Did Savarkar believe in and promote untouchability?

 

Harishchandra Sukhdeve 

 

sukhdeve

 

“… When these Mahar ‘untouchable’ folk coming from Sanatan Hindu majority villages go back to their villages now after embracing Buddhism at Nagpur will they be considered ‘touchables’ only because they have now embraced Buddhism? It is impossible.” 

 

This is a quote from his article published on 30 October, 1956 within a fortnight after conversion of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar to Buddhism. It is clear from this quote [from his article below] that as late as 1956 Savarkar not only believed, but even promoted untouchability and hatred for the ‘untouchables’, the Shudras or the present day Bahujans of the Varna dharma. His bitterness is not just against the converted Buddhists of those days but also against those ‘Mahars’ who were in the 'Hindu' fold. He believes them to be ‘untouchables’ which, as he insists, cannot be done away by their conversion to Buddhism. 

 

Is Savarkar’s Hindutva for all or only for Vedics?

 

Savarkar is now increasingly thrust upon our throats by the ruling party BJP eulogizing him as a great freedom fighter, the Swatantrya Veer. He is also being presented as a ‘victim’ for not being conferred a Bharat Ratna for all these years. It was even an issue for BJP in the recent Maharashtra state assembly elections! 

 

Savarkar has been and is an icon for the RSS that claims to be working for the welfare of the Hindu Samaj. But, does their concept of Hindu samaj include the vast majority of Bahujans comprising of SC/ST/OBCs, etc.? In Savarkar’s own words Dr Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism was merely an ‘embracing one of those Non-Vedic sects within the Hindu fold’. Whether Dr. Ambedkar felt the same way or not, and whether you and me agree to it or not, Savarkar did make a distinction between Vedic and Non-Vedic sects of Hinduism. In Savarkar’s views, people following Non-Vedic sects were liable to be ‘untouchables’. They were liable to be discriminated and to be treated as outsiders. That is the hidden agenda of RSS for all those years notwithstanding occasional noises of equality and ‘sarv dharm sam bhav’!

 

Besides the casteist outlook, Savarkar resorts to outright lies in his article. He says “Dr. Ambedkar could not dare to embrace Muslim or Christian religion though he wanted to do”. If Savarkar was commenting on Ambedkar’s conversion he must have followed his actions for 20 years which Ambedkar took to act upon conversion. Dr. Ambedkar never intended to convert to Muslim or Christian religion, rather he had unequivocally refused their offers.

 

Savarkar Instigates ‘Untouchability’

 

Veer Savarkar’s article was published on 30 October, 1956 in the Deepawali Special Issue of ‘Kesari’, a Marathi daily published from Pune. It was founded by Lokmanya Tilak. It is quoted in Marathi by Prof. Devidas Ghodeswar in his book “Bharat Rashtra viruddha Hindu Rashtra” pp 5-6, 2nd Ed. 2018, Right Thinkers Publication and Documentation Pvt Ltd. Nagpur. Here is its translation.

 

Howsoever loudly Dr Ambedkar might assert that he will completely uproot the existing Hindu religion from India to reestablish Buddhism which is best of all the religions of the world, but that is merely his angry outcry and it deserves no credit more than that. Where, Lord Buddha himself preached his religion continuously for forty years but could not uproot the Sanatan dharma; and when even a mighty emperor like Samrat Ashok with all his prowess too tried to uproot it but had to finally quit his efforts, what standing does Dr Ambedkar have? 

 

Dr. Ambedkar could not dare to embrace Muslim or Christian religion though he wanted to do with a view to inflict maximum disrepute to and damage upon the Hindu society, he simply couldn’t do that. But, some of our simplistic leaders, just like common simpletons  could not understand this reality and therefore praise Dr Ambedkar that he did some kind of favour upon Hindus or he had some kind of soft corner for Hindus in his heart! But, its nothing of that sort. Actually, when he found himself in such a position that he had no option but to embrace Buddhism, he did embrace it. Then, why the Hindus should praise and acclaim such a person? And still if the Hindus are praising him, and those who praise such people are nothing but blasphemy.   

 

May God bestow upon him (Dr. Ambedkar) a long life. But we all are mortals. Accordingly, whenever Dr. Ambedkar dies, he will die as a Hindu only because of his being a Buddhist, and his vow ‘ I will not die a Hindu’ will remain just a brag! If anything has changed because of his embracing Buddhism, that is only his discarding Vedic sect of Hinduism and embracing one of those Non-Vedic sects within the Hindu fold, you may call them religion if you so desire, but fact remains he embraced Buddhism, one of those religions within the Hindu fold..."

 

Savarkar, a poor visionary or anti-progress?

 

“… When these Mahar ‘untouchable’ folk coming from Sanatan Hindu majority villages go back to their villages now after embracing Buddhism at Nagpur will they be considered ‘touchables’ only because they have now embraced Buddhism? It is impossible. If few of these Buddhist Mahar go to a village well and claim before touchables ‘We have now become Buddhists, we don’t believe in God, we are not Hindus, and therefore we have the same rights as you to fetch a water from this well.” And just for that, will the touchables in these villages let them fetch water from the wells? On the contrary, whatever soft corner the touchable villagers had for these Mahars out of Hindu brotherhood will be lost, and these few Mahars who embraced Buddhism will be treated as outsiders. Economically too have the huts of Mahars turned into palaces or their half plate food turned suddenly into a feast of sweets because of their becoming Buddhists? Is this going to happen any time soon?”  

 

How unfortunate for a nation so diverse and so rich in history of intellectuals, this mediocre man is being promoted as a great visionary and savior of the nation. Savarkar’s prediction that nothing worthwhile is going to happen ‘any time soon’ is proved convincingly wrong within just one generation by the converted Buddhists. The converts to Buddhism–also called neo-Buddhists–have higher literacy rates, greater representation in salaried jobs and sex ratio than Scheduled Caste Hindus, the group from which most converts emerge, according to an IndiaSpend analysis of 2011 Census data1

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1. https://archive.indiaspend.com/cover-story/conversion-to-buddhism-has-brought-literacy-gender-equality-and-well-being-to-dalits-18224

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Harishchandra Sukhdeve is a social activist with a focus on Education policy. He is first generation literate coming from a remote village in Bhandara district of Maharashtra. He is a passionate student of Ambedkar's ideology. Post retirement he is engaged in social activities related to education and Buddhism. He has published three books. His book on 1956 conversion ceremony titled as "Making of the Dome of Dignity _ Deekshabhoomi" is on Amazon.