Organiser on Ambedkar: Repeating a Big IIT-M Lie
The Hindutvavadis have been desperate to co-opt Ambedkar as a saffron icon. But, as an editorial in their mouthpiece, Organiser, justifying the Ministry of Human Resource Development-foisted "derecognition" of the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, reveals, they cannot tolerate his radical views. Ambedkar had a difficult relationship with the Indian communists, but he did not disagree with the goals of Marxism. Ambedkar also made clear his critical views on Hinduism. It is therefore far-fetched for the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh to claim that Ambedkar was an anti-red and pro-saffron personality.
Anand Teltumbde (email@example.com) is a writer and civil rights activist with the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai.
It would not be impossible to prove with sufficient repetition and a psychological understanding of the people concerned that a square is in fact a circle. They are mere words, and words can be molded until they clothe ideas and disguise.
– Joseph Goebbels
In the wake of the controversy around the "derecognition" of the Ambedkar–Periyar Study Circle (APSC) by the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) authorities that provoked protests all over the country and even beyond, theOrganiser, mouthpiece of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), wrote an exasperating but confused editorial "Unmasking Pseudo Ambedkarites" against the protesters, terming them reds. It accused them of not knowing that Ambedkar was pro-Hindu and against communists, and, of course, justified the derecognition of APSC. Interestingly, the editorial began with a quote from Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste, lazily lifted, incidentally, from ambedkar.org, and not from the original text, to create an impression of buttressing its point. This was in bold: "Brahminism is the poison which has spoiled Hinduism. You will succeed in saving Hinduism if you will kill Brahminism."
Apart from serving the Goebbelsque intention of repeating a lie by whatever means, one wonders why the quote that implied no eulogy or sympathy for Hinduism was used at all. Ambedkar, while addressing reformist Hindus in 1936, tried to explain what ailed Hinduism and said that Brahminism was the disease. The question arises: Could Brahminism be isolated from Hinduism? Actually, they were synonyms, as Ambedkar himself explained elsewhere. Historically speaking, there is nothing like Hinduism; it is a medieval term for Brahminism, the religion that existed beyond the Sindhu River.
Before jumping to this quote on page 78 of Volume 1 of Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, the editor ofOrganiser could have found a better quote of Ambedkar right in the preface to the book:
I shall be satisfied if I make the Hindus realize that they are the sick men of India and that their sickness is causing danger to the health and happiness of other Indians.
This is enough to see what Ambedkar thought of Hindus and Hinduism. If the RSS is still keen to hear, Ambedkar, who went on evolving until his last days, said in his Pakistan or Partition of India (which incidentally the RSS is fond of citing to mutilate Ambedkar into a Muslim-hater):
If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost (Writings and Speeches, Vol 8, p 358).
Another tract of Ambedkar, Philosophy of Hinduism, analyses the worth of Hinduism "as a way of life" and summarily trashes it as antithetical to "liberty, equality, fraternity," and failing on both, justice as well as utility. Of course, this may not deter the followers of Goebbels in persisting with their lies that Ambedkar was a great Hindu!
The editorial indulged in another preposterous ploy that the protesters against the ban on APSC were reds. Were the well-known scientists of the country, the ones who wrote to the IIT-M director against his undemocratic action, "reds?" As "liberal" in the United States is construed as communist, the RSS takes "rational and democratic" to mean "red!" Contrary to the RSS opinion, Indian university campuses were never red. Had they been so, the RSS would have never been able to come out of its narrow perimeter. The larger point it makes, however, in relation to Ambedkar again, is that he was anti-communist.
It is true that Ambedkar himself once said that he was against communists. The RSS may, however, know why he said it. He said this because he saw them belonging to a particular breed and creed, a bunch of Brahmin boys parroting Marxist dictums but displaying a Brahminical character in ignoring the ground reality of caste. His anti-communist attitude came about with his bitter experiences of the Bombay communists who even after his highlighting of the discriminatory practices against Dalit workers in textile mills in which their trade unions held sway, did not work to eliminate such prejudicial routines. There used to be separate pitchers for Dalit workers and the latter were not allowed in the better paying weaving section of the mill because it involved joining broken threads with human saliva. The communist union leaders feared that the other workers would object to Dalit workers being permitted to engage in such tasks. Ambedkar asked them to stop such discrimination against Dalit workers and he made this a precondition for his union joining the strike, but for months they just ignored his plea. It was only after threatening that he would break the strike that they relented. Despite this, he cooperated with the communists in joining the historic strike of 1938, but the rift could not be bridged. Later on, the communists took an openly anti-Ambedkar stand in the 1952 elections and Ambedkar, in turn, hurled anti-communist expletives.
