The inauguration of the Statute of Equality on Basant Panchami day by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi symbolically marks the beginning of a silent revolution — the nation’s trajectory towards the long-cherished ideal of social equality. One hundred and eight temples surround the 216 feet tall monument on 35 acres of land called “Divya Desam”, or divine locality. It is intended to be a centre of excellence on Vedanta and ancient knowledge.
Ramanuja acharya, the Symbol of Equality
The Bhakti movement kindled Hindutva in the Indian social fabric at a time when Islamic aggression targeted the Hindu religion, temples and women. The movement has created many great saints and literary luminaries who secured Hindutva among the people. Eleventh century Sage, Bhagavad Ramanuja acharya was one among them during the beginning of the movement. Ramanuja Acharya was born in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. Through his Visishta Advaita (qualified non-duality), he has unequivocally proclaimed that all the man-made differences among human beings based on caste, creed, belief, gender, language, region and the like have to be rejected and everyone to be treated equally. Even though there was severe opposition and even an attempt to kill him, Ramanuja continued his life mission of spreading the message of equality in society, utilising Vedanta philosophy as the prime tool. He took Vedanta to the commoner and wrote commentaries on essential scriptures.
Concept of Samatva
Semitics often create the dichotomy among human beings into conflicting classes like believers and non-believers, bourgeoisie (capitalists) and proletariat (workers), superior and inferior races, master and slave, blacks and whites, etc. Attempts to reform such differences were based on artificial uniformity. Semitic religions have one God and one religion but believe in at least two humanities of believers and non-believers. But Hindus have multiple Gods and many religions but believe in one humanity. Our motto is to make the entire world noble (krinvanto vishwam aryam) and not create and maintain a privileged class of nobles.
Hindutva is the philosophy of samatva or equality. “Samatva” is the sameness of the mind towards everything, not only human beings but also all the living beings. Hindu concept of equality emanates from the view that every human being and living creature are part of the same universal soul; thus, human differentiation is meaningless. Aatma has no race, caste or gender.
The Sangh trajectory towards social equality
In the social plane, equality emanates from the concept of family. Entire society is an extended family. Almost all Indian social institutions are modelled on the family concept thousands of years ago and continue even today. The concept of equality became revolutionary in the 20th century when the first Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights declared: “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” But, about five thousand years ago, the oldest literature of human history, Rig Veda (5.60.5) had declared the same: “No one is superior (ajyestaso) or inferior (akanishtasa). All are brothers (ete bhrataraha). All should strive for the interest of all and should progress collectively (sowbhagaya sam vavridhuh)”.
The Rig Veda concludes with Rishi Samvanana’s famous incantation of equality or “sam-jnana sukta” (Rig Veda 10.191). It is a clarion call to the entire society to march together with oneness in heart and intellect. The word “sam” means mainly equality, unity, equanimity or peace in different contexts in Vedic and later Sanskrit literature. Srimad Bhagavata says in the ideal Krita Yuga, there was only one social class, known as hamsa or human, to which all human beings belonged- “Eko varna eva cha”. Srimad Bhagavad Gita descriptively enumerates several highly evolved personalities, and a common feature of many of them is that they look at everything with a vision of equality — “sama darsinah”, “samam pasyatih”, etc. Adi Sankaracharya says in the Nirvana Ashtakam, there is no caste difference – “na me jati bhedah”.
Equality is a concept deeply rooted in Hindu thought, even though in recent centuries, it was camouflaged by a rotten system imposed in the course of history due to various reasons.
The Narendra Modi Government was formed as the true manifestation of the aspirations of the nationalists in India, probably for the first of its kind after 1,000 years of foreign aggressions and foreign rule. The Government sits on the top of a tower of expectations and is looked upon as representing India’s awakening self. It is worth remembering that on the May 12, 2020, Shri Narendra Modi declared a third stage in the developmental efforts of post-independent India – the “AatmaNirbhar Bharat” (self-sustaining India); after the two failed mutually conflicting experiments of Pt Nehru’s Russian model of Socialism and Dr Manmohan Singh’s US model of globalisation. The monument of equality unveiled recently is a powerful symbol of one step ahead in the realisation of AatmaNirbhar Bharat. Statue of Unity erected in Narmada Valley and the Statue of Equality in Hyderabad represent the national soul's high aspirations.
