Thursday, December 17, 2015

Why BJP and RSS raid popular symbols including Ambedkar

Even supporters and sympathizers of the Hindutva line of thinking will admit that their most inspiring thinkers have been rather marginal to the mainstream. This was not a problem till recently when the BJP and the RSS were kept out of power and felt no need to connect to the popular icons of modern India. But of late we have seen a tendency among the BJP and the RSS spokesman to show affinity towards names like Subhash Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel and even Ambedkar. The ‘thoughts’ and ideas of these men are part of the national commons it would be ludicrous for any specific group to claim monopoly over their lineage. On the other hand there is a limit to how far you can stretch the interpretive imagination and freedom. No one for example can stop Donald Trump the conservative plutocratic presidential candidate from quoting Karl Marx in his favour. But the absurdity of any such attempt is obvious unless Trump was undergoing an unexpected ideological mutation.

The attempt to interpret thinkers in one’s favour or to claim to follow them however in the realm of popular politics is often termed ‘appropriation’. Appropriation is not so much about drawing from the thoughts of men as claiming a share in the trove of popular symbols to gain approval from the followers and worshippers of these symbols. Such ‘theft’ of popular symbols may of course be accompanied by ritual obeisance and words of reverence. This can seem offensive to those who follow the symbols as well as the thoughts of the great men. In onesuch instance, Ramchandra Guha, the historian expressed his annoyance at the RSS chief quoting B R Ambedkar, whose thinking seems diametrically opposed to that of the RSS and the Hindutva stream in general. In personal discourse if a person quotes promiscuously from both Manusmriti and Ambedkar you may stop paying attention to someone so hopelessly confused. But in the political sphere such attempts are often rightly seen as mischievous and part of a systematic attempt to confuse others, mostly the na├»ve among the believers - in this case the vast Dalit population that may not have a first-hand access to Ambedkar’s writings. in Guha’s words ‘For Bhagwat to really come clean, he should, while praising Ambedkar, simultaneously denounce his own prejudiced predecessors, such as Hedgewar and Golwalkar, who believed in an India where Muslims were not equal to Hindus, and women were not equal to men.’

In a reply to Guha, M G Vaidya a senior figure from the RSS attempts to make a hopeless justification for the RSS quoting Ambedkar as an inspiration. Vaidya ends up in a rhetoric that defies both comprehension and credulity. As Vaidya himself puts it by way of defence ‘It is not easy to understand the RSS. It does not fit into any model of existing parties and institutions. The RSS is unique. To understand it, you have to free your mind from prejudice.’ The above link makes it abundantly clear that in order to understand the RSS, you must join it, a sure sign of blind bigotry of the most irredeemable kind.

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