Changing the name of Gurgaon to Gurugram is clearly a decision taken after due deliberation. It is no coincidence that its announcement was timed with the celebrations of Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary.
We are reminded once again of the Mahabharata story based on mythological Guru Dronacharya, who trained the Pandavas and Kuarvas in archery, but had to remain with Kaurvas as he was duty bound when it came to the crunch.
The contestation between the Kauravas and the Pandavas is generally projected as a battle between Dharma and Adharma, but it could well be read as war between majority (Kauravs ) and minority (Pandavs) basically over land rights and political power.
Historically, the Brahmin gurus always stood by the minority that constituted Brahmins and Kshatriyas (not even Vaisyas) in ancient times. The 6th century BC Buddhist literature shows us enough evidence how the Brahmins were against the majority that constituted of Shudras and Vaisyas. India had a massive tribal population at that time, which did not come into the orbit of the caste system. The Brahmins-Kshatriys were against the tribals, whom the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh refers to as Vanavasis, or the forest-dwellers.
The Brahmin gurus worked out the theories with an upside down ideology of Dharma and Adharma as that suited them very well. At that time they approved whatever the minority did as Dharma and whatever the majority did as Adharma based on Varna division.
Eklavya and Karna
Two stories that tell us about the absolute casteist nature of Dronacharya are those of Eklavya and Karna. That Dronacharya asked for tribal Eklavya’s thumb as guru-dakshina, so as to impair his archery skills is too well-known to need recounting. But let’s not forget that he also refused to teach Karna for not being a Kshatriya, insulting him for being a suta-putra or the son of a charioteer and therefore not fit for learning warfare.
In present day terminology, Dronacharya can thus easily be seen as being against the Dalit-Bahujan classes, also known as other backward classes and scheduled castes and scheduled tribes.
If we map the Dronacharya’s cultural ideology on the present social relations it should not allow Narendra Modi to become the prime minister of the country, as he happens to be an OBC. The RSS’s inner ideology is that of Dronacharya but its posture is that it is for all, including Eklavya and Karna.
It should not really be a surprise therefore for Narendra Modi to be saying that he became the prime minister because of BR Ambedkar and the Constitution he gave India. Modi also repeatedly invokes the name of Gautam Buddha, at least in his foreign tours, just as he invokes Ambedkar’s name at home. It should also not be a surprise that no Brahmin or Kshatriya leader from the Bharatiya Janata Party or the RSS takes the names of Buddha and Ambedkar as frequently as Modi does.
Which is what explains the name change. The caste culture works both ways. Just as Modi appealed to the SC/ST/OBCs, Haryana Chief Minister Khattar was brought in to assuage the upper castes, the BJP-RSS’s core constituency. It is meant to be a signal to the old faithful that the core ideology has not changed. In its intent, Khattar’s move in changing the name to Gurugram and invoke Dronacharya is of a piece with the Vande Mataram controversy and Maharashtra’s Brahmin Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ recent pronouncements. “There is still a dispute over saying ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ ,” he was quoted as having said recently. “Those opposed to say it should not have any right to stay in India. Those living here should say ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai”.
These are not accidental pronouncements. The short point is that as the BJP goes about appropriating Dalit icons such as Ambedkar in search of newer vote-banks, it needs to reassure its old and ideological votaries too.
The Brahmin and upper caste intellectuals – be they right wing, left wing or of liberal persuasion – have a tacit understanding of such hegemonic cultural agenda. They have common views about opposite icons like Mahisasur and Dronacharya. This is not a recent phenomenon and was no different under the earlier Congress governments either. Let’s not forget that the top most sports award too is named after Dronacharya.
The problem is that there is no strong Shudra intellectual force that could re-read the Brahmin mythology and fight them back with their own cultural symbols. For example, the Jats in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh did not produce qualitative English educated intellectuals. So is the case with Patels of Gujarat and Gujjars of Rajasthan.
There is some amount of re-reading of the Indian Brahmin mythology from the Dalit point of view because of Ambedkar, but there is no serious re-reading from Shudra point of view. So long as there is no strong Shudra intellectual force in the country, the productive people’s history and narratives will not get their due recognition in the cognitive map of the country.
Till then, the RSS roadmap is clear. Its pracharak chief ministers can be called upon to moderate and balance all the praise showered on Ambedkar in search of newer vote banks. The timing of the re-naming of Gurgaon as Gurugram tells the story more effectively than anything else as it was changed in the midst of the Ambedkar Jayanthi celebrations.
The RSS’s inner soul belongs to Dronacharya – not to Eklavya and Karna. It is delusional therefore to expect any real progress towards an egalitarian nation from a government that is controlled by them. Their idea of sab kaa saath, sab kaa Vikas has to be true to its soul – and pay obeisance to their casteist idols.