Hindutva and Dalit liberation: simply incompatible

Hindutva and Dalit liberation: simply incompatible

Hindutva and Dalit liberation: simply incompatible
Anand Teltumbde

A spate of agitations by the Dalits have a distinct anti-BJP tinge. Whether it was the nationwide students’ protests over Rohith Vemula’s suicide, the protests in Gujarat over a shameful incident where four Dalit youth were flogged in public, the July 19 protest in Mumbai over the demolition of the iconic Ambedkar Bhavan or the outrage over a minor’s rape and murder in Rajasthan, the Dalit anger against the BJP was palpable.

Vemula’s case is too well known to be discussed here. What, however, is important to note is that despite the agitations, the haughty establishment refused to arrest Apparao Podile, the vice-chancellor of Hyderabad Central University, or Union minister Bandaru Dattatreya, who had demanded action against Vemula. 

In Gujarat, Hindutva vigilantes styled as “Gau Raksha Samiti” beat up a Dalit family in Mota Samadhiyala village, accusing them of killing a cow. They picked up four youths, stripped them, chained them to a car and dragged them to Una town, where they were beaten right near a police station for several hours in full public view. The assaulters, confident that they would never be prosecuted, filmed their sinister act. But the move backfired as the video went viral, and angry Dalits took to the streets.
On June 25 in Mumbai, a huge mob of bouncers equipped with two backhoes, demolished the iconic Ambedkar Bhavan and a press belonging to Babasaheb Ambedkar, apparently at the instance of a retired Dalit bureaucrat, but as perceived by the Dalits for the ruling BJP in the state.

 It was a serious criminal act but despite the FIR, the police refused to arrest the culprits. In protest against this inaction, the Dalits took out a massive demonstration against the BJP-led Maharashtra government.

On March 29, the body of a Dalit girl was recovered from a tank near her school in Barmer district of Rajasthan. Though the evidence indicated rape and murder, the BJP government suppressed it. Dalits in the state came out onto the streets.

These and numerous other incidents clearly show that the Dalits are angry with the Hindutva agenda of the BJP. Though the BJP has gone whole hog in co-opting Dalits, realising they held the key to accomplishing their “Hindu Rashtra”, the deep drawn historical and ideological contradictions between the Dalits and Hindutva could not be patched up. Nor could it win over the Dalits merely by erecting monuments for Ambedkar and exhibiting their “Bhakti” to him, when his radical legacy was being decimated with impunity.

Howsoever it is camouflaged, Hindutva reduces to a pride in the Hindu customs, tradition and culture, which are mere euphemisms for the caste system and hence in contradiction to the agenda of Dalit liberation. The Hindutva’s obsession for cow – now extended to her family – has hit the Dalits, next to the Muslims. It deprived them of their favourite beef, a cheap source of proteins, and has rendered lakhs of them unemployed.

Interestingly, going by the known cases, the Dalits appear to have suffered more than even the Muslims. In 2003 at Dulina in Jhajjar, Haryana, five Dalits were lynched and set ablaze by a Hindutva mob. Recently in Gujarat, a Dalit family was publicly flogged by a Hindutva gang. As against these two incidents, there is one case of a Muslim family being attacked. In December 2015, a Hindutva mob lynched one Mohammad Akhlaq at Dadri in Uttar Pradesh, and severely injured his son.

Hitting Dalit economy

Dalits, as marginal farmers, are cattle breeders. This ‘cow policy’ severely hits their economy. The most alienating aspect is the irrationality and the double-talk. The economic irrationality is exposed by scores of economists and could turn out to be the single biggest economic disaster for the country if persisted with for some years. And the double-talk is that while cattle slaughter is banned at thousands of small slaughterhouses, which has left lakhs of Muslims and Dalits unemployed, the big six export-oriented slaughterhouses, four of which are owned by the Hindus and two among them Brahmins, have thrived during the same time. Whether it is cow slaughter or its cultural nationalist overtures, they are directly in contradiction with the Dalit interests and aspirations.

The Dalit movement and spread of education brought about significant cultural change among the Dalits. While only about a tenth of them actually scaled up to the middle class during the last six decades, this progress, construed as undeserved largesse of the state, is grudged by the upper castes in general. Even the excessive pro-Ambedkar propaganda of the Hindutva forces adds to this grudge among the rural folk, cumulatively precipitating into atrocities.

The blurtings of foul-mouthed sadhwis, swamis and some army general are symptomatic of the unmanageability of the contradictions between Hindutva and Dalits.

Some of these misdemeanours, like in the Vemula episode and the Una atrocity, are going to hurt the BJP severely in the upcoming elections. With the Uttar Pradesh polls just around the corner, BJP leader Dayashankar Singh’s `prostitute’ remark against Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati may only help her in the elections.

The BJP, as expected by many analysts, will surely play its patented trick creating some “Muzaffarnagars” but will not succeed this time. With the BJP’s fangs now exposed, it is to be seen what the Dalits do next.

(The writer is general-secretary, Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai)