Arun Shourie, who was part of NDA, a fellow traveler and an ideologue of BJP wrote several books, many of them against minorities and dalits in particular. One of these which was strongly protested against by large sections of people, dalits in particular, was his “Worshipping False Gods”. In this book he expressed the mind set of RSS-BJP politics towards Ambedkar. In this long bulky volume he was heavily critical of Ambedkar’s ideology, his agitations for democratic values and his struggles for social justice. Now a decade and half later on one side many a dalit leaders, Ramvilas Paswan, Udit Raj, Ramdas Athwaley are vying to sit in the lap of the politics of BJP for apparently their own  personal gains on one side and on the other the BJP’s Prime Ministerial Candidate Narendra Modi is going miles to woo the sections of dalits. It is another matter that while doing this in his usual trade mark style he has no qualms about misrepresenting the events, speaking lies and putting the blame of all that has not taken place to his political adversaries.

This 14th April (2014), on the occasion of Ambedkar Anniversary, one saw the Prime Ministerial aspirant wearing the blue jacket and offering flowers to the architect of India’s Constitution. He bowed in front of the portrait of Babasaheb and said that it is due to Babasaheb that people like him have come up in the society. Lets note that Modi despite belonging to RSS combine, which does not project the caste as such, is projecting his caste prominently in UP and Bihar. RSS is opposed to disturbing the prevalent status quo of caste hierarchy. Modi’s postures show the impact of caste politics and its recognition by ideologies which generally have been condemning the politics in the name of caste. They are using the same card when it has come to the present elections. One only has to say that even the person coming from the low caste dalit can adopt ideology which is against the interest of that caste. Just opposite to that even individual from upper caste can also work for the goals of annihilation of the caste and social justice. Many of the supporters of Ambedkar were from upper castes. Modi’s flaunting his caste in UP and Bihar is under the pressure of electoral compulsions, while his politics as exhibited in Gujarat and the ideology of RSS, his parent organization, has nothing whatsoever aimed at achieving social justice in any sense of the word.

While he is tom toming about his caste, what has been the condition of Dalits and Adivasis in Gujarat during the last decade or so? Most of the policies implemented by him are totally committed to the interest of the Corporate. The schemes initiated by Central Government, which aim at the benefit of this section of society, have been put on the backburner in Gujarat. Modi, in violation of Planning Commission's directives, had not held a single meeting for the Sub-Plans for SCs and STs that seek proportionate spending for the welfare of the two communities. In Gujarat 27,900 posts for SC/STs were vacant and they could not be filled because of a prevalence of the reservation policy in this state according to which it is compulsory that a vacancy in a district be filled locally only. For example in the city and district of Ahmadabad, from where Narendra Modi has been elected to Assembly, as many as 3,125 SC students have not been given their SC scholarship till day. Independent surveys show that untouchability and denial of entry to dalits in temples was widespread in 1,600 villages of Gujarat.

Dalits from different parts of the city came together on together on 13th April 2014 and spoke against the "much-touted development model of the Gujarat government." (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/lok-sabha-elections-2014/news/Modis-development-model-ignores-dalit-rights-Dalits/articleshow/33785414.cms) They pointed out that the Gujarat government had failed to provide a proper model for transformation of dalit lives.

As per their memorandum drafted by the agitating dalits "Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been propagating a lopsided development model which largely ignores dalit rights. The government has given land to industries instead of dalits who deserve it more… we have demanded land for dalits, tribals and OBCs under the Land Sealing Act. We have also sought for an official ban on manual scavenging and an end to the policy of giving jobs on contract," It is interesting to note that Modi has been defending the manual scavenging work as a spiritual experience for the Valmikis in his book Karmayoga. This book seems to have been withdrawn after the ciriticsm was aired by many activists.  One also notes that in Gujarat the conviction rate in atrocity cases is just 4%. Though there is a provision for special courts in every district, the government has not set up such courts that would help expedite disposal of the cases.

Additionally in tune with his spreading of falsehoods on regular basis, Modi went on to say that Congress Government has ignored Babsaheb, and it was BJP Government which gave him Bharat Ratna. One knows the audience is not very critical in public meetings and so there is no protest when such blatant lies are dished out. This lie of his not much attracted the media attention. We know that the first BJP Government was formed in Center for 13 days in 1996. Dr. Ambedkar was conferred posthumous Bharat Ratna in 1990 by V P Singh Government. It was during V.P. Singh’s tenure that the portrait of Babasaheb was also unveiled in the Parliament. It was this Government which implemented Mandal Commission and also honored Dr. Ambedkar. As such BJP, Modi’s party has never been comfortable with the values which Ambedkar stands for. The values of Indian Constitution, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity the core values of Indian Nationalism. Modi recently said that he was born as Hindu and he is a nationalist so he stands for Hindu nationalism. Ambedkar was the staunchest critique of Hindu nationalism. Right from the beginning of its formation RSS stood for upholding Manusmriti and was opposed to even the efforts which went to bring in Indian Constitution.

As per the issues related to social justice, dalits human rights the major focus of human rights activists has been critical of Gandhi and Congress, which has lots of merit. But at the same time the politics which is totally opposed to the values of Dr. Ambedkar is the politics of Hindu nationalism. This is the real opponent of social justice, and it has not much been taken up for critique by dalit activists-intellectuals. And that is the politics of Hindu nationalism, the politics of RSS to which Modi belongs. The very measures for affirmative action, the implementation of Mandal Commission and the like were opposed either directly or subtly by RSS-BJP-Modi politics. Demands of electoral politics makes strange demands, one starts making public postures and makes statements which are polar opposite to their core ideology and manifest actions. That’s ‘Ambedkar-worshipping’ Modi for you! 

