Remembering Dr Ambedkar

Remembering Dr Ambedkar

All of us have heard of Dr Ambedkar-he was a great statesman, a patriot and an untouchable who fought for the rights of his people throughout his life. He was an economist by training (educated in Colombia University and London School of Economics), went on to study law and has written numerous scholarly books(all of them freely available online).

How many of us know that the Reserve Bank Of India formed in 1935 was a result of his ideas presented to the Hilton Young Commission in his book, “The problem of the rupee?”Dr Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize winner in Economics (1998) and Bharat Ratna (1999) had this to say about Dr Ambedkar.

“Ambedkar is my Father in Economics. He is a true celebrated champion of the underprivileged. He deserves more than what he has achieved today. His contribution in the field of economics is marvelous and will be remembered forever..!”

Dr Ambedkar studied law and was the main architect of the Indian Constitution. Osho, the spiritual leader had this to say on Ambedkar-“There was no equal to his intelligence as far as law is concerned – he was a world-famous authority.”

Most of us remember Ambedkar when we talk about patriots like Gandhi, Nehru and Jinnah who fought the British to free our country.Not many of us know that Dr Ambedkar had to fight not only the British but also the same above patriots for the self determination and dignity of his people throughout his life. Let us know what Ambedkar thought of them-

“I am no worshipper of idols. I believe in breaking them. I insist that if I hate Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah—I dislike them, I do not hate them—it is because I love India more. That is the true faith of a nationalist. I have hopes that my countrymen will some day learn that the country is greater than the men, that the worship of Mr. Gandhi or Mr. Jinnah and service to India are two very different things and may even be contradictory of each other.”

All of us remember Ambedkar as a Hindu- an Untouchable no doubt but nevertheless a Hindu. Do we know what he thought of Hinduism? 

“The religion which treats crores of its adherents worse than dogs and criminals and inflictsupon them insufferable disabilities is no religion at all.”

Most of us know that Ambedkar became a Buddhist –he said he had no choice but to be born as a Hindu but he did not want to die a Hindu. How many of us know Ambedkar’s reasons for quitting Hinduism? And the fact that it provoked a spate of mass conversions every year in Nagpur,Maharashtra on 14th October 1956 onwards (an event not given TV coverage like other regular festivals).

“Why do you remain in a religion which does not treat you as human beings? Why do you remain in a religion which prohibits you from entering temples? Why do you remain in a religion which prohibits you from securing drinking water from the public well? Why do you remain in a religion which comes in your way for getting a job? Why do you remain in a religion which insults you at every step? A religion in which man’s human behaviour with man is prohibited, is not religion, but a display of force. A religion which does not recognise a man as man, is not a religion but a disease. A religion in which the touch of animals is permitted, but the touch of human beings is prohibited, is not a religion but a mockery. A religion which precludes some classes from education, forbids them to accumulate wealth and to bear arms, is not a religion but a mockery of human beings. A religion that compels the ignorant to be ignorant, and the poor to be poor, is not a religion but a punishment.”

Today on the 124th birth anniversary of Ambedkar, every ruling class wants to appropriate him. Both the ruling BJP government and the Congress, every regional party is planning year long celebrations in his name.The BJP have drawn up a long list of events for April 14. Modi will lay the foundation stone for the Dr Ambedkar International Centre in the heart of Lutyens Delhi, a project pending for 25 years. The BJP will launch the Samajik Samrasta Abhiyan(Social Equality Campaign). The Maharashtra government is spending crores to buy the house Ambedkar stayed in London. The BJP’s Scheduled Caste Morcha used to organise functions on Ambedkar Jayanti but this time the entire party is celebrating. There is also a number game going on about this being the 125th anniversary as it sounds more important. This is the same party which encourages “ghar wapsi” and bans beef eating! It is now the politically and socially correct thing to remember and praise Ambedkar, wherever your loyalties really lie.

Ambedkar in his writings had a very sharp comment for Journalism -“Journalism in India was once a profession. It has now become a trade. It has no more moral function than the manufacture of soap”

 Kancha Iliah, Dalit activist and writer had this to say about BJP’s grand plans to celebrate Ambedkar’s anniversary-“It is the Sangh’s attempt to consolidate Hinduism. But they cannot get away with distorting his legacy,” he said. “Unlike stone idols, he has left books through which we can verify any claims they make on his beliefs.

Is there any change in the status of the Dalits since our Independence? There is still “a South Africa in every village of India” and in every town and city as the problem lies inside- caste discrimination remains at the centre of our consciousness. If anything there is a change forthe worse. Lot of masks have crept in,in the name of “social equality.” In this climate of confusion the man Ambedkar stands tall in death as in life. Let us recall his advice to his followers-

“Be your own guide. Take refuge in reason. Do not listen to the advice of others. Do not succumb to others. Be truthful. Take refuge in truth. Never surrender to anybody!” If you keep in mind this message of Lord Buddha at this juncture, I am sure your decision will not be wrong. 

– DR.  NJD