Unparrallel legacy: Dr Ambedkar

07May07

Shashi Tharoor who was Indian nominee for Secretary General post in UN writes exceptionally well on Dr Ambedkar in many of his articles. He is one among few scholars in contemporary India to highlight on how Dr Ambedkar is perfectly suited for an inspirational icon to youth in India and in World. This article accounts Life of Dr Ambedkar and its impact on world society . It was published in Times Of India.
 
It’s always distressing to read of violent incidents surrounding petty attempts to desecrate statues of Dr B R Ambedkar. It happened again last month, around what would have been his 116th birthday. No Indian should tolerate such vile behaviour, least of all when the disrespect is shown to such an extraordinary Indian.

It is difficult today to imagine the scale of what Babasaheb Bhimji Rao Ambedkar accomplished. To be born into an ‘untouchable’ family in 1891, and that too as the 14th and last child of a poor Mahar subedar in an Army cantonment, would normally have guaranteed a life of neglect, poverty and discrimination. Not only did Ambedkar rise above the circumstances of his birth, but he achieved a level of success that would have been spectacular for a child of privilege. One of the first untouchables ever to enter an Indian college, he became a professor (at the prestigious Sydenham College) and a principal (of no less an institution than Bombay’s Government Law College). One of the earliest Indian students in the United States, he earned multiple doctorates from Columbia University and the University of London, in economics, politics and law. An heir to millennia of discrimination, he was admitted to the bar in London and became India’s James Ma-dison as the Chair of the Constitution Drafting Committee. The son of illiterates, he wrote a remarkable number of bo-oks, whose content and range testify to an eclectic mind and a sharp, if provocative, intellect. An insignificant infant scrabbling in the dust of Mhow in 1891 became the first law minister of a free India, in the most impressive Cabinet ever assembled in New Delhi. When he died, aged only 65, he had accumulated a set of distinctions few have matched; only one remained. In belated recognition of that omission, he was conferred posthumously in 1990 the highest award his country has to offer — the Bharat Ratna.

Ambedkar was a self-made man in the profoundest sense of that term. Even his name was his own creation, for he was born a Sakpal, but decided to take a name based on that of his village (Ambavade) as Maharashtrian Brahmins did. (And he married a Brahmin.) He was born a Hindu Mahar, but died a Buddhist, converting with hundreds of thousands of his followers at a public ceremony months before his death. He wore Western suits in rejection of the traditional trappings of a society that had for so long enslaved his people. And he raged against the injustice of social discrimination. Not for him the mealy-mouthed platitudes of the well-meaning: he was prepared to call a spade a bloody shovel, and to do so in print. It was an attitude that Indian society was not prepared for, but at a time when Indians were fighting for their freedom from foreign rule, it was both appropriate and necessary that Indians should fight equally against domestic oppression.

Ambedkar rejected what he saw as the patronising indulgence of the Gandhian approach to untouchability. The Mahtama called them “Harijans” — children of God. Arrant nonsense, said Ambedkar — aren’t we all children of God? He used, instead, Marathi and Hindi words for the ‘excluded’ (Bahishkrit) , the ‘oppressed’ (Dalit) and the ‘silent’. He publicly burned the Manus-mriti, the ancient lawbook of caste Hindus. He was an equal opportunity offender, condem-ning caste-consciousness in the Muslim community with as much vehemence as he savaged the Hindus. Ambedkar was an enemy of cant and superstition, an iconoclast who had contempt for traditions that he felt deserved no sanctity.

It wasn’t easy. As a nationalist, he was sensitive to the charge that he was dividing Indians at a time when they needed to be united against the British. When he demanded separate electorates for his people, Mahatma Gandhi undertook a fast unto death until an unconvinced Ambedkar, fearing mass reprisals if the Mahatma died, caved in. Gandhi, who abhorred untouchability, believed that the answer lay in the social awakening of caste Hindus rather than in building walls of separation. Ambedkar, who lived with the daily reality of caste discrimination, was not convinced that the entrenched practices of traditional Hinduism could ever disappear. In the end, he opted out of the religion altogether, embracing the ethics of equality that Buddhism embodied.

Buddhism also inspired his faith in democracy, which infused his role as the Father of India’s Constitution. Whereas some saw Ambedkar, with his three-piece suit and formal English, as a westernised exponent of Occidental constitutional systems, he was inspired far more by the democratic practices of ancient India, in particular the Buddhist sanghas.

Ambedkar saw in the institutions of Indian democracy that he was helping to create, the best guarantee for the future development and welfare of his own people, the oppressed and marginalised of India. He fought hard to introduce into the Constitution fundamental protections and guarantees of civil liberties for individual citizens. Ambedkar also convinced the Constituent Assembly that it was not enough to abolish untouchability: what was needed to undo millennia of discrimination and exploitation was a system of affirmative action to uplift the oppressed, including reservations of jobs in the civil services, schools and universities.

As a political leader, Ambedkar was better at articulating powerful ideas than in creating the structures to see them through. But the Constitution of which he was the principal author remains the best instrument for pursuing his ideas. The leader and spokesman of a community left his greatest gift to all communities — a legacy that belongs to all of us, and one of which we are yet to prove ourselves wholly worthy.



One Response to “Unparrallel legacy: Dr Ambedkar”


  1. 1 Marxist Adoption of AMBEDKAR Ideology, Mayawati factor against DOLLAR Imperialism, Entrepreneurial GREED and POILA BAISHAKH « Palashbiswaskl’s Weblog

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