Abjure or Appropriate Ambedkar

Should Hindus or Hindutva, abjure or appropriate Ambedkar?

Abjure or Appropriate Ambedkar


  • As a compilation of different posts on the subject, there would be some repetition and non-sequitur in the following article. 
  • I am well aware that my one person’s acceptance or rejection of Ambedkar, Dalit means nothing. Yet in society, Everyone free to have a consistent stand and proclaim it. What becomes of it, is not predictable. Maybe others will find sense in the position and join, or reject. After all when someone a few decades back coined the term ‘Dalit’ (Phule 1880?), many would have dismissed it, yet it has made its presence felt, that I am writing posts against it. So who knows what events are to unfold in Ishwara Sankalpa.

One of the signs of cultural colonization is that the heroes and villains of the colonized culture are often defined by the colonizers than the people of the culture for themselves.

A good example is Ashoka, whom the Buddhist deified, but otherwise had little renown in most of India, until the British came and glorified him.

Akbar, similarly, is another such case.

Even the Buddha was one among many philosophical giants in Dharmic traditions, got cachet with the new Western adulation.

In the battlefield of narratives, such manipulation can occur due to a variety of reasons.

Sri. Sita Ram Goel (SRG) highlighted how Hindus invented a “True Jesus” for Christians, one who is an Avatar, having very inclusive universality, by ignoring the exclusive and alienating aspects of Gospels, which are antithetical to the Hindu beliefs.

And a “True Mohammad” for Muslims, who was so non-violent and conducted Satyanarayana puja at home every week, never mind what the Quran or Hadiths say about idol worshippers.

SRG speculates that being under Islamic or colonial rule, Hindus attempted such to lessen the ferocity of attacks, but that it is disheartening to see the behaviour continue even under the secular state.

So makes one wonder, about the nature of the Secular State and the status of Hindus in it? Is it any different from being under invasive Islam or colonizing Christianity, when it comes to attitudes?

Now the same dynamic is at work with Hindutva folks inventing a ‘True Ambedkar’ to appeal to Dalits, by completing sanitizing what Ambedkar wrote about Rama, Krishna etc. Selectively picking only points of agreement, like Ambedkar’s rejection of Aryan Invasion Theory, opinions about Islam etc. And of course, the Dalitists do the reverse, ignore Ambedkar on AIT etc, and focus on his abuse of valued Hindu divinities. Standard practice in narrative wars.

Still disappointing to see Hindutva doing that, by colluding with the Dalit project of mounting Ambedkar as the mascot of all jatis which come under SC/ST when he in his own lifetime couldn’t even win over all the Mahars, his own jati, enough that he could win an election.

And pretending as though these are established facts,

  • Hyphenating ST always with SCs, as though they have the same social history
  • Then that all Jaatis under SC/ST subscribe to the notional political identity of Dalit, across all regions, languages, economies etc. of India
  • And that, all of them hold Ambedkar as their deified mascot

It is ‘Behalfism’, like how ‘Gandhi’ has been foisted as the mascot for all Indians to the outside world, never mind what Indians themselves think, Ambedkar is being foisted upon all SC/STs, as though they all self identify as Dalits.

It seems Hindutva lacks the ability or perseverance to directly appeal to the SC brethren, that they have chosen to borrow this ‘True Ambedkar’ prop.

I do see efforts to bring out other SC leaders, who were invested as Hindus as well, M.C.Rajah for example, but that is far less compared to this co-opting of True Ambedkar.

Hindu supporters of BJP/Sangh can be relied upon not to read Ambedkar directly and just go with the approved sound bytes. But even a passing glance at Ambedkar is sufficient to show his hostility to the Hindus.

About seven out of the twenty-two vows he made are all about rejection of Hindu Dharma, its Devata, beliefs and expressions and couple are outright vilifications.

“I renounce Hinduism which is harmful for humanity and impedes the advancement and development of humanity because it is based on inequality,”

Sure there would be a history on how he arrived at that stage and many social, economic, political reasons. But from the perspective of Hindus who sublimate, transcend such socio-economic challenges by being established in Dharma, there is no need to acknowledge or accept such a person. And to foist him upon all SCs, large sections of whom are Hindus with a strong faith in Dharma and Devata is sheer chicanery.

