Saturday, July 3, 2021

Commemorating Ambedkar


Commemorating Ambedkar

Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar, the greatest son of contemporary India,

an economist, constitutional pundit, social reformer and father of the Indian constitution and one of the prominent exponents of the lofty values of ‘Equality, Justice, Liberty and Fraternity’, of late, consciously or otherwise, has increasingly become a personality who is much commemorated and celebrated not only in India but in the world at large. It is a matter of satisfaction and pride. I think soon it will become a sought after subject for the research students and historians and rightly so.

Let it be and allow me to write something on the subject off the cuff to register some of the recent developments in this regard. My immediate provocation is – Bharat Ratan Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Memorial and Cultural Centre to be built in Lucknow of which

President Ram Nath  Kovind at Luchnow Memorial

Mahamahim Rashtrapati Ram Nath Kovind laid the foundation stone on June 28, 2021. It is not surprising and it seems the situation has come full circle. BSP Supremo Mayawati when she was the Chief Minister of UP built and dedicated to the nation “Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sathal” on the banks of the Yamuna in Gautam Budh Nagar (NOIDA) facing the national memorials dedicated to the memory of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Charan Singh, Jagjivan Ram among others. It was criticized as a political move and wastage of public money by many, who cannot see above their noses. Now, slowly but steadily, time has come when almost all political outfits and so called social and cultural organizations like RSS are falling on each other to erect memorials and commemorate icons like Babasaheb Ambedkar. Some of them have even demonstrated their love and liking for Kanshi Ram. Dalit vote bank seems to work for which Ambedkar was instrumental as he introduced “One vote-one value’ to empower the marginalized sections of the society.

It is a fact that Ambedkar, in his life time, never got recognition easily due to historical factors of ‘social inequality’ in the society. But legacy of Ambedkar is so potent that it is difficult to ignore him. Mahatma Gandhi had already realized and accepted this when he said in the mid 1930s ‘You may criticize Ambedkar but cannot ignore him”. Things started changing in the 1980s in the wake of political and social awakening unleashed by the BAMCEF and BSP of Kanshi Ram and resultant economic empowerment brought about by affirmative provisions like reservations in employment etc. Hitherto, dalits were taken for granted by the Congress party. The new players like BSP, Janta Dal and BJP started denting that monopoly. It was natural that it could only be done by owning and appropriating Ambedkar. BJP realized it and exploited the situation deftly. The outcome is visible with BJP ruling with a thumping majority at the Centre and in most of the states. As of now, the position, as stated by the Tribune in its editorial on June 18 is, “It is (BJP), in some ways, India’s biggest Dalit party, with highest number of Dalit parliamentarians in both 2014 and 2019 and a strong vote base among Dalit sub-castes.” Union Minister Ramdas Athawale has termed PM Narendra Modi a “real Ambedkarite” and predicted his return to power in 2024.

With this back ground it is but natural that BJP is leaving no stone unturned in exploiting and appropriating the name and legacy of Babasaheb Ambedkar to its advantage not only by the present dispensation of PM Narendra Modi but earlier too by PM Atal Behari Vajpayee’s government in beginning of the 21st century. PM Modi exactly knew how to encash the Ambedkar cheque at the ‘Vote Bank of dalits when he said, “Son of a poor mother like me hailed from a very backward section of society and could become the prime minister due to Babasaheb Ambedkar.”  The BJP government took major initiatives to commemorate and celebrate Babasaheb Ambedkar ever since it came to power in 2014. Early in 2015, GOI decided to observe the celebrate Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary in April, 2016. The gesture was much appreciated. In April, 2017, GOI announced the roadmap to built and establish ‘Panchatirth” in the memory of the icon, Babasaheb Ambedkar, a thoughtful homage and betting tribute to the leader as per the following details:

Memorial in Mhow in Madhya Pradesh- On April 14, 2016, the Prime Minister paid tribute to Dr. Ambedkar at his birthplace Mhow in Madhya Pradesh and dedicated the Ambedkar Memorial to the nation.The foundation stone for this memorial was laid by the then Chief Minister Sunder Lal Patwa. Today, this monument has become a pilgrimage for people who respect Babasaheb. From here, the Prime Minister gave the clarion call for ‘Gram Uday Se Bharat Uday’. Referring to Babasaheb's thinking and his contribution to the poor, Prime Minister Modi says that there should be a sense of reverence for understanding the principle of Babasaheb.

