Home Features Interviews S. V. Rajadurai on Rebranding Ambedkar, Reinterpreting India – Understanding the RSS Agenda – Part 1 – 2
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S. V. Rajadurai on Rebranding Ambedkar, Reinterpreting India – Understanding the RSS Agenda – Part 1 – 2

Background:

Writer S.V.Rajadurai speaks about the appropriation of Dr.B.R. Ambedkar by the RSS, and the significance and the ideology behind the recent “ghar vapsi” incidents, in the light of the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle being de-recognized by IIT Madras.

Dalit Camera: Hi Sir, Thank you for giving me an interview for the Dalit Camera. We want to have your opinion on the recent incident, the ban of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle IIT Madras, and the protests against the ban that are happening all across India. This happened some months ago and a large scale protest which started in TamilNadu has later spread across India.

There is on one side it was MHRD – the Ministry of Human Resource and Development, involvement, which is a BJP government and headed by Smith Irani that has lead to the ban. The IIT students have also been complaining that they, the ministry, have been interfering into the arrangements of dining halls where in they are enforcing having different sets of dining halls for vegetarians and non-vegetarians. So, here we have a  BJP government which on one hand bans Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle and is influencing the dining halls arrangements, the other IITs and everything. And at the same time, on the other hand, what they are doing is appropriating Ambedkar. They have bought out a special issue on Ambedkar and glorifying him – glorying in the sense of RSS, which means he is a pro Hindutva. So how do you see these both things?

V. Rajadurai: See both these things are interconnected. I would say this banning of Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle, IIT Madras as wonderfully acted as a catalyst for the mobilization of anti-caste groups, secular-minded people and democratic forces all over India. We see it is inviting expressions of solidarity from some of the notable intellectuals from abroad. The APSC is a continuation of the protests dating back to the early 2000s against the blatant discrimination of the Dalits and the OBCs by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras authorities. That this institution is a veritable Brahman agrahara can be shown by the fact that even today out of nearly 400 faculty members only three are Dalits and the PhD students from the Dalit communities constitute just 0.3 percent. The banning of a APSC is only a tiny part of the counter-revolution of Brahman-Baniya combined that is unfolding before our eyes. As BabaSaheb Ambedkar has pointed out in What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables, the Brahmins always needed allies in ancient times, the pen of the Brahmins combined with the sword of these kshatriyas, to keep the vast majority of the people in Indian subcontinent in utter subordination. But in the changed circumstances of the modern times the cunningness of the Brahmins and the money power of the vaishyas, that means the baniyas joined together to devise new means and methods to perpetuate their hegemony and domination. As previous Manmohan Singh government has already set the stage for pushing the Neoliberalism to the extreme, so the RSS now find it encouraged to expand its energy in strengthening its cultural nationalism that would help diffusing the anger of the masses of India. The anger generated by the blatantly anti-farmer, anti-Adivasi, anti-Dalit and anti-labor policies pursued by the Modi sarkar (government). From this strategy flows the varied attempts to Brahmanise the minds of the people, the people from the OBC and Dalit communities, and direct their anger not against corporate capitalism, not against casteism, not against imperialism but against the religious minorities by painting them as a devil incarnate. This is quite similar to Hitler’s scapegoating of jews for all the ills of Germany. That is one thing.

The brahmanising of the minds of the people is not a new phenomenon. One of the recent landmark successes of Braminisation was the destruction of Babri masjid. The destruction facilitated by the complicity of Narasimha Rao led Congress government but even during the days of V. P. Singh government which was a dependent on the outside support of the BJP, sangh parivar could dictate its terms. For example, it successfully scuttled the efforts of the income tax department to proceed against the VHP, since VHP had failed to file income tax returns and failed to explain and give the detailed accounts of its income and expenditure. With Vajpayee in saddle the Sangh Parivar could penetrate and put its eggs in all the spheres and organs of the state machinery, particularly the army. The revision of the textbooks was commenced with full zeal and the retired teacher and semi-literate Dinanath Batra was assigned important responsibilities even during Vajpayee days. Then, Sawarkar portrait was unveiled in parliament. And even the left parties decided to make only a feeble protest just a few days before that event. But with members of the so-called secular parties which are the allies of the BJP government – the DMK and the AIADMK which was in the opposition and some of the Dalit parties such as the one led by Ram Vilas Paswan happily participated in the event. Of course, Paswan resigned in protest against the Gujarat atrocities but other parties remain passive onlooker of the murderous attacks on the Muslims, which has been evolved as a model for ethnic cleansing of religious minorities in the rest of the country. But Sangh Parivar has not changed its colors but unfortunately Paswan has changed.

