BJP, which believes in Hindu nationalism, faces the dilemma about Indian Constitution. Necessarily it has to pay its obeisance to Indian Constitution for electoral purpose to be sure. It has to seek votes of all sections of society including dalits and other marginalized sections of society for whom this Constitution is a liberator. At present, BJP’s electoral strength is not adequate for changing the Constitution, so it cannot talk openly about the same. In addition Constitution has also emotive values for large sections of dalits, who regard it as a greatest contribution of Babsaheb Ambedkar in the direction of social change. In this light to statement of Anantkumar Hegde, the Union Minster, that BJP is in power to change the Constitution may not have matched with the overall strategy of BJP, which is to get 2/3 majority first before talking on this. Mr. Hegde, while speaking in the meeting of Brahman Yuva Parishat said “I will be happy if someone identifies as Muslim, Christian, Brahmin, Lingayat or Hindu. But trouble will arise if they say they are secular.” And also that BJP is there to change the Constitution Later when criticized in the Lok Sabha for his statement, he tried to circumvent his statement by saying that “if someone was hurt by his remarks about changing the Constitution and about secularism, he had no hesitation in tendering his apology.”

Surely BJP’s intentions have to be understood and his apology is purely strategic. BJP as a party has to work within the confines of Constitution as it has to swear by it legally. Still when BJP led NDA Government came to power in 1998, it did appoint Venkatchaliah Commission to review the Constitution; probably that was the first open and subtle ‘statement of purpose’ from its side. It’s another matter that seeing the total opposition to its move of reviewing Constitution from large sections of society, the Commission report was dumped.

After Modi led NDA Government came to power (2014), on the occasion of Republic day 2015, it issued and advertisement with the preamble of Constitution in which words Secular and Socialist were missing. In November 2017 Yogi Adityanath stated that word secularism is biggest lie in India.’

The BJP will not reveal its deeper agenda so easily at present. Still it can be understood that BJP is not comfortable with the present Constitution and laws be it the one’s related to Article 370 (Kashmir), Article 25 (freedom of religion), article 30 (about minorities setting up educational institutions). As BJP is a part of RSS combine, one has to look at what RSS ideologues state, what its associates like VHP and others say on the issue. These organizations have times and again articulated their opposition to Indian Constitution and their goal of making the one based on Holy Indian scriptures.

As such the whole attempt of Hindu nationalist political formations is to try to pave the way for Hindu nationalism by using the democratic secular space which the present Constitution gives.

RSS ideologue Golwalkar in his writings like ‘Bunch Of Thoughts’ argues that territorial nationalism, which is the basis of Indian Constitution, is a barbarism, since according to him a nation is ‘not a mere bundle of political and economic rights’ but an embodiment of national culture —in India, ‘ancient and sublime’ Hinduism. It sneers at democracy, which Golwalkar sees as alien to Hindu culture, and lavishes praise on the Code of Manu, whom Golwalkar salutes as ‘the first, the greatest, and the wisest lawgiver of mankind’.

When the Constituent Assembly of India passed the Constitution of India on November 26, 1949, RSS was not happy. Its organ, Organiser in an editorial on November 30, 1949, complained: "But in our Constitution there is no mention of the unique constitutional development in ancient Bharat. Manu’s Laws were written long before Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia. To this day his laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing."

VD Savarkar has been the major ideologue from whom most of the Hindu nationalists draw their inspiration. He argued: "Manusmriti is that scripture which is most worship-able after Vedas for our Hindu Nation and which from ancient times has become the basis of our culture-customs, thought and practice. This book for centuries has codified the spiritual and divine march of our nation. Even today the rules which are followed by crores of Hindus in their lives and practice are based on Manusmriti. Today Manusmriti is Hindu Law."

Deendayal Upadhayay has been another major ideologue of RSS combine. He was part of Bharatiya Janasangh, previous avatar of BJP. He says that India had written a Constitution imitative of the West, divorced from any real connection to our mode of life and from authentically Indian ideas about the relationship between the individual and society.

Like previous ideologues Upadhyay also felt that the Constitution should embody a Hindu political philosophy befitting an ancient nation like Bharat, that of reducing the Indian national idea to a territory and the people on it was fallacious According to him the nationalist movement, from the Khilafat agitation onwards, has turned towards a policy of appeasement of the Muslim community, a policy in turn sought to be justified by the need to forge a united front against the British.

He was all through critical of Indian Constitution, as he argued his case for Hindu nation. His ideology seems to be one of the major inspirations for present leadership of BJP. BJP’s discomfort with articles 25, 30 and 370 etc. is mainly as these articles aim at affirmative action in a plural diverse society. These draw from the basic notion of Equality inherent in Indian constitution. Most of the ideologues, the source of BJP ideology uphold Manusmririti, no wonder this was the precise book which architect of Indian Constitution, Babasaheb Ambedkar consigned to the flames!

