DR BR AMBEDKAR
Babasaheb Ambedkar has, undoubtedly, been the central figure in the epistemology of the dalit universe. It is difficult to imagine anything serious or important in their collective life that is totally untouched by Ambedkar. For the dalit masses, he is everything together; a scholar par excellence in the realm of scholarship, a Moses or messiah who led his people out of bondage and ignominy on to the path of pride and a Bodhisattva in the pantheon of Buddhism. He is always bedecked with superlatives, quite like God, whatever may be the context in dalit circles.
It is not difficult to see the reason behind the obeisance and reverence that dalits have for Ambedkar. They see him as one who devoted every moment of his life thinking about and struggling for their emancipation, who took the might of the establishment head on in defence of their cause; who sacrificed all the comforts and conveniences of life that were quite within his reach to be on their side; who conclusively disproved the theory of caste based superiority by rising to be the tallest amongst the tall despite enormous odds and finally as one who held forth the torch to illuminate the path of their future. Few in the history of millenniums of their suffering had so much as looked at them as humans and sympathized with them as fellow beings. He was their own among these few. It was he, who forsook his high pedestal, climbed down to their level, gave them a helping hand and raised them to human stature. It is a commonplace occurrence to see dalits right from the humble landless labourer in villages to the highly placed bureaucrats in corridors of power, emotionally attributing their all to him. They all believe that but for him, they would still be living like their forefathers with spittoons around their necks and broom sticks to their behind.
It is thus natural for dalits to place him at the centre as their beacon and conduct their collective affairs as directed by its beam. This beam, however, is not monochromatic like a laser beam, to use an analogy from physics, but is composed of many light frequencies, the filters for which are controlled not by the masses but by some others. They manipulate this beam as per their desire, sometimes letting some frequencies pass and sometimes some other. They could selectively amplify some part and deamplify the other and present an entirely different spectrum. What reaches the masses, thus, is not the holistic and true picture of ‘Ambedkar’ but its part, sometimes a distorted part, carefully filtered out and amplified by the ‘technicians’. This fragmented and false Ambedkar is what reaches the masses. For them, Ambedkar is no more a historical personality named Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. He is already metamorphosed into a symbol—a symbol for their collective aspiration and an icon for the thesis of their emancipation. Because, for the masses, icons come handy. They are sans complexity of the main body, practical usable artifacts. Iconization of the great heroes and their ideas at the hands of masses is thus inevitable. Human history is replete with such icons; rather it is largely made of them. The dalit politicians who never let the masses see the material aspects of their problems and kept them entangled in the cobweb of emotional issued have, moreover, promoted ionization of Babasaheb Ambedkar.
Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar; chiefly irresponsible for drafting of the Constitution of India and a champion of human rights was born on the 14th April, 1891. After graduating from Elfinstone College, Bombay in 1912, he joined Columbia University, USA where he was awarded PhD. Later, he joined 1 the London School of Economics and obtained a degree of DSc (Economics) and was called to the Bar from Gray’s Inn.
On his return to India in 1923, he founded ‘Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha’ with the main objective of spreading education and improving the economic conditions of the depressed classes. With the slogan of ‘Educate-Agitate-Organize’, the social movement led by Dr. Ambedkar aimed at annihilation of caste and the reconstruction of Indian Society on the basis of equality of human beings.
In 1927, he led the March at Mahad, Maharashtra to establish the rights of the untouchables to taste water from the Public Chawdar Lake, traditionally prohibited to them. This marked the beginning of anti-caste and anti-priest movement. The temple entry movement launched by Dr Ambedkar in 1930 at the Kalaram Temple, Nashik, Maharashtra is another landmark in the struggle for human rights, political and social justice. Dr. Ambedkar held the view that “Only political power cannot be a panacea for the ills of the depressed classes. Their salvation lies in their social elevation”. As a Member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council from July 1942, he was instrumental in bringing about several legislative measures to protect the rights of labourers and workers.
One of the greatest contributions of Dr. Ambedkar was in respect of Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy enshrined in the Constitution of India. The Fundamental Rights provide for freedom, equality, and abolition of untouchability and remedies to ensure the enforcement of rights. The Directive Principles enshrine the broad guiding principles for securing fair distribution of wealth and better living conditions.
On 14th October, 1956, Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism. He continued the crusade for social revolution till the end of his life on the 6th December, 1956. He was honoured with the highest national honour, ‘Bharat Ratna’ in April 1990.
“My final word of advice to you is to educate, agitate, organize and have faith in yourself. When justice is on our side, I don’t see how we can lose our battle. 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 BR Ambedkar