Anand Teltumbde is a civil rights activist, political analyst, columnist and author of many books. He has a long association with peoples’ struggle spanning over three decades backing his theorizations on various issues. Trained in technology and management from the top institutes in the country, he marshals his insights of the modern techno-managerial world to sharpen strategies of struggles. In a well-articulated conversation with Vidya Bhushan Rawat, that he responded electronically, he explains various aspects of Ambedkarite-left politics and also suggests a way forward.
VB: Anand ji, how to you assess the status of Ambedkarite movement in India since the demise of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
AT: To say that the Ambedkarite movement today is in lamentable state may be a grossly understatement. What we see going in its name is the exhibition of identities, Ambedkar himself having become an inert icon supplying that identity; rampant opportunism, everybody floating a shop for political brokerage in the name of devotion to Ambedkar; ideological bankruptcy, openly joining enemy camps for pelf and power but claiming to serve Ambedkarite cause; explosion of scholars rewriting what Ambedkar wrote or showering empty superlatives over him; toeing the lines of power that be for self-aggrandizement; and indulgence in never ending mutilation of what Ambedkar stood for. There are other strands of these to be seen in social media—outpourings on Facebook, whatsapp groups, and such others, with a new tribe of activists thriving in virtual space.
The question as to what really constitutes the Ambedkarite movement may have to be answered. Is it just anything swearing by the self-proclaimed followership of Ambedkar that makes an Ambedkarite movement or is there any criteria to determine it? While it may not be easy to answer this question, there being many facets of Ambedkar’s own struggle, one may broadly take a clue from his vision and say that any movement that is oriented to make society move towards liberty, equality and fraternity may be termed as Ambedkarite. Naturally, the movements that privilege caste identities could not be Ambedkarite. The movements that do not raise voice against the violation of democratic rights of people cannot be Ambedkarite. The movement that is not socialistic is not Ambedkarite. Babasaheb Ambedkar stressed this value triad in terms of political, economic and social democracy. These criteria may be supplemented by additional features associated with the persona and character of Babasaheb Ambedkar such as his iconoclasm, rationality and scientific attitude, integrity, dedication, etc.
If we test out what passes as the movements of Dalits on these criteria, we may not get any that comes even within the consideration zone. It is with this understanding that I say that there are no Ambedkarite movements existing today. Being Ambedkarite does not mean worshiping Ambedkar or making him a cult figure, least capitalizing on it for selfish ends. But that is precisely every movement of Dalits is engaged in. What is seen as Ambedkar movement is the growing congregations at the newer and newer places being discovered as associated with him, the ever growing number of statues and monuments subtly aided by the state, growing panegyric literature much of it is pointless, building of Buddha Viharas in competition with the Hindu temples just as the marker of identity; growing number of seminars, conferences and meetings that appears to engage/accommodate the growing tribe of educated Dalits with sophisticated version of Ambedkar bhakti. There is a pseudo concern of the employed Dalits in the name of the ‘payback to society’ in distributing food packets and providing medical aid, etc. to the poor masses of Dalits who congregate at the places like Chaitya Bhumi and Deeksha Bhumi, indirectly promoting them. Of course there are better versions of it, although in small numbers, that seek to provide coaching, scholarship and extend financial aid to needy Dalit student. The entire Ambedkarite movement is seen in the form of these activities, which do not even remotely connect with what Ambedkar stood for. Many of them may rather be seen as antithetical to his persona and vision.
It needs to be understood that what Babasaheb Ambedkar practiced was pragmatism imbibed from his Professor John Dewey while in Columbia. He did not believe that there could be a science of history and therefore some abiding laws of societal development. Therefore, what he did was to figure out the best possible way in the given situation to advance the interests of Dalits. Therefore, apart from the abiding and unflinching commitment to the cause of Dalits (later expanded to entire humanity) one may not find a theoretical string that could be extended to any length of in future. The Ambedkarite movement was supposed to carry on what Ambedkar did, towards certain goals like annihilation of castes, achieving his dream society based on liberty, equality and fraternity as discussed before. The only methodological prerequisite was the sterling commitment to the cause and as he said to the extent avoiding violence and dictatorship.
After his death in 1956, the movement experienced sudden vacuum of leadership as there was no leader who could take his place. But the leaders had huge personal ambitions. According to J V Pawar, who chronicled the significant events around the time, right after his cremation at the Chaitya Bhumi, the politicking among the Maharashtrian Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF) leaders had begun. Babasaheb in his last days had toyed with an idea to form a non-Congress, non-Communist opposition party by bringing all prominent leaders under its banner. He had sent the proposal to socialist leaders like Dr Ram Manohar Lohia and S M Joshi. Nothing is known about their responses but at Nagpur, while addressing a mammoth gathering collected for Dharmantar (conversion to Buddhism) he spoke out this idea of forming a new party, Republican Party of India (RPI). Since the 1957 elections were round the corner, the post-Ambedkar SCF leadership decided to defer the decision and fight elections on reserved constituencies although they were supposed to have forsaken Hinduism and were no more the Scheduled Castes. The leadership issue was sorted out by having a collective leadership in the form of seven member presidium. But it did not last long.
Just about a year after the formation of the RPI, in deference to the wishes of Ambedkar on 3 October 1057, the vertical division in the party precipitated. Each faction began claiming to be a true heir of Ambedkar. The division sharpened when Dadasaheb Gaikwad, who had better bond with masses and who had enjoyed relatively greater confidence of Ambedkar than any other leader began talking about the livelihood issues of the Dalits. B C Kamble, by virtue of being an advocate, presumptuously claimed to know the Constitution more than anyone else. He accused Gaikwad of speaking the language of communists. The anti-communist sentiment was ripe in minds of people, as communists were seen as responsible for the defeat of Ambedkar in the 1952 election. These sentiments were duly capitalized by the anti-Gaikwad faction for denigrating him. Gaikwad, not entirely devoid of personal ambition, however, knew the pulse of masses as well as what Babasaheb Ambedkar desired. In his later years, Ambedkar was getting increasingly frustrated as the things he did his entire life, did not seem to produce desired result. In one of such bouts of frustration, he lamented to the Marathwada unit of the SCF that visited him at his residence in Delhi in 1953 that whatever he did had benefitted only a small section of the urban educated Dalits and that he could not do anything for the vast majority of Dalits in rural area. He wondered to the leader of the unit, B S Waghmare, whether he would be able to organize a struggle for demanding land for the rural Dalits. Immediately after his return Waghmare organized a land satyagraha in Marathwada with the help of Gaikwad. Some 1700 people had gone to jail in this first ever struggle for land (or any material issue) in the history of of Ambedkarite movement. After the death of Ambedkar, Gaikwad reenacted the land satyagraha in 1959, this time in much bigger scale in the Khandesh-Marathwada region of the then Bombay province in which many socialist and communist leaders participated and went to jail along with Dalits. The RPI under Gaikwad organized a countrywide land satyagraha in 1964-5 on an unprecedented scale, which lasted for nearly a month, each day hundreds of people including women and children courting arrests. The resolve of Dalit masses to fight for their livelihood issues reflected by this land satyagraha alarmed the government at the center. It responded with a strategy to coopt the Dalit leaders. None other than Dadasaheb Gaikwad would fall prey to this strategy inaugurated by the then chief minister of Maharashtra, Yashwantrao Chauhan. Gaikwad fully conscious of the consequences could not however save the party from the damage. The strategy opened the floodgates for Dalit leaders to join the Congress or indirectly work for it. The RPI, deformed at the birth itself, would not survive thereafter but for in the name claimed by innumerable factions.
