The impact of Life and Mission of Dr Ambedkar on Literature With Reference to Selected Text of Rajshekar V. T.
Dalit Movement started by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was another inspiration for Dalit community. ‘Educate, Agitate and Organise’, the famous slogan of Dr. Babasaheb inspired many. He was an intellectual, a scholar who understood the reality of the Dharma Shastras and therefore challenged the very essence of Shastras. Dr.Ambedkar also fought for the dignity of Dalits. He considered the Book of Hindu law Manu Smriti as a source of the caste system and discrimination against Dalits in India. On December 25, 1927, a Satyagraha at Mahad in Maharashtra was launched by him for the human rights of Dalits. He burnt, with thousands of supporters, Manu Smriti which was considered as the valorizing document of Brahmanical social order and source of discrimination. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was thus a humanitarian and truly an emancipation of Dalits.
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar became India’s most despised writer for the orthodox social system because of his merciless attack on the hidden agenda of Brahminical Social Order. Dr.Babasaheb has displayed the guts to attack Caste hegemony in India though he suffered a series of setbacks in his lifetime because of the Brahmanical media barons. At one stage, all determined to blackout Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar’s literature, writings and speeches but his struggle for the rights of Dalits through his writings continued. This research proposes to make a close reading of his work and its impact on literature to assess the views on discrimination of Dalits.
Rajshekar’s book Caste – A Nation within the Nation (2007) marks a deciding change in the literary career of Rajshekar as it switches his basic tone from protest to more mature analysis. It also explains the marginalisation of certain communities that happens within the framework of a nation-state. Rajshekar begins the book with the statement that caste is still an uneasy topic in India though casteism is practised in all the social institutions. He points out that one will have to examine the institution of marriage to see how deep routed is casteism in India. He indicates that the matrimonial columns found in the newspapers are clearly casteist and they resist assimilation of caste which should logically happen in a democracy.
Rajshekar points out that an understanding of a nation without the understanding of its castes and sub-castes is basically incomplete. He argues that people do not even understand that Indian society is not homogeneous society but a collection of castes and communities. According to Rajshekar, the caste system is the brainchild of upper caste hegemony which had generated rigid social classification which eventually generated a structure that could give rise to conflicts. He looks at caste system primarily as a class conflict.
Rajshekar also dismisses the word ‘Caste’ and prefers the word ‘Jati’ which seems to be more appropriate in the Indian context. He locates jati as a shaping factor in marriage, a social institution. He indicates that marriage as an institution has been largely responsible for perpetuating caste hegemony. He remembers Dr. Ambedkar on this point:
According to Dr. Babsaheb Ambedkar, it is mainly the custom of endogamy that has preserved the castes and prevented one caste from fusing into another. Almost all the writers and scholars conform to this view of Dr. Babsaheb Ambedkar. (CNWN: 4)
Rajshekar declares that Dalits of the present day India have seen through the hypocrisy of Gandhi gimmicks, social activism and that of Socialist Brahmins. He argues that the Bahujans have clearly understood the power politics that creates caste system:
The Bahujans, particularly the Ambedkarites, have correctly understood that the caste system is a power structure resulting in an ascending scale of reverence and a descending degree of contempt. They know that the feeling of superiority among the ruling upper castes and the inferiority feeling (self-hatred) among the servile castes are the exact symptoms of the pernicious caste system. (CNWN: 12)
Rajshekar analysis of the relationship between caste and power is similar to that of Dr. Ambedkar who had identified Hinduism as a Brahminical religion with its own clear power politics Dr. Ambedkar had observed:
The root of untouchability is the caste system; the root of the caste system is religion attached to varnashram, and the root of varnashram is the Brahminical religion, and the root of the Brahminical religion is authoritarianism or political power. (Dr. Ambedkar; 1980:30)
Rajshekar also points out that the Bahujans have been enlightened by Dr. Ambedkar and that they believe that they need political power to counter the adverse power of casteism. Dr. Ambedkar had pointed out that the untouchability should be taken as a site of resistance by Dalits to acquire political power. Rajshekar defends strongly reservation by arguing that reservation is an empowerment of the deprived people. He also links reservation to the issue of human Rights and condemns all those righting which critique caste based reservation:
Reservation is nothing but our human rights. All deprived people in the world have reservations. When their human rights are restored, the deprived automatically gain power, and power helps them become rich. That is why the Hindus hate caste-based reservations and every day we read articles and reports criticising reservations. (CNWN: 12-13)
Rajshekar also considers the Bahujan political movement as an assertion of the ethnic identities of the Schedule Caste and the Schedule Tribes. According to him, the Bahujan movement resists the hegemony and monopoly of the upper caste identities.
Rajshekar is in favour of caste identity and he argues that only by strengthening castes, Brahminism can be attacked. He also argues that this was the very agenda of Dr. Ambedkar who had pointed out that more than castes, Hindu religion is harmful. Rajshekar reminds that Hindu caste system and not the caste is truly dangerous. Dr. Ambedkar had also mentioned that religion kills caste identity.
