National

Dalits were upper castes: BJP leader

Bizay Sonkar Shastri differs with B.R. Ambedkar’s view on how “untouchability” came about.  

Were Dalits pushed into “unclean occupations” because they refused to bow before “Muslim invaders” and convert to Islam in medieval times, thus making them “untouchables”? This is how BJP’s national spokesperson Bizay Sonkar Shastri explains the origin of “untouchability” in India.

“Their (‘medieval Muslim invaders’) biggest hurdle in India was its Hinduism. In particular, the Brahmins – who were defenders of culture and religion – and Kshatriyas, who were defenders of geographical boundaries. They were forced to embrace Islam. Atrocities were committed on them,” Mr. Shastri told The Hindu in a freewheeling chat.

“Some Brahmins and Kshatriyas decided they would not accept Islam at any cost – even if they die. To destroy their dharmabhiman (religious pride), swabhiman (self-respect) and rashtraabhiman (pride in nationality), they were forced into carrying the night soil and engage in leather-work. This is how Scheduled Castes were created.”

Mr. Shastri added: “This is why Dalits feel hurt when insulted. They want to live for sammaan (self-respect).”

Mr. Shastri – himself a Dalit leader – has also authored books on some Dalit castes.

He differs with B.R. Ambedkar’s view on how “untouchability” came about. Dr. Ambedkar saw “untouchability” as having begun in 400 AD, when beef-eating was purportedly banned and beef-eaters shunned as “untouchables.” This theory — cited in Volume-7 of his writings and speeches edited by Vasant Moon — thus, sees those who shunned beef – Hindus themselves – as responsible for pushing people into “untouchability.”

Mr. Shastri disagrees with this theory, convinced by his view that “unclean occupations” explain it better.

His chronology for “untouchability” is similar to that mentioned by RSS joint general secretary Krishna Gopal in an article in the Organiser’s recent special issue on Dr. Ambedkar.

Mr. Shastri has one problem with Hindus too: they failed to distinguish between cleanliness -- which is external -- and holiness -- which is internal -- in the context of Dalits.

He, however, claimed sections of Dalits have misread Dr. Ambedkar.

Mr. Shastri also has a theory for the Scheduled Tribes – these were those Brahmins and Kshatriyas who receded to the hills after the Muslim invasions.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 1:01:05 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/dalits-were-upper-castes-bjp-leader/article7815509.ece

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