Caste system, Communal Politics & Dalits and Adivasis

Goldy M George

Published in Issue V, April 2014

If anyone not of our own

Happens to read this manuscript:

Heads will roll

Hearts will beat to death

Brains will curdle.

All that one has learned

Will be lost.

Now,I have placed curses

On my own words.

N. T. Rajkumar

(Translations from the Tamil Panirendhu Kavithaigal)

A lot of the media talks these days go around Narendra Bhai Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Prime Ministerial candidate. Chosen by the Rastriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as the best man in Indian polity, he has been in the media in various controversial issues. Nevertheless for all reasons around has already risen as a populist leader among the communal fascist section who has been consistently engaged in a number of background campaign in his favour through social media, print and electronic media, organising charity meetings, business meets, academic seminars, public meetings, consultations, conferences, etc.

There are critical ideological discussions on BJP and RSS fronts, which essentially have a communal colour. The recent communal riots between the Hindus and Muslims in Muzaffar Nagar have a lot to do with the communal frenzy for a number of reasons. It would not be out of place to state that these philosophical and ideological postulations have not arisen from the blue; rather it had a steady and thorough progress in history. It is time to examine these ideological positions, which essentially has a communal colour. Examining it from the Dalit-Adivasi viewpoint is crucial since it would unfold the dynamics of the social, religious and political of communal fascism to the lowest level.

In a broader perspective, communalism of polity is preliminary to fascism of polity. In today’s context what is going on in India it is not mere communalism of polity; rather it is the politics of fascism under the Hindutva brigade. Hence as a critical outlook, I would like to emphasis some of the major threats faced by the Dalits and Adivasis or Indigenous People.

The Political Theology of Dominance

Before getting into a detailed discussion, let me place what fascism is all about. Fascism is a terrible political domination capable of infringing any eligible rights of any communities to unpredictable magnitude. Historically it took different shapes and forms, depending upon the particular social order. Although was coined as a political ideology in 1919 with the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, it has much older roots in India and other parts of world.

Fascism is a form of extreme right-wing ideology that celebrates the nation or the race as an organic community transcending all other loyalties. It emphasises a myth of national or racial or puritan rebirth after a period of decline or destruction. To this end, fascism calls for a “spiritual revolution” against signs of moral decay such as individualism and materialism, and seeks to purge “alien” forces and groups that threaten the organic community. Fascism tends to celebrate masculinity, youth, mystical unity, and the regenerative power of violence. Often, but not always, it promotes racial superiority doctrines, ethnic persecution, imperialist expansion, and genocide. At the same time, fascists may embrace a form of internationalism based on either racial or ideological solidarity across national boundaries. Usually fascism espouses open male supremacy, though sometimes it may also promote female solidarity and new opportunities for women of the privileged nation or race.

Fascism’s approach to politics is both populist – in that it seeks to activate “the people” as a whole against perceived oppressors or enemies – and elitist – in that it treats the people’s will as embodied in a select group, or often one supreme leader, from whom authority proceeds downward. Fascism seeks to organise a cadre-led mass movement in a drive to seize state power. It seeks to forcibly subordinate all spheres of society to its ideological vision of organic community, usually through a totalitarian state. Both as a movement and a regime, fascism uses mass organizations as a system of integration and control, and uses organised violence to suppress opposition, although the scale of violence varies widely (George: 2006).

Caste and the History of Fascist Regime in Indian Perspective

In Indian context it could be widely observed in caste domination and feudal relationship. The mythical stories of killing of Shambhug by Ram, denial of Eklavya of his right to education and his subsequent assault, the assassination of Asur King Ravana, the deceitful murder of Bali are only some impulses of this trend of domination over indigenous people.

Further these communities were addressed as rakshashas, barbarian, wild, uncivilised, etc. Both Vedic and Sanskrit texts have justified the invasion and exploitation of Aryans and explicitly support the superiority of Aryan race and Vedic philosophy to the extent that their fate of being in the lower social strata is god given.