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

Maharashtra witnessed unprecedented violence against the dalits who had congregated to pay tributes to the dalits soldiers (1st January 2018), who were part of the British army which had fought against Peshwas in 1818. Babasaheb had visited this place in 1927 to pay the homage to martyrs. The annual event of dalits paying homage at Bhima Koregaon has become a sort of symbol of dalit assertion. This year the event was organized at a bigger scale as it was 200th year of the battle. The provocation was due to the desecration of the Samadhi of a dalit, Govind Gaikawad, who is believed to have performed the last rites of Sambhaji.  Later stones were pelted by saffron flag bearers on dalits who had come to pay homage in Bhima Koregaon. HIndutva organizations Shivaji Pratishthan and Samasta Hindu Aghadi, (All Hindu Front), were at the forefront of these incidents.

At the same time Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, in a rally at Shanwarwada (Pune) which was headquarter of Peshwa rule, gave a call to fight against modern Peshwai, the politics of BJP-RSS. He was speaking at the conference which was an inclusive platform of dalits and other leaders. There are varied responses to this incident. While some people are trying to portray it as Maratha versus dalits it as such is the attack of Hindutva forces on Dalits. Rahul Gandhi in a tweet blamed BJP’s fascist, anti dalit attitude for the whole episode.

The reality of the Bhima Koregaon battle breaks number of myths prevalent today. It was a battle of British to expand their empire and it was the attempt of Peshwas to protect their kingdom. As British were expanding their empire, they had recruited large number of dalits in their army. These were Mahars from Maharashtra; Parayas from Tamilnadu and and Namshudras from Bengal, to name the few. These sections were recruited for their loyalty and easy availability. The Peshwa army had Arab mercenary soldiers and Gossains among others. This quashes the myth of Hindu versus Muslim battles, as similarly Ibrahim Khan Gardi was also part of Shivaji’s army and Arab soldiers were part of Bajirao’s army. Unfortunately today we are trying to see the events of past through communal prism and are ignoring the aspect of kingdoms which were primarily motivated by power and wealth.

Later, British stopped recruiting dalits/Mahars in their army as they found that the upper caste soldiers in the lower ranks were not saluting and taking orders from the dalit superiors. Ambedkar’s effort was to see that the recruitment of dalits in the army is restored and that’s how he suggested that Mahar regiment should be formed to overcome this problem. His taking up the cause of Mahar soldiers was part of his efforts to create a space for dalits in the social architecture of society.

Was the Bhima Koregaon battle to overthrow Peshwai by dalits at that time? It is true that Peshwa rule was most Brahminic in its policies. The shudras were made to tie a pot around their neck so that the air is not polluted by them and they were also making them tie a broom around their waist to purify the earth on which they walk. This is the extreme expression of the rigidity caste atrocities. Did British fight against Bajirao to eradicate the Brahmanical rigidities? No way. They were merrily expanding their zone of influence for trade and plunder purpose. Similarly Mahar soldiers were fighting for British with a sense of loyalty to their employer. The social reforms picked up a bit later due to the impact of modern education, which was introduced to train the subordinates for manning the administration of the Empire. The social reform comes up as an unintended byproduct of British policy of plunder so to say. The impact of their policies on social structures was not the goal of British so to say. As such consciousness of caste exploitation during the period of Kingdoms was not there in the present form. The awareness of caste exploitation takes shape later as expressed by Jotirao Phule.

To think that Peshwas were fighting for Nationalism and dalits were supporting colonial powers by being part of British army is again baseless. The very concept of Nationalism comes up during colonial rule. The nationalism which comes up with social-economic changes accompanying British rule is of two varieties. One, Indian nationalism which is the expression of the aspirations of the rising classes of industrialists, businessmen, educated sections of society, workers and downtrodden sections of society. Two, nationalism in the name of religion: Muslim Nationalism and Hindu Nationalism. This latter was brought forward by landlords and kings of the princely states who felt threatened by the social changes towards democratic norms and wanted to retain their hegemony in the name of religion.

The dissatisfaction of dalits today during last few years is rising due to the policies of current government in which events like the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula took place, during which the brutal flogging of dalits took place in Una. The overall policies of present Government is marginalizing the dalits through its policies, be it be in the area of economy, education and throwing up of the issues of beef or Babri Masjid. Massive turn out of dalits in Koregaon shows that they are deeply dissatisfied with the goings on in the society. The new dalit groups are trying to build their movement by making alliances with other oppressed sections of society. The solidarity expressed by religious minorities, workers and other social groups to the issues of dalits in case of Bhima Koregaon is remarkable.  At the same it seems dalits in particular are deriving inspiration from icons from the past. The events of recent past are showing that dalits are determined to get their place under the democratic sky. At the same time attack on them by the Hindu right wing groups is a reaction which aims to undermine their aspirations.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED