Remembering Dr Ambedkar, his Life and the Mission

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Aniruddha Babar, PhD
Department of Political Science
Tetso College

With justice on our side, I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy… For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of the human personality.

– Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, All-India Depressed Classes Conference, 1942
On the morning at around 6.30 a.m, Dr. Ambedkar’s wife Savita Ambedkar got up; when she had a look at the bed she saw Dr. Ambedkar’s leg resting on the cushion as usual.

She soon realized that he had departed. She sent her car for Nanak Chand Rattu (assistant of Dr. Ambedkar) and he came. On his arrival he saw Mrs. Ambedkar collapsed in the sofa crying loudly. Rattu could not bear the thought, and with a trembling voice he exclaimed, “What! Babasaheb has departed this world. Rattu attempted to stimulate heart in the mortal remains by massaging his limbs, moving his arms and leg, pressing upward the diaphragm and putting in his mouth a spoonful of brandy; but they failed to stimulate respiration. He had passed away in sleep. 6th December, 1956 was a day when the Sun of Justice, the modern Moses, the supreme law giver of India, the father of the Mutes and Oppressed of the world finally set on the horizon.

Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was fondly known as ‘messiah’ of the marginalised, discriminated people and also the Father of the Indian Constitution who spent his life with a dream to create a society based on the ideals of Justice, Equality, Liberty and Fraternity. Dr. Ambedkar was a universally acclaimed statesman, eminent jurist, philosopher, anthropologist, historian, orator, writer, economist, scholar and editor, too.

Dr. Ambedkar fought to eradicate the social evils like untouchability and for the rights of the downtrodden untouchables (Dalits&Tribals) and other socially backward classes including women and religious minorities throughout his life. Dr. Ambedkar was appointed as India’s first Law Minister in the Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour in 1990.

In the world the great man first has to be born in the form of the great man and then he has to prove himself the great man by his deeds, enriched personality with virtues, by his great capabilities, strength and character. In accordance with this universal law Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born, on 14th April 1891 at Mahu in Madhya Pradesh of India. Throughout his life Dr Ambedkar challenged the illusions about power and democracy, wealth and violence, Hinduism and tradition, nationalism and justice, and about all that metaphysical cant which blinded and enslave the human mind for thousands of years.

Anniversaries are usually moments of stock taking, assessing achievements and failures that one experiences in life of the departed soul. In the case of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, such an exercise would be both presumptuous and foolish. With many great leaders, we assess how they measure up to standards and ideals of a civilisation. In Ambedkar’s case, the reverse is true. He is the yardstick to which a whole civilisation must measure up. We don’t judge him by our ideals; he should be the ideal by which we judge ourselves. In engaging with Ambedkar, the question is not of assessing him; it is of assessing ourselves, and trying to understand why we continue to avoid confronting his bracing call to justice, his advocacy of reason, the depth of his institutional imagination and the long, lonely battles he fought tirelessly for the survival of humanity and justice. He is the mirror in which we dare not look at ourselves; his presence is a constant reminder of our bad conscience and bad faith. Dr. Ambedkar was a man who saw the tomorrow. His imagination about the future of this nation has become reality.

There have been attempts to confine AMBEDKAR within a limited sphere of caste identity by calling him Dalit Leader. However, the light of the wisdom of Dr. Ambedkar touches every aspect of our life. His influence on the life of a common man cannot be ignored.

