of Dr. BR Ambedkar stands
irreconcilably opposed to Hindutva
25 September, 2003
is the soul of Hinduism," wrote Ambedkar. He characterized the
oppressive caste system as the tyranny of Hinduism. After spending a
lifetime in a crusade against the oppressive Hinduism, Ambedkar finally
renounced Hinduism, and converted to Buddhism and exhorted his followers
to do the same. It is an irony that BJP and other Sangh Parivar outfits
are trying to appropriate such a historic personality as Dr. BR Ambedkar.
They have started
unveiling Ambedkar photos and statues. Some Sangh ideologues have torn
some quotations of BR Ambedkar on Islamic invasions out of context and
misinterpreted them to fit Ambedkar in their own anti-Islamic framework.
Vinay Katiyar took out an Ambedkar Yatra in UP. Mayawati unveiled a
statue of Ambedkar's wife even though her party, the BSP, shamelessly
betrayed the Ambedkar tradition by aligning with his arch ideological-political
foes, the Hindutva brigade, in a coalition for the sake of power.
To attract dalits
to its fold, the BJP made Bangaru Laxman its ornamental chief but he
had to ignominiously bow down from office for accepting Tehelka cash
bundles. But before his resignation he made a speech in the Nagpur session
of the BJP National Council almost equating Ambedkar with Hedgewar.
In fact, the actual history convincingly refutes the dirty tricks of
the Sangh Parivar.
During the freedom
movement, because of the failures and neglect of the Congress a few
political streams arose independent of it. Because of the Congress neglect
of Muslims and the influence of Hindu conservatism and Hindu dominance
in Congress leadership, Muslims rallied independently under the Muslim
League. For similar reasons, Sikhs also rallied under the Akali Dal.
Brahminical upper caste forces dominated the Congress leadership and
the party turned a blind eye to the aspirations of nationalities. In
Tamil Nadu, Periyar EV Ramasamy fought against this, first through the
anti-Brahmin movement and then went on to represent the nationality
aspirations of Tamils.
It was Ambedkar
who squarely put social reform on the agenda during the freedom struggle
and launched a simultaneous movement against untouchability and the
caste order that were the hallmarks of Hinduism, and championed the
interests of dalits. In this he was far to the left of Gandhi. On the
other hand, far to the right of Gandhian leadership there was first
Hindu Mahasabha and later RSS streams, which often collaborated with
the British and considered, with open hostility, even Gandhi too liberal.
This hostility finally culminated in the assassination of Gandhi by
an RSS man Nathuram Godse. Ambedkar was lifelong at loggerheads with
the Hindu fundamentalists. Even in his Thoughts on Pakistan,(on which
Katiyar's portrayal of him as an anti-Muslim Hindutva figure rests),
he ruthlessly critiques the Hindu Mahasabha and Savarkar. He writes:
"The Hindu nationalist who hopes that Britain will coerce the Muslims
into abandoning Pakistan, forgets that the right of nationalism to freedom
from an aggressive foreign imperialism and the right of a minority to
freedom from an aggressive majority's nationalism are not two different
things, nor does the former stand on a more sacred footing than the
latter."(p.10-11) This clearly illustrates his criticism of aggressive
mjorotarian nationalism. He furthercriticizes Savarkar, commenting that
"strange as it may seem, Mr. Savarkar and Mr. Jinnah instead of
being opposed to each other on the two nations issue, are in complete
agreement about it". But Ambedkar exposes Savarkar's authoritarian
intent: " Mr. Savarkar wants the Hindu nation to be the dominant
nation and the Muslim nation to be the subservient nation under it."
