As the unquestioned leader of depressed classes and the principal architect of the Indian constitution , the name of Dr. B.R. #Ambedkar will always be remembered in Indian history. His entire life has been a saga of relentless crusade for social justice and a symbol of revolt against all oppressive features of the Hindu society. He was not just a social revolutionary but also a prolific scholar, a lawyer, an economist and a true‘Bharat Ratna’ indeed. He played a vital role in shaping the modern Indian society. Even at the peak of India’s freedom struggle with the British (a struggle of our past and present) , he was fighting for social and economic equality (our future). His own struggle had started the moment he was born in a poor mahar family but as non-violence was to Mahatma Gandhi, education was to #Babasaheb. With his resoluteness and hard work he went up against all odds and became the first person ever from the backward classes of India to earn a law degree and various doctorates from Columbia university and the London school of economics.
” When everyone else was worried about bread ,
he chose pen;
He righteously rose to the position,
apt for extra-ordinary men…”
He firmly believed that “cultivation of mind should be the ultimate aim of human existence”. His endeavor for pursuit of knowledge continued till his last breath. He founded ‘bahishkrit hitkarini sabha’ in 1924 to educate and unite the depressed classes and rouse self consciousness and self respect among them. He started many publications including ‘mooknayak in 1920’ to agitate the people against the oppression, which was the need of the hour. He knew knowledge and unity, strengthened with agitation can bring down anything.
Dr. Ambedkar has left a legacy so rich that it is nearly impossible to match his steps but after more than 66 years of independence the BIG QUESTION is “Are we anywhere near to what Babasaheb set out to achieve ?”. He believed ideas need propagation as much as plants need water to flourish. His garlanded idols have definitely cropped up all over the country but unfortunately his ideas are scarcely witnessed. Parroting his name on politically crucial occasions and social gatherings is not enough but sadly this is where most of his ‘followers’now stop. Times have changed and so should we. The first challenge is to transform and redirect the feeling of raw , stifling anger against the upper castes into intra-community caring and unity. We should come forward and socially help and mentor each other for the betterment of the backward community on the whole . Dalits should realize that government policies and programs and all legal and political protections can only facilitate them but cannot fully change the society on their behalf. They should stand tall and open up new grounds for an innately positive moral and social identity and accept the fact that dalits and non-dalits are here competitors in many ways but are not enemies. Dr. Ambedkar himself drafted the constitution to ensure equality of all citizens and made special provisions to safeguard socially and educationally backward class’s interests but if they cannot help themselves, nobody else can.
Two of the most important contributions of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar have sadly been misconstrued by dalits and non-dalits alike.First was the introduction of positive discrimination of depressed classes. The idea was to break monopoly by proportional representation and bring all backward classes on one platform (SC/ST/OBC) to break the caste system. This step has been criticized and opposed all along but more so in the past few years. Nevertheless, it has survived for so long because it is the least expensive and politically most rewarding of all policy options. However, it is a matter of debate that ‘whether reservations have been successful or not’ but it is a common notion that it has benefited only a small section of the backward classes. It must, however , be admitted that even if this small number can throw up leadership for the community to bargain for the larger interests and help a lot more people around them, the purpose is more or less met. Although more and more people are willing to lend their hand forward, the numbers are still not enough to make an imprint on the larger front or just to shut the opposition. As a result, a lot many of the backward classes are still suffering. Moreover, the over-estimation of the amount and effectiveness of preferential treatment reinforces the notion that enough (too much) is already being done and nothing more is called for. This mindset prevents non-dalits,private sector or even the ‘developed dalits’ to come forward with a small or large contributions. Also, the fact that ‘Dr. Ambedkar professed for pursuit of knowledge his whole life’ has lost place to his contribution tointroduction of reservation policy. People feel more proud of his contribution to the reservation system than his hard work for his own education against all odds, when there was not just ‘no reservation’ but also no place for a so-called untouchable in the whole education system. Many people still rely more on reservation than their own hard work which Babasaheb must have never intended to. The reservation system should compensate for the educational, social and financial background and not for hard work. It will be a tribute to the legend if we can remain true to this simple fact. His another contribution was rejuvenating Buddhism in India. He accepted Buddhism after a lot of research and study with the sole aim of abolishing discrimination against the backward classes. But it is unfortunate to say that this discrimination still exists in India to the extent that it can be seen even among different backward classes clubbed together by Babasaheb himself as ‘SC/ST/OBC’ with the intention of uniting them as one. It is unwise, illogical and unfair to be riding on both the boats simultaneously. Even Buddhism is based on rational thinking and reasoning and is free from any form of discrimination or hatred. But neither Buddha nor Babasaheb is among us anymore and their ideologies are waning very fast or at least being bent for personal or political gains by politicians, communities and even the dalitsthemselves. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has certainly succeeded in bringing about a very evident change in the life style of backward classes and practically influenced every single person belonging to depressed classes or not, in some way or the other but a lot of ground work (primary education, health, unemployment)still needs to be done for the overall development. He has done more than any human could possibly do for the depressed classes and bring them this far. Now it is upon them to rise to the occasion and help him achieve what he has always dreamed of and the mindset of the people certainly needs to change for this to happen and for the greater good of the Indian society as a whole.
Note: The word dalit is not used in any derogatory sense here but to denote all the depressed classes clubbed together.