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We and our Nationhood Ill-defined: Let's Redefine & Reclaim it

 

Amit Kumar

amit kumar public orgOn the morning of 8th July 2020, the nation woke up to the news of vandalism[1] on Rajgruha, the residence of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in Mumbai. Like most of the news related to him, this story may also have been shoved under the carpet as a city crime, merely. However, there is a need to analyse the attack and its implications for our own good and see the real rot making the whole nation stink. There seems to be no reason why it should be seen in separation from the other changes taking place in context of the nation. There is an alternative view which sees this act of vandalism as an attack, rather a terrorist attack on Indian nationalism. Let us analyse.

What is a nation? In the modern sense, a nation is a collection of people who have a FEELING OF UNITY based on various factors like shared history, socio-cultural heritage, language and value commitments; which develops their shared vision and desire to live together as a community with mutual respect and dignity; generally in shared geography; giving rise to a nation-state or the desire thereof. This can be reduced to the definition that a nation is a conscious identity held by the people based on the feeling of unity. The much celebrated motto of Indian nationhood is "Unity in Diversity": all the more explicit evidence of a nation's most essential ingredient (unity of course).

How strong is Indian nationalism? That question can be rephrased as "How deep is the FEELING of UNITY?" A closer look at the Indian society reveals that instead of a feeling of unity, there is a deep sense of hostility among "We the people". This feeling of hostility emerges from religio-cultural structures of a certain kind which has kept this land full of feelings of hostility[2]?

Yes, the cause of this hostility is Brahminism, one of the cardinal principles[3] of which is caste, the religion of Dwijas who were represented by the phrase Caste-Hindus by Dr. Ambedkar. There has been terminological development[3] in last the 70 years, away from the words used by the British, leftist and Dwija writers. This has been in line with social sciences where newer words are gradually adopted with the increasing research and corpus of knowledge and to help articulate realities and change better. The Caste Hindus are now more articulately demarcated as Dwijas[4] and their religio-cultural baggage as the Brahmin religion and their socio-psychological construct as Brahminism.

In his masterpiece "Annihilation of Caste"[5] (AoC), Dr. Ambedkar argued powerfully against caste by explaining and establishing its anti-national, degenerative, anti-social and anti-human nature. He argued (AoC, Pg:18):

[6] Caste prevents Indians from forming a real society or nation.

[2:] The first and foremost thing that must be recognized is that Hindu Society is a myth. The name Hindu is itself a foreign name. It was given by the Mohammedans to the natives for the purpose of distinguishing themselves [from foreign name]. It was given by the Mohammedans to the natives for the purpose of distinguishing themselves [from them]. It does not occur in any Sanskrit work prior to the Mohammedan invasion. They did not feel the necessity of a common name, because they had no conception of their having constituted a community. Hindu Society as such does not exist. It is only a collection of castes. Each caste is conscious of its existence. Its survival is the be-all and end-all of its existence. Castes do not even form a federation. A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes, except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot. On all other occasions each caste endeavours to segregate itself and to distinguish itself from other castes.

[3:] Each caste not only dines among itself and marries among itself, but each caste prescribes its own distinctive dress...... Indeed the ideal Hindu must be like a rat living in his own hole, refusing to have any contact with others. There is an utter lack among the Hindus of what the sociologists call "consciousness of kind." There is no Hindu consciousness of kind. In every Hindu the consciousness that exists is the consciousness of his caste. That is the reason why the Hindus cannot be said to form a society or a nation. ...

Dr. Ambedkar's arguments in Annihilation of Caste can be reiterated in the light of the contemporary situation: that Caste prevents Indians from forming a real society or nation as he himself considers that the word "Hindu" was merely a geographical name, an identity given by those who didn't know erstwhile native social relations; and which got solidified gradually specially during the interventions of the British Indologists and their population enumeration process.

What is worrying for the Indian nation is the success of the Brahmin religion and its politics under the garb of "Hindu" and "Hindutva"[6]. Dr.Ambedkar's argument that "A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes, except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot" captures the bedrock of today's ruling ideology under the tutelage of the Brahmin religion and its ideology brahminism. The only bond that is seen as consolidating the so-called Hindu identity is actually because of the forced feeding of the binary of Hindu-Muslim.

