Bapu Gandhi, Babasaheb Ambedkar
Investigation of Arun Shourie
Dr. S L Dhani, IAS (Retd)
MA PhD MDPA LL B
Advocate Delhi High Court
Scholar-Administrator, Researcher, Reviewer,
Thinker, Indologists, Critic, Iconoclast. Manvantaracharya
Formerly, Commissioner and Secretary to Haryana Government
The year 1997 has been an important year for India in some respects. For example, it witnessed the celebration of Golden Jubilee of India’s independence and it saw the first Dalit to be elected to the august office of President of India, who is regarded in that position to be the first citizen of the country. Mahatma Gandhi was the first to give the idea of seeing a Dalit occupy the highest office in India
. Thus, the dream of the Mahatma Gandhi also came true in the same year. The same year witnessed the first organised attempt of the Hindu Fundamentalists to denigrate the Mahatma and to glorify his assassin Nathuram Godse, his assassin, for being anti-India and anti-Hindu. The year 1997 also witnessed Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar being vilified by one Arun Shourie, who likes to describe himself to be one of the best investigative journalists. He did it through his book Worshipping False Gods, Ambedkar, and the facts which have been erased. He will be hence forth generally be referred to as Arun Shourie after the first letter of his surname, namely, Shourie.
The independent India came to regard Mahatma Gandhi as the Father the Nation on the ground of his leading India’s struggle for freedom. Similarly, she came to regard Dr. Ambedkar as the Father of the Constitution of India. Arun Shourie has chosen to denigrate Dr. Ambedkar in comparison to Mahatma Gandhi.
Arun Shourie has kept Dr. Ambedkar in the category of false Gods. Dr. Ambedkar’s fault has been shown mainly to be two-fold – (1) being anti-Hindu and bringing shame upon the Hindus (2) being a Gandhi-hater and therefore, opposed to freedom struggle led by the latter. By implication Mahatma Gandhi has been regarded by Arun Shourie to be a true God of Hindu conception and Dr. Ambedkar to be a false god again of Hindu conception. Arun Shourie seems to have been peeved at the greater recognition of Dr. Ambedkar as compared to Mahatma Gandhi.
Both Arun Shourie and Nathuram Godse have come from the same RSS background. One might feel intrigued, on one hand, at killing Mahatma Gandhi by one of them (Nathuram Godse) and, on the other hand, at raising the same Gandhi to the level of true god by another, namely, Arun Shourie. One might get further perplexed at the declaration of Mahatma Gandhi as being anti-Hindu by Godse and as being declared a true God of Hindu perception by Arun Shourie. There are many points of similarities between Nathuram Godse and Arun Shourie, which will be discussed in the book in hand in an independent chapter It would appear therefrom that Arun Shourie seems to suffer from Nathuram Godse Syndrome.
We shall notice that the treatment of Dr. Ambedkar by Arun Shourie has been generally acknowledged to be prejudiced in the reviews of his book and also in numerous rejoinders to his book in question. Arun Shourie is not known to have responded to his criticism through another book. He seems to have ignored the rejoinders for reasons best known to him. In his interview recorded by Pritish Nandy, he had complained of nobody attempting point to point analysis of the charges levelled by him against Dr. Ambedkar.
The book in hand is being devoted, inter alia, to the psychoanalysis of mind of Arun Shourie in relation to his writings against Dr. Ambedkar. It is also going to examine the question whether he was motivated by a desire to live in history by killing the memory of India’s another icon of India, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, in a manner comparable to that of Nathuram Godse. Godse is living in history simply because he killed the most important icon of India, namely, Mahatma Gandhi. So far, Arun Shourie has done nothing, which can make him live in history. Perhaps, he wants to live in history, like Godse, by maligning another icon of modern India, Dr. Ambedkar. What a wish! A wish to occupy a place in history by killing the memory of an icon will certainly qualify one to be suffering from the Nathuram Godse Syndrome.
It is true that Arun Shourie has been a journalist of good standing but that standing alone cannot be deemed to qualify him for a place in history. There are and have been thousands of journalists known for their excellence in the field of journalism but none has been known to have acquired a place in history merely on that account.
