By Arun Srivastava
The observation “everybody is same and do not be misled by caste superiority” coming from Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat certainly cannot be described as ambiguous. It has much wider and deeper than it looks at the surface level. His rumination on caste is the part of the well-designed strategy and is evident from the fact it puts a question mark on the efficacy and relevance of Sangh, which stands for Sanatan Dharma and Manusmriti.
While Manusmriti strongly advocates for caste division, Bhagwat is preaching just opposite line. This nevertheless makes one thing absolutely clear that RSS has no ideology and simply is an instrument to perpetuate the politics of hate, divisiveness and convert India into a Hindu Rashtra. Had it been really founded on some fundamental ideological structure, Bhagwat would not have dared to say “What some pandits say on the basis of shastras is a lie. We are misled by caste superiority and this illusion has to be set aside. Whatever the name, ability, and honour of a person, everybody is the same and there are no differences.”
Manu has categorized Ambashta, Nishad, Soota, Ugra, Vaidehaka, Maagadha, Chandala, Aabheera, Vaideha, Shwapaka, Charmakaraka, Andhra etc as progeny of men and women belonging to different castes and has given them the collective name of Sankara. Dr Ambedkar raises an important question here. Do Manu’s explanations about the birth of Sankara castes hold any historical veracity? He gives the example of Aabheera, who is born of the union between a Brahmin man and an Ambashta woman. He says Aabheera (Ahira in the vernacular) is a shepherd community. Perhaps, Manu thought that the four-varna system had failed because there were a large number of communities that did not fall in any of the categories of Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudhra. Perhaps, this prompted him to describe these communities outside the caste system as “Varna-Sankara”.
It is striking that Bhagwat for last five years has been harping on this. He even traced common DNA in Muslims and Hindus. He has been emphatic in his assertion that Dalits and Adivasis are Hindus. They are not separate identities. Bhagwat’s endeavour simply underscores his unsteadiness and apprehension that based on the 30 percent of the Hindus, India could not be transformed into a Hindu nation. They may pose a serious threat to the RSS and BJP endeavour to give a shape to the basic political approach, wrapped in the Bhagwacolour of ideology.
If at all Bhagwat feels that Manu was not correct or his classification of Hindu society on caste line hurt the composition and character of the Hindus, he should denounce Manu. A formal denouement will do a great service to the people of the country and especially to Hindus.
This move is faced with the major thwart of Dalits, Adivasis and even Muslims repudiating their self-respect and identity. Bhagwat also desires that these people should denounce their religious adherence and surrender their religious identity. Dalits believe in Ambedkar’s ideology and politics. Their denouncing caste line, as propounded would mean that they accept Hindu as the only community. Same is with the Adivasis. They will have to distance from Sarna.
Bhagwat has been involved in this nature of conversation around caste earlier too and has received criticism from the Opposition, which has repeatedly hit back by questioning the RSS’s stand on caste. In October 2022, speaking at a book launch in Nagpur, Bhagwat said “varna” and “jaati” (caste) should be completely discarded, adding that “the caste system has no relevance now. Everything that causes discrimination should go out lock, stock and barrel”. At the time, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar had quipped; “that those who were responsible for such discrimination are realising it must be done away with, is a good thing”.
While addressing a gathering of religious leaders from Dalit and backward class communities in Karnataka, sometime in November 2022 Bhagwat had said that “efforts must be made to prevent religious conversions since they take people away from their roots”. Obviously question arises why is he scared of this conversion. He had also said; “The main problems of Hindu society such as untouchability, differences and inequality exist mainly in the mind. These problems do not exist in the scriptures…These problems have existed in our minds for many generations and their solutions will also take time. We have to slowly work to remove them from our mind.”
While Bhagwat harps on commonality and tries to win over the trust of the Dalits, his saffron bigots continue to perpetrate torture on the OBC and Dalits. Only a week back the marauders of the Karni Sena, an outfit of the upper caste Rajputs, owing allegiance to BJP, carried out mayhem at the OBCs in Bihar and burnt nearly 35 houses of theirs. Does Bhagwat believe that the seed of hatred which his RSS has sowed into the society will finish for ever? Do the upper caste RSS cadres and supporters will accept the dalits as entities belonging to their own caste? Will Bhagwat’s sermon abolish the dividing line between various segments of the Hindu society?
The National Crime Records Bureau reported that crimes against Dalits had increased by 9.3% in 2020 over the previous year. If the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was sincere about improving the lives of Dalits, it would have focused on caste equality. However, instead of equality (samata), it kept emphasising cohesion (samrasta). Many in the Sangh Parivar defend the varna system as a scientific way to ensure the smooth functioning of society.
The syndrome of one Hindu caste fighting against other, that too under the watchful eyes of the saints and mahantas of Hindu matts has been dominating the Hindu ethos and its existence. In Karnataka his political party BJP has been faced with this ordeal. Vokkaliga and Lingayat are pitted against each other. As if the existence of these two organisations was not enough, other Hindu religious sects have come up.
Going by views of Mohan Bhagwat, it appears that has RSS discarded chunks of thoughts of its former head MS Golwalkar. His statement on the birthday of Sant Ravidas could be viewed as a safety valve to let out the growing pressure of Dalit disenchantment with the Hindutva project. Addressing a book release event in Nagpur on October 7, Bhagwat criticised the inhuman treatment meted out to “some of our own people”. He declared, “This sin has happened and it must be atoned for.” If he is really sincere and honest in his approach, he must come out with a diktat that anyone speaking a single word against Dalits, Adivasi and Muslims is unwelcome in the Sangha Parivar, especially the BJP.
It is worth mentioning the observation of renowned dalit scholar KanchaI laiah Shepherd that some months back general secretary of RSS, Dattatreya Hosabale, gave a statement that reservation is a historical necessity for India, it should continue as long as there is inequality being experienced by a particular section of society. He also said that “the history of India would be ‘incomplete’ without the history of Dalits”. Ilaiah however sought to know whether this is endorsed by Bhagwat. His assertion coincides with the move of the Shudra agrarian communities across the country to reassess their status in all spheres of life — spiritual, social, educational, and economic. (IPA Service)