In April 2017, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that his country was opening its doors to the Indian film industry, offering incentives to Indian film-makers shooting in Malaysia. He announced this at a gala dinner hosted by the Malaysia India CEO Forum (MICEOF). The occasion was also graced by Milind Kamble, Indian co-chair of MICEOF.
Who is Milind Kamble? An old Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad worker, Kamble evolved into a visionary, launching the Dalit Chamber of Commerce of India. His success in the unabashed use of capitalism to empower scheduled communities has inspired many, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency (MUDRA) and Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana, points out Kamble, are “envisioned to create the sustainable platform for Scheduled Caste (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) youth to start businesses and is hugely benefitting the community to taste the fruits of national growth and development”.
However, unlike the conventional media-academia tendency to reduce even a great nationalist and polymath like Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar to just a “Dalit icon”, Kamble was in Malaysia not as a 'Dalit entrepreneur', but as a representative of India.
Such efforts by the Modi government to unleash the real revolutionary ideas of Dr Ambedkar to use the free market as a weapon to deal with social injustice, rather than convert social justice into a leftist slogan of rhetoric, has stirred up a hornet's nest. Vested interests, which have made a living for decades, using the victimhood and atrocities stories of Dalits, find the trend threatening their livelihood. So the empire of the old establishment has been striking back. Every stray incident has made it to the national headlines, and every atrocity incident has been made to fit into the stereotypes of “right-wing upper-caste Hindu nationalist” versus “marginalised suppressed Dalits”.
A case in point is the incident in Gujarat’s Una district in 2016, when four Dalit men were assaulted for skinning cow carcasses. As Uday Mahurkar, deputy editor of India Today, had reported, the incident took place on 11 July, and on the same day, a team of BJP’s state-level Dalit leaders arrived at the village and castigated the dereliction of duty on the part of the policemen, resulting in the arrest of the assailants the very next day.
Yet, a project was launched. Politician Jignesh Mevani rode a wave of propaganda, supported by the Congress, and soon the media narrative was about “Dalit versus BJP-RSS”. As Gujarati Dalit scholar Kishore Makwana has pointed out, “not one assailant was connected to the RSS, while anti-RSS forces are bent upon projecting it as an act by RSS men”.
In fact, voices like that of Mevani are old wine of colonial distortions in a new bottle of Dalit politics. They represent the classic case of pseudo-Dalits.
Yet these phenomena have a long chain of connections and their web of deceit needs to be understood in their sordid totality.
Dalit Voice, a magazine run by V T Rajshekar, a former Indian Express journalist, was launched in 1981. By 1990, Arthur Bonner, a former New York Times reporter, had identified Rajshekar as “the most outspoken and sharp-tongued defender of the untouchables and tribals of India”.
Rajshekar interprets the social problems that plague India through the framework of racial conspiracies. In his view, India itself is a conspiracy against what he calls in the tagline of his magazine “the persecuted nationalities denied human rights”. He is a quasi-inversed Nazi ideologue, in the sense that here the Aryans are the villains, forever conspiring against the Dalits, while the Zionists happily join hands with them. In his strange world, even Hitler was manipulated by “Brahminical Jews”. An article titled “Jews holding neck of USA kicked out one by one” (May 2007) declares that “the Jews are well aware of history and how the Brahminical Jews had manipulated Hitler himself and his German Nazis to persecute the Jews — finally leading to Holocaust”.
A month before this, Dalit Voice, in its editorial, had warned China to be cautious of Jews: “Just as the Brahmins created M K Gandhi, the Jews created Lenin. The difference is the Jews after creating communism also killed it in 1990.”
The term “Brahminical Jews” and identifying Brahmins as the “Jews of India” are not empty rhetoric for Dalit Voice. In its March 2004 issue, the magazine made the — incredible — claim that Brahminism and Zionism are “two faces of the same coin”. The same issue carried a report headlined: “Genetic research confirms Aryan invasion theory and origin of castes.” In fact, Rajshekar believes that Brahmins have Jewish origins — or is it the other way round? In December 2004, he wrote: “In our book Brahminism (Dalit Sahitya Academy, 2002), we have a separate Chapter IV, ‘Jews and Jews of India’… on the Jewish origin of Brahmins. The book also has two annexures (No 2 and 3) on the ‘Brahminical origin of Zionist thoughts’ and ‘Nazis, Jews and Jews of India’.”
Rajshekar is a fan of Hitler. In June 2005, Dalit Voice published an article titled “Brighter side of Hitler”, which profusely praised the fuehrer and described Mein Kampf as a great work of philosophy. The article was full of admiration for Hitler for having fought against “the international Jewry which programmed to dominate and control the earth planet”. It further pointed out that Jews did this “not directly but through stooges. And their wonderful strategies converted America itself as its biggest stooge”. After this, it made a commercial announcement: “The book, Zionist Arthashastra (Protocols, for copies write to DV office, Rs 50) lays down the whole conspiracy. How it was being executed up to 1924 was exposed by Hitler in the Mein Kampf.”
