Mumbai: Prakash Ambedkar, president of the political party Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and a former member of Parliament, shot back into the political mainstream when he became the face of Dalit resistance in Maharashtra in the wake of the Bhima-Koregaon violence near Pune on 1 January. But Ambedkar, the 63-year-old grandson of Dalit icon Bhimrao Ambedkar, is not confining himself to the Dalit constituency. In fact, in an interview at ‘Rajgruha’, the Hindu Colony home in Mumbai which Bhimrao Ambedkar built and lived in back in the 1930s, Prakash Ambedkar said he was “diluting his Dalit agenda to expose the fringe Hindu organizations which have the potential to finish off the mainstream Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) if not reined in and regulated". Edited excerpts:
After the Bhima-Koregaon violence, you have named two organizations—Shiv Pratishthan Hindustan and Samasta Hindu Aaghadi (Front for All Hindus)—and demanded action against them for causing the anti-Dalit violence. What makes you so sure of their involvement?
There is clear evidence on the ground which proves the involvement of these organizations... like the identity of people who came from districts like Sangli, Satara, and Kolhapur, to Bhima-Koregaon, around 1 January. If the investigating agencies connect these dots, it will become obvious that these were the organizations which not only instigated violence but carried it out.
Who are these organisations and where do their supporters come from?
These are fringe and unscrutinized groups. Each state has its own set of such unregulated groups. Within states also, they have their regional pockets of influence. They are not the mainstream organizations which are open to public scrutiny and by their acts and statements they put the RSS in bad light. I have my differences with the RSS but it is a mainstream organization open to public scrutiny by itself or through the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). But these Hindu groups are fringe elements who are trying to take control of the RSS itself or finish it off. This is a battle of supremacy between the mainstream RSS and the Hindutva fringe. The biggest threat to RSS comes from these fringe groups only. They need to be identified, scrutinized, and banned if needed, and their functionaries need to be arrested. Or else they will finish the RSS off.
Why do you think the RSS or the Narendra Modi-led government has not acted against these elements? Does the RSS intend to act at all?
Given the statements made by RSS functionaries post the Bhima-Koregaon violence, I would think that they understand the threat these groups pose. But they cannot probably act now since many of these groups may have integrated with each other or the process of integration may have reached a critical stage. All these years, the RSS was aware that such radical groups are cropping up but it did not act against them because it was not politically rewarding to do so then.
You say you have taken on this role to expose the Hindu fringe across the nation. But aren’t you diluting your Dalit agenda?
Yes I am and there already are grumblings in the Dalit camp about it. But someone has to do this job of exposing this fringe because it threatens the rule of law, democracy, and the Constitution itself. I am diluting my agenda but I am not giving it up.
Are you seeking co-operation from other political parties? The Left parties may have their reservations since this work could be considered a favour to the RSS.
There are several non-political organizations which are helping. I am in talks with the Left also but it has not joined so far.
Do you think the Dalit anger in the last three years has produced a new Dalit leadership?
Yes, but leaders like Jignesh Mevani will succeed if they are able to form an alliance. If they come alone and try to build personal leadership, they will fail because it is this model which has in the past ruptured the non-Congress, non-BJP politics.
Do you see the Dalit anger impacting the upcoming assembly polls in several states?
It will have a huge impact in Karnataka for sure. It is not only about Dalits and there are smaller OBC (Other Backward Classes) groups which are angry. In Karnataka, if Deve Gowda agrees to work with us, there will be a triangular fight—Congress, BJP, and us with the Janata Dal (Secular). But if Deve Gowda wants to go his own way, there will be a quadrangular fight in which we may emerge as not only the kingmaker but even the king ourselves. The impact will be carried on to the 2019 general elections.