What are various prevalent identities and why correct identity is the key for the liberation of all victims of Caste: SC/ST/OBC & Religious Minorities?
The most dominant identity in Indian society is identity of Caste. Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar said in Annihilation of Caste, “Caste is a device used to divide”. So if we use identity of caste, it separates and divides us from other victims of the caste. It makes us minority as no single caste in India has numerical majority. Another problem with caste identities is, this identity is not given by ourselves or our forefathers and foremothers to us. It is given by those who created caste system for their own benefit and not ours. And that is the reason why this identity is degrading, it doesn’t give us pride and it is not aspirational. And that’s why we keep hiding our caste in many social situations because there is “stigma” associated with “lower caste” identity. Same is not the case with identity of beneficiary castes. They have identities of “pride”. Brahmin or Kshatriyas say with pride that “I am Brahmin or Kshatriya”. It is because they have chosen those identities for their benefit and when you choose something, you choose what you like or love and what is good for you. Thus we can conclude that identity of particular caste is not good for the victims of caste: SC/ST/OBCs etc. Caste identity cannot annihilate the caste which Babasaheb wanted us to work for.
Another identity which is used is that of Constitutional category of SC, ST or OBC by many of our people in social movement. These are constitutional categories created for creating and availing constitutional benefits. These are neutral identities-neither good nor bad. They are not social or cultural identities. They are not what we want to take pride in or become; they are not aspirational. Another problem with these identities is that though they bring together all individual castes or tribes under same umbrella of one category say SC or ST or OBC, they don’t naturally align or unite us with the rest of the population outside that category. There is in fact infighting instigated by ruling (beneficiary) castes to further divide these categories and further divide us in the name of subcategorization for reservation policy. Readers are advised to read or listen to the discussion on the issue of sub-categorization, BAMCEF and Mulnivasi Sangh have organized in the past.
Since major assault on Caste system was led by Untouchables under the leadership of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Gandhi and his Congress Party gave them identity of “Harijan” to counter their rising aspirations and pride. And this not only was not liked by our people but also was strongly opposed. We now find that this identity is hardly used and wherever we find its use, we should strongly oppose it.
One more identity used for SCs is “Dalit”. It was prominently used first time by Babu Jag Jivan Ram who was co-opted by Congress. As per our information, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar never used Dalit name for SCs, he mostly used constitutional names. But this identity of Dalit became very popular during Dalit Panthers Movement due to wide publicity by Brahminical media and academia. People never used this identity in their homes in Maharashtra, State where this identity got its boost. Many of us fell into this trap of taking up this identity which has many limitations in liberating us. It doesn’t give us pride. It is not social or cultural identity. It only describes our status that we are “depressed” “downtrodden” or “broken”. It neither identifies who the oppressor is nor does it connect us with the glory of the past or aspiration about future. Another problem with this identity is that the word Dalit though was intended to be used for all “oppressed” people in India, in popular parlance it is synonymous with SCs and therefore it doesn’t carry the “sameness” with non-Dalit communities. If we have to build larger struggle by all victims of Caste which are about 85% of population, Dalit identity doesn’t serve that purpose. Its only advantage is it is known identity in India and abroad because media and academia picked it up.
Other identities our people in India use are religious identities such as Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, Sikh, Christians etc. SC/ST/OBCs who got converted to Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Sikhism to escape caste based oppression in Hinduism (read Brahminism) like to use these religious identities. There is no problem in using these identities in religious sphere. But when we use religious identity for social or political purpose, it isolates us from other religious groups and it makes us minority. We need to know that population of all non-Hindu religious groups is about 15% and of Hindus is 85%. Pride in religious identity also creates religious polarization which Brahminical forces like and exploit for their socio-political and economic ends. In recent past, such religious polarization between Hindus and Muslims or Hindus and Christians has resulted in the loss of life and property to Muslims and Christians and political and economic gains to “upper” caste Hindus.