With Vajpayee in saddle the Sangh Parivar could penetrate and put its eggs in all the spheres and organs of the state machinery, particularly the army.

Modi may speak of Gandhi, especially during his foreign trips, but, when he returns to the home turf he reduces the icon of Gandhi just to cleanliness. For the Sangh Pariwar and other right-wing Hindu outfits it is not Gandhi but Godse is the leader. But Godse is an assassin, we may not like Gandhi, we may disagree with Gandhi but we cannot approve of any political assassination. So this kind of assassins can be venerated only by some hot-headed bigots including one or two MPs from the BJP but he cannot be projected by the national leader. And they do not like Nehru, BJP and RSS do not like Nehru for their own reasons. Nehru’s policies were flawed, we cannot endorse his policies completely. But, whatever may be his drawbacks, in the popular perception he is considered as one who belonged to the secular club and one who was wedded to welfarism. So on both accounts Sangh Parivar finds him guilty, so, that is why they tried to wipe out his name from the history books and from the memory of the people, so Nehru is ruled out. So the other choice for the Sangh Parivar to project as the national leader is Sardar Vallabhai Patel. But unfortunately even Sardar Vallabhai Patel actually create some kind of reservations the minds of the RSS because even though he was a right winger, as the home minister at the time of assassination of Gandhi he squarely blamed the RSS for the complicity in Gandhi’s murder. So however much you know the RSS and the parivar were maybe soft on Patel and wholeheartedly they cannot endure still as the national leader so, patel is also ruled out. So the earlier period they try to project Deendayal Upadhyaya as the national leader but he was a very little known outside his home turf. And what happened his the theory of Integral Humanism and could not be made acceptable to the people. It was actually a varna dharma ideology couched in a very modern language. So it was too obvious to be pushed through, so naturally it also went into oblivion. So what is the next choice they have been thinking about it.

During the Vajpayee government days as I earlier said they tried to project P.V. Savarkar as that great freedom fighter and the national leader. But unfortunately as irrefutable historical evidences and documentary evidences point out he actually apologized to the British government. Later on he was even willing to cooperate with him British government, so he was a fake hero, so he cannot be projected as a national leader. Then, Golwalkar was their spiritual guru but can Golwalkar be projected as the national leader? But even for our associates self embarrassing because Golwalkar was an open supporter of Hitler and he endorsed Hitler’s methods of ethnic cleansing. Not  only that, he opposed to the framing of modern Indian Constitution he said Manu Smriti should be the constitution of India. So, naturally then even RSS is really ashamed of projecting Golwalkar as the national leader, though they still consider him as a spiritual guru. Then what about Dr.Moonje? Moonje was also one of the cofounders of the RSS. Initially he was a member of the Hindu Mahasabha but everyone knows his connections with the fascists of Italy and his personal contacts with the Mussoline. So his antecedents are too obvious to be ignored, so he cannot be projected as the national leader.

So, finally what happened they have been trying and trying, so from their own pantheon they cannot produce one single national leader. But now after modi came to power and emboldened by the successes RSS have achieved in their many attempts to brahmanise the population. Some significant successes in pushing through their agendas like removing secular-minded people from many cultural institutions like Central Censor Board, ICHR, Nalanda University and then making the trashes written by Batra as compulsory reading for Gujarat schools, then Ghar Wapsi which yielded some successes in some parts of the country. They are quite emboldened to finally settle down for their the founder of RSS Dr.Hedgewar. And now they say Hedgewar was also from Maharashtra. Now they say the two doctors, Dr.Hedgewar and Dr.Ambedkar, they had similar visions, they had similar missions, they shared ideals. But, is it really true even at the personal level the two doctors cannot be compared with each other. This hedgewar is not even an MBBS fellow, he had only a diploma like RMP, something like that, alicentiated medical practitioner. Whereas Dr.Ambedkar, he earned two doctors from the most prestigious and educational institutions in the whole world. So, I say that even at the personal level, even this educational literary qualifications, these two people cannot be compared with each other. And Hedgewar is far far inferior to this scholarly nature and qualities of Dr.Ambedkar. But, what happened is this, the RSS has a very perverted mind, in spite of all these things then they tried to say the two doctors had a similar ideals, both of them were against untouchability, both of them were against beef eating, both of them were muslims. Is there any basis for that?