The present phase of fascism is a more organised and systematic attempt to continue the caste-class legacy. In modern times it started with the emergence of Hindu Chauvinism and Cultural Nationalism under the leadership of RSS led camp. This camp learnt various things from different sectors. They learnt the skills in organising and mobilising from Communist parties, mastered the management techniques from Churches & Christian institutions, the one-man dictator model of Adolph Hitler and the also the methods of maintaining private militia. In nutshell, the wholesome exercise was to sustain and strengthen the same old ideology of purity of the three upper varnas and Shudras and Panchamas as impure and pollutants. A twin strategy of dictating the Dalits and non-Hindu communities is the present form of communal fascism in India. The current mode of communal polity coupled with sustained casteism apparently speaks of this truth (George: 2006). 

The legacy of Hindutva Ideological

In modern times this ideological upsurge of Hindutva has got a definite periodicity and it could be traced from nineteenth century. It arouse as a system to put a break on the increasing reforms within Hindu religion. These reforms could be listed as advocating freedom to women through abolition of Sati, child marriage, opening the boundaries of educational institutions to women and to certain opening up educational space for the Dalits.

However, since the Muslims constituted a sizeable population, they were considered as a big threat to the Hindu society. Christian who opened health and educational institutions for all, particularly in Dalit and Adivasi areas, thus threatened the social fabric of caste at one end and on the other Christianity was accepted as the mainstream faith line by these oppressed groups. Thus Christian conversion turned to be a major threat to thwart away the Brahimincal social order of caste. Hence a counter ideology was obligatory for the sustenance of Hindutva. The ideological formulation in the Indian context could be seen in three different phases – first is the sowing of seeds in modern India, second the consolidation of Hindutva as an ideological and third is the delving and devising of programmatic programmes of this agenda (George: 2006).

To my understanding the seeds of communalism were first sown by Bankim Chandra Chaterjee through his novel ‘Anand Math’. This novel could be said as the foundational text of the current Indian Nationalism, which in fact was Hindu Nationalism. The establishment of British rule in India was a prolonged process involving piecemeal conquest and consolidation. Needless to say this process produced discontent, resentment and resistance at every stage.

Disposed Rajas, Nawabs or uprooted Zamindars and landlords often led a series of rebellions during the first hundred years of British rule. Peasants, ruined artisans, demobilised soldiers and discontented people formed the backbone of the rebellion. These rebellions were generally localised involving armed bands of a few hundreds to several thousands. The civil rebellions grew in Bengal and Bihar as British rule was gradually consolidated and further spread to other places. There was hardly any year without an armed rebellion in some part of the country. From 1763 to 1856 there were more than forty major and hundreds of minor rebellions. Dispossessed peasants and demobilised soldiers of Bengal were the first to rise.

One of the major rebellions was the Sanyasi Rebellion of Bengal, which was depicted in Anand Math. This is the background from where a clear divide between the Hindus and Muslims in Bengal began. It is in this novel the song Vande Mataram surfaced first, which the Indian nationalists chose to sing in praise. It comes from a tradition of mythologising a fictive imagined nation personified as a goddess. In the novel, the context of the anthem was overtly anti-Muslim and treated them as a separate nation. Invocation of the deities like Durga, Kali and Lakshmi all runs counter to the secular credentials. This was basically meant to instil inspiration among the Hindus to work for the destruction of the Muslim rule in Bengal.

