Today is Ambedkar Jayanti. It would be appropriate to take a re-look at Ambedkar’s idea of nationalism in the face of virulent Hindutva nationalism in India and also on the global context
Ambedkar Jayanti or Bhim Jayanti, the birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar, is being celebrated across the country today. B R Ambedkar, the principal architect of the Constitution of India, was born to a Mahar (dalit) caste family on 14 April 1891 in Mhow. Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar fought against casteism throughout his life. In 1956, he converted to Buddhism.
When Hindutva nationalism is gaining supremacy in India and threatening the very foundation of the Constitution of India, it would be appropriate to look at what was Amebdekar’s idea of Nationalism and how it is being undermined today.
Here are five photographs from diverse geographical, sociological , political , economic and environmental dimensions.
Cow vigilante gangs killed two in Jharkhand, it March 2016, for transporting cattle.
Cattle traders being beaten up in Una, Gujarat in July 2016
This is the photograph of Rajvir Diler belonging to Valmiki community and fighting on BJP ticket from one of the constituency in Hatharas, in the recently held Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections. To get the big Jat votes which are decisive in his constituency so he did not enter the houses of the Jats and kept a glass with him to drink tea. He won the election.
This is photograph of Larsen C ice shelf. An 18 feet wide, 130-km-long crack has developed in this ice shelf making it’s break off imminent. When, the iceberg splits, it will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded measuring 5,000 sq km.
This is a famous graph from The World Energy Outlook Report, 2010 published by International Energy Agency (IEA) that startlingly revealed that world conventional oil production peaked in 2006.
These photographs are taken from diverse geographical, sociological , political , economic and environmental dimensions. You may wonder why are these photographs shown? But they are all connected. This article is an effort to point out how all these diverse issues are intimately connected and can even define Indian nationalism and even the fate of India.
Let’s take the first of these three photographs first and ask the question, Why India came to such a situation 68 years after India became a republic? Lynching for transporting cattle or eating beef? A candidate has to sit on the floor to beg for votes? Why?
My answer is that Indian democracy hasn’t matured enough to give, a life of dignity to, majority of its citizens. On the other hand it is taking away whatever dignity they have gained through the spread of virulent fascist Hindutva ideology.
How did this happen?
Dr Ambedkar in his treatise “Pakistan or The Partition of India” In Chapter VII, titled – Hindu Alternative to Pakistan – clearly expresses his opinions on Nationalism:
“Without social union, political unity is difficult to be achieved. If achieved, it would be as precarious as a summer sapling, liable to be uprooted by the gust of a hostile wind. With mere political unity, India may be a State. But to be a State is not to be a nation, and a State, which is not a nation, has small prospects of survival in the struggle for existence. This is especially true where nationalism—the most dynamic force of modern times—is seeking everywhere to free itself by the destruction and disruption of all mixed states. The danger to a mixed and composite state, therefore, lies not so much in external aggression as in the internal resurgence of nationalities which are fragmented, entrapped, suppressed and held against their will. “
In Simple terms what Ambedkar says is this, without social cohesion a nation or a state is not possible. The greatest threat to a mixed state comes not from external aggression but from the inside.
Let’s take the first question first, has India ever achieved social cohesion? If not why?
If it was achieved I would not have to present these horrific photographs.
The question arises WHY?
The British found it convenient to co-opt the Brahminical castes to establish their rule of India. The Brahminical castes were willing partners in this processs and they were great beneficiaries of this system too. Most of the jobs were given to Brahmins or upper castes, land was controlled by the Brahmanical. It is in this historical context Indian National Congress was founded and most of the leaders were from Brahminical castes too. Periyar and many other Dalit Bahujan leaders soon discovered this asymmetrical power equation and left it in disillusionment. Ambedkar on the other hand challenged the Brahmanical power structure of the congress head on.
This Brahmanical politics of Congress is most pronounced in Gandhi.
“Caste has nothing to do with religion…it is harmful to both spiritual and natural growth. Varna and Ashrama are institutions which have nothing to do with castes. The law of Varna teaches us that, we have each one of us to earn our bread by following the ancestral calling…. The calling of a Brahman and of a scavenger are equal and their due performance carries equal merit before God and at one time seems to have carried identical reward before man.”
