This is with reference to Hari Narke’s article ‘No, Ambedkar was not impressed by RSS or in an alliance with it. Arun Anand is wrong’ published in ThePrint. The writer has made certain false claims and has ignored the historical facts, which clearly establish that Dr B.R. Ambedkar and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh had a close relationship.
The writer’s claim that Babasaheb did not have a favourable view of the RSS is based on Ambedkar’s speech on 14 May, 1951. The fact is that the elections in which the Scheduled Caste Federation, set up by Ambedkar, had a pre-poll alliance with Bharatiya Janasangh were held in 1952. Narke has tried to deny it by quoting the Federation’s manifesto before polls. The manifesto is said to have mentioned that the Federation wouldn’t have any alliance with Hindu Mahasabha or the RSS.
Interestingly, Anand’s article never mentioned an alliance between the Federation and the RSS. He had talked about the Federation’s alliance with Bharatiya Janasangh. In fact, RSS has never been a political entity and it has never been in electoral politics as it is a social organisation. So, it seems Narke tried to deviate the debate from the real facts by ignoring the context in which this alliance took place.
When Ambedkar drifted away from the Congress
This context has been explained well in Transfer of Power and the Crisis of Dalit Politics in India, 1945-47(author: Bandyopadhyay, Sekhar, published by Victoria University of Wellington ): “Ever since its beginning, organized Dalit politics under the leadership of Dr B. R. Ambedkar had been consistently moving away from the Indian National Congress and the Gandhian politics of integration. It was drifting towards an assertion of separate political identity of its own, which in the end was enshrined formally in the new constitution of the All India Scheduled Caste Federation, established in 1942. A textual discursive representation of this sense of alienation may be found in Ambedkar’s book, What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables, published in 1945. Yet, within two years, in July 1947, we find Ambedkar accepting Congress nomination for a seat in the Constituent Assembly. A few months later he was inducted into the first Nehru Cabinet of free India, ostensibly on the basis of a recommendation from Gandhi himself. In January 1950, speaking at a general public meeting in Bombay, organized by the All India Scheduled Castes Federation, he advised the Dalits to cooperate with the Congress and to think of their country first, before considering their sectarian interests. But then within a few months again, this alliance broke down over his differences with Congress stalwarts, who, among other things, refused to support him on the Hindu Code Bill. He resigned from the Cabinet in 1951 and in the subsequent general election in 1952, he was defeated in the Bombay parliamentary constituency by a political nonentity, whose only advantage was that he contested on a Congress ticket. Ambedkar’s chief election agent, Kamalakant Chitre described this electoral debacle as nothing but a `crisis’.”
In politics, one year is a long time and one must not forget that Ambedkar had quit the Congress government in 1951. And the Bharatiya Janasangh, the Socialist party and the Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF) contested elections jointly in the Central province. (Dr Ambedkar aur Samajik Kranti ki Yatra by Dattopant Thengadi; page-169, Lokhit Prakashan)
Ambedkar appointed Thengadi as election agent
The second claim made by Narke questioning the proximity between Dattopant Thengadi and Ambedkar should be settled by the fact that Thengadi was Ambedkar’s election agent in Bhandara polls. Only close confidantes are appointed as election agents by candidates. So there shouldn’t be any doubt about proximity between Ambedkar and Thengadi.
Thengadi wrote a number of books on Dr Ambedkar’s life and work which were translated in multiple languages and gave the other side of the picture which the Left historians and chroniclers had brushed under the carpet and is now understandably raising the hackles.
Narke’s objection to the fact that there existed a close relationship between young RSS pracharak Dattopant Thengadi and the Scheduled Caste Federation is addressed well in an Organiser article dated 13 November, 2019: “Once a group of some Dalit leaders, associated with the Scheduled Caste Federation of Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, asked him as to why he has appointed a Brahmin, Dattopant Thengadi, as general secretary of the Federation. Hearing this, Baba Saheb said: ‘The day anyone of you becomes a bigger Dalit than Thengadi, I will make you general secretary of the Federation.’ These words reflect his trust in Dattopant Thengadi, who closely worked with him particularly from 1952 to 1956. This incident was shared by Thangadiji himself with former organising secretary of BMS Shri Krishna Chandra Mishra at Bhubaneshwar airport. Thengadiji had come in contact of Babasaheb through Shri Haridas Babu Avale, Shri Rajabhau Khobargade, Shri RS Gawai and Shri Haraba Gondane.”
The importance of oral history
It must be declared here that the above mentioned facts are based on ‘oral history’ whose importance can’t be negated. “For decades, oral history has provided an alternative to conventional history, filling gaps the latter leaves in the wake of its demand on being ‘written’. Often those who write this written history herald from the ‘elite’ classes and therefore, fail to sufficiently represent the views and sentiments of the masses. The absence of texts, such as diaries and journals, especially by commoners, only exacerbates this gap, giving rise to what Eric Wolf, an anthropologist, called ‘people without a history’. Oral history tries to remedy this. In particular, it has proved instrumental in an in-depth comprehension of historical events such as the Partition of India.”(Importance of Oral History’ by Tridivesh Maini and Shyamal kataria, Observer Research Foundation, September 1, 2011).
Some of the other irrefutable facts which Narke ignored, as it busts his theory of Ambedkar being anti-RSS, are that Ambedkar did visit an RSS training camp in 1939 and was impressed by the culture of equality and absence of any discrimination.
RSS and Ambedkar held similar views about Communists. Ambedkar is a known critic of the Communists in India and so is RSS. His views on Partition and radicalism in Islam also reflect clear ideological synergy between the two.
In a nutshell, it is not Arun Anand who is wrong, but it is Narke who needs to go back and see the facts in the right context. Quoting facts without context wouldn’t help have a constructive debate on this issue.
The writer is a member of the Delhi State RSS executive. The views are personal.