It seems most of the people among the oppressed masses of this country have forgotten the Chapter 21- The Revolt of the Untouchables documented and written by Dr.BabasahebAmbedkar himself. It documents the most historical event in the modern history of our Indian subcontinent. Though, for the liberal intelligentsia and many so-called mini-ambedkar’s and their associations or organizations or parties have almost forgotten that it has been 90 years back Ambedkar took this revolutionary step along with thousands of so called untouchable masses. But it’s time to remind and revoke history to know and find forms of challenging the contemporary era of Hindutva Fascism. On this day Ambedkar said:
(I)n this history of direct action which is worthy of mention relates to the entry in the famous Hindu Temple at Nasik known as the Kala Ram Temple. These are instances of direct action aimed to achieve specific objects. The movement includes two cases of direct action aimed at the demolition of the Hindu Social Order by applying dynamite to its very foundations. One is the burning of the Manu Smriti and the second is the mass refusal by the Untouchables to lift the dead cattles belonging to the Hindus and to skin them. The Burning of Manu Smriti took place at Mahad on the 20th of December 1927. The function was a part of the campaign for establishing the right to take water from the Chawdar tank. The Burning of the Manu Smriti took place publicly and openly in a Conference of Untouchables. (BAWS/Vol-5/252)
Since, then Manu SmrutiDahan Divas is being celebrated as a sign of revolt against Brahmanism on 25th December in some parts of the country especially Maharashtra. Although the event is slowly vanishing from the peoples memory since the era of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization. The question then arises why it is still relevant to take up this form of revolt. Is the burning of a book just a symbolic gesture? No it is beyond that, as Ambedkar argues,
“that the makers of political constitutions must take account of social forces is a fact which is recognized by no less a person than Ferdinand Lassalle, the friend and co-worker of Karl Marx. In addressing a Prussian audience in 1862 Lassalle said :
“The constitutional questions are in the first instance not questions of right but questions of might. The actual constitution of a country has its existence only in the actual condition of force which exists in the country: hence political constitutions have value and permanence only when they accurately express those conditions of forces which exist in practice within a society”(Annihilation of Caste, 12)
He further justified that “I have spoken of the destruction of Hindu Religion. I thought it was only fools who were afraid of words. But lest there should be any misapprehension in the minds of the people I have taken great pains to explain what I mean by religion and destruction of religion.”(Annihilation of Caste, 7)
He deconstructs Manu’s Laws and Manusmruti in his well-researched analysis not just through writing but by the act of burning the BOOK OF INEQUALITY. He exposes Manusmruti on why it should be burned and discarded from socio-economic-cultural and political infrastructure of this country. It is an ideological text and rule book to maintain eternal inequality among masses. In detail he quotes the laws of Manu and the need to discard them absolutely:
- A Bramhana may seize without hesitation if he be in distress for his subsistence, the goods of his Shudra.Not only is the property of a Shudra liable to conscription but the labour of the Shudra, Manu declares, is liable to conscription.
Comparethe following provision in Manu :
VIII. 413. A Bramhana may compel a Shudra, whether bought or unbought to do servile work; for he is created by the creator to be the slave of a Bramhana.
A Shudra was required by Manu to be servile in his speech. How veryservile he must be can be seen from the following provisions in Manu :—
VIII. 270. A Shudra who insults a twice born man with gross invective,shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin.
VIII. 271. If he mentions the names and castes of the (twice born) with contumely, an iron nail, ten fingers long, shall be thrust red hot into his mouth.
- 123. The service of Brahmanas alone is declared (to be) an excellent occupation for a Shudra; for whatever else besides this he may perform will bear him no fruit.
- 124. They must allot to him out of their own family (property) a suitable maintenance, after considering his ability, his industry, and the number of those whom he is bound to support.
Manu can hardly be said to be more tender to women than he was tothe Shudra. He starts with a low opinion of women. Manu proclaims :
- Day and night women must be kept in dependence by the males (of) their (families), and, if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control.
- 3. Her father protects (her) in childhood, her husband protects(her) in youth, and her sons protect (her) in old age; a woman is neverfit for independence.
- 5. Women must particularly be guarded against evil inclinations,however trifling (they may appear); for, if they are not guarded, theywill bring sorrow on two families.
- 6. Considering that the highest duty of all castes, even weak husbands (must) strive to guard their wives.
- 147. By a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one,nothing must be done independently, even in her own house.
- 148. In childhood a female must be subject to her father, inyouth to her husband, when her lord is dead to her sons; a womanmust never be independent.
- 149. She must not seek to separate herself from her father,husband, or sons; by leaving them she would make both (her ownand her husband’s) families contemptible. Woman is not to have aright to divorce.