Perhaps Hindutva is trying to colonize the SCs, by joining Dalitists in deifying Ambedkar into a divinity?

And as an aside, with respect to a few other of Ambedkar’s vows, seems Ambedkar invented a “True Buddha”, sanitized for his purposes, quite different from historical Buddha and teachings recorded closer to Buddha’s own lifetime.

“Dalit” is a constructed identity, and entirely a political one.

Yes, new identities can be constructed, nothing wrong with that, by combining pre-existing groups and differentiating from other groups etc. For example, the Maratha identity was coalesced by Chhatrapati Shivaji’s achievements.

Hinduism is also one such constructed umbrella identity.

(I don’t mean that the worldview that is known as Hinduism did not exist prior to the label of Hinduism, but that the label identity was acquired in recent centuries. More on that https://pragyata.com/conundrum-of-the-hindu-identity/)

While I accept the Hindu identity, I reject Dalit as an identity, even though I don’t belong to a Jaati categorized as SC.

And I can, because identity recognition needs two criteria to be met,

  • Self-identification, a considerable portion of the target people should identify themselves under the label
  • Outsider affirmation, a considerable population of others should also acknowledge the label, though not all will ever will

With ‘Hindu’ that has been achieved to a great extent and the proof is the recognition by multiple Constitutional and legal systems, in India, Indonesia, elsewhere.

But not so with ‘Dalit’, the Union of India and the judiciary only recognizes SC and ST, not ‘Dalit’

Secondly and overlapping with a legal definition, it is unknown whether a considerable population of SC/STs, even when they have political awareness, consider themselves as Dalits or not?

So both on the scale of self-identification and external affirmation, Dalit is a dubious identity. That may change in the future, either way, we don’t know.

But to Hindus/Hindutva folks working on affirming the Hindu identity and achieving Hindu consolidation, the Dalit label if not an enemy, is at least competition.

Hindutva should be seeking to bring the SC/ST jatis like Paraiyas, Pallars, Balmikis, Malas, Chamar, Mochi, Dom etc. under the Hindutva umbrella and not the Dalit umbrella.

But Hindutva folks are yielding to the Dalit label, in a patronizing manner, even while claiming SC/STs are brethren. SC/STs jatis are indeed brethren if Hindu and if not Dalit.

The ‘Dalit’ identity is an ideological, political rival, which is trying to lock down an entire set of jatis into that political label. Dalitists are free to do so.

But why should other political movements like Hindutva, acknowledge that and give up on that part of the population?

The typical excuse given is, better recognized as Dalit, than converted to Christian or Muslim. This is a fallacy because the Dalit recognition does not prevent conversion, even the SC recognition relevant for reservations is bypassed by cryptos. So all that will yield are artificial identities of Dalit Christian, Dalit Muslims, who will still be against Hindus, both as Dalits and as Christians or Muslims.

And don’t say that they can be Dalits as well as Hindus, that is as idiotic as projecting folks can be Muslims/Christians as well as Hindu. But then that is what Sangh/Hindutva is going towards, claiming even Muslims and Christians are Hindu, so I guess even Dalits are Hindu is in line with that.

And related to this is the adulation of Ambedkar as an icon, by Hindutva, pandering to Dalits.

I refuse to recognize Dalits itself as an identity, then why yield Ambedkar as their leader?

Does any other caste confederation in India have such a thing?

Are all Kshatriyas across regions grouped into one umbrella identity, with any one person as a mascot? No, Vaishyas? No, Brahmins? No.

Then, to acknowledge and allow such things for Dalits alone is opening up the possibility of another partition of India, even if not in the territorial sense. Therefore:

  • Recognize Jatis, because they are organic and self-identified labels
  • Recognize SC/ST (BC, OBC, GC) etc., because they are government categories with legal relevance
  • Reject Dalit, it is an ideological enemy and sociological rival and by extension, reject Ambedkar as the leader of Dalits

And that is no disrespect to Ambedkar. The following are valid descriptors about him:

  • Ambedkar was a Mahar, his Jaati
  • Ambedkar was a convert to Buddhism or rather to his own version of Navayana, his choice. (Buddha would not have recognized his neo-Buddhism, given that Buddha was fully involved in Hindu social structures of his time, recognized the Trāyastriṃśat (33) Devas per Mahayana etc., showed preference towards Brahmanas and Kshatriyas etc. Sure there were exceptions like Upali, but then does Hinduism lack exceptions of such? Satyakama Jabala for example. Anyway, other Buddhists can deal with the fallacies of his version.)
  • Ambedkar had a strong influence on the Constitution of India, though it is nonsensical to project as though he was the sole author

Anything more is narrative myth-making by the motivated. There is no benefit for Hindus-Hindutva to participate in this particular mythmaking.

