Midweek Review
Some introspection on future of Buddhism

By Dr. K. Jamanadas
There are some articles appearing in local Ambedkarite Press about the strength of Buddhists in various parts of the country. [Dr. G.K.Dongavgaokar, "Bahujan Nayak", 26.10.2001] Dr. Ambedkar taught us the way of the Buddha to keep away from all misery. He taught us that we all are the descendants of the Nagas, who are now represented by the SC/ST and OBCs of today, and converts from these to other egalitarian faiths. Dr. Ambedkar wished us to achieve political power and wanted to make all India Buddhist. Neither of his two missions seem to have been fulfilled as yet.

According to 1991 census total Indian population was 836 million, out of which 130 million SCs, 60 million STs, and 424 million OBCs. The Buddhists were 0.76% of total population. SCs were 15%. Total population of Buddhists was 6.3 million. There are 25 states and Union Territories where Buddhists are less than 1%, and 16 districts have not a single Buddhist. Maharashtra has 6.39%. Then only the North East (excluding Assam and Nagaland) has an average of about 5% of traditional Buddhist population, Himachal 1.24% - perhaps due to Dalai Lama, top most is Sikkim with 27.18%. Laddhak is not mentioned. The States of Bihar, Rajasthan, Andhra, Tamilnadu, Karnataka, Hariyana, U.P., Gujarat, Kerala, Orrisa, Punjab and surprisingly Nagaland and Assam has negligible population of Buddhists.

Concentrating only on Maharashtra, we find that Mahars are 6.45%, non-Mahar SCs are 4.64% and Registered Buddhists are 6.39% of total population. Nine Districts of Vidarbha and three of Marathwada only have more than average of 6.39%, Akola being highest of 16.79%. Mumbai has highest (557,089) and Nagpur district second highest (493,208) numbers.

The numbers are diminishing from census to census from Nashik, Ahmednagar, Sholapur and Sangali Districts, whereas other western Maharashtra districts dwindle from year to year. We have to find out why. I have a feeling that it is because, many Buddhists register themselves as Hindus for the sake of Reservation facilities. They are de facto Buddhists but de jure Hindus. But the Election commission has already reduced the reserved seats in Parliament and legislatures. As now the Buddhists are getting reservation facilities in services etc. people are registering themselves as Buddhists, so we see dwindling figures.

To create casteless society is the aim

The struggle for destruction of Caste should have to precede the spread of Buddhism, but need not be a precondition. Equitable distribution of land and fast implementation of Land Reforms is the need of the day. The elite rulers know that this will dilute the hegemony of Brahmins, and so such reforms are not implemented by the present rulers for last half a century. Dalits feel and contrast the honesty of the British, who imparted education to lower castes knowing well that this will enable these people to drive them away.

Here comes the necessity of political power. None of your aims can be achieved without political power. The ground has to be prepared by the religious moral thought by the thinkers for a new rule to start, as explained by Dr. Ambedkar. Maurya Dynasty started after the Buddha and Mahavira, Christian states flourished after the teachings of Jesus, Islamic states flourished throughout the world after the Prophet, Shivaji established his kingdom after cultural revolution of Tukaram, and Ranjit Singh established his kingdom after the cultural revolution of the Sikh Gurus.

This is all true. But it is only a half truth. The full truth is that, the religion to spread further, after initial planting of the seeds, requires the support of the State. Buddhism only spread after the efforts of Ashoka, Milinda and Kanishka. Brahmanism flourished after the counter-revolution of Pushyamitra and invasion and destruction of small republics of Nagas by Somudragupta. Islam spread in India not only by the efforts of Sufi saints but also the Sultanate at Delhi helped. Christianity spread in India not only by the Missionaries, who undeniably did a good job, but also by the rule of the Portuguese, the French and the British. Now that the British have left leaving the reigns of power to the Brahmanical Social Order (BSO), the religion of BSO is bound to flourish. But the flourishing of BSO means bringing back the slavery of the masses. That is the reason why RSS is trying to maintain power.

Unity of SC/ST is not enough

The masses comprise of SC/ST/OBC as seen above. The rule of democracy implies rule by majority, with safeguards to minorities. But in India it is other way round, the minority BSO rules and there are some trivial safeguards to the majority Dalitbahujans. If this has to change, there is a need of Unity of all "Natural allies". We ALL have to unite, dissolving our own identity if comes to that. I have written on this time and again. But the stages of unity start from political unity and end in social unity passing through the religious unity. Who are the "natural" allies of SC/STs? The OBCs of course.

