The 1990s inaugurated an era of social justice in Indian politics. It was in this era that the recommendations of the Mandal Commission were implemented, thus giving a foothold to the backward classes in the government and the administration. It was in this era that electing a Dalit as the President of India became a hot topic, that a Dalit was elected President and the political arena witnessed a polarization of the Dalits, Backwards and Minorities. It was in this era that a Dalit woman rose to the position of the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh and an OBC led the government at the Centre. Finally, it was in this era that demands for separate reservations for the Most Backward Classes and women came to the fore.
This era also coincided with the rise of the Hindutva movement in the country – with a frenzy over Ram Lalla and Rath Yatras. It witnessed the demolition of the Babri Masjid and self-immolation bids by savarna students to oppose Mandal reservations. It was an era of simultaneous revolution and counter-revolution.
Let us look back at this period and talk about Mandal-Kamandal, the devotees of Ram and the Bahujan community.
Looking closely you will discover that the Ram Mandir movement was a Hindu counter-revolution against the Dalits and Backwards. The politics of Kamandal was propped up to counter the Bahujan consciousness fashioned by Kanshi Ram, who forged a new political force in North India by bringing the Dalits, the Backwards and the Minorities together. It was the possibility that Bahujan consciousness may sound the death knell for Brahmanism that sent the brahmanical Hindus into a tizzy.
Let us elaborate this a little. In 1990, the Vishwanath Pratap Singh government decided to grant reservations to the OBCs, who were estimated at 52 per cent of India’s population, by executing the recommendations of the Mandal Commission. These recommendations had been in cold storage since 1982. This move enraged the Rashtriya Swayamevak Sangh (RSS) to such an extent that the saffron organization – which never tired of singing paeans to “samrasta” (harmony) among the Hindus – unleashed its cadres on Dalit and OBC students. Students of these communities were mercilessly thrashed in college and hostels and savarna students were goaded into immolating themselves. This Hindu anger was at the Backwards managing to secure their legitimate rights. Though the Backwards had been considered a part of the Hindu community, their rise and progress was resented. On 27 September 1990, Sharad Joshi made a very telling comment on that situation in his “Pratidin” column in the Navbharat Times. He wrote: “Why don’t those occupying the top rungs of the Varna system openly declare that the lower castes and the Backwards are not Hindus? They include these communities in the Hindu fold. That is correct, too, as these communities believe in the same gods and goddesses as the Hindus and they revere the same scriptures. But, then, why does the mere possibility of the progress of their co-religionists through the policy of reservations make the Hindus so furious, irritated and desperate? Is a true Hindu defined as a person who does not want the lower castes to rise? What are the religious leaders dwelling on these days? Are they concerned about their religion or are they worried about their caste and Varna? The scriptures might have ordained that the upper castes should not drink water polluted by the touch of the lower castes. But do the scriptures also say that the upper castes should beat their chests only because a lower-caste person has got a job? What kind of Vasudhaiv Kutumbakum [the world is my family] is this that distresses a Hindu merely because another Hindu has got enough to fill his stomach?”
But the brahmanical mindset of the RSS could never appreciate the logic of Sharad Joshi’s argument. The reason was that Hindutva, which the RSS wants to usher in, does not allow the Shudras to acquire education. Varnasharma dharma is the foundation of their Hindutva.
The Sangh Parivar, which considers itself a certification agency for Hindus, peddles a Hindutva that treats Backwards as co-religionists but does not want their educational progress. When Sharad Yadav launched Mandal Rath, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) deployed its anti-reservation committees and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) initiated Ram Paduka Yatras from 16,000 villages. BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani embarked on his Rath Yatra and instigated communal riots all over the country. When journalists asked Advani why he was taking out the Rath Yatra, the answer was blunt – “Because Mandal was implemented”. In September 1992, the Janata Dal held a Mandal Mahasammelan (conference) and issued an ultimatum to the Union government to implement the Mandal Commission recommendations by 26 January 1993. On 30 October, the VHP launched a karsewa (volunteers in action) in Ayodhya. More than a month before the expiry of the deadline set by the Mahasammelan, the karsevaks razed the Babri Masjid to the ground on 6 December 1992. On that day, they did not demolish the mosque – they demolished the secular structure of the Constitution.
Myths and legends are as different as chalk and cheese. Myths are crafted by the ruling class while legends take birth among the ordinary people and are expressions of the popular sentiment. The Brahmins have created many a myth about religious towns such as Benaras, Haridwar, Ayodhya, Mathura and Ujjain. These myths are baseless but they do secure a safe and happy future for them – a future that is founded on the exploitation of the masses.
Brahmins concocted a myth that a temple that stood at the spot where Ram was born was razed and Babri Masjid built in its place. This myth was widely publicized. They started referring to the place where the Babri Masjid stood as the place where Ram was born and the mosque itself as a disputed structure. This was a myth that came into being in the 20th century and like all myths, was devoid of any historical basis. But it was used to whip up nationwide frenzy.
The RSS tried to kill two birds with one stone and succeeded eminently. Its first aim was to dismantle the secular fabric of the Constitution and the second, to divide Indians into Hindus and Muslims and polarize Hindus on social and political planes. Needless to say, it achieved both objectives. The secular structure of the Indian democracy was destroyed and India was put on the path to becoming a Hindu Rashtra.