Memorial at Diksha Sthal at Nagpur, Maharastra- Diksha Sthal, the

At Diksha Bhoomi with BJP leader Rajesh Bagha

site at Nagpur where Babasaheb took Diksha of Buddhism on Octoner 14, 1956, has been accorded the status of A-class tourist destination. This long awaited demand was met with PM Modi’s initiative of marking 125th Jayanti of Babasaheb Ambedkar.

Memorial at Chaitaya Bhoomi at Dadar in Mumbai– The site where Babasaheb Ambedkar was cremated after his nirvana on December, 1956. The site was called Indu Mills in Dadar at Mumbai which was owned by the National Textiles. In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi performed Bhoomi Pujan for the site. The monument, Statue of Equality will be built there to honour the great son of India. Speaking at the occasion,. PM Modi urged to plant trees, each belonging to 40,000 villages of Maharashtra and one tree from all the states of the country.

Ambedkar International Center at Janpath at New Delhi - Ambedkar International Center has been built at Janpath Marg in New Delhi. The place would not only be a touristic attraction but also serve the followers of Babasaheb Ambedkar to come and connect with the ideals and philosophy of Babasageb Ambedkar. While inaugurating the Centre, PM Narendra Modi said,” I sincerely hope that this

PM Narendra Modi at AMIC at Janpth in Delhi

Centre will prove to be a great inspiration for spreading Babasaheb’s teachings” and further said, This centre will also be a platform for the discussion on how to focus on economic and social issues by incorporating the mantra of ‘Sabka Sath Sabka Vikas’ also known as ‘inclusive growth’. This centre will be a think tank for it. Friends, I believe that this Centre will prove to be a boon for the new generation who can come here and understand Babasaheb’s vision.”

Ambedkar Memorial at Alipur Road in Delhi - The memorial was inaugurated on 14 April 2018. The site signifies the fact that Babasaheb Ambedkar lived in bunglow no.26 at Alipur Road in Delhi before his nirvana on December 6, 1956. Prime Minister Narendra Modi while laying the foundation of the memorial and remembering the social, political and economic contributions of Babasaheb said that it would be injustice to limit Babasaheb to a particular class. PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had decided to convert the site into a memorial in honour of Babasaheb.

Chairman of  NSCC Vijay Sampla at London Memorial
Apart from Panchatirth, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Ambedkar Memorial in London on November 14, 2015 where Dr. Ambedkar used to stay while studying in London.  On the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, said that the people of this
world would be drawn to this place to understand India's economic thinking. PM Modi added, “Babasaheb has taught us to work in national and societal interest and when done so, our direction will always be right. That is why he (Ambedkar) continues to be an inspiration even today.

Many of us may or may not know that Ambedkar is increasingly becoming an international icon without any State patronage because of the fact that Ambedkar’s legacy particularly his path-breaking struggle for ‘liberty, justice and equality’ is as potent and relevant today as it was before. It is not just for nothing Ambedkar’s statues, busts and other insignia are coming up in the important capitals and

Statue in Japan

important cities globally namely; UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Hungary, Vietnam, Ghana, South Africa, inter alia. Many of the renowned Schools, Colleges and Universities have already established libraries and chairs in honour of Dr. Ambedkar not only in India but also abroad. More recently, taking cue from the proposal on April 14, birth anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, as International Day of Equality, in April 2020 the City of Burnaby and in April 2021, The Province of British Columbia of Canada proclaimed April 14 as ‘Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Day of Equality’. It is a matter of great satisfaction.

