B.R. Ambedkar’s vision of the India was that of a welfare state which would secure to all its citizens justice — social, economic and political — liberty, equality and fraternity. It was to be a state which would direct its policy towards securing its citizens, men and women equally, the right to an adequate means of livelihood.
But over the years, the Indian state has been transforming into a neoliberal one. The BJP’s accession to power in 2014 is not just a succession of one government by another. It is a catastrophic combination of neoliberalism and Hindutva which is giving birth to a frightening fascism. Fascism assumes different forms according to historical, social and economic conditions and national peculiarities. The fascism in India, under the garb of nationalism, has been causing havoc to the Constitution and constitutional morality which Ambedkar wanted the Indians to cultivate to safeguard the rule of law and the country’s unity.
The Indian freedom struggle was anchored in a creative, inclusive and constructive nationalism. It is tragic that those forces which never participated in the freedom struggle and opposed it to create the so-called Hindu Rashtra are now clamouring for nationalism. This fascism can be best described as manuvad fascism masquerading as nationalism.
The BJP and sangh parivar’s leaders claim that they have won the ideological battle on nationalism. But ideological debates are never fought, least of all won, by deploying police and paramilitary forces, lynching by lumpen gangs and hurling sedition charges against those who do not agree with the government. The waging of ideological debates on the strength of weapons and police forces was encouraged by Hitler and became the guiding principle behind Nazism. The same disturbing trends are emerging in India.
In Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability, Ambedkar anticipated the rise of such forces and wrote with anguish that “militant Hinduism is masquerading as Indian nationalism”. We need to be wary of the diabolical form of nationalism the Hindutva forces are trying to impose. It is instructive to note that whenever suppressed sections of society and working classes raise their voices and employ legitimate methods for safeguarding their freedom, those in power suppress them by stating that such upsurges endanger nationalism. In fact, Ambedkar had written that those who understood nationalism only in terms of freedom from British rule used it as a plank against the struggling humanity within the country and thereby created fertile conditions for majoritarian communalism. What he wrote before Independence has become a grim reality.
Across India, there is now a rise of organisations that enforce manuvad fascism in the name of Hindutva. Such outfits are championing a narrow and concocted nationalism, spreading fear and anxiety among people. The cultural nationalism they propagate spreads terror among Dalits, minorities and all Indians who are wedded to composite culture and constitutional values. Such outfits, encouraged and emboldened by the Centre, dub anybody who opposes them as anti-national. Attacks on affirmative action in favour of Dalits, tribals and other backward sections and articulations by manuvad fascists that women should be confined to home are ominous: Manuvad fascists believe in graded social inequality and the caste system.
In this context, it is imperative to have enlightened statesmanship to uphold our Constitution. What happened in Una on August 15, 2016 — when thousands of Dalits gathered and demanded five acres of land for each Dalit family and access to education — remain central to nationalism. Instead of talking about these substantive aspects, the manuvad fascists are creating a situation where they try to dominate others by misusing the state apparatus.
Years ago, Ambedkar had predicted that a time would come when the downtrodden and suppressed classes and castes would launch their own movements. Manuvad fascism, which spells anarchy across the country and endangers our social fabric, has to be countered by education, organisation and agitation as advocated by Babasaheb Ambedkar. The imminent danger to our country posed by manuvad fascism has to be met with redoubled force by upholding the Constitution and our pluralistic values. It has to be fought by forging the broadest possible unity of the working people and secular, democratic forces. This would the appropriate tribute to Ambedkar.