The independent Ambedkarite movement had virtually collapsed by mid-1960s. By the late 1960s, the political emasculation of the Dalits began showing up in rising atrocities. In the wake of the global unrest and particularly taking inspiration from the Black panthers Party in the US, the Ambedkarite youth, pouring out of universities just to have dark future staring at them despite the chimera of reservations, began giving expression to their feelings of frustration emulating the genre of Black literature. From this movement of Dalit literature was born the Dalit Panthers movement. The very name emulating the Maoist Black Panthers Party in the US and in the background of the birth of another militant movement in Naxalbari in North Bengal, the Dalit Panthers sent a shockwave across the ruling establishment. But before it could set its tone through some militant action, it split on the point of deviating from Ambedkarism. A faction led by Raja Dhale accused the other led by Namdeo Dhasal of being under communist influence. It was a rehash of the split in the RPI on the basis of an idiotic syllogism, that speaking about material interests of the masses was communism, Ambedkar was opposed to communism and hence anything that raised the livelihood issues was against Ambedkar. This time it was constitutionalism but Buddhism. Dalit Panthers thus just proved to be a flash in pan.
Dalit Panthers went the RPI way, with much rapid degeneration than the latter. The electoral politics by then had become intensely competitive with the emergence of regional parties threatening the political hegemony of the Congress. The very processes of creating a class of rich farmers using seemingly the people-oriented policies like land reforms and Green Revolution but intended to create a political ally in rural India had led to this aftermath. The small bunch of votes which were available in the forms of castes and communities assumed disproportionate importance in the first-past-the-post (FPTP) elections and with that the value of brokering. It gave rise to a tribe of brokers in the guise of Ambedkarite leaders. In the crowd of these fraudsters the nostalgic Dalit masses were increasingly drawn towards Ambedkar icon which in turn was exploited by the ruling classes in subtly deforming Ambedkar. Babasaheb Ambedkar who remained an ignored figure for almost a decade, so much so that his son had to take out a march from Mahu to Mumbai collecting small donations from people to build a small structure at the place of his cremation in mid 1960s, began to be monumentalized by the establishment all over the country. The gullible Dalit masses would not understand the stratagem of the ruling classes and would increasingly fall for it, setting in a vicious cycle. What remains now of the Ambedkarite movement is these statutes of Ambedkar, Buddha Vihars, congregations in his memories, hymns and identity hysteria.
VB: Why, in your opinion, RPI which could have become a strong secular progressive force as visualised by Dr Ambedkar, could not achieve much.
AT: RPI was conceived by Babasaheb Ambedkar as a non-communist opposition party to the then ruling Congress. What was to be progressive in it is really not known. What I imagine is that Ambedkar was not very comfortable with a seemingly caste based party like SCF. It was occasioned by the political development triggered by the Cripp’s report in 1942. Now that its utility was over and also that its historical performance has been listless, he was naturally inclined to revive the idea of his very first party, the Independent Labour Party (ILP) under the new name, more fitting to the constitutionalism that he propagated. The Congress being a party of the capitalists, the natural opposition party was a party of labour. But labour was associated with the communists. Ambedkar was historically cut up with the communists, and particularly bitter with them for having defeated him in the 1952 elections. They, however, were the major opposition party, although distant second to the Congress. Weighing the relative strength of the parties and taking cognizance of the huge dominance of the Congress, strategically it would have been a good idea to forge a broad coalition of all socialist and communist parties. After all, the communists had adopted the parliamentary path. The RPI, relying upon ideologically amorphous socialists outside the communists was not destined to be a major opposition party to the Congress. The very fact that it failed to take off, perhaps speaks volumes about its poor strategic basis.
I am not sure Babasaheb used secular for the RPI. The ‘secular’ is the most abused term in this country popularized by so called progressives. What I know is that the RPI was to be the non-communist opposition party to the dominant Congress. It may rather be likened to the Janata Party that emerged in 1970s, as the major opposition party to the Congress, that did not hesitate in include the Bharatiya Jan Sangh (BJS). The ‘secular’ that signifies the firewall between religion and politics was disposed of during the Constitution making itself. When the subcommittee of the CA decided to have it, none other than Nehru, who is supposed to be the biggest secularist around had rejected it and as a result the Constitution did not contain this term. There is no evidence that even Babasaheb Ambedkar also contradicted the ruling version of dharmnirapekshta. It is well known that in November 1948, Prof K T Shah, representing Bihar in the CA, had moved an amendment to the effect that “India shall be a Secular, Federal, Socialist Union of States.” It was Babasaheb himself who opposed it saying that the Constitution was “merely a mechanism for the purpose of regulating the work of the various organs of the State” and what the policy of the State or how the “Society should be organised in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances.” It is a different matter that he was a strong votary until his first speech in the CA of hardcoding the socialist structure of the society into the constitution!
India is not a secular country; it is a dharmnirpeksh country, and de facto a Hindu country, as the likes of Mohan Bhagwat rightly claim. The Constitution does not have this word; it was inserted by Indira Gandhi paradoxically during the Emergency, perhaps to complete the joke on the Indian people. Well, coming back to the question of the RPI, how would such a party emerge as a strong party? What binding force the motley combination of leaders with all ideological hues would have held it together? What would be its constituency? What would be its goal?
