India's Constitution describes the nation to be a "secular democratic republic" but its principal architect, B R Ambedkar, had claimed Muslims would never think of this country as their motherland.
This claim was made by Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) joint secretary Krishna Gopal on Tuesday. He was delivering a memorial lecture - 'Ambedkar and his multi-dimensional personality and thoughts' - organised by the Ambedkar Chair at the New Delhi-based Indian Institute of Public Administration, and chaired by Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot.
Some of the other claims that Gopal made were: Besides being a champion of the "untouchables", Ambedkar was, first and foremost, a nationalist, a virulent anti-Communist and and had immense faith in Hinduism; he was against Brahminical structures but some of his closest friends were from upper castes, while Brahmins provided him vital help at key moments in his life; he dismissed the historical theory of the Aryan invasion of the Indian subcontinent. He apparently also promised "shuddhikaran" or purification for those Dalits who had converted to Islam in Hyderabad state in 1947-48.
Gopal, along with Suresh "Bhaiyaji" Joshi, is number two in the RSS hierarchy and a possible successor to current chief Mohan Bhagwat.
The effort by the RSS to embrace facets of Ambedkar that show his ideological proximity to 'Hindutva' and the Sangh's core agenda can have far-reaching ramifications for Hindi heartland politics.
At the lecture, Gopal stressed the need for a "holistic" study for "appropriate evaluation" of Ambedkar and his legacy.
The organisers of Tuesday's lecture also circulated a 52-page pamphlet in Hindi - Rashtra Purush Babasaheb Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar - written by Gopal and published by Suruchi Prakashan earlier this month. In it, Gopal elaborates the "deep friendship" of Ambedkar with RSS founder K B Hedgewar, his critique of Muslim appeasement by the Congress, his belief in Akhand Bharat (united India), the "unfairness" of Article 370 that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
In the Preface to his pamphlet, Gopal has described how thousands of RSS-affiliated Sewa Bharati workers were taking the message of social harmony to Dalit hamlets. The RSS and BJP's outreach to the Dalits and disseminating the views of Ambedkar, true or otherwise, could disrupt the painstakingly built Dalit-Muslim equation of the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh.
The Assembly elections for the state are slated for early 2017. Similarly, the campaign will have ramifications for a unified Nitish Kumar-led JD (U) and Lalu Prasad-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) in Bihar with its Dalit, OBCs and Muslim support base in the run up to the elections in late 2015.
At the event, Gopal stressed that Ambedkar led his 500,000 supporters to convert, months before his death in 1956, to Buddhism, a religion with its roots in India, and not Islam or Christianity.
"He was a patriot and remained a Hindu from his birth to death in his world view and philosophy," Gopal said. The RSS leader, however, didn't delve into Ambedkar's demand for a separate electorate for Dalits in 1932 or how he found no publisher for his book on Hinduism.
Gehlot, the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government will allocate Rs 100 crore to build a "grand memorial" to Ambedkar at 26 Alipur Road in New Delhi, where he breathed his last on December 6, 1956. He said the ministry has republished 21 volumes Complete Works of Ambedkar, available for a reasonable Rs 775.
In recent months, the RSS and BJP have marked anniversaries of not only political leaders like Sardar Patel, Mahatma Gandhi, Deendayal Upadhyaya, Jayaprakash Nayaran and others but also of social reformers who hailed from backward castes as Narayana Guru and Ayyankali.