On 9 November 2019, the Supreme Court, by ruling in favour of Ram Lalla, paved the way for the construction of a temple at the site where the Babri Masjid once stood. This judgment was not based on facts, but on belief. The judges not only accepted that Ram Lalla was a historical personality but, in a first for the judiciary, also declared him a juridical person! It is laughable that this juridical person, who was accorded the status of a litigant, did not depose before the court. It is ironical that while the case against those who brought down the Babri Masjid was still pending, the court chose to put a full stop to the dispute. It is also surprising that the court directed the secular government of the country to get a Ram temple constructed. Is a Hindu government ruling in India? But the silver lining in this otherwise dark cloud is that by ruling in favour of the Hindus, the court saved India from bloodshed. Had the judgment gone against the Hindus, it would have led to bloodletting on an unprecedented scale.
For whom is the Ram temple being constructed? The RSS would come out with an immediate reply: Ram is revered by the Hindus and so his temple should be constructed. If you ask them why another Ram temple is needed in Ayodhya, which is already chock-a-block with temples dedicated to the deity, they will say that this is going to be Ram Lalla’s temple.
Fine, you build a grand temple of Ram Lalla and install his idols there. But please be kind enough to tell us why Ram Lalla was born on this Earth. They won’t be able to answer this question. But all Hindus – and especially the Bahujans – need to know the answer to this question. Ram was the son of King Dashrath of Ayodhya and considered an incarnation of Lord Vishnu. Why Vishnu took incarnation in the form of Ram? It is in the answer to this question that the anti-Bahujan agenda of the RSS – in other words, the agenda of Hindu nationalism – is hidden. Poet Valmiki and Goswami Tulsidas both declared unambiguously that Vishnu took birth as Ram to protect the Brahmins and the cows. According to Valmiki, the Devas prayed to Vishnu to descend on the Earth as Ram to kill Ravan – whom the Devas considered a traitor. Thus, Ram took birth to kill Ravan and other traitors and to establish the empire of the Brahmins.
Thus Ram was a protector of the Brahmins and the killer of those who betrayed them. Then, why would the Brahmins not hail the Ram who took up arms to protect them? Temples dedicated to such a Ram would only benefit the Brahmins. The devotees of such a Ram would be the devotees of the Brahmins as well. That is why they are trying to make the Dalits and backward castes, devotees of Ram. Those Bahujans who revere Ram would, by implication, revere Brahmins, too. Hence, the Ram temple is essential to the building of a Hindu Rashtra. The Ram temple is what pulls the chariot of Hindu Rashtra. Ram is a pillar of the Hindu Rashtra and Ram Rajya is the rule of the Varna system, with Brahmins as its standard-bearers. Just read the Ramayana. It says that nothing moves in Ram Rajya without the assent of the Brahmins and even Ram fears the curse of the Brahmins. Krishna and Shiva can never be as supportive of the Brahmins and the Varna system as Ram is. No other deity can help in the building of the Hindu Rashtra as much as Ram can.
Dalits are not on a par with the backward castes in terms of the right to enter temples. The Dalits are “Avarnas” and temples are out of bounds for them. The backward castes are not Avarnas – they are the fourth Varna in the Varna system. They are not “untouchable” and there is no restriction on their access to temples. On the other hand, Dalits have been placed outside the Varna system. They have been given the status of Antyaj and have been declared “untouchable”. That is why the backward castes participated in the Ram Mandir movement more enthusiastically than the Dalits. Kalyan Singh, Uma Bharti and Vinay Katiyar – all hailing from backward castes – were the aggressive faces of the Ram temple movement. Yet, when the recommendations of the Mandal Commission were implemented, the RSS orchestrated violence nationwide in opposition to the move. It wants to recruit the Backwards as foot soldiers of the Hindutva army but does not want to give them reservations in jobs. At the time when the Ram temple movement was at its peak, the Backward leaders of the RSS were also speaking up against the Backwards. The Brahmin leaders and intellectuals, on the other hand, were claiming meritocracy to brand Dalits as well as the Backwards incapable and incompetent. That was because the RSS does not want a dent in the Brahmin domination of the administration and the government. Devotion to Ram has turned the backward-caste leaders into slaves.
In 1930, Dr Ambedkar launched a satyagraha demanding entry of Dalits into the Kalaram temple in Nashik. His objective was to forge a third front of the Dalits in parallel with the two fronts of the Hindus and the Muslims. The reason was that Gandhi and other Hindu leaders had counted Dalits among the Hindus and were claiming to represent an overwhelming section of the Indians. Dr Ambedkar wanted to demonstrate that the Dalits are not Hindus because the Hindus consider them untouchable – so much so that even their shadow shouldn’t fall on them. He succeeded in proving his point when the Hindus attacked the Dalits trying to enter the Kalaram temple and stopped them. The satyagraha of the Dalits was non-violent but the Hindus retaliated with violence, leaving Ambedkar and many other Dalits injured.
Dr Ambedkar withdrew the temple satyagraha, but not before he had successfully exposed the Hindu leaders demanding Swarajya. That forced Gandhi to launch his own temple-entry movement. He wanted to draw political mileage. The Guruvayur temple satyagraha was the first such attempt by the Hindus, which did not succeed. Dr Ambedkar had raised an important issue in this context, which deserves mention. He had asked whether securing entry into temples was the first objective of the Dalits. And if it was, then what was their final objective? Answering the question himself, Ambedkar had said that getting a share in the State – and not entry into temples – should be the first and the last objective of the Dalits.
For the RSS, however, the temple is the first and the last objective. It wants the Bahujans to get sucked into the struggle for the temple and forget their objective of securing a share in the State. The temple is the best tool for this purpose.
Translation: Amrish Herdenia; copy-editing: Anil
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