New Delhi, Oct. 29: The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh is trying to plug what insiders have always considered the biggest hole in the Hindutva campaign — the alienation of the Dalits.
The Sangh has held out an olive branch to the “downtrodden” by declaring support for Dalit head priests at all centres of Hindu pilgrimage.
An editorial in Sangh mouthpiece Panchjanya explains that the Dalits are “warriors of faith” who need to be rewarded with priesthood.
Dalit leaders, however, tend to frown on some of their kinsmen’s eagerness to become priests. The importance these Dalits attach to the job and the attendant prestige, the leaders feel, merely reflects their inability to free themselves of the “psychological domination” of the upper castes.
But the Sangh leaders clearly believe they are making an irresistible offer.
“The time has come to consolidate the Hindu brotherhood,” the editorial in Panchjanya’s latest issue says.
“Dalits, the warriors of the faith and the disadvantaged, should be suitably trained and made head priests and protector priests in places of Hindu pilgrimage along with those who call themselves Brahmins by birth.”
The editorial notes that several swayamsevaks (Sangh volunteers) are already promoting the idea, and adds: “We are confident that the Brahmins would come forward in this regard.”
It is widely believed in Sangh and BJP circles that the Ramjanmabhoomi campaign had led many among the intermediate castes, such as the other backward classes, to line up in the cause of Hindutva. But the Dalits had stayed out of it.
Early last month, Sangh chief K.S. Sudarshan had shared a platform with Dalit poet Namdeo Dhasal at a book release, where he went to great lengths to express solidarity with the Dalits.
“The Dalits are our own flesh and blood, but because of some ill practices and social evils, untouchability has brought havoc on those who were an integral part and defenders of dharma. This has to be corrected through our deeds and actions,” he said.
Sudarshan added that he had never tolerated any sort of caste distinctions among the Sangh cadre.