independent labor party, Scheduled Caste
Association and later Republican Party. His legacy continued in the
struggles for land reforms, land rights. All this was supplemented by the
provisions for reservation for dalits, which gave the space to this social
group to come forward in the social and political arena of national life.
Dalit panthers came up as the most promising organisation for dalit rights
and their path was that of alliance with the other oppressed sections of
society. They broadened the definition of dalits to include workers,
minorities, adivasis and women. This indicated the line of allaince to be
followed. This last concerted effort fell to pieces with different leaders
of dalit movement getting co-opted by one or the other political power or
personality. Many of them displayed the power hunger and were ready to
offer their services for the crumbs of power thrown by the upper caste/
class formations. The worst example of this came with Mayawati allying
with BJP to came to power as the chief minister of UP.

This shortsighted move ensured that Dalits have to become junior partners
of the grand Hindutva project of Hindu rashtra. She campaigned for the
butcher of Gujarat Narendra Modi and is now preparing to strike a
long-term alliance with BJP for the parliamentary elections. Meanwhile the
position of dalits, nationwide is declining vis a vis employment,
education and land holdings. The changes brought in by globalization have
marginalized the dalits to the subaltern existence. The plight of dalit
movement can best be gauzed by the recent Gujarat carnage where dalits
were mobilized in large number by Hindutva leadership to carry on the
anti-Muslim carnage.

Shiv Sena came up in Mumbai in the 1970s on the principle of Sons of the
soil. Its first major target was the South Indians. It simultaneously
attacked the left trade unions and helped the managements to crush the
rights of workers. Its unions became handmaiden of managements and
colluded with them to wipe out the genuine aspirations of workers. Later
it turned its attention against Gujaratis and North Indians. With the
implementation of Mandal commission it found itself in a strange position.
It opposed Mandal tooth and nail. It was the time it allied with BJP and
accepted the goal of Hindu Rashtra and the politics of Hidutva. It gloated
over the fact that if Babri was demolished by Shiv Sainiks, it is a matter
of pride for the party. It went on to lead the anti-Muslim pogrom in
Mumbai in 92-93. It has been firm ally of BJP since than and has been
talking of Hindutva and Hindu Rashtra. Its mouthpiece Saamna has the
byline, promoter of radical Hindutva.

As a junior partner of Hindu Rashtra project, Shiv Sena is basically
against the process of caste and gender rights, against the concept of
social and gender equality. It targets against the minorities in a more
aggressive and menacing way. It has ruled the streets of Mumbai by sheer
hooliganism and patronage of the powers that be from behind the scene.
What is its political vision and goal? What can it deliver for the Dalit
masses, the Bhim Shakti?

Today Dalit movement is in the throes of crisis as never before. The
challenges of last two decades have put immense pressure on the Dalit
masses. The closure of mills, factories have affected their employment.
The Govt and public sector jobs are no more available with the various
sorts of ceilings and impact of globalization. The private sector does not
much encourage the employment of Dalits for various reasons. And of course
there is no provision of reservations in the private sector. The land
reforms are stagnant, barring few pockets the land issue dogs the Dalit
masses and rural poverty is on the rise, with Dalits as the main victims.

The Hindutva movement in a way came to tide over the social crisis posed
by the new economic needs of the elite and upper castes. It began with
anti-Dalit violence in Gujarat and later changed tracks to target the
Muslims and Christians. In the process it did come up with the brilliant
strategy of co-opting an upwardly mobile section of Dalits, and on the
other came to recruit the poor Dalit masses as its foot soldiers, as
witnessed in Gujarat carnage. Cooption of Mayawatis and Bangaru Laxmans
for BJP has been the greatest achievement of Hindutva politics. To co-opt
the real victim and to unleash it upon the imaginary outer enemy, Muslims
in this case, is a clever move on the part of Hindutva. While the Sangh
Parivar is playing its strategy in a deft and clever manner, the dalit
leadership, gripped by myopia has become easy pray for the designs of the
politics of status quo. Vinay Katiyar concoction that Ambedkar was against
Muslims symbolizes the fusion of the two trends of RSS politics. On one
hand it aims to appropriate Dalit symbols on the other it aims to use it
against the outer enemy. The real idea being to sustain an atmosphere of
Hate and social terror where the issues of social transformation are
stalled in the din of emotional issues like Ram Temple or Godhra.

Dalit leadership is in the quandary. Mayawatis, sounding very successful
in coming to illusions of power is the landmark achievement for Hindutva
politics. Today what dalits need is not a short-term compromise with the
forces of status quo or the ones opposing social transformation. Dalit
aspirations are for jobs, land and security. Shiv Sena and its elder
brother, BJP, are precisely opposed to these agendas of Dalit movement.

A section of Dalit activists frustrated by the lack of unity and purpose of
their leadership are finding the bait put up by Shiv Sena as too tempting.
Not many of them remember that Shiv Sena was the most vocal opponent of
the writings of Ambedkar, not many will think that it is not just a matter
of opposing Ambedkars writings but also the deeper game of RSS, which
wants to reinstall the Brahminical values of caste and gender hierarchy in
the modern garb. While there was a time when Dr. Ambedkar could strongly
condemn all the values of Brahminical Hinduism, tragically today most of
the Dalit leadership has deviated away from the path shown by Dr.
Ambedkar, the path of Learn, Organize and Struggle. If Shiv Sena can
succeed in its attempt to ally with Dalits, in a way, the circle of
opportunist politics will be complete. It is just fortunate that none of
the major Dalit leaders have fallen for the bait so far. Today the choices
in front of this movement are clear and obvious. One, to come back to
basics-employment, land, education on one hand and falling trap to short
term power and their by subordinating to the oppressive politics of
Hidnutva a la Mayawati. On one hand Ambedkars principals of upholding the
principles for long terms goals and on the other lure of short-term power.
The choice on the one hand is to ally with the weaker sections for getting
the Rights and on the other to lick the carrots of power thrown by the
upper/caste/elite formations. One hopes that Shiv Senas carrot will dry up
while in the dangled position and the fragmented Dalit leadership will
come together to bring back the movement to its proper tracks.