Friday, April 17, 2015

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar- Most used but least understood political and social icon of India.

April 14th, 2015 was the 124th birth anniversary of one of the great thinkers of modern India Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, also known as Babasaheb. I don't think I need to introduce him to anyone from India but for others who don't know about him he is considered as a great political and social leader who started awareness campaign and mass movement among suppressed classes of India (mostly dalits) for their equal rights and social upliftment. His contribution towards social upliftment of suppressed class of Indian society which was specially affected because ugly practice of casteism is more than any other leader of his time. His name and image is used by almost all political parties in India for reaping political benefit but hardly they bother to read his books, understand his views and follow his advise. Even political parties who claim to carry on his legacy lack the clarity of thought and level of thinking which he displayed almost six to seven decades back.

Babasaheb was a Maharashtrian and because I was born and went to school in that state I was introduced to this great personality at very early age as there were lessons about him in our school text books. I was impressed by his writings and personality in my teenage years mainly because of rebellious nature of it. He was not scared to take on well established traditions, customs or ideas. He challenged them not just out of emotional rage but he took on each of them rationally, with tremendous logic and by producing lot of evidence to support his argument which a very rate thing today in our political class. Rarely we see such a spirit of scholarship and rational thinking now not only in a political class but across the board. I think he was one of the greatest thinker which India ever produced who was way ahead of his times. But unfortunately his teachings and thoughts didn't get the importance which he deserved in Indian social and political circles, may be because even his so called followers or supporters are not capable or willing to accept many things which he wrote or said. His name and his image is completely reduced to tokenism to show empathy and sympathy towards particular class of Indian society. No doubt that Babasaheb cared a lot about situation of dalits in Indian society, he was damn against casteism and practice of untouchability which was rampant during that time (and still exists in one form or other). He fought really hard for their rights but to brand him only as a dalit leader is gross injustice to intellect and scholarship of this great man. His scholarly work covers various aspects of social and political life, he was very well read and well educated person (not just literate who think that they are educated). One should read his books and articles to understand how well read he was and how much research he did to question many discriminatory practices which were socially accepted back then. Sadly after his death there was big vacuum and there was no capable leader of his caliber to fill that vacuum. Due to this that vacuum was filled by many political parties who claim to be caretakers of suppressed class of Indian society, they used this class as vote bank for years. There is no doubt that policy of reservation and other social welfare schemes has brought some change in social and economical status of these communities but still lot more work needs to be done.

But if you roam around in India, you will see many statues of Dr. Ambedkar, many streets named after him, his name is well known and he is used by all political party to exploit political gains. So he is one of the most use political icon in Indian politics but at the same time he is least understood. When I look at the reason why they ignore his writings or messages, I find it is not because he was not very clear about what he thinks about Hinduism or casteism or what is the role of reservation, but because it is very inconvenient for them to follow his advise and reap political benefits. Even his so called followers don't care to read his books and follow most of the things recommended by him. So it is ironical to see that in spite of being one of the most used political icons on India he is least understood. I hope people who take his name day and night, all political parties who claim to carry on his legacy at least take some serious efforts to read his writings and reflect on them. If they really care about him then they should show courage to discuss all the issues raised by him openly, they should dare to question the things which he dared to question. Many things which he questioned are still in practice, celebrating his birth anniversary is a great thing, tokenism has its own importance in our society and culture but if we really want to honor this great man then we need to discuss and debate all issues which he raised in his books and articles. If we can remove evil of casteism from Indian society then it will be real tribute to this man.

Thanks for reading and please share your views on this topic.

[Copyright : Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing]

Links:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._R._Ambedkar
2. प्राइम टाइम : बाबा साहब अंबेडकर का लोक रूप

2 comments:

  1. In Maharashtra the upper class has made a very clever move. They have deftly presented social reformers like Dr. Ambedkar as a trinity: Phule-Shahu-Ambedkar. Nobody has questioned why these three reformers, in particular, are labelled as separate from the other social reformers like Dhondo Keshav Karve or Gopal Ganesh Agarkar. It is clearly evident that none of these three belonged to the so-called upper class and they have therefore been given a separate label of a trinity. And the media as well as the masses hail the label Phule-Shahu-Ambedkar never realising the hidden segregation behind it. The people never understood that labelling the three as separate from the other reformers is a segregation in itself - a sophisticated form of casteism.

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    1. I completely agree with you, rather I have no hesitation to accept that I myself didn't realized this sophisticated segregation of these three great reformers until you mentioned it here. I agree that this is also a form of casteism and we need to counter it. I am glad that there are people like you who seriously think about these things and raise their voice wherever required. This is very optimistic picture for me. Please keep on sharing your opinions on such matters and speak up wherever you get chance, by asking relevant questions only we can initiate some change.

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