Caste is a vile system of discrimination in India (“A modern-day enlightenment,” April 17). The Mahatma and Dr. Ambedkar fought against the caste system, “the most sophisticated, subtle and diabolical form of social exclusion and discrimination invented by human beings.” However, their approaches were different. Gandhiji challenged the caste system from above in its highest echelon. Dr. Ambedkar challenged it from below. Gandhiji’s struggle was spiritual and he sought social changes within Hinduism. But Dr. Ambedkar favoured using the state as an instrument to establish forward-thinking social policies. The contribution of both Gandhiji and Dr. Ambedkar to modern India are invaluable. “They should both be heroes. Why diminish one figure to praise another? India today needs Gandhi and Ambedkar both.”
Ananya Vajpeyi has taken pains to conclude that the ongoing Lok Sabha election “promises to be a dark chapter” if the BJP comes to power. It can only be accidental that Dr. Ambedkar’s birth anniversary coincided with the election. Logically, the writer has expressly fixed her concern over the new government’s “attitudes toward caste” to attract Dalit appeal, as forming a part of the vote-bank politics of the country. She has not tried to answer her own question of “why caste prejudice, caste violence and social inequality on caste hierarchy persist in such a rampant way.” More than 65 years of caste-based reservation have not been able to help people. It could not in the least reduce caste prejudice. The controversies and conflicts, resulting even in loss of life and property, continue.
When Ms. Vajpeyi accuses Hindutva of being “founded on a hatred of Gandhi,” how can she ask in the same breath if the “glorification of caste system” would accompany it? And on Ambedkar, his nationalistic ideals of an “egalitarian, democratic, and enlightened society” will always be relevant.
As the increasingly strident and visible Dalit assertion in the country for a legitimate political and social space revolves around Dr. Ambedkar’s ideas, an average caste Hindu perceives him as a Dalit icon and is unlikely to be fired by his egalitarian vision. The writer’s appeal for wider support for Dr. Ambedkar’s radically progressive ideas as a bulwark against an emerging tide of Hindutva is unlikely to strike the desired chord.
The article rightly asks how, as we enter a dark political phase, the “Hindu Right” may handle the caste issue that permeates India’s polity. This implicitly suggests that there is a Hindu Left, a vast, amorphous group consisting mostly of the less-than-Rs.20-per-day majority. Would it not be wise for the Left parties to try to work with this huge Hindu Left to withstand the possible depredations of a Hindu Right coming to power?