Projecting Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar as an anti-muslim is not new RSS politics.

Because the RSS is known for it’s Goebbelsian lies, it is capable of shamelessly introducing some distorted evidences. For example, first we will take up this so-called anti-muslim opinions of Dr.Ambedkar because projecting Dr.Ambedkar as an anti-muslim is not new RSS politics. Even in 1990s you can see hundreds of thousands of copies of pamphlets were printed and distributed by RSS in many states, they contained some passages taken out of context from Ambedkar’s Pakistan, or The partition of India. It does not matter for the RSS that Ambedkar actually donning the cloak of a lawyer, and presenting the case of Muslims in few pages, of Hindus in few pages and of seculars in few pages. He is a lawyer, in few pages he speaks like a lawyer of the Muslims, in some pages he speaks like a lawyer of the Hindus, in some other pages he speaks like a lawyer of the secularists and rationalists. So, you cannot take some pages out of the context, anybody can make anybody an anti-muslim by taking out-of-context a few lines from the corpus of the writings. That is the trick you know they played with the masses even in the 1990s. But I would like to a coat a very important sentences from his Pakistan, or The partition of India, which refused the argument of the RSS. The RSS logic is you know by projecting Ambedkar as anti-muslim, they want to present him as Pro-Hindutva. What does he say in Pakistan, or The partition of India, he says clearly and he emphatically rejecting the notion of Hindu Rashtra. I am quoting his words “If [the] Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.”  These are the words written by Ambedkar in this book which RSS is so fond of quoting out of context.

In 1951, on the eve of the first general election in India, that time Ambedkar was the president of the Scheduled Caste Federation and the manifesto prepared by the Scheduled Caste Federation clearly said “we must rule out any alliance with any reactionary party such such as Hindu Mahasabha and Jan Sangh”.

Dalit Camera: Only these two parties he is referring to?

V. Rajadurai: Yes, because they are the only two Hindu communal parties there. It clearly says “we must rule out any alliance with any reactionary party such as Hindu Mahasabha and Jan Sangh which are communal parties”. So various questions about Ambedkar supporting the hindutva theory. As well as regarding beef eating, Ambedkar, his core value with which he spoke, wrote and acted were Liberty, Fraternity and Equality. The Liberty includes among other things one’s right to choose the food of his or her choice . The fraternity means respect to people, mingling with people, accepting them as equals, people with different cultural tradition, people with different cultural ethos. Equality is equality for everyone in all spheres of life. So the Liberty is an inclusive term, it is an all-embracing term. So then how come an unparalleled liberator of the Dalit masses whose main source of protein is beef, how could he have been against beef eating? It is quite illogical. What happened was he asked mothers to stopped the practice of eating the meat of the dead animals, because that was a practice forced upon them by the caste hindus. Stopping that practice is a mark of self-respect. So actually he insisted that his followers, the Dalits, to stop eating the meat of the dead animals. RSS actually distorts that statement into saying that Ambedkar was against beef eating itself. That means Ambedkar has violated his own core values of liberty, fraternity and equality. Nearly sixty-five to seventy percent of the Indian people are eating beef, not only Dalits, Muslims are eating beef, a large number of Hindus are eating beef, even now I am seeing for the last 20-30 years many Hindus who looked down upon beef eating as some kind of a taboo are going for beef, for economic reasons, because it is cheaper, it is more nutritious. So what happens if you take into account the OBCs who are eating beef, Dalits who are eating beef, the tribal people who are eating beef and minority religious people are eating beef and the people in the North-East, it will come to about 65, you can commute it as some sixty-five to seventy percent of the people. It is a great insult to say that Ambedkar was against food habits of the majority of the people in India, that is one thing.

S. V. Rajadurai, is a well known writer and author of the book Towards a Non-Brahmin Millennium, with many other books and publications to his name.  He can be reached at sagumano@gmail.com. 

Video: Ravichandran Bathran, Video date: 11 Jun, 2015, Transcription: Archana Bidargaddi