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Special Content


Volume-2, 14-20 April, 2018

 

 

DR. BHIM RAO AMBEDKAR : The Great Unifier

14 April : Ambedkar Jayanti

"Democracy is not merely a form of Government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards our fellow men"

-Dr B.R. Ambedkar

"So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by the law is of no avail to you." 

-Dr B.R. Ambedkar

Swadesh Singh

Poised between the new and old, redundant and revolutionary, predictable and unforeseen, a living and dynamic society like India is bound to experience conflict as well as harmony. It negotiates its way through these polarities to move ahead, gradually leaving behind and overcoming problems that had been rooted in the society for years. A serious problem, however, emerges when some of these problems are used by vested interests to create instability that threatens national security and integrity. 

Ambedkar: Inalienable part of our socio-political discourse.

The most remarkable development of recent times has been that Ambedkar is now an inalienable part of our socio-political discourse. India gained political freedom in 1947 and political equality through the Constitution that gave equal voting rights to every adult. It then became imperative to achieve the other objectives enshrined in the Constitution and Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar emerged as an important figure with his repeated emphasis on socio-economic freedom and equality of every citizen. Even during the freedom struggle he said that there would be no meaning of freedom if the depressed classes continued to be exploited.

Ambedkar envisioned a transformative future which India now needs if it truly wants to take a quantum jump to a modern, progressive and developed society.

Recognition to Resources

In India, it is time that resources and values get distributed among all equitably. In recent decades more and more  youths have emerged as graduates who cannot fit into the limited government jobs. At this juncture, entrepreneurship emerges as an option where educated and trained youth, end up as job providers and not job seekers. The Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DICCI) is an initiative in this direction. 

The government led by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi is making all efforts to create an ecosystem for entrepreneurship.  Stand up India, Venture capital fund for Scheduled Castes and MUDRA are a few of the schemes that have benefitted the weaker sections of the society in recent years. 

Dr. BR Ambedkar becomes all the more relevant in these times.

Caste-less Society

Ambedkar dreamt of a caste-less society. It requires us to think, with all honesty, about the pending caste questions and come up with a time-bound framework for a qualitative transformation of our society as a whole. The quality of our growth depends on social cohesiveness. 

Integrating India

Ambedkar’s thoughts were a great unifier. He always thought about the unity and integrity of this country. First as a freedom fighter and later as constitution framer he tried to unite the country in every possible way. He was of the view that caste is the greatest hurdle in the unity and prosperity of this civilisation.

During the freedom struggle he worked for the downtrodden and depressed classes of the society. He talked about freedom of India from social inequality and untouchability. Dr. Ambedkar became the voice of those  who were a part of the deprived sections known as Scheduled Castes. Without their emancipation, Indian freedom struggle could not be deemed to be complete. The Indian national struggle in the first half of the century was not merely a struggle to wrest political power from foreign rule but also a struggle to lay the foundation of a modern India by purging the society of outmoded social institutions, beliefs and attitudes. Ambedkar's struggle constituted a part of the internal struggle, one of the divergent and sometimes conflicting currents all of which helped to secure 'freedom' from external and internal oppression and enslavement. The process of internal consolidation of  the nation strengthened and broadened the social base of Indian nationalism.

Socio-political Unity

Ambedkar had immense faith in the bright future and evolution of this country. He took up the caste question by linking the social question of caste with the political question of democracy and nationalism. Such an effort to prioritise society over polity and then linking them together was unprecedented in India.  According to Ambedkar, ‘Without social union, political unity is difficult to be achieved. If achieved, it would be as precarious as a summer sapling, liable to be uprooted by the gust of a hostile wind. With mere political unity, India may be a State. But to be a State is not to be a nation and a State, which is not a nation, has small prospects of survival in the struggle for existence.’

Ambedkar's Faith in 'Bharat'

Ambedkar had faith in ancient Indian institutions and texts except caste. He was convinced with the spiritual aspect of Indian texts and codes but not with its ritualistic aspects which had developed in last 1200 years. He talked about annihilation of Caste and not Dharma. He understood the importance of Dharma in India and when the time of conversion came as he had declared earlier, he chose Buddhism.

Dr. Ambedkar pointed out that historic roots of democracy in India go back to pre-Buddhist India. A study of the Buddhist Bhikshu Sanghas discloses that the Sanghas were nothing but Parliaments and knew all the rules of Parliamentary procedure known to modern times. Although these rules of Parliamentary procedure were applied by the Buddha to the meetings of the Sanghas, he must have borrowed them from the rules of the political assemblies functioning in the country in his time.

Dr. Ambedkar emphasized that Hindus need not 'borrow from foreign sources' concepts to build a society on the principles of equality, fraternity  and liberty. They 'could draw for  such principles on the Upanishads.' Even in riddles in Hinduism, he points out that Hinduism has the potential to become the spiritual basis of social democracy.

Uniting State through Constitution

Ambedkar was the author who made  'Directive Principles' as part of the constitutional scheme. When it was criticized that the directive principles could not be enforced in a court of law, Ambedkar answered that though they were not enforceable, the succeeding majority political party in Parliament or Legislative Assembly would be bound by them as an inbuilt part of their economic program in the governance, despite their policy in its manifesto and are bound by the Constitution.

Ambedkar made it a point to add the word 'fraternity' in the Preamble to the Constitution in order to inculcate the sense of common brotherhood of all Indians, of Indians being one people; it is the principle which gives unity and solidarity to social life.

Dr. Ambedkar in his very first speech in the Constituent Assembly on 17 December 1946 had emphasised the need to create a strong Centre in order to ensure that India's freedom was not jeopardised as had happened in the past on account of a weak central administration. His view was hailed by the Assembly and later came to be reflected in the Emergency Provisions of the Constitution. Undoubtedly the states are sovereign in normal times but by virtue of these provisions, the Centre becomes all-powerful and assumes control over all affairs of the nation whenever a situation arises which poses a danger to the security of the state.

There is no doubt that Ambedkar was vehemently opposed to the unjust social stratification in India. He was a national leader who understood the problems of the most exploited communities and tried to bring them into the mainstream. He expanded the social base of Indian nationalism which helped first to attain freedom and later to put the country on path of progress. Today, when all thought converges around inclusive politics, Ambedkar has become more relevant than ever.

(The Author teaches Political Science in Satyawati College, Delhi University; E: mail-  swadesh171@gmail.com)

(Views expressed are personal.)