Today is the day India celebrates the 125th Birth Anniversary of The Great B R Ambedkar – Babasaheb !! The legacy that he left behind still continues to guide and steer the political discussion across the spectrum. I wouldn’t delve too much in his achievements as Wikipedia will provide enough of that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._R._Ambedkar . This is about my idea and notions on Him as felt and experienced over the past decades.
Coming from a privileged background and with little awareness about the depravity faced by the millions of fellow citizens my world view and especially that on Babasaheb was eschewed and flawed and having studied in an English Medium Premium Boarding school of India my interactions certainly didn’t help my case. The first time I heard or at least became aware of his legacy was during the Mandal Agitation when schools were closed, students immolated themselves protesting against the implementation of the recommendations of the commission. The sympathies lay with the protesting students and against the reservations.
Luckily for me since, childhood our family didn’t make too much of an issue of the caste or creed that we belonged to, we were proud practising Hindus and that is it. The further breakups of the caste in the four Varnas were bought to the fore only when we studied history in school. Moreover the reading of Arun Shourie’s book Worshipping False Gods in later years further reinforced my opinion on Babasaheb. It was only during my college years in Mumbai in the Nineties that I saw the way people revered him and placed him on the same pedestal as God. Later interactions and reading did help in clearing most of my false notions and face up to reality about the magnitude and life changing body of work for underprivileged sections of the society. The respect grew multifolds when I read some of his arguments made in the Constituent Assembly where our Constitution was being deliberated upon.
I wouldn’t go into the merits of the reservations that he strongly espoused because that has been covered in my earlier blog I support The Reservations !!. I only wish to see that the political class especially the one using his legacy and imagery do not deviate from his ideals and his name is not used to fill their own coffers.
The Dalits whose rights he championed constitute nearly one fifth of the Indian Population as per the 2011 Census against whom in spite of the safeguards crime is committed every 8 minutes with an abysmal conviction rate of mere 5.3 %. In spite of the reservations and educational facilities the dropout rate in higher classes is a whopping 50.1 %. The Government has done quite a bit for them but all this isn’t helpful unless we remove the biases from within. We have miles to go before we achieve what we set out for.
An incident that i have personally faced in not so distant past is about my Friend and political activist Late Dinesh Tarwadi who belonged to the Valmiki Community. He went on to receive a Political posting with a rank of a minister in Govt of Rajasthan. We used to go on political tours together and attend meetings and eat together. I was told by some of my political well wishers not to roam around with him due to his castes, well luckily for me I was beyond this kind of nonsense and paid no heed to them. The friendship was however sadly cut short by his untimely death.
The real celebrations of Babasaheb will only be possible when the biases are removed from both the sides. As he said “Caste has killed Public Spirit. Caste has destroyed the sense of Public Charity. Caste has made Public Opinion impossible. Virtue has become Caste-Ridden and Morality has become Caste Bound.”