Fascism and communalism have been one and the same for the dalit communities in India. In their context, the two phenomena are integrated and in fact, complementary to each other. History of India is replete with instances to prove this fact. The two cannot be looked at separately in the contemporary scenario as well.
However attempts to put them in separate categories are not few and far between. Some of these attempts are characterized by lack of proper study, practical experiences or an objective approach to history in so far as the dalit communities of India are concerned. Sometimes, such attempts are made due to exigencies of writing and speaking in haste. I have no hesitation in saying that some dalit intellectuals and politicians also fall in this category. But, more often than not, such attempts are deliberate. Those who make such attempts are always aware about the consequences of what they are attempting. Still they do it for the sake of fulfilling their vested cast, religious and class interests. It is necessary for a dalit intellectual to identify these interests and these forces.
The history of India, as understood from the perspective of dalit communities, shows that fascism and communalism have been as intertwined with so called ‘Hindu religion’ as it is with contemporary ‘Hindutva.’ The two are not very different with each other, and are, in fact, one and the same in many aspects. The so called Hindutva is only the developed form of Hinduism and its more aggressive and violent avatar. It does not mean that Hinduism had been less aggressive and violent towards the dalit communities. On the contrary, the practitioners of Hindu religion have always received the unstinted support of contemporary state and its associated religious institutions for the exploitation and oppression of the dalit communities. This is true even today. hat is why the problem of fascism and communalism must be seen from the perspective of dalit communities and in the context of the treatment meted out to them by the state power of India.
Hindu religion is said to be the ‘Adi Dharma’ the oldest religion. The history of Buddhism, Jainism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Arya Samaj and many other religious traditions starts much later. The hegemonic nature of Hindu religion, its characteristic rigidity making its fundamentalist in nature and unabated growth of deformities and distortions within its fold have been the basis which have paved the way for the rise, arrival and popularity of other religions of India. This precisely was the reason which forced the majority of dalit community to come out of the stifling confines of Hindu religion and proselyte themselves.
The nature of Hindu religion has been fascist and communal from its very beginning as far as Dalits are concerned. Puranas, smirities and numerous other books written in support of Hinduism are replete with examples in this context. These books continue to serve as basis texts for various fascist and communal Hindu organizations even today. One can go through these books and see for oneself that there are countless examples where a symbol of God, so called incarnations of Vishnu or other symbols of religious hegemony and state power kills others for protection of Hindu religion. Who were those others? Why they are killed by the God and various symbols of God? These others were “Adidalits.” They had been struggling against the fascist nature of Hindu religion. That’s they had been bestowed with derogatory titles such as Chandalas, Rakshas, Shudras etc.They were depicted as forces of evil and were made victims of violence by castehindus.
The brutal and inhuman practices towards the Dalits have been justified from the time immemorial in the name of protection of Hindu religion.A whole history of fascist practices by the followers of Hindu religion can be found in these so called holy books of Hindu religion. In course of time, a system of ethics and discipline evolved on the basis of these books. With the emergence of state power, the leaders of this Hindu system forced the rulers to adhere to these rules. Those who followed these rules were honoured as dharampriyas and those who did not were dubbed vidharmies. All those who dared even to raise their voice against these rules were treated in a most cruel manner. Even such kings like Bali, Hirinyakashyap etc. were not spared. the life of dissenting commoners or kingdoms of these dissenting kings were destroyed by employing every possible unethical means. The characters of Shambooka, Ravana, the great Bali exemplify this treatment. The logic that was advanced against these people or kings were unethical and irreligious, to say the least.
The system, which evolved from these holy books gradually, is known as Varnavyavastha; a system of varnas i.e.cast system. The majority of the population, the dalits were at the end of the ladder in this cast system. This cast system has been supported by the state power and its associated religious institutions from time immemorial. This preponderately section of the population was always denied the due social equality, political participation, opportunities for ecnomic growth and human rights. This system is still functioning in the so called modern civil society of India.
The Dalit population has been protesting against the exploitative and barbarous nature of Hindu religion from the very beginning. Their revolts however used to be crushed in a very brute manner by the state and brahamnical powers.In the modern times, the Hindu apostels and guardians have used liberal ways to stop these revolts. Gandhi did this by mounting social pressure on Ambedkar - the upcoming leader of dalits during the movement for national independence.
