News Analysis |
‘Stop atrocities on Dalits and backward castes, or we will convert to Buddhism,’ warned Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati on Sunday, 10th December. The BSP chief was warning the BJP and its parent organisation, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). Her threat seems to emphasize the fears of the Dalit and other lower castes in Hindutva dominated India.
Mayawati was speaking at a party summit in Nagpur. Invoking BR Ambedkar, Mayawati said: “Dr Ambedkar had made an announcement in 1935 that he was born a Hindu but he won’t die a Hindu. He gave 21 years to Hindu religious leaders to reform. But when there was no change in their attitude, he converted to Buddhism in 1956 in Nagpur.
We thought the contractors and custodians of the Hindu religion would change after his conversion and give respect to the Dalit and backward caste communities. But they continue to exploit the backward communities and the Dalits.
This Dalit resurgence is in part due to both discontents with Indian sociocultural life and the domination of the RSS brand of Hindutva.
Today, I want to warn the BJP and the RSS that if they don’t change their disrespectful, casteist and communal behaviour towards the Dalits and backward caste people and their leaders, I will also convert to Buddhism with my crores of followers.”
She added that she too would give the BJP and RSS time to reform themselves, and would take a call on converting to Buddhism “at an appropriate time like Ambedkar.” To further drive home her point, Mayawati said the BJP and RSS were exploiting Dalits, tribals, farmers, and businessmen, emboldening their ‘Hindutva agenda’.
This is not the first time Mayawati has threatened to convert to Buddhism. In October this year too, she threw an open challenge to the BJP. “I throw an open challenge to the BJP to change its casteist and communal mindset towards Dalits, Adivasis, Backwards and also those who have changed their religion or else I will also have to take a decision towards changing my religion to Buddhism.”
The Dalits, also known as the untouchables, are the lowest caste in the Hindu Varna system. The term Dalit, which means “oppressed” in Sanskrit, was coined by the great Dalit figure Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar in the 20th century.
‘Stop atrocities on Dalits and backward castes, or we will convert to Buddhism,’ warned Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati on Sunday, 10th December.
It is noteworthy to mention that Hindutva was initiated by High caste Hindus in response to an assertion of rights by lower caste Hindus. This is why many critics, mainly Dalit academics, term Hindutva to be an engine of Brahminist supremacy.
Many Dalit activists view the Brahmin supremacy, called Brahminism, as their enemy and the Holy Text Manu Smriti as the religio-legal authority institutionalizing lower caste oppression. Dalit activism has been the most steadfast foe of Brahmin supremacy which has led them to a path of conflict with Hindutva itself.
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That can be asserted to be the reason behind the special focus of Saffron terrorists against Dalits. In 2014, the numbers of atrocity cases against Dalits were 39,000. In 2015-16, the figure had increased to 47,000, while the rate of conviction has come down.
While Hindutva leaders outwardly espouse anti-caste system views and call for Hindu unity, the reality has been quite the opposite. Hindutva groups especially the RSS, has been instrumental in protecting atrocities against Dalits, which is why few Dalits are found among the Sangh Parivar ranks.
The term Dalit, which means “oppressed” in Sanskrit, was coined by the great Dalit figure Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar in the 20th century.
The recent Hindutva domination of India has been met up with a backlash from the Dalit community. The Una incident unleashed a massive 10-day march from Ahmedabad to Una that challenged the ascendancy of the local Hindutva powers.
Previously, the suicide of Dalit Ph.D. scholar Rohit Vemula over caste-based discrimination in Indian universities unleashed protests and outrage from across India and gained widespread media attention.
This Dalit resurgence is in part due to both discontents with Indian sociocultural life and the domination of the RSS brand of Hindutva. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) tries to produce a larger Hindu vote bank, by repeatedly trying to galvanize Dalits and other oppressed castes into a larger Hindu vote bank, pitting them against Muslims and other Non-Hindus. After the Gujarat riots of 2002, the most noticeable display of this tactic was apparent in state elections such as Uttar Pradesh. It has been a huge factor in the electoral success of the BJP.
The Una incident unleashed a massive 10-day march from Ahmedabad to Una that challenged the ascendancy of the local Hindutva powers.
But once the days of the elections are over, the Dalits are relegated back into their untouchable status and out of the ‘Hindu fold’. They are denied access to common resources in the village and their lives are characterized by brutal everyday violence. The Dalits have started to coalesce to fight and defeat the RSS’s implementation of the Manu Smriti which employs political, economic, cultural, and militant tools to keep its foes in Indian society divided. Dalit activists, like the Bhim Army, are emerging as key players in this current battle against Hindutva and for a more just society in India.