The “outburst of Dalit outrage’’ during the all-India ‘bandh’ on April 2 has been sought to be explained as an assertion of their right to humanity by apologists of the violence that marred the protests. The ‘Dalit anger’ was ostensibly against a recent Supreme Court verdict calling for changes in the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.The havoc caused on that day was clearly an outcome of a manufactured angst, managed by organised criminal gangs with ideological underpinnings. From the day the Narendra Modi government was voted to power at the Centre, there have been concerted attempts to paint the BJP as anti-Dalit. Recall how an unfortunate suicide of a young Rohith Vemula in 2016 was turned into a media circus and used to demonise the Modi regime.
Dalits have been discriminated against for long in India, and the injustice continues till today, though a lot less brutal than in the past. Thanks to reforms (including provisions of reservations) initiated at the instance of enlightened sections of Hindu society, the social and economic conditions of Dalits have improved in the post-Independence years.The gap between Dalits and the rest, however, is still wide. On the positive side there is none in the country who defends untouchability at an intellectual level, or at a political plane and opposes affirmative steps to help Dalits catch up with the rest of the society.
Over the last few centuries, alien forces, particularly the Christian missionaries who came as a part of the East India Company entourage and later communists of various hues, have abused this unfortunate disconnect within the Hindu society to meet their respective agendas, which occasionally overlap and clash as well, depending on the context.
The evangelical forces in England secured the inclusion in the East India Company’s Charter Act of 1813, of a clause that facilitated the entry of British missionaries into India. The Act also provided for appointment of a bishop and archdeacons in the newly acquired colony. For proselytising creeds, Dalits are an easy prey; for the Left, the Dalit issues are fodder to fuel their class war narrative. The setback to the upliftment of Dalits and injury to social harmony are collateral damages of this ‘religious-revolutionary’ enterprise.
Most of the ‘Dalit’ and Left outfits propagate a manufactured narrative which runs something like this: ‘Caste Hindus are Aryan invaders who subjugated the original inhabitants (Dalits); Brahmins wrote Hindu scriptures justifying inhuman treatment to the “aboriginals” and are responsible for their plight.’ This construction is flawed and mischievous as well. The demonisation of Brahmins is without any basis, they did not compile or compose any major religious work. The Vedas and the Mahabharata were put together by Ved Vyasa, son of a fisherwoman. Ramayana was penned by Valmiki, revered as Adi Kavi and the community named after him, is now classified as Dalit. Manu, the author of Manusmriti, was not a Brahmin.
Since the Hindu society, according this paradigm, is inherently unjust, Dalits, should desert or destroy it to improve their lot. The options available to Dalits in this sad scenario are: either convert to one of the Abrahamic faiths or turn non-believers—Communists. Dr B R Ambedkar, (most of the Dalit organisations swear by him) dismissed this motivated construction completely. In his paper Caste in India
Dr Ambedkar wrote: “one thing I want to impress upon you is that Manu did not give the law of caste … caste existed long before Manu”. He found no reason to blame Brahmins for caste system. “The spread and growth of the caste system is too gigantic a task to be achieved by the power or cunning of an individual or of a class. Similar in argument is the theory that the Brahmins created caste. After what I said regarding Manu, I need hardly say anything more, except to point out that it is incorrect in thought and malicious in intent … Brahmins may have been guilty of many things, and I dare say they were, but imposing of the caste system on the non-Brahmin population was beyond their mettle.”
Dr Ambedkar didn’t buy the Aryan invasion theory either. On the origin of Shudras, he said: “The Shudras were one of the Aryan communities of the Solar Race. There was a time when the Aryan society recognised only three varnas, namely Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. The Shudras did not form a separate varna. They ranked as part of the Kshatriya varna .There was a continuous feud between the Shudra kings and the Brahmins in which the Brahmins were subjected to many tyrannies and indignities”.
Dr Ambedkar further says: “As a result of the hatred towards the Shudras generated by their tyrannies and oppressions, the Brahmins refused to perform the Upanayana of the Shudras. Owing to the denial of Upanayana, the Shudras who were Kshatriyas became socially degraded, fell below the rank of the Vaishyas and thus came to form the fourth varna.
Commenting on this analysis, Koenraad Elst, a noted historian and an Indologist says, “It is interesting and embarrassing for contemporary Ambedkarites that Babasaheb held Shudras guilty of their own lower status, but perhaps they can take some consolation from visualising how the Brahmins were one time oppressed and subjected to many tyrannies and indignities.” Can Dalits get their due with the help of societal construct based on a fabricated narrative? Dalits were once proud members of the Hindu society, as Ambedkar said, and should be helped to reclaim their lost status one day, as he had hoped for, in spite of those who claim to be his apostles.
By Balbir Punj
(This article was first published on 20-April2-2018 in New Indian Express)