Legacy of Dr Ambedkar on Equality
Dr Ambedkar’s dreams of completing his mission of social equality could not be fulfilled because of the hostility shown by the Congress and Communist brigade of politicians at that time. Jawaharlal Nehru joined with the Communists in opposing Dr Ambedkar in his later years; in contrast, no Congress candidate was fielded against Shri A K Gopalan, a Communist leader in the election. Comrade S A Dange openly campaigned, saying, “you may spoil your votes, but don’t vote for Ambedkar”. At that time, Dr Ambedkar received solace and support from RSS. RSS pracharak Shri Dattopant Thengadi was his election convenor in the Bhandara by-election in 1954 with the blessings of Shri Guruji Golwalkar. Unfortunately, this formal joining with the RSS movement took place a few years before his Nirvana, as was the case of many such great leaders of India.
Dr Ambedkar’s dreams of completing his mission of social equality could not be fulfilled because of the hostility shown by the Congress and Communist brigade of politicians at that time. Nehru joined with the Communists in opposing Ambedkar in his later years; in contrast, no Congress candidate was fielded against Shri A K Gopalan, a Communist leader in the election
RSS continued the legacy of Dr Ambedkar’s work of achieving social equality in its paces of history. Both Mahatma Gandhiji and Dr Ambedkar were amazed and have complimented the social equality they saw in front of their eyes in RSS shakha when they visited it. Dr Ambedkar visited an RSS camp at Pune in 1939 and commented: "This is the first time I am visiting the camp of Sangh volunteers. I am happy to find absolute equality between Savarniyas (Upper Caste) and Harijans (Lower Caste) without anyone being aware of such differences existing." It was similar to what Dr Ambedkar envisioned about social equality.
Shri Balasaheb Deoras, the third Sarsanghchalak of RSS, was firm in his call to swayamsevaks on social equality. He says in his inimitable strong words (Booklet: Social Equality and Hindu Consolidation): "Social inequality amongst us has been a reason for our downfall. Fissiparous tendencies like caste and sub-caste rivalries and untouchability have all been the manifestation of this social inequality.……. Whatever be its origin, all of us consider that untouchability is a terrible folly, and it must, of necessity, be thrown out lock, stock and barrel.………. If untouchability is not wrong, then nothing in the world is wrong!" In the Talaja Camp, he said: "Our goal is an equality-based and exploitation free Hindu society." This was when many other organisations belonging to the anti-RSS brigade were actively trying to flourish on divisions on a caste basis, indulging in adversarial and divisive hate campaigns, thereby creating hurdles in Hindu solidarity.
Dr Ambedkar wrote about his concern about how the tribals living in forests are neglected by Hindu society. But RSS swayamsevaks started Vanavasi Kalyan Ashram and initially worked under the guidance of Shri Takkar Bappa. Dr Ambedkar conducted agitation and Satyagraha for the entry into Kala Ram Temple of Nasik in 1935 but could not succeed in the attempt in his lifetime. But RSS continued that mission. In 1981, RSS workers led into the temple a team of 5 Dalit leaders who participated in that agitation to light the lamp in the temple, which should have heartened Dr Ambedkar very much if he was alive.
Revolutionising Labour Sector
India’s independence realised swarajya but did not manifest the svatva of the nation under the leadership of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru or his successors. After attaining independence, there were several occasions when India could have blossomed itself through its svatva but missed it miserably. Dr Ambedkar vehemently argued in the constituent assembly to bring forth a political system based on ancient India’s ethos taking inspiration from his passionate Buddhist principles. But unfortunately, the barristers and others sitting in the august body debated whether India should adopt the British model of the Prime Ministerial system or the American model of the Presidential system. Finally, they adopted the British model.
Dr Ambedkar is known as the architect of the Indian Constitution who inducted the concepts of equality and social justice in our basic law. But he is also present in the annals of history as the architect of an equitable labour law system. He is instrumental in shaping most of the basic labour laws of the country that attempted to provide equal rights to the country’s workers. After about 70 years, his dream of universal labour rights for workers was carried forward by the present Modi Government. It has legislated the Code on Wages, 2019, which Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh terms as historic and revolutionary; since for the first time in the history of labour laws in India, the last worker is given the right to minimum wages. This is a significant step towards achieving economic and social equality in Indian society. Thus, to conclude, an equitable society is in the offing; it is the time of AatmaNirbhar Bharat.