All jatis are Hindu, there is no need for political sub-categories. Not Harijan, Not Dalit, Not nothing. Non-Hindus have no Jaati. If they say they have, it is still of no relevance to Hindus.

As simple as that.

In the last two centuries, a parallel has been constructed between the Blacks in America and the Dalits in India, completely ignoring that Dalit is purely a political identity, whereas Blacks are based on biological differences, at least of pigmentation.

Mostly it has been one-way traffic, with Dalitists trying to hitch a ride on the Civil Rights movement, incorrectly equating Jati discrimination with racial discrimination. And it continues till today, trying to leverage BLM etc., to the Indian context.

The traffic in the other direction has been insignificant, Isabel Wilkerson’s attempts notwithstanding, Martin Luther King Jr found it fit to align with Gandhians and not the Ambedkarites.

Another noticeable difference is, while Blacks have their struggles with racism in the US, they were not lacking when it came to fighting America’s wars and take a lot of pride in that.

Whereas the Dalit narrative has been singularly lacking in that, and that is not because folks from SC/ST don’t have such legacy, but because the Dalit narrative is different from that of SC/STs.

  • Ambedkar, while living amidst the climactic stages of the Indian freedom struggle against the British, is significant by his lack of activity against the British
  • And the seminal event highlighted is the Battle of Koregaon, which even accepting the exaggerated claims, is in essence a British battle against the native kingdom

Instead of highlighting cases like Babu Jagjivan Ram, Birsa Munda, Rettamalai Srinivasan, M.C.Rajah, to pick Ambedkar as the paramount icon, is it because these leaders while fighting for their communities, did not hold India-Hindus-Hinduism as the ‘enemy’?

A rough comparison can be made, Ambedkar with his animus towards Hinduism etc. is like the Black Nation of Islam-Malcolm X type (Though Malcolm X eventually parted ways from Black Islamic Nationalism).

Whereas the other leaders of SC origins were more of Martin Luther King Jr. type.

In the US, Blacks adulate MLK over Malcolm X, who while respected, is not the idol of the Blacks. Whereas in India, Dalitists have made Ambedkar their prophet, while others are sidelined.

Somewhat like what Congress did, elevating Gandhi and the pseudo-Gandhis, sidelining the rest.

BJP-Hindutva strategy is upholding nationalism, by retrieving the icons sidelined by Congress like Sardar Patel, causing Congress to lose credibility, but strangely is not using the same standards or strategy of highlighting Nationlistic Hindu SC icons, but instead is entrenching Ambedkar and Dalitism, ignoring Ambedkar’s and Dalitists’ antipathy to Hinduism and India.

So it makes one wonder about BJP-Sangh, are they merely after political power, that they use such strategies only against political rivals, but cosy up to a movement which is opposed socio-culturally to the Hindu heritage of this nation?

About Author: Raghu Bhaskaran

Raghunandhan (Raghu) Bhaskaran is a Bharathi and like many today, he for long, ignored his heritage and was focused towards Artha, to the exclusion of the other Purusharthas and is yet another IT consultant. But now he is increasingly a seeker of what it means to be a Hindu, a follower of Dharma in every sphere of life - personal, social, cultural and political. Towards this, he uses writing as a sadhana, to attain clarity and shares his learning with others, learns from others. He considers himself as the 'Mongoose of Mahabharatha', from the Ashwamedha Parva. Serendipity has led him to some yagna-salas, the works/company of some wonderful people - from heritage, family, friends, teachers and even on social media. He rolls around in the crumbs of their wisdom and some stick to him. And he shines in parts, from those borrowed crumbs of knowledge.

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