The hero of the novel, Bhawananda is an ascetic. He recruits men for his mission. He meets a youth, Mahender. He then tries to explain him the meaning of Vande Mataram and warns him that unless the Muslims are banished from the Indian soil, his faith shall be in constant danger. Mahender asks him if he would face the Muslims alone. Bhanwanand replies asking would not the 30 crore voices with 60 crore swords in both their arms be enough for the mission. (Vide the third stanza of Vande Mataram) When Mahender is not satisfied even then, Bhawanand takes him to Anand Math (the title of the novel). The Brahmachari of the Math takes Mahender inside the Math. The Math is half- illuminated with a narrow entrance. He enters the Math where he sees a big idol of Vishnu flanked by Lakshmi and Saraswati on either side. The Brahmachari introduces it to Mahender as the Mata and asks him to say Vande Mataram. He then takes him to another room where a magnificent idol of goddess Durga is kept. Here the Brahmachari prays the goddess chanting: “we worship ye, O Mata Durga, who posses ten hands. Ye are the Lakshmi whose abode is lotus. Ye are the bestower of knowledge.” (Vide the fourth stanza) Now Mahender receives the inspiration and takes a pledge (Islamic Voice: 1998).

The eighth chapter in the third part contains incidents of arson and bloodshed, which inspires the Hindus to turn the lives of the Muslims difficult. Voices are being raised to loot the Muslims and kill them. The atmosphere is filled with Vande Mataram. As a result, the Muslims try to take shelter far and near. The devotees of the Mata ask: “When would the time come when we would destroy the mosques and construct the temples of Radhi and Mahadev? To this the hero of the novel replies: “Now the English have arrived who will protect our life and property” (Islamic Voice: 1998). Thus, in Anand Math the Muslims are the villains, the Hindus the victims of Muslims aggression and the British the saviour of the Hindus. Indeed this instigative novel had sown the seeds for the division of Bengal as East and West.

Yet! Hindutva was not established as a political ideology neither in theory nor in practice. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar carried strings from Bankim Chandra. Hindutva became an ideology through his writings when his book “Essentials of Hindutva” had come into the public in 1924. V D Savarkar, writing in the 1920s, stated that an Indian could be only that person who could claim his fatherland [pitribhumi], and who addresses this land of his religion as Holyland [punyabhumi] both lay within the territorial boundaries of British India. These are the essentials of Hindutva—a common nation (Rashtra) a common race (Jati) and a common civilization (Sanskriti) (Savarkar 1924: 43-44). Furthermore, there had to be a commitment to a common Indian culture, inevitably defined by Hindutva (ibid. 33-37). These qualifications automatically led to regard Muslims and Christians as foreigners. Subsequently Golwalkar (1939: 89) added Communists to this list! Both introduced race and language as qualifiers of supremacy (Savarkar 1924; Golwalkar 1939).These were the contemporary symbols that dominated European fascist movements. And, as we know, in periods of confusing change, the preference is for a theory that simplifies the social world into ëusí and ëthemí (Thapar 2004). Savarkar along with Golwalkar was the early ideologue of the entire thesis of Hindutva.

It is with this intention that the Hindu Mahasabha was also formed in 1914. Further Savarkar was the inspiration behind the formation of Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Sangh. Hedgewar, an Andhra Brahmin settled in Maharashtra, a discipline of Balkrishna Shivram Moonje and a close friend of Savarkar, established the Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Singh in 1925 in Nagpur. Hedgewar was sent to Kolkata by Moonje in 1910 to pursue his medical studies and unofficially learn the techniques of terror from the secret revolutionary organisations like the Anushilan Samiti and Jugantar in Bengal. He became a part of the inner circle of the Anushilan Samiti to which very few had access. In 1915, after returning to Nagpur he joined the Indian National Congress and engaged in anti-British activities through the Kranti Dal. He was also a member of the Hindu Mahasabha till 1929 (Ramaswami 2003).

Although, Hedgewar established RSS, Golwalkar was the man behind the entire growth of RSS. Like Savarkar he took this idea of Hindutva further to write a small book, ‘We or our Nationhood Defined’, which gives an outline of his ideology and later his articles were published as a compilation, ‘Bunch of Thoughts’. In both these books (Golwalkar 1939; 2000) and also in various other outpourings of his, he denigrates democracy and pluralism on one hand and upholds fascist concept of nationhood and sectarian version of culture on the other. His writing is most intimidating to the minorities in particular. He was the chief of RSS for 33 long years and was instrumental in giving RSS a direction, which assumed menacing proportions in times to come, and strengthening the foundations of the ‘hate minorities’ ideology resulting in the consequent waves of violence, undermining the democratic norms in the society. He can also be ‘credited’ with giving the sharp formulations, which laid the ideological foundation of different carnages in the country (Puniyani: 2006).

