Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Hindutva And The Dalit-Bahujans: Dangerous Portents

By Yoginder Sikand

Hindutva, the unique Indian form of Indian fascism, is the modern incarnation of Brahminism. Although it projects itself as the defender of the 'Hindu' community against imagined 'enemies', such as Muslims and Christians, it is actually premised on an unrelenting hostility towards the vast majority of the so-called 'Hindus' themselves-Dalits, Shudras and tribals. The very basis of what is today called Hinduism is the caste system, which is specifically geared to preserving and promoting 'upper' caste hegemony that is based on the systematic exploitation and oppression of the so-called 'lower' castes. Hindutva, therefore, is not to be characterized as 'Hindu communalism' as such, as it does not represent the interests of all so-called 'Hindus' as such. As numerous writers have pointed out, a more apt description of Hindutva is that it is the contemporary form of Brahminism. In other words, Hindutva may be defined as Brahminical fascism.

This being the case, Hindutva cannot be countered simply through pious appeals to 'Hindu-Muslim unity'. The fatal mistake that secularists have consistently been making is to see Hindutva as simply 'Hindu communalism'. Consequently, they have been trying, ineffectively, to combat it simply by invoking a common ethical impulse that they argue underlies the different religions. Since Hindutva represents the contemporary agenda of Brahminism, it poses an immense threat not just to the Muslims of the country, but equally, or perhaps even more so, to the vast majority of the so-called 'Hindus' themselves-the Dalits, Shudras and tribals, who, taken together, form more than 70 per cent of the country's population as a whole-the Bahujan Samaj. Clearly, Hindutva aims at preserving and promoting 'upper' caste rule and 'lower' caste slavery, inspired by a vision that draws on the cruel laws that the Brahminical scriptures prescribe for the 'lower' castes. As Shamsul Islam rightly notes, the
Hindu Right aims at 'denying [.] Dalits of all human rights'[1], and the same applies for its implications for other members of the Bahujan Samaj. The most effective way of countering Hindutva is, therefore, to mobilize these marginalized groups against the Hindutva forces by exposing the grave threats that the Hindutva agenda poses for them. In other words, highlighting the menacing implications of Hindutva for the Dalit-Bahujans is the surest way to combat Hindutva, for it is they who are today being so assiduously used by 'upper' caste forces as foot-soldiers in their pogroms against Muslims and Christians, thus threatening to drive the country to the brink of civil war. The Dalit-Bahujans account for the vast majority of the Indian population, and if they are able to see through the Brahminical designs behind the Hindutva project, Hindutva would die a natural death.

This booklet is a critique of Hindutva from a Dalit-Bahujan perspective. It focuses on what Hindutva means for the Dalit-Bahujans, showing how it is essentially geared to preserving and promoting 'upper' caste Hindu rule and suppressing the stirrings of revolt that are now becoming increasingly visible among the 'low' caste majority.

The Historical Roots of Hindutva

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) was established in 1925 by K.B.Hedgewar, a Maharashtrian Brahmin. Initially, almost all its members were Brahmins, and even today, its top level leaders are almost entirely from the 'upper' castes, particularly Brahmins. The RSS was founded at a time when Maharashtra was witnessing a powerful movement of revolt among the 'lower' castes against 'upper' caste tyranny led by such stalwarts as Mahatma Jotiba Phule and Dr. Ambedkar. The establishment of the RSS at this time was hardly coincidental. Rather, it is apparent that the rise of 'lower' caste consciousness and protest against 'upper' caste hegemony was a key factor in the setting up of the RSS. The spread of the RSS in other parts of the country can also be explained on similar lines. Feeling increasingly threatened by the growing awareness and militancy among the 'lower' castes, 'upper' caste leaders found in the ideology of Hindutva a convenient way to co-opt the 'lower' castes and to divert their wrath from their real oppressors (the 'upper' castes/classes) onto imagined enemies in the form of Muslims, Christians and communists. By appealing to the notion of an imagined 'Hindu nation' and 'Hindu community', Hindutva ideologues (almost all Brahmins) sought to deny the existence of internal caste and class contradictions among the so-called 'Hindus'. This denial aimed at drawing the 'lower' castes behind the 'upper' castes, and to destroy 'lower' caste movements of protest against 'upper' caste hegemony. Accordingly, the plight of the 'lower' castes was sought to be explained away as a result of alleged Muslim or Christian 'persecution', while the 'Hindu' period of history was glorified as a 'golden age'. In this rewriting of history, the oppression of the 'lower' castes that saw its genesis in the so-called 'golden age' was completely ignored. So, too, was the inconvenient fact that the oppression of the 'lower' castes is specifically mentioned and prescribed in all the Brahminical scriptures.

Yet, the projection of the notion of a united 'Hindu nation' was only at the level of rhetoric. In actual fact, the proponents of Hindutva sought to carefully preserve the exploitative caste-class system by conveniently remaining silent on it. And this continues to be the case till today. Not surprisingly, the Hindutvawadais have never taken up any militant struggles for the rights of the Dalits, for distribution of land to the poor, for the rights of workers and tribals and so on. Instead, they have consistently supported the interests of the capitalist-feudal-Brahminical elites. Not surprisingly, the core support-base of the Hindutva movement since its inception onwards has consisted of landlords, former rulers of princely states, industrialists, merchants, priests-'upper' castes in general, all of whose interests are diametrically opposed to the Dalit-Bahujans', and whose hegemony is based on their systematic subjugation.

That Hindutva fundamentally aims at the preservation of the Brahminical system, based as it is on the exploitation of the 'lower' caste majority, has been pointed out by numerous scholars. In his incisive study of the Hindutva phenomenon, titled Saffron Fascism, Shyam Chand, a Dalit scholar and activist who served for many years as member of the Haryana Legislative Assembly, quotes from a secret circular sent out by the RSS to its preachers. It clearly indicates the sinister Brahminical strategy of using the Dalit-Bahujans to attack the Muslims and Christians, while at the same time aiming to keep the Dalit-Bahujans under the permanent slavery of the 'upper' castes.

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