All said and done, let me add a pending and somewhat hitherto sidelined important proposal resting with the Government of India (MEA) since June, 2015. Mahamahim Rashtrapati, Ram Nath Kovind, PM Narendra Modi and PMO, EAM Jaishankar and MEA and other important Ministers like Thawar Chand Gehlot, Ramdas Athawale, Som Parkash and even RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, I believe, are aware of this proposal. We have been reminding, off and on, the MEA/PMO and other decision makers and stake holders on

Ambedkar Jayanti at UN in New York in April, 2016

the proposal. But it is a matter of great dissatisfaction and regret that GOI has not responded to the proposal. PM Narendra Modi has done a lot and rightly so to honour the worthy son of India as narrated above and ‘We the people of India’ are grateful for this. I take this opportunity to remind and urge PM Narendra Modi and the GOI to take the lead, as usual, and make a requisite demarche to the UN at the earliest to get April 14 declared as International Day of Equality at the forthcoming UNGA in September, 2021. The time is of essence. This timely decision will facilitate and strengthen the prophecy made by MOS Ramdas Athawale as quoted in the preceding paragraphs- ‘Union Minister Ramdas Athawale has termed PM Narendra Modi a “real Ambedkarite” and predicted his return to power in 2024.’

We would ignore Ambedkar at our own peril. Ambedkar and his legacy are bound to get stronger and stronger in the years to come. Let me close with a quote from Allama Iqbal:

Uthaye Kuch Waraq Lale Ne, Kuch Nargis Ne, Kuch Gul Ne
Chaman Mein Har Taraf Bikhri Huwi Hai Dastan Meri

Some leaves were picked up by the tulip, some by the narcissus, some by the rose
My story is scattered around everywhere in the garden

Urha Li Qumriyon Ne, Tootiyon Ne, Andleebon Ne
Chaman Walon Ne Mil Kar Loot Li Tarz-e-Faghan Meri

The turtle‐doves, parrots, and nightingales pilfered away
The garden’s denizens jointly robbed away my plaintive way


Post Script: -Unveiling of a Portrait of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and Dedication of the Ambedkar Room at Grays Inn :-

It is matter of great satisfaction that in London a portrait of Babasaheb has been displayed and a room at the Grays Inn has been named as Ambedkar Room just a couple of days ago. Speaking at the occasion Lord Alton of Liverpool said:

“It is remarkable, and highly instructive, just how frequently Dr.B.R. Ambedkar is still referred to during debates in both Houses of Parliament – not least when we have deliberated the rank discrimination still experienced by Dalits and Adivasis, or issues such as modern slavery and human trafficking, and the plight of persecuted minorities.

The story of Dr. Ambedkar’s life represents a route out of enforced misery into to emancipation, justice, and equality.

The life of this extraordinary man continues to offer hope and encouragement to millions of downtrodden people, living on the periphery of society because of caste or stigmatization.

Gray’s Inn’s decision to dedicate a new portrait and room to his memory is a wonderful way of introducing him to generations yet to
Ambedkar Room at Gray's Inn

come and we should also take other opportunities – such as an annual conference, marking Dr.Ambedkar’s birth anniversary, perhaps hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Dalits – to explore the many facets of this wonderful man’s heroic life.”

It may not be out of place to mention that Amedkarites like Ms. Santosh Das, Arun Kumar and their associates under the aegis of Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Associations (FABO) of
UK played a proactive role in the project like Chetna Association of Canada in proclaiming April 14 as ‘Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Day of Equality’ in the city of Burnaby and Province of British Columbia in Canada. I take this opportunity to greet and thank them for this wonderful work in according much deserved recognition to the world icon, Babasaheb Ambedkar. It may also be mentioned that earlier also FABO played an important role in converting the bulging into an Ambedkar Memorial in London where Babasaheb stayed as a student.

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