(Review of HINDUTVA: EXPLORING THE IDEA OF HINDU; NATIONALISM, Jyotirmaya Sharma ( Context 2019); M.S. GOLWALKAR, THE RSS AND INDIA, Jyotirmaya Sharma (Context, 2019) ; DECODING THE RSS: ITS TRADITIONS AND POLITICS Raosaheb Kasbe (Leftword Books, 2019) , RAJIV GANDHI TO NARENDRA MODI: BROKEN POLITY, FLICKERING REFORMS Parsa Venkateshwar Rao Jr. (Sage Select, 2019) ; MODINAMA: ISSUES THAT DID NOT MATTER Subhash Gatade (Leftword Books, 2019)
The 2014 general elections which saw the Bharatiya Janata Party return to power with an absolute majority is believed to have brought an important paradigmatic shift to Indian politics. Scholars commenting have termed it as a majoritarian shift. Post elections, there have been discussions which tried to understand the reasons behind this massive mandate that the Right Wing political party managed to get. This Right Wing shift in India’s electoral politics was further proven by the 2019 Parliament election results which gave the BJP a larger mandate. Scholars have written trying to understand the rise of BJP—is it an isolated event or a continuation of past developments? This becomes important because even at the international level, there is a shift towards conservative politics.
Indian academia has also taken an objective look at this shift. A number of books have been written on various aspects of present-day politics, the ideologies and icons that paved the way for this rise and continue to provide intellectual fodder for this politics, the liberal economic policies which have been taken to their logical conclusion by the present government, etc. And these books have provided us with important insights to make sense of the present-day political situation of the country.
They represented two foundational but antagonistic visions of “what we as a society, what we as a state should embody”
( Review of ‘Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and The Risk of Democracy’ By Aishwary Kumar Navayana, Rs 599)
In the early 1990s D.R. Nagaraj published The Flaming Feet, a compilation of his essays in which he admired both Gandhi and Ambedkar. Coming close on the heels of the phenomenon of Dalit assertion, it argued that “there is a compelling necessity to achieve a synthesis of the two”. But that has not been the only attempt to examine how the ideas of these two leaders interacted, challenged each other, and how they extended or revisited the meanings of different concepts.
The book, Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy by Aishwary Kumar, takes forward the conversation around the two “most formidable non-Western thinkers of the twentieth century, whose visions of moral and political life have left the deepest imprints”. For the author they “exemplified two incommensurable ways of forging a relationship between sovereignty and justice, force and disobedience”, or represented two foundational but antagonistic visions of “what we as a society, what we as a state should embody”.
Focusing mainly on Hind Swaraj — a monograph written by Gandhi on a ship to South Africa from London (1909) — and Annihilation of Caste, which happens to be the undelivered speech by Dr Ambedkar when he was invited by the Jat Pat Todak Mandal, Lahore (1936) — the organization rescinded the invite when it came across the ‘radical’ proposals he had put forward in the draft — this around 400-page book discerns “an insurrectionary element at the limit of politics” in the works of these two stalwarts. It is “an insurrection that sought to extract the political itself — and the social question — from the doctrinal prescriptions and certitude of its European past”
From Nehru to Patel and Ambedkar, the saffron party has appropriated freedom-fighters or tarnished legacies. Gandhi, however, poses a different problem.
Death ends all enmity’ (Marnanti Vairani) goes a maxim in Hinduism.
The story also goes that when Ravana was on death bed, Ram had even asked Laxman to go to him and learn something which no other person except a great scholar like him could teach him, declaring that though he has been forced to punish him for his terrible crime, ‘you are no more my enemy’.
It is a different matter that Hindutva supremacists — who are keen ‘to transform Hinduism from a variety of religious practices into a consolidated ethnic identity’ — are believers in the exact opposite.
For them, once the enemy is dead, the enmity flares up without any limits. They have no qualms that their adversary is no more to defend himself/ herself.
It has been more than five and half years that they are in power at the Centre and we have been witness to complete vilification, demonisation and obfuscation of many of their adversaries, all great leaders of the anti-colonial struggle. Of course, few were found to be ‘lucky’ enough that were promptly co-opted/appropriated by them, of course, in a sanitised form.
The ethic that dehumanises dalits continues 72 years after the country’s Independence.
What, to the American slave, is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless… There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States, at this very hour.
These fiery lines from a speech delivered on July 4, 1852 in New York by Frederick Douglass, a former slave who had become a national leader of the abolitionists, rattled a predominantly White audience. The speech was delivered 10 years before slavery in the Southern states was abolished.