Indian elections are fought on the strength of money, muscle and communal power, all of which are evil. Without resorting to these evil, no party would really survive in India. Communist party was the biggest opposition party in the parliament in early years. Its electoral success was due to its struggles in certain pockets of the country. But leave apart building upon it, the party could not even sustain itself. With what imagination one could say that the RPI would have been different? Yes, there are examples of the Dravidian parties (DMK and AIDMK in its present avatar) surviving as the electoral parties and whether one sees the portents with open eyes, until yesteryears, the BSP also achieved electoral success. The pertinent question to be asked here is whether they could really do justice to their professed goals. What remains of these parties is a different hue of the ruling class parties. They have enriched their leaders but have kept their constituency vulnerable.
As a matter of fact, neither Ambedkar nor his party could succeed in post-colonial elections.
Whether RPI could have been successful is a purely hypothetical question. The more pertinent question is whether it could have been successful in promoting what Ambedkar willed. My answer to this question is in flat negative. The proof of my saying is the fact that no party, small or big, or even the parliamentary communist parties, swearing by the working classes, could really serve the interests of poor in this country. The structure of politics sucks you in and dissolves into its colours. Electoral successes could be manipulated and success could be claimed as the BSP did. But as the BSP experiment amply proved, you cannot defy the grammar of this politics. Money, muscle, communal arithmetic drives you away from the masses into the so called mainstream rendering you indistinguishable from any other ruling class party.
VB: You have been with the left movement and always talked about bringing caste and class issues together. Left has rarely accepted the caste as the primary source of exploitation in India but many of your writings confirms the fact that you too look from the class angle. Could you please explain why you insist class matter and secondly why there is a remote possibility of left and Ambedkarite coming together?
AT: Yes, I have been with the political left (not with any party) for the most part of my life and also willed that the communist and the Dalit movements should converge to make a strong unified revolutionary force. It is not bringing class and caste together but enclosing castes within a class. I have serious objection to the constricted conception of class the communists and even others have. My definition of class subsumes castes. This is the mistake of the early communists that has cost Indian poor their revolution. Marx said that the history of all hitherto existing society was the history of class struggles. How could then castes that were the life world of the subcontinent for most part of the known history be left aside from the class analysis? Neither class analysis of the Indian society nor class struggle in India could be conceived without taking cognizance of castes. This is the greatest blunder of the Indian communists that may be traced to their Brahmanic proclivities to adhere to the given word. In pre-capitalist world classes manifested in various forms; castes also were the forms of classes.
It does not mean ignoring castes. In fact nothing is ignored. Revolutions are not a theory that you assume away something and proceed; you have to confront social reality. Castes, genders and every other such issue are a social reality and they need to be dealt with as part of the class struggle. It is a process to enhance revolutionary consciousness. Castes, given their peculiar characteristics (quite unlike any other social category) cannot be the basis of struggle in any other way. We have experience with various caste struggles for over a century. They reveal that they could not make any dent to the existence of castes. Whatever changes that have crept in them are due to the advent of capitalism and modernity piggybacking it. I have explained it in my book Anti-Imperialism and Annihilation of Caste and many other writings. Castes only drive you deeper into the ditch.
Today despite these caste struggles, arguably, India is more casteized than it was ever in history. Class struggle is the prime mover of the history and cannot be contrasted to any other struggle. It does not mean only economic struggle as the ignoramuses made it to be. They subsume all other struggles. In India class struggle necessarily incorporates anti-caste struggle. There cannot be a separate front where castes can be fought against. This has been historical folly in India. Of course, for this I hold the communists responsible because they claiming the ownership of analytical arsenal of Marxism could not use it. Babasaheb Ambedkar, a pragmatist by confession, was devising his praxis as the situation unfolded and hence his blame becomes certainly lesser.
No, I am not pessimistic. Both the movements marching separately have reached their points of extinction. It is natural that at least a section of their adherents has begun realizing the mistake and thinking of correcting themselves. Unlike others I do not speak/write in vacuum; I am intimately in touch with the struggles afield and do have a sense that such realization is fast dawning on the youngsters on both sides. The times are, however, uncongenial for such manifestations. But the things cannot rot for long. There will be a way out.
Yes, there is big hurdle in the path. The mushrooming middle class of Dalits represent that hurdle. They do not want it. They have whipped up the identity obsession among the Dalits and made Ambedkar a marker of that identity. They will naturally prevent it happening. The class characteristics of these Dalits tend to prefer the status quo because it has brought them some stature and material prosperity. They would not want it change. Revolution moreover demands sacrifices, which has not been in their grammar. But that is not the case with the multitude of the Dalit masses. Their condition craves for change. They do not have anything left to lose but their pitiable condition. And therefore they would like to have a revolution. The only problem they do not know what it would be like, what it would entail. It is not only in India but also the world over, people ceased to believe in revolutions and their promises. The communists are solely responsible for this state of mind. They have only given them failures. They need to squarely accept it. Those who want change from the status quo, may have to be low on rhetoric and high on creative strategies. The odds are serious but not insurmountable. The same old stereotype of revolutionary rhetoric and slogan mongering would not work. It will demand new creative ways. The entire revolutionary theory in the context of the contemporary techno-managerial context of the world will have to be rethought. The pace of change in the contemporary world is so rapid and accelerating that no ism howsoever scientific it may be can be relied to offer us solution. Revolutions, as such, have always been a serious enterprise and they cannot be spoken superfluously. They always demand hard work and sacrifices.
VB: Is not it true that the left has historically not considered Ambedkar as icon of the Dalit identity and culture. In fact many of them went on to criticise him to the extent of not even considering him as an intellectual. Is it not the brahmanical arrogance which many of the left ideologue suffer from?
AT: Who says they haven’t? Have all Dalits in contrast really considered Ambedkar as their icon? It is only the Mahars in Maharashtra and their equivalents in other states have accepted him as their icon of identity and culture. It was as such a caste affair, pure and simple.
Over time there has been promotion of this icon by the state and he is made what he is today. When India became independent, the ruling classes had adopted Gandhi as their icon. He remained for initial decades the state icon but with the change in times began losing its luster. It outlived its utility by 1980s. The aura of independence struggle and the ethos of Indianness that the Gandhian icon represented became out of tune by the time India became neoliberal. The ruling classes needed to replace it. Ambedkar, who historically contrasted Gandhi and presented his antithesis, came handy as an icon for the neoliberal India, which was considered as the antithesis of the welfare state during the Gandhian phase. It is therefore that they began projecting him as the free market economist, pro-globalization figure, a monetarist and what not particularly through some of the Dalit brokers masquerading as intellectuals. Ambedkar’s modern look combined with liberal and pragmatic views came to perfectly fit in the requirements of the new icon for neoliberal era.