Atrocities on Dalits and OBCs

For a Dalit, atrocities are a part of daily life, as Raja Sekhar Vundru, mentions:

"... Atrocities are part of their daily life. For Dalits persecution is as old as Shambuka, denial as old as Eklavya; revolution as old as Buddha; valor as old as Asura; slavery as old as dasyu and untouchability as old as touch. Nevertheless, Manudharma’s tentacles are wide spread and all-compassing." ["The Pioneer", 30 Jan. 2000]

OBCs, except perhaps a few in "creamy layer", are also not immune from it. The fate of MBCs is not much different from that of Dalits. Phoolan Devi, mentioned during one of her TV interviews shown recently after her murder, that every BC woman has to face possibility of rape, every day, when she goes to field to answer call of nature.

Murder, rape, arson are events of every day life for Dalits and BCs. Dr. Tulsiram has observed:

"... The religion based on caste system has annihilated millions of Dalits over the centuries. About three million Dalit women have been raped and around one million Dalits killed from the time of Independence. This is 25 times more than number of soldiers killed during the wars fought after independence. That is why Dalits do not need Aryan culture or Hindu Dharma based on caste any more. ..." [Dr. Tulsiram, "The Pioneer", 30 Jan. 2000]

Caste hatred towards Dr. Ambedkar

Many UCs argue, these days, that all old scriptures are outdated and need not be criticized by opponents. But it must be remembered that the leaders of religion like Heads of Pithas, Mahantas, Shankaracharyas or the leaders of organizations propagating the religion have done nothing to declare that these books are out of date and should not be followed. On the contrary, we find that even personalities like Ambedkar are denigrated on caste basis.

When Dr. Ambedkar was trying for "Hindu Code Bill", which was to remove the injustice on Hindu women, Jereshastri the then Shankaracharya of Sankeswara Pitha, wrote:

"... Milk or Ganga water may be holy, but if it comes through a nallah or a gutter, it can not be considered sacred. Similarly, the ‘Dharmasastra’ howsoever it may be authentic, it can not be considered authentic because it has come from a ‘Mahar’ like Dr. Ambedkar. Ambedkar is a scholar, it is said that his study of scriptures is great, but he is an ’antyaja’ . How can the Ganga of Scriptures coming from the nallah of Ambedkar be holy? It must be discardable like milk coming from the gutter..." [‘ Nav Bharat ’, daily, 21 Jan. 1950, q/b Yashwant Manohar 1999: p.73]

What do OBCs have to say?

It has been repeatedly seen that the atrocities committed on SC/ST/Buddhists are always done by the OBCs, and never directly by the BSO. The hand that throws the burning torches over the huts of Dalits belongs to an OBC but his brain belongs to BSO. This is what all of us, the SCs, STs, and OBCs have to realize. Unless this happens, there can be no unity.

What are the chances of this happening? Contrary to the thinking of some scholars, I feel the chances are very bright these days because of the awakening of OBCs. If the leaders of the Oppressed could force such an unity, the results would be appreciable, otherwise, the OBC, which form the bigger section of the equally oppressed lot, could join hands with the oppressors. In a way, the future of this country depends on OBCs. Post-Mandal Commission OBC is not the same, there is awakening, though may be not enough. Many OBC scholars including A. H. Salunkhe, a prominent OBC thinker and writer of Maharashtra and many of his co-workers are advising the OBCs to realize that OBCs and the Dalits are co- sufferers. They are propagating that Vedic culture came into being after the destruction of Indus Culture. Among those who opposed Vedic culture, prominent was the Buddha and his movement was much more powerful than that of Phule, Shahu and Ambedkar. [‘Prabuddha Bharat’, 30.4.2000]

He also said that, Amartya Sen, the Nobel Laureate, pointed out that the main reason why education did not reach the grass root levels in India was that machinery of education remained in the hands of fistful of priests, as contrasted against in nations like Sri Lanka and others, because they were following Buddhism. [‘Prabuddha Bharat’, 30.4.2000]

Amartya Sen, when questioned by journalists about his preceptor and the father of his ideals on Welfare State, had acknowledged the Buddha as his ‘guru’ and Ashoka as his ideal, a fact which never appeared in any BSO media. [‘Prabuddha Bharat’, 30.4.2000]

Salunkhe explained how Indus Culture was followed by Vedic onslaught, how Buddhism was followed by Counter-revolution by Manu, how Saints and Shivaji was followed by Peshawai and now how after the revolution of Phule, Shahu and Ambedkar we are faced with danger of destruction of this system by Brahmanic counter- revolution by the R.S.S.

