Dalit assertion must be welcomed but, equally, radicalization should be resisted
The notion of One India which, contrary to state contraction theorists, Islamist/secularised Christian discourses, Left-leaning political parties, the effete liberal intelligentsia and other malcontents who are repulsed by the idea of the country’s Hindu/lndic civilizational ethos, is not about imposing a unitary homogeneity on our ancient nation and modern state. Indeed, just as one-nation Toryism in the United Kingdom has meant different things to its various self-avowed adherents beginning with the patemalism-imbued public good charter of Benjamin Oisraelito the welfarism of Conservatives opposed to Margaret Thatcher who used the phrase as a codeword to flag their anti-Thatcherite credentials to the current British Prime Minister Theresa May who describes herself as a one-nation Tory of the socially inclusive kind, those who believe in the idea of One India have myriad provenances. But common sense, social inclusion and a modest sense of Indian exceptionalism is at the heart of this construct. This is a rather long preamble but vital to contextualise the highly unfortunate ‘caste’ clashes in Maharashtra over the past couple of days which are now showing signs of spilling over to neighbouring States including Gujarat, fanned by the practitioners of a very cynical and dangerous realpolitik.
In Koregaon-Bhima near Pune, Daltt commemoration on 1 January of a battle 200 years ago in which Mahar soldiers who fought on the side of the East India Company with the odds stacked against them and forced the Peshwa’s army to retreat was apparently the provocation for violent interjaati dashes to break out and then spread across Maharashtra including to the country’s financial capital Mumbai. Apparently, because a part from two local organisations headed by Sambhaji Bhide and Milind Ekbote who were in the past associated with the Sangh and against whom FIR shave rightly been registered to investigate the veraoity of the allegations against them, no mainstream One India political party or social organisation, and certainly not the BJP or RSS, has been accused by any credible neutral of being agent provocateurs. In fact, a false binary has been propagated to juxtapose alleged “upper caste, Hindutva discomfort” with Oalit assertion in commemorating victory in the battle of Koregaon-Bhima as a symbol of valour and strength displayed by their ancestors. Once this discourse is picked up by the usual suspects it is a short leap to demonizing the ‘Other’ and playing to prejudice.
There is no right-thinking organisation or individual who does not believe it is the right of the Oalit community to assert its right to commemorate its heroes; it is the right of all communities, of course, but especially those which have been historically suppressed. It is a means of enhancing community self-worth and empowerment, and is very welcome. That’s why for 200 years the battle victory has been marked each year by Dalit organisations and doyens of modern India including BR Ambedkar have payed tribute at Koregaon-Bhima. And there has been no ‘discomfort’ with it, whatever a few fringe individuals may say. That is a completely different thing, how- ever, from the attempt to radicalize Daltt politics, a long-cherished desire of the loony Left and activists with an eye on the main chance as the presence and utterances of Umer Khalid, Jignesh Mavani and their ilk in Pune and other parts have shown. The bottom line is that as the larger Indic/Hindu community consolidates and adopts a One Nation approach even while encouraging all forms of diversity within, the provocations from those whose poltical relevance depends on creating a narrative of separateness will only increase.