Such being the historical
evolution of different political streams in India, it is clear that
the legacy of Ambedkar and Hindu fundamentalism are irreconcilably hostile
to each other. Hindutva forces today are trying to delink Ambedkar from
his entire legacy, cover up their hostility towards him and try to appropriate
him for electoral use.
hostility of the Sangh Parivar against Ambedkar was clearly brought
to the fore by the vile campaign unleashed against him by RSS ideologue
and presently a BJP minister in Vajpayee's cabinet Arun Shourie through
his book Worshipping False Gods. Shiv Sainiks, the soul mates of Hindutva
forces, also launched a struggle against Ambedkar's book The Riddles
of Hindusim. This is the actual record of Hindutava forces vis-à-vis
the heritage of Ambedkar, which they are trying to hide now in order
to appropriate his glorious image for their own vested interests.
Ambedkar was the
architect of the constitution of India. Sangh Parivar is even opposed
to the marginal secular and liberal features of this Constitution and
that is why they have formed a committee to tinker with it.
While Ambedkar had total enmity towards Hindu Mahasabha and RSS and
other Hindu fundamentalists, he was generally pro-left and, befitting
a true democrat in a semi-feudal society, he had a positive attitude
towards Marxism though it was unfortunate that the communists in those
days failed in their united front tactics and failed to develop a proper
relationship with Ambedkar. This was part of their general weakness
and shortcomings in India.
The contrast between Ambedkar and Savarkar
of dissolving more than 3,000 castes into one pan-Hindu identity involves
pan-Hindu temples, pan-Hindu dinners, inter-caste marriages, anti-untouchability
programmes and the removal of injunctions on caste-ridden vocations
and sea-voyage. Thus, Savarkar seems to have admonished Hindus to break
off the seven shackles that according to him hindered the progress of
the Hindu society. Did this programme really denounce Hinduism? The
answer to this question has to be in the negative because the anti-caste
programme particularly relating to injunctions against inter-caste marriage
and advocating vedic rights for the shudras and ati-shudras given by
Savarkar did not have vigour and genuine thrust to attack the Hindu
shastras and caste system.
regarding inter-caste marriages looked to be so casual that he offered
only a qualified support to such marriages, thus replacing the need
for creating any conscious motivation necessary for the radicalmobilisation
of the people towards reaching the desired end. Similarly, Savarkar's
attempt to grant the study of vedas and vedic rituals to non-Brahmins
though apparently liberal may effectively lead to the Brahminisation
of the non-Brahmin castes thus according legitimacy to Hindu shastras.
On the contrary,
Ambedkar considers inter-caste marriages as the effective means for
abolishing caste system. But Ambedkar is also aware that inter-caste
dining or even inter-caste marriages are not enough to eliminate casteism.
He was of the opinion that for realising the desired goal of casteless
society through inter-caste marriages it is necessary to destroy the
belief in the sanctity of Hindu shastras. And for destroying this belief,
Ambedkar suggests that people should not only discard the shastras,
but they should deny their authority as Buddha and Nanak did. Thus;
it can be argued here that socially radical Ambedkar was very unlikely
to be attracted by Savarkar whose proposal, according to one of the
sincere Savarkarites, contained reformative zeal aimed at revival of
Hinduism rather than its denunciation.
(From Appropriating Ambedkar by Gopal Guru,
Economic and Political Weekly, July 6-13, 1991)
Ambedkar was never
a Marxist. He could not carry forward his struggle for thoroughgoing
abolition of semi-feudalism and against imperialism through a democratic
revolution like Mao did in China. He focused mainly on the petty bourgeois
and bourgeois intelligentsia from the oppressed communities and worked
largely within the system representing their interests in the form of
reservation etc. Nevertheless, despite this limitation, he remained
an outstanding bourgeois revolutionary democrat who was head and shoulders
above many in the Congress leadership and was clearly far more radical
In the course of
his differences against the Congress, he never made any concession to
the Hindu Right and always remained hostile to them.
Against Brahminical Hinduism During his boyhood Ambedkar had to suffer
lots of personal humiliation due to untouchability. In Chowder Tank
satyagraha led by Ambedkar in 1927, the upper caste Hindus attacked
him and physically injured him. During the freedom movement Ambedkar
emerged as the tallest leader of social reform in India.
