Monday, 12 August 2013

2013-07-06 Ambedkar Memorial Lecture

Ambedkar Memorial Lecture, Trivandrum – 6.7.2013. 
Ambedkarism - Relevance and Application
          The multi-faceted contribution of Dr. Bhim Rao Ramji Ambedkar (14.4.1891 to 6.12.1956) towards enlightenment and emancipation of India’s historically depressed people and for conception, configuration and creation of the Constitution of  India will be an ever green spring of inspiration to all Indians of present times and future.  Endowed with high qualities of head and heart,  Ambedkar had toiled throughout his life to acquire knowledge, wisdom and skill and for their application for liberating deprived and oppressed segments in Indian society,  through multiple political and socio-religious projects.  The quintessence of the teachings of Lord Buddha, ideals of Saint Reformers of the Bhakti movement, the philosophy of Mahatma Jyotiba Phooley and thrust of Modern Indian Renaissance   heralded by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, were selectively internalised by him and utilised for drawing a road map for India’s emergence as a modern democratic nation.  Devoid of self centered political careerism, taste for power, luxury, affluence and personal comfort, Ambedkar had relentlessly endeavored to disenthrall oppressed sections of Indian society, enslaved by upper castes through pseudo - religious customs and conventions of inferiority and beggar (prohibited under Article 23 of Indian Constitution), to a world of liberty and dignity. 
          Salient features of Ambedkarism can be culled out from his extensive writings and speeches.  Works of Ambedkar which have to be compulsorily read include.  
1.       Annihilation of caste.
2.       Buddha and his Dharma
3.       The rise and fall of Hindu Women. 
4.       Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah
5.       States and Minorities
6.       Who were the Shudras
7.       Riddles of Hinduism.
8.       The Untouchables
9.       What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables.
10.     The revolution and counter revolutions in India.
11.     Buddha and Karl Marx.
12.     Speeches in the Constituent Assembly.    
A short bio sketch of  Ambedkar is relevant. 
          He was born in the military cantonment of Mhow in Central Provinces of British India, modern Madhya Pradesh, as the 14th child of Ramji Maloji Sakpal - serving the British army and Bhimabai.  The family was from Ratnagiri District of present Maharashtra and belonged to “the untouchable, unapproachable and unseeable”  caste  of Mahars.  His father was keen on educating his children and follower of Kabirpath.  He often recited Kabir’s couplet  “Jat Pant Puchhe na Koi /Har Ko Baja  so Harka Hoe.”   Meaning:  “Don’t ask about caste, creed;  anybody who worshipped God belonged to God”.  Ambedkar had experienced rigours of untouchability from school days.   He studied in Government School in Mhow and Elphinstone High School in Bombay.  In 1912 he obtained B.A. degree in Economics from Bombay University and moved to Baroda for employment.  From 1913 to 1916 with scholarship from Baroda Maharaja - Sayaji Rao Gaykward he pursued further studies in Columbia University of America and obtained M.A. degree in Economics with Sociology, History, Anthropology and Philosophy as additional subjects.  Later he secured Barrister degree and Doctorate from London.
          In 1919 he argued for creating separate electorate and reservation for untouchables before the Committee drafting the Government of India Act 1919.  In 1920 he began the publication of a weekly - Mooknayak (Leader of the silent) in Bombay with the help of Chhatrapati Shahuji, Maharaj (1884 - 1922) the King of Kolhapur for educating the depressed sections about modern political ideas and getting them organised for non violent action. 
          In 1924, the Association for the welfare of the ostracised  - Baheshkrit Hitakari Sabha - was established for promoting  socio economic advancement of under privileged people. 
          He launched active demonstrative movements for achieving the rights of Dalits to draw water from public wells in Mahad  and temple entry in Nagpur in 1927 - 31. 
          In 1932, besides submitting his recommendations for future Constitution of India, he pressed for separate electorate for untouchables in the Second Round Table Conference in London.  This led to vehement opposition from Mahatma Gandhi,  who started fast  unto death, against Ambedkar’s proposal.  For avoiding a violent confrontation between caste groups,   Ambedkar had withdrawn his demand for separate electorate and reconciled for reservation of seats in the Legislature and govt, services.  Upendra Baxi, jurist, in his book- ‘Emancipation to justice’, observed.  “Gandhi gambled on Ambedkar’s self restraint and won “.  Reconciliation between these two leaders was codified as Poona Pact of 1932, and senior caste Hindu leaders also signed it.   C. Rajagopalachari, the                                        later Governor General of India,   was so overjoyed about that he exchanged his pen with  Ambedkar.  