The role of the state in making up the Ambedkar icon cannot be missed. Apart from monumentalizing efforts, it opened up Ambedkar centers everywhere. There was a sudden spurt in so called research on him in universities. Ambedkar, almost an abhorrent figure for the elite, suddenly became venerable. The bout of bhakti Modi expresses for him just illustrates it starkly.
As a matter of fact, as explained above, Ambedkar’s iconization had begun from the late 1960s itself. The turning point came with the 1964-65 all India land satyagraha. Dalits for the most part until then had engaged in cultural struggles; against Brahmanism which was in a way abstract, challenging really no one. If they turned towards their economic deprivations, as this struggle reflected, it would pose real threat to the entire structure. Therefore, the Congress had launched its cooptation strategy. There were other factors too that contributed to this trend. As explained earlier, intensification of electoral competition and consequent importance of the vote banks made it imperative to icnonize Ambedkar to woo the Dalit voters. Gradually thereafter, one finds roads being named after Ambedkar, his statutes dotting them, institutions being named after him and his pictures adorning them. The nostalgia of the Dalit masses in the face of dilapidation of the Dalit movement by then also aided this trend in a significant way.
As for your question that the Left has historically not considered him as an icon of the Dalit identity and culture, I do not see it as such. Initially, it is true they did ignore him rather if you go to his times; the communists ridiculed him as some hardliners among them still do. But later with their own degeneration, they also could not keep themselves away from the electoral logic. Some of them tacitly realized their mistake in ignoring castes but the peculiar cultural attitude not to admit mistakes prevented them from speaking that out loudly. Today all the communist parties do acknowledge Ambedkar. Even the Marxist-Leninist parties, popularly called naxalites, who do not have electoral compulsion as the parliamentary parties have, do acknowledge his work and contributions.
But why and how does the Left considering or acknowledging Ambedkar as an icon of Dalit identity and culture become important? How consequential it is either for the Dalit emancipation or the Indian revolution? I would rather ask why should Ambedkar be only a Dalit icon? Ambedkar acquired a universal vision as he evolved. Why should he be demeaned to the mean status of just being a Dalit icon? I am also against this iconization business. Icons, on the positive side, can inspire certain ideals but on the negative side they can also distort the reality. The very concept of icon distances it from the reality and makes it objectionable.
Ambedkar need not be an icon for anyone but should be seriously considered for what he has to offer for the creation of the new world based on ‘liberty, equality and fraternity’ as he proclaimed. His own attitude towards the great people was similar. He dismissed the heroes and great men in no uncertain terms and proclaimed himself as an iconoclast. Why make him an icon and insult him? All great people—who looked beyond their self and strove for betterment of humanity—have something to say as to how to reach there. And they all should be considered important for their thoughts and actions. One needs to mind, however, that they are simultaneously limited by their won space and time. In the past with slow pace of change their thoughts and actions could guide us in dealing with our problems but not now. We may be inspired by their vision but may not be able to use their thoughts, actions or methods because the entire reference points may have undergone change. Our world demands novel strategies to deal with and limits utility to that extent of the past. Perhaps this dictum would invalidate privileging any ism as the solution. What is important with them (and those which are not been fortunate to be taken as such) is the insights they had.
As regards your comment about Left criticism, both communists as well Ambedkar criticized each other. Because, their constituencies had a huge overlap, the criticism was quite natural. Communists viewed that Ambedkar was dividing the working class and he criticized them that they did not pay attention to caste discrimination that the Dalit workers suffered under their nose. Apart from that the communists’ superficial understanding of the Marxian metaphor of ‘base and superstructure’ led them to believe that mere struggle against caste was pointless. But I do not think that they denied him his intellectual status. Despite the intrinsic intellectual arrogance that the communists reflect, they swallowed his claim in 1938 public meeting that he had read more books on communism than all communists taken together. These issues rooted in the dynamics of times a century before should not trouble us but because of our identitarian obsession they keep deflecting our present focus too.
VB: You have been participating in various programmes of the left Dalit alliances. How is it happening? Do you think possibility of them coming together or will it break due to wider perspective gap among them?
AT: I have already explained that unless Dalits adopt class orientation, they are not going to be successful even in their anti-caste struggle. To have class-approach does not make one automatically communist or Marxist, least the adherent of some political outfit. That is the only approach that could bind all oppressed people together and bring in a hope of annihilation of castes. I am not enamoured with the communist parties that exist in India. My concern is with the movements, there are movements beyond parties. Given the state of politics on both sides, there is little that one hopes for. I see a need to make a new beginning. Yes, I see hope of that happening too. Despite numerous odds in our path, there are enough people who listen to us. It is better to have right orientation than having wrong results. The world today has gone very complex. People will have to be on their toes to comprehend it and devise viable strategies towards making it better for the vast majority. What I do is to prepare them doing that.
VB: Rohith Vemula's institutional murder gave different left and Ambedkarite groups an opportunity but then they split again. The Hyderabad Central University Elections and later the JNU Student elections both places the left parties refused to accept or support the Ambedkarite or Dalit Bahujan groups like BAPSA resulting in much bitter altercation among them. How do you react to this?
AT: It is unfortunate that in both these campuses Left and Ambedkarite students could not use the opportunity to converge. In HCU, in the thick of the protests over Rohith’s death, I had a meeting with both sides and advised them to forge a united a front against the Hindutva, isolating the ABVP. I had explained my rationale that the HCU was an appropriate place to seed it and promised to replicate in other campuses. But for inexplicable reasons, and I am sure it had all to do with identities that it was not pursued. In HCU, the onus was on the Ambedkar Students’ Association (ASA) to make it happen but I don’t think they even tried it. As a result, the wider base for the protest movement petered out and it recoiled back to be just a Dalit matter. It is our Telangana based organization, Kula Nirmulan Porata Samiti that has kept the movement alive.
