Intro : Untouchability has ruined the untouchables, the Hindus and ultimately the nation as well. If the depressed classes gained their self-respect and freedom they would contribute not only to their progress and prosperity but also by their industry, intellect and courage would contribute also to the strength and prosperity of the nation.
—Dr Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar
A shocking incident took place in Bihar. Some members of RJD’s student wing and Lohia Vichar Manch cleansed a statue of Dr Ram Manohar Lohia with water after former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi garlanded it. Unfortunately, this was not discussed or criticised by the champions of ‘liberal, secular, democracy’ just because it happened in the state ruled by Nitish-Lalu combine who claim the legacy of social justice propounded by Dr Lohia. At the same time, a tripartite historic pact was signed paving the way for Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar memorial was signed in Mumbai, addressing the longstanding demand for such a memorial. This again was underreported because it was done by BJP-led government in Maharashtra in support with the centre. Both these cases and the formation of Janta Parivar against BJP emerge from the same mindset of practicing new untouchability in the name of’ social justice’ and ‘secularism’. On the one hand, it propagates injustice-untouchability towards Dalits in states like UP and Bihar and other hand practice antagonism–untouchability towards the Modi government at Centre.
After facing rout in Lok Sabha elections, Nitish Kumar resigned from the chief minister’s post on ‘moral grounds’, and installed Jitan Ram Manjhi as a puppet CM. When Manjhi started asserting himself, he was removed unceremoniously from the post without any justification; how, suddenly, the moral responsibility of Nitish Kumar for the electoral defeat changed within ten months time is no difficult task to guess.
That the continuous humiliation of a long time colleague in the name of caste is practiced in the name of Ram Manohar Lohia and social justice is perhaps more shameful. It was Lohia who gave a call for taking all backward castes together in his ‘Jati Todo’ movement. While doing so he never practiced enmity with his political opponents and had a dialogue with the Congress or the then Jan Sangh leaders.
It is unfortunate that leaders claiming his political legacy, whether it’s Mulayam Singh, Lalu Prasad or Nitish Kumar, are not treating leaders and people from Scheduled Castes with dignity. At the same time, they have introduced new kind of untouchability in Indian politics. It was Lalu who connected the bogie of secularism to social justice when Atal Behari Vajapayee formed government in 1996. Nitish who for his personal ambitions allied with the BJP for 15 years in Bihar broke the alliance on the issue of Modi being the Prime Ministerial candidate, by raising the flag of ‘secularism’. Mulayam Singh Yadav who cannot see Mayawati eye to eye conveniently hobnob with Congress, Communists and old socialist friends with regrouping of Janta Parivar, they are reviving this untouchability against the Modi government . Quite rightly, the legacy of Lohia has been reduced to opportunism, ambition and casteism.
On the other hand, who were political untouchables in 1990s have gained a centrestage in Indian politics. While doing so the idea of Inclusive Hindutva has been the base. That is why Deeksha Bhoomi renovation in Nagpur, Dr Ambedkar birth place memorial at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh and now another memorial near Chaitya Bhoomi in Mumbai etc could take place under the governments of the party labeled as a Brahminical.
With the Bihar elections inching close, the politics of untouchability in the name of social justice would see worst kind of casteism and opportunism. While playing the narrow card of ‘caste’ in politics, we have to keep in mind, that the original champion of ‘caste eradication’ Dr Ambedkar had put the nation above identity politics. If we do not follow his path then the mere sloganeering of social justice would only perpetuate more injustice, as happened in the case of Jitan Ram Manjhi.