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Using Ambedkar against Dalits
swapnil dhanraj


Swapnil Dhanraj

swapnil dhanrajIn 2014, Narendra Modi rode a massive campaign promising Acche Din for the people of our country. After suffering for 2 years from the witch-hunting of the minorities, murders of Dalits and fund cuts for marginalized students, the country has realized that the rule by the Sangh-led government is not going to have any favorable impact on their lives. Though the RSS led Modi government has completely shut down its project of Acche Din, it has been very carefully intensifying the agenda of appropriating Dr. Ambedkar to woo and pacify Dalits in the country.

In a recent development in JNU, the administration has decided to name the central library after Ambedkar. Reportedly, the decision was implemented after demands from the Akhil Bhartiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP. Now the ABVP leaders are cheering and spreading this news through their loyal Dalit cadres to show their fondness for Ambedkar and cash on it in the upcoming elections. Once again, the hooligan wing of the BJP has showed that they can stoop to any level for their political ambitions and to pursue their agenda of co-opting Dalits in their Hindutva project. The RSS and BJP which provide the lifeblood to the ABVP have played a major role in starting the mission for appropriating Ambedkar and his memorials.

The famous Namantar (name change) Andolan demanding changing the name of Marathwada University to Dr. Ambedkar Marathwada University, witnessed a long struggle lasting 16 years by Dalits in Maharashtra. It is well known that this decision of name change by the then chief minister Sharad Pawar was solely guided by his political arithmetic to woo the Dalits votes in the state. However, in spite of the renaming, the university is still known and celebrated as Marathwada University by most members of the dominant Maratha community and many others, who refuse to pronounce its full name with the mention of Ambedkar, as their caste egos rule their minds.

The first step in appropriating Ambedkar by the BJP was to buy the house on King Henry’s Road in London. Although the decision to buy the house was declared long back, the pace of implementation was accelerated after the owner of the house had threatened to sell it to someone else if not bought within the given time. Ultimately, Narendra Modi with the Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis, and the Shiv Sena ally Ramdas Athawale took a delegation to buy the house in London and inaugurated it as a memorial that can be an inspiration for people and students in particular. The self proclaimed Bhakt of Ambedkar, Narendra Modi, kept chanting his name repeatedly, and this was once again telecast by the Brahminical media. However, this self proclaimed Bhakt had maintained a calculated silence on the institutional killing of Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad University. Despite the continuous struggles of the Dalit students around the country, the Modi government categorically backed the culprits in the case, including the HRD minister (Manu) Smriti Irani.

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The ABVP unit in JNU maintained a criminal silence on their Hyderabad cadres who harassed, humiliated and killed Rohith Vemula. The JNU administration, under the guidance of its political mentors, allowed police to take control of the campus after the 9th February incident. This was a gross attempt to distract attention from the campaign for Rohith Vemula which was flourishing in every part of the country. Everyone knows what happened after that event, and how the entire drama of Nationalism was manufactured by the media under the supervision of the RSS and BJP. Now there is an unspoken fear and guilt in the minds of the ABVP and it is trying its best to wash away its casteist and discriminatory image by wooing the Dalits and minority students in the name of Ambedkar, by portraying itself as a true adherent of his legacy.

Now in the next move, the Sanghi hooligans are planning to appropriate the tribal leader Birsa Munda while proposing to name the sports ground after him. With this name game politics, the ABVP has taken a soft but a pernicious step to cultivate direct rapport with Dalit and marginalized students on university campuses so that they can create an eventual escape from the case of Rohith Vemula and push the agenda of appropriation of Dalit icons into the Hindutva fold as it has been envisaged by their political mentors, the RSS and BJP. It is high time that we expose this campaign to erase their misdeeds in the past.



Swapnil Dhanraj is a PhD student at Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. 

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