Monday, 29 April 2013
Thursday, 25 April 2013
Tuesday, 23 April 2013
Bhagwan Das: A True Ambedkarite
Mr. Bhagwan Das was born in an Untouchable family living at Jutogh Cantonment, Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) India on 23 April, 1927. He served in the Royal Indian Air Force during World War II and after demobilisation served in different capacities in various departments of Government of India at Saharanpur, Shimla and Delhi. He did MA. in History (Punjab University) and LL.B from Delhi University. He did research on the ‘Indianisation of the Audit Department from 1840-1915.’ He had been contributing articles and short stories to various papers and journals published in India and abroad.
His father Mr. Ram Ditta was fond of reading newspapers and was a great admirer of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Inspired and encouraged by his father, Mr. Das worked with Mr. T. R. Baidwan who was one of the most prominent leaders of the Untouchables in Shimla Hills, and joined the Scheduled Castes Federation at the tender age of 16. Since then he had been actively associated with the Ambedkarian Movement and did a great deal to promote the ideas of Babasaheb Ambedkar and to unite and uplift the downtrodden not only of India but also of other countries of Asia. Mr. Das was associated with many organizations of Lawyers, Buddhists. Scheduled Castes and Minorities in India. He was General Secretary, United Lawyers Association Supreme Court, New Delhi; General Secretary, Bouddh Upasak Sangh, New Delhi; Founder Chairman, Ambedkar Mission Society, which has branches in many parts of the world. He revived Samata Sainik Dal (Volunteers for Equality) founded by Dr. Ambedkar in 1926-27. He was Regional Secretary (North) Indian Buddhist Council; Founder, Society for the Protection of Non-Smokers. He was also founder President of Society for Promoting Buddhist Knowledge and Edited Samata Sainik Sandesh (English) from 1980-1990.
Mr. Das was associated with the ‘Peace Movement’ since the end of World War II in which he served on the Eastern Front (Burma) with the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) as Radar Operator under South East Asia Command. He was one of the founder members of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (WCRP) (India) and participated in its Conferences held in Kyoto, Japan (1970); Princeton, USA (1979); Seoul, Korea (1986); Nairobi, Kenya (1984) and Melbourne, Australia (1989). He was also appointed Director of Asian Centre for Human Rights of Asian Conference on Religion and Peace (ACRP) in 1980 and continued to serve in this capacity- monitoring the news of violation of human rights in Asian countries and organising camps for training of human rights workers, speaking and writing for the cause.
Mr Bhagwan Das acted as advisor to the International Movement against All Forms of Discrimination and Racism (IMADR), an International NGO based in Japan. He also delivered presentation about the problem of discrimination against oppressed caste in India at Buraku liberation and Human Rights Research Institute (BLHRRI) in Osaka. Mr. Das was also invited to deliver a lecture on ‘Discrimination’ by the Peace University, Tokyo (1980) and he also addressed several meetings organised by the Burakumins of Japan. He gave a historical testimony before the United Nations in regard to the plight of Untouchables in South Asia, in the meeting of Sub-Committee on Human Rights held at Geneva, Switzerland in August 1983. He visited England in 1975, 1983, 1988, 1990 and 1991 in connection with lectures and seminars.
He participated in the seminar held in Hull University in 1990 as a representative of the Ambedkar Centenary Celebration Committee UK and also held a seminar on Human Rights in India at London University, School of Asian and Oriental Studies in February 1991. He was invited to deliver Ambedkar Memorial Lectures in Milind Mahavidyalaya, Aurangabad (1970); Marathwada University (1983); Nagpur University, PWS College, Nagpur; Ambedkar College, Chanderpur and Amraoti University 1990. Mr Das also visited Nepal (1980 and 1990), Pakistan (1989), Thailand (1988), Singapore (1989) and Canada (1979 to study the problems of deprived and disadvantaged members of society, women and children. He delivered lectures in Wisconsin University (USA) in 1979 and North- Field College (USA) on Castes in contemporary India. He was invited to give lectures on Dr Ambedkar at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow in June, 1990.
Mr. Das practiced law in the Supreme Court of India. With a view to improving the professional competence of and helping upcoming advocates belonging to Untouchable and Indigenous Groups he founded ‘Ambedkar Mission Lawyers Association and Legal Aid Society in 1989. He was General Secretary of ‘Professions for People’, an organisation founded in Delhi to elevate professional standards.
