Written by Shamsul Islam
Published on: February 15, 2017
It is terribly sad, in fact, condemnibile that a more than shocking report in a prominent English daily of Delhi (The Times of India, ‘Dalit nominee sits on floor, carries own cup’, February 9, 2017 by Alok Sharma) about the active practice of Untouchability, not only did not create ripples, but did not even feature in ‘news and views’ of the Indian media, print or television, for more than a day. It did not shake conscience of the judiciary, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and administrators. It was missing in print media, the paper which published this story from the ground zero disabling the link within 8 hours (it is now available though). The electronic media which is generally fond of exposing ‘anti-nationalist’ agendas also went into a kind of hibernation or oberved a stoic, almost yoga-like ‘maun varat’(silence) on the issue. This story was reported from Iglas (Hathras), a reserved constituency in UP, barely three hours’ drive from Delhi, where currently assembly elections are on. It dealt with the daily election routine of the BJP candidate, Diler (brave) whose father was also BJP MP while it made following disclosures:
“A Dalit BJP candidate here not only sits on the floor when he goes canvassing to the homes of upper-caste voters, he never forgets to carry a steel glass along to drink tea. Here’s why: A Dalit using a cup at an upper-caste home would make the utensil ‘impure’”.
“It is dominated by Jat voters, about 90,000 of them. They decide the winner. So while other Dalit candidates here, too, show respect to upper caste voters, he takes things to an extreme. Diler calls his ways of sitting on the floor and using his own glass his ‘par amparagat aadat’ (family custom). And the ‘paramparagat aadat’ is followed at every step. Metres from the panchayat office Diler in his late 40s, repeatedly touches the feet of Mohan Singh, Jat pradhan from Tochhigarh, who is years younger than him. ‘Main aapke pair padhta hun, mujhe meri galti to batao. Main ek gaon ka chowkidar bannna chahta hun, vidhayak nahin’. (I beg of you, please tell me my fault. I’d rather be a watchman than an MLA if you are angry with me)”.
“Diler is candid in justifying his desire to remain shackled in Casteism. ‘Main ek bhangi ka beta hun. Mere pita bhi yahin karte thhey. Main apni maan maryada khatm nahin kar sakta. Zama na chahe badalta rahe.’ (I am the son of a Valmiki. I cannot break away from tradition. Let the world change, I won’t).”
“He pulls out his steel glass from his pocket when asked if it is true that he doesn’t drink tea in cups provided by the upper castes. The Valmiki caste is the lowest among Dalits in the caste hierarchy and Diler inherited the so-called tradition from his father Kisen Lal, a five term MLA and one-time MP. Diler’s supporters say people of all castes love him for his desire to remain steeped in such discriminatory Casteist practices.
The most worrying part of this is that a victim of a dehumanized regime of Caste and the Untouchability attached to it, is himself a protagonist of Untouchability and is happy with his sub-human status. It may be claimed that nobody is practising Untouchability with Diler and it is his own choice to perpetuate it, which is no crime. This scenario is far more dangerous as victims have been convinced that there is no respite from Untouchability and they should accept it is as part of their fate despite a Constitution which banned Untouchability on November 26, 1949.
The most significant aspect of this brazen love for Untouchability is that Diler is contesting elections on the ticket of the BJP, the political arm of the RSS. He comes from a Dalit family which has been with the RSS, his father Kisen Lal, is a five term MLA and a one-time MP. Diler despite being a Dalit has been groomed by the Hindutva mind-set to remain a staunch believer in Casteism which is synonymous with Untouchability. His self-imposed practice of Untouchability is the outcome of his training in RSS where all Hindus have their roles and status determined by Manusmriti. He is a true Hindutvadi Sudra.