More than 80 years later, on August 14, 1931, Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, a Columbia University and London School of Economics graduate, who was then leading a movement of the oppressed and exploited in India, met Mahatma Gandhi for the first time. “Gandhiji, I have no homeland,” Ambedkar told Gandhi, according to a transcript of that meeting. “No untouchable worth the name will be proud of this land.” As expected, the Varna (caste) mindset that dominated India then did not take kindly to Ambedkar’s charge.
Dear Prime Minister, nothing about Jammu & Kashmir is as your party sees it
Economist and activist Jean Dreze, who has co-authored books with Nobel laureates, such as Amartya Sen and Angus Deaton, was in the headlines for a placard he carried to a protest rally in Delhi earlier this week. His placard challenged the government’s most critical justification for its controversial move to scrap Article 35A and read down Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The placard displayed statistics that compare J&K with Gujarat, which is Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah’s home state. Dreze clearly showed how Gujarat lags behind J&K on a raft of development indices.
Although Dreze’s data beautifully punctures the government’s claim that J&K’s special status was a hindrance to its progress, Modi in his address to the nation on Wednesday night repeated the same argument, based on dubious claims. For instance, his claim that J&K lags behind other Indian states in matters of health services, education and so on, is patently incorrect.
Figures recorded in the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) has extended the debate further and shown that J&K already excels many other Indian states on several human development counts. Once again, this underlines that all talk about how “development” will reach J&K after Article 370 is made redundant is sheer humbug.
The propagation of false information brings home the fact that the government has gone very far to generate legitimacy for its decisions in J&K. In his address to the nation, Modi also said that his government had “fulfilled the dreams of [BR] Ambedkar as well as [the then Home Minister Vallabhbahi] Patel”.
Is tweaking of Babasaheb’s iconic slogan — Educate, Organise, Agitate — by the Gujarat government part of a pan-India phenomenon in the saffron camp?
Does anyone still remember the ‘re-editing’ of Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi during National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-I period when demands were raised that it should to be scrapped and the original collected works should to be reinstated so that readers/scholars are made available the ‘most authentic version of writings and utterances of Gandhi’. Noted Gandhians had underlined then how the revised Collected Works and adjoining CDs (compact discs) issued during 2001 had ‘five hundred entries missing’ from the original one.
Thanks to the exit of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government in 2004, the original Collected Works could be restored and even published online so that henceforth no government — deliberately or inadvertently — is able to make any changes in the works.
Well, while the project to ‘re-edit’ Gandhi was undertaken in a big way, which could be exposed in time, what one observes that surreptitiously or not so surreptitiously, the project to edit other icons of the anti-colonial or social emancipation movement is on in very many ways. It has been quite a long time since both Gandhi as well as Ambedkar — who were once anathema to the Hindutva project — have been included as ‘Pratahsmaraniya‘ (worth remembering in the morning) in the RSS shakhas. The emphasis seems to be on to present a more sanitised image of them which is more acceptable to the ruling dispensation.
Hindutva’s Second Coming by Subhash Gatade; published by Media House, Delhi; 2019; pages: 272; Rs 395 (US $ 18).
The return of Modi to power with a huge margin in this 2019 election is a clear verdict for the Hindutva plank. Why and how it happened leave us, the secular billions, to ponder about the reality and its aftermath. And at that juncture Subhas Gatade’s 272-page analysis titled ‘Hindutva’s Second Coming’ gives us something concrete to think over once again. This in-depth study with rich academic perception is a commendable work, bereft of jargons and convoluted expressions, often found in books written from a high pedestal which goes beyond the mental reach of lay readers. Precisely for this reason the author needs to be specially acclaimed for bringing out facts at one place based on notes and references which are so far scattered in divergent historical materials. It serves as a Reader for millions who are combating communalism and distortion of history at the grassroot level.
Caste discrimination, even while faced with a calamity, is a clear outcome of the brahminical ideology of purity and pollution that has permeated deep into Indian society.
Image Courtesy: Al Jazeera
“[U]ntouchability, is a kind of disease of the Hindus…it is a mental twist…. I do not know how my friend is going to untwist the twist which the Hindus have got for thousands of years unless they are all sent to some kind of hospital.’ Dr B.R.Ambedkar , 1954
Cyclone Fani is over.
Despite being one of the strongest cyclones to hit India in last two decades the manner in which the state most affected by it — Odisha — was successful in keeping loss of life and numbers of affected people to a minimum has earned it kudos even from its critics.
People are slowly trying to pick up threads to restart their lives
It is rather difficult to say whether it will be easy for dalit villagers of Baripada village — part of Patali panchayat — to do so, who had to endure callous and inhuman behaviour from their own village brethren, during the stormy winds. Around 85 of them from 25 families were denied entry to three shelters located within a radius of approximately four km by ‘upper caste’ people. Nandini (name changed) belonging to the Dom caste narrated how they had to ultimately take shelter beside an uprooted banyan tree, while it was raining heavily.
