Politics Being Played With Ambedkar’s Name to Strengthen Hindutva — Prof Ram Puniyani

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UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath paying tribute to the Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar. — Getty images

The principles and values for which Ambedkar struggled all his life have been watered down by RSS-BJP, while on the surface he is being eulogised. Now comes another dimension to Hindu nationalist politics, to strength the politics of Ram using the name of Ambedkar.

PROF RAM PUNIYANI | Caravan Daily

CURRENTLY many Dalit leaders are up in arms criticising the Uttar Pradesh government’s move to add ‘Ramji’ to Bhimrao Ambedkar’s name in its official records. It is true that Babasaheb signed the Constitution as Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, but Ramji is not added to his name often. No one may be able to challenge the addition, but it points towards BJP’s and Yogi’s political symbolism.

For BJP, Lord Ram is the central figure around which the communal agenda is pursued—be it the Ram temple issue or the violence unleashed on the eve of Ram Navami. Ever since the Modi-BJP government has come to power, one can see two antagonistic trends simultaneously. First is the rise in atrocities against Dalits and second is the grandiose scale at which Ambedkar anniversaries are organised by Hindu nationalists.

During the last four years, we saw the clampdown on the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle in IIT Madras, the institutional murder of Hyderabad Central University scholar Rohith Vemula, and anti Dalit violence in the name of beef in Una, Gujarat, to name just a few incidents.

With Yogi as the Chief Minister of UP, Dalit houses were burnt in Saharanpur in May 2017. This burning of Dalit households happened in the aftermath of the procession taken out by BJP MP, chanting slogans “UP mein Rahna hai to Yogi, Yogi Kahna Hoga” and ‘Jai Shri Ram’. Dalit leader Chandrashekhar Ravan, despite getting bail, is still in custody after this incident.

In Maharashtra, the Bhima Koregaon violence against Dalits was instigated. Dalits have been compared to dogs by Union Minster of State for External Affairs General VK Singh in 2016, and recently by another BJP Union Minister Ananth Kumar Hegde in Karnataka. When Thakur CM Yogi was to visit Musahars in a village in Kushinagar district of UP, officials distributed soap bars and shampoos and told the Musahars to clean themselves before Yogi visited.

Ambedkar was for Indian nationalism, for annihilation of caste and attributed caste and untouchablity to Hindu scriptures. He also drafted the Indian Constitution, where the core values of the freedom movement were incorporated. On the other side, the Hindu Mahasabha harped back to the glorious past as dictated by scriptures, where caste is considered to be of divine making. It was from here that the concept of Hindutva rose.

Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar and most other Hindutva ideologues upheld the scriptures opposed by Ambedkar. Savarkar stated that Manusmriti is the Hindu law today. Golwalkar declared that Lord Manu was the greatest law giver, whose laws are relevant even today. He had said “…Brahmin is the head, Kshatriya the hands, Vaishya the thighs and Shudra the feet. This means that the people who have this four-fold arrangement, that is, the Hindu people, is our god. This supreme vision of godhead is the very core of our concept of ‘nation’ and has permeated our thinking and given rise to various unique concepts of our cultural heritage.”

When the Indian Constitution was adopted by the nation in 1949, the RSS mouthpiece Organiser wrote an editorial rejecting it. When Ambedkar put forward the Hindu Code Bill, there was severe opposition to it. Ambedkar stood his ground and stated, “You must not only discard the Shastras, you must deny their authority, as did Buddha and Nanak. You must have the courage to tell the Hindus that what is wrong with them is their religion—the religion which has produced in them this notion of the sacredness of caste”. The RSS, and even Union minister Ananth Kumar Hegde, have spoken publicly about changing the Constitution.

What is happening currently? Caste is being upheld in various ways. The dilution of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and removal of reservation clause for teachers in Universities is a direct affront to the social justice credo—the central mission of Ambedkar.

At the core of the Hindu nationalist politics lies caste and gender hierarchy. They would like to ignore the aspiration of Dalits and yet woo them for electoral gains. So they follow the twin-pronged strategy of tokenism towards Dalit issues by paying obeisance to Babasaheb Ambedkar on one side and stepping up religiosity by targeting minorities in the name of Lord Ram and the holy cow on the other.

The principles and values for which Ambedkar struggled all his life have been watered down by RSS-BJP, while on the surface he is being eulogised. Now comes another dimension to Hindu nationalist politics, to strength the politics of Ram using the name of Ambedkar.

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Ram Puniyani is an eminent author, activist and former professor of IIT Mumbai

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