This part will analyse the impact of Dr.Ambedkar’s thoughts and actions on Hindu Nationalist movement.

In September 1948, the second leader of RSS, Guruji Golwalkar met Baba Saheb Ambedkar in latter’s house.[i]  Dr.Ambedkar’s views had influenced Guruji Golwalkar’s own perception of caste and Varna. He considered both of them as irrelevant to the essential nature of Hindu dharma and stated that their destruction would not affect Dharma. Guruji declared:

As the older dried branches fall off a growing tree, to give place to the new ones, the society would shed Varna Vyavastha the existing social structure at one time and give place a new necessary one. This is a natural process of the development of the society. … I have told you once that for the sake of construction of a new house, old house requires to be destroyed.Similarly purturbed social system must be put to an end here and now and should be destroyed root and branch. Going further we should proceed to establish a pure and harmonious society on the basis of pure Nationalism.[ii]

Dattopant Thengdi who later became the founder of BMS – the largest trade union in India, was very close with Dr. Ambedkar and was also his election agent. He had a very intimate conversation with Dr.Ambedkar on caste problem.  Dr.Ambedkar revealed very thoughtfully what he considered as the Achilles’ heels of Hindu nationalist movement like RSS:

Dattopant Thengdi: The members of RSS do not believe in untouchability.

Ambedkar: Whether you handful of people believe it or not is not of much consequence in the context of solving the problem.

Thengdi: You said this because of the smallness of their numbers.

Ambedkar: Not necessarily because of that. there is an additional reason., which is of greater importance. Suppose on some critical social or religious issue your Golwalkar lays a particular line and the Shankaracharyas give a different verdict. Whose decision will carry weight with the ordinary orthodox caste Hindus?

Thengdi: Of course Shankaracharyas’.[iii]

 Guruji Golwalkar concurred with Baba Saheb Ambedkar, when Thengdi put forth the same question to him:

It does not matter whether you or I recognize a Shankaracharya. The point is that the “touchables” whom we want to reform, accept their authority. They recognize neither you nor me. For them the Dharmacharyas’ word is a religious commandment.[iv]

So based on this input from Baba Saheb, Guruji tried an experiment. He tried to reform the Acharyas. It was an uphill task. Suryanarayana Rao a senior RSS official explains the hardships Guruji faced:

The First National Conference of VHP was held at Prayag — Triveni Sangam — in 1966. Nearly Fifty thousand delegates including hundreds of Dharmacharyas, Jagadgurus, Mahamandaleswars participated in the conference from all parts of the country and all sections of Hindu Society. Shri Guruji thought that this was the most opportune moment to bring before the vast assembly the subject of old religious taboo such as untouchability and its related ills. While all the delegates welcomed the resolution with great enthusiasm, the then Jagadguru Shankaracharya of Puri Govardhana Peetha vehemently opposed stating that there is no provision in our Shastras. There was a big disappointment all round. Shri Guruji personally met the Shankaracharya and discussed the matter in detail. He explained to the Acharya about the dangers the Hindu Society and the country have to face if this same attitude continues…. The Acharya ultimately agreed.[v]

But Guruji was not satisfied merely with such pious resolutions. He wrote a warning letter to the secretary of the conference:

The resolution on untouchabiliy –blessed by all our Acharyas- cannot be translated into actual life by mere pious expressions. Centuries old prejudices do not disappear by words or wishful thinking. Hard work and right propaganda need to be taken from town to town and village to village, house to house, not merely as a concession to the pressure of modern times but as an abiding principle and way of life in the humble spirit of atonement of past mistakes. A change of heart, a moral and an emotional change in the attitiudes and behaviour has to be brought about. Working for the economic and political betterment of those, who had been relegated to the background, and bringing them up to stand shoulder to shoulder with all the rest of our people is a Herculean task. But this in itself is not enough. For such ‘equality’ can be brought about without shedding the feeling of separateness. What we should desire and strive for is not merely economic and political ‘equality’ – we want a real change a complete integration.[vi]

The third all India leader of RSS was Bala Saheb Deoras.  He was very aware of Dr.Ambedkar’s pain with regard to Hindu society. Paraphrasing from ‘Riddles’ Bala Saheb Deoras stated:

Dr. Ambedkar felt very much pained that in this society which considers all human beings as children of God, nay, as part and parcel of that Divinity Itself, there should be found a sense of high and low. He also said that there could be no better basis for equality than the basic faith in the existence of a common spark of divinity in all human beings.

