Judging by the influence and popularity of Ravidas, he was perhaps India’s most influential saint-revolutionary. He stood for the annihilation of caste and his impact reached all over the Hindi belt. The geography he impacted was vast and the society he influenced was diverse and huge. He was the king among the saints. If history is to be believed, he defeated the Great Kabir in debate. Though Ravidas came from the so called Chamar caste, his disciples included Meera, the poet from Rajastan. He envisioned “Begumpura”: the land of no sorrow, the vision of an exploitation-free world. Bur Ravidas was the career of the great message of the Buddha. Both Ravidas and Kabir had roots in Buddha’s teachings and vision. A lot is written on this aspect. Also Ravidas has emerged as the symbol of pride, particularly among the Chamars of Punjab, and they pride themselves in being called Ravidassia. It is natural to feel pride in one’s ancestors.
One of the reasons that instigated the Saharanpur riot was the arrogance of Thakurs to play their loudspeakers loudly near the Ravidas temple during a procession to celebrate Rana Pratap, the local warlord, whose contribution to community’s welfare is unknown. However, the thakurs are looking for symbols to assert their pride. This is true all over India, the dominant caste try to assert through their ancestors’ work. Sometimes, such an assertion leads to violence. The perpetrators of the crime were the Thakurs, the caste that Adityanath represents and mobilised militantly through Hindu Yuva Vahini. In the aftermath of the violence, over 400 members of the Bhim Army have been held in policy custody by the whimsical Thakur Adityanath. They are looking out for Chandrashekhar, the founder of Bhim Army.
While this tussle is going on, almost like a comic scene to create sympathy of the Ravidasis the President of the BJP, Amit Shah, went to Ravidas temple in RK Puram Delhi to listen to “Man Ki Baat” radio talk of his mentor/accomplice Modi. It has become interesting that the media flashed the images of Shah in the Ravidas temple. While this is happening, the Union Minister of Social Justice is claiming that the violence against the Dalits is reduced and that there are some elements which are creating the stories. These events have a common pattern which an average intelligent person can trace and find.
First, the Ravidasis have huge potential to mobilise. They had stalled Punjab a few years back when the saint from this community was shot dead in Vienna. The Ravidasi mobilisation in UP has a potential to mobilise the community. And with all of this, coupled with the force of Ambedkarism, the Ravidasi community can become a singular political bloc from Maharashtra to J &K, and from Gujarat to Odisha. That is why Ravidas matters, and that is why Shah listens to “Man Ki Baat” in the Ravidas Temple.
The Ravidasis have one single fault, they tend to become excessively spiritual, whereas Ravidas was a great revolutionary who wanted to dismantle the caste system. He used all the weapons in his arsenal to fight the monster of caste. His tradition was taken forward by Babasaheb Ambedkar, who not only celebrated his birth anniversary, but dedicated the Great book “Who were untouchables?” to Ravidas along with Nandanar and Chokamela. Babasaheb Ambedkar mobilised all the possible resources and institutions to kill caste.
We have to take the battle to the next level in the changing paradigm. We need to understand that the BJP tries to pose one of our ancestors against another. They extol Suheldev to attract one community among us, and the same ideal when they enter other communities. We should not enter into the politics of ideals, but find the common thread in all their missions, which was the liberation of their people from the clutches of the caste system and Brahmanism. These days Brahminical machinations (Brahmanikava defined by Phuley) come in many forms: Shah listening to Man Ki Baat in a Ravidas Temple, Gehlot minimising the atrocities committed on his own people, and Thakurs ruling the state along with their own militia.