Mr. Das was invited to preside at the Dalit and Buddhist Writer’s Conference held at Akola in 1989 and was closely associated with various organizations of Dalit Writers.
Mr. Das wrote more than five hundred articles, papers for seminars, short stories for various newspapers and journals. His papers on ‘Revival of Buddhism’, ‘Some problems of Minorities in India’; ‘Reservation in Public Services’ have been published in Social Action magazine brought out by Indian Social institute, New Delhi and Delhi University Buddhist Department. He also wrote many papers on Reservation and Representative Bureaucracy, Discrimination against the Dalits in Public Services, Minorities etc. He was a member of the ‘Committee for evolving new strategies for the development of Scheduled Castes and Tribes — VIII Plan’ set up by the Government of India and also a member of Ambedkar Centenary Committee of the Government of India. Mr. Das wrote many books in Urdu, English and Hindi on Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, untouchables, Scavengers and Sweepers, Human Rights and Discrimination, etc. Prominent among them are ‘Thus Spoke Ambedkar (Vol 1 to 4, Ed)’; ‘Ambedkar on Gandhi and Gandhism (Ed)’; ‘Ambedkar ek parichey ek Sandesh (Hindi)’; ‘Main Bhangi Hoon, (the story of an Indian sweeper told in the first- person)’. This book has been translated into German, Punjabi, Kannada and Marathi; ‘Valmiki aur Bhangi Jatiyaan (Hindi)’; ‘Kya Valmiki Achoot they? (Hindi)’; Valimiki (Hindi); Dhobi (Hindi); ‘Dr. Ambedkar aur Bhangi Jatiyaan (Hindi)’, ‘Dr. Ambedkar: Ek Parichay Ek Sandesh (Hindi)’; ‘ Bharat Mein Baudh Dhamm ka punar Jagran evam Samasyaen (Hindi)’; Revival of Buddhism in India and Role of Dr. Ambedkar.
He translated into Urdu former President of the USA, Lyndon Johnson’s book ‘My Hope for America’, Dr Ambedkar’s Book ‘Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah’ besides editing Bhadant Anand Kaushalyayan’s ‘Gita ki Buddhi wadi Samiksha’.
He was also writing on Reservation and Representative Bureaucracy in India; Untouchables in the Indian Army (Mahar, Mazhbi, Chuhra, Pariahs, Mangs, Dhanuks, Dusadhs, Chamars, Kolis and Bheels), Mandal Commission and the Future of Backward Classes; Twenty- Two Oaths of Buddhism and Conversion; Ravidassis and Balmikis of Northern India; Buddhism and Marxism; Ambedkar as a Religious Leader but unfortunately his untimely death deprived him of completing these books.
Mr. Das had toured almost the whole of India to study the problems of Hindu-Muslim riots, religious conflicts, atrocities committed on the Untouchables and Tribal people, with the group ‘Threat to Diversity’, ‘Swaraj Mukti Morcha’ and as Chairman, Samata Sainik Dal.
Mr. Das attained Nirvana on 18th November, 2010. He was a staunch Ambedkarite, a crusader against Untouchability, an iconoclast, a practicing Buddhist, a renowned writer on Dalits, Buddhist and Ambedkarite Movement, Human Rights and Law, a politician and a committed Social Activist.
In order to commemorate his memory and his work at Nagpur it has been decided to dedicate a section of the library being set up at Deeksha Bhoomi Nagpur. It will be a befitting homage to his historical contribution to the Ambedkarian literature and movement. Similarly one Bhagwan Das Memorial Award has been instituted in School of Ambedkar Stidies of BabaSaheb Bhimrao Ambedakr University, Lucknow (U.P.)
Like Karl Marx’s call “Workars of the World Unite” Bhagwan Das gave a call “ Dalits of World Unite” which is quite relevant today. His pioneer work for internationalising the problem of Untouchability will be viewed as his historical contribution to the eradicaation of caste based discrimination. I am sure his legacy will live long to guide the Dalits in their fight for emanicipation. No doubt he will be rememnbered as a True Ambedkarite.