It was B. R. Ambedkar who first publicised the 22 Mahar names inscribed on the pillar commemorating the battle of Bhima-Koregaon. Ambedkar, a Mahar himself, had experienced great indignities, and everyone appreciates his quest for a symbol of dalit achievement. Much has been written since on Bhima-Koregaon, but one question has not been asked: is there really such a paucity of symbols of dalit achievement?
Not actually. There is no dearth of dalit and ‘lower caste’ achievers. Sages from such backgrounds range from Valmiki, author of the Ramayana, to Tukaram, Kabir, and Sri Narayana Guru. Dalit warriors and kings range from the Nanda dynasty, mere reports of whose mighty army so frightened Alexander’s troops (according to Plutarch), to the Chalukyas (who were dalits according to Bilhan), the Bhils, the Gonds, and to Udham Singh who avenged Jallianwallah Bagh.
New Socialist Initiative Condemns Hindutva Engineered and Inspired Atrocities on Dalits
Hardly a day passes without headline news of some or another atrocity on Dalits. On 24 May, a Dalit man in the Ahmedabad district was beaten and his house attacked by a gang of socalled ‘upper’ caste men after he had attached Sinh to his name on his facebook post. On 21 May a dalit ragpicker was beaten to death in a Rajkot factory. Atrocities on Dalits are occurring in the midst of a public ideological environment against them. On 26 May news came of a private school in Delhi asking 8th class students to write a note on how reservations help undeserving and unqualified people for their summer vacation homework. According to National Crime Record Bureau reports for recent years, between 10 to 15 thousand cases of crimes are reported under the Prevention of Atrocities act every year; an average of 35 crimes per day. Many times more crimes actually go unreported. In 2016 Indian courts had over 45 thousand cases under this act. Out of the 4048 cases decided, conviction occurred in 659 cases only. That is, five out of six cases of atrocity against Dalits did not result in any punishment. The number of attacks against one of the weakest and the poorest sections of the society, and the abysmal rate of conviction would put any civilized society to shame, but India chugs along. Continue reading Statement on Atrocities on Dalits : New Socialist Initiative→
(To be published in the special issue of ‘Janata’)
The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled me with horror and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seemed to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition, exploitation and the preservation of vested interests.
– Toward Freedom: The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru (1936), pp. 240–241.
If 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.
– Ambedkar, ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’, p. 358.
India’s slow ushering into a majoritarian democracy is a matter of concern for every such individual who still believes in pluralism, democracy, equality and a clear separation of religion and politics. The way people are being hounded for raising dissenting opinions, for eating food of their choice or entering into relationships of their own liking or celebrating festivals according to their own faith is unprecedented. The situation has reached such extremes that one can even be publicly lynched for belonging to one of the minority religions or for engaging in an activity which is considered to be ‘suspicious’ by the majority community.
No doubt there is no direct harm to the basic structure of the Constitution, its formal structure remains intact, de jure India does remain a democracy as well as a republic, but de facto democracy has slowly metamorphosed into majoritarianism and the sine qua non of a republic—that its citizens are supreme—is being watered down fast. It does not need underlining that this process has received tremendous boost with the ascent of Hindutva supremacist forces at the centrestage of Indian politics. Continue reading Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism→
Bhima Bhoi, saint, poet and social reformer, who lived in later part of the 19 th century and who wielded his pen against the prevailing social injustice, religious bigotry and caste discrimination, would not have imagined in his wildest dreams that in the second decade of the 21 st century there would arrive such new claimants to his legacy who stood against everything for which he stood for. A populariser of Mahima movement or Mahima Dharma which ‘draws elements from Islam, Buddhism, Jainism, Vaishnavism and Tantra Yoga,’ the movement Bhima led was a ‘deeply felt protest against caste system and feudal practices of western and central Orissa.’ and goal of his mission was “Jagata Uddhara” ( liberation of entire world). ((http://roundtableindia.co.in/lit-blogs/?tag=bhima-bhoi)) Continue reading Talk Bhima or Bhim, Walk Manu→
..Everybody would agree that it is a challenging task to encapsulate a great wo/man’s vision in a few words- who as a public figure has impacted not only her/his generation but future generations, initiated or channelised debates in the society, led struggles, mobilised people, wrote thousands of pages and left a legacy for all of us to carry forward. …
To save time one can focus more on the last decade of his life – the most tumultuous period in his as well as the newly independent nation’s life – to know the important concerns which bothered his mind and how he envisioned the future trajectory of the movement he led and how he tried to chart a roadmap for the nascent nation with due support/cooperation and at times resistance from leading stalwarts of his time…Continue reading For A New Rendezvous With Dr Ambedkar – Focus on Last Decade of his Life→
This October, a colleague and I tracked a group of young Dalits fighting caste atrocities in Uttar Pradesh. The documentary posted above is one part of an extended multimedia project. See the entire project here: https://www.thequint.com/quintlab/ambedkar-dalit-army-fights-caste-atrocities-in-uttar-pradesh/
The 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar was celebrated in April 2016 all around, so much so that the United Nations, for the first time, observed this day with a focus on achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As we know, the 17 goals along with 169 targets and 304 indicators, adopted in September 2015, aspire to transform our world by balancing the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. The ‘plan of action for people, planet and prosperity’ has environment at its core, along with poverty and inequality: to ‘protect planet’, create ‘healthy environment’, and ensure equality, dignity and development ‘in harmony with nature’. And Ambedkar is found in this regard to be an apt and inspiring leader.
