News Analysis |
Invoking Babasaheb Ambedkar, Union Minister Ramdas Athawale on Wednesday said he embraced Buddhism only after he was convinced that Dalits would not get justice in the Hindu religion and asked all members of the community to do so. His statement is the latest in a series which calls for the Dalit community to end its association with the Hindu religion.
“Only when Babasaheb Ambedkar was convinced that Dalits would not get justice in [the] Hindu religion did he convert to Buddhism. Lakhs of Dalits converted as well,” Athawale, the minister of state for social justice and empowerment, said in a statement issued here.
The Dalits have started to unite 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.
According to the statement, Ambedkar had given opportunity to staunch “Hindutvavadis” to make amends but that did not happen, and hence he converted. “All Dalits should give up Hinduism and embrace Buddhism to stop atrocities against them,” Athawale said.
Athawale, the chief of the Republican Party of India (A), also slammed BSP chief Mayawati and said instead of issuing repeated threats; she should once and for all convert to Buddhism. He had been referring to the statement ‘Stop atrocities on Dalits and backward castes, or we will convert to Buddhism,’ by 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).
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.
Hindutva groups especially the RSS, has been instrumental in protecting atrocities against Dalits, which is why so few Dalits are found among the Sangh Parivar ranks.
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 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. 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.
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.
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 so few Dalits are found among the Sangh Parivar ranks.
This Dalit resurgence is in part due to both discontent 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.
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 unite 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.