He declared:

Abraham Lincoln, who abolished slavery in America, said, “If slavery is not wrong, then nothing is wrong.” Similarly it is for all of us to declare, “If untouchability is not wrong, then nothing in the world is wrong!” Every one of us must therefore aim at eradicating social inequality in each and every form. We must clearly explain to the people at large how our society became weak and disorganized on account of social inequalities.[vii]

This speech, which in many ways reflected the thoughts expressed by Dr.Ambedkar in his ‘Annihilation of Caste’, decades ago, became a very important motivating speech for Swayam Sevaks.  When anti-reservations riots were at its peak in Gujarat Bala Saheb Deoras made a historical move. Senior Sangh official and author Ramesh Patange gives a vivid picture:

The problem of reservations had become a delicate and sensitive issue. Gujarat, a Western state of India witnessed a big agitation against the Reservation policy in 1981. A meeting of the All India Delegates of the RSS took place in March that year. The issue of agitations in Gujarat inevitably came up in the meeting. The workers from Gujarat had become high strung on the issue. When Resolution justifying reservations came up for discussion at the meeting, every word of it was subjected to minute scrutiny. Many representatives opined that the Resolution was hasty, and likely to evoke adverse reaction in a large section of the people. Swayamsevaks from Gujarat understandably were naturally were unhappy. I was intently listening to the discussions.

In view of so much opposition from workers, I was worried and felt the resolution would not go through. Sarsanghachalak Balasaheb Deoras was calm but attentive at the meeting. After debate was over, the meeting broke for tea. When the meeting resumed, Balasaheb Deoras said, “I have heard the discussion in the meeting. I have understood that Many amongst us are not in favour the of Resolution. I request you all to imagine yourself in the place of those for whom the Reservations are meant. Try to enter their minds and see the present condition of those of our brethren, who have been neglected for hundreds of years. Understand their feelings. Then only take your decision.” After his speech, there was hardly any discussion and the Resolution was passed. The Sangh had officially endorsed the Reservations.[viii]

Another important incident happened during these times. Sangh intellectual Ramesh Patange explains:

In 1978, the Maharashtra Assembly passed a resolution approving the change in the name of the Marathwada University. The approval produced sharp and bitter reactions in Marathawada. Dalit localities were set on fire. The issue of the changing the name of the University soon turned into an issue about the very identity of dalits…. Later, I found that many Sangh activists in the Marathawada region wanted to support the change in the university’s name. When I too became active in the change-of-name issue from the Samajik Samarasata Manch platform, Damu Anna told me a story. In 1978, Balasaheb Deoras was touring the Maharashtra Province. He had a programme in Sambhaji Nagar. In his discussion of the name issue, he said “I think the change in the name should be endorsed. Those who oppose it are not right in their thinking.”[ix]

Maharashtra Government published the works of Dr.Ambedkar. During July/August 1992, the ‘Riddles’ of Rama and Krishna, written by Dr.Ambedkar were pojected by certain elements as hurting the feeling of Hindus. The issue of ‘hurt Hindu feeling’ was taken up by one Madav Gadkari who was a close friend of Sharad Pawar. Soon the issue was fanned up as Shiv Sena also fell into the race. They wanted a ban on ‘Riddles’ because it hurt the Hindu sentiments. At this time Ramesh Patange, who was in charge of RSS front organization, ‘Samajik Samarasata Manch’ (SSM) was charged with the duty of making the official statement on ‘Riddles’ issue. He made the official statement that ‘Riddles’ should not be banned. Later senior Sangh leaders like Dattopant Thengdi endorsed this statement and opposed the ban on ‘Riddles’ in public.[x]

In all incidents one can see Sangh taking a stand exactly opposite to its stereotype image. This shows how Sangh the largest Hindu nationalist network in India has internalized Dr.Ambedkar’s principles of social justice and Sanghatan. In 2004 Dr. Suraj Bhan, a RSS pracharak, became the chair person of Scheduled Castes Commission chairperson. Even a Western RSS baiter as Christopher Jafferlot had no other way but to appreciate his work as the governor of Uttar Pradesh where according to Jafferlot, Bhan had shown “great dynamism assessing the performance of schemes concerning Scheduled Castes such as reservations or the virtually unused SC/ST MLAs Forum in the state assembly.”[xi]

In 2005 as chairperson of SC Commission, Suraj Bhan asked the religious authorities to remove all derogatory remarks against Dalits in the so-called scriptures like Manu Smrithi. He conveyed his wishes to Shankaracharya of Sringeri himself that this detoxification of Hindu scriptures should be done.  While orthodoxy expectedly claimed that there was not a single word of objection in Hindu scripture, VHP President Ashok Singhal openly sided with Suraj Bhan and stated that Manu Smrithi did contain objectionable derogatory references towards Dalits.[xii] In 2006 noted Marathi poet and Dalit Panthers founder Namdeo Dhasal shared the platform with KS Sudarshan the fifth all India leader of RSS. In the function Dhasal, a devoted follower of Dr.Ambedkar stated:  “Nothing can be more wrong than any attempt to separate Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism from the Hindu track.”[xiii]

In 2008 RSS leader, KS Sudarshan graced a historically important function in Gaya, Bihar of appointing a Dalit as the chief priest at the Jagannath temple of Gaya. The function was attended by Buddhist monks from the Mahabodhi temple.[xiv]

The dream of casteless Hindu Sanghatan, whose possibility became a remote one, pained Dr.Ambedkar. But thanks to his chastisement and yet his compassion, his vision of a civilizational Hindutva-Indic Dharma- is taking shape, slowly but surely. A democratic Hindu Dharma true to its spirit of Vedic ‘Brahmaism’, as Dr.Ambedkar called Vedic Advaita, is emerging. But the challenges still remain.

