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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 19 New Delhi May 2, 2015

Dr Ambedkar’s 125th Birth Anniversary — The Real Tribute

Saturday 2 May 2015, by Rajindar Sachar

All newspapers on April 15, 2015 were full of all parties in the country, though normally at each other’s throat, vying with each other in their full-throated praise for Dr Ambedkar as one of the greatest Indian leaders of the country. The tribute to Dr Ambedkar is fully deserved, but one is sceptical of the genuineness and sincerity of this by most of these parties. Though the average person in the country unhesitatingly and rightly accepts him as the leader in framing our Constitution, all parties—except the Socialist Party of Jaya Prakash Narayan, Dr Lohia—ignored, rather reviled, his contribution.

Dr Ambedkar was a many-faceted personality which is quite rare. His massive treatise on Annihilation of Caste was the subject of ridicule by the RSS, the ancestor of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Even now the Modi Government’s open encouragement of the RSS in its campaign against the minorities, especially Muslims, and their lowly behaviour towards Dalits can never allow them to bask in Dr Ambedkar’s social philosophy.

The Congress Party proclaims that Dr Ambedkar will be remembered as a Congressman — ironically it opposed him in his election to the Lok Sabha in 1954. For the Congress to claim that it made him the Chairperson of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution is factually wrong—it was only on Mahatma Gandhi’s insistence that Dr Ambedkar headed the Drafting Committee. Moreover servility to the concept of a leader, as shown by the awe mysteriously being created on Rahul’s rebirth so as take on the leadership of the Congress, is in the similar vein of a godly saint emerging from his cave of meditation to take on the battle against the demon of all other parties. This servile and undemocratic approach of Bhakti has been condemned by Dr Ambedkar thus: “The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not ‘to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions’.

“There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered lifelong services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish partriot, Daniel O’ Connel, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no women can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But, in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.” (emphasis added)

The Mayawatis, like false followers of Dr Ambedkar, want to deify him and in the bargain hope to conceal their own misdeeds of corruption by trying to instil fear amongst their co-caste-holders and try to mislead them by suggesting that their betrayal of the cause of Dalits should not be exposed for the sake of unity of caste. How cheap.

I am quite worried at a recent trend of debate and discussion in newspapers, TV raising questions about the need for reservation of Dalits and OBCs and even wrongly attributing that Dr Ambedkar was against long-time reservation. To me this thinking is heretically divisive. We must honestly recognise that Dalits have to be brought out of not only the financial but social outcasteism to which they have been condemned for centuries. 

It was only the Socialist Party of Jaya Prakash Narayan and Dr Lohia which found a kindred spirit in Dr Ambedkar’s philosophy as is clear from the writings of Dr Lohia in the fifties where-in he wrote: “The gap between the hundred million Dvijas on the one side, and the two hundred million Dalits on the other is so wide that no political party has as yet undertaken to fill it up. It is futile to talk of revolutionary politics unaccompanied by efforts for social change and conscious effort to bridge the gulf between Dviya leadership and the Dalits.”

In the pursuit of this objective Dr Lohia on behalf of the Socialist Party had correspondence with Dr Ambedkar to work together for this common goal. A meeting was also fixed between the two, but unfortunately Dr Ambedkar died before the meeting could take place. The sorrow of Dr Lohia was expressed in a letter addressed to Socialist leader Madhu Limaye wherein he wrote: “You can well understand my sorrow at Dr Ambedkar’s sudden death. Dr Ambedkar was to me a great man in Indian politics and apart from Gandhiji is as great as the greatest of caste Hindu leaders.” (emphasis added) This fact has always given me solace and confidence that the caste system of Hinduism can one day be destroyed. Dr Lohia had expressed the hope “that the Scheduled Caste Federation Forum of Dr Ambedkar will contribute to have the symbol of Dr Ambedkar for homage and his independence ............. Dr Ambedkar who would be leader of all Indians and not Dalits only.”

The homage paid by the Modi Government and UPA Government is ironic considering its pro-corporate proximity and displacing peasantry to build industrial corridors and purporting to charm the simple public with one lakh crore Bullet train built by Japan—this clearly shows its total insensitivity and reminds one of Marie Antionette’s remarks which led to the French Revolution, namely, “If there is no bread why do not masses eat cakes!”

Let me in this context remind Modi and his admireus of the warning given by Dr Ambedkar on the conclusion of the Constituent Assembly on November 26, 1949: “In politics we will be recognising the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of democracy which this Constituent Assembly has so laboriously built up.”

The best homage to Dr Ambedkar will be to heed solemnly this warning and act accordingly.

The author, a retired Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court, was the Chairperson of the Prime Minister’s high-level Committee on the Status of Muslims and the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing. A former President of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), he is a tireless champion of human rights. He can be contacted at e-mail:

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