According to MS Golwalkar, the most prominent ideologue of the RSS, Hinduism, the Hindu nation and Casteism were synonymous. of :
“The Hindu People [sic]…is the Virat Purusha, the Almighty manifesting Himself. Though they did not use the word ‘Hindu’, it is clear from the following description of the Almighty in Purusha Sukta wherein it is stated that sun and moon are his eyes, the stars and the skies are created from His nabhi (navel) and Brahmin is the head, Kshatriya the hands, Vaishya the thighs and Shudra the feet. This means that the people who have this fourfold arrangement, i.e., the Hindu People, is [sic] our God. This supreme vision of Godhead is the very core of our concept of ‘nation’ and has permeated our thinking and given rise to various unique concepts of our cultural heritage.”[i] [Italics as in the original]
Golwalkar must have been familiar with the fact that Manusmriti in chapter 1 and verse 91 decreed that the only job for Sudras was to serve ’meekly’ the other 3 castes.
India’s Constituent Assembly adopted a democratic-secular Constitution on November 26, 1949, at which point the RSS English organ, Organizer in an editorial on November 30, 1949, complained:
“But in our constitution, there is no mention of the unique constitutional development in ancient Bharat. Manu’s Laws were written long before Lycurgus of Sparta or Solon of Persia. To this day his laws as enunciated in the Manusmriti excite the admiration of the world and elicit spontaneous obedience and conformity. But to our constitutional pundits that means nothing”.
Golwalkar while addressing faculty and students of the School of Social Science of Gujarat University on December 17, 1960 strongly defended Casteism in the following words:
"Today we try to run down the Varna system through ignorance. But it was through this system that a great effort to control possessiveness could be made...In society some people are intellectuals, some are expert in production and earning of wealth and some have the capacity to labour. Our ancestors saw these four broad divisions in the society. The Varna system means nothing else but a proper co-ordination of these divisions and an enabling of the individual to serve the society to the best of his ability through a hereditary development of the functions for which he is best suited. If this system continues a means of livelihood is already reserved for every individual from his birth." [ii]
It is only through the minute perusal and analysis of RSS literature that we come to know that KB Hedgewar, founder of RSS had no objections to practising the degenerate and inhuman practice of Untouchability, especially so as not to antagonise ‘high’ Caste sympathizers. In Nasik Hedgewar went to the house of a Brahmin known as Dr. Gaidhani along with Krishna Rao Wadekar and Bhaskar Rao Ninave. When the time for meals came, Ninave who happened to be from a ‘low’ Caste asked Hedgewar whether he should sit separately for meals, as was commonly practised. When Wadekar suggested that there was no need for it, as Gaidhani had no way to know Ninave’s Caste, Hedgewar openly disagreed with the suggestion that Ninave should eat sitting beside other Brahmins. Hedgewar’s logic was that it would cause immense pain to Gaidhani. Hedgewar’s argument was,
“what benefit will we get out of it? On the contrary, if he sits separately for the meals that [action of his] will leave a far better impression on Gaidhaniji. Our swayamsevak may feel a bit hurt but in the view of our work this much pain should be tolerated. First he should win him with our love then these differences will disappear.”[iii]
It is unfortunate that while the RSS is busy appropriating Dalits into a crude and discriminatory social mould, there is no challenge offered to this hegemonistic bondage from those anti-Casteist organisations which claim to fight Untouchability. Within this terrible scenario, large sections of the Indian political and social elites –mandated to defend democratic-secular Constitution—are just silent spectators. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar needs a re-emergence, now when Untouchability is so cynically, and unquestioningly re-asserting itself.
[i] M. S. Golwalkar, Bunch of Thoughts, (Bangalore: Sahitya Sindhu, 1996 edition), 36-37.
[ii] M. S. Golwalkar cited in Organizer, January 2, 1961.
[iii] H. V. Pingle (ed.), Smritikan-Param Pujiye Dr. Hedgewar Ke Jeewan Kee Vibhin Gahtnaon Ka Sankalan [in Hindi a collection of incidents in the life of Dr. Hedgewar], 66–67.