While much of Ambedkar's anti-communism was influenced by communist practice vis-à-vis caste, there is a balancing load of evidence in his writings that points to his communist sympathies. Influenced deeply by Fabianism in his formative days, it is true that Ambedkar was not a Marxist. He expressed his disagreement with Marxism but never discussed it at the level of its foundational theses in dialectical materialism, historical materialism and scientific socialism. He did not even challenge the "base-superstructure" dogma that informed communist practice vis-à-vis caste. Rather, he himself fell into the trap and belaboured in proving that political revolutions were always preceded by religious revolutions, thereby accepting that caste was indeed in the realm of the superstructure.
Only once did Ambedkar engage in a relatively detailed discussion and that was when he compared Marxism with Buddhism at a conference in Kathmandu just a month before his death. He clearly stated that the goals of both, Buddhism and Marxism, were the same but they differed in the method to accomplish them. He faulted Marxism on two counts: One, Marxism adopted violence as part of its method, and two, it did not believe in democracy. Notwithstanding the fact that he still focused on Marxist practice, not theory, this made clear what his discomfort with Marxism was. As he did not have any disagreement with Marxism as regards its goals, his only anxiety was to find its equivalent sans its defects and he convinced himself that the alternative was Buddhism. It should become clear to the RSS that its efforts to paint Ambedkar as anti-red and pro-saffron can verily boomerang on it.
On the one hand, the RSS has been desperate to co-opt Ambedkar as a saffron icon, but, on the other, it does not tolerate his radical reflection, as the APSC episode clearly reveals. The editorial tried justifying the ban on the APSC as a disciplinary action of an autonomous institution that did not take orders from the government. It is an affront to think that the Indian people do not know the dubious methods of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani.
The controversial appointment of Yellapragada Sudershan Rao, the head of the Andhra Pradesh chapter of the RSS's Akhil Bharatiya Itihas Sankalan Yojana (ABISY), with no record of peer-reviewed research, as the chief of the prestigious Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), is too well known to be reiterated. Rao, who proudly flaunts his Hindutvavadi and Brahmin "credentials," has expectedly taken three historians—Narayan Rao, national vice president, Ishwar Sharan Vishwakarma, all-India general secretary, and Nikhilesh Guha, head of the Bengal chapter, all of the ABISY—to be panel members of the ICHR. Irani has been appointing pro-Hindutvavadi or pro-BJP individuals to head the apex-level institutions with impunity. The appointment of Chandrakala Padia as the chairperson of Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, Girish Chandra Tripathi as vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University, Vishram Jamdar as the chairman of Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur are but a few examples that figured in the media. The conflicts of her Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) with the Director of IIT Delhi, R K Shevgaonkar, who resigned in December 2014, with Anil Kakodkar, Chairman of the Board of Governors of IIT-Bombay, with the Vice Chancellor of Aligarh Muslim University, and with several officers of the MHRD did show her overbearing ways in promoting the RSS's Hindutvavadi agenda. In view of this, her prompt cognisance of an anonymous complaint and IIT-M's overzealous action derecognising APSC was surely not a routine administrative action.
As the issue was allowed to simmer, all facts of the case have come into open. The alibi that the so-called guidelines were purportedly violated by the APSC was in fact a post-facto means of justifying the ban. The guidelines were issued on 18 April, four days after the APSC meeting in question. The Dean who withdrew the recognition had earlier expressed his displeasure with the names of Ambedkar and Periyar, amply exposing his Brahminical proclivities. Paradoxically, it was alleged that the APSC's activities were polarising the student community. The fact remained that right-wing student bodies propagating Hindutva, such as the Vivekananda Study Circle, RSS shakhas, Hare Rama–Hare Krishna, Vande Mataram, Dhruva, etc, obviously polarising the student community along communal lines were being variously patronised by the IIT authorities. Was IIT-M's decision to have a separate vegetarian mess under the influence of the Hindutva organisations not polarising students? As a matter of fact, the APSC had taken out a "wheat or meat, don't segregate" campaign against this move in 2014. Anyway, after so much ignominy and bad publicity, the IIT authorities had to retreat and restore recognition to the APSC, vindicating the stand of the protesters against the RSS's fascist game plan.
The APSC's victory has inspired students in many campuses to start similar study circles and resist Hindutvavadi overtures. The prestigious Film and Television Institute of India has been aflame in protest against a Hindutvavadi appointment. Bravo, students, only you can bring truly achhe din for India!