Hindutva's passive revolution

The Hindu,21st Sept.2000
By Gopal Guru

MR. BANGARU LAXMAN'S nomination as BJP president has been considered by its supporters as a great leap towards social revolution. More sceptical supporters consider it a partial effort to democratise Hindutva's political structure. However, it is possible to argue that such symbolic gestures point more to the Hindutva forces adopting a passive revolution as one of the softer methods to redeem their project. The Laxman case represents the Hindutva version of passive revolution and not social revolution. This involves two mutually complementary tendencies.

First, it has among its supporters those who have lost faith in creating a social strength to launch an assault on communalism and casteism. Those who have lost faith in their own strength belong to the Dalit, OBC and minority communities. Prominent among them are Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan, Mr. Ram Dhan, Mr. B. R. Maurya and Mr. Sharad Yadav. Second, this revolution begins with inner tension. On the one hand, the forces heralding this revolution take interest in it out of compulsion and not out of conviction. They are forced to do something pro-poor though they are basically reluctant. The reforms are publicly applauded but are considered a necessary evil.

The Hindutva efforts to reform its political structure at least symbolically by making space for Dalits and the Muslims is plagued by this inner tension. For example, the Hindutva forces are forced to make a Dalit party president only to woo the Dalits. On the face of it, this might appear as a revolutionary step. But the move involves a kind of hidden script, which underlies the Hindutva reluctance to do it. Ironically, a person who himself is the construct of this inner tension is reproducing this language of reluctance. His generous tone was coupled with the tone of complaint, if not contempt, about the Dalits and the Muslims who are to be included in the Hindutva's political project. The BJP president suggested that his party is ready to approach these sections but its complaint is that Muslims have not joined the national mainstream so far. The BJP president is ready to approach the Dalits and the Muslims but not without failing to remind them that they were appeased and pampered by the Congress(I) which used them as a votebank.

This stereotype is both deriding and derivative. It is deriding because the Hindutva forces quite unilaterally set the standards of deciding what is the mainstream and who is a part of it. It is derivative because it is based on the negative reference point that is the Congress(I). Finally, this inner tension is also evident from their treatment of Ambedkar. At one level, they may carry the pratima (portrait) of Ambedkar almost on their heads, but at the same time they would not hesitate to trample his pratibha (genius) under their feet. Spurning (Arun Shourie) Ambedkar's comprehensive critique of Hindutva and the caste system is a perfect pointer to such inner tension. Thus, within the passive revolution of the Hindutva variety, any advance at the social level is considered to be a necessary evil, which is unavoidable but undesirable. Thus, passive revolution is the result of compulsion and not conviction.

Hindutva's compulsion is of two kinds; first, it is compelled to politically articulate the combined material interest of information technology and speculative capital and also the swadeshi local capital, the small entrepreneur. Another compulsion is to make inroads into the Dalit and the Muslim constituencies for capturing political power on its own. At the moment, the wooing of Dalit-Muslim without any concrete promise and programme looks vague. And this very much fits into the logic of passive revolution which benefits the material interests of the dominant classes in the country. It prevents the all- important issues of equality and dignity becoming the lead questions of Dalit-Bahujan politics. And this ultimately prevents the Dalit-Bahujan masses from going through the political experience of a fundamental social transformation. It, thus, denies any possibility of purposive politics to the masses. In the process it renders the agents inactive. This passivity of the masses is achieved at two levels - state and civil society. At the state level, the attempts are made by the state agencies to dissolve particularly the Dalits into social insignificance where they have to prove their identity not through their authentic self but through certain identity cards or a piece of paper such as a caste certificate as specified by the state.

At another level, it is the saffronised civil society institutions that necessarily construct a person in such a way that he or she loses autonomy over thought and action. The Hindutva forces do it through a particular kind of historical understanding. This mode of understanding represents a questionless continuity of what is handed down to the Hindutva followers from their ideologues. This discourse moves within the tradition of unconditional obedience and avoids any possibility of intellectual dissent. This received discourse is characterised by a lack of critical reflection by the agents. Thus, in this tradition the Hindutva discourse becomes completely naturalised and is transmitted unproblematically from one generation to another of the Hindutva cadre.

For all these reasons any passive revolution including the Hindutva one cannot be a motivating option for the Dalits not only because it involves cunning, but also because it essentially operates within the same universe which is premised on structures of hierarchies. At the moral level, the passive revolution is absolutely problematic for the Dalits. This revolution, in effect, leads the Dalits and the Bahujan and the minorities to hand over the question of their emancipation to someone else who is just not interested. This dependence on some other agency results into the loss of self-esteem.

Thus at one level it is moral sliding for the ``beneficiaries'' of the passive revolution but at the same time it elevates the moral stature of the Hindutva forces for their being nice to the Dalits and the Muslims. These forces get congratulated for their being magnanimous to the Dalits and the Muslims who are promised they would be politically included, of course on the terms set by the Hindutva forces.

The Hindutva forces are painfully aware that they face a big challenge to win over these two sections. It is due to this bitter realisation that their leaders resent it being called the Hindutva party. They are busy making concerted efforts to win over the Dalits and the Muslims by garlanding statues of Ambedkar at Nagpur. But even symbolic space and advance into the Dalit constituency is denied to the Hindutva forces by the Dalit activists.

For example, in April last year, some of the prominent Dalit activists washed with water and honey the statue of Ambedkar at Deeksha Bhumi at Nagpur after it was garlanded by the RSS chief. This was an unique act of protest, because the Dalit activists wanted to beat the adversaries with the same stick perhaps with the intention of communicating to the rather insensitive adversary what it means to be a victim of untouchability. This only suggests that the passive revolution of the Hindutva variety will not sell among the Dalits and the Bahujan and the minorities of this country.

(The writer is Mahatma Gandhi Professor, University of Pune

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