"I was born a Hindu, but never will die a Hindu. What is required
is to get rid of the doctrine of 'Chatuvarna'. That is the root cause
of all inequality and is also the parent of the case system and untouchability,
which are merely other forms of inequality". It is relevant to
note here that while both Hedgewar and Golwalkar upheld Manu and thus
rationalised the caste system inherent to the Hindu religion, Ambedkar
even burnt copies of Manusmruti through a campaign. On December 25,
1927 Ambedkar observed a "Manu Smruti Dahan Din", and publicly
burnt Manusmruti. The struggle was known as the "Maha-Sangharsha"
of Mahad Satyagraha, and it is an important milestone in dalit struggle
against Brahmanism and Brahminical Hinduism. Manuvadis had comspired
so that Ambedkar did not get a ground for the meeting, but a Muslim
gentleman, Mr. Fattekhan, gave his private land to observe this protest.
There was a strong reaction in the Brahmanical press, Babasahib was
called"Bheemaasura" by one paper. Dr. Ambedkar justified the
burning of Manusmruti in various articles.
Ambedkar made a
scathing attack on Hinduism: "I tell you, religion is for man and
not man for religion. If you want to organise, consolidate and be successful
in this world, change this religion. The religion that does not recognise
you as a human being, or give you water to drink, or allow you to enter
temples is not worthy to be called a religion. The religion that forbids
you to receive education and comes in the way of your material advancement
is not worthy of the appellation 'religion'. The religion that does
not teach its followers to show humanity in dealing with its co-religionists
is nothing but a display of a force. The religion that teaches its followers
to suffer the touch of animals but not the touch of human beings is
not a religion but a mockery. The religion that compels the ignorant
to be ignorant and the poor to be poor is not a religion but a visitation!"
He added this on
the upper castes: "It is your claim to equality which hurts them.
They want to maintain the status quo. If you continue to accept your
lowly status ungrudgingly, continue to remain dirty, filthy, backward,
ignorant, poor and disunited, they will allow you to live in peace.
The moment you start to raise your level, the conflict starts. Untouchability
is not a transitory or temporary feature; it is eternal, it is lasting.
Frankly it can be said that the struggle between the Hindus and the
Untouchables is a never-ending conflict. It is eternal because the religion
which assigns you the lowest status in society is itself divine and
eternal according to the belief of the so-called high caste Hindus.
No change warranted by change of time and circumstances is possible."
Such being the views of Ambedkar, those who offer political patronage
to outfits like Ranvir Sena can have no claim over Ambedkar.
The ideologues of Hindutva are trying to rationalise caste system saying
that it is a division of labour. Ambedkar refuted this saying, "Caste
System is not merely a division of labour. It is also a division of
labourers. It is an hierarchy in which the divisions of labourers are
graded one above the other." While the Hindutva brigade is known
for defending Manu and the caste system, Ambedkar made a trenchant criticism
of the caste system associated with Hinduism: "There cannot be
a more degrading system of social organisation than the Chaturvarna.
It is the system which deadens, paralyses and cripples the people from
helpful activity." He further added, "Caste in the hands of
the orthodox has been a powerful weapon for persecuting the reforms
and for killing all reform." Relating the inseparable relation
between caste system and Hinduism, Ambedkar wrote, "Hinduism is
a veritable chamber of horrors. The sanctity and infallibility of the
Vedas, Smritis and Shastras, the iron law of
caste, the heartless law of karma and the senseless law of status by
birth are to the untouchables veritable instruments of torture which
Hinduism has forged against untouchables."
In Buddha and His
Dhamma, Ambedkar has enumerated the evils of Hinduism in the following
manner: 1) It has deprived moral life of freedom; 2) It has only emphasized
conformity to commands; and 3) The laws are unjust because they are
not the same for one class as of another. Besides, the code is treated
as final. According to Ambedkar, "what is called religion by Hindus
is nothing but a multitude of commands and prohibitions." The Sangh
Parivar is out to make this code the official code in India under their
scheme of authoritarian Hindu rashtra.
