Today, April 14, we are celebrating the 125th birth anniversary ofBabasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (April 14, 1891 – December 6, 1956), the greatest son of India in the contemporary times. I greet my fellow citizens of India and supporters of democracy, justice, equality, liberty and fraternity, the values which were dear to Babasaheb, in the world at large. It is a matter of gratification to note that not only the government of India but also several other authorities, the world over, including the UN are celebrating and observing the day in one way or the other to pay a fulsome homage to the great man of our times. It has been noted with a lot of satisfaction tha
t in spite of all social odds, political challenges and personal problems which Babasaheb faced throughout his life, his persona received more and more attention and recognition every passing day and more so after his death. By now, it seems, there is hardly anybody in the entire political, social, intellectual and academic circles of not only India but of the world at large who does not hold him in high esteem and recognize him as an intellectual giant, a constitutional expert, an economist, a statesman, a social reformer, a humanist, a spiritual flag bearer of the great Gautam Buddha. Dr. Ambedkar was a unique phenomena and a legendary figure of contemporary times. Mahatma Gandhi who was one of the staunch critics and opponent of Dr.Ambedkar said long back, sometime in the early 1930s, “You may criticize Dr. Ambedkar but you cannot ignore him.” I am sure that the importance, significance and relevance of Dr. Ambedkar are bound to increase in the years to come. What could be a better tribute to the memory of the greatest son of India?
It is a matter of great dismay that Dr. Ambedkar did not get his due in his lifetime either from the political establishment or from the people of India at large. Dr. Ambedkar was a stout critic of the Congress Party and as such PM Jawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues like Babu Jagjivan Ram, D. Sanjivaya, inter alia, saw to it that he was sidelined from the thickness of political and even the social playing field. The upper caste dominated intelligentsia also did not take much notice of him. He was condemned and projected as a defeated leader of a section of the dalit communities as late as the 1970s. But it was not to be. Dr. Ambedkar was an ardent nationalist, an intellectual par excellence, a humanist of the highest order, a spiritual leader of the Buddhist heritage. How can such a personality be ignored for long. The wonders of democracy started getting visible, the edifice of which was set up by Babasaheb himself in the constitution and polity of India. The dalits, the backwards, the neglected and marginalized sections of the society started asserting themselves. The resultant social and economic empowerment of the weaker sections of the society including women changed the political scenario drastically. The relevance of Dr. Ambedkar surfaced and surfaced with such intensity that it became difficult to ignore him anymore. Now the situation has emerged that all political parties are vying among themselves to own the legacy of the greatest son of India. The think tanks and academia not only in India but also abroad has re-evaluated and recognized the sterling role played and the contribution made by Dr. Ambedkar in shaping the constitutional, economic, social and spiritual landscape of India for the benefit of the marginalized humanity the world over. The leading universities and academic institutions including the Columbia University of the US and the Cambridge University of the UK besides the Indian academic outfits have increasingly honoured and recognized, and rightly so, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. The print and electronic media has taken a due notice of him and have come up with special issues and programmes on Dr. Ambedkar. – Der Ayat; Darust Ayat. It is a befitting tribute to the memory of the legendry personality of Dr. Ambedkar.
The successive governments in India, after independence, did not pay much attention to Dr. Ambedkar and willfully kept him on the margins except the fact that he was given an onerous task of making the constitution of India. It was a challenge which he accepted knowing full well that it was not an easy job. In spite of his failing health and several problems created by his political and social adversaries, he did his best and gave us a fine document to run a country full of contradictions, diversity and graded social inequalities. The constitution has stood the test of times over the years since its adoption on January 26, 1950. India is now not only a vibrant and the biggest democracy of the world but also a respected member of the comity of nations. It is a matter of satisfaction that the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkaris being celebrated at the UN in New York with all gusto and sobriety. I am happy to state that, as a humble follower of Babasaheb Ambedkar, I wrote to EAM Sushma Swaraj and PM Narendra Modi in August last year to make a demarche to the UN General Assembly to declare April 14, the birthday of Dr. Ambedkar, as the International Day of Equality. The proposal was duly acknowledged but did not find acceptance. I am confident that the stock of Dr. Ambedkar is bound to rise up and up in the years to come and the suggested honour will be bestowed on him in due course. The sooner the better.
PM Narendra Modi’s government, due to its electoral compulsions, is trying to appropriate the legacy of Dr. Ambedkar. During the year of 125th birth anniversary of the great leader, the government has come out with many projects and memorials to celebrate the greatest son of India. It must be appreciated. But we need not limit ourselves to tokenism alone. The life, mission and legacy of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar should be included appropriately in school and university curriculum for the benefit of the coming generations. The dalit communities consider Dr. Ambedkar next to god. There is no doubt about it. The political and intellectual elite are increasingly accepting and realizing the importance and relevance of Dr. Ambedkar. But I note with regret that the casteist mind set of the upper caste society at large is yet to accept and own him. This is a ground reality which cannot be ignored all together. It will be difficult till the Manuwadi mindset and unequal social order are altered and overthrown. I think it will be done by no one except the larger than life persona of Ambedkar himself, if India has to remain the India visualized by our fore-fathers including Babasaheb Ambedkar himself. The governments, the political parties, the media, the intellectual elite are celebrating Dr. Ambedkar on his 125th birth anniversary but the public participation seems to be limited to dalits alone. Why should it be so? The only answer to this big question which comes to my mind is that it is due to historical reasons of Manuwadi mindset and caste based social order. Dr. Ambedkar himself said that democracy would have no meaning without establishing a casteless society.
The legacy of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is such a potent force that it will take its own care in the years to follow as it has happened so far. The emerging political scenario appears to be of concern and worry. Consciously or otherwise, Lal Salam is getting acquainted with Jai Bheem. If these forces join hands, it will prove to be a force to reckon with. One must not forget that Dr. Ambedkar compared Gautam Buddha and Karl Marx and said their ultimate goal was the same that is removal of ‘Dukkha’and ‘Exploitation’ but the methods suggested and adopted were different. He said that the communist system was based on force and Buddha followed a democratic system and added that ‘Buddha’s method was the safest and soundest’. Over the years, the Marxists, the Communists and other Leftist outfits have adopted democratic and peaceful methods to pursue their agenda to end exploitation. These methods are akin to the Buddhist thinking. In simple words, Lal Salam and Jai Bheem, as recently demonstrated at, inter alia, Hyderabad University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jadhavpur University, may become slogans of the younger generation particularly that of the depressed and suppressed segments of the society. We must understand it to ward of the untoward. We stand by Dr. Ambedkar for a peaceful and democratic revolution.
I conclude this with an important quote from Dr. Ambedkar to rededicate ourselves to the peaceful methods to save our hard earned independence and for further progress and prosperity of India. He said on November 25, 1949 while delivering his last speech in the Constituent Assembly before the Constitution was finally adopted and passed, “If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the grammar of anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.”
A poetic tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar in the words of a renowned poet Gurdas Ram Alam:
ਲੂਹ ਕੇ ਸਿਮਰਿਤੀ ਨਵਾਂ ਵਿਧਾਨ ਲਿਖਯਾ;
ਅੱਗ ਲਾ ਕੇ ਸਾਗਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਪਨਿਆਂ ਤੇ,
ਰਾਸ਼ਤੇ ਹਿੰਦ ਦੇ ਨਵੈ ਉਲੀਕ ਦਿਤੇ;
ਪੈਰ ਫੇਰ ਕੇ ਲੀਹਾਂ ਪੁਰਾਣਿਆ ਤੇ !