Monday, 15 April 2013
Dr Ambedkar as the Champion of Women’s Rights
"We shall see better days soon and our progress will be greatly accelerated if male education is persuaded side by side with female education…" were the words of young Ambedkar, during his studies at New York which came out while writing a letter to his father's friend. On 18th July 1927, Dr. Ambedkar addressed a meeting of about three thousand women of the Depressed Classes, where he said,”I measure the progress of community by the degree of progress which women had achieved.” He strongly believed in the fact that if “a woman is educated a family is educated”. He not only encouraged them to get educated themselves but also encouraged them to educate their children and keep them away from all kinds of vices. He strongly opposed taking of intoxicants that was because he realised that most cases of domestic violence occurred under their influence.
Women were the major force in all the struggles initiated by Dr Ambedkar. In the historic Mahad Satyagraha, there were about 500 women who took active part in the procession. Dr. Ambedkar also raised the women's issue as Member of Legislative Council during his debate in Bombay Legislative Assembly on 10th Nov. 1938. He strongly advocated family planning measures and said that besides many other problems giving birth to many children negatively affects a mother's health. In India, the insatiable desire to have son renders the life of women miserable, for she is pestered to produce more children till she gives birth to a son. Later in the year 1942, Dr. Ambedkar also introduced Maternity Benefit Bill during his tenure as Labour Minister in Governor General's Executive Council.
While drafting the Constitution of India, Dr. Ambedkar was the prime mover of the provisions related to the welfare of women. On the question of civil rights, Dr. Ambedkar made provisions in Articles 14-16 of the Indian Constitution, which provided equal status to women and also banned the sale and purchase of women prevailing in Hindu India. Further to ensure women’s status Dr. Ambedkar also introduced an emancipatory bill (the Hindu Code Bill) in Parliament which intended mainly (1) to abolish different marriage systems prevalent among Hindus and to establish monogamy as the only legal system; (2) Conferment of right to property and adoption on women; 3) restitution of conjugal rights and judicial separation; attempts to unify the Hindu Code in tune with progressive and modern thought. The Bill invited a lot of opposition from the orthodox sections of society and ultimately Dr Ambedkar had to resign on that account. In the history of India, perhaps that was one sole instance when a man tendered resignation for the cause of women.
But unfortunately, in the present times despite the various Constitutional safeguards and various laws claiming equality to all citizens, women are denied rights enjoyed by a citizen of this country. In fact she is denied even the basic right to live. She may bring the man into the world by carrying him in her womb for nine months yet she is not allowed to live another day once it is known that it is ‘she’ and not ‘he’ there in the womb. It is found that though advances are being made in the field of science and technology, worldwide literacy rates have risen yet old societal norms seem to govern the day. On accountn of this the cases of violence against women, are on a rise . According to one World Report report 70% of women had experienced physical or sexual violence at some point in life.
Most countries make proud claims of being ‘independent’ yet a cloud of fear lurks constantly over the minds of most of their womenfolk. In India, for example though men are supposed to be custodian of women’s honour and dignity, yet it is seen that leave alone the common man neither well trained army nor police with high tech arms have been successful in preventing a woman from getting raped in this country. On the contrary, they also seem to choose the most vulnerable ‘ill-nourished’ lot of women of their country to ‘show off’ their prowess. In a recent Tarn Taran incident of Punjab it was seen, hefty policemen took turns to beat a poor dalit girl when she went to lodge a complaint against her molestation. In a recent incident a young child of ten is put behind bars for “being raped” while the culprits moved freely and fearlessly.
In another incident at Delhi, a young child of three was drugged and raped by the ‘husband’ of the owner of the playschool.
People religiously take turn to take dips in the holy river at Kumbh, year after year people go for Haj, women remain more hungry for most days of the year, yet none ensures her a secure environment where she can breathe freely, move out of her house fearlessly!
In such a situation when immorality seems to be the order of the day how is a woman expected to get herself educated and contribute to the progress of the country?
Dr Ambedkar greatly emphasised on a society based on moral values. Education is incomplete without instructions in moral values. According to Dr Ambedkar “Morality comes in only when Man comes in relation to Man. It arises from the direct necessity from Man to love Man. It does not require the sanction of God. It is not to please God that Man has to be moral but for the good of the society.”
Dr Ambedkar attached great importance to the need of right relations i.e., social morality which according to him sustained the society in the hours of crisis. It can prevent the acts of barbarism, injustice and inhumanity. Man by following the path of righteousness, which in other words means right relations between Man and Man in all spheres of life, can pave the way for peace and justice which serves as effective coordination among people themselves. That is possible only when all of us come together irrespective of caste, creed, sex, religion, region to build a better world for our future generations!
Head, Department of History
Baba Saheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University,