The world can see traces of Ambedkar’s vision in the SDGs and can find his views relevant for environmental sustainability, but not the Indian environmentalists! Indian environmental movements marginalize Ambedkar. From a historical past, environmental scholars have placed Gandhi at the apex of their inspiration. Recently, Nehru and Indira Gandhi too have been constructed through an ecological lens. However, Ambedkar’s engagement with the environmental question has been relatively unexplored, even when his thoughts and interventions on nature, village, land, agriculture, water, community, industry, technology and science are some of the enduring issues of India’s environmental and political traditions. In comparison with Gandhi, credited with having an intuitive critique of modern civilization, Ambedkar has often been criticized for his modernization vision, which it is argued, drew heavily on the west for inspiration (Nagaraj 2010: 56-7)
In the second instance of what I hope will become a regular feature on Kafila, I caught up with fellow journalist and Kafila contributor Prashant Jha on the We Are Sorry Campaign for Social Reform in Madhes , where upper-caste Nepali Hindus acknowledge they have benefited from the centuries long oppression of pretty much everyone else.
In our conversation Prashant addresses the substantive and well-founded criticism of the pledge [another example of upper-castes setting the terms of debate and discourse, largely symbolic] as well as broader questions of Nepali politics and nation-hood.
He will respond to comments on this site. Let me know if there are any particular themes you would like us to explore in our new audio work. All audio files in this series are freely downloadable, and shareable – so you can download them to your phone and listen on your commute to where ever.
Transcript and translation of lecture by Prof. K.SATYANARAYANA, speaking at the launch of book, Ambedkar Can Neither Be Adopted Nor Appropriated by The Hindutva Elements. The book, authored by Bojja Tharakkam, K. Satyanarayana, K. Laxminarayana and K. Y. Ratnam. It was launched in Hyderabad in July last year and is a reply to RSS’ Organiser special edition on Ambedkar. The text and video of the original Telugu lecture received by us via DALIT CAMERA.
All the friends who gave me this opportunity, to the many Ambedkarites present in this hall and to the very senior members, activists and intellectuals, I thank you all. After Anand Teltumbde has spoken, there isn’t much left to speak because he covered all the information in this book and also described completely about a lot of aspects about Maharashtra, about Ambedkar’s like and his work. Therefore there might not be much new information in my speech, but while writing this book, the distortions they made, or the attempts of RSS in relation to Ambedkar, as there is a need for historical context, I will speak about some of those issues. Firstly what Respected Mr. Tarakam has said is, to read some of the names of essays in the Organiser as the book is not available to everybody. When this book Organiser came out, generally RSS-BJP, when they talk about Ambedkar or about Babri-masjid, what we think is that they speak lies, false words, and mistruths and therefore there isn’t any danger as nobody will believe in their load of rubbish and lies. We think that way and if people understand the lies and if they don’t follow those words, there is no danger, but with this same type of propaganda, they completely changed the normal common-sense of the people and today Modi, as a K.D (drawn from an old colonial police/ legal category, it has become a Telugu expression that suggests a person with undesirable traits), as our brother has sung, is sitting in power.
In Conversation with Bezwada Wilson, National Convener of Safai Karmachari Andolan
The 125 day Bhim Yatra which started from Dibrugarh and traveresed 30 states and 500 districts to reach Delhi is now over. As everybody knows it culminated in a big rally coupled with people’s hearing where families of those victims who died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks shared their plight at the hands of state as well as civil society. The call of this Bhim Yatra raised by Safai Karmacharis – ‘Stop Killing Us’ – would could keep reverberating for quite some time. (https://kafila.org/2016/04/14/bhim-yatra-so-that-there-are-no-more-killings/)
Here follows an interview with Bezwada Wilson, National Convener of Safai Karmachari Andolan
How do you see the impact of ‘Bhim Yatra’ ?