How well it rings with PM Modi’s statement
“Valmikis do manual scavenging for spiritual fulfillment.”
It is quite clear that there is not much difference between Gandhi and Modi in their attitude towards casteism.
Now coming to the other stalwart of Congress Jawaharlal Nehru, he wrote,
“In the ages since the Aryans had come down to, what they called Aryawarta or Bharatwarsha, the problem that faced India was to produce, a synthesis between this new race and culture and the old race and civilization of the land. To that, mind of India devoted itself, and it produced an enduring solution, built on the strong foundations of a joint Indo-Aryan culture. Other foreign elements came and were absorbed….That mixture of, religion and philosophy, history and tradition, custom and social structure, which in its wide fold included almost every aspect of India and which might be called Brahmanism or (to use the later word) Hinduism, became THE SYMBOL OF NATIONALISM. It was indeed A NATIONAL RELIGION, with its appeal to all those deep instincts, racial and cultural which form the basis, everywhere of NATIONALISM today”
This statement makes it amply clear that the Nationalism of Congress was Brahmanical or Hindu nationalism.
It would be interesting to see what was Nehru’s position on reservation. While Nehru condemned caste wholeheartedly, he disliked the idea of any intrusion of caste into politics; he thought that demands such as reservation raised by non-brahmin and dalit groups were divisive and tried to ignore them.
It is amply clear that the Nationalism professed by Congress was Brahminical in character and functionally anti dalit- bahujan and against social justice through reservation.
Almost all cow protection laws in 24 out of 29 states in India were passed by congress governments or its splint offs. What was the urgency of passing these laws in all these states since cow protection was only included in the directive principles of the constitution while many other urgent issues like Right To Education took decades to be passed into law and many other important directive principles still remains untouched. Of the six states where anti-religious conversion laws were enacted, in three states the law was enacted by Congress and its spin offs. In Himachal Pradesh directly by a Congress government!
We can see that Indian nationalism from the freedom struggle itself was Brahmanical Nationalism and post independence the nationalism professed by Congress and its spin off parties too was Brahmanical in nature.
This tells the story of Cow vigilante gang lynching in the name of beef, of Dadri, of the Dalit MLA who sits on the floor of the upper caste to beg for vote.
BJP is only reaping what Congress had sown. Hindutva forces are taking Brahmanical nationalism to its logical conclusion.
As Amedkar predicted, 77 years of political freedom has not brought social union or cohesion in India. In all these decades what we have seen is covert and overt Brahmanism pretending as nationalism. For Ambedkar Nation was not this narrow and oppressive brahmanical hegemony, but a rainbow unity of all dalit- bahujans and minorities. This unity was not achieved in this march of brahmanical hegemony. These fault lines of nationalism became wider after the Mandal Commission report was implemented, which gave some sort of social justice to the backward classes. This unleashed the fury of the Brahmanical classes and exploded as the Ayodhya movement and resulting in the eventual destruction of Babri Masjid. This propelled Hindutva forces to the centre stage of Indian politics sidelining the soft Brahmanism of Congress replacing it with militant Brahmanism.
Decades of soft Brahmanism played out in India by Congress, has delivered the Indian nation that Ambedkar envisaged on a platter to the militant Hindutva Brahmanists.
Now let’s come to the second part of Ambedkar’s statement,
“The danger to a mixed and composite state, therefore, lies not so much in external aggression as in the internal resurgence of nationalities which are fragmented, entrapped, suppressed and held against their will. “
Let’s examine this statement from a global perspective.
Countercurrents calls our age “ A Titanic Moment in history”. Here Titanic is a powerful metaphor. When The Titanic hit the iceberg, except the captain and some of his close associates all the other passengers on board, didn’t know what had happened. The passengers on the ship continued to eat, drink and make merry. When they knew what had happened it was too late. That’s the fate of humanity today. 99 % of scientific community is warning us of coming calamity and the public at large is not taking heed. Unlike the passengers of The Titanic we can not complain that we weren’t forewarned.
Everybody knows about global warming and climate change, but very few in India has woken up to the dangers of climate change, especially our policy makers and political leaders.
When Countercurrents started in 2002 the level of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere was 372 ppm. Last year it has touched 400 ppm and now it has become the new normal.
