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Home > General > India - Caste annihilation: Revolution and Counter Revolution

India - Caste annihilation: Revolution and Counter Revolution

by Ram Puniyani, 9 September 2016

print version of this article print version - 9 September 2016

In the wake of horrific Una violence it is clear that anti dalit mindset prevails. This explains as to how such acts have been taking place earlier as well, though they have gone up now during last two years or so (2016). What we need to understand is that this mindset is due to political ideology which upholds the caste system in a subtle way. What need to recall is that cow skinning related Jhajjar violence in Haryana (2002) against dalits; was legitimized by VJHP’s Acharya Giriraj Kishore, belonging to Sangh Parivar or RSS combine.

It is true that many countries in Europe could do away with birth based hierarchy of class and gender due to Industrial revolutions ushering in a journey towards substantive democracy. India could not achieve such a desirable goal due to the objective restraints imposed by colonial rule. The industrial revolutions of the West did away with the feudal classes along with their feudal mindset which was justifying the birth-based hierarchies. In India due to the colonial rule, on one hand we see that the modern institutions take birth along with the foundation of modern society: Industrialization and Modern education. This was the foundation of the growth of Indian nationalism, which did aspire for the formal equality of all irrespective of caste, religion and gender.

Due to the colonial set up, colonial masters, British were least interested in doing away with feudal powers. ‘Feudal-Clergy’ nexus persisted and gave rise to nationalism in the name of religion, Muslim Nationalism and Hindu nationalism. The pace of change in colonies is not comparable to the other places where the industrial class along with workers and women combine overthrows the social and political alliance of the feudal-clergy combine. So in colonies the process of secularization remains arrested and in post colonial societies the feudal mindset persists with the patronage of the certain sections of society. In these societies the meaning of the word revolution has to be restricted to social transformation. The day to day efforts for social transformation are the revolutionary steps in that sense. India had its own trajectory. Starting with Jotirao Phule the dalits started a slow and long journey towards equality. The journey for women’s equality begins with Savitribai Phule. These streams are totally opposed by the conservative religious elements. These conservatives later crystallize themselves as Muslim League on one side and Hindu Mahasabha-RSS on the other.

The march of Indian nationalism accommodates Ambedkar in some form. While he struggles for social democracy through means of temple entry (Kalaram Mandir), access to public spaces (Chavdar Talao), he goes on to support the burning of Manusmriti and states his resolve for the social equality. We can’t be mechanistic in understanding revolution in diverse societies. These steps like those of Jotirao, Saviritibai and Ambedkar, Periyar are revolutionary. These are hesitantly supported by Indian nationalism and totally opposed by Hindu nationalism. Gandhi, symbol of Indian nationalism, did his best to oppose untouchability, while his stand on reserved constituency can be questioned. Nehru, architect of Modern India, later oversees Ambedkar formulate a Constitution which not only gives formal equality to all but also give affirmative-reservations to the dalits. Nehru’s attempt to bring in reforms like Hindu Code bill are sabotaged by conservatives within his party and conservatives, Hindu nationalists outside his party.

The persistence of subordination of dalits is mainly due to the persistence of mindset of Hindu nationalism, which even had opposed the Indian Constitution when it was being formed. The Hindu nationalists have been strong opponents of reservations all through; this is what led to anti dalit riots in Ahmadabad in 1981, anti OBC violence again in Ahmadabad in 1986. The Hindu nationalist BJP intensified its Ram Temple assault in the wake of Mandal commission implementation. It is true that those perpetrating crimes have not been punished, but that again is due to the prevalent mindset, which has its roots in Hindutva ideology, which spills beyond the parties-organizations working for Hindu Rashtra (Nation) directly. While BJP is the major proponent of this mindset, there are other parties also which do the same in smaller degrees.

We need a revolution to change this state of affairs. But this revolution will be in daily life. The likes of Udit Raj, Ramvilas Paswan and Ramdas Athwaley, sitting in the lap of Hindu nationalist BJP, are a major obstacle to this needed process of change. Surely the Hindu nationalists are the vehicle of counter revolution as far as social changes are concerned. Since BJP is the political arms of RSS, which aspires for Hindu nation, Hindutva via Hindu nationalism, these so called dalit leaders going with BJP are contributing precisely to the processes which are hampering the transition of caste equations towards those of equality. These so called Dalit need to realize that among other things BJP has been transforming National institutions towards the values which will promote anti dalit mind set. Just one example from many such incidents, BJP has appointed one Sudarshan Rao as head of ICHR. Rao argues that caste system had no problems and nobody had complaints against that. RSS, BJP’s ideological father, goes on to say that all castes were equal and problems came in due to the invasion of Muslim Kings!

All this is putting the wool in the eyes of society to perpetuate the ideology which is inherently casteist and leads to the strengthening of mindset which looks down upon dalits. So a Rohith Vemula happens, and so Una happens. If Indian Nationalist movement was a mini revolution, the present politics being unfolded by Hindu nationalism is a counter revolution, duly supported by opportunist dalit leaders. One looks forward to the post Rohith Vemula-Una upsurge of youth, dalits and non-dalits going in the direction of caste annihilation, bypassing these opportunist elements!