That awkward moment RSS realised it's been in love with Dalits all along

Valay Singh Rai
Valay Singh RaiApr 15, 2016 | 18:40

That awkward moment RSS realised it's been in love with Dalits all along

A palimpsest of ideologies formed by the falling of Ram Navmi (the day Lord Ram was born) and Ambedkar Jayanti on consecutive days allows us to look at the "race to appropriate Ambedkar" through these two antithetical figures. One, Ram, however a mythological character, dominates political Hindutva as championed by the RSS (Rashtriya Swamasevak Sangh).

In 1954, Dr Ambedkar, in his series of essays called Riddles of Hindusim, lays bare his views on both Ram and Krishna. Besides other flaws, he holds Ram responsible for the murder of Shambuka, a "Shudra"/Dalit not too far from present-day Nagpur, for the sake of Brahmin appeasement.


None of the speeches made by RSS or BJP leaders on Dr Ambedkar's birth anniversary cared to touch upon this bedrock of Dalit politics; that oppression by upper castes is endorsed by Hindu myths. This didn't stop them from trying to lay credit on Ambedkar and his politics though.

But, speaking in many tongues is an old RSS tactic.

From being anti-caste to turning pro-Ambedkar, the godly men of Nagpur are perfect when it comes to the art of (mis)appropriation.

Organiser's April 17, 2016 issue has Ambedkar on the front page.

In 2006, Organiser, the RSS loudspeaker, published a scathing article by its editor MV Kamath against reservations. It said, " …how long is this reservation system to last? Five more years? Ten? Fifteen? Twenty five? Fifty? Another sixty? When will this stop? There must be a clear understanding on the issue so that those involved know where they stand. Governmental complacency is as much to be blamed as Dalit complacency."  

It also said: "Reservations have been the bane of our society. Reservations have perpetuated the caste, class and religious divide in our society which is self-destructive. Instead of forgetting their caste or religious affiliations, the people belonging to various social groups have long-and insistently-felt the need to maintain their identities in order to get a share of the power-cake."


This is an old Hindutva trope: reservations breed incompetence and devalue merit. They are counter-productive and were responsible for the "brain-drain" from India. These are the famous grouse of India's upper-castes.

"When one is used to privilege, equality feel like oppression", whoever said this, was also speaking on behalf of India's elites, who had to unlearn and give up attitudes and privileges acquired over centuries, once India became a constitutional democracy.

68 years later they are still unlearning and the pace has only slowed down since the Modi government came to power.

Since 1949, when it burnt Dr Ambedkar's effigy for the first time, the RSS, in myriad savarna ways, has finally realised, or so it seems, that it can no longer appear to treat Dalits like lesser human beings.

The realisation is catalysed by the country-wide mobilisation of Dalit forces and progressive groups after the student wing of the BJP colluded with Hyderabad Central University administration against Rohith Vemula and other Dalit students. If the anti-Dalit tag has been like a birthmark, like a mole, for the RSS and BJP, Rohith's death and its treatment has transformed it into an inerasable blotch on their faces.


It is to dispel this impression that the RSS is doing all it can to shed the anti-Dalit tag. RSS organised "guards of honour" at Ambedkar statues in various places in the country as well at his birthplace Mhow in Madhya Pradesh.

While no party can claim to have done justice for Dalits, the BJP is certainly the last party that should try to appropriate Dalits. In Mhow itself, Dalits are still forced by upper-castes to cremate their dead in a separate burning ground. Madhya Pradesh tops the chart when it comes to atrocities against Dalits.

In 2013, a written order by a collector was issued, demanding that in order for a Dalit to obtain a scholarship, he/she must produce a photograph with a dead animal as "proof". The Modi-media campaign to rebrand itself as pro-Dalit cannot succeed till such incidents keep taking place under the aegis of RSS and its offshoots.

Another example that illustrates the Sangh agenda of upper-caste domination is reflected in the tourism campaign of neighbouring Rajasthan. For decades, royals and traders have held the power-knobs of this state: while the royals have packaged culture to be sold to foreign tourists, the traders have benefitted from it equally since India's economic liberalisation in 1991.

Its latest advertising campaign brands itself as "Aryasthan" through the eyes of a tourist who could be Indian or not, but the name Arya cannot be a coincidence. It lies at the core of the RSS view of India or Aryavrat, the land of Aryas: the noble race that brought civilisation to the sub-continent. How about calling Rajasthan, Meenasthan or Banjarasthan or even Dalitasthan!

It is unlikely to happen at least in the present Vasundhara Raje government's tenure which is currently shielding the principal and warden of the college where Delta Meghwal, a Dalit student was raped and murdered. Even in 2016, and even under a "strong leader" like Narendra Modi, atrocities against Dalits continue unabated and might have increased in fact.

PM's opportunistic 'Dalit Prem'

On April 14, the 125th birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar, Modi thanked him for creating the constitutional framework that allowed the son of a poor person to become the prime minister and in typical Modispeak, he praised farmers and showered accolades and pithy adjectives on them.

Narendra Modi addresses a gathering on Ambedkar Jayanti.  

Ironical and self-explanatory is the fact that while a person from a marginalised community can be the prime minister, it is, nevertheless, still impossible for him/her to become the chief of the RSS, where Modi was once a pracharak. Till date, the RSS hasn't had a single Dalit in its top rungs leave alone a Dalit heading the organisation itself. One wonders if the Prime Minister has to say something about this.

PM's love for Dalits is not surprising given they are crucial to the formation of any government be it in the states or at centre. What is intriguing is the RSS' new found love for Dr Ambedkar. Its mouthpiece Organiser's April 17 issue has Ambedkar on the front page and there are reams of pages praising his politics.

Sample this from the editorial, "There is a need to implement the spirit of reservation more vigorously and genuinely, beyond short term political considerations, so that we can attain the social equality and fraternity expected by Babasaheb as early as possible". In its entire history, the RSS has never given a "guard of honour' to Dr Ambedkar; also, in the last ten years at least, the Organiser has never had a cover story on Ambedkar; and, most importantly, in the last ten years, there has not been a Dalit mobilisation in the manner and degree that we are witnessing today.

Perhaps this more than anything else explains the mad rush to appropriate Ambedkar by the Hindutva brigade. But, the indelible anti-caste taint on them was only made darker and deeper by the conversion of Rohith's family to Buddhism.


Like Dr Ambedkar who famously said, "I was born a Hindu but I will not die a Hindu", and embraced Buddhsim in 1956, 60 years later Rohith's family converted to Buddhism (dismissed by RSS as an "offshoot of Hindusim").

"From today, my mother and I will be free from shame, free from the daily humiliation, free from the guilt of praying to the same god in whose name our people have been tortured for centuries", his brother Raja said after the conversion.

The high priests of RSS and Modi should heed these words.

Last updated: April 15, 2016 | 21:34
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