Who’s Rashtra Is it Anyway?

Courtesy: Hindustan Times
THE FLAG-BEARERS of Hindutva, in their task of manufacturing history, have now picked on B.R. Ambedkar as the subject. The RSS has presented him as a leader in league with Hedgewar and Golwalkar and as a defender for the cause of the Hindu Rashtra. Vinay Katiyar, the BJP head in Uttar Pradesh—a state ruled by a Dalit chief minister—has been touring the state declaring that Ambedkar was supporter of Hindutva and the Hindu Rashtra, thus echoing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s rhetoric. This is nothing but an injustice done to a man who had renounced Hinduism because of its repressive elements and converted to Buddhism.
Throughout his life, Ambedkar opposed the communal politics of both the Muslim League and  Hindutva forces. His book, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1940), stands testimony to his opposition to the nefarious designs of communal elements. In fact, his ideas and warnings about Hindutva, as contained in the book, can even now work as bulwark in checking the resurgence of communal forces.
Ambedkar writes, “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hindusism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account, it is incompatible with democracy Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.” According to him, the idea of “Hindustan for Hindus…is not merely arrogant but is arrant nonsense”. (p. 358)
Ambedkar was of the firm opinion that Hindutva was nothing but a ploy by upper caste Hindus to maintain control over society and its resources. He wrote: “They have a trait of character which often leads the Hindus to disaster. This trait is formed by their acquisitive instinct and aversion to share with others the good things of life. They have a monopoly of education and wealth, and with wealth and education they have captured the State. To keep this monopoly to themselves has been the ambition and goal of their life. Charged with this selfish idea of class domination, they take every move to exclude the lower classes of Hindus from wealth, education and power…This attitude of keeping education, wealth and power as a close preserve for themselves and refusing to share it, which the high caste Hindus have developed in their relation with the lower classes of Hindus, is sought to be extended by them to the Muslims. They want to exclude the Muslims from place and power, as they have done to the lower class Hindus. This trait of the high caste Hindus is the key to the understanding of their politics.” (p.123)
Ambedkar, in his struggle to establish a secular State, did not differentiate between flag-bearers of Hindutva (the RSS and the Hindu Mahasabha) and the Islamic State (i.e. the Muslim League). He treated them as two sides of the same coin, which were bent on destroying India. He wrote: “Strange as it may appear, Mr Savarkar and Mr Jinnah, instead of being opposed to each other on the one nation versus two nations issue, are in complete agreement about it. Both not only agree but insist that there are two nations in India—one the Muslim nation and the other the Hindu nation.” (p. 142)
They want to exclude the Muslims from place and power, as they have done to the lower class Hindus. This trait of the high caste Hindus is the key to the understanding of their politics. (p.123:.B.R. Ambedkar on Hindutvawaadis)

Ambedkar did not mince words when he wrote, “It must be said that Mr Savarkar’s attitude is illogical, if not queer. Mr Savarkar admits that the Muslims are a separate nation. He concedes that they have a right to cultural autonomy. He allows them to have a national flag. Yet he opposes the demand of the Muslim nation for a separate national home. If he claims a national home for the Hindu nation, how can he refuse the claim of the Muslim nation for a national home?” (p. 143)
Ambedkar, as a true secularist, stood for “forming mixed political parties based on an agreed programme of social and economic regeneration, and thereby avoiding the danger of both Hindu Raj or Muslim Raj becoming a fact. Nor should the formation of a mixed party of Hindus and Muslims be difficult in India. There are many lower orders in the Hindu society whose economic, political and social needs are the same as those of the majority of the Muslims and they would be far more ready to make a common cause with the Muslims for achieving common ends than they would with the high caste of Hindus who have denied and deprived them of ordinary human rights for centuries.” (p. 359)
Why is it that despite such strong anti Hindutva ideas, the RSS is spreading white lies about Ambedkar’s legacy? The problem with the RSS is that it played absolutely no role in the country’s freedom struggle. Moreover, with its present political ascendancy, it is under great pressure to show that it was part of that great struggle. It hopes that by appropriating the legacies of Gandhiji, Sardar Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose and Ambedkar, it may be able to put a nationalist face to the organisation.
(A version of this article appeared in the Hindustan Times, April 15, 2003)



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