You read the title, and now some are amused while others are infuriated. In either case, you must read this column. For, not only will I justify the title but will also present an antithesis of a historical character who has been a target of much prejudice—Mohammad Bin Tughlaq—in the following paragraphs.
Akhilesh Yadav, former Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, earned praise for his enthusiastic celebration of Ambedkar Jayanti on April 14. People from all walks of life lauded him for establishing a majestic bronze bust of Dr Ambedkar in his party office in Lucknow. People began to anticipate the building of an Ambedkarite Socialist—an alien breed in the Indian political tribe. But, Mr Yadav was hit by the East Wind too soon, merely four days later. April 18 saw the bifurcation of the UP which united admirers of Akhilesh into supporters and protesters. What triggered this binary was Akhilesh’s celebration of the Brahmin mythological God, Parshuram’s Jayanti in the same party office where he festooned Dr. Ambedkar only a few days earlier.
The celebration, intended to allure the Brahmins—Parshuram’s primary devotees—towards the Samajwadi Party, was postulated as a move as wise as Tipu Sultan’s (Tipu happens to be Akhilesh’s nickname too) coinage reform by the supporters. Nonetheless, the protesters contested it as a move in line with Mohammad Bin Tughlaq’s token currency reform. The coinage reform was a revolutionary step that changed the economy of the Kingdom of Mysore. The token currency was innovative but it didn’t meet the desired fate and ruined the economy. Historians argue Mohammad Bin Tughlaq was a visionary ruler whose actions, though being progressive, were unreal and thus failed. Akhilesh Yadav, too, seems to be traveling through his ‘being-Tughlaq-phase’. He’s visionary, but his actions aren’t congruent with the narrative, both political and social.
Although a protest, the aversion towards Akhilesh’s action is a watershed moment in the Bahujan Movement. The Bahujans, who once resisted anyone willing to free them from the clutches of Brahminism, are gradually realising their existence. Possibly for the first time have they stood up in arms against the practice of brahminical rituals. To them, Akhilesh holding a battle axe is no more a persona grata, but a peeve. “The Times They Are A-Changin’!”
But not everyone might still agree with me. Many have argued that if a fascist Narendra Modi can bow down to an Ambedkar statue, what is wrong with Akhilesh Yadav holding a battle-ax and celebrating Parshuram Jayanti? My counter-narrative to this facile acquittal of Mr Yadav is this: bowing down to Ambedkar statue is obnoxiously anti-Ambedkarism. For, Dr Ambedkar vehemently opposed idol worship and is one of history’s greatest iconoclasts. On the contrary, celebrating Parshuram Jayanti is not only a brahminical practice, but is also opposed to the ideas of Dr Ambedkar, Phule, Lohia and other champions of Social Justice. In the preface to his book Slavery, Jotiba Phule quoted, “Perhaps in the whole range of history it is scarcely possible to meet with such another character as that of Purshram, so selfish, infamous, cruel and inhuman. The deeds of Nero, Alaric of Machiavelli sink into insignificance before the ferocity of Parshuram. The myriads of men and defenceless children whom he butchered, simply with a view to the establishment of his coreligionists on a secure and permanent basis in this land, is a fact for which generations ought to execrate his name, rather than defy it.” This, I believe, suffices my argument.
Another contestation by the supporters is that the titillation of Brahmins is the ‘name of the game’ in politics. They have argued that it is imperative to do so to seize political power. If this is how Mr Yadav calculates, he’s bound to fall (and fail). It is myopic to put political reforms before the social ones. In Annihilation of Caste, Dr Ambedkar comprehensively argues that social reform must precede every other reform, let alone the political. He contends that social problems have a bearing on political problems. He further asserts that a political constitution can exist only if the social constitution is in its ideal state. Thus, the emancipation of the mind and soul must be a precursor to the political expansion of the people.
I believe my column has overarched the division that the title caused. I appeal to my Bahujan brothers to stay united for the cause of the moment. I also expect Tipu to use a different denomination to pay back the BJP in its own coin.
Dushyant Yadav is currently a sophomore undergraduate student. He is a staunch Phuleite, Ambedkarite, and Periyarite, dedicated to Social Justice.
Artwork by Poornima Gupta, a graphic designer based in NOIDA.