          Realising the urgency for securing rights for workers through political action free from violent communist methodology,  he founded Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1936.  Later in 1942 he organised a broad Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF).   But both these parties could not perform well in the elections due to inadequacy of resources and organisational problems. 
          With the advent of freedom he was made Union Law Minister in August 1947, by Nehru govt. Later he was appointed as Chairman of Constitution Drafting Committee.
          In 1951 he resigned from Union Cabinet as his draft Hindu Code Bill was not supported by many in the Central Government.  ]
          In 1952 he was elected to Rajya Sabha and he continued as member of Upper House till his death in 1956. 
          Having realised that Hindu society is not sincere in giving due respect and dignity to the depressed classes he along with 1.5 lakhs  followers had  converted to Buddhism in Nagpur on Oct. 14, 1956.  This great patriot  and liberator of the downtrodden  breathed his last  on 6 Dec. 1956.  Estimate of Ambedkar by the author of his most widely read biography,  Dr. Ambedkar - Life and Mission: -  Dhanajay keer  (Sangam books) is quite inspiring.  He wrote in  the preface of the book “Ambedkar’s eternal search for knowledge, his incredible industry and his unflinching aim with which he raised himself from dust to doyer, from the life of a social  leper to the position of a constitution - maker, and his heroic struggles for raising the downtrodden to human dignity will constitute a golden chapter in the history of this nation  and in the history of human freedom as well”.    
          Ambedkerism is not a set of metaphysical concepts or dogmatic socio-political theories.  It is a product of application of lofty Indian spritual (Buddhism) and liberal western political ideals from the days of the Franch Revolution (1789), anti-colonial struggles and upheavels for establishment of representative democracy guaranteeing fundamental rights, inclusive distributive justice and equitable service delivery to people. 
          At social level Ambedkarism clamoured for creation   of a casteless society, by demolishing the scriptural  and religious foundations of hierarchical birth based “graded inequality” of Hindu caste system.  Sanctification of higher castes through Purushasukta of Rigveda was deemed by Ambedkar as a clever trap and organicist logic by making social groups holier than the individual since they were emerging out of the single cosmic devine being.  This is in contrast to individual-centric creation theory in the  Book of Genesis in the Bible.  The ignominious impact of this so called holy concept was suppression of individual liberty, initiative, urge for identity and development of faculty of art and science at the alter of preservation of privileges of higher castes.  Anybody questioning such a divine order was committing blasphemous sacrilege.   Hindu Society became a dirty pond where vertical and horizontal mobility is blocked for ensuring enjoyment of all good things in life by upper castes in general and the priestocracy in particular.  This  system had curbed any prospects of new inventions and discoveries for easing hardships of those engaged in various vocations (shudras) and emergence of better means of production along with technological sophistication. 
          This situation should explain the factors responsible for defeat of Indians by all foreign invaders from the time of Alexander the Great to the establishment of colonial British Raj.  For want of upward revision of Indian defense strategy and military hardware our fighters always remained inferior to invaders, despite the commitment and valour of individual soldiers.  Indian failure to contribute anything substantial to the world resevoir of scientific knowledge after Bhaskara, Aryabhata and Varahamihira of 4th centry AD is another bitter truth about the evil of caste system. 
          According to Ambedkar, the birth based stratification of people in Indian Society (Jati - Jayathae iti Jati) practising “ascending   scale of reverence and  descending scale of contempt” generated and sustained solid resilience to social change, except in times of enlightened efforts by Buddhism, Jainism, Sangham literary renaissance  in the south, and the Bhakti movement.  Further,  except those in the lowest strata of caste order - the nomadic tribes and hunters - all other groups positioned above are relatively privileged and are keen to sustain advantages of “graded inequality”.  This should explain reluctance to intermarriage among different castes under the category of Dalits and tribals (Pulaya, Paraya, Vankar, Chamar, Kurichis and so on) .  The intra and inter caste rivalries  among the depressed sections in  Maharashtra was a major factor behind splintering of the Republican Party.  There is no intermarriage among castes under the classification of SC/ST and Backward communities, despite the convergence of class interests among the richer sections (Chamars, Santhals,  Yadava, Koiry, Ezhava, Asari) among them. 
