Why I Participated In Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra From Mani Bhavan, Mumbai

Rahul Gandhi Nyay Yatra Mumbai

I started my sociopolitical activism as a Marxist in the 1970s and later turned to Ambedkarism in the 1980s. In both these schools of thought we critiqued Mahatma Gandhi as Varna wadi and varga wadi. For the first time in my life I went to Mani Bhavan, where Mahatma Gandhi lived, and which was named after his granddaughter Manuben Gandhi, to start the Nyay Sankalp Pada Yatra along with Rahul Gandhi on 17 March, 2024 in the city of Mumbai.

On the evening of 16 March the Nyaya Yatra reached the Chaitya Bhoomi of Ambedkar, where hundreds of social activists joined Rahul to take a pledge by reading the preamble of the constitution. That was also my first participation in a programme of protecting the constitution that gave life to all the Shudras/Dalits and Adivasis of India at Chaitya Bhoomi, Mumbai.

The Indian constitution, with a great vision in the very preamble, gave a new life to the most exploited and oppressed humanity of India called Dalits/Adivasis and Shudras. It is also a constitution that taught 200 million Muslims how to live a life in a stable democracy and secular life in the civil society. The Muslims outside India never experienced such a regular vote based democratic life. For them also protecting this constitution is very important. For the upper castes outside the frame of Hindutva communal life, this constitution gave modern democratic life, which they never experienced in their varna dharmic history. All such pro-present constitution forces, irrespective of their caste and religion, joined Rahul Gandhi both at Chaitya Bhoomi and Mani Bhavan to march along with him to advance the cause of Total Justice and Social Justice in the country.

This is a first major attempt by the Indian National Congress to synthesize Ambedkar and Gandhi’s visions in their fight for sustaining democracy and constitution in the context of Hindutva hegemony. I thought that this is a necessary ideological and philosophical combination to protect the Indian constitution and the party that fought for freedom must be supported in this historical struggle. This is going to be a long drawn out struggle, no doubt. There is a fear among vast sections of people that this constitution will be dismantled by the Hindutva forces if they continue to be in power in Delhi.

Though the RSS/BJP forces used both Ambedkar and Gandhi as their symbols, with their own brand of nationalism, when Ambedkar and Gandhi were alive they never approved their visions of constitutional democracy in India. They wanted to establish Varna Dharma dictatorship while the Indian communists wanted to establish a proletariat dictatorship.

Though the Congress had differences with Ambedkar they allowed him to draft a very positive democratic constitution at a very difficult juncture of Indian history. After the British colonialism ended many thought India would enter into a system of anarchy.

Though I had many differences with the Congress and Mahatma Gandhi’s ideological positions, I joined Rahul in the fight for total justice and social justice. In the fight for survival all differences disappear. Rahul’s call for caste census is only one aspect of the idea of social justice but it is a significant step. The idea of social justice in India was first formulated by Ambedkar and later during V.P Singh rule it acquired a definite meaning. That is the Mandal phase of social justice , according to which, “each according to numbers of his caste”. The national wealth should be shared by all castes and communities based on their numbers. The varna dharma has done total injustice to Dalits/Adivasis and the Shudras. The same varna dharma is now called Sanatana Dharma by Hindutva forces. The Shudra/Dalit/Adivasi fear comes from that history of caste oppression.

The RSS is seen as the main representative of varna dharma ideology. Narendra Modi as Prime Minister says that he is the ‘biggest OBC’, but he never critiques varna dharma ideology, which created the caste system. He never asked for a share for Dalits/Shudras and Adivasis in monopoly capital. At the same time he helped the Dwija monopoly capitalists to acquire massive wealth.

Rahul Gandhi is critiquing the accumulation of wealth by a few Dwija monopoly houses. Indian society has a caste divide, not just a digital divide. In Nyay Yatra Rahul covered more than six thousand kilometers. He met various sections of productive masses and discussed their caste/class problems.

While making my short speech at the Sankalp meeting, I said that the ideals of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi are in crisis. One wrote a great constitution with a vision of giving life to the oppressed masses and also philosophy of caste annihilation and another laid the moral foundation of a modern democratic nation. We need to protect the constitution and the moral basis of our democratic system. Since we were meeting in the midst of the 2024 elections I said, all the civil societal organizations must work to ‘vote to the constitution; vote to democracy’. Rahul Gandhi having undertaken the Nyay Yatra and kept on fighting the anti-constitutional forces he symbolized the fight of total justice and social justice. Hence the civil societal forces all over the country must also strive with an idea of ‘Vote for Rahul Gandhi’.

Though Rahul responded saying it is not me alone who symbolizes the fight for justice millions are involved in this fight. In any given historical battle against injustice somebody who leads becomes the symbol of that movement. In my view Rahul deserves that recognition at this juncture of our nation.

Now the battle is between Shrama Shakti (Labour Power) Vs Dusta Shakti ( Evil Power). Rahul, having come from the party of Gandhi, Nehru and Patel, is trying to own Ambedkar as he is the architect of the present constitution. After Ambedkar’s death the Congress undermined his role. Rahul seems to have realized that. Hence the idea of reading the Preamble of the constitution at Chaitya Bhoomi.

As an activist working and writing for protection of the constitution and democracy I thought I must participate and lend my helping hand to the movement.

Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political theorist, social activist and author of many books.

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