However, this bonding and consolidation is superficial and brittle. This relation is based on shared feeling of hating a third party rather than the direct relation of mutual respect and fraternity between the two[7]. A relationship that arises out of hate for an othered third Party last long nor can it result in fraternity and result in creation of an egalitarian society. A mob that can be taught to hate people, lose their rational capabilities and kindness, can make neither a society nor a nation. Rather, when the moral and social conscience of the society dies, it creates conditions for the worse to come. A morally dead society cannot progress. It learns to hate its progressive sections and intellectuals and often shoots to kill any elements of progressiveness or social change.

The foundation of the Brahmin religion is its cultural ideology of Brahminism[3] which is based on supremacism and privileges emerging therefrom which was first established as the varna system and got further entrenched gradually as the caste system which has since become a permanent feature of the Brahmin religion. This hate emerging from the Hindu-Muslim binary does not even touch or talk about this cancer of caste. How can a disease be cured if it is not even  diagnosed. One kind of immorality (inequality/hate based on caste) cannot be killed by another kind of immorality (inequality/hate based on communalism), which is what is being tried by the right wing today in the form of communalisation of society. This is too brittle an idea of nationhood.

In addition, the Hindu-Muslim binary is a direct attack on the feeling of unity and hence the nation's integrity. No nation becomes strong by peddling hate and attacking its minority based on a falsified version of history. It creates a chasm in the feeling of unity and hence it is an attack on the nation.

Moreover, it is given that around 85% of the Muslims are Pasmanda[8] Muslims who are no one else but Bahujans religiously converted from OBC, ST & SCs whom have lived in this land for no less years than the Dwijas. You remember Payal Tadvi[9] who was driven to kill herself in one of the most cosmopolitan cities of not just in India but the world, and Asifa[10] who was brutally raped and killed were Scheduled Tribe Muslims.

The reality is that the ruling ideology today is destroying the protections, rights and entitlements[11] of the Bahujans (SC,ST,OBCs who are spread across religions of which some are yet to be categorised under the constitution of India). While the Bahujans among Muslims and non-Muslims are being made to fight each other, blinded to their interests and hence the interests of the nation. For, how long can the interest of the nation be against the interests of the people?

Most Bahujans were not endowed with superlative riches or education as these were outrightly denied to them. Despite the affirmative action, most of the Bahujans (Muslims and Non-Muslims) live a subsistence lifestyle. The caste system has maintained itself by ensuring that the so called unclean jobs go to the so-called low castes and the highly remunerative clean professions go to the so-called Dwijas. In the case of religious polarization, the brahminists ensure communal polarisation often resulting in riots, which leads to the greatest loss to the Bahujans as most of them live in shared neighbourhoods. In riots, naïve Bahujans (Muslims & non-Muslims) are used against each other resulting in loss of their education, shops & businesses, work hours, rights, humanity and consciousness. How can this be a nationalist act?

How can a nation be strong when its rational abilities are attacked systematically by changing the education to one based on mere myths and hate? How can a nation be strong when its healthcare system is systematically privatized and shifted out from the reach of the people and they have to die of preventable disease[12]? How can a nation be strong when the labourers who build the nation are declared anti-national as they choose to move back to their native homes rather than starve in far off cities in anonymity? How can a nation be strong when the system of affirmative action that seeks to remove inequality and caste structures is attacked? How can the nation be strong when the government run by Dwijas sells its resources to crony capitalists and entrenches inequality[13]? Yes, inequality is anti-national.

Dr. Ambedkar said: "Constitutional morality is not a natural sentiment. It has to be cultivated. We must realize that our people have yet to learn it. Democracy in India is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic." Even the top dressing is now being eroded and being spread with caustic hate and a flood of irrationality & ignorance.

Dr Ambedkar wrote that he wanted a society based on liberty, equality, and fraternity. He is considered the champion of social justice world over. In addition, as the chief draftsman of Indian Constitution he ensured the inclusion of these values i.e. JUSTICE, LIBERTY, EQUALITY and FRATERNITY in the preamble to the constitution. Rest of the provisions in the constitution are nothing but the arrangements to achieve these high values. How can the nation be strong when the shared pledge of our nationhood is made the target of frontal attacks? How can the nation be strong when its soul, that is its constitution, and constitutional morality is cut, maimed and brutalised publicly?

