Saturday, August 20, 2011

[ZESTCaste] Hindutva And The Dalit Question

Hindutva And The Dalit Question

By Bhanwar Meghvanshi

19 August, 2011

Of late, the RSS has been making a tremendous hue-and-cry about what
it calls the 'social assimilation' (samarasta) of the various castes.
The curious fact, however, is that it has no intention whatsoever of
promoting the genuine 'assimilation' of, leave alone equality between,
the various castes. A clear indication of its attitude to the caste
question is that from the very beginning it has been strongly opposed
to reservations or any other form of protective discrimination for
Dalits, Adviasis, OBCs and religious minorities.

The truth is that 'samarasta' for the Hindutva camp means that the
varna system should remain, as should the different castes and the
hierarchies and inequalities that divide them. So, too, must
untouchability, and poverty and the enormous differences between the
rich and the poor. The Hindutva forces want that the present system,
wherein some people continue to have a virtual monopoly over resources
and power, while millions of others live in the most pathetic
conditions, continues unscathed. It wants, in other words, that the
status quo in terms of caste and class relations should continue and
that no one should in any way revolt against this. This is what is
meant by its jargon about samarasta, which Hindutva ideologues
constantly harp about. So that the oppressed Dalits and others do not
begin to assert themselves for their rights it is necessary for the
Hindutva forces to keep talking about the mirage of samarasta.

The Hindutva forces have always been opposed to social equality. When
two brothers cannot be the same, Hindutva ideologues often argue, how
can there be equality in society at large? That is why, they say,
equality is impossible, and the most that one can seek is samarasta,
as they understand the term. In other words, for them the 'high' and
the rich must remain high and rich, the 'low' and the poor must remain
low and poor, but society must somehow 'assimilate' the two categories
harmoniously, as if this were possible.

It requires no great intelligence to understand that this defence of
the status quo by Hindutva forces in the name of samarasta brilliantly
serves the interests of the exploiting classes, such as capitalists,
the feudal class as well as the priestly class, and that is why these
three classes are among their most staunch supporters. This trio of
classes faces the greatest threat from social equality. The priests
want that they should be left to monopolise their profession so that
they can continue to fleece people, exploit their faith and
comfortably live off their donations. The former rajas and maharajas
still want to fancy themselves as rulers of this land and the rest of
Indians as their subjects. The Banias want to maintain their hegemony
in the economic sphere, and they want no change in the system wherein
a tiny class owns almost all the wealth, while the rest are landless,
poverty-stricken labourers. For these three classes, the slogan of
samarasta serves to maintain the iniquitous system that favours them.
To maintain this grossly unequal system in the guise of samarasta,
these days Hindutva forces are now trying to woo the Dalits and
Adivasi and fool them by presenting themselves as committed to their
welfare. Their activists tour Dalit and Adivasi localities, and try to
win them over by eating with them or by setting up religious centres
for them. In this way, they are trying to create and reinforce the
completely fallacious notion that there is no one so committed to the
Dalits and Adivasis as they themselves.

But the real face of the Hindutva forces, their true stance on Dalits
and other oppressed castes, is easily understood from their position
on reservations for these communities. This brutal reality strips the
masks under which they seek to hide. From time to time, Hindutva
leaders, including top bosses of the RSS, issue confusing statements
about reservations for the oppressed castes, but, overall, these are
calculated to negate their importance and seek to do away with them.
Some years ago, Sudarshan, the then head of the RSS, issued a
statement that such reservations had become a tool to mobilize votes.
Indresh Kumar, another important RSS leader, declared that
reservations on the basis of caste had divided India against itself
and had even, so he had the gumption to claim, threatened its unity
and integrity and the love and harmony between its different classes.
Devendra Swaroop, a key RSS ideologue, also stridently opposed
reservations as allegedly undermining democracy and as promoting
advancement through greed and by means of crutches. Moreover, he
condemned reservations as supposedly divisive and anti-national. He
contended that students who believe in 'merit', 'all intellectuals',
the media, the industrialist class, the judiciary and other
'Constitutional bodies' 'have stood up in opposition to this divisive
and anti-national reservation policy. A massive movement [against the
policy] is beginning to emerge throughout the country.'

Another top Hindutva boss, Pravin Togadia, General Secretary of the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad, once infamously declared that by providing
reservations to the Backward Classes, the government was 'fulfilling
the incomplete task of Khilji and Ghazni'—this being an allusion to
medieval supposedly anti-Hindu Muslim invaders, whom the Hindutva
forces regard with horror. 'Through reservations, a conspiracy is
being carried out to divide the country', he announced. Summing up the
Hindutva stance on reservations for the oppressed castes, BJP leader
Murli Manohar Joshi quipped, 'It is wrong to provide reservations on
the basis of caste.' The Shiv Sena, a key member of the Hindutva
combine, is notorious for its consistent opposition to reservations
for the oppressed castes. It is said that the almost defunct Hindu
Mahasabha, at one time in the recent past began showing signs of being
revived in order to oppose such reservations. Himani Savarkar, top
Mahasabha leader, and daughter-in-law of one of its key founders, VD
Savarkar (she belongs to the Godse family), announced, 'The Hindu
Mahasabha has always been opposed to reservations. Even before
Independence, the Mahasabha, at its Karnavati and Bhagalpur
conventions, had opposed reservations based on caste and religion.'

The RSS keeps harping that 'All Hindus are Brothers', but when it
comes to reservations for the oppressed castes, it turns, as these
examples illustrate, against its supposed co-religionists—the
oppressed castes. Hindutva forces are also said to be campaigning
under the cover of various other outfits to end the system of
reservations, sometimes hesitating to reveal their true intentions for
fear of losing the support of the oppressed castes. So much for its
claims of being committed to the 'assimilation' of the different
castes and for its rhetoric about social 'harmony'.

Bhanwar Megwanshi is a noted social activist from Bhilwara, Rajasthan.
He edits the Hindi monthly 'Diamond India', a journal that deals with
grassroots' social issues. He is associated with the Rajasthan-based
Mazdoor-Kisan Shakti Sangathan (MKSS), and can be contacted on

(Translated by Yoginder Sikand)


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