With an eye on the UP elections and BMC polls of 2017, RSS through the ABVP plans a movement to convince Dalits that Ambedkar was ‘everyone’s’ leader
The Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), a right-wing all India student organization, has a new task on hand — to lend a saffron tinge to Dalit leader Dr B R Ambedkar. The upper-caste Hindu dominated Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is trying hard to woo Dalits voters, and has realized that it will do well if it can own a piece of the leader. And the ABVP members are its foot soldiers.
Dr Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary which falls on April 14 is the perfect opportunity to make the first strike.
The ABVP, which is the student wing of the RSS, has seen a recent resurrection in Mumbai and the state thanks to the many controversies it has been involved in. The plan, say sources, is to organize rallies between April 1 and 14, across Mumbai, Thane, Kalyan, Palghar and Shahpur. The final gala will be held in Mahad, where Ambedkar in 1927 led a satyagraha for untouchables so that they could use water from a public tank where they were prohibited entry.
To make peace between Brahmanical Hindusim which the RSS is known to propagate and Dalit rights, a piece appeared in the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser, which said, ‘Ambedkar was fighting against the dichotomies, contradictions and evils of the Hindu society and not the Hindu society and civilisation itself.’
This was not the first time that the RSS had tried to invoke the issue of Ambedkar. Last year, at a gathering of RSS ideologues in Dadar’s Sawarkar Smarak, Bhaiyyaji Joshi, General Secretary of RSS, had likened Ambedkar with Dr Keshav Hedgewar, RSS founder, and said both were born in the same year and worked for the same cause.
On ground, an initiative called One Temple, One Well, One Crematorium, launched by the RSS is trying to woo the Dalit community.
Yadunath Joshi, organization secretary of ABVP, says, “Ambedkar has been seen as a leader of Dalits, which is not true. He was a mass leader, a leader of all. The Samrasta rally in April will take our volunteers to housing societies so that everyone can join in.”
On Monday, ABVP's North Mumbai Unit is going to hold an outreach programme that will discuss Ambedkar and his social justice struggle with students. This is expected to be replicated across ABVP's district units. “Vaibhav Tripathi, General Secretary of ABVP, Mumbai North, sees it as an attempt to “bring both castes closer and work together on the goals set by Ambedkar”.
That the RSS ideology doesn’t allow it to embrace Gandhian or Nehruvian principles makes the Ambedkarite way attractive to gain followers.
Besides, say observers, the larger goal is with an eye on upcoming elections. In Uttar Pradesh, assembly elections are scheduled for 2017 while the BMC civic polls will kick off in early 2017. If RSS manages to get even a portion of the Dalit vote bank to warm up to it, it will minimize the damage. In the recent past, most Dfalits in Maharashtra have sided with AIMIM, which has been successful at garenering support among the Muslim and Dalit sections.
Former UP chief minister, Mayawati had tried to introduce social engineering to unite all Hindus irrespective of caste under one umbrella. The RSS is trying the same.
According to Joshi, the Mahad movement is planned to project Ambedkar as a national leader admired by everyone, including the upper castes.