Sensing the alienation
of dalits, many people, from Savarkar to Gandhi, made token gestures
against casteism. The RSS was also forced to come out with some tokenist
pronouncements. But Ambedkar put things in the right perspective by
saying, "Caste cannot be abolished by inter-caste dinners or stray
instances of inter caste marriages. Caste is a state of mind. It is
a disease of mind. The teachings of the Hindu religion are the root
cause of this disease. We practice casteism and we observe untouchability
because we are enjoined to do so by the Hindu religion. A bitter thing
cannot be made sweet. The taste of anything can be changed. But poison
cannot be changed into nectar."
Ambedkar even made
a sarcastic comment against Gandhi: "There have been many mahatmas
in India whose sole object was to remove untouchability and to elevate
and absorb the depressed classes, but everyone has failed in their mission.
Mahatmas have come, mahatmas have gone but the untouchables have remained
as untouchables." Ambedkar told dalits that, "You must abolish
your slavery yourselves. Do not depend for its abolition upon god or
a superman. Remember that it is not enough that a people are numerically
in the majority. They must be always watchful, strong and self-respecting
to attain and maintain success. We must shape our course ourselves and
by ourselves." He further stressed that, "What you have lost
others have gained. Your humiliations are a matter of pride with others.
You are made to suffer wants, privations and humiliations not because
it was pre-ordained by the sins committed in your previous birth, but
because of the overpowering tyranny and treachery of those who are
above you. You have no lands because others have usurped them; you have
no posts because others have monopolised them. Do not believe in fate;
believe in your strength."
It may be recalled
that Advani recently raised a controversy over a Buddhist symbol like
Ashoka chakra figuring in the national flag and a Buddhist symbol being
the national emblem. Regarding their origin Ambedkar explained, "Even
though Buddhism is almost extinct in India, yet it has given birth to
a culture, which is far better and richer than the Brahminic culture.
When the question of the national flag and the national emblem was being
considered by the Constituent Assembly we could not find any suitable
symbol from the Brahminic culture. Ultimately, the Buddhist culture
came to our rescue and we accepted the Wheel of Law (Dhamma-Chakra)
as the national symbol." No wonder, a Brahminical high-priest of
Hindutva like Advani wanted to do away with these symbols introduced
by Ambedkar and his colleagues.
In his slanderous
campaign against Ambedkar, the RSS ideologue Arun Shourie questioned
the patriotism of Ambedkar. Ambedkar, however, defined patriotism thus,
"I do not want that our loyalty as Indians should be in the slightest
way affected by any competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises
out of our religion, out of our culture or out of our language. I want
all people to be Indians first, Indian last and nothing else but Indians."
And despite all his differences with the Congress, Ambedkar remained
a staunch nationalist.
For Ambedkar, the conception of a secular state is derived from the
liberal democratic tradition of the West.
In contrast to
the Gandhian misinterpretation of secularism as 'sarva dharma samabhava',
Ambedkar said, "No institution, which is maintained wholly out
of state funds, shall be used for the purpose of religious instruction
irrespective of the question whether the religious instruction is given
by the state or by any other body". He further explained the corruption
of the concept of secularism in India, "This country has seen the
conflict between ecclesiastical law and secular law long before Europeans
sought to challenge the authority of the Pope. Kautilya's Arthshastra
lays down the foundation of secular law. In India unfortunately ecclesiastical
law triumphed over secular law. In my opinion this was the one of the
greatest disasters in the country."
punctured the false supremacy of the narrow Brahminical elite: "In
every country the intellectual class is the most influential class.
This is the class which can foresee, advise and lead. In no country
does the mass of the people live the life for intelligent thought and
action. It is largely imitative and follows the intellectual class.