If we wish to avert this calamity the Bahujans and Dalits must sort out the points of conflicts and unite, he stressed. [‘Prabuddha Bharat’, 30.4.2000]

Salunkhe urged the OBCs to discard Wamana as an incarnation, and questioned how he can be our ideal instead of Bali. He also opined that OBC youths should reexamine the ‘Gita’, and if it teaches you to follow the duties of ‘Chaturvarnya’, you would be required to throw it away. ‘Gita’ talks of

‘swadharma’, which does not mean Hindu or Islam religion, it means "Chaturvarnya dharma". He asked OBCs to evaluate the history of the Buddha through their own values instead of those of Manu, Shankara or Brahmanic books. He asked them to examine their own religion and ask themselves what exactly, it offers them. It offers nothing but slavery, he stressed. [‘Prabuddha Bharat’, 30.4.2000]

Salunkhe averred that it is a false history, taught to us that Shankara defeated Buddhism, but if he had evolved some strategy and helped its decline, not only for Dalits, but also even for people in grass root level, and for those who call themselves as Kshatriyas and for Marathas and Kunbis and OBCs, it was not a golden day of glory but it is was a moment of pushing them into darkness and slavery.

He advised that the sufferings of Dalits are the sufferings of OBCs, and vice versa . We are not fighting against any caste, not even Brahmins, but against a system of inequality imposed over Dalits and OBCs by the religious books. Some OBCs think they are Kshatriyas, and should side with Brahmins because of our scriptures which condemn the ‘Shudras’ and not the ‘Kshatriyas’. Their mentality is to accept the slavery of Brahmins but not to consider Dalits equal to themselves. But if you see the reality, you would find that not only Ekalavya and Shambuka suffered but also Tukaram, an OBC saint, suffered. For the scriptures, Dalits and OBCs are both ’Shudras’ and both deserve condemnation and are deprived from their rights. Today OBCs are projected as neo- Kshatriyas and made to fight against Muslims and Dalits, but they must not forget that they are being used as tools and will the thrown away after their utility ends. If the merit is important, there is no doubt that Shivaji’s merit as a ‘Kshatriya’ was proved. Why then his coronation was opposed by the Brahmins of Maharashtra. Today Dalits honour Shivaji and Shahu with full reverence, not as a strategy or convenience, but from the bottom of their hearts, then why OBCs should not honour Ambedkar likewise? [‘Prabuddha Bharat’, 30.4.2000]

Similar views were expressed by him later in "First Maratha Sahitya Sammelan" held later at Amravati in Vidarbha. This literary meet of Marathas was highly maligned by Brahmanical press and scholars.

Similar views like Salunkhe are expressed by many OBC workers, institutions, scholars and journals of, for and by the OBCs. If such a time is not considered favorable for unity of the oppressed, there will never be a better period coming. It must be properly realized that the ultimate fate of India depends upon what course of action the OBCs take. The Dalits do not wish to lead a life of Slavery under the Brahmins, and always wished to free themselves from it one way or the other. If the present movement of Ambedkarites for conversion to Buddhism is sabotaged and if it fails, they would find other alternatives, which may not be that palatable to the BSO. It is for the OBCs to decide whether to join Ambedkarite movement against BSO.

OBCs are misled to believe they are rulers

That the political power in Independent democratic India is mostly in the hands of the OBCs, is true, but only technically. OBCs now realize that the real power is evading them. What is the reason? The real reason, in our opinion, is that these people are not concerned with their "Cultural Slavery" under the BSO.

Many examples of Brahmanic hostility towards OBCs can be cited. The Govt. of Maharashtra under Sharad Pawar had declared the ban on certain books which had derogatory remarks about OBCs. But perhaps it was not effected. The then President of Marathi Sahitya Sammelan held at Panaji (Goa) a few years back, Ram Shewalkar, criticized the Maharashtra Govt. for this decision as, he claimed, it was against the "freedom of speech", going out of the way by speaking what was not in the printed speech.

The then Chairman of the Marathi Sanskruti Mandal, a Govt. organization for promotion of literature, criticized that an OBC saint Tukdoji Maharaj, who played a great role during Independence movement, is termed as "Rashtra Sant" , but in his opinion, only a 17th century Brahmin saint Ramdas deserved this appellation. Everybody knows about notorious couplets of Ramdas claiming that though a Brahmin becomes corrupt, he still remains the greatest and is guru of all others.

Not long time back, the word "Kunbi" was shown to have been included in a dictionary mentioned having derogatory meaning, for which the publisher had to apologize.

At all these times, OBCs had protested. Sometimes, in their caste functions, they talk of denouncing the Brahmanic slavery. They talk that Eklavya was deceived by Dronacharya, that killing of Shambuka, who they claim was of ‘Teli’ community, was wrong. But they can not, at least yet, deny the grip of cultural slavery on their minds.
(Continued tomorrow)