Someone had said if you want to live after death do either of the two things:
- Either you write something worth reading;
- ii) Or do something worth writing. Although Arun Shourie has been writing a lot but most of his writing have been of ephemeral nature and mostly meant for the newspapers. Such writings generally become fit to be thrown into a waste-paper basket after a few hours after reaching the hands of a reader. As such, he cannot be expected to live after his death because of his journalistic writings. But, he can be deemed to have performed an important act, though negative in nature, of trying to kill memory of Dr. Ambedkar one of the two icons of Modern India, namely, Bapu Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar.
This action of Arun Shourie is likely to keep him alive as long as the memory of Dr. Ambedkar lasts. The book in hand might be wrongly construed as helping him in accomplishing his objective. But his consequent gain, if at all, can be only in negative terms. It is bound to be so because the book in hand is going, inter alia, to expose his lack of objectivity as also his lack of relevant knowledge about Dr. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi, in whose comparison the former has been mistakenly projected as a false god.
It is also to try to prove that Arun Shourie has been suffering from deep-rooted prejudices not only against Dr. Ambedkar but also against the Dalits, the Muslims and the OBCs and for Mahatma Gandhi and the orthodox Hindus. He does not appear to be a truly theist also (which is supposed to be the sterling quality of an orthodox Hindu), because he cites the example of the unfortunate suffering of his child as being a case against God. It in also going to show that to him, Indian culture means Hindu culture and Indian Society means orthodox Hindu Society, which naturally excludes about 85% population consisting of the Dalits, OBCs and religious minorities.
During 1997, the Dalits were made to taste the organised fury of the Hindu enthusiasts, in relation to Dr. Ambedkar, their Messiah. The former were humiliated by garlanding with shoes, in
, the statues of Dr. Ambedkar, the symbol of the Dalit identity. When the Dalits retaliated through peaceful demonstration, many of them were shot by the police without any warning as per the news paper reports. The Dalits have not only been physically attacked since then, but they have also been subjected to systematic hate campaign
Arun Shourie had formally inaugurated the campaign of vilification by publishing the above-said book against Dr. Ambedkar, Worshipping False Gods…. The book in question was published in 1997 about a month before the day on which the Independent India completed her 50 years of independence. Arun Shourie had admittedly started working on the book more than one and a half year before its release, apparently, in order to cover some political mileage for the BJP, which had been literally out of power till then.
While the writing of the said book of his was in progress, Arun Shourie had been publishing articles being an established journalist, against Dr. Ambedkar, in various papers. He had also been making use of the sympathetic platforms to malign Dr. Ambedkar, a fact that has been unwittingly acknowledged by him in the last two chapters of the book in question, which have been given under the title Invention, intimidation, assault. In one of such meetings, he has admitted, his face was blackened allegedly by some Dalit youth of Pune. He got the book in question reviewed from his friends in public media. Prominent among them were V N Narayanan and Khushwant Singh. Thus, when the celebration of the Independence jubilee started, there was already going on a vilification campaign against Dr. Ambedkar and the Dalits.
Significantly, Babri Masjid was demolished on 6 December, the day on which Dr. Ambedkar had breathed his last. Some time back, the Muslims and Dalits had exhibited a sort of solidarity between themselves. The choice of date of demolition was apparently made to cause a rift between the two communities, since the Dalits also happened to be Hindus, whose orthodox leadership was in the forefront in the matter of demolition of the Masjid.
Another important point to be noted is that those responsible for organising the Jubilee Celebrations did not appear to be keen to ensure the participation of the minorities and the Dalits. Although at the relevant time, it was the Gujral Government of Janata Dal at the Centre, yet it can be assumed that its thinking had come to be identical with that of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar. If so, why? Is it because those running the affairs of the State in India have already started rating India as a Hindu theocratic and autocratic State in spite of the Constitution of India, which favours democracy and a Secular State?
Similarly, have they started treating the minorities and the Dalits as second class or even third class citizens against the spirit of the Constitution of India? If so, the country can be said to be heading for a disaster because of lack of foresight of those who are or have been at the helm of affairs. This is a matter that calls for the serious consideration of all concerned. Dr. Ambedkar had foreseen such a situation and it was therefore, he had said that Indian independence would be disaster. And. Arun Shourie finds fault with Ambedkar for making a prophetic statement.
