How a RSS Volunteer became a leading Ambedkarite in Rajasthan
(Vidya Bhushan Rawat)
The working pattern of the RSS has been better exposed by those who were part of it once upon a time. There were many people, who were part of it and got disgruntled with its mechanism of using divisions for the ulterior purpose of maintaining the Status Quo. One of the finest critique of RSS was Dr D R Goyal who wrote a scathing critique of RSS giving minute details of the Sangh leaders and how they tried to compromise with Indira Gandhi and sought pardon from her by distancing themselves from the popular anti government movement that Jai Prakash Narain and other political formation had launched together against the policies of the government.
RSS is dominated by the chitpawan brahmins of Maharashtra. Never in the history of RSS you had leadership emerging from other communities. Except for Rajju Bhaiya, who happened to be a Thakur from Uttar Pradesh, non Brahmins could not find space in the leadership. Even among Brahmin, except for K Sudarshan, all hailed from Maharashtra. So interesting part is the division of labour between Maharashtrian brahmins and Gujarati Marwaris, who allegedly provide monitory support to them.
After the return of Indira Gandhi in 1980, Congress tilted more and more towards Hindutva, so much so that after her assassination when Rajiv assumed power in Delhi in 1984, the Sangh has openly supported him. Rajiv Gandhi reciprocated by getting the Ayodhya lock opened through a local court order.
1990s were the most tumultuous year of Indian politics from a representation point of view. In the war between Mandal and Kamandal, the victory belonged to Mandal but the Sangh knew it well that a victory of Mandal forces permanently means the collapse of brahmanical hegemony and hence it continuously worked on co-option and started playing the same card and there are numerous persons from the Dalit-Adivasi communities who have worked with them and faced the discrimination. Such first persons narratives are very important for all to understand the politics of rightwing and their ‘cultural nationalism’. If RSS has been able to bring more and more Dalits and Adivasis in its fold, it is not merely an achievement of the Hindutva ideology but a complete failure of socio-cultural-political movement in the name of Bahujan or Adivasis.
Bhanwar Meghwanshi has been an active Ambedkarite author as well as cultural activist who has been travelling in Rajasthan from one corner to other to spread Ambedkarite movement. He started his career in RSS as a Swayamsevak (Volunteer) in the 1990s. The poison that he learnt there against the Muslims ensured that he participate in the ‘movement’ to demolish the Babari Masjid, a ‘symbol’ of our slavery and barbarity of the Mughals who ‘demolished’, Ram Temple there in Ayodhya. While Bhanwar could not reach Ayodhya as Mulayam Singh Yadav had ensured that no Swayamsevaks reach there. This is the incident of October 1990 when Advani has launched a Rathyatra from Somnath to Ayodhya and V P Singh government was depended on BJP and left both. Advani was ultimately arrested in Sitamarhi, Bihar. In Uttar Pradesh, police had to fire at the unruly mob in Ayodhya who wanted to demolish the Mosque. The firing resulted in killings of several people who were hailed as martyrs by the Sangh Parivar and its PR media, particularly the Hindi papers.
Bhanwar’s first person account exposes the Sangh Parivar and its caste politics. While they are happy to bring you to their fold, yet the old caste order does not die with just one gathering of togetherness. He had not read a single book of any other author other than the Sangh Parivar and Panchjanya was his favorite magazine. Now, you can understand the ideological strength of a person who only read Panchjanya and Sita Ram Goel and others who regularly appear and preach.
Bhanwar Meghwanshi hail from Meghwal community of Rajasthan and the most articulate communities among Dalits. May be we can say, among various Dalit communities, it is politically assertive and better off in comparison with others. One of my major question has always been that where ever Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar reached, the Dalit identity and their assertion grew as they refuse to surrender to brahmanical propaganda and muscle power. Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Talangana etc are example where Dalits have stood on their own, do not depend on brahmanical narratives and challenging the brahmanical supremacy. Rajasthan, unfortunately, is the state, where it was not there and it resulted in unquestioned domain of the brahmanical hierarchical political system. Perhaps, it happened in the absence of an Ambedkarite literature and political movement.
Bhanwar Meghawanshi faced discrimination in the Sangh’s meeting for being a Dalit, not merely from the upper castes but also from OBCs. He wrote that when he was appointed as a teacher for a village dominated by the OBCs, they got upset that a person lower in the caste structure than theirs is coming to teach them and they were actually not ready for that.
Bhanwar got not only out from RSS and its camp but decided to challenge it head on. He formed parellel student union to challenge the ABVP in his area. He started Diamond India on January 14th, 2001. This was the publication dedicated to the community. Slowly, he was introduced to Dr Ambedkar’s thoughts and wide ranging of writings on the issue of caste discrimination, untouchability and issue of representation of the Dalits which opened his eyes. He has been an avid reader and now using that knowledge to benefit the community.
Bhanwar has not merely campaigned against the Sangh Parivar, he is also facing backlash from those champions who feel they have got the ‘contract’ to serve the Bahujan communities. He raised the issue of Dangawash Hostel case in Rajasthan where a Dalit gir student was raped and later murdered. The accused belong to a powerful community. Now, various outfits in the name of ‘Bahujan’ did not want to raise this issue further as according to them, if this issue is raised too much, then, the alliance with the ‘community’ will become impossible. So, these people started campaigning against him. But Bhanwar has worked all these years to get people justice. Question is why should a political alliance so weak that it cant condemn an injustice happen to a girl. If we cant speak against criminal act of a person just because it might hurt ‘his’ community, then we must not expect much from such alliances. They will be just betraying the people and nothing beyond.
Bhanwar Meghwanshi’s book ‘ Mai ek Karsevak tha’ is in Hindi and a very interesting journalistic first person account of his days with the RSS. His command over language is complete. The chapters are short and hence are not monotonous, though I would have loved a little more in terms of dates and period. The publisher has put this as his ‘atm-katha’ or ‘biography’ but I am sure, Bhanwar Meghwanshi has much more to share than the contents in this book and he should write another first person narrative at a later stage, this time, perhaps, sharing his experiences with the Bahujan, left and liberal ‘movements’.
(Vidya Bhushan Rawat)