Golwalkar praises Lord Manu as the greatest lawgiver mankind ever had (Golwalkar 1939: 117-118; 2000; 239, 258, 264). It was the same law giver Manu’s book, which was burnt by Dr. Ambedkar in his pursuit of getting justice for the Dalits. In current times, Golwalkars’ successor also demanded a throwing away of Indian constitution, to be replaced by the one which is based on Hindu holy books, implying Manusmriti, of course (Puniyani: 2006).

Golwalkar’s formulation of Hindutva fascism is so blatant that even his followers struggle hard to cover many of ostensive judgments. He portrays an ornate love of caste, naked hatred for minorities and eulogise the Nazi Germany. The current RSS-BJP leadership including Narendra Modi avoid owning these ideas. Curran (1979: 39) in his classic study says that the ideology of Sangh is based upon principles formulated by its founder, Hedgewar. These principles have been consolidated and amplified by the Golwalkar through critical indoctrination of Sangh volunteers (Puniyani: 2006). What does Golwalkar say in this book?

He rejects the notions of Indian nationhood, India as a Nation in the making. He rejects the idea that all the citizens will be equal. He goes on to harp the notions of nationhood borrowed from Hitler’s Nazi movement. He rejects that India is a secular nation and posits that it is a Hindu Rashtra. He rejects the territorial-political concept of nationhood and puts forward the concept of cultural nationalism, which was the foundation of Nazi ideology. He admires Hitler’s ideology and politics of puritan nationalism and takes inspiration from the massive holocaust, which decimated millions of people in Germany. He uses this as a shield to propagate his political ideology. It is this ideology, which formed the base of communal common sense amongst a section of the population (Puniyani: 2006).

He builds a parallel between Hinduism and Nazism. “German national pride has now become the topic of the day. To keep up purity of the nation and its culture, Germany shocked the world by her purging the country of the Semitic races– the Jews. National pride at its highest has been manifested here. Germany has also shown how well-nigh impossible it is for races and cultures having differences going to the root, to be assimilated into a united whole, a good lesson for us in Hindustan to learn and profit by”(Golwalkar 1939: 87-88).

Today the Modis and Togadias brought up on these lines, do believe in all these ideological propositions, but the language of expression is being made more polished so that the poison is coated with honey and administered with ease. Golwalkar (1939: 104-105) goes on to assert, “from the standpoint sanctioned by the experience of shrewd nations, the non-Hindu people in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture and language, must learn to respect and revere Hindu religion, must entertain no idea but the glorification of Hindu nation i.e. they must not only give up their attitude of intolerance and ingratitude towards this land and its age long traditions, but must also cultivate the positive attitude of love and devotion instead; in one word, they must cease to be foreigners or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, for less any preferential treatment, not even the citizen’s rights.

Interestingly, these fascist Hindus never participated in the national movement. As matter of fact, RSS and Golwalkar were very contemptuous towards the anti-British movement. There is no mention of presence of RSS in the anti-British movement even in most of the sympathetic accounts written about it. Since Golwalkar propounded religion-based nationalism, there was no place for anti-British stance. “The theories of territorial nationalism and of common danger, which formed the basis of our concept of nation, had deprived us of the positive and inspiring content of our real Hindu Nationhood and made many of the ‘freedom movements’ virtually anti-British movements. Anti Britishism was equated with patriotism and nationalism. This reactionary view has had disastrous effects upon the entire course of freedom struggle, its leaders and common people (Golwalkar 2000: 120-121)”.

No wonder the British ever repressed RSS. Also the collusion between religion based nationalism and colonialism can be understood from such statements. Later the World saw that in tune with this pro imperialist ideology, Golwalkar was to support the US aggression on Vietnam and his successor Sudarshan defended the US aggression against Iraq while Modi is the champion of communal genocide.