There is no exaggeration in saying that the entire destination of the
country depends upon its intellectual class. If the intellectual class
is honest and independent, it can be trusted to take the initiative
and give a proper lead when a crisis arises. It is true that the intellect
by itself is no virtue. It is only a means and the use of a means depends
upon the ends which an intellectual person pursues. An intellectual
man can be a good man but he may easily be a rogue. Similarly an intellectual
class may be a band of high-souled persons, ready to help, ready to
emancipate erring humanity or it may easily be a gang of crooksor a
body of advocates of narrow clique from which it draws its support."
one's religion through conversion is not going to abolish the semi-feudal
inequalities, Ambedkar's decision to convert to Buddhism in the evening
of his life - just a couple of months before his demise on 16 December
1956 - only underlined his disgust and bitterness with the highly iniquitous
Hinduism. About 2 lakh dalits converted to Buddhism along with him in
October 1956. Since then neo-Buddhism has remained a trend. This clearly
rattled the Hindutva bosses who are clamouring for anti-conversion legislation
in every state.
A thorough democrat
headed the committee that crafted the Constitution of the democratic
republic of India, he was never fully satisfied with the democracy which
came to be established in India. In his opinion, "A democratic
form of government presupposes a democratic form of a society. The formal
framework of democracy is of no value and would indeed be a misfit if
there was no social democracy. It may not be necessary for a democratic
society to be marked by unity, by community of purpose, by loyalty to
public ends and by mutuality of sympathy. But it does unmistakably involve
two things. The first is an attitude of mind, and attitude of respect
and equality towards their fellows. The second is a social organisation
free from rigid social barriers. Democracy is incompatible and inconsistent
with isolation and exclusiveness resulting in the distinction between
the privileged and the unprivileged." "Democracy is not a
form of government, but a form of social organisation", he asserted.
He further elaborated,
"What we must do is not to content ourselves with mere political
democracy. We must make our political democracy a social democracy as
well. Political democracy cannot last unless there is at the base of
it, a social democracy."
the limitations of formal law and Constitution: "The prevalent
view is that once the rights are enacted in law then they are safeguarded.
This again is an unwarranted assumption. As experience proves, rights
are protected not by law but by social and moral conscience of the society.
If social conscience is such that it is prepared to recognise the rights
which law proposes to enact, rights will be safe and secure. But if
the fundamental rights are opposed by the community, no law, no parliament,
no judiciary can guarantee them in the real sense of the world. What
is the use of fundamental rights to the untouchables in India?"
"If I find the constitution being misused, I shall be the first
to burn it," he declared.
Ambedkar also had
certain premonitions about the rise of authoritarian forces in India
which is coming true before our eyes: "On the 26th January 1950,
we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we
will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality.
In politics we will be recognising the principle of one-man-one-vote
and one-vote-one-value. In our social and economic life, we shall by
reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle
of one-man-one-value. How long shall we continue to live this life of
contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social
and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so
only by putting our political democracy in peril". The Sangh Parivar
outfits rally tribals and dalits only to use them to attack Christian
missionaries as witnessed in Orissa or to launch pogroms against Muslims
as seen in Gujarat, and thereby endanger democracy. To
frustrate the designs of the Sangh Parivar it is necessary that today
communists and genuine Ambedkarites should come together to defend democracy
from communal fascists, a democracy to establish which Ambedkar fought
In his last days, Ambedkar raised a note of warning: "The point
is that India once lost the independence she had. Will she lose it a
second time? It is this thought which makes me most anxious for the
future. What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has
once before lost her independence, but she lost it by treachery of some
of her own people...Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which
fills me with anxiety. . Will Indians place the country above their
creed or creed above their country? I do not know, But this much is
certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence
will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever.
This eventuality we all must resolutely guard against. We must be determined
to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood!" The
rise of Hindutva forces who totally cringe before the US imperialism
but at the same time are bent upon establishing a fascistic Hindu rashtra
has proved how correct this warning was. As Ambedkar called upon us,
we must defend this freedom and democracy with the last drop of our