All these bizarre theories and rants are easy to dismiss off as the ravings of a fringe lunatic. These kinds of racist conspiracies surely cannot define the ideology of an actual Dalit movement? But the truth is that Rajshekar is no fringe.
Consider the following:
On 30 April 2005, he was in London. An award was conferred on him by Rev David Haslam on behalf of the London Institute of South Asia. Rev Haslam is a methodist missionary and chairman of the Dalit Solidarity Network (DSN). Donald McGavran of the Fuller Theological Seminary found Rajshekar’s work “most important” and “most needed”. McGavran, a Christian missionary, who had had a long stint in India, was then on his death bed. “A friend” had sent him a book by Rajshekar, and our missionary, though he had not read the book, felt that he had interacted with Rajshekar enough to know him very well. But curiously, the missionary was silent about Rajshekar’s racist anti-Semitic views. Rev McGavran writes: “I trust that your battle to create a great surge toward brotherhood and kindliness and justice and I may add Christian faith will continue strongly.”
On 15 February 2007, Alan Hart, former head of BBC1, did not hesitate to inaugurate a seminar held as part of the Empower India Conference in which Rajshekar spoke thus: “Our research has revealed that both the Jews and Brahmins originated from the same geographical area in the Middle East, and both have the same DNA. Both have the same value system. The very fact the two are cooperating and collaborating closely in fighting terrorism (read Muslims) proves their close historical affinity and their hate-mongering mental make-up.”
Incidentally, Empower India was a conference organised by the Popular Front of India, a Islamist organisation accused of forced conversion and religious violence.
Simon Charsley is a professor of anthropology at the University of Glasgow. He had no qualms delivering an inaugural address at a conference in which Rajshekar was a key speaker. Here, the Dalit Voice editor’s target of hatred was Mahatma Gandhi, whom he charged with being biased towards upper castes. He called him a “cunning bania’.
If an academic like Prof Charsley has no qualms sharing a dais with such a peddler of hatred, he can hardly be criticised. Because the occasion happened to be the two-day national conference on “Dr Ambedkar’s Ideologies: Revision and Vision”, organised by the SPMVV Centre for Ambedkar Studies. SPMVV stands for Sri Padmavathi Mahila Viswa Vidyalayam, the only all-women university in Andhra Pradesh.
Interestingly, this is an educational institution belonging to the Thirupathi Thirumalai Devastanam. It is through the offerings of millions of Hindus that this university is run.
In the name of Dalit empowerment and creating a narrative for them, India has been witnessing incredibly racist rhetoric that is chillingly similar to those found in Der Stürmer, the German Nazi propaganda newspaper of the 1930s and 1940s.
Equally important is the promotion of virulently anti-Hindu writer Kancha Ilaiah in academic and media circles, which reached new heights — or plumbed new depths — in the decade following the fall of NDA1 government. This decade saw the systemic nurturing of an ecosystem, where anti-Hindu and divisive “intellectuals” flourished, with motives that clearly threaten Indian nationhood.
Prof Kancha Ilaiah, director of the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy at Maulana Azad National Urdu University in Hyderabad, is an academic kingpin, instigating Dalit hatred against Hinduism.
Indologist Koenraad Elst has pointed out the striking similarities between the way Ilaiah’s work (incidentally, sponsored by the Congress-funded Rajiv Gandhi Foundation) depicts Brahmins, and the Nazi depiction of Jews. Gospel for Asia, a rabid Christian proselytising organisation that aims to convert all of India, presents Ilaiah as the “Martin Luther King” of the Indian civil rights movement. In 2005, he testified against India before a US Congress sub-committee on human rights. The hearing was titled “Equality and Justice for 200 Million Victims of the Caste System”.
In his book Post-Hindu India, Ilaiah states that Brahmins are worse than animals because even the animal instincts are “underdeveloped” in them. He declares that Hinduism is “spiritual fascism” created by “the unusual instinct of parasitism” in Brahmins, and says that Dalits “have to turn to a war of weapons” to eliminate Hinduism.
Consider the following:
“The Brahmins as a community shared the animal instinct of not being able to produce anything from the earth. This human caste differs from all the other social communities ever since human beings evolved out of the apes.”
Now if you substitute Jews in the place of Brahmins, this will match the words from some Nazi pamphlet. Only these are lines from a book published in 2009 by a prestigious academic publisher, Sage Publications.
Now comes the classic twist in the tale.
