Image Courtesy: Ganesh Dhamodkar Wikimedia Commons
'Bunch of Thoughts' by 'Guru' M.S. Golwalkar needs to be re-visited to understand where the Sangh and Its Votaries Stand on Caste, and Dalits
If one historically traces the ideology guiding the BJP and the Sangh, one can notice the deep impact of Brahmanical hegemony on them.
Soon after the PM’s condemnation of the Una incident in his post “Mann Ki Baat” address, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) also criticised the attack on Dalits. The timing of the two statements, expose the hollowness of the condemnations expressed. The attack on Dalit youth in Una (Gujarat) took place on July 11 and the Prime Minister spoke against it only on August 6.
Both the statements were made almost a month after the Una incident. The “seriousness” of the RSS is also evident from the fact that, along with condemnation, it added that the “Prime Minister should have not called 80 percent Gau Rakshaks fake”. It must also be noted that while the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), an offshoot of the RSS, chose to remain officially silent, functionaries of both the VHP and Bajrang Dal (BD), another sister outfit, tweeted “Garv se kaho hum gorakshaks hai” (We are proud to be Cow Protectors), a play on their trademark slogan “Garv se kaho hum Hindu hai” (We are proud to be Hindus). The latter slogan was a call to arms, virtually in the 1990s as the campaign for the demolition of the Babri masjid built up.
Timing apart, the question that needs to be asked is, are the Sangh and BJP actually concerned about the atrocities on Dalits? Are they serious about the question of caste? One needs to look back a bit to find the answers.
If one historically traces the ideology guiding the BJP and the Sangh, one can notice the deep impact of Brahmanical hegemony on them. One must ask why the leadership of the Sangh has always been in the hands of the upper castes. Five of its six sarsanghchalaks (chiefs/supremos), including the present incumbent Mohan Bhagwat, are Brahmins. The only exception was Rajendra Singh, but he too was an upper-caste (Thakur). The Sangh has always believed in the idea of Varna system i.e. the four fold division of the society.
Golwalkar, their second head, had staunchly defended it and had called the tasks performed by these Varnas as “selfless service”. Terming caste discrimination as phenomenon attributed to the British rule, he wrote:
“The feeling of inequality, of high and low, which has crept into the Varna system, is comparatively of recent origin. The perversion was given a further fillip by the scheming Britisher in line with his 'divide and rule' policy. But in its original form, the distinctions in that social order did not imply any discrimination such as big and small, high and low, among its constituents. On the other hand, the Gita tells us that the individual who does his assigned duties in life in a spirit of selfless service only worships God through such performance.” (Bunch of Thoughts; Once the Glory, PP 98)
Despite speaking against caste atrocities, RSS has published thousands of copies of this book and follows it line by line.The doublespeak of Sangh is evident from the fact that on one hand, they treat Manusmriti as their holy book and on the other, talk about discontinuation of caste atrocities. RSS’s love for Manusmriti is evident from the fact that, when the constitution of India was being finalised, the RSS complained:
“To this day his laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing" (Organiser quoted in Empire and Neoliberalism in Asia, pp 252).
The Manusmriti is important in this context because it is the book which lays down the foundation of the oppressive caste system. This ancient text goes on to define the duties assigned to each caste:
“To Brahmanas he assigned teaching and studying (the Veda), sacrificing for their own benefit and for others, giving and accepting (of alms). The Kshatriya he commanded to protect the people, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), and to abstain from attaching himself to sensual pleasures; The Vaisya to tend cattle, to bestow gifts, to offer sacrifices, to study (the Veda), to trade, to lend money, and to cultivate land. One occupation only the lord prescribed to the Sudra, to serve meekly even these (other) three castes”. (The Laws of Manu, Translated by G.Buhler, PP 3)
The “Guru Ji” of RSS (Golwalkar) had fondly quoted Manu as ‘ Bhagwan’ and the ‘ greatest law giver’ in many of his texts. He not only called Manu the supreme law giver but has also referred to him at various places to cite the supremacy of Brahmins.