          Ambedkar sought to demolish this formidable social status-quoist paradigm by denigrating the trend of imitation by castes lower to Brahmins (Priests) to adopt Brahminical practices like endogamy increasingly, besides  socio-religious customs relating to marriage, child birth, education, death etc. - 16 practices - Shodesa Samskars. This sociological aspect is termed as Sanskritisation  ­¹­¸‰´˜ªÞ¾¥—¹ - by Prof. M.N. Srinivas in 1965.  The  innate  assumption about divinity in Brahminical way of life and rituals since Brahmin as a priest is physically near to the idol in temples  is motivating those in other castes towards active adherence to Sanskritisation.  The  hedonistically  materialistic consumerism engendered by crony capitalism and forces of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation had accelerated erosion of moral values among the present  elite (mostly decadent, neither constructive nor creative) in the leadership role of  spiritual, social, political, economic, cultural and educational life of Indian nation. Commodification of human beings coupled with objectification of women (hence frequent cases of gender crimes),  commercialisation of human relations and corruption have driven out humanistic, egalitarian and enlightening forces originated by the modern Indian Renaissance, dawned  in Bengal in the 18th century. 
          Concepts of ‘positive discrimination’ and “affirmative action” for facilitating the ascent of depressed sections in various facets of public life, institutionalised through structured reservation system in  legislative and executive bodies was a logical outcome of Ambedkar concept of separate electorate for the marginalised in 1930s.  The tragedy is that, for want of comprehension and  commitment to Ambedkarism, those who secured posts and positions, especially  those in  All India Services, thanks to Ambedkarite administrative concessions, had generally not shown desirable and discernible fraternity and empathy to the downtrodden people afflicted with multiple debilitating maladies of privation and poverty.  The success  of Naxalite groups in nearby 150 districts of Central and North India  (Bihar, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh, Orissa) in bringing under their fold thousands of people deprived of basic amenities of life and resources was on account of IAS/IPS officers and those in political bureaucracy of Central and State governments refusing to empathise with the “wretched of the earth.”   These functionaries mandated to implement multifarious welfare and ameliorative schemes had not only ignored their purposeful implementation but, in many cases, misappropriated funds meant for the poor.  Serious scams in the rehabilitation of displaced persons from mining and developmental project areas, tardy implementation of projects for  nutrition, employment, health care, education and so on in under developed  hinterland of India did adversely  reflect on the earnestness of even those bureaucrats drawn from reserved sections to the cause of the underprivileged.   Ambedkar’s efforts had ensured vertical mobility to the depressed sections to reach elitist and dominant positions in administration, politics, business etc. But after becoming part of the creamy layer they are accepting the sub culture - of corruption, nepotism and collaboration with politicians and criminal mafias, - a strategy being practiced with sophistication by the uppercastes/classes  for a longtime.  This is the worst form of Sanskritisation,  a painful anti-thesis to Ambedkerism. 
          The agonising facts of nearly 5 lakhs  Indians, (the bulk are from the erstwhile untouchable sections) engaged in manual scavenging,  40% of women and children being affected by mal-nutrition and sub-standard health care, low position of India in the matter of sanity and probity in governance -  N.B. Army Generals  stealing houses meant for war widows of jawans commanded by them, scams about construction of  night shelters in New Delhi for the homeless in winter (100 crores),  corruption of 200 crores in Maharashtra relating to mid-day meal  scheme for poor school children etc.  are painfully depressing.   The highest black money deposits in foreign banks by Indians, higher ratings in corruption, suicide of five lakh farmers  in the last five years  and so on would place India much lower in the order of merit in  comparison to the performance of resource - deficient sub saharan African countries.  Would not this precarious scenario prompt us for making efforts towards re-motivation and energisation of Indian elite towards the basics of Ambedkarism. 
          Significantly, the process of Sanskritisation, increasingly accepted and  vigorously pursued by even depressed sections in Hindu society, of late, had resulted in failure of schemes of employment of qualified people from Dalit and Backward  categories as priests (Pujaris and Archakas) in temples of Kerala and Tamilnadu.  Due to deep rooted faith in the perceived imperativeness of Brahmin priest offering pujas on behalf of the devotee, many traditional temple visitors from depressed sections avoided going to temples for Darshan (workship) on the presumption that Puja performed by Dabit/Backward priest would not result in the flow of blessings from the idol/deity!!!.  Note the astute hold of Brahminical (Priestocratic)  indoctrination on even victims of untouchability, though this obscurantist stand has no sanction in  scriptural literature of Hinduism.  - See Isavasya Upanishad sloka I/I.  Bhagavadgita sloka 5/18, and 6/31 and Rigveda - Mandala 10 and sloka 191 (2 to 4).  Notwithstanding the intellectual eminence and literary brilliance of Adi Shankaracharya one can find an echo of sanctification to castist  order in his writings, particularly   in the second sloka of his important philosophical treatise - Vivakachudamani Vol. I sloka 2. 