Rajshekar explains how Buddhism tried to compensate the lives of Dalits by providing them with sacred places for worship. He also argues that Buddhism and Dr. Ambedkar helped Dalits in consolidating their jati identity. Rajshekar also considers the impact of caste consolidation and the political alignment of sub-caste in the interest of the nation. He points out that both communists and Brahmins against caste identity as they believe that such identities will go against nationality. However, Rajshekar reminds that national unity is the slogan of Hindu Nazis and for Dalits, caste identity is as much important as the national identity. It is important to remember Dr. Ambedkar`s argument on nationalism in the context of casteism in India. Nationalist discourse, according to Rajshekar, is controlled by Brahminical Social Order. According to him, nationalism is a strategy used by the Brahmins to divert the attention of Bahujans. If nationalism is a part of one’s identity, defining one’s fellowship to kith and kin, it is a matter of tie of kinship. In this regard, Rajshekar believes that caste comes closest to this definition of nation. He argues that the notion of the nation cannot be confined a territory but rather to the patterns of kinship and fellowship. Hence, he believes that India is the country of several nations with several kinship patterns emerging out of different caste identities of the untouchables. Dr. Ambedkar had also defended such a caste-based movement and identity of the untouchables. He had made an attempt to deconstruct the idea of the nation from the perspective of different caste based communities:
First of all, there is no nation of Indians in the real sense of the word. The nation does not exist, is to be created, and I think it will be admitted that the suppression of a distinct and a separate community is not the method of creating a nation. (Dr. Ambedkar: 1944:168)
Rajshekar is also of the opinion that the foundation of the caste system in India is the fear that the lower castes develop. He indicates that this fear is controlled by religion and hence it is unreal.
Rajshekar’s notion of caste identity is similar to that of Dr. Ambedkar who had stated that the untouchable need to develop cast pride and cast consolidation to battle the evils of casteism. Rajshekar also argues that it is very difficult to eliminate over eight thousands castes as compare to ending three per cent of Brahmins castes. He points out that elimination of caste identity is nearly impossible. According to Rajshekar, casteism is founded on the privileges of certain groups. Hence he maintains that unless these privileges are attacked. Casteism will never be eliminated.
Rajshekar also believes that Hinduism is a kind of imperialism and the Bahujan will have to realized that Hinduism not a religion but a political game plan drawn by Brahmins. Such an idea was also upheld by Dr. Ambedkar who had explained the politics of Hinduism and how it is tilted in favour of upper caste Hindus:
To put it in plain language, what the Hindus call religion is really Law or at best legalized class ethics. Frankly, I refuse to call this code of ordinances, as religion. The first evil of such a code of ordinances, misrepresented to the people as Religion, is that it tends to deprive moral life of freedom and spontaneity and to reduce it (for the conscientious at any rate) to a more or less anxious and servile conformity to externally imposed rules. (Dr. Ambedkar: 1944:68)
Rajshekar also indicates that like Dr. Ambedkar, Buddha too very particular in acknowledging his caste identity. He also reminds the readers that Buddha was not against tribal identity even as he taught Dhamma. According to Rajshekar, Hinduism tries to curb the minds of Dalits and other Bahujan by propagating the idea of predetermination. He points out that Hinduism deprives the social under class of any freedom of thought. Dr. Ambedkar too had pointed out rigidity and class structure found in Hinduism. While explaining his version of caste identity thesis, Rajshekar considers the questions whether strengthening of caste will destroy Dalits unity and create sub-caste rivalry. His argument is that abolition of sub- caste will only strengthen Hinduism and Brahminical hegemony. He also points the fact that sub-caste is a social reality and it does not inhibit Dalits unity. Rajshekar is of the opinion that Dalits in India are made of different communities, tribes and linguistic backgrounds. He explains that Dalits community is based on the philosophy of equality in differences.
Rajshekar`s argument that Hinduism cannot provide a political identity or national identity for all the communities is similar to the view of Romila Thapar. Thapar explains that Hinduism has foundation on Brahminism and hence, it can be viable model for political identity. She says:
The call to unite under Hinduism as a political identity is if anything, anachronistic. Social and economic inequality whether one disapproves of it or condones it, was foundational to Brahmanism. To propagate the texts associated with this view and yet insist that it is an egalitarians philosophy is hardly acceptable. (Thapar: 2010:26)
Rajshekar argues that sociologist in India talk about class struggle where as what India is witnessing, is a caste struggle. He observes that the study of social classes in India is misleading if it cannot take into account the factor of caste and ethnicity. He also talks about the political reason for identitifing the caste struggle. Rajshekar reminds a reader that the whole world is caught in discourse of identity politics and in this debate on identity ethnicity has a significant role. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar condemned the systematic suppression of the Dalits and saw the solution to this in the removal of the social structure that supported the discrimination against them. He was only partly successful in his venture, facing in fighting centuries of unquestioned abuse of the caste system. His influence on the post-Ambedkar Dalit movement and literature however, lives on in the unifying nature of his inspirational writings.
- Rajshekar, V.T. Caste – a Nation within the Nation. Bangalore :Books for Change:2007
(The quotes from these text has been indicated with page number/s in the brackets in their respective places and they have been acronymed as CNWN,)
Ambedkar, B.R. Annihilation of Caste. Nagpur: Samata Prakashan, 1944.
Thangaraj, P. (Ed) Selected Thoughts of Dr. Ambedkar. Madras: Puratchikkanal Publications, 1980.
Thaper, Romila, Syndicated Hinduism, New Delhi: Critical Quest, 2010.
Author – Dr. Grishma Manikrao Khobragade, Kalyan, Dist.Thane. Maharashtra
Emphasis through bold added by Velivada team