Religion has been a curse on humanity across the world. It has caused blood-shed deaths to millions in the past and is still causing specially in the underdeveloped countries. India, a developing country, has the added curse of caste. America got rid of slavery by law. The Negros, who were caught from Africa and sold to the whites, were treated as domestic animals tortured and killed with impunity. However, President Abraham Linkon abolished slavery by law. The blacks were officially given equality. In India caste disparity is more deep-rooted because it is socially ingrained in the society and the rulers, mostly upper castes, would not allow it abolished because they would be losing their privileges they got by the virtue of their birth.
What independence to the country and a Constitution could only bring was political discrimination against the low castes, the untouchables. The social discrimination continued. Gandhiji tried to uplift them by calling them “harijans” (people of God), in vain. The Constitution banned discrimination in the name of religion, gender and caste, and gave the low castes (Dalits) some concession in the form of reservations in jobs, educational institutions etc. But only very few could take advantage of the benefits because of their social backwardness, oppression, poverty and lack of basic education prevailing among them.
The coming to power of the BJP patronised by the RSS, an upper caste organisation that monopolised Hindutva, bent upon creating a Hindu Rashtra, streamlined its policies on Hindu-Brahmin precepts. The recent Gujarat state elections saw the Dalits organise themselves against the BJP that gave a scare to leaders like PM Modi and Party Chief Amit Shah. Especially young Dalit leaders like Jignesh Mevani became a challenge to the BJP leadership.
Recently in Maharashtra’s Koregaon Bhima, the Dalits commemorated a battle fought 200 years ago and the Mahars (Dalits) defeated the ruling upper caste Peshwa’s army. The massive celebration of the Mahar army’s victory provoked the Hindva groups of RSS/BJP and the riots that resulted rocked the state. While the Dalits made the event as a symbol of valour against caste oppression, the Hindutva groups opposed the celebration as it led to a “British victory”.
No doubt the Mahars were fighting on the side of the British East India Company, but at that time India as a political entity was not formed, so the Maher commemoration could not be described as anti-national. But then, Tipu Sultan of Mysore fought the British and died but he was denigrated by the RSS as an anti-Hindu, instead of calling him a patriot.