Recently, anti-Dalit atrocity laws were first diluted by inserting the clause of the anticipatory bail. Following this there were serious protests all over. During these protests, the anti-Dalit nature of present ruling dispensation, BJP-led NDA, was highlighted. Coming under pressure from various quarters, the government had to bring in a Bill to restore its previous provisions. The Lok Sabha on August 6, 2018, unanimously passed a Bill to reverse the effects of a Supreme Court order concerning certain safeguards against arrests under the SC/ST law.
The amended ‘Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2018’, now rules out any provision for anticipatory bail for a person accused of atrocities against people from SC or ST communities, as it stood before the revision. Ram Vilas Paswan, part of NDA, thanked the Prime Minster and also criticised the Congress on the occasion. To claim that Congress is anti-Dalit, Paswan raked up the elections in which Congress had contested against Ambedkar. Ram Vilas Paswan’s own allegiance to Ambedkar ideology is strongly under cloud, as he is allying and empowering BJP, the party with agenda of Hindu Rashtra, something which was an anathema for Ambedkar as he stood for social justice, secularism and democracy.
Paswan is well described as Mausam Vaigyanik (scientist predicting weather) who in order to remain in power always twists and turns and makes the ideological compromises. His own ideology is that of ‘hunger for power’ and his words in a way should not matter much except on electoral chess board. His projection of the electoral battle between Ambedkar and Congress is a very selective presentation of the relationship between Congress and Ambedkar.
While he points this out he forgets that Ambedkar, who while not being a member of the Congress party, was included as a Cabinet minister. He needs to be reminded that he was not only a minister in the first Cabinet of India, but was also made the Chairman of Drafting Committee of Indian Constitution, in which Babasaheb played a pivotal role. To cap this, it was he who was requested to draft the Hindu Code Bill, a major step to reform the family laws towards gender just society.
While the likes of Paswan mouth the name of Ambedkar, they deliberately forget that the major opponents of Constitution drafted by him, the major opposition to Hindu Code bill came from the stable of RSS, the parent organisation of the party, in whose alliance he is enjoying the perks of power. One can say that his ally BJP’s agenda of Hindu Rashtra is polar opposite to the dream of Babasaheb, the dream of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, the dream of secular democratic India. RSS never hesitated in criticising the Indian constitution, calling it Western; BJP never severed its umbilical cord to the Hindu nationalist RSS. Lately from within BJP itself from top down, Hindu nationalism is being propagated and practiced.
The attempt to selectively present the electoral battle of Congress and Ambedkar is a deliberate ploy to undermine the efforts which national movement and Mahatma Gandhi-Congress did to fight against untouchablity in particular. We have miles to go as far as Babasaheb’s dream is concerned, but one thing which Ambedkar pointed out was that Hindu Raj will be a big tragedy for dalits of the country.
On the eve of 2014 general election Narendra Modi, the Prime Ministerial candidate pronounced that he was born in a Hindu family; he is a nationalist, so he is a Hindu nationalist. Another minister in the Centre, Anant Kumar Hegde stated that BJP is there to change the Indian constitution and that secular identity should not be used by the people. To cap it all the UP Chief Minster Adityanath Yogi stated that Secularism is the biggest lie of Independent India. BJP itself is consciously walking the rope, balancing the phrases and actions as far as Dalits are concerned. On one hand, the power-lust of some Dalit leaders like Paswan, Udit Raj and Ramdas Athwaley are used to give a pro Dalit veneer to BJP’s actions, on the other hand likes of Hegde and Yogi are forthright about their political agenda. It is also true that for the sake of electoral equations even BJP has to pay obeisance to Ambedkar, despite having an agenda totally opposed to his political ideology.
On the ground level, the politics of BJP-NDA has affected Dalits in an adverse way. Through social engineering they are also trying to woo a section of Dalits using manufactured icons like Suhel Dev and Shabri Mata among others. The merciless beating of Dalits in Una, which Paswan dismissed as a minor event and the emotive issue of holy cow has affected the livelihood of Dalits. We must also remember that it is during this period that the institutional murder of Rohith Vemula and the anti-Dalit attack at Bhima-Koregaon tormented the Dalit community. Even the Modi government on its own diluted the Anti Dalit atrocity act; only once they saw a serious opposition to their move did they retreat for electoral calculations.
While BJP pays tribute to Ambedkar on one side, and on the other it presents Lord Ram as the central icon of its politics. What Ambedkar has said about Lord Ram in his writings like ‘Riddles of Hinduism’ is known to us. For BJP, what is important is to garland Babasaheb; it is of no consequence to them to take the issues of social justice in any serious way. The attempt to selectively present the electoral battle of Congress and Ambedkar is a deliberate ploy to undermine the efforts which national movement and Mahatma Gandhi-Congress did to fight against untouchability in particular. We have miles to go as far as Babasaheb’s dream is concerned, but one thing which Ambedkar pointed out was that Hindu Raj will be a big tragedy for Dalits of the country.
It is too much to expect that politicians like Paswan will realise their folly of allying with BJP-RSS whose very agenda is inherently anti-Dalit.