The increasing attacks on the statues[14] of Dr. Ambedkar and this recent attack: these are attacks on his ideas, the ideas that seek to create the Indian nation, that stand for a just, democratic, egalitarian, gender-equal, moral and civilized nation. It is an attack on the idea of India. It is an attack on our nation.

The irony is that such mindless individuals and groups call themselves nationalists (it is more like North Korea calling itself the most democratic country). In no equivocal terms, this has been possible because a right wing guru (Golwalkar) had ill defined 'we or our nationhood'. It must be understood that a nation that maintains apathy, hostility and hate among its own people does so by gradually effacing itself. And if it is not corrected, redefined and reclaimed there lies an existential crisis in the offing for our nation.

In the end, it must be understood that the nation in India is being attacked by the brahminists (consciously or unconsciously). The force that is attacking the nation in India cannot be expected to build it. Their apathy, hate and blindness cannot help them build the nation. This is where the responsibility for forging a lasting nation or feeling of unity among all Indians lies on the Bahujans. So, my countrymen, let us unite to save our fellow nationals, our constitution, our national values and hence, save the soul of the nation and become a strong nation in the true sense of the word.

~ 

Notes

[1] "Vandalism at Ambedkar's Mumbai residence: FIR filed, deputy CM condemns incident," The Hindu, Mumbai, Jul. 08, 2020.
[2] "Caste-related violence in India," Wikipedia. Jul. 06, 2020, Accessed: Jul. 09, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Caste-related_violence_in_India&oldid=966308989.
[3] "Brahmanism – Everything You Need To Know About Brahmanism," Velivada, Aug. 22, 2017. https://velivada.com/2017/08/22/brahmanism/ (accessed Jul. 09, 2020).
[4] "Dvija," Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/dvija (accessed Jul. 09, 2020).
[5] "Annihilation of Caste.pdf." Accessed: Jul. 08, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/mmt/ambedkar/web/readings/aoc_print_2004.pdf.
[6] K. Ilaiah, "'Hindutva Is Nothing ButBrahminism,'" https://www.outlookindia.com/. https://www.outlookindia.com/website/story/hindutva-is-nothing-but-brahminism/215089 (accessed Jul. 09, 2020).
[7] Ghanshyam Shah, "Caste, Hindutva and Hideousness," Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 37, no. 15, pp. 7–8, Apr. 2002, Accessed: Jul. 09, 2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.epw.in/journal/2002/15/commentary/caste-hindutva-and-hideousness.html.
[8] "India's Muslim community under a churn: 85% backward Pasmandas up against 15% Ashrafs." https://theprint.in/opinion/indias-muslim-community-under-a-churn-85-backward-pasmandas-up-against-15-ashrafs/234599/ (accessed Jul. 09, 2020).
[9] "Explained: Who are Tadvi Bhil Muslims?," The Indian Express, May 29, 2019. https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-who-are-tadvi-bhil-muslims-payal-tadvi-mumbai-suicide-5754146/ (accessed Jul. 09, 2020).
[10] R. Naqash, "After Hindu group rally to support man accused of Muslim child's rape and murder, Jammu rift widens," Scroll.in. https://scroll.in/article/869164/hindu-groups-rally-for-accused-in-a-muslim-childs-rape-and-murder-sparks-communal-tension-in-jammu (accessed Jul. 09, 2020).
[11] "Failure to Meet Domestic and International: Legal Obligations to Protect Dalits - Broken People: Caste Violence Against India's 'Untouchables' (Human Rights Watch Report, 1999)." https://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/india/India994-13.htm (accessed Jul. 09, 2020).
[12] S. D. D'Cunha, "Despite A Booming Economy, India's Public Health System Is Still Failing Its Poor," Forbes. https://www.forbes.com/sites/suparnadutt/2017/09/12/despite-a-booming-economy-indias-public-health-system-is-still-failing-its-poor/ (accessed Jul. 09, 2020).
[13] "India: extreme inequality in numbers," Oxfam International, Oct. 19, 2019. https://www.oxfam.org/en/india-extreme-inequality-numbers (accessed Jul. 09, 2020).
[14] "Behind the Demolition of Ambedkar's Statues Lies a Fear of Justice," The Wire. https://thewire.in/caste/behind-the-demolition-of-ambedkars-statues-lies-a-fear-of-justice (accessed Jul. 09, 2020).

~~~

 

Amit Kumar is a writer, social activist & interdisciplinarian.

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