May 29, 2017

Dalits Embracing Buddhism-Islam to escape caste atrocities

Dalits Embracing Buddhism, Islam to Escape Caste Atrocities Ram Puniyani Caste has been a major factor of Indian society. This has determined the politics all through the history and contemporary times. There are various claims and interpretation about the origin and prevalence of caste system. While Ambedkar locates the origin of caste in Holy Scriptures, there are versions, propagated by Hindutva ideology which claims that all castes were equal in Hindu society, Muslim aggressors wanted to convert and those escaping conversions had to escape into remote places leading to caste inequality. This interpretation is reflecting the upper caste ideology rather than the true interpretation of the events which took place. The very simple logic to debunk this ‘aggressors and conversion’ theory lies in Holy books like Manusmriti, which show us the social impact of full-fledged caste hierarchy by second century AD, much before Islam came into being and much before Muslim traders arrived on Malabar coast or Muslim kings’ incursions took place. Contrary to this warped interpretation Swami Vivekananda also tells us that major conversions to Islam took place due to tyranny of caste system. It was this caste which remained in Indian society as an indelible mark despite the processes of semi modernization during the colonial period. Same persists despite seventy years of Independence and formal implementation of Indian constitution, which promises us Equality. This painful fact of our society came to the fore once again recently as Mr. Adiyanath Yogi, the saffron clothed chief monk of Gorakhnath math assumed to office of Chief Minister in Uttar Pradesh. Apart from other things the atrocities against the dalits showed an upward trend as reflected in multiple incidents of violence in Saharanpur. It is reported that close to 180 Dalit families from three western Uttar Pradesh villages claimed that they have embraced Buddhism as a mark of protest against rise the atrocities on them with Mr. Adityanath Yogi assuming the power. (May 2017) In few villages the clash between Thakurs and dalits took ugly turn. Thakurs prevented the installation of Ambedkar statue and dalits later objected to the procession to honor Rajput King Rana Pratap, as their procession was not having legal permissions. Dalits allege that Adityanath's government "belongs only to his fellow Thakurs". Yet again in Moradabad about 50 Dalit families near Saharanpur, threatened give up Hinduism if Adityanath did not put a stop on the attacks on Dalits by the "saffron brigade". Similarly in Aligarh nearly 2000 dalits have threatened to embrace Islam. (TOI, May 22, 2017). One Bhim Army has come up to take up the cause of dalits. While administration accuses them of precipitating violence, dalits claim that this army has come as a savior for them and that administration having upper caste bias is targeting this outfit rather than catching hold of the culprits. There has been a tremendous rise in Hindu Vigilante groups and Bhim army comes as a sort of hope for the section of dalits many of them claim that with Yogi Government the RSS affiliates are showing their true colors, so we have no option except leaving the fold of Hinduism, which is currently dominated by Brahmanical norms, which is also the base of politics of RSS combine, Hindutva ideology. Currently a large number of dalits are protesting at Jantar Mantar (IE May 22) demanding an end to the atrocities against dalits. RSS faces a big dilemma in dealing with the dalit groups. On one hand they want to take them along for electoral benefits on the other giving them some status upsets the core upper caste constituency of RSS-Hindutva politics. To overcome this there has been efforts to co-opt dalits by cultural mechanisms on one level. RSS started Samajik Samrasts manch and started the program of co-dining with the low caste. At another level it has been offering the lollypop of power to many of the dalit leaders like Ram Vilas Paswan, Ramdas Athwaly and Udit Raj among others. It has also been actively engaged in trying to win over the dalit communities by modulating the community history to present as if it is these dalits were the protectors of Hindus against the onslaught of Muslims. These cultural manipulations are also the basic part of constructions of Hindu nationalism. Currently during last three years in particular, the atrocities on dalits have been manifest in various forms. One recalls that during this time Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle was banned in IIT Madras. In Hyderabad Central University, the anti dalit policies of the administration led to institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and to cap it all the Holy cow agenda of this politics led to the brutal beatings of dalits in Una, Gujarat. The politics of Hindu nationalism is the polar opposite of the path and goal of those oppressed by caste system. One recalls Bhimrao Ambedkar, standing for social justice; democracy went on to support the burning of Manusmriti, while it has been the core book eulogized by RSS ideologues like M S Golwalkar. It is people like Golwalkar who opposed the formation of Indian Constitution on the ground that we already have a ‘wonderful’ constitution in the form of Manu Smriti. While Ambedkar said that Gita is Manusmriti in nut shell, this government is promoting Gita to the hilt. Hindu nationalism, has constructed a history where ancient Hindu glory around values of Hindu scriptures was reigning supreme. Its attempt is to revive the values prevalent in Vedic times, values of hierarchy which can’t have a place in a democratic society. There are other streams of Hinduism, called Shramans (Bhakti stream for example), which rejected the hierarchical notions, but they has been eclipsed by the Brahmanical versions, which are the core of Hindu nationalism as propagated from last nearly one century. The massive protest in Jantar Manatar, led by Bhim army is an indication that the very delusion of equality being created by the RSS cannot succeed. It reminds us yet again that Ambedkar had to finally renounce Hinduism to escape the religiously ordained caste system, and that’s what large number of dalits is aiming at present.