In JNU, reportedly the left students did take an initiative and striking a joint front with BAPSA but the latter would not speak with them. I do not really know who to blame. But I sense, the identity obsession and hatred for the Left among the Dalits make things difficult. As I said these things are more with the educated middle class of the Dalits than the masses. There is a weird logic underneath this conduct. Hating Left opens up avenues for going anywhere. All said and done, whether they are right or wrong, the Left have the ethos of sacrifice, confines of ideology. Being against them opens the floodgate of opportunities. This is what happened to the Dalit politics. You could easily walkover to the hindutva camp but would not consider touching the Left with a bargepole. This attitude has informed the degeneration of the Dalit politics that we see. The intellectual behavior is not very different. Ambedkarites have made their hatred for the Left it into an art form to justify their opportunism. I have been giving the post-dinner lectures to the JNU students and whatever the topic is bombarded with the same questions by the Ambedkarite students as I was asked say 10-15 years ago. I had to jocularly wonder whether the students haven’t passed out of the campus over such a long period. I had answered these stereotypical questions numerous times seemingly to their satisfaction (because every time they kept quiet) but they would keep repeating them over the years with the airs of profundity. My declaration that I do not care for any ism, or my criticism of the Left strewn all over my writings, do not cut any ice with them. They would just assume things and behave. While I may not absolve the Left side of the blame, but my own experience with the so called Ambedkarite students provide me huge data about the dynamics. It is terribly painful to see these young students in relatively elite institution instead of learning shut their faculties willfully.
VB: You have been working a lot on the issue of land acquisition and adivasi question on both there is a huge misunderstanding of perspective as well as work both by the Ambedkarite as well as those who claims to be Marxists.
AT: Yes, I have associated myself with many land struggles wherever I could and tried to help them as per my capacity. Land is a scarce resource and constituted terrain for class struggle between rich and poor. For the poor they represent livelihood resource and for the rich they are required for ‘development’. I have participated in and associated with anti-SEZ struggles, Adivasi struggles to preserve their habitat in many states, and Dalits’ struggle for their land rights, also in many states. By Ambedkarite definition, they all become Left struggles but are not necessarily waged by the ideological Left. I haven’t seen any Ambedkarite spearheading these struggles. The honourable exceptions were Valjibhai Patel and Jignesh Mewani in Gujarat, who have been struggling to get physical possession of the lands allotted to the Dalits by the Gujarat government in 1980s. Elsewhere, they came in caste conflict with others, not necessarily with the high castes but the likes of Adivasis and BCs. There was a struggle in Chitradurga district of Karnataka led by Shivalingam and another at Pathapally in Telangana, spearheaded by the KNPS activists, to which I actively contributed. Wherever the Dalits were involved, it invariably assumed caste dimension and still the activists were isolated by the middle class Dalits as the Leftists. They would keep themselves away but the masses would actively uphold them. There is this clear divide between the masses of Dalits and their middle classes that surfaces in every struggle and particularly the land struggles.
The Dalit activists leading the land struggle invariably did it under the banner of Babasaheb Ambedkar but could not impress the so called Ambedkarites and deserve their support. They rather criticized them. When it came to resisting the states’ or state-sponsored land grab, Ambedkarites are conspicuous by their absence. There are hundreds of such resistance movements going on all over the country and they are mainly waged by the Dalits and Adivasis but one may not meet any Ambedkarite there. They are only supported by the Left activists. Take for instance the anti-Posco struggle that endured all kinds of state repression but eventually compelled the giant company to wind up their plans. All of them were Adivasis and Dalits. Where was the Ambedkarites there? Has any Ambedkarite scholar considered it important to write on and at least express his moral support? The Ambedkarites rather have tendentiously sided by the state. The Maoist movement, may be criticized ad infinitum for its methods, but can never be opposed by anyone claiming to be on the side of the oppressed masses. It is only the Ambedkarites who do it. In my recent experience, as a General Secretary of the Committee for Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR) hosting an executive committee meeting of our umbrella organization – Coordination of Democratic Rights Organizations (CDRO) at the MLA Hostel in Nagpur, there were violent slogan shouting by the people holding Ambedkar’s picture and blue flags, demanding death to Saibaba and his supporters, meaning us. What would one call these Ambedkarites? Babasaheb Ambedkar would cry at such a misuse of his name!
Where is the difference between perspectives on this issue? When you have almost declared the struggle as taboo and conveniently kept away from it; and at another extreme have chosen to actively oppose those who struggle against it, you cannot claim respectability using phrases like difference in perspectives.
VB: Is the question of identity not important for developing the leadership of the marginalised communities or is it just who work for them. Even technically both models have failed given the nature of corrupted leadership that has emerged.
AT: Identity per se is not an issue; what kind of identity for what kind of objective is the issue. People naturally wear multiple identities, from individual to collective. They all have their utility. So, identities per se are not a problem. The combination of identity and objective needs to be examined. When the objective is emancipation of larger humanity, the identity also should reflect it. When the movements are built on sectarian identities, then it becomes problematic. Take for example, the Dalit struggle against castes. It appears that Dalit as an identity is viable. But on a careful consideration it is not. Because the caste oppression of the Dalits stems from caste ideology, which is pervasive, without annihilation of which the former cannot be ended. It is therefore; Babasaheb Ambedkar had thought of annihilation of caste and necessarily graduated to a universal goal of achieving ideal society. If this is the goal, then Dalit identity also will be inadequate. Ambedkar toyed with Dalit identity because he wanted to mobilize all the untouchables for anti-caste struggle as its vanguard. Dalit was still beyond castes; a quasi-class term assimilating all the untouchables. In course, he himself graduated to expand this integrating others as the working class in the ILP phase and later as all people, a la Prabuddha Bharat. Therefore, your usage of identity has to be commensurate with the goal.
Caste as an identity has another serious problem. The core characteristic of caste is hierarchy; caste always seeks hierarchy and hence tends to split. We see, Ambedkar’s Dalit also split into its sub-castes. These sub-castes may have their own subsubcastes. With such an identity, you cannot imagine to build a viable struggle for emancipatory goal. Jotiba Phule had conceived shudra-atishudra identity; Kanshiram tried Bahujan as the identity. The problem with them was that they were based on castes and hence they collapsed. When identity is made to serve as the basis of politics, it always becomes sectarian as we observe. With this you can build your empire, you cannot emancipate.
Do you require identity for developing leadership of the marginalised communities? And how necessary it is to develop such a leadership? I would suppose that if a dalit comes forward to lead the issues of Dalits, no non-Dalits will be able to outcompete him for the sheer reason that he cannot know as much as his Dalit counterpart. Notwithstanding, the primary consideration should remain that whether such an identity would really accomplish the goal. Sans such a marginalized identity, the leadership at least could universalize the issue and broad-base the struggle. That option would disappear if the struggle is built on the sectarian identity. Moreover, as I explained the peculiar proclivity of the caste identity to split makes it seriously problematic in using it.