As far as those people who are still condemned to do scavenging is concerned, the 125 day Bhim Yatra has made two significant impacts :
– It has made people aware that a new act (2013 act) has come into existence for elimination of manual scavenging and they should make use of it for their liberation.
Protestors set fire to containers representing septic tanks cleaning which manual scavengers have and continue to lose their lives even today ( Photo Courtesy : http://www.youthkiawaaz.com)
Rarely does Jantar-Mantar, the place in the heart of Delhi, gets ‘enlivened’ with people who share very similar type of tragedy – one should say man made tragedy.The culmination of 125 day Bhim Yatra – led by Safai Karmchari Aandolan – which had started from Dibrugarh in the North East on 10 th December and had traversed around 500 districts and 30 states, proved to be one such occasion. (13 th April 2016)
The big public meeting organised at Jantar Mantar, attended by hundreds of safai karmcharis from different parts of the country and many individuals, activists who are sympathetic to their cause, was just another way to celebrate Dr Ambedkar’s 125 th birth anniversary, a day earlier. Special focus of the Yatra was on deaths in sewers and septic tanks and the key slogan was ‘Stop Killing us in Dry Latrines, Sewers and Septic tanks’. In fact, most of the people who were sitting on the podium belonged to such families only, who had lost their near-dear ones in cleaning sewer or septic tanks. Continue reading Bhim Yatra .. so that there are no more killings→
Both the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) events were “ultra-Left movements” also involving a small section of “jihadis”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley contended on Sunday.
In the case of JNU, the predominant section of those involved in the agitation was “ultra-Left” barring a small section of “jihadis”, who had their faces masked during a demonstration on the campus on February 9 in which anti-national slogans were raised, Mr. Jaitley said.
Ambedkar has become an insurgent figure today, breaking out of all the pre-set molds in which he was sought to be confined all these decades. He is no longer neither a mere Dalit leader, nor is he simply the Constitution-maker and constitutionalist who taught us to have faith in the law – the two comfortable and domesticated roles in which he has been presented to us so far by all interested parties and the powers-that-be. In the face of the new Sanghist/ fascist assault, he has broken his chains to come out on the streets, as universities and colleges across the country begin to reverberate with his spirit of rebellion. Ambedkar, the name and the face, is ubiquitous by his presence in all the struggles that mark this moment. Even as the struggle of the HCU students for justice for Rohith Vemula continues and the news of the first victory – their release on bail – trickles in, the figure of Ambedkar at the barricades gives the lie to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s claim above: that HCU and JNU movements were ‘ultra-Left movements’ and ‘jihadis’, and that “the name of Dr Ambedkar was ‘unfairly used’ in the case of HCU. How easy it would be, Mr Jaitley, to thus pronounce the dog mad and go about your business, and how embarrassing to have to confront Ambedkar facing your police and lathis, your courts and prisons. Continue reading Insurgent Ambedkar and a New Moment in Politics→
Violent thoughts and deeds are increasingly getting justified in the name of Indian nation. A mob of lawyers has attacked students, teachers and journalists, right in the middle of a court complex in the national capital. Leaders of these patriotic lawyers were later caught bragging on camera about how they will next time throw bombs on anti-nationals. A young woman in Delhi has received emails and face book posts threatening her with acid attack and sexual assault, because she happens to be a sister of Umar Khalid, one of the organisers of the JNU programme, during which according to police anti-India slogans were raised. The mere being of this woman, and her defence of her brother, is enough of a provocation for many men and women of the country to justify the threat of ultimate male violence against women. Another man, Mr Adarsh Sharma put posters in the central district of the capital announcing an award of Rs 11 lakh for anyone who kills Mr Kanhaiya Kumar, the president of the JNUSU, charged with sedition. Mr Sharma claims that his ‘blood boiled’ when he saw Mr Kumar’s much publicised speech after his release on bail. The popular movie Pyasa (1957) of Gurudutt had a song ‘Jinhen Naz hai Hind par vo kahaan hain’, which used the reality of social degradation to question celebrations of the nation. Sahir’s poem worked because it asked Indians to look at themselves in the mirror of public morality of the recently independent India. That mirror has been cracked for long. With the brazenly violent now claiming that their violence and threat to violence should really be the pride of the nation, we are now witnessing the final shattering of that mirror. Continue reading Nation and its Violences: Sanjay Kumar→