Failure of Arun Shourie
Arun Shourie had, of course, failed in his book under reference to state as to what he meant by false God or by true God. His political elevation can be misunderstood by the unsuspecting individuals that Dr. Ambedkar was really a false God. This brings us to the question of presenting a new rejoinder to the book of Arun Shourie, Worshipping False Gods, Ambedkar and the facts which have been erased.
Without doubt Arun Shourie and his associates, whosoever they may be, felt greatly angered against Dr. Ambedkar. He has however, suppressed the reason for such anger. They felt angered for the latter’s thread-bare examination and scientific analysis of Hinduism, its philosophy, its scriptures and the total unconcern of the followers thereof over the most demeaning effects of such religion almost on all the sections of Hindu Population, not excluding theBrahmanas even. Further, Arun Shourie has expressed his anger against Dr. Ambedkar but has not given the real reasons therefor but has only tried to side-track the real issue behind the false curtain of nationalism, fight for freedom and the supposed fighters for that supposed freedom.
The exact significance of the real motives of Arun Shourie, the author of the infamous book in question, cannot be appreciated, without taking an account of the well-considered and bold analysis of the Hindu religion etc. successfully endeavoured by Dr. Ambedkar. Any attempt at condemnation of Dr. Ambedkar should have been made only after the detailed analysis of his views expressed by him in print many decades ago, which have gone so far unrebutted by the best of the adherents, leaders, and exponents of Hinduism.
Incidentally, Arun Shourie has wrongly projected Dr. Ambedkar as Gandhi hater and as being opposed to the views and programmes of the latter. In actuality, it was the Mahatma who had volunteered to oppose the views of Dr. Ambedkar. He did so firstly in connection with caste system, immediately after the publication ofThe Annihilation of Caste in 1925. Dr. Ambedkar had condemned the caste system as also the Varna-Vyvastha of Hinduism after thorough analysis, and suggested total reformation of Hinduism for the sake of its survival. Secondly, Mahatma Gandhi opposed Dr. Ambedkar in 1932, by opposing the Communal Award, secured by Dr. Ambedkar after hard labour at the Round Table Conferences. At that time also, it was the Mahatma, who staked his life for the sake of orthodox Hinduism and in a bid to undo the gain secured for the Dalits by Dr. Ambedkar. Even after that the Mahatma went on asserting his support to the Varna-Vyavastha. In the face of all these facts, it would have been better for Arun Shourie to project the Mahatma as being opposed to Dr. Ambedkar.
The fact of Dr. Ambedkar being invited by Jawaharlal Nehru on the suggestion of Mahatma Gandhi to frame the Constitution of India without any preconditions, can be said to be tantamount to the Mahatma’s giving up his opposition of Dr. Ambedkar unconditionally. This aspect has been totally ignored by Arun Shourie while vilifying Dr. Ambedkar.
Naturally, Dr. Ambedkar gained because of his analysis of Hinduism etc. And, Mahatma Gandhi correspondingly lost by sticking to the old and discarded views about the same Hinduism. The Mahatma’s emphasis on swadeshi also received a set back by the ever-increasing emphasis on industrialisation. The Mahatma’s love of village democracy has also been a lost dream. Otherwise also, there has been a constant mobility of population from the rural areas to the urban areas, raising an important question mark on the over all thinking of the Mahatma. Mahatma Gandhi was against all doctors, all lawyers, all courts of law and all kinds of machinery. You cannot find any votaries for that policy in present day India. Still, Arun Shourie has condemned Dr. Ambedkar and eulogised Mahatma Gandhi.
Meanwhile, Arun Shourie has received so many undeserving wages for Ambedkar bashing given to him by his orthodox friends. Moreover, the he has been conferred a strange award, Freedom to Publish Award, obviously created only for him and in connection with the book of vilification against Dr. Ambedkar. The organisation conferring such award has been shown to be that of the Brahmin-Bania combine, which is known as the Federation of Indian Publishers. The hand of Kshatriya castes has also been noted in that award in the light of the fact that I K Gujral, who was the Prime Minister of India at the time of the release of the book in question, was the chief guest on the occasion.
