Remembering the Real Ambedkar
Image courtesy Sabrang
Celebrating Ambedkar Jayanti this year has to go beyond the usual formal gestures. On his 125th birth anniversary, we need to recall—and renew—the challenges Dr. B.R. Ambedkar made to a caste-ridden Hindu status quo. We also need to hold fast to the vision he had for an equal India. Remembering the “real Ambedkar” is critical at this point in our lives as Indians.
The ruling dispensation—the BJP as well as its ideological parent, the RSS—are working hard to “celebrate” Ambedkar’s birthday. This appropriation, of course, is laughable. The Hindutvavadis pretend “the Hindus” make up a monolith, and that caste does not exist. In practice, we have seen how the old fault line of caste has deepened in recent times, from violence against dalits to ostracism to discrimination against dalit students.
If the BJP and RSS want to celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti, let them celebrate the struggle of all the Rohith Vemulas in India; and take active measures to see that no Rohith is driven to despair and death again. If the government wants to lay claim to Ambedkar’s legacy, let it respect the idea of India he had. Ambedkar’s India was a nation where caste would be annihilated; a nation both socialist and secular; a nation which encourages the ideas, debate and dissent of all citizens.
This real celebration of Ambedkar may not be easy for those who shrink his idea of India into a prefab nugget of a slogan like Bharat Mata ki Jai; or a flagpole of a particular height; or into a divisive and homogenised vision of a nation.
Celebrating Ambedkar means recalling what he had to say, not merely garlanding him or unveiling another statue. Celebrating Ambedkar means insisting that his vision for a more just India be reread for our times and put into practice. Celebrating Ambedkar means safeguarding the fundamental principles of the Constitution he worked so hard on.
B.R. Ambedkar’s published works are available in their entirety here, at Ambedkar.org.
Watch Jabbar Patel’s film “Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar” (2000, 3h) in English or Hindi:
Via the Peoples Media Advocacy & Resource Centre
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