June 18, 2015

A Small Victory

THE ban on the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) at the IIT Madras and the subsequent lifting of the ban has exposed the intolerance and hypocrisy of the BJP government at the centre.  This episode has come at a time when the RSS and the BJP are trying to appropriate the legacy of Dr B R Ambedkar utilising the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of this illustrious leader.   In order to do so, they are falsifying history and facts to show that Dr Ambedkar was a supporter of Hindutva and an admirer of the RSS.

Ambedkar was a lifelong opponent of the caste system which he identified with Brahmanism. He pinpointed the Manusmriti as the fountainhead of this oppressive social order.  His book, Annihilation of Caste published in 1936 called for the destruction of the caste system and the Brahmanical order.   Ultimately he decided that it was not possible to fight the caste system within Hinduism and left the Hindu fold along with his followers to embrace Buddhism.

The RSS has tried to distort and hollow out his ideological and social struggles by claiming that all Ambedkar wanted was to reform Hinduism and abolish untouchability while remaining a true Hindu.  His becoming a Buddhist is portrayed as, but another way to follow the Hindu dharma.

Further, the RSS is conducting an orchestrated campaign that Dr Ambedkar was an “enemy of the Communists” and implacably opposed to Communism.  Here too, the RSS selectively quotes from Ambedkar’s speeches and writings. A comprehensive reading of Ambedkar’s writings will show that while he did not subscribe to Marxist philosophy, he agreed with some of  Karl Marx’s ideas. He was by temperament and outlook a social democrat with liberal social views.  

As for Hindutva, it was anathema for Dr Ambedkar.  He was as much against the idea of Hindu Rashtra as he was opposed to an Islamic State. He said: “If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindu say, Hinduism is a menace to the liberty, equality and fraternity. In that account, it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu raj must be prevented at any cost.”   

The ban on the APSC in IIT Madras was imposed by the IIT authorities after the ministry of human resources development sent them an anonymous complaint about the activities of the circle and asking the authorities about what they proposed to do regarding it.  The complaint against the APSC was its criticism of the Modi government and its economic and saffronisation policies.  The ban led to widespread protests among students, the academic community, political parties and public opinion in general.  The IIT authorities could not explain why other student forums, including those which were rightwing and pro-RSS, were allowed to function.  Finally the IIT had to back down and restore the recognition to the APSC.

The RSS and the Hindutva forces have targeted institutions of higher education for their saffronisation drive.  Earlier, the IIT Delhi had decided that all the student hostel messes would serve only vegetarian food.  Efforts are on to introduce in the syllabus at the university level, science in ancient India under which pretext vedic science is going to be taught. Glorification of the Hindu shastras and upholding the patriarchal and regressive caste varna system is part of the Hindutva ideology. While this is the reality, the RSS is hypocritically trying to appropriate Ambedkar’s legacy by subverting his vision of social justice.  That this can be resisted is indicated by the small victory achieved in the reversal of the ban on the APSC at the IIT Madras.

(June 10, 2015)