          “It is hard for any living creature to achieve birth in a human form.  Successively harder is to be born as male, Brahmin and getting attracted towards Vedic Dharma, being capable of discriminating the Atman and the Non-Atman for continuous union with the Brahmen and final liberation.  These fortunes cannot be obtained except through the merits of a hundred - billion well - lived lines”  Does this sloka express the caste and class interests of Adi Shankaracharya?
          Subtle subversion of laws by caste - Hindu functionaries in govt is enabling many to practice untouchability and denial of rights to the oppressed in recent times also.  In 2010 an N.G.O.  - Nawsarjan and R.F.Kennedy Centre uncovered the myriad forms of untouchability and motivated discrimination practiced on socially and educationally downtrodden sections in “vibrant Gujarat”  of Sangh Parivar and the Chief Minister Narendra Modi.  This study reported in DNA - English Daily - Ahmedabad Edition on 28th January, 2010 had identified 99 varieties of untouchability in Gujarat.   Hard Times Magazine - Sept. 2009 - reported about the deplorable state of Dalits  in India as 27.6% of them are prevented from going to the police station for redressal of their grievances, 25.7 % debarred from availing ration card facilities, 33% public health workers refuse to visit Dalit houses,  23.5. % of  Dalits  do not get their letters delivered,   10 to 20% of rural Dalits are not alloweed to wear bright clothes, sun glasses, ride bycyles, unfurl umbrellas, wear chappals, smoke and so on.  In Gujarat, surprisingly political empowerment (even village sarpanchas face bias), affluence, literacy, and artistic talents and so on, are not adequately purposeful for Dalits to tide over multifarious insults inflicted on them. Remember the instance of sprinkling cow-dung water in a state government office headed by a Dalit Officer, on his transfer, by his caste Hindu successor, in Kerala.  (Office of the I.G. of Registration, Thiruvananthapuram).   Narrations by victims of atrocities in press reports  echo the experiences of  characters like Bakha, Ragha, Lakha and Sohini, in the classic novel “Untouchables” (1935) by Mulk Raj Anand.
          Narayana Guru Swami (1856 - 1928) the pioneer of modern Kerala    renaissance  and saint - social reformer, adopted the policy of aculturisation for emancipation of the depressed castes.  He aimed at removal of any tendency to blindly  immitate  Brahminical  socio religious rituals and customs by lower castes  but  simultaneously  he had accepted  the monotheistic philosophical frame work, equality and brotherhood of all human beings in Hindu scriptures and temple ceremonies without extravaganza and necessisity of priest - centric rites and procedure.  He internalised  the legacy of religio - spiritual culture from Sanskritc and Tamil literacy traditions and wrote nearby 40 books in languages of  Malayalam, Sanskrit and Tamil.  The malady of Sanskritisation did not influence followers of Narayana Guru till the close of  the 20th century.  Unfortunately, of late,  due to clash of personal ambitions among managers of  Guru’s institutions and organisations initiated by him, the Sangh Pariwar have been getting greater response from followers of Guru.  Consequently affluent followers of Guru are opting for the path of Sanskrisation. 
Application of Ambedkarism
          A close study of Ambedkar’s views on Hindu caste system and evil of Brahmical priestocracy would help victims of age old castetist subjugation to resist effectively the onslught of Sankritisation.
          Socio political and economic ideals of Ambedkar are enshrined in the Preamble, the Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution of India.  The great Jurist Granville Austin describerd the Indian Constitution drafted by Ambedkar as a “social document” focusing at “furthering  the aim of social revolution by establishing conditions necessary for its achievement”.   Concepts of   (1)  collective social contract of Indian people, (2) justice  (3) liberty,  (4) equality,  (5) fraternity and (6) human dignity constitute the foundational  basic unalterable frame work of this pivotal  law of Indian nation.  The fundamental rights are made enforceable through the Article 32 and Ambedkar had termed it as “the very soul of the Constitution and the very heart of it”.  Road map towards socio economic democracy is elaborated in Directive Principles, which are guidelines for establishing a fullfledged welfare state.  Numerous Public Interest Litigations (PIL) for re-designing and reframing of laws and governmental regulations for creating objective conditions towards realisation of  ideals in the Preamble were taken up by the Apex court under Article 32.  Judgments for gender justice, relief to riot  victims, humane treatment to arrested persons, vigilence on child labour by the State, economic benefits to workers and so on are  illustrative of the ambit of this Article and vision of Ambedkar. 
