April is celebrated as ‘National Dalit Month’ every year. As the month of April wraps up, lets take a look at the life and ideals of the pioneer of the Dalit Movement in India, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.
Born on 14th April, 1891, in the military cantonment of Mhow, now known as Ambedkar Nagar, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was a jurist and a politician, who raised his voice for the people of India when they needed it the most. As India transitioned from British rule to the Indian rule, the latter was expected to be no less exploitative. Indian society being heavily graded into castes and sub-castes, a system which has and continues to plague the social and political revolutions within the nation, kept a large mass away from any decision-making process. The little of what democracy we have today wouldn’t have been there if not the efforts made by leaders like Ambedkar. Bhimrao was a distinguished scholar, having Bachelors in Arts from University of Mumbai to Doctors of Law from Columbia University, his academic qualifications were unmatched. He was also the first Indian to receive a Doctorate in Economics from abroad.
Ambedkar was appointed as the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee. Although hailed much for the Constitution and his legal expertise by all the sides, the major contributions of Ambedkar weren’t limited to it. He uplifted a section of society, not only by becoming their voice but also left them behind a platform to be able to raise theirs. He managed to introduce several legal reforms, from the ‘Hindu Code Bill’ to minority reservations as we know them today. Reforms that, though ill-implemented, continue to give the marginalized, an opportunity to participate in the democratic process and work towards emancipation from exploitation. He wrote extensively on Caste and amalgamated his thoughts in Annihilation of Caste that still serves as a beginner’s guide to the caste system in the Indian Society and a framework towards abolition of the same. Later in his life, he decided to adopt Buddhism, banishing Hinduism for its hard structured caste system and years of systematic violence on the marginalised masses. At Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur, he along with thousands of Bahujans, publicly converted to Buddhism, shaking the foundations of rigid Hindu society.
A NATION BUILDER
As a visionary, Ambedkar warned the people of what he saw coming as a destruction of basic ideals of democracy in India. In one of his last speeches delivered in the Constituent Assembly, on November 25, 1949, Babasaheb uttered three warnings pertaining to the future of our Constitution and Democracy. The third one, related to the “Hero Worship” needs to be recalled today more than ever. Quoting J.S. Mill who cautioned every person who believed in democratic ideals to “not to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions“, he emphasised the dangers of hero worshipping of political leaders, especially in the case of India. The evil of hero worship has emerged as one of the most ruinous elements in the history of Indian politics. But the bhakti of a political leader when intermixed with bhakti of a religion can result in far worse consequences. The ability of the masses to reason is systematically blurred, and as they fail to question the leader and his intentions, he becomes immune to all criticisms. While those who take a step forward in clearing these clouds are painted as traitors through vicious state propaganda and are silenced using coercion and state machinery. This leads to the destruction of the very idea of Democracy which eventually leads to become a form of Dictatorship, at times an undeclared one.
Ambedkar continues to serve as a source of inspiration for socio-political movements in India despite years of tarnishing and appropriation by different organisations. The path he showed during his life now depends heavily on the youth of the nation. Responsibility also lies upon the Bahujan organisations to chart out according to his teachings, a way to mobilise and strengthen the Bahujan community to fight as one. What is important to see is how his ideals must go hand in hand with other political thoughts, and how the masses of the country, majorly comprising Dalits, will bring what Ambedkar preached as a social revolution prior to the political revolution.
Pearl Sharma is a student pursuing Law from Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies.
Edited by: Nidhi
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of The Jamia Review or its members.