Brahminical forces in India and outside, have tried to popularize Hindu identity and created slogans such “say with pride that we are Hindus”. Before 1911 Census they used Aryan identity and took pride in that. They told Europeans that they also belonged to superior race- that is Aryans. (For evidences please read Hindi Booklet “Mulnivasi Bahujan: Siddhant Sankalpana Aur Vyavhar” published by BAMCEF). When they came to know- based on first Caste Based Census in 1911- that Aryans (Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaishyas) are in minority (15% of population) and if universal adult franchise comes to India, they will be routed out of power, they started using and popularising Hindu identity and became “natural” leaders (e.g. priests) of all Hindus who are 85% of population. Thus change of identity from Aryans to Hindus transformed them from a minority to a majority and helped them retain the power and made them prosperous! On the contrary, SC/ST/OBCs (together 85% of population) who took Hindu identity with pride remained powerless and poor. That’s the power of identity. It is worthwhile to mention here that till Aryans started using it, the word ‘Hindu’ was not used with pride and in fact it is a Persian word that means “defeated” as it was given to all those who were defeated by Mohammedans. It is not found in any of the scripture or religious texts of Hindus. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar warns us in “Annihilation of Caste” about the problems with Hindu identity. He writes “the first and foremost thing that must be recognized is that Hindu Society is a myth. The name Hindu is itself a foreign name. It was given by the Mohammedans to the natives for the purpose of distinguishing themselves. It does not occur in any Sanskrit work prior to the Mohammedan invasion. They did not feel the necessity of a common name because they had no conception of their having constituted a community. Hindu society as such does not exist. It is only a collection of castes. Each caste is conscious of its existence. Its survival is the be all and end all of its existence. Castes do not even form a federation. A caste has no feeling that it is affiliated to other castes except when there is a Hindu-Muslim riot. On all other occasions each caste endeavours to segregate itself and to distinguish itself from other castes”. This quotation of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar should wake up all those SC/ST/OBCs who fall in the suicidal trap of Hindu identity and make Aryans as their natural rulers. When we call ourselves ‘Hindu’ and Arya Brahmans also call themselves ‘Hindu’, then how will we be able to distinguish between ideological friends and foes? And without this distinction how will we initiate sincere efforts towards social change?
What is Mulnivasi Bahujan Identity?
Foregoing discussion takes us to the point where we are forced to think of alternative identity. What identity is suitable for all the victims of caste who are 85% of Indian population? What identity we had before Aryans gave us demeaning identities of Caste and Varna? Available archaeological, genetic and literary evidence suggest that before Aryans came, we were original inhabitants of this land who built great Indus Valley Civilization. We were Mulnivasis or indigenous people, whom Iyothee Thass and Periyar called Adi-Dravidians or Dravidians and Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar called Nagas. He talked in his writings about how there were fights between Nagas and Aryans and how Aryans destroyed our culture. Buddha used the term “Bahujan” when he said “Bahujan Hitaya, Bahujan Sukhay”. Buddha knew that we were majority and not happy and prosperous and that’s why he talked about the need for our happiness as against only the happiness and prosperity of minority (Alpajans). In modern period, Rashtrapita Jyotiba Phule used the term “Bahujan” for all victims of caste: Shudras and Ati-Shudras. He talked about unity of Bahujans against Aryans for annihilating the caste and for uprooting the Brahminism. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar also talks about unity of all victims of Caste. In his Lucknow speech on 25th April, 1948 he advised that if SCs and OBCs come together, Brahminical forces can be easily defeated. (For details, readers are advised to read books “Mulnivasi Bahujanvad” and ““Mulnivasi Bahujan: Siddhant Sankalpana Aur Vyavhar” published by BAMCEF)
Founders of BAMCEF picked up the threads from our forefathers and foremothers and decided to establish the identity of Mulnivasi Bahujans. Bahujan word as given by Buddha and Rashtrapita Jyotiba Phule indicates that we are in majority in this country. It gives us confidence about our social and political strength. It makes us reflect on why despite being majority we are poor, powerless and oppressed. The concept of ‘Mulnivasi’ was also given by Rashtrapita Jyotiba Phule. In all his major works he has stressed the fact that Arya Brahmans came from Iran and Shudra-Ati-Shudras are Mulnivasis (original inhabitants) of this country. The word ‘Mulnivasi’ indicates that in this country there are foreigners as well. It is a well-known historical fact that Aryans came from outside in this country. But it is not simply the fact that they came from outside which matters, as there has been a long tradition of people such as Parsis, Greeks, Iranis, Huns, Kushans, Arabs, Portuguese and the British coming and settling here. Most of these settlers have lived peacefully and in brotherhood with the Mulnivasis and those we had complaints against were chased away from this country. Aryans, on the other hand, came here and through conspiracies and betrayal they took away our fundamental rights and treated us in the most inhuman manner. They erased our original identity and gave us identities such as Dasa, Dasyu, Shudra, Achut, Chandala etc. In his book “Who Were Shudras?”Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar establishes how three Varna system was converted into four Varna system and proves that earliest labelled Shudras were Aryans and they were the defeated Aryan Kshatriyas in the war between Aryan Brahmins and Aryan Kshatriyas. Most of these wars took place outside India (in today’s Iran and Central Asia) and before the Aryan invasion of India. After the invasion of India by the Aryans, they brought along with themselves the idea of social hierarchy- the Varna system of structuring the society- and they started calling the treacherously enslaved Mulnivasi Bhahujans, as Shudras. (For details read former National President of BAMCEF, S.F. Gangavane Sahab’s Book in Hindi on Mulnivasi Identity: Answers to Critics published by BAMCEF).