- 45. The husband is declared to be one with the wife, whichmeans that there could be no separation once a woman is married.Many Hindus stop here as though this is the whole story regardingManu’s law of divorce and keep on idolizing it by comforting theirconscience by holding out the view that Manu regarded marriage assacrament and therefore did not allow divorce. This of course is farfrom the truth. His law against divorce had a very different motive. Itwas not to tie up a man to a woman but it was to tie up the womanto a man and to leave the man free. For Manu does not prevent aman for giving up his wife. Indeed he not only allows him to abandonhis wife but he also permits him to sell her. But what he does is toprevent the wife from becoming free.
See what Manu Says:
- 46. Neither by sale nor by repudiation is a wife released from her husband.
The meaning is that a wife, sold or repudiated by her husband, can neverbecome the legitimate wife of another who may have bought or receivedher after she was repudiated. If this is not monstrous nothing can be. ButManu was not worried by considerations of justice or injustice of his laws.He wanted to deprive women of the freedom she had under the Buddhisticregime. He knew, by her misuse of her liberty, by her willingness to marrythe Shudra that the system of the gradation of the Varna had been destroyed.Manu was outraged by her license and in putting a stop to it he deprivedher of her liberty.A wife was reduced by Manu to the level of a slave in the matter ofproperty. (BAWS\vol-3\312-315)
Thus, the Resolution that was taken in the Conference held to Burn the Book of Inequality was as following:
“Resolution No. 2.—Taking into consideration the fact that the laws which are proclaimed in the name of Manu, the Hindu lawgiver, and which are contained in the Manu Smriti and which are recognised as the Code for the Hindus are insulting to persons of low caste, are calculated to deprive them of the rights of a human being and crush their personality. Comparing them in the light of the rights of men recognised all over the civilized world, this conference is of opinion that this Manu Smriti is not entitled to any respect and is undeserving of being called a sacred book to show its deep and profound contempt for it, the Conference resolves to burn a copy thereof, at the end of the proceedings, as a protest against the system of social inequality it embodies in the guise of religion.” (BAWS/Vol-5,258)
“He, thus, became a nightmare to Caste Hindus, Jawaharlal Nehru; the first Prime Minister of India said that Dr.Ambedkar was a symbol of revolt against all the oppressive features of Hindu Society. As far back as in 1936 Mahatma Gandhi remarked, “Dr.Ambedkar is a challenge to Hinduism, whatever label he wears in future, Dr.Ambedkar is not the man to allow himself to be forgotten”. Even after being the Drafting chairman of the Constitution of India Babasaheb was sceptical about its implementation. He was worried that, “Constitution of India has abolished the Untouchability. But what…“If social conscious is such that it is prepared to recognize the rights which law chosen to enact, rights will safe and secure. But if the fundamental rights are opposed by the community, no law, no parliament, no judiciary can guarantee them in the real sense of the word.” (BAWS/Vol-1/1, XXII-XXIII)
Soon enough his disillusionment grew with the Constitution of India and in the Rajya Sabha on 2nd September, 1953 he exploded saying, “sir, my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody. But whatever that may be, if our people want to carry on, they must not forget that there are majorities, and the simply can’t ignore the minorities by saying ‘Oh, no. To recognise you is to harm democracy.’ I should say that the greatest harm will come by injuring the minorities.”
But the first generation of educated and emancipated Dalits and other oppressed masses soon joined hands and formed the Dalit Panthers Organiszation with their clear aims and perspective charted down in their manifesto. For them it was clear through their experiences and with the spread of Naxalbari movement that:
EXCERPTS FROM DALIT PANTHERS MANIFESTO,1972
|Who is a dalit?
Members of scheduled castes and tribes, Neo-Buddhists, the working
people, the landless and poor peasants, women and all those who are being
exploited politically, economically and in the name of religion.
|Who are our friends?
1) Revolutionary parties set to break down the caste system and class rule.
Left parties that are Left in a true sense.
2) All other sections of society that are suffering due to the economic and political oppression.
|Who are our enemies?
1) Power, wealth, price.
2) Landlords, capitalists, money-lenders and their lackeys.
3) Those parties who indulge in religious or casteist politics, and the government which depends on them.
But the tragedy of the anti-caste movement is its reliance on identity politics which further has bifurcated the oppressed masses unity against the enemy of the people that is, the Hindutva Fascism acting as a stooge to the policies of Liberalization, Privatization and Globalization. Therefore, to revoke and reignite the fight we should begin from the history of the struggle against exploitation of have-nots and support the ongoing peoples struggle and resistance.
BY RED PANTHER