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED

This time around (2014) the practitioners of sectarian politics had projected as if they will harp only on the issues related to development and Governance. But that surely is for sayings sake. While propaganda of development of Gujarat, strong leader, good governance is on the forefront, there is a lurking doubt that many a people may be by now realizing that the story of so called development cannot be defended beyond a point as so many studies and reports have shown the contrary facts. Authoritarian and dictatorial leader is not a strong leader, one is clear about that as strong leader is one who is inclusive and takes others along. So back to the fundamentals of communal politics, the issues related to ‘identity and faith’ are being subtly propped up.

Attacking the UPA II government for increase in the export of meat and beef (3rd April 2014) Narendra Modi mocked at UPA II by saying that cattle are being killed for the sake of ‘pink revolution’, which hints towards the meat business, export of meat, beef. In our country eating beef is very sensitive religious issue. It emerges that now despite this being a sensitive issue; on the ground of commerce it comes to our notice that India has become the biggest beef exporter in the world, beating Brazil. This is as per the latest meat exports figures from the Ministry of Food Processing. The data shows that India exported 1.89 million tons of beef in 2012-2013, which is a 50 per cent increase over five years’ ago, “Officially, the slaughter of cows is banned and beef production is actually buffalo meat. Here too, the slaughter is restricted to males and unproductive females,’’ explains the Department of Animal Husbandry official.

As such beef has been a part of India’s dietary traditions. In Vedic times the sacrifice of cows in the yagnas (rituals around fire) was a central feature. It is with the rise of agriculture that the restrictions were brought on the sacrifice of cows as cattle wealth was core to the development of agriculture. Swami Vivekananda, while speaking to a large gathering in USA said: “You will be astonished if I tell you that, according to old ceremonials, he is not a good Hindu who does not eat beef. On certain occasions he must sacrifice a bull and eat it.”

[Vivekananda speaking at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, USA (2 February 1900) on the theme of ‘Buddhistic India’, cited in Swami Vivekananda, The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Vol 3 (Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, 1997), p. 536.]

This is corroborated by other research works sponsored by the Ramakrishna Mission established by Swami Vivekananda himself. One of these reads: “The Vedic Aryans, including the Brahmanas, ate fish, meat and even beef. A distinguished guest was honoured with beef served at a meal. Although the Vedic Aryans ate beef, milch cows were not killed. One of the words that designated cow was aghnya (what shall not be killed). But a guest was a goghna (one for whom a cow is killed). It is only bulls, barren cows and calves that were killed.”

[C. Kunhan Raja, ‘Vedic Culture’, cited in the series, Suniti Kumar Chatterji and others (eds.), The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol 1 (Calcutta: The Ramakrishna Mission, 1993), 217.] The pioneering research of Historian D.N.Jha also tells us that beef was the part of India’s dietary tradition. Same is corroborated by Dr. Pandurang Waman Kane in his multi Volume, “Bharatiya Dharmgranthon ka Itihas’ (History of Indian Scriptures) where he quotes from Vedas, Atho Annam Vya gau (Cow is veritably a food)

Cow came to become a holy animal with the rise of agricultural society for the obvious reasons of need for bulls in agriculture. It got associated with the religious sentiments. Contrary to the propaganda that it was Muslim kings who brought beef eating practices in India, the fact is that Muslim kings in deference to the feelings of the Hindu majority went on to put curbs on cow slaughter. Babar’s will to his son Humayun (Exhibit in National Museum) point to this fact. It says

“Son, this Nation Hindusthan has different Religions. Thank Allah for giving us this Kingdom. We should remove all the differences from our heart and do justice to each community according to its customs. Avoid cow-slaughter to win over the hearts of the people of this land and to incorporate the people in the matters of administration…” (Translated from the original- National Museum)

The propaganda that Muslims brought beef eating to India has no substance at all. As a matter of fact it was British who systematized it and appointed Khatiks (butchers) in their barracks for cow slaughter to supply beef for the army. With rise of the politics in the name of religion due to British policy of ‘divide and rule’, cow and pig were made instruments of instigating communal violence to polarize the communities along religious lines. Many a communal violence did break out in the name of cow slaughter or pig in a mosque. Earlier too the demand for cow slaughter ban has been raised and now it is banned in most of the states barring Kerala and West Bengal. So currently there are strict rules about cow slaughter and what is called beef is essentially buffalo meat. In recent times the murder of dalits in Gohana on the charge that they killed cow for its hide is too fresh in our memory. The killing of dalits was legitimized by a VHP leader saying cow is too holy for anything else to be considered.

As such beef has been part of Indian dietary practices amongst many communities especially amongst dalits and Adivasis all over, more so in Southern India. In the face of rising price of mutton, it is a rich source of protein for the poor; some do take to it for its taste. Recently when I was on a group tour to Eastern Europe, one Hindu family, which was part of our group, by and large was opting for beef as the main dish for their lunch or dinner.

The issue now is that should we have our dietary choices or not? The subtle hint that the UPA II is promoting the ‘Pink Revolution’ is a blatant communal use of the issue. The BJP spokespersons on TV channels are claiming that it is due to the promotion of this export that our milk production and agriculture is suffering. Whatever be other flaws of the current policies, one thing is sure that our milk production is on ascendance. Agriculture is suffering but not due to shortage of cattle. Such claimants need to do their home work and learn that by and large it is the poor, low caste who rear the cattle and they can’t bear the burden of old animals which can no more give the milk. The natural cycle of food and economics is dictating the present scenario, and communalizing it is unwarranted. We need to put our agricultural economy on the wheels of progress, rearing animals is an activity very close to agricultural economy, such a blatant communalizing the issue is counterproductive to our values as a democratic society.

Category :- English Bazaar Patrika / OPED