For a ‘Dalitariat’ revolution

by M. P. RAJU

The book provides an overarching analysis of almost all the important problems faced by India today and is a must read for all those interested in caste-class issues.

Many writers have attempted to study the manifold fault lines underlying the Indian republic that cause perpetual tremors debilitating the polity continually despite the socio-economic revolution famously promised by the Constitution of India. In Anand Teltumbde’s, Republic of Caste: Thinking Equality in the Time of Neoliberal Hindutva, we have a system-centric and unique attempt at understanding these fault lines.

Are not almost all the ailments of this country attributable directly or indirectly to the fact of India being a republic of castes? This is the thread that runs through almost all the premises of the book, such as demolishing the icon of Dr B.R. Ambedkar, critiquing the reservation imbroglio, identifying the class-caste bias inbuilt in the Constitution, exposing the game plan of the ruling classes representing neoliberal forces and Hindutva protagonists, pointing out the strategies involved in branding Dalits and Adivasis as Maoists followed by their targeted lynching or pointing fingers at the wayward political experiments of the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party.

The recent spurt in mob lynchings has made many wonder how such diabolic and horrendous happenings are possible in the land of Krishna, Buddha, Asoka and Mahatma Gandhi. Teltumbde has dealt with the issue with reference to the instances of lynching of Dalits. Analysing the facts of anti-Dalit lynchings in the recent past, especially the ones that occurred in Khairlanji, Kawlewada, Dulina and Bhagana, the author draws important lessons from the recent lynching incidents, including those against members of minority communities. He brings out the police-bureaucracy-politicians nexus at the ground level. The last hope of the people—in the judiciary—was also disappearing. “Barring some honourable exceptions, the courts have always been biased against the poor, tribals, Dalits and Muslims” (page 173).

The author believes that the characteristics of a lynch mob—its easy assumption of moral righteousness and confidence about its impunity—are not generated spontaneously. They are honed expressions of a strategy perfected over many years of experiment and observation, mainly through precedents involving Dalits.

There is an attempt to re-baptise Marx into an Ambedkarite and Ambedkar into a Marxist. This is born out of the author’s conviction that the only plausible solution lies in merging Dalits and the proletariat. He urges Dalits to foreground the need to annihilate caste and to reorient themselves to see society in class terms. He is unambiguous in his view that annihilation of castes will necessitate a thoroughgoing democratic revolution, which can happen only through a class struggle, which presupposes a meeting point between Ambedkar and Marx. However, Teltumbde sees Ambedkar as reactive and thus purely pragmatic, and Marx as scientific and as having a theoretical foundation, which has objective rigour and correctly explains the past. Ambedkar is pictured as having only a short-term approach, whereas Marx is praised as one who has given a scientific framework for revolution and a theory to bring it about. So, the author is harshly and uncharitably critical of Ambedkar in comparison to Marx.

Ambedkar had identified Brahmanism and capitalism as the two enemies of workers and Dalits. So Teltumbde may be right when he concludes that Ambedkar never saw any contradiction between class struggle and anti-caste struggle.

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