On April 20, 2016, Scientific American headlined “Earth Flirts with a 1.5-Degree Celsius Global Warming Threshold”. It looks like 1.5 degree is now becoming the new normal and counting. It is the threshold limit agreed upon by COP 21 negotiators in Paris. So we are moving into unchartered territories.
James Hansen, the grandfather of Global Warming science wrote in his book “Storms of My grand children” “Prior warmer interglacial periods such as the Eemian were only about 1 degree Celsius warmer than today, on global average, yet sea level was four to six meters higher than today”. With 1.5 degree Celsius we are going to see much higher sea level rise.
Sea level rise is slow but it is happening. NASA reported on its website on February 17 “The Larsen Ice Shelf is situated along the northeastern coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, one of the fastest-warming places on the planet. In the past three decades, two large sections of the ice shelf (Larsen A and B) have collapsed. A third section (Larsen C) seems like it may be on a similar trajectory, with a new iceberg poised to break away soon.” When, the iceberg splits, it will create one of the largest icebergs ever recorded measuring 5,000 sq km.
Newer and newer terrifying researches are coming out every day. Research published in the journal ‘Nature Communications’ finds that if fossil fuel use continues unabated, the atmosphere could revert “to values of CO2 not seen since the early Eocene (50 million years ago),” a time when humans did not exist, by the middle of the 21st century. Dana L. Royer, a paleoclimate researcher at Wesleyan University and co-author of the study said “The early Eocene was much warmer than today: global mean surface temperature was at least 10°C warmer than today. There was little-to-no permanent ice. Palms and crocodiles inhabited the Canadian Arctic.”
If palms grow in the arctic we can imagine the fate of India. Most of our coastal cities would be under water. I would be surprised if a single human being is alive in the India subcontinent. That means 150 crores of human beings and other species would have died. In any case Cyclones, droughts, floods would be the order of the day. If any human being is alive they would be fighting for drinking water and food.
There is another threat is lurking behind that can turn Nationalism on its heads and can even decimate even the Republic of India. That’s resource depletion.
It is common sense that all our non-renewable resources will run out one day. Even renewables like water is under tremendous pressure. Most of our mineral resources are on the point of running out. We all know that energy is the source of life. One thing that is not well understood is that fossil fuels built, modern civilization. Coal was the energy source of steam engine and thereby the energy source of early colonization and industrial revolution. Then oil age came along and changed everything. One litre of petrol is the equivalent of 3 -4 weeks of man power labour. You can imagine the energy unleashed by oil. It was oil that built the modern civilization. Will it last forever?
Oil energy produced so much wealth, health and luxury to us human beings, at the same time destroying the health of the planet. World population rose from about 150 crores to to 700 crores. When India got independence India’s population was around 36 crores. Today it is around 130 crore. In just 70 years India’s population rose about 3.5 times.
M. King Hubbert was an American geologist and geophysicist. He worked at the research lab of the American oil giant Shell. He predicted that, for any given geographical area, from an individual oil field to the planet as a whole, the rate of petroleum production of the reserve, over time, would resemble a bell curve. Based on his theory, he presented a paper to the 1956 meeting of the American Petroleum Institute in San Antonio, Texas, which predicted that overall petroleum production would peak in the United States between 1965, which he considered most likely, and 1970, which he considered an upper-bound. Hubbert became famous when this prediction proved correct in 1970.
Since 1970 USA is net oil importer and the country’s foreign policy took a tilt towards the West Asia after the 1973 oil shock. America with its rapacious thirst for oil to maintain the famed ‘American way of Life” started controlling the West Asia first through diplomacy and through war, on those who didn’t fall in line. How many millions have lost their lives? How many millions lost their homes and became refugees? And it is still going on in many regions of the world, including America’s own soil with the environmentally destructive fracking technology.
The World Energy Outlook Report, 2010 by International Energy Agency (IEA) published a famous graph that startlingly revealed that world conventional oil production peaked in 2006. It should have sent shock waves through the capitals of the world, it should have made headlines in the media. It didn’t except for some websites like Countercurrents.
The Roman philosopher Lucius Seneca wrote “Increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.” This statement of Senecca has achieved great attention recently in relation to the resource crisis. Ugo Bardi who teaches physical chemistry at the University of Florence, in Italy has developed a graph called the Senecca Cliff.
