By Ram Puniyani, 04 December, 2006, Countercurrents.org
(Book Reviewed: Ambedkar, Ayodhya aur Dalit Andolan by Vidya Bhushan Rawat (Hindi), Danish Books, Delhi, p. 147, Rs 100)
The mobilization of dalits and Adivasis in large numbers by 'RSS combine' to act as its foot soldiers made many a social activists feel disturbed about the ongoing political dynamics. How come a politics which aims precisely to suppress these sections of society 'succeed' and succeed so well in getting them do the mayhem and killing? The question has been addressed by many a social activists, concerned scholars but of course more needs to be said about the same in the complex political scenario where caste dynamics is very central to the political processes going on. It is this context that the torture of a dalit family by upper castes, relatively, is important. While going through the book one is regularly reminded about the intense commitment of the author to the social issues and his grasp on the ground reality. The latter fact becomes obvious as many of these articles relate to his experience as a political worker devoted to dalit issues in particular.
The book is a collection of Rawat's articles written at various points of time. He points out that the Hindutva of RSS combine and Ram temple movement are essentially not religious phenomenon but are the one's guided by the political agenda aiming at crushing the self respect of dalits, social and political rights of dalits. One very simple but pertinent observation of his draws our attention to the name of awards and what type of values they represent. The example he has chosen is that of Dronacharya, the guru who asks Eklavya to sacrifice his thumb as the Guru Dakshina (the offering to the guru for the education given). This is essentially a pointer to the caste rules of the Brahminical values dominated society, where a dalit cannot be given education. Can we call ourselves as democratic and just if our awards are named after such Gurus?
RSS combine has been doing its best to widen the divide between the dalits and Muslims, two very deprived sections of our society. Its wily character is visible all through, to select 6 th December the anniversary day of Dr. Ambedkar for demolishing the mosque, and getting a dalit boy to do the shila pujan for Ram temple! While Ambedkar's ideas about Brahiminic Hinduism are very clear, he regards it as a curse for dalits, and says that though he was born a Hindu he will not die a Hindu, at the same time the propagators of Hindu Rashtra are projecting as if Ambedkar and RSS were having similar set of ideas! The hold of theory of Karma is keeping the dalit community in the throes of backwardness, all the social reformers for dalits had resorted to 'reason' as against faith propound by the politics in the name of religion. The author moans that while Dr. Ambedkar's Buddhism was based on reason today the ritualistic aspect of Buddhism is given more importance. The only path of liberation for the oppressed is to come out from the grip of the religious dogmas, the grip of proliferating Babas, Acharyas and to resort to the struggle of the rights of the oppressed.
Rawat questions the necessity of politics, which wants to resort more and more to caste identity. While we want to struggle against the very caste system how we can ourselves operate on the basis of caste. Even within dailts there are gradations, caste as graded inequality, the prevalent notion thus is not just about opposing the RSS combine's Hindutva but also those tendencies amongst dalits, which legitimize caste identity. The opposition to those opportunist leaders, who trade the dalit votes for the narrow selfish goals, also comes out loud and clear. While he upholds the contribution of Kanshiram, the mentor of Mayawati, he is critical of the current BSP policies of allying with upper castes, and thinks such opportunism cannot pay dividends in the long run. It should be pointed out that Dr. Ambedkar preferred to resign from the union cabinet rather than opportunistically continuing in the cabinet when his ideas were being ignored.
The author has got the essence of Ambedkar thought. He wants the dalits and those standing for dalit rights to concentrate more on the thoughts of Ambedkar rather than his statues. One will question his characterization of the Congress during freedom movement. As per him, and correctly so, Muslim League represented the interests of Muslim Nawabs. His formulation that the Congress was just the representative of Hindu landlords is off the mark. Congress was a broad platform, which had the right winger representative of landlords, the centrists like Gandhi and the radicals like Nehru who were for land reforms and progressive social policies. The representation of Hindu landlords was mainly with Hindu Mahasabha and very marginally with Congress, and later RSS articulated the interests of this group at ideological level. We need to see the social phenomenon just in black or white colors, there are shades of grey
Surely his comparison of Fascism with the politics based on the laws of Manu is very apt. It is for that reason that the Hindutva forces have been talking highly of Manu's laws, and wanted Indian constitution based on this book, Manusmriti, which was burnt by Dr. Ambedkar. Rawat brings to our notice the thoughts of M.N.Rpy, the outstanding radical humanist, who contributed many original ideas on the politics in Indian context. And Roy's analysis of Fascism matches with Hindutva agenda as it unfolded during the BJP led NDA regime and the ongoing politics in the states' ruled by BJP. The last article of the book on 'Dalit movement on the crossroads', is the most thought provoking one. The trajectory and pitfalls of dalit movement are well highlighted and surely these thoughts can be the building blocks for the future of the dalit movement, if it has to succeed in getting justice for the large sections of Indian society.
While some of the formulations are brusque and need refinement, overall one will tend to appreciate the views of this young and dynamic writer-activist. His rooting in the thoughts of Ambedkar and M.N.Roy is a valuable combination and gives a correct picture of Indian society. One only hopes , that he author converts some of his articles in to theme essays, which can be more comprehensive in doing justice to the topics under discussion.