Gujarat Pogrom












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Hindutva and caste

By Kancha Ilaiah

The BJP is making a show of empowering the Sudra/OBC forces within... But how will the Sangh Parivar resolve the caste contradictions within Hindu religion?

With the appointment of M. Venkaiah Naidu as party president, Vinay Katiyar as president of the Uttar Pradesh unit and Uma Bharti being asked to take over as chief of the Madhya Pradesh unit, an opinion has been created that there is a shift in the social position of the Bharatiya Janata Party. There have been indications, over a period of time, that the Sudra/OBC forces in the party have begun fighting for their share. In Gujarat, the Patels and OBCs under the leadership of Narendra Modi, himself an OBC, used their muscle power in the recent riots and gained an upper hand against the "dwija" forces that were controlling the organisational network in that State.

At the time of the demolition of the Babri Masjid, the Sangh Parivar mobilised youth from among the Sudra/OBCs and the Dalits for muscle power. During this period, L. K. Advani was projected as the organisational inspiration. Most of those who participated in the demolition came from a non-Brahminical background as they were, and still are, seen as being most useful for physical energy-related activities.

When the BJP came to power at the Centre, the Brahminical forces got more power. Since then, the Sudra/OBC forces on the one hand and the Dalits on the other, within the organisation, have been getting bitter: they played a key role in the demolition of the Babri Masjid but had no major share in the power structure. This posed a challenge to Mr. Advani's authority as those who provided the muscle power had to be rewarded.

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was the brainchild of Savarkar and Golwalkar, two Maharashtrian Brahmin ideologues. When it began to aspire for political power it was headed by Deen Dayal Upadhyay, a Bengali Brahmin. Now, several branches of the RSS such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Bajrang Dal have come up. The parent organisation and its branches were quite consciously controlled by Brahmin leaders/intellectuals. When the RSS began working out militant strategies, initially Brahmin youth were mobilised.

When the ideological congruence between the Hindu Mahasabha and the RSS began to take place in the face of the contentious Partition question, the RSS began to transform itself into a mass militant organisation. To take up rioting campaigns and to defend its cadre from Muslim attacks it needed a large number of strong youth. At that stage it had to go beyond the "dwija" social base and recruit Sudra/OBCs and Dalit youth. Given the nature of the Baniyas, they could hardly be recruited into the RSS' militant wings. There are very few Kshatriyas in the Parivar outfits.

After the Jan Sangh was started, a section of Baniyas moved away from the Congress and the Jan Sangh began to emerge as a Brahmin-Baniya party in terms of spiritual ideology. Its social base was basically urban, supported as it was by these two castes which had urbanised themselves in the post-Independence period. The party mobilised enough money from the economy of temples and from the Baniya market and worked as a pressure group for traditional Brahmins and Baniyas. During that period the Congress expanded its social base into agrarian Sudra social forces and for a long time it came to be identified as a "kulak" party. The Jan Sangh never had such a social base.

There is a close nexus between the emergence of Sudra landlordism and the kulak class in rural India. As the Nehruvian state provided large-scale employment opportunities for feudal Brahmins they sold off their properties and moved into the urban economy. Most of the urban Brahmins were with the Congress as it provided them state patronage and urban luxury. At the same time, they were with the Sangh Parivar spiritually and ideologically. Many were not comfortable with Nehruvian secularism.

The Emergency gave a new life to the Jan Sangh. The RSS changed the party's name and tried to expand its social base in the larger towns, mobilising some service castes around it. Its strategy was two-fold: to mobilise the Sudra castes without invoking the caste discourse and to handle the Dalit question quite carefully because a lot of people within its fold still believed in untouchability and casteism. After the BJP was established, its resolve to overthrow the Congress and enter the power structure became stronger. In order to do so it had only one way before it — it had to mobilise the Sudra social forces that had acquired a considerable amount of landed property, and thereby control over labour castes and control over local and regional political power.

Unlike the Gandhian Congress, the BJP did not have any language of social reform because it went against the historical interests of the Brahminical forces that started the Hindutva movement. When a political party without a social reform agenda wants to come to power in a casteised country such as India, Kautilyanism is the only course available. In the context of Mandal social reform, the BJP worked out the Mandir agenda for which it needed a lot of muscle power. This was required for two purposes: to mobilise Sudra/OBC social forces as vote mobilisers and to intensify the rioting campaigns against the Muslims. A lot of Sudra/OBC elements involved in rioting activity get entangled in legal litigations; and after they are discharged in the cases, show their "gratitude" by remaining with the Hindutva organisations. All organisations that believe in rioting as a vote and money-mobilisation activity expand their cadre base like this.

The Sangh Parivar had to handle the peculiar problem of using the Sudra/OBC and Dalit forces for communal activities without allowing them to aspire for spiritual power in the Hindu temple system and also in the "real power" of the Parivar organisations. In an unreformed Hindu social structure even a man such as Mr. Advani, a non-Brahmin, will not easily be allowed to become the Prime Minister. Perhaps to overcome this problem, efforts are now on to link Mr. Advani's heritage with that of Lord Rama.

As part of the process of its so-called social engineering, the BJP tried to establish credibility among the Dalits by making Bangaru Laxman party president. That experiment failed for internal and external reasons. Now, it is making a show of empowering the Sudra/OBC forces within. That is, perhaps, the reason why a Kamma kulak, Mr. Venkaiah Naidu, is its president. If Mr. Advani becomes the Prime Minister the share of Sudra/OBCs in the Government might also increase. But how will the Sangh Parivar resolve the caste contradiction within Hindu religion? The priestly class in Hinduism does not want any reform.

After the massive deployment of muscle power in Gujarat, the Sudra/OBC forces seem to have gained the upper hand. If the Ram temple is built with more deployment of muscle power the Sudra/OBCs may ask for a bigger place in Hinduism. But the priestly class will not allow it.

Organised religions survived and expanded only by establishing spiritual democracy within themselves. There are no indications that Hinduism will allow spiritual democracy within its structure. The Hindutva forces may pretend that the agenda is being Sudraised but Hinduism shall remain Brahminical. This is where Hinduism as a religion, because of the religious civil war conditions the Hindutva forces are creating, may meet its Waterloo.