Ambedkar demanded seperate electorate for dalits. His reasoning was that the independence of India without the removal of cast system will amount to unbridled freedom for the upper cast and nothing for dalits. He felt that dalits will not get anything from this independence. Thus for the sake of protecting the rights of his people, he had put forward this demand which if accepted, could have endangered the very existence of Hindu religion. But Gandhi requested Ambedkar not to press for this demand. Ambedkar however refused to give up. Then Gandhi resorted to exerting social and political pressure upon Ambedkar by declaring fast unto death. Ultimately, an agreement was reached between the dalit Ambedkar an the Hindu Gandhi which is known as Puna Pact. This agreement virtually blunted the rising and potentially the strong dalit movement directed against the fascist and communal character of Hinduism which eventually produced the forces of Hindutva.
The so called guardians and protectors of Hindu religion have always treated other religions and their followers as their enemies. the treatment meted out to Buddhism and its followers is a case in point. The emergence of Buddhism posed a solid challenge to Hinduism from within the Indian society itself. Buddism provided a humanitarian space and a sense of equality to the dalits as it treated common people in a humane, dignified manner. so, they started adopting Buddhism en masse. Shaken to their core, the Hindu rulers and religious leaders launched a savage attack on Buddhism and almost snuffed it out from the land of is origin. They destroyed the humanitarian precept and practices of Buddhism and declared it to be a part and parcel of Hindu religion itself. Moreover, Buddha, who never believed in existence of god himself transformed into an incarnation of god. Buddhism was thus distorted to such extent that it remained of no use for anybody seeking ‘freedom’ within its precincts.
Same was the case with Islam. Rather than getting appreciated on account of its humanitarian aspect and getting accepted with open heart, Islam was treated as ‘enemy’ ever since it hit the shores of India. In India, a large number of those who follow Islam are the people of this very land. Majority of them are from the Dalit communities who have converted to Islam to escape the oppression to which they were subjected to in the Hindu society. Christianity, Sikhism, Aryasamaj etc. are the other religious traditions which have attracted dalits in large numbers due to their humanitarian values and practices.These religious traditions have also been treated like enemies by the protagonists of Hindu religion and by those controlling the levers of the state power. We have been reminded again and again in the post-independence period and more pungently during the last two decades.
Whether it was the question of Ram temple or of anti-reservation stir, or the anti-sikh riots of 1984, the recent Gujrat riots, the state has always been on the side of majority community.Whether the government of the day belongs to congress or BJP, has made no diffrence at all in this regard. The fascist and communal practices of the so called Hindutva forces, have impacted upon the Dalits at two levels – at the level of cast and at the level of religion. The hierarchical structure of Hindu society has subjected the dalits to most savage exploitation and oppression.In a vain bid to escape this, the Dalits have converted to other religions. However, this has not given them much of a respite.If anything, it the effect of doubling their victimization as they are victimized both within the community as Dalit Muslims or Dalit Christians and also as Muslims and Christians. The communal attacks on muslims and Christians thus happen to be indirect attack on Dalits only. The Hindutva forces however have gone further.They have now come to the situation where they can attack the Dalits directly. They have already made a beginning through anti-reservation stir and ban on conversions.There should therefore be no two opinions that Hinduism and Hindutava are in there core anti-dalits.
Since the brunt of the communal and fascist onslaught are faced by the Dalits, it is they who have to find a way out. All the religions today stand so much distorted that none can bring any succour for Dalits. Conversions therefore provide no emancipatory openings for Dalits and is clearly a regressive step. It does not however mean that Dalits should start a new religion of their own. Dalits have to now think beyond religion.Rather they have to go beyond religion.They have to think in terms of a solution which can lead them towards total and final emancipation.What could be that solution is still in the realm of future.What is certain is that it is the Dalits who can provide befitting reply to communalism and fascism and eventually defeat them.They would be able to do this by joining hands with other progressive forces in the society.But it is they who have to lead the anti-communal, anti-fascist struggle in India.
1 Though fascism is a modern term but let me use this for the atrocities perpetrated upon dalits in ancients &medieval
fascist and communal forces of hindu society. I consider attacks on dalits by
such forces as attacks on a dalit civilization by the brahamin civilization. India
2 In fact the vedic dharma is said to be the oldest religion .But it is not a religion, it is a kind of social and political system
3 include tribals and obc in the broader fold of Dalit. Hence, dalit form the majority of Indian population.
Published in book entitled 'FASCISM IN INDIA', edited by CHAITANYA KRISHNA, published by MANAK PUBLICATION, DELHI in 2003