Domineering Indigenous Life

Controlling all life at large is the general strategy of RSS and this is part of the larger design through Cultural nationalism to the extent of power domain through political life. In the present time the most crucial aspect of the fascist agenda is to control the wholesome dynamics of indigenous life and its systems. The strategy of taking over all the possible institutions of civil society, right from the electronic media to primary schools, were applied by the champions of Hindutva to create a sensation of inferiority and thus to manipulate the masses.

Among the indigenous people, two processes went in parallel. One was the deliberate formation of institutions such as Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram, Ekal Vidyalaya, Bal Bharti, Saraswati Sishu Mandir and Dalit and Adivasi Sanghs at the lowest level to train-up children and youth cadres and thus to inculcate a feeling that indigenous tradition and culture is inferior to that of Hindu religion and thereby follow the mainstream Hindu religion as their lone religion. Secondly, the open support to capitalist forces through corporates thereby inducing the consumeristic culture in such areas. Both these process went in parallel and are inter-related and empowers the coexistence. One of the outcomes of these trends is the crucial osmosis of Hindu strings and civilisation with all its flaws among the indigenous people plus a bonus of corrupting them as units of consumer market (George: 2006).

Nevertheless, this fondness of controlling indigenous people has two basic reasons. One was to perpetuate social and cultural slavery along with the clear establishment of political power and right over their life though legitimised the social mechanics and second to establish an unquestioned command over the resource zones of the country. Therefore, a complete slavery of social, cultural, political and economic remained the overall design. This could easily evade the precipitate of egocentricity of the thitherto-untouchable strata. Another vital part of the process is the development of internal colonisation. This is a vicious conspiracy to cohere the Dalits into their fold in order to continue the historical mode of oppression in new forms and incarnations.

Contrary to this situation, Adivasis were never part of Varnashram. Adivasis live a wonderful model of egalitarianism and naturocentricity, who had a lively past of living in proximity and harmony with nature are being on target of the principles of development. Unlike Dalits, they have hardly experienced the life of slavery. Uprooting them off their nature and culture was and is part and parcel of this concoct design. In the result they have been transformed into an exploited class. Jharkhand, Odisha and Bastar are the best examples to check the impact of such trends and processes. Thus, both Dalits and Adivasis have been placed in the category of exploited class. Earlier these aspects were efficiently engineered through the socio-religious structures, but today it is taking a political shape too, which in fact is communalisation of polity or inculcating the culture of fascism among the indigenous masses.

Dalits & Adivasis – the Logical Targets

Communal-fascism is exploring its way to elaborate its base and activities and action. It appears that building of philanthropic and religious institutions other than mentioned above like Deen Dayal Shodh Sansthan, Sanskriti Bihar, Vikas Bharit, Gayatri Pariwar, Brahmakumari Samaj, etc. are some of the strategies adopted to create inroads among the Dalits & Adivasis. Recruitment of young boys from these communities into the cadre of RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal and arming them with hatred and intolerance against minorities remained part of this process. Another strategy applied is the steady and systematic capturing of the community panchayats and organisations. Modi’s Gujarat is the best example where the communal fascists have got their stranglehold by adopting these. Such undercurrents are also active in states like Chhattisgarh and Odisha, where the undercurrent of ‘mission re-conversion’ is on a mass scale.

All these have added impelling force to the Hindutva card among Dalits and Adivasis. By and large this consists of concepts like de-Dalitisation and de-Adivasisation. Eventually this tendency empowers the fascist forces and broadens its space. Expansion of fascism has so far and is disintegrating the Dalit-Adivasi ideology, theology, and identity and intimidated their very existence. Apparently this ruptures the community, deteriorates the noble notions of sharing, caring and co-operation, expansion of patriarchy and battered the inkling of community ownership over resources and every single aspect of common property.