New insight into the history of freedom movement has been provided in the book in hand. It has been specially highlighted that the Congress was never formed with the avowed objective of winning freedom for India. The objective to gain freedom had been announced only in 1929 after 44 years of Congress existence as a body and after 19 years of Mahatma’s return to India from South Africa. The methods adopted for the purpose were not also inducive to making any progress in the declared announcement. From this insight the roles of all concerned, namely, Mahatma Gandhi and his Congress, who had ostensibly carried on the so-called struggle for freedom, The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS, the Communists and the Arya Samajists and even Dr. Ambedkar gets underlined. The book in hand is also going to analyse the roles of Mahatma Gandhi and his Congress, on one hand, and that of Dr. Ambedkar on the other. It has been found that the roles of Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress in the matter of emancipation of the Untouchables had been not at all been impressive.
Another important aspect has been gone into. It pertains to the conditions at the time of formation of the Congress, to the early history of the Congress and the nature of inevitable collaboration between the Caste Hindus on one side and the British rulers on the other. Towards the end, we have examined the nature of true and false gods in order to see how far Arun Shourie was justified in calling Dr. Ambedkar as a false god, and in suggesting that Mahatma Gandhi.
From the beginning it has been made clear that the whole book of Arun Shourie was in the nature of comparing Dr. Ambedkar with Mahatma Gandhi. If so, the better title of the book in question could be Gandhi versus Ambedkar or vice versa.But that title would not have been catchy enough to make Arun Shourie the object of special focus, and an object of special veneration by the Hindu fundamentalists.
The book in hand is, therefore, in addition to being a rejoinder to the book of Arun Shourie, is sought to be an analytical endeavour to measure the personality of Arun Shourie himself. It is going to do so not only in the light of his so-called achievement of vilifying Dr. Ambedkar, but also in that of his claiming to be one of the most decorated persons as a journalist and a writer. In this connection, a questioning finger has been raised about those who have been sponsoring Arun Shourie and unjustifiably conferring such honours on him.
It might be clarified that the book in hand is not meant to cause an offence to Arun Shourie or to his mentors and admirers or to Mahatma Gandhi. All of them had to be unavoidably discussed and analysed for the purpose of logically defending Dr. Ambedkar, who has been maligned on the supposed opposition of theirs by Dr. Ambedkar. Thus, it is meant to inject some sense of rationality among those, who might have been led to erroneously believe that Dr. Ambedkar was as bad a man as wrongly shown by Arun Shourie to be, and to show that there is the other side also of the latter.
Had the work of vilification by Arun Shourie not rewarded him the way it has done, there would not have been a particular need for the book in hand. But now it appears that a great distortion of facts about Dr. Ambedkar and Arun Shourie has become introduced in public mind and life, to which an indirect presumption of truth seems to have come to be unjustifiably attached in view of the wages already earned by Arun Shourie. This distortion deserves to be removed in larger public interest. Hence the book in hand.
The book is going to serve another important purpose. Although, the book on vilification of Dr. Ambedkar resulted in publication of a number of rejoinders thereto, yet none of them could present a point to point rebuttal of the important issues raised by Arun Shourie. They also failed to notice some of glaring shortcomings of his book, which have continued to escape the notice of even those conferring the highest awards on Arun Shourie. This fact had emboldened Arun Shourie to erroneously believe that none could challenge him on his ‘facts’ about or against Ambedkar. This book is going to analyse at least the main charges of Arun Shourie against Dr. Ambedkar to the best of the ability of the author. It is also likely to help Arun Shourie look within and feel sorry for what he has been writing.
Further, the book in hand is going to throw light on the failures of those who organising the Golden Jubilee celebrations to make them appear celebrations by all the elements in Indian population. But the celebrations were made in a manner that they appeared to be not at all pertaining to a national event inviting participation by all sections of society. The organisers acted in a manner that the functions were made to appear as being exclusively of the orthodox Hindus only, to the exclusion of the minorities and the Dalits and even the OBCs.