There is still scriptural apartheid in Hindu society. Orthodox instututions openly flaunt birth-based dicriminations. Even residential areas have been gives ‘caste only’ labels. Anti-Dalit violence is still a reality in majority of the villages. Spiritual Democratization of Hindu society is still a task that needs the strength of a Bhim. Ultimately there is a talisman that Dr.Ambedkar had given us. It’s a talisman that constantly warns us. In his ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’ while examining Veer Savarkar’s idea of Swarajya which is not territorial, Dr.Ambedkar presents this passage of Savarka:

Did that mean that the rule of Aurangazeb or Tippu was a “Swarajya” to Hindus? No! Although they were territorially Indians they proved to be the worst enemies of Hindudom and therefore, a Shivaji, a Gobindsingh, a Pratap or the Peshwas had to fight against the Moslem domination and establish real Hindu Swarajya.[xv]

 Later speaking at the Constituent Assembly Dr.Ambedkar spoke the following words filled with the emotional pride of being the son of Hindustan and an anxiety over Her future:

Here I could have ended. But my mind is so full of the future of our country that I feel I ought to take this occasion to give expression to some of my reflections thereon. On 26th January 1950, India will be an independent country (Cheers). What would happen to her independence ? Will she maintain her independence or will she lose it again ‘? This is the first thought that comes to my mind. It is not that India was never an independent country. The point is that she once lost the independence she had. Will she lose it a second time ? It is this thought which makes me most anxious for the future. What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of some of her own people. In the invasion of Sind by Mahommed-Bin-Kasim, the military commanders of King Dahar accepted bribes from the agents of Mahommed-Bin-Kasim and refused to fight on the side of their King. It was Jaichand who invited Mahommed Ghori to invade India and fight against Prithvi Raj and promised him the help of himself and the Solanki kings. When Shivaji was fighting for the liberation of Hindus, the other Maratha noblemen and the Rajput Kings were fighting the battle on the side of Moghul Emperors.

When the British were trying to destroy the Sikh Rulers, Gulab Singh, their principal commander sat silent and did not help to save the Sikh kingdom. In 1857, when a large part of India had declared a war of independence against the British, the Sikhs stood and watched the event as silent spectators.

Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. This anxiety is deepened by the realization of the fact that in addition to our old enemies in the form of castes and creeds we are going to have many political parties with diverse and opposing political creeds. Will Indians place the country above their creed or will they place creed above country? I do not know. But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost for ever. This eventuality we must all resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood.[xvi]

India- the eternal everlasting spiritual fountainhead of democracy to the world protecting her and her civilization is a duty bound on every one of us. Social justice is an inalienable part of spiritual democracy. Implementing and protecting this spiritual value of India through Indic traditions is the only way left for us to survive as a nation.

This is the understanding that makes every Hindu nationalist bow his or her head in humble reverance to the universal compassion of Bodhi Sattva Ambedkar rooted in the sacred soil of Bharat that is Hindustan.

Jai Bheem! Jai Hind!

[i] Ibid, p.189

[ii] Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, Sri Guruji ka Samajik Darshan, 2006, pp.24-26

[iii] Thengdi-Dr.Ambedkar conversation Quoted in L.R.Balley, India needs a cultural revolution, Outcry, 1984: Untouchable!: Voices of the Dalit Liberation Movement, Ed. Barbara Joshi, Zed Books, 1986, p.147

[iv] Ibid.

[v] K. Suryanarayana Rao, Seva Pramukh – R.S.S., ‘The Historic Role of Guruji Golwalkar’

[vi] Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar, letter dated 14-01-1970 cited in K. Suryanarayana Rao, Shri Guruji Reminiscences, Vijaya Bharatham Publications, 2010,pp.277-8

[vii] Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras, ‘Social Equality and Hindu consolidation’, Speech delivered on 8th May 1974

[viii] Ramesh Patange, Manuvath and RSS (Manu Sangh and I)  , 1999,

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Christopher Jafferlot, India’s Silent Revolution: The Rise of the Lower Castes in North India, C. Hurst & Co. Publishers, 2003, p.487

[xii] VHP, Hindu religious leaders differ on Suraj Bhan’s demand, PTI Report, 19-Jul-2005

[xiii] Dalit poet, RSS chief exchange notes, The Indian Express, 31-Aug-2006

[xiv] Dalit appointed the Chief Priest at Jagannath Temple, Sahara Samay, 15-Feb-2008

[xv] Vinayak Damodar Savarka quoted in Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Thoughts on Pakistan, Thacker & Co, 1941, p.130

[xvi] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Clause wise Discussion on the Draft Constitution, November 17, 1949 to November 26, 1949

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Aravindan Neelakandan

Co-author of acclaimed book "Breaking India", Aravindan Neelakandan has worked for the past decade with an NGO in Tamil Nadu serving marginalized rural communities in sustainable agriculture. He is also a popular science writer in Tamil and is part of the editorial team of highly popular Tamil web portal

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