The Vicious Bond

One cannot say that the caste-communal fascism is independently functional. While going into further analysis, fascism is closely knit with the ideology of capitalism. In modern times it is globalisation. Both these are two inter-dependent and inter-linked facets of power and domination. While globalisation is supposed to capture the global economic and political power by cutting the national boundaries and establishing/capturing the market, fascist forces acts as their operational agents in its approaches and attitudes through suppressive socio- cultural and religious domination.

The ideology of capitalism assumes absoluteness only through fascism. In India, Washington has taken a lenient view to prop up the communal fascist government of the BJP’s nationalism. The global governance can afford to accommodate and promote religious fundamentalist regimes as long as they are useful weapons in their hand because they have several things in common. Propping up the conflict between India and Pakistan is a useful mechanism applied by the US governance, which would have an easy counter-reaction on Indian soil through the sustained undercurrents between the Hindus and Muslims. That is why despite the State’s crucial role in the Gujarat genocide, Washington never intervened with any principle disagreement or strong opposition. Rather it had shown a new path to the Indian fascist the way they handled it Afghanistan and Iraq.

The political segments in India, by and large, strive and thrive to cater the global and national capitalistic market. As a part of this practice, there is an invisible ‘safety net’ around the capitalist camp. Having nothing to do with the people, the resources are rapidly being opened for the neo-colonisers to be explored and exploited. This great surrender before the global capital market implicates the momentum by which the fascist-capitalist nexus is plundering the resources.

Targeting the resources is directly an assault on indigenous Dalits and Adivasis. Since their land, property, forest and other resources are the pastureland for any sort of investment, strategies and planning are formulated in such a way to allure them so that they get entangled in the web and are unable to break it. This eventually culminates into large scale of displacement and migration, heavy loss of land and resources, robs them of their rich tradition and culture, and leads to the irreversible and perpetual loss of livelihood source. Therefore, fascism is utmost visible in the market.

To Conclude…

This, in fact, is the best method of disempowerment. Never before in the history have we witnessed such a period of deliberate drift of further confusing and disempowerment of Dalits and Adivasis. It has constantly succeeded in gearing up its organisational tactics and mobilisation methods to subtly crush the energy of people, and divert it; thus draining off their capacity to fight for their rights and their ability to resist injustice. It is sucking them like a vampire day by day.

Under this circumstance, where humanitarian norms and values are degenerating and the indigenous people stand at the receiving end, is it possible for us to go back to these communities and unveil the wolf inside the goat’s skin? Can we stand with the Dalits and Adivasis in developing a counter movement to combat the divinity of Manu? Dr. Ambedkar had shown the way by burning Manusmruti. Do we have the courage to engage in such a process? Can we intentionally foster the indigenous people towards a socialist, secular, democratic and decentralised polity? This is the biggest challenge before us, or else the story will remain the same.



George, Goldy M. (2006), “Fascism Versus Indigenous People”, Uploaded on September 2, 2006 accessed on November 10, 2013

Guruji, M.S. Golwalkar (1939), “We or Our Nationhood Defined”, Bharat Publications, Nagpur

Guruji, M.S. Golwalkar (2000), “Bunch of Thoughts”, Third Edition 1996 (reprint 2000) Sahitya Sindhu Prakashana, Bangalore

Islam, Shamsul (“Undoing India: The RSS way” accessed on November 14, 2013

Islamic Voice (1998), “Vande Mataram – A Historical Perspective”, Monthly magazine, Volume 12, 12 No. 144, December

Puniyani, Ram (2006), “M.S. Golwalkar: Conceptualising Hindutva Fascism”, uploaded on March 10, 2006 accessed on November 9, 2013

Ramaswami, Sushila (2003), “Hedgewar and RSS – Revising History in the light of BJP Perception”, The Statesman, 26 June

Savarkar, V.D. (1924), “Essentials of Hindutva”, accessed from on November 10, 2013

Thaper, Romila, (2004), “The Future of the Indian Past”, From the Seventh D. T. Lakdawala Memorial Lecture, 21 February, organised by the Institute of Social Sciences New Delhi.

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