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What made the BJP nurture the pipedream of a ‘total boycott’?

High on Hindutva, people like Pravesh Verma want to pit Muslims against Dalits. Accustomed to boycotting Dalits, they think that they can as easily boycott Muslims, too, says Kanwal Bharti

Do we know what a “total boycott” means? There’s a historical context to why Pravesh Verma, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from West Delhi constituency, has given the call for a “total boycott” of a particular community. The source of his idea is the same as that of the ‘ascetics’ who called for the genocide of Muslims. Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat may have begun parroting against caste and announcing that everyone’s DNA is the same. But did he utter a single word against Pravesh Sharma calling for a “total boycott” of the Muslims or the ascetics who called for the massacre of the minority community? He didn’t. Whom is he trying to fool?

Let us first understand what a “total boycott” means. Ambedkar has written that the Savarnas use “total boycott” as a powerful weapon to oppress Dalits in rural areas. A total boycott of Dalits means that no Hindu of the village would give work to a Dalit, no Hindu shopkeeper will sell anything to a Dalit, and no Hindu will allow Dalits to use his field for relieving themselves. Now, the Dalits, realizing that they wouldn’t be able to survive such a boycott, would surrender to the Hindus. 

But recently Pravesh Verma talked about a “total boycott” of Muslims. Now, Muslims are not dependent on the Savarnas. Hindus can neither oppress them nor bring them under their thumb by using the weapon of a “total boycott”. The condition of the Dalit was different. In the rural areas, they were totally dependent on the Savarnas for their livelihood. This is true to a great extent even now. However, Muslims do not depend on Hindus for livelihoods. A Muslim mason does not visit Hindu households seeking work. Whosoever needs his services approaches him. He doesn’t discriminate against anyone. He works for Muslims, Hindus and even Dalits. The situation is the same with Muslims who fix floor tiles, repair punctures, forge iron implements, sell vegetables and run general stores or are carpenters, electricians, motor mechanics or halwais. None of them is dependent on Hindus. None of them urges Hindus to come to them. Then, how can the Hindus boycott them?

BJP MP Pravesh Verma addressing a public meeting in Delhi

Rare is a Hindu who buys sweets from a Muslim halwai. But he does visit the local Muslim barbers for a haircut and shave. You can boycott only someone whom you rule. It is not as if Muslims reside in the fiefdoms of Hindu landlords. Then how would the BJP people boycott them? Yes, a clutch of saffron Hindu goons may attack poor Muslims selling eatables or vegetables on roadsides, balloon-sellers, rickshaw-pullers and the like. But they cannot boycott them.   

The saffron-brigade Hindus calling for a boycott of Muslims should also remember that the Muslims have grown into a self-reliant Muslim nation. They own swanky malls. They own general and medical stores, hospitals and shops selling furniture, stationery, readymade clothes, electrical and electronic goods, crockery, hardware, vegetables, shoes, meat and fish, and also jewellery, toys, cosmetics and construction material. They also own tailoring shops and supply tents, chairs etc for functions. In fact there is hardly anything that they do not sell or make. And these markets and shops are not dependent on the Hindus. Muslims themselves form a big market for them. The Muslims also own colleges and schools and even elite Hindus queue up to have their children admitted to some of them. The Muslims form a self-reliant nation and the Hindus are in no position to boycott them. 

The locality in which I was born and brought up did not have a single shop owned by a Hindu. All the shops selling things for daily use were owned by Muslims and the situation is unchanged even today. We bought milk as well as almost everything else needed in the kitchen like wheat flour, pulses, salt, spices, edible oil and ghee from Muslim sellers. Vegetables were also bought from Muslims. The town had a big vegetable market run by Muslim kunjres (a Muslim caste traditionally engaged in selling vegetables and fruits), which is still there. Mutton was also purchased from the shop of a Muslim butcher. The women of our family bought clothes and linen from itinerant salesmen, who were Muslims. The halwai shops in our area were also run by Muslims and we used to purchase laddoos, jalebi, barfi, balushahi etc from them. We never felt they were different in any way. When I used to live in the Sultanpur district, I used to love the gujhias sold at the shop of a Muslim halwai at Shahpur Bazar. High on Hindutva, people like Pravesh Verma want to pit Muslims against Dalits. Accustomed to boycotting Dalits, they think that they can as easily boycott Muslims, too.

But even if fanatics like Pravesh Verma are living in a fool’s paradise, we do need to understand the agenda which is making them talk of a “total boycott” of Muslims. The agenda is to push the Dalit-OBC castes back into the Varna system. For instance, they are asking the Hindus to boycott Muslim barbers and switch to Hindus instead. Now, Hindu barbers have quit their traditional profession. They are either into other businesses or have found jobs after acquiring an education. Anti-development people like Pravesh Verma want the Dalit-OBC castes to return to their ancestral avocations and re-learn repairing motor cars and masonry from Muslims so that the latter can be subjected to a “total boycott”. Of course, there is no way Verma and his masters can “totally boycott” Muslims, but their pro-Varna system saffron government is indirectly urging the Dalit-OBC castes to get back to their old professions so that they can build the Hindu India of the Gupta period. This pipedream will not materialise in this or even the next generations. They know that the wheels of progress can’t be turned back. As long as the country is unfortunate enough to be ruled by these crazy minds, they may continue to dominate with the help of brute force. But they can’t resort to a “total boycott” of any community. 

(Translated from the original Hindi by Amrish Herdenia) 

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About The Author

Kanwal bharti

Kanwal Bharti (born February 1953) is a progressive Ambedkarite thinker and one of the most talked-about and active contemporary writers. Dalit Sahitya Kee Avdharna and Swami Achootanand Harihar Sanchayita are his key books. He was conferred with Dr Ambedkar Rashtriya Award in 1996 and Bhimratna Puraskar in 2001

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