I don’t know what you mean by both models failing. One could see anything in social realm as failure and success. It is difficult to be objective about it as we ourselves are part of it. But just consider, notwithstanding the eventual reversals of the class based struggles that brought about revolutions in the last century, which indirectly induced many progressive changes in the world, the identity movements could not even make a dent to their oppression. Even Babasaheb Ambedkar who had stressed that the movement of Dalits could and should only be led by the Dalits and permanently dislodged Vittha Ramji Shinde, who had considerable following among Dalits from leadership, also willed that larger society should own up the task of reforms. His ILP strategy and the last RPI strategy also could be construed to do away with the constricted identity of caste. Whence this identity obsession is developed among the Ambedkarites is really difficult to understand.
VB: You have written extensively on Mahad Movement. Recently your book on the same has come out. Why do you felt the need to document this and what are the lessons for all of us from it.
AT: Yes, I would not have written Mahad if it had just been mere documentation. It all started with some friends asking me to write a introduction to the English translation of comrade R B More’s account of Mahad struggle, which was published in a college magazine many years before. The book just evolved. As I am wont, I wanted to put the narrative of this foundational struggle within an analytical frame. Thus, I created a bracketing chapters; the first as the historical background of the Mahad. It was meant to dispel the folklore that Ambedkar is an avatar who descended from heavens to emancipate the Dalits. It provided the history of caste and caste struggle until the eve of the Mahad struggle. One would find that there were many an important struggles that preceded Mahad. They had distinctive characteristics and lot much to teach us even now. The last chapter ‘Looking backward, Moving Forward’ served to draw certain lessons with the advantage of hindsight. I have drawn many lessons and tried to link them to the state of the contemporary Dalit movement. The decision not to retaliate the attack of the caste Hindu goons, not to confront the state, not having clarity as to who the target for the struggle was, the pyrrhic aftermath of Mahad, the strategic fluidity, etc. that starkly come out of the Mahad episode appears to have shaped up the future of the Dalit movement. There are numerous other lessons such as Ambedkar’s reference to Mahar caste, advice to women, dealing with the collector, democratic content of the movement, presence of women, etc.
VB: As a scholar, how do you define Baba Saheb Ambedkar's economic policies? I mean what would have been his response to demonetisation which has rendered millions of people cashless as well as workless. How would Ambedkar respond to those who are quoting him or should I say misquoting him from 'The Problem of rupee' that the currency should be demontetised in every 10 years.
AT: Babasaheb Ambedkar’s economics was predominantly normative. He was more concerned with the economic policy being used for the benefit of the majority of people than the technical aspects of the discipline. The most inspiring thing about his study of economics is that he boldly engaged with the contemporary debate and crossed swords at times with the greats of those times. All of his academic theses in economics dealt with the problem of administrative economics, public finance and currency system to be followed by the state. I personally would not see much relevance of these today except for they should inspire young researchers how to take pains in doing research. The most important of his economic writings is his paper 'Small Holdings in India and Their Remedies' which was published in the Journal of the Indian Economic Society, Vol I, 1918. It is an essay with profound economic insights and great relevance to India even after a century. It contains important directions to the economic development of India and particularly the growing agrarian crisis we suffer today.
At that time, British administrators and academics in India were bothered about the low productivity of the Indian agriculture and they attributed it to the small sizes of the farm holdings cultivated by Indian peasants. Many stalwarts of those times such as H S Jevons of Allahabad University, Harold Mann and G F Keatinge of Bombay, and the committee appointed to make proposals on the consolidation of small and scattered holdings in the Baroda State (1917) engaged with the subject and offered their suggestions in terms of consolidating and/or enlarging the holdings in the hands of individual farmers through interesting administrative measures. Ambedkar made a critical examination of these suggestions and came out with very profound observations some of which are of extremely important theoretical value. He dismissed these suggestions saying that there could not be anything like a correct size of agricultural holding. He argued that land was only one of the many factors of production and the productivity of one factor of production is dependent upon the proportion in which the other factors of production were combined. He pointed out the problem of insufficiency of capital needed for acquiring “agricultural stock and implements”, which in turn could be traced to lack of savings. He still digs deeper and highlights the non-availability of sufficient land and large population superfluously engaged in agriculture. It was precursor to the systematized notions of disguised unemployment or underemployment that would come later into economics. Ambedkar provides solution in terms of industrialization that would release the pressure of population on land and generate surplus that could help optimize the inputs to agriculture enhancing its productivity. The solution is still relevant to India as it was then.
Much is made out of Ambedkar’s The Problem of Rupee and Its Solution, his D Sc thesis submitted to London University and published by P S King and Son Ltd, London 1923. The vested interests projected him as the monetarist and hence pro-globalization to toe the official line of the government. The basic issue Ambedkar dealt with in this work was the currency standards, viz., Gold Standard and Gold Exchange Standard. He favoured Gold Standard in order to maintain the stability of the currency system and thereby the internal pricing structure of the economy. It could not be extended to the free market argument or monetarist management as outlined by Milton Friedman in 1960s. When the Modi government came out with Tughlaqesque idea of demonertization of 86 percent of the currency, it was projected to be in accordance to the advice of Babsaheb Ambedkar in his the Problem of the Rupee. The slavish leaders of the Dalits put up the posters to that effect. Surprisingly, Prakash Ambedkar who has been consistently opposing the RSS in recent times also came out making similar statement. I do not know what prompted him to do this faux pas but the fact remained that it was a pure lie. There is nothing in the Problem of the Rupee to indicate that the currency should be demonetized, least for the foolish purpose for which the government did it.
Demonetization was the foolhardy decision the motive of which is difficult to discern. I had written as many as three articles in EPW on its various aspects and had speculated the reasons for it. It appeared that Modi wanted to weaken the opposition parties, particularly the BSP for the ensuing elections in UP. It also wanted to project its macho image to the public and resolve to fight black money. And perhaps test out endurance of people. Demonetization put poor people to indescribable hardship but hats off to the Goebblesque propaganda of Modi that he fooled them to repeat his lines that demonetization was a small price for cleansing the economy. All the reasons that Modi gave for demonetization on 8 November proved invalid and made him to shift the goal post every time he opened his mouth. And still the public failed to note the lie and willingly fell prey to his vicious design.
