The other day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went all the way to address a rally at the icon’s birth place Mhow in Madhya Pradesh . He said, “This is a matter of our dedication and conviction. We believe that social harmony can be achieved only by following the path shown by Babasaheb. I feel proud to work at the feet of Babasaheb.”
Addressing a gathering in Lucknow, BSP leader and former Chief Minister of our most populous province Uttar Pradesh Mayawati said, “The Bharatiya Janata Party or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ( Modi belongs to it ) can make any Dalit or backward the Prime Minister or Chief Minister but he cannot do anything good for his people... He will always remain a bonded labourer of the BJP or the RSS… This is evident in the government of Narendra Modi who does not tire of saying he is an OBC... Leave alone doing anything for his caste, he has not done anything for tea-sellers though he has had free tea from them.”
In a statement Congress President Sonia Gandhi said, “Dr. Ambedkar’s contribution is spread across every field of national development. His faith in democracy, which he shared with Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and other stalwarts of the freedom movement, is one of his proud legacies to our country.”
I wonder if any such garlanding- praising exercise has not always been aimed just at soliciting the support of the Dalits in our electoral politics. All authentic studies on Ambedkar reveal he had a dream. It was a dream of freedom in real sense of the term; freedom of the masses, not of a few politicians, feudal lords, capitalists and their bureaucratic- intellectual accomplices. In order to realize this dream he advocated the annihilation of castes, one of the chief evils of the Indian Republic.
Ambedkar was also against another evil in our society -- idol worship. In a speech, he said, “ I am no worshipper of idols. I believe in breaking them. I love India more. That is the true faith of a nationalist. The country is greater than the men. The worship of Mr. Gandhi or Mr. Jinnah and service to India are two very different things and may even be contradictory of each other.”
We all know how the status-quoists within all castes and political parties, including even those who once followed Ambedkar , ganged up to sidetrack him in his life time. We all know our politicians have done little ever to practise what he advocated. His central theme ‘annihilation of castes’ has seldom been on the agenda of our politicians . They have all rather chosen to indulge more and more in the politics of caste with a view to manipulating the poll arithmetic and capturing power.
So has been the case with Ambedkar’s aversion to idol worshipping. More and more of our politicians have never followed his path. They have rather preferred to hurt his soul by putting up his statues and garlanding them from time to time.
I wish our politicians would practise Ambedkar’s finer ideals and not worship his statue. He was for a Republic, in which every individual, every citizen, would have development and dignity. I am afraid our politicians have failed him so far. Constitutionally, thanks to Ambedkar and his contemporaries, India today is definitely much better than most of other nations in the world in treating its citizens. But the reality on the ground is not pleasant at all.
The predicament of our masses, tribals, Dalits, women and minorities in particular, is still pitiable. India today tops the world’s hunger list of nations with its 194 million citizens denied of food. The freedom Ambedkar had dreamt all his life is still a far cry. The oppression of the Dalits in general continues.
In his much-reported suicide note the young Dalit doctoral scholar Rohith Vemula lamented : “ I loved people without knowing that people have long since divorced from nature. …. The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind. .. In every field, in studies, in streets, in politics, and in dying and living.”