The earlier book of Arun Shourie, The World of Fatwas, had gone unchallenged. Similarly, Missionaries in India also did not invite any criticism from the concerned quarters, for reasons unknown. This fact must have naturally encouraged him to select the next and the real target in keeping with already determined long-term strategy. It was obviously in this background that he chose to hit Dr. Ambedkar, the Messiah of the Dalits, and through him the Dalits themselves. As such, those books failed to bring the benefits of the type, which have accrued to Arun Shourie on account of the book of vilification against Dr. Ambedkar.
It was only the book against Dr. Ambedkar, which created a furore in some State assemblies and the Parliament as also in the public. But the voice raised in public was mainly from the Dalits only. Some rejoinders had also been published to his book. But they also emanated generally from the Dalit writers. However, because of lack of proper background knowledge or good home work, none of the rejoinders was considered important enough to hit back Arun Shourie, to his own satisfaction.
Hindu Fundamentalists’ Equal Malice Towards Gandhi and Ambedkar
We noted earlier that the year 1997, had been a bad year for both Mahatma Gandhiji and Ambedkar. Their faults had been that both of them emerged as the icons of India to an extent that all others have proved pigmies before them. Both of them have continued to be eyesore for the Hindu fundamentalists from the day IIndia gained independence. Gandhi’s fault was that he wished both the Hindus and Muslims, who had remained in India after the Partition to live like brothers. Since in India, the Muslims were at the receiving end of the retaliatory action of Hindus. He addressed the Hindus to show restraint. Had he been in Pakistan , he would have advised the Muslims on the same lines.
Dr. Ambedkar’s fault consisted in his framing the Constitution of India, in such a manner that it resulted practically in repeal of the Hindu Law of Manu-Smriti. Further, he paved the away for giving equal rights for women and Intermediary castes or the Sudras. He had to resign when he found Nehru opposing his plans to reform Hinduism through Hindu Code Bill. Later on, he left Hinduism and paved the way for a new form of conversion, namely that to Buddhism.
Gandhi and Ambedkar had become the common targets of the Hindu Fundamentalists, in connection with the removal of Untouchability. It is true that Mahatma Gandhi believed only in patchwork in this connection. But the Congressmen all over gave him the greatest credit and the widest publicity in this behalf so that the Congress Party which had been at heart as orthodox as the best of the orthodox Hindus, came to be regarded as an enemy of the latter.
Then, the Mahatma became an icon for Congress and other so-called secularists and Ambedkar became so for all the weaker sections. Combinedly they proved the greatest obstacle in the matter of usurping political power by the fundamentalists.
Under the circumstances, the Hindu fundamentalists decided to snatch Congress icon in the form of Gandhi and Weaker Sections’ icon in the shape of Dr. Ambedkar.
Gandhi was not found entirely useless by the Hindu fundamentalists, since his earlier performance had been on the whole to their own satisfaction. Hence, the Hindu fundamentalists have remained divided over the attitude to him.
The Indian Express of 15 July 1998 published a piece from Anagha Sawant, which was titled Making of the Mahatma. Anagha Sawant suspected therein that the theatre fraternity, in Mumbai, had developed an obsession with the Mahatma. He said, “Of late, Gandhi has ceased to be just a historical figure to them. They have even taken him off his pedestal and abandoned the halo around his neck. And the biggest irony is that in the 50th year of Indian Independence, plays like Chandrakant Kulkarni’s Gandhi Viruddh Gandhi, Chetan Datar’s Gandhi Ambedkar and Vinay Apte’s Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoy have been staged and to full houses.
But strangely enough this has not defiled the Mahatma. His autobiography is reported to have become a best seller after the campaign of his denigration was resumed with the release of and by the brother of his assassin some years back. Anagha Sawant has expressed satisfaction over the fact that the Mahatma has “become a more tangible construct, on one hand, and a less sensitive commodity on the other.” While mentioning the lifelong friction with and understanding of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, he has noted that the Mahatma “is being treated like a man”. He shares the myth with many that the Mahatma roused “a nation into independence without picking up arms is an epic tale that would fascinate theatrewallas anywhere.” He is of the firm view, and rightly so, that “Gandhi will always be relevant. Even after a hundred years.”