He was not just a Dalit leader but an enlightened soul who embraced the whole burning world in his arms. If there was no Dr. Ambedkar, downtrodden people, the untouchables, forest dwelling tribals, women, and minorities forever will be condemned to suffer the wrath of the system that burned the human values and ideals of justice-liberty-equality and fraternity long back. Dr. Ambedkar is considered as the Father of Reservation System, but it is partially true. It was Chhatrapati Shahuji Maharaja of the then Kolhapur (fondly remembered as People’s King) State who coined and implemented the idea of Social Justice through concrete representation of depressed classes (untouchable dalits and tribals) in state services which became a national policy in independent nation when Dr.Ambedkar became the chairperson of Drafting Committee for the Constitution of India. When great leaders of independent India like Mr. Gandhi, Mr. Patel were completely against the reservation policy it was Dr. Ambedkar who fought a lion’s lonely battle and opened the doors to justice which was closed to outcastes-condemned-discriminated people for thousands of years. Dr. Ambedkar was fighting for Special constitutional arrangements in the interests of the tribals of the North-East India to protect their natural sovereignty and independence. He was accused by the fellow members of constituent assembly specifically from Assam for trying to vivisect India by creating constituencies of differences rather than building a nation whose members have equal rights and unifying laws. However, Dr Ambedkar, who was inspired by the spirit of Natural Justice and humanity never surrendered before the established forces of the system and kept fighting his battle for the MUTES. Indian politics, as we know is an aggregate of three things-caste, creed and class, the 3cs-over which the framework of parliamentary democracy is superimposed. The two aspects are highly sensitive towards the permutation-combination of these 3c’s. Among these, caste-based inequality has a major share in keeping India socially and economically backward. These social and economic inequalities are a hindrance in successful working of democracy and in this regard, Ambedkar says that: “There must not be an oppressed class. There must not be a suppressed class. There must not be a class which has got all the privileges and a class which has got all the burdens to carry. Such a thing, such a division, such an organization of a society has within itself the germs of a bloody revolution, perhaps it would be impossible for the democracy to cure them”.

It may be noted that while Mr. Gandhi was forging a nonviolent anticolonial movement, Ambedkar-who often clashed with Gandhi-worked for human rights and the annihilation of caste as essential to what many saw as an otherwise elite-driven nationalism. After years of attempted collaboration with reformist Hindus, including Gandhi, Ambedkar, a member of the Bombay legislature and a leader of the Mahar conference, organized a 1927 satyagraha (meaning, roughly, “truth force”) of thousands to draw water and drink from the Chowdar Tank, a reservoir closed to untouchables despite a 1923 resolution of the Bombay Council. That same year, at the young age of 36 Dr. Ambedkar took the radical symbolic step of publicly burning the Manusmrti, the Brahmanic code of caste duty, which he saw as key to the social, economic, religious, and political oppression of the untouchables.

Dr Ambedkar was a truth-seeker. He wrote closely argued critiques of many Hindu scriptures and epics, evaluating them for their morality, including views on caste and gender. “I have read the Rigveda and the Atharvaveda many times,” he wrote. “But what is there in them about societal and human progress and ethical conduct that is persuasive, this I cannot understand.” Despite the fact that “all scholarship is confined to the Brahmins,” he sharply asked, “Why have the Brahmins not produced a Voltaire?” (Ref: “Towards an aesthetic of dalit literature: history, controversies, and considerations”, by Sharan kumar Limbale, Translated by Alok Mukherjee, Orient Longman, 2004.) In 1935, he proclaimed: “I was born a Hindu; I had no choice. But I will not die a Hindu because I do have a choice.”

Speaking to Christians at Sholapur, Maharashtra in January 1938, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar declared that he could say from his study of comparative religion that only two personalities had been able to captivate him – the Buddha and Christ. He was inspired by the life of Moses too. In 1956 months before his death Dr. Ambedkar led mass of millions of people and embraced Buddhism which according to him was better adapted to modern age than Hinduism. However, his historical conversion may be seen as a Final Cry of Freedom from the chains of social system sanctioned by the Hindu religious scriptures.

Towards the end of his life Dr. Ambedkar lost in painful nostalgia with strange conviction of failure. His secretary, Nanak Chand Rattu, records him as saying, “I have not been able to fulfil my life’s mission. I wanted to see my people as a governing class, sharing political power in terms of equality with other communities. I am now almost crippled and prostrate with illness. Whatever I have been able to achieve is being enjoyed by the educated few, who with their deceitful performance, have proved to be a worthless lot, with no sympathy with their downtrodden brethren.”

Ambedkar died. He was mortal, but not his ideas. As long as injustice and oppression exists, human values are murdered, truth israped Dr.Ambedkar will be remembered in every corner of this world. His life and mission will inspire each and every person who is ‘moved’ by injustice and suffering.