Monday, 30th October 2017

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RSS bid to woo Dalits

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  • Published 7.09.14

New Delhi, Sept. 6: RSS chief Mohanrao Bhagwat will tomorrow launch a three-volume work in Hindi on the “Hindu” identity of India’s Dalits at a high-powered event to be chaired by Vishwa Hindu Parishad international president Ashok Singhal.

Union ministers Smriti Irani and Prakash Javadekar will be special guests at the launch, signifying the Sangh parivar’s agenda to “reclaim” and “propagate” the “Hindu roots” of Scheduled Castes.

The works, authored by Bizay Sonkar Shastri, a former BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh and now a spokesperson, are about the major Dalit sub-castes — the Jatavs, Valmikis and Khatiks — but, in each case, the title of the sub-caste has been prefixed with the word “Hindu”.

Thus, the book on the Jatavs who handle animal hides and were, therefore, previously known as Chamars, is called Hindu Charmakar Jaati. In each book, Shastri glorifies a past that probably didn’t exist in reality because of the Hindu religion’s rigid caste structure that consigned the Valmikis to manual scavenging from the cradle to the grave and the Khatiks to slaughter animals for human consumption.

Shastri had an unusual take. “In the work on the Valmikis, I explained that they were born as high-caste Brahmins and Kshatriyas who were turned into scavengers when outsiders invaded India. The infidels saw the Brahmins and the Kshatriyas as their main threats because the Kshatriyas were a martial race who protected our borders and the Brahmins tried to keep the Hindu religion and culture safe.

“They were subject to the worst atrocities when they refused to convert to Islam. Under extreme pressure from the invaders, they took to processing animal hide and emptying night soil rather than forfeit the Hindu faith,” he explained, claiming that even B.R. Ambedkar had given the Manusmrti — a bible for high-caste Hindus — a “clean chit”.

The fact is that, on December 25, 1927, the Manusmrti was publicly burnt at a Conference of the Depressed Class Students in Pune that Ambedkar presided over.

In an interview in 1938 with T.V. Parvate, a well-known journalist of the era, Ambedkar explained the rationale for the act: “The bonfire of Manusmrti was quite intentional… because we view it as a symbol of injustice under which we have been crushed across centuries. Because of its teachings we have been ground down under despicable poverty….”

However, Sonkar and the RSS view the place of Dalits in the Hindu caste hierarchy through a different prism.

Suresh “Bhaiyyaji” Joshi, the Sangh’s general secretary who penned the preface for the volume on the Jatavs, wrote: “The evidence presented in the book makes it clear that a violent era was ushered in Bharat by the alien Turks, Muslims and Mughals. Religion, culture and the protectors of our country had to pay a huge price during this period. Self-respecting Hindus agreed to do filthy jobs but they valued (the) Hindu religion even more than their lives and would not sacrifice it for anything.”

Sonkar said he hoped his works would serve as resources in the BJP’s overall project to “co-opt” the Dalits into the “Hindu mainstream”, “eventually dissolve their Dalit identity” and “save” them from the “injustice” that Mayawati, the BSP leader, had “subject them to”.

“I would like the BJP to ensure that at least two copies of the volumes reach every village (in Uttar Pradesh),” he said.

In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, there was anecdotal evidence — backed by research — to show that Dalits, including Mayawati’s core Jatavs, had switched allegiance to the BJP.

In western Uttar Pradesh, rocked by communal clashes, the Jatavs voted with other Hindus for the BJP. The BJP hopes to consolidate this support.