What surprised and saddened me most is the invocation of Ambedkar. Supposing Ambedkar had really said it, can it make demonetization less evil? What is more important: the actual sufferings of people or a casual utterance of Ambedkar? This misuse of Ambedkar by the vested interests has already cost the Dalits dearly but they do not wish to see it and behave in an inebriated manner taking pride in their identity. Any issue and Ambedkar is invoked as though the issue is automatically justified if he spoke in favour and invalidated if he did it against. And what of his contradictions and inconsistencies which he would just dismiss invoking Emerson’s dictum. Was Ambedkar against Muslims, communists, Brahmins? Did he speak on Bhagat Singh, Adivasis, Telangana movement? How is that important? He may have said what he did in his times. How is that applicable to me in my world?
VB: Today even the Sangh Parivar is using Baba Saheb Ambedkar in its discourse. Is it because the Sangh want to use his writings on political Islam, particularly on Pakistan to create an impression as if he supported the idea of Sangh Parivar's India?
AT: Sangh Parivar has not begun using Babashaeb Ambedkar today. It started way back in 1980s. Initially, Ambedkar was an anathema to it because of his utterances against its Hindu religion. During the Hedgewar-Munje-Golwalkar phase, it kept distance from Ambedkar. They openly spoke against all that Ambedkar stood for without however naming him. The Dalit movement was vibrant enough to allow any inroads. Moreover, it seemed to believe that it could do with the Hindu population and did not need Ambedkarite Dalits to accomplish their project. But when Deoras, the lowest profile Sarsanghchalak, took over the RSS, he gave a clear strategic direction. He clearly knew that in order to accomplish their objective they could not remain away from the constitutional structure. It was important to appeal to as many communities as possible. It was during his period that Babasaheb Ambedkar was included in the list of pratahsmaraniyas (the ones to be remembered at the dawn). They slowly supplemented it with their saffronizing drive. They launched Samajik Samrasata Manch. Huge literature was produced and disseminated among the Dalits to show Ambedkar as friends with Hedgewar, praise of the RSS, the greatest benefactor of hindutva, and against the Muslims, etc. They had already started their work among the Adivasis to hinduize them. The non-Ambedkarite Dalits were already with them. Now it was the turn of the Ambedkarite Dalits!
No, it is not confined to only Muslims. Wherever they found exploitable clues, they used it. It was Vinay Katiyar, the then the state president of the BJP, had gone around spreading the canard on the eve of the 2004 election in UP that Ambedkar was against Muslims. He was showing a copy of the book Pakistan or Partition of India in support of his statements. It had provoked me to write a counter through a book Ambedkar on Muslims. Muslim, as the other, always came handy for the BJP but their canard is not confined only to Muslims. If they could saffronise Ambedkar much of the battle is won, the strategy with which Gandhi for instance coopted Ambedkar to be the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, the same strategy informs the BJP to saffronize Ambedkar. Ambedkar represents the aspiration of the Dalits; saffronizing Ambedkar implies saffronizing those aspirations.
VB: Dr Ambedkar wanted nationalisation of land but it could not happen in our constitution. What would have been the reason for the same?
AT: I do not consider the Constitution has anything to do with Ambedkar’s views. His contributions have been like that of a professional. He actually spoke out his mind in the Rajya Sabha when on 2 September 1953 he retorted to the charge that he was the architect of the constitution, by saying, “My answer is, I was a hack. What I was asked to do, I did much against my will. …. Sir, my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody….” Unfortunately, later he patched up the statement by analogizing the Constitution as a temple that needed to be destroyed as the demons took its possession before the gods could be installed.
As you know, when the constituent assembly was being constituted, Ambedkar did not have any way to reach there as his party, SCF had just two seats in the 1946 elections. In that situation, he had prepared a memorandum to the constituent assembly proposing a scheme of state socialism. It proposed nationalization of land, key and basic industries being owned and run by the state, etc. But later he managed to get elected to the CA from Jessore-Khulna constituency with the help of Jogendranath Mandal. Shortly thereafter according to Mountbaten’s 3rd June plan, partition of India was announced and his membership was annulled as Jessore-Khulna went over to Pakistan. There was a patch up between the Congress and him and he got elected by the former from the Bombay assembly. He was also made the chairman of the most important committee of the CA, the drafting committee. During the proceedings of the CA in 1948, one member Prof K T Shah (an alumnus of the London School of Economics and later (1 May 1949) the founder president of the United Trade Union Congress (UTUC), a trade union of the Revolutionary Socialist Party), had proposed an amendment seeking to declare India as a “Secular, Federal, Socialist” nation, it was Ambedkar who opposed it. He argued that “how the Society should be organised in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances and it could not be laid down in the Constitution.
What could have been the reasons? Aren’t the reasons obvious? The Constitution was the collective opinion of the CA finally worded by the drafting committee of which Ambedkar was the chairman. What was the composition of this CA? Of the total 389 members, 292 were representatives of the states, 93 represented the princely states and four were from commissioner provinces. Of the 292 elected members, Congress had won 208, and the Muslim League 73, who however, had refused to participate. There was overwhelming domination of Congress in the CA. How was the election done? It was done by the elected members of the assemblies formed in the February 1946 elections. The members who elected the members of the CA themselves did not represent the Indian people; only 28% people having the voting right. Where was the possibility of any radical provision being included in the Constitution? A perceptive commentator like Granville Austin is absolutely right in commenting that CA was the Congress and the Congress was India.
The CA predominantly representing rich urbanite and landlord classes could not be expected to sign its own death warrant!
VB: How would you describe Nehru Ambedkar relationship? Was that better than Gandhi Ambedkar relationship as both were modern secularists?
AT: My impression is that Nehru never liked Babasaheb Ambedkar. Not only both were secularists but even Fabians and that similarity perhaps repelled them as the same poles do. However, Gandhi was a strategist par excellence. He knew the strategic importance of Dalits and Ambedkar as their representative. Although they clashed in RTCs, and Gandhi blackmailed him to give up separate electorates, he fully acceded to the counter demands of Ambedkar in terms of the enhanced numbers of reserved seats and volunteered to commit the Congress working for the upliftment of the Dalits. It is a different matter that after some time it did not produce much result and disillusioned Ambedkar completely.