“It is this fact which made the first and greatest law giver of the world – Manu, to lay down in his code, directing all the peoples of the world to come to learn their duties at the holy feet of the "Eldestborn" Brahmans of this land.” (We, Our Nationhood Defined, PP 117)
It is the Manusmriti that designates corporal punishments for the lower castes. The Cow vigilante groups supported by the VHP seek to implement these very Brahmanical laws. The incidents at Una, Latehar, Dadri and most recently in Andhra Pradesh are all are examples of this.
The Manusmriti quotes:
“For (stealing) cows belonging to Brahmanas, piercing (the nostrils of) a barren cow, and for stealing (other) cattle (belonging to Brahmanas, the offender) shall forthwith lose half his feet.” (The Laws of Manu, Translated by G.Buhler, PP 53)
The Sangh Parivar has always cited the role of a “foreign hand” in the incidents of caste oppression. Various cases of atrocities on Dalits post-independence have been sighted as ‘misdeeds’ of the media. Golwalkar in a section titled as “Playing the Old Game” writes:
“To our bitter experience, we know how the British used to set up one caste or sect against the other, as for example the ‘non-Brahmin’ against the ‘Brahmin’, and play the game of ‘divide and rule’, and how our own people – even the so-called leaders – fell a willing prey to it. We should take a lesson from that, and beware of similar designs even now of foreign powers and their agents inside our borders.” (Bunch of Thoughts)
Even if we leave apart all these specific incidents, the Sangh has always maintained its faith in the principle of violence. It goes back to Manusmriti to quote how violence is the only tool to establish the ‘supremacy’ of the ‘rashtra’. They have continuously implemented the same understanding within the country itself. Every time there has been a discussion around Islamic terrorism, the Right-wing in the country has found violence as the only counter to it. Many Sangh workers like Colonel Purohit, Aseemanand and Sadhvi Pragya have been accused of carrying out terror activities. The Sangh has vehemently denied proximity with these individuals. But the ideals of violence remain deeply rooted within the Sangh Parivar. Golwalkar's ‘Bunch of Thought’ has discussed ways to use violence in order to “establish peace”. It quotes:
“We had in the past set up standards of valour and heroism and produced some of the greatest generals and conquerors the world has ever known, who fought and killed and carried on fierce battles relentlessly to establish peace wherein dharma reigned, supreme.”
The disagreement of RSS with the Indian constitution is in the public domain. The anti-Dalit agenda of the RSS can be traced in its demand for the review of the reservation system. Both the RSS and the BJP opposed the Mandal Commission's recommendations that gave representation to the Other Backward Castes (OBCs).
So the question is why has RSS/BJP suddenly developed love for Dalits? The only answer is the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh. If BJP loses UP, it will not be able to have majority figures in the Rajya Sabha or the upper house. The loss will also deflate, considerably, much of the hot air from Modi's ‘Achhe Din’ (Happy Times are here), claim.
Uttar Pradesh has 20.5 percent of Scheduled Castes (SC) population, which has traditionally voted for the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). During the 2014 Lok Sabha Polls, however, of the 66 reserved Dalit Lok Sabha constituencies, the BJP won in 40 seats. Not only this – it won all 17 reserved constituencies in Uttar Pradesh.
Since the Modi regime's stint in Delhi however, there have been a spate of incidents and the government's response, that have dented this hold. The suicide of Rohith Vemula (Hyderabad Central University, January 17, 2016), the Una atrocity (July 11, 2016), the personal attack on BSP leader, Mayawati and demands for the review of reservations by the RSS, have made the ruling party in India, vulnerable in UP. Both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the RSS are now desperately trying to contain the surging Dalit ire. But one must not forget that at the core of their ideology, lies a deep-seated anti-Dalit agenda.
(The original article has been slightly edited mainly to add and explain abbreviated terms-Editors)