Resist Saffronisation of Ambedkar

[The Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi, will visit Nagpur on 14th of April. Deeksha Bhoomi is also a part of his visit where he will pay tribute to Dr. B R Ambedkar, the architect of Indian Constitution, on his 126th birth anniversary. This write-up is a compilation of inputs from various sources (blogs) by Tejaswini Tabhane to discuss the aspects of his visit through the eyes of an Ambedkarite.]

Modi paying respects to Dr Ambedkar

This visit has raised several questions which need to be answered by the Prime Minister who calls himself a ‘Bhakt’ (Devout) of Babasaheb Ambedkar. Modi has said the “iconic leader was a ‘vishwa manav’, not just the messiah of Dalits but someone who raised the voice for all the downtrodden and suppressed people (speech delivered at Ambedkar Memorial lecture).”

Now it is obvious to ask Narendra Modi who has written a book dedicated to Golwalkar titled Shree Guruji: Ek Swayamsevak as to how come could he write such words of praise for a communal and anti-Constitution person and appreciate Ambedkar at the same time? Communal and anti-constitution, eh? Yes. MS Golwalkar disparaged democracy (as well as the Constitution) as alien to Hindu ethos and glorified Manu by calling him “the first, greatest and the wisest lawgiver of mankind.” The same Manusmriti that Ambedkar burnt on 25th December, 1927. So our Prime Minister must be an exceptionally intelligent person to be a ‘Bhakta’ of two ideologically almost opposite persons!

I do not want to rest my claim merely on ideology but also on facts and figures. The vibrant Gujarat model which gave Modi a ticket to 7 RCR has a long history of Dalit oppression during his regime as chief minister of the state. The fact is that Gujarat has the dubious distinction of consistently ranking among the top five states in terms of incidence of atrocities on Dalits. In 2013, when Narendra Modi’s ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ mantra had reached the crescendo in the wake of ensuing general elections and his imminent coronation as the prime ministerial candidate, the number of atrocities per lakh population of the Scheduled Castes (SC) was 29.21, up from 25.23 in the previous years, marking it as the fourth worst state in the country. In 2014 (latest available data), only 3.4% of crimes against SCs in Gujarat ended in convictions, against 28.8% nationally. These facts speak volumes about the hollowness of Mr. Modi’s claims of following Ambedkar’s ideals.

Let’s talk about the ideological parent of Modi, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) which is suddenly portraying Ambedkar as a ‘Hindu Nationalist!’ Strange that it took less than 70 years for RSS, an organization surviving on the precept of ultra-Hinduism, to recognise Ambedkar as a great son of India who always spoke about ‘annihilation of caste’ and never subscribed to the principles Hindutva.

Ambedkar is anything but a Hindu nationalist. It is indeed an example of classical paradox that an organisation which had severely criticised Ambedkar in various editorial of its mouthpiece Organiser are now laying claims on his legacy. In a democratic country, like any other organisation or individual, the RSS too has the right to change its mind and approach about Ambedkar and project him as its ideological maharishi. But it must have some rationale. Its words and deeds counter each other.

Behind this façade there lurks the dangerous design to saffronise the most secular and pluralist ideals and concepts. The RSS, and particularly the Modi government, has brought Ambedkar to the centre-stage of national conversation to curb various Dalit movements that echo the message of ending Brahmin hegemony, particularly after the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a Dalit PhD scholar at the University of Hyderabad. Their aim is to woo Dalit vote bank while holding the strong base of Upper Castes. That’s why the idea is to portray Ambedkar in a wrong saffronised way to suit their interest. The appropriation and deliberate misreading of Ambedkar’s life and vision will delegitimise his egalitarian ideas, demolish and demoralise the struggles to usher in justice and fraternity and lead to the continued enslavement of the marginalised groups. It is therefore important to protect Ambedkar from these saffron thugs.

As the Prime Minister is coming to Deeksha Bhoomi, the place where Ambedkar embraced Buddhism and broke the chains of Hinduism forever, he must also read Ambedkar’s words and I quote him, “Though, I was born a Hindu, I solemnly assure you that I will not die as a Hindu.” “I will not believe in Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh. Neither would I worship them.” Does the Prime Minister have the guts to reverberate these words in front of the whole nation?

Believe me these are some questions, the RSS and Prime Minister will find tough to answer.

Lastly to repeat Rohith Vemula, “The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind.” They reduced Rohith to a number, they are trying to do the same with Ambedkar. We must resist this appropriation lest we lose the only thing that we have — the precious legacy of Dr. Ambedkar and his thoughts.

Jai Bhim!

(Reproduced with permission from Tejaswini)

Abki Bar Modi Sarkar

Everybody loves Narendra Modi — my roommate and his office colleagues, his office colleagues and their moms and everybody else you care to ask. After all, isn’t he like, lovable? Of course he is. Who doesn’t love a guy who gets things done, like you know, make the trains run on time? He has “developed” Gujarat so much so that when you are in Gujarat, you feel like you are in the US… such nice roads and big big companies. Plus, the dude has Bollywood instincts too… the other day he was spotted stalking a woman. Wow! Such a macho man, isn’t he?

Modify_India

But then, however lovable you are, there are those morons who are going to hate you for some reason or the other. People found a fault with even Ram, the epitome of perfection. Haters gonna hate, as they say. And what do these haters have to say about Modi? Utter senseless crap!

Listen to this. They say we should not forget 2002! Duh! Forgiveness, dude, forgiveness! Did your religion not teach you that? Forget and move on. What if 700-800 people were killed, many more injured, women were raped and cut into pieces and men burnt alive? What if even a former MP wasn’t spared? What if his party workers participated in the acts, his police were complicit (and later, in many cases, refused to file complaints as well). But did Modi do it? No way! How could he? Wasn’t he sitting in his AC cabin when the events were unfolding? You can’t blame the guy. He is as innocent as the kids who saw their fathers go out with swords and kill their neighbours. Poor guy…being hounded by the judiciary and social activists for the crimes he didn’t commit.

And dude, look at the development he has brought to Gujarat. When you are in Gujarat, you feel as if you are in the US (in full disclosure, I have never been to the US or even Gujarat, but that’s what I have heard them say about Gujarat). Such nice roads, and such big, big MNCs and home-grown conglomerates everywhere. Those haters accuse him of giving companies cheap land and tax breaks and subsidized electricity, etc. But isn’t that a small price we have to pay to get the “development”? Oh wait… that’s not even a price. How else would we get our shiny hatchbacks or SUVs we cannot live without? To digress, I don’t know how those adivasis manage without even a bike. But why care about them anyway? We have our tall tall buildings, shiny shiny cars and broad broad roads. Wait… You say you don’t live in Gujarat and hence don’t have those nice broad roads yet? Exactly why I want to say: Abki Bar, Modi Sarkar.

Modi_Sarkar

Do not bother about the fact that Gujarat is worse than other progressive states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu on the Human Development Index. Gujarat lags behind many other states on implementing welfare schemes, in the condition of the health and education sectors. The Narmada project has displaced thousands of people. But do not worry about them. They do not matter. Eighty per cent of our population does not matter. They are such primitive, ignorant fools anyway. They do not even know how to rid themselves of poverty. And then they complain about their land and their water being snatched away. But unless we take their land and their forest and their water, how can we get nice nice roads and shiny shiny cars? They do not even understand this basic fact and then they start morchas and dharnas and uposhans and what not. Such primitive people. And then those haters are just too happy to take up their cause. But…haters gonna hate. Do not worry about them. Instead say with me:

Nice nice roads, shiny shiny cars
Abki Bar Modi Sarkar