Ambedkar and RSS: chalk and cheese


The BJP, in order to gain larger legitimacy, has been attempting to appropriate the legacy of Ambedkar. In continuance with its efforts at misrepresentation of facts and distortion of history, to appropriate popular leaders, the RRS Sarsanghchalak, Mohan Bhagwat had claimed that Ambedkar was impressed with the functioning of RSS!

Ambedkar’s and RSS’ ideology is like chalk and cheese. While the RSS’ underlying principle is the formation of a Hindu state and brahmanical ordering of society, Ambedkar had staunchly criticized both these ideas. Ambedkar had criticized Hinduism for its hierarchically ordered system of castes, which is basically, the ossification of the idea of a Brahmin dominated order of castes. Ambedkar considered Hinduism, as a brahmanic theology.

He derided the institution of caste Hinduism, in the movements for access to public drinking water, access to temples and public burning of the manusmriti. He was such a trenchant critique of Hindusim, that he gave up Hinduism. In 1935, he declared that he was not going to die a Hindu, even though he was born a Hindu. In 1936, he attended Sikh Missionary Conference thinking of embracing Sikhism. In 1936, he published Annihilation of caste, in which he wrote about inter-dining and inter-marriage between people of different castes within Hinduism. In the end of the written address, Ambedkar reiterated his resolve towards giving up Hinduism. Eventually Ambedkar converted to Buddhism.

In his own words, “I have decided for myself. My conversion is sure as anything. My conversion is not for any material gain. There is nothing which I cannot achieve by remaining an Untouchable. My conversion is purely out of my spiritual attitude. The Hindu religion does not appeal to my conscience. It does not appeal to my self-respect. However, your conversion will be both for material as well as for spiritual gains. Some persons mock and laugh at the idea of conversion for material gain. I do not feel hesitant in calling such persons stupid.”

In contrast to Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’ the politics of RSS-BJP combine says that there should be ‘harmony amongst different castes’ and so they have formed an organization called ‘Samajik Samrasta Manch’ (Social Harmony Forum). Ambedkar did not speak in terms of a harmony, but in terms of a complete abolition of any system of ordering castes along a scale of hierarchy. The core of RSS’ political ideology is Hindutva or Hindu nationalism. However, Ambedkar rejected the idea of Hindu nationalism and supported composite nationalism, where no single dominant community will rule. In his book, ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’ Ambedkar writes how Jinnah and Savarkar are agreed with the idea of Hindus and muslims representing two separate nations. Savarkar believed that both the communities should dwell in one country, with Hindus in the dominating and muslims in the subordinate position. This commentary was meant to be a critique of the theory of hindus and muslims as two separate nations. For Ambedkar, Hiduism and Hindu Raj was a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. It goes in the face of a democracy and needs to be prevented at any cost.

No amount of appropriation can bury the actual truth that Ambedkar and RSS are indeed like chalk and cheese.


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