Neither Rajshekar nor Ilaiah are members of the scheduled communities. They come from the so-called Backward Classes — who actually tend to be the oppressors of the scheduled communities. If one reads the writings of Dr Ambedkar, we can see how his vision stands in opposition to that of these pseudo-Dalits promoted post-2004.
Dr Ambedkar rejected the notion of Aryan invasion, as well as the Aryan race theory. He saw the term as purely cultural and linguistic. Even if there was ethnic variety and in a worst-case scenario, ethnic conflicts, the racial dimension could still not be read into the present day social system, according to Dr Ambedkar.
“The measurements established that the Brahmins and the Untouchables belong to the same race. From this, it follows that if the Brahmins are Aryans, the Untouchables are also Aryans. If the Brahmins are Dravidians, the Untouchables are also Dravidians. If Brahmins are Nagas, the Untouchables are also Nagas. Such being the fact, the theory… must be said to be based on a false foundation.”
Further, Dr Ambedkar never compromised on national security, and made cultural unity the basis of India’s nationhood. Dr Ambedkar despised Nazis. He compared Islamist politics with Nazi politics, and warned scheduled community leaders not to trust Islamist politics in their anger with the so-called upper caste Hindus.
Not only Dr Ambedkar, every region in India has produced national leaders from the scheduled community, who had fought for national integration, social reforms and liberation of India. They had their differences, but they all accepted certain fundamentals. For example, Mylai Chinna Thambi Pillai Rajah (1883 –1943), known as M C Rajah, had immensely contributed to the upliftment of the scheduled communities. He always considered himself a staunch Hindu and the famous Rajah-Moonje pact with the Hindu Maha Sabha leader Balakrishna Shivram Moonje was signed by him. The pact was a response to the British divide-Hindus-and-rule strategy, and demanded joint electorates to achieve social integration.
Rajah said that he was born a Hindu, and his ancestors had made immense contribution to Hinduism; hence it was his sacred duty to cleanse Hinduism of its social evils — he would not abandon Hinduism and run away without performing that duty. In his book Oppressed Hindus, he documented how scheduled community members were receiving great temple honours even at the beginning of the colonial era.
Rettamalai Srinivasan (1860-1945), another great scheduled community leader from Tamil Nadu, fought relentlessly for the upliftment of scheduled communities. He accompanied Dr Ambedkar to the Second Round Table Conference in London in 1931. He asked the scheduled communities to be called “non-conformist Hindus or reformist Hindus”, rather than “depressed classes”.
Swami Sahajananda, an Advaitic monk as well as a member of the legislative assembly from the Chidambaram constituency in Tamil Nadu, was a relentless social reformer and established schools and hostels for scheduled community boys and girls, and also a matt for socio-spiritual transformation. Gandhiji visited his institutions and praised them.
He was against the racist anti-Hindu politics of E V Ramasamy, the founder of the so-called “Dravidian nationalist” movement. He wanted the government to remove the educational apartheid, which the colonial government had introduced and which was continued even post-Independence. He wanted only Hindu scheduled community teachers to be appointed in schools, where the proportion of scheduled community students was high, so that the children would not be subjected to conversion. At the same time, he also fought against the so-called high caste officials, who harassed scheduled community people.
It takes great effort to remove the memories of all these savants while promoting a typical racial hatred against Hinduism based on Nazi-like racial conspiracy theories and then camouflaging them as theories of social empowerment. Promoting a typical racial hate-monger like Ramasamy, and equating him with Dr Ambedkar, a humanist-nationalist polymath, is the ultimate insult to Ambedkar.
However, this has been done like a sponsored project (by whom?) in all educational institutions in India. And this investment in academia and media to promote the pseudo-Dalit, racist, anti-Hindu narrative is today beginning to yield results.
On the one hand, writers of a certain dispensation are waking up to discover “Why I am a Hindu?”, trying to dissociate Hindutva from Hinduism, and on the other, their ideological colleagues and strategists are promoting virulent anti-Hindu pseudo-Dalit ideology in India's campuses.
When Dr Ambedkar made his famous speech for entering the temples, he did not ask that he be allowed inside Hindu temples; he chose to speak of the contributions of scheduled communities, which stood equal to any other Hindu community in building and preserving the “temples of Hindutva”. Remove the historical context and disembody Hinduism, and you can dissociate the masses from it. Once Hinduism is dissociated, pseudo-Dalit ideology can anchor itself in the vacuum.
The misbegotten pseudo-Dalit movement, which we see around us today is completely amnesic of the glorious contributions of its own people to Indic culture and spirituality, and their history of great sacrifices to preserve them.
What can be more cruel than that?
Aravindan is a contributing editor at Swarajya.
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