          Ambedkar’s contribution to concepts of economic democracy is acknowledged by Nobel   laureate       Amartya Sen thus “Ambedkar is my father in Economics.  He is truely  celebrated champion of the under privileged.  He deserves more than what he has achieved today.   His contribution in the field of economics is marvelous and will be remembered forever”.
          Though Mahatma Gandhi  and Ambedkar had many perceptional differences about Indian situation and solution to problems, both were  together on many vital issues and means to achieve the professed objectives, viz. (1) Community based on justice and fraternity (2) Social transformation through social action (3) Pre eminence of non - violence as the path of action  (4) Emancipation of the  under privileged etc. 
          Though political parties established by Ambedkar did not make much impact, Ambedkarism had only inspired,  energised and motivated Kanshiram and Mayavati to establish a broad based political party, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)  through stategic collaboration with various  social groups and  purposeful electroral tactics.  In 1980s Central and State governments published works of Ambedkar and in 1990 he was awarded with Bharat Ratna.  Though a section of  Hindu fundamentalist groups  in the Sangh Pariwar is still  critical of  Ambedkar, since 1990s RSS had positioned  him in the pantheon of great men of India.  (See Sangh Pariwar handbills). His picture is presented along with a galaxy of Hindu leaders like   Dr. Hegdawar, Swami Vivekananda, Chhatrapati Shivaji and Rana Pratap. 
          Meaningful application and utilisation of Ambedkarism to counter negative trends in Indian society today - trends of casteism, Sanskritisation, corruption, alcoholism, outrageous extravagence in public and private functions, crony capitalism, communalism, mobocracy, mafiacracy, moneyocracy and so on, is imperative.     Individuals and N.G.Os. respectful to Ambedkarism should propose to Central and State Governments  for introduction of courses in Ambedkarism at graduate and post graduate level, and through correspondence courses in universities. 
          Secondly whenever any injustice is noticed in the form denial of rights  and welfare measures to the depressed classes, violating the basic objectives of Indian Constitution, we should move for justice delivery by utilising Articfle 32 of the Constitution.  The plight of nomadic tribes, hunters, domestic  servants etc. are neglected by political parties as they do not form a decesive vote bank. 
          Thirdly, in tune with the spirit of Ambedkarism, we should ask for creation of a Kerala Temple Service (KTS) in which all Hindus having prescribed qualification,  health and clearing  of due examination on temple ceremonies and conventions should be inducted, for the profession of priesthood.    KTS can be structured  on the pattern of the State Secretariat Service and other services meant for semi - skilled labour.  The present system of appointing priests from a particular caste of Hindus, and in many cases only  from a few families is  in gross violation of Articles 14, 15 and  16 of the Constitution of India. 
          Ambedkar had not favoured a belligerant confrontation or militant struggle against his tormentors, practioners of untouchability and political rivals.  His compromise with Gandhi on the issue of communal electroate and refusal to convert to Islam or Christianity which according to him would result in  ‘de-nationalisation’  are illustraive of his deep faith and commitment to symbiotic syncretistic heritage of our mother land.  He was attracted to Buddhism from the age of 16 when he was presented with biography of Buddha by his teacher.  Like Buddha he had chosen a logical, scientific and national perspective to study  the Indian situation and for formulation of solutions.  The last message of Buddha, an exhortation to all was “Be a lamp unto yourself” -  Aham Saranam Gachami’.  This message is the logical sequence of Buddha’s earlier slogans,   Buddham Saranam Gachami’.  “the enlightened can liberate”.  (2) Dharmam Saranam Gachami”  “Codified knowledge can liberate” and  (3) Sangham Saranam Gachami - “collective wisdom can liberate”.  The underprivileged of India should comprehend the central message of Ambedkarism, exemplified through his ideals, precepts,  practice and way of life and  acquire strength and energy through one’s own efforts and righteously utilising all available legitimate facilities, instead of  merely finding fault with status - quoist enemies of depressed people of India

Gandhinagar                                                 R.B. Sreekumar,
6.7.2013.                                                    Former DGP Gujarat

Books consulted:
1.       Bhagawad Gita
2.       Isavasya Upanishad
3.       Dharmapada
4.       Indian Constitution
5.       Ambedkar’s books and speaches.
6.       Dr. Ambedkar - Life and Mission by Dhanjay Keer.
7.       Dr. Ambedkar and Untouchability by  Christopher Jaffrelot.
8.       Manusmriti
9.       Bible.         

R.B. Sreekumar,
Plot No. 193,  Sector = 8,
Gandhi Nagar,  Gujarat - 382008.

Ph: 079 23247876,  09428016117,

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