All the previous graphs shown above shows the pattern that Senecca suggested ages ago. “ Increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.”
The most terrifying graph for me is the population graph. It keeps increasing and increasing. Will it go on forever? What will happen the era is gone and modern civilization collapses? Will follow the senecca cliff pattern? Terrifying prospects!
How will these converging crises play out in India?
Recently I interviewed John Scales Avery Professor Emiritus in quantum chemistry at the University of Copenhagen, also a Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1995 with Pugwash movement. In his seminal classic “Informationa theory and Evolution’’ he argues that human brain hasn’t evolved much after the origin of language around 40,000 years ago, on the other hand information has exploded exponentially. When faced with a crisis, human beings behave like our hunter gatherers grandparents of forty thousand years ago. Reacting violently against any external threat to the clan and on the other hand protecting the clan with love, care, compassion and sharing. Two distinct forces are fighting for dominance in the character structure of the society. The question is which force will win in the event of a catastrophe?
According to 2011 Census out of the total population of India Muslims consists 17.22 Crores (14.23 %), Christians 2.78 Crores (2.30 %), Sikhs 2.08 Crores (1.72 %), Buddhists 84.43 Lakhs (0.70 %), Jains 44.52 Lakhs (0.37 %) Other Religions 79.38 Lakhs (0.66 %). The Socio Economic Caste Census of 2011 has revealed that India has 4.6 million castes and sub-castes in Hinduism alone. According to Census of India of 2001, India has 122 major languages and 15,99 other languages. In the event of catastrophic social collapse it will be a Hobbesian war of all against all.
I guess this is what Ambedkar meant when he said “The danger to a mixed and composite state, therefore, lies not so much in external aggression as in the internal resurgence of nationalities which are fragmented, entrapped, suppressed and held against their will. “
Wilhelm Reich in his “Mass Psychology of Fascism” argues that it is not Hitler of Mussolini that brings fascism, but the character structure embedded in the society that brings forth Hitler and Mussolini like figures.
Indian society’s character structure has been controlled and structured by the Brahmanical hegemony, for the last several hundred years. It is this character structure of the Indian society that brings forth Modi and Yogi Adityanath like figures. Only by throwing away the Brahmanical hegemony can we have an egalitarian society that Ambedkar and others dreamt of.
Now, let’s ask a speculative question what would be India like 50 years from now?
If India is still standing 50 years down the line, it will be a totally different India. It can go any which way. It can become a virulent Brahmanic, fascist, state where a Hobbesian war of all against all goes on. It can even collapse as a republic and splinter away as Ambedkar feared. Or even worse, it go can down and collapse as a nation and state, under environmental, ecological and resource pressure. Or we can rebuild it as a egalitarian society which allows its peoples to live with dignity and prosper, a nation which protects its environment and chart out a sustainable model of development, where humans, plants, animals and all other species live in a state of mutual respect.
What are the solutions before us?
- Congress has to shed its ambiguous brahmanical mantle and reinvent itself as a dalit-bahujan party
- The left parties have to incorporate the dalit-bahujan aspirations into their class based political formulations
- There should be a grand alliance of all dalit-bahujan-left secular parties
- Political parties have to stop being a party for conducting elections, coming to action mode during election and going into slumber after that, and become parties of the masses, carrying out their hopes and aspirations to fulfillment
- Learn from the RSS. The audacity that RSS showed in putting Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh didn’t come overnight. It was the result of about 9 decades of grass root level work. Dalit-Bahujan Secular parties must become grass root level organizations
- Work towards implement category wise reservation which Periyar EV Ramasamy championed. This can bring egalitarianism in society and challenge Brahmanism
- Empower women of India. Implement 50 % reservation for women in all aspects of society
- It’s a time of “Revolution or Collapse” kind of situation. Mass uprising of the people is needed to change society.
1 Stop following the American model blindly.
- Capitalism is evil and an anachronism. It must be thrown to where it belongs, into the dust bin of history
3 Implement sustainable model of development
4 Invest heavily in renewable sources of energy like solar, wind and wave and slowly move away from fossil fuels
5 Use technology to for newer models of cooperation between communities
Educate, Organize, Agitate, that is the war cry. Let’s build a new world.
Binu Mathew is the editor of www.countercurrents.org. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org