Arun Shourie was one of the attendees at the United India rally organized by the Trinamool Congress at Kolkata. The event was also attended by Jignes Mevani, a Dalit ‘leader’ who was allegedly caught on camera inciting caste violence.
The Opposition parties that had gathered at the rally deify B.R. Ambedkar. Especially leaders like Mevani and political parties like the BSP, whose representative was also present, glorify Ambedkar. Among such people, Shourie sticks out like a sore thumb. It is time, perhaps, that we revisit his opinions on Ambedkar and the Opposition parties ought to clarify their stand, do they endorse the opinions of Shourie about their cherished leader?
Shourie’s book, ‘Worshipping False Gods’ created quite the storm when it was released in 1997. In the book, he portrayed Ambedkar as a British stooge who made no significant contribution at all to the Indian independence movement. In fact, he considers it a travesty that Ambedkar is accorded the same level of respect such as Mahatma Gandhi and other valorous freedom fighters.
On the very first page of his book, Shourie writes, “There is not one instance, not one single, solitary instance in which Ambedkar participated in any activity connected with the struggle to free the country. Quite the contrary- at every possible turn he opposed the campaigns of the national movement, at every setback to the movement he was among those cheering for failure.”
He states further on the first page itself, “Thus, while the years culminated in the country’s Independence, in Ambedkar’s case they culminated in his becoming a member of the Viceroy’s Council, that is- to use the current terms- a minister in the British Cabinet in India.”
About Ambedkar’s book, “What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables”, Shourie says, “It is an out and out regurgitation of the things that the British rulers and the missionaries wanted to be said, of the allegations and worse than they had been hurling at our civilization and people.”
Shourie treats Ambedkar with a certain level of contempt. He writes on page 11, “The so-called fight for freedom is nothing but a ‘dishonest agitation’, Ambedkar declares, and it is, therefore, no wonder that the Untouchables, by which, as we shall see, he always meant himself and his band of associates, have refused to take part in it.”
After quoting Ambedkar’s words, Shourie states on page 15, “Ambedkar takes great care to characterize the Indian social system as being nothing but another version of the Nazism of Hitler with which the West had perforce become familiar, and of characterizing those who were fighting for freedom from the British as those who were fighting for the perpetuation of this brand of Nazism at home.”
Throughout the book, Shourie portrays Ambedkar as someone whose focus on identity politics took prominence over Indian struggle for freedom. Shourie reproduces a lot of Ambedkar’s own words where the latter can be seen asserting repeatedly that the Indian struggle for Independence was engineered only by the Upper Castes while the ‘Untouchables’ did not participate in it at all.
Shourie also asserted that if the things that Ambedkar wrote were to be written by anyone else today, “he would be hauled up and prosecuted, for not only is it full of conjured up falsehood about groups and classes, it is nothing but incitement and is calculated to sow enmity between groups.”
On page 18, Shourie says, “His (Ambedkar’s) whole effort is to manufacture reasons to justify opposing that movement and for the pejoratives which he has continually hurled at Gandhiji for twenty years. Far from trying to hide his working for and with the British, those days Ambedkar used to recall these ‘facts’ at every opportunity to convince the British of his loyalty and his continuing usefulness.”
The entire book in an indictment of Ambedkar. In a later chapter, Shourie asserts that Ambedkar was peddling the British agenda of separating the Scheduled Castes from the Hindu fold. He says, “They (SCs) had been targets of Christian missionaries and the British administrators for even longer than the Muslims.” Then, he proceeds to state, “The notion was put out that they were not a part of Hindu society at all, that they could never be a part of it as to exclude them and keep them subjugated was an article of faith with every Hindu.” Later, by producing Ambedkar’s own works, Shourie made the argument that he was peddling exactly this agenda of the British,” Ambedkar insisted that within this agglomeration the Untouchables is a separate element, in particular, they are not a part of Hindu society, and they are separate from it exactly as Muslims are, or Sikhs, Christians and the rest.”
It is quite clear from the book that Shourie has unreserved contempt towards Ambedkar. The entire book is dedicated to destroying the edifice of grandeur that has been accorded to Ambedkar. Under such circumstances, it seems bewildering that he was sharing the stage with an Ambedkarite as radical as Jignesh Mevani. Even more bewildering is the fact that Ambedkar worshipping politicians from Opposition parties which accuse Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who comes from the OBC community, of being ‘Manuvadi’ are hobnobbing with someone who accused their idol of being a British stooge.