NEW DELHI: “Wash yourself, be clean” Dalits were told as the administration handed out shampoo and bars of soap to the 100-odd Musahar Dalit families of Mainpur Deenapatti village in Kushinagar district a day before Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was to visit them. The Citizen spoke to Dalit scholar, politicial scientist Kancha Ilaiah about this bar of soap, and what it symbolises. This is what he had to say:

The entire ruling leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party is trying hard to co-opt the Dalits and the Other Backward Castes, into the party and as a vote bank. But they are finding it difficult to get away from the RSS indoctrination, their historical training that Dalits are unclean, they eat meat and hence are unclean from the inside as well.

This ‘uncleanliness’ is playing out now. RSS is a vegetarian organisation. Dalits and OBCs are purely meat eaters. The Hindutva brigade is finding it difficult, impossible to accept this because of their indoctrination. They see the Dalits as unclean on the outside, but also from the inside because they eat meat. We are now seeing this historical brainwashing of centuries playing itself out.

Adityanath is a Kshatriya in this new sanyasi mode. Historically Kashatriyas were Kings but also sanyasis, or Ministers in the Kingdom and sanyasis. In this mode they were coopted into Brahminism. Adityanath is not from the RSS but he is in a good place because he follows the same pattern of food, culture, thinking. He has been coopted. You might recall that in the same Uttar Pradesh there was also another Kshatriya V.P.Singh (former Prime Minister) who was totally opposed to the RSS, was not part of that structure, and brought in Mandal for the empowerment of the OBCs and others. This Chief Minister is part of the larger ideological framework of the RSS even if he is not directly from the organisation.

So what is the signal he is sending out with this soap? That the Dalits are unclean, they must bathe and cleanse themselves before they meet him. To me Adityanath looks as if he needs a wash. Pandas in the temples are not necessarily clean and washed. But it is assumed that they are clean, whereas the Shudras and their bodies are always made out to be unclean. So the bath with the shampoo and soap establishes a ritual set now by the Chief Minister of UP, a chief ministerial ritual for the Dalits as it were.

You know that he does not allow Dalits into his Gorakhpur matt. He does not speak to them there, they have no access to his temple.

The soap thus is one part of the ritual, to clean the Shudra body from the outside.

The second part of the larger ritual being implemented these days is of vegetarianism. This is now the Indian nationalist food. It is not just beef, but fish and mutton and other meats being projected as non-Hindu, non-spiritual, non-national fare. The effort is to push the nation towards vegetarianism. And this impacts on the Dalits even more than the Muslims. Muslims mostly live in urban areas, the Dalits reside in rural areas and have no access to vegetables. So they survive by eating different kinds of meat.

Adiytanath and Shudras/Dalits are ritualistic enemies. And the soap is ritualistic purification of the unclean Dalit, a moral and spiritual humiliation. Most of the BJP controlled states are now being run by a triumvirate of Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Banias. But the Dalits and OBCs have not realised this yet.