Our original identity was that of Nagas, thus we are Nagwanshi. This is our original identity which was erased by Arya Brahmans. In his book, ‘Untouchables’, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar explains how the fifth category of so-called ‘untouchables’ was created. He says that during the time of Buddha, due to social revolution against Brahminism, Mulnivasis had become Buddhists. Gautam Buddha himself was a Mulnivasi belonging to the Sakya clan (even today this clan is present in UP and Bihar and it belongs to the Backward Classes). Buddha was successful in uniting and organizing Mulnivasis because at that time there was only one group – Shudras. However, Brahmins learnt the lesson from their defeat that social revolution led by Buddha was possible because all Mulnivasis were united. Thus, in order to re-establish the rigid caste system, after the counter-revolution led by Pushyamitra Sunga, the Brahmin, they started dividing Mulnivasis for fear of another revolt.
Arya Brahmins subjected the Shudras to horrific violence and terror. They destroyed many Buddhist Viharas which had become sites for social change. They wrote Manusmirti to codify the caste system and punish those who violate the rules of caste system. Those who surrendered to Brahminical supremacy were allowed to remain Shudras but those who lived outside the villages, refused to surrender and continued to struggle against this Brahminical supremacy were punished by being declared as ‘Ati-Shudra’ or ‘Untouchables’. Those who completely refused to live within the Brahminical system and left this society and went and lived in the forests became Adivasis. During later period, many people among these groups started converting to Islam, Christianity, Sikhism and recently to Buddhism whom we call ‘religiously converted Mulnivasis”. Thus Mulnivasis who were united at one point, became divided into three social groups which can be roughly equated with OBCs (Shudras), SCs (Untouchables) and STs (Adivasis) and numerous religious groups. Thus we find that as we go back into history towards our original identity and culture, divisions disappear and unity emerges.
Therefore, for us to win the ideological battle against Aryans, it is important to revert to our original identity of Mulnivasi because when we don’t know our own identity we can easily become victims of the conspiracies. Mulnivasi identity gives a sense of oneness, fraternity and brotherhood among the masses of this country divided into SC, ST. OBCs and Converted Mulnivasis. It gives us our true and lost Identity back. It reminds us of our ancestors who had established a rich civilization on this earth. It gives us and our people the pride and confidence in being able to rebuild our society on the same principles of equality, liberty, fraternity and justice which have been the principles of Mulnivasi Bahujan Samaj in the past.
It also tells us that there are foreigners still present in our country and that we should be constantly aware and alert about this fact. It reminds us not to leave any scope to our enemies to infiltrate and thereby sabotage our movement. It leaves no scope for our enemies to create any confusion among us.
Concept of Mulnivasi-Bahujan clearly segregates the 15% oppressor rulers against the 85% oppressed. It counters Brahminism and seeks to annihilate the monstrous caste system, the tool used by our enemies to enslave us for thousands of years. (Readers are advised to read former National President of BAMCEF, S.F. Gangavane Sahab’s Hindi Book on Mulnivasi Identity: Answers to Critics published by BAMCEF to get detailed answers to some questions and concerns on the concept of Mulnivasi Bahujans).
So, say with pride that we are Mulnivasis! Jai Bheem Jai Mulnivasi !!!