Moreover, their persona was cast very differently. Gandhi’s religio-moral bearing was accommodative. I believe it was he who influenced Nehru to accept Ambedkar in his cabinet as well as the Congress to get him elected to the CA when he lost his membership. The identity obsessed Dalits refuse to see this strategic masterstroke that chained them emotionally to the Constitution which proved to produce a society antithetical to Ambedkar’s vision: sans liberty, equality and fraternity. The ignoramuses among them innocently seek proof for such an sterling intrigue, when the secrecy has been its crux. Their very arguments rather prove the value of the stratagem.
VB: How do you describe the antipathy of Ambedkarites towards Savita Ambedkar ?
AT: I would not like to speak about it. To me it only smacks of the casteist attitude of the Ambedkarites towards that lady. She was an ordinary person, who for whatever motivation decided to marry him but the fact remains that she took care of him in his old days. To smell criminality in such a person was an ungrateful act.
VB: How would have Dr Ambedkar responded to the whole issue of honored killings in India as well as unattended issues of the marginalised particularly those who remain at the margins of the Dalit mainstream ?
AT: He would certainly be disturbed to see castes kicking after 70 years of the working of the Constitution and despite his lifelong struggle. But is that not purely speculative? He would also be disturbed to see the aftermath of many a policies that were the products of his own efforts. As a matter of fact, he was disturbed to see them in his own life time. Didn’t he say publicly in Aga on 18 March 1956 that the educated people had ditched him? He was disturbed to see his representational logic not working. He did observe that those who occupied bureaucratic positions remained engrossed with their own families and own progression and paid no attention to the Dalits. As a matter of fact he was realizing at the fag-end of his life that most things he did actually did not work. As referred to before, he had lamented that whatever he did only benefited a small section of the urban educated Dalits and he could not do anything for the rural Dalits, who constituted a vast majoirty. Babasaheb in his frustration had written a small note to Gaikwad, which is included in the published volumes, saying that he thought his methods did not seem to work and if communism could get Dalits immediate relief, they could become communists.
VB: There are feelings of some of the adivasi activists that there issue was never addressed by the constituent assembly with sympathy. In fact they blame the constituent Assembly for denying the adivasis their identity by putting it under the Scheduled Tribe category. What is your view? Why Ambedkar be targeted for that after all making of constitution was the job of the constituent assembly and there were debates and discussions on each issue.
AT: Yes, I would agree with you that such criticism should be disposed of by the fact that the Constitution was made by the CA, Babasaheb Ambedkar just put it in proper language. What is the point in saying that Ambedkar has not addressed the issue of Adivasis in the CA with sympathy?
Some people object to his condescending tone and ‘racial’ remarks while writing about Adivasis in the Annihilation of Caste. The passage runs as follows: “… the fact still remains that these aborigines have remained in their primitive uncivilized state in a land which boasts of a civilization thousands of years old. Not only are they not civilized but some of them follow pursuits which have led to their being classified as criminals. Thirteen millions of people living in the midst of civilization are still in a savage state and are leading the life of hereditary criminals! But the Hindus have never felt ashamed of it." [BAWS, Vol 1, p. 52]
Yes, the reference reflects to some extent his prejudice and lack of appreciation of the tribal genius of coexisting with nature, but in all, the argument he is making is innocuous. There is another passage often quoted to project his lack of appreciation of tribal identity. While discussing the issue of proportional representation, Ambedkar says that “[T]he Aboriginal Tribes have not as yet developed any political sense to make the best use of their political opportunities and they may easily become mere instruments in the hands either of a majority or a minority and thereby disturb the balance without doing any good to themselves…” There could be disagreements with his vision of incorporating tribal into the mainstream and not arguing for tribal autonomy whereby the tribal would be at liberty to develop themselves according to their genius and culture. But to accuse him of prejudice perhaps is going little too far.
VB: How could you bring the Dalit, aadivasi and farmers movements together? There may be contradictions among them based on their identities but the need of the hour is definitely to bring them together.
AT: As I explicated my viewpoints the prerequisite for striking unity of various struggling people is to discard castes and identify on class line. Howsoever, it may sound formidable, that is the only way out in this country. Ambedkar himself had given a prototype of such a unity in bringing the Dalits and non-Dalits to march together on Bombay road for the anti-Khoti bill. Unfortunately, the circumstances dragged him in different directions. The identity aspects, particularly the aspects of caste identities, are many times amplified by vested interests. They need to be seen realistically.
VB: What ideological difference you have with the Bahujan/Republican polity. Is it that they never approached you or do you feel that they rarely raised people's issues?
AT: I do not have any ideological difference with anyone as long as they reflect anti-caste orientation. The Bahujan is welcome but if they mean collection of people on the basis of caste certificates, I am not for that. Same thing can be said of Republican. Ambedkar imagined Republican as the then anti-Congress, anti-communist opposition party and did not speak of castes. But his followers reduced it to be the renamed Scheduled Caste Federation. These groupings only lead to strengthening caste identities and strengthening of caste. According to me they are not only anti-Ambedkar but also reactionary.
VB: In today's environment when corporate unambiguously shown their preference towards a brahmanical India, how would according to your understanding, respond to current socio-political crisis in India and South Asia.
AT: Corporate are enamored with neoliberal India and anything that helps creating it is welcome to it. There is a kind of ideological affinity between brahmanical ideology and the neoliberalism. Although, the Congress brought these polices in but over the time the BJP demonstrated that they reflect ideological congeniality to these policies than the Congress’s pragmatism. I had shown in my book Hindutva and Dalits how these two ideologies, Brahmanism and Neoliberalism, resonate in India. Now that the BJP has nearly decimated electoral opposition, and as the results of the recent state assembly elections portend, the BJP will have a cake walk through the next elections. That would mean official transformation of India as the Hindu Rashtra. There is nothing to imagine how this Hindu Rashtra would be. The ideologues of the RSS like Golwalkar had given enough clues as to what it means. The Hindu Rashtra is the revivalist project aimed to create the unitary rule of the elite class. It may not be the Brahmins as the Ambedkarites are prone to imagine. It may approximate to something like fascist Italy as the Hindutva ideologues have idealized. But it may not mean dismantling the façade of constitutional democracy. What they will do is to change the Constitution to the presidential system that gets them closer to the one leader paradigm. They may bring in suitable changes in electoral system so as to ensure that they may not be easily dislodged from power. I do not think it would mean any threatening changes to political configuration to the South Asia as much as it would to the internal political situation in the country. It would certainly mean decimating dissent and even physically exterminating the resistance.