It is disclosed that the play Gandhi Viruddh Gandhi, a Marathi play ran packed houses and was later produced in Hindi, Gujrati and English. Lata Narvekar produced the play Gandhi Ambedkar, which was directed by Chetan Datar. The director said, “Gandhi is growing more and more relevant with every passing day, when multinationals have flooded the Indian market.” The three theatre stalwarts chose to focus on three very different aspects of the Mahatma:
”In Gandhi Viruddh…, the audience watched the battle between a son whose father has given birth to a nation and a father who has no time for his own flesh and blood. The same audience watched in wonder Gandhi Ambedkar, where
India’s greatest statesmen took intractable stands. And today, the same audience is trying to understand Godse.”
Anagha Sawant makes a significant observation about the Gandhi assassin: “Nathuram was recognised only because he killed Gandhi. Gandhi is the real hero.” Datar believes that Gandhi “has become an icon like Krishna, relevant for all times and open for interpretations and reinterpretations.” Somehow, he fails to notice that Dr. Ambedkar has become a better reason to become an Icon, since he transformed the lives of 95% population of India, comprising the women, the OBCs and the people who are described by many as Harijans and Girijans.
Although, both Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar are being regarded as the most important icons of modern India, Arun Shourie has mischievously made them stand against each other obviously with a view to cause dissension in Indian society. Considered in the light of the general impression that he is the ideologue of the Sangh Parivar, he must appear insincere either to the Parivar or to the Mahatma. Arun Shourie cannot be both an admirer of the Mahatma and true follower of Sangh Parivar.
Though the year 1997 has seen the denigration of both the icons, of modern India, namely, Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar, yet there has been a difference between their denigration. What is being termed as denigration of the Mahatma is primarily the publicity of the statement of Nathuram Godse before the court of competent jurisdiction in his capacity of being accused of the former’s assassination. Secondly, it is reduction of the said statement into a Marathi play called Mi Nathuram Godse Boltoi. Thirdly, it is the translation of the said play in some other languages.
It has commonly been admitted that the plays in question had been receiving great applause from the street audiences. The said applause has been construed to be the glorification of the assassin, Godse and the condemnation of the Mahatma. The crux of the play is to show Godse to be patriot and a devout Hindu and to project Mahatma Gandhi as being anti-Indian, anti-Hindu and pro-Pakistan and a Pro-Muslim. Godse has been credited to have performed a Hindu religious duty in killing the Mahatma.
Reaction to Denigration of The Mahatma
The reaction to the so-called denigration of the Mahatma has come mainly from the Congress Party and some Gandhian individuals. It has been evidenced in the form of indignation at the attempts to glorify the assassin and denigrate the Father of the Nation. More importantly the reaction has been exhibited in the Parliament and some State legislatures.
Godse is believed to have had RSS background and the then ruling coalition in Maharashtra had shown its state of unconcern about the staging of the play. The Central Government had been apparently advised to take note of the attempts at denigration of the Father of the Nation. It had, accordingly, suggested to the Maharashtra Government to stop the staging of the play.
The Maharashtra Government had deputed someone to report on the matter after seeing the play himself in presence of the media persons. But the angry Congressman had forced the Maharashtra Govt. to stop the staging of the play ever before report of the person appointed thereon after seeing the play. And the matter has seemingly ended there. No academic effort has been known to condemn the playwright or Nathuram Godse on whose statement the play had been based or his brother Gopal Godse, who had acted as Nathuram Godse in the street play. Similarly, none is known to have come forward in defence of Mahatma Gandhi by way of writing a rejoinder to the play in question or to its translations in some other languages.
On the other hand, many Dalit organisations condemned Arun Shourie for leading a vilification Campaign against Dr. Ambedkar. Quite of a few Dalit writers came out with formal condemnation of Arun Shourie and in defence of Dr. Ambedkar. Further, some Dalit youth were known to have blackened the face of Arun Shourie on a stage for his fault of writing against Dr. Ambedkar. But that is no civilised method of expressing dissent.