Sunday, 29 May 2016

Dr. Ambedkar on Communist Party of India



Dr. Ambedkar on Communist Party of India
“The Communist Party was originally in the hands of some Brahman boys- Dange and others. They have been trying to win over the Maratha community and Scheduled Castes. But they have made no headway in Maharashtra. Why? Because they are mostly a bunch of Brahman boys. The Russians made a great mistake to entrust the Communist movement in India to them. Either the Russians did not want Communism in India- they wanted only drummer boys- or they did not understand.”
 – Dr. BR Ambedkar’s interview on 21/2, 28/2 and 9/10/53 at Alipore Road, Delhi by Selig Harrison in “Most Dangerous Decades” published by Oxford Press.   

Friday, 27 May 2016

Dalits Cry on the Eve of the Ambedkar Festival



Dalits Cry on the Eve of the Ambedkar Festival
Anand Teltumbde (tanandraj@gmail.com) is a writer, academic and civil rights activist.
The more than four-month-long Bhim Yatra that culminated a day before the 125th birth celebrations of B R Ambedkar highlighted the pitiable conditions of the most downtrodden of the Dalits, the manual scavengers. While there are a slew of laws to check manual scavenging, they remain largely on paper. The Dalit leadership has also ignored the plight of manual scavengers.
As the world readied for the gala celebration of the 125th birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar, a section of Dalits who work as manual scavengers gathered in the capital. They had marched 3,500 km, starting at Dibrugarh in Assam more than four months ago. Traversing 500 districts in 30 states over 125 days, the manual scavengers’ march, called the Bhim Yatra, reached Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on 13 April 2016.
The Dalits had rallied under the banner of Safai Karmachari Andolan (SKA) and their cry of anguish, “Do Not Kill Us,” referred to more than 22,000 unsung deaths of sanitation workers every year—incidentally acknowledged by the Bharatiya Janata Party Member of Parliament, Tarun Vijay, in the Rajya Sabha, just the previous month. With tears flowing down their cheeks and in choking voices, several children narrated horrific tales of their kith and kin falling victims to this noxious practice. The stories symptomised a terrible paradox. While Ambedkar is being lionised as a super icon, the people he lived and fought for have to beg for their basic existence.
Pervasive Hypocrisy
The Constitution of India abolished untouchability but did nothing to change the conditions that reproduce it. The safai karamcharis, who had marched to Delhi, suffer untouchability in its worst form. They are untouchables not only to the caste Hindus but even to other Dalit castes. Gandhi, notwithstanding his regressive views on the matter, had rightly identified Bhangi (caste identified with manual scavenging) as the representative of Dalits and posed himself as one to make his point. He lived in a Bhangi colony to show his love for them. It was imperative that the state swearing by Gandhi should have given top priority to outlawing this dehumanising work and rehabilitating people engaged in it. But it chose to dodge the issue with its pet strategy of launching committees and commissions which while exhibiting concern about manual scavenging also deferred dealing with it for 46 years.
This game had begun as early as 1949 and continues even today. In 1949, the then government of Bombay appointed a committee, the Scavengers’ Living Conditions Enquiry Committee, headed by V N Barve, to enquire into the living conditions of the scavengers and suggest ways to ameliorate them. The committee submitted its report in 1952. In 1955, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) circulated a copy of the major recommendations of this committee to all the state governments and asked them to adopt them. However, nothing happened.
In 1957, the MHA set up a committee headed by N R Malkani to prepare a scheme to put an end to the practice of scavenging. The committee submitted its report in 1960; it asked the central and state governments to jointly draw up a phased programme for implementing its recommendations so as to end manual scavenging within the Third Five Year Plan. Nothing came of these recommendations too.
In 1965, the government appointed another committee to look into the matter. The committee recommended the dismantling of the hereditary task structure under which non-municipalised cleaning of private latrines was passed on from generation to generation of scavengers. This report also went into cold storage. In 1968–69, the National Commission on Labour recommended a comprehensive legislation for regulating the working, service and living conditions of scavengers. During the Gandhi Centenary Year (1969), a special programme for converting dry latrines to water-borne flush latrines was undertaken but it failed at the pilot stage itself. In 1980, the MHA introduced a scheme for conversion of dry latrines into sanitary latrines and rehabilitation of liberated scavengers and their dependents in selected towns by employing them in dignified occupations. In 1985, the scheme was transferred from MHA to the Ministry of Welfare. In 1991, the Planning Commission bifurcated the scheme: the Ministries of Urban Development and Rural Development were made responsible for conversion of dry latrines and the Ministry of Welfare (renamed Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in May 1999) was given the task of rehabilitating scavengers. In 1992, the Ministry of Welfare introduced National Scheme for Liberation and Rehabilitation of Scavengers (NSLRS) and their Dependents but that too had little effect.
Criminal Neglect
Articles 14, 17, 21 and 23 of the Constitution could be counted upon to stop the practice of manual scavenging. For instance, Section 7A and 15A of the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 (formerly known as the Untouchability (Offences) Act, 1955), enacted to implement Article 17, provided for the liberation of scavengers as well as stipulating punishment for those continuing to engage scavengers. As such, one could argue that there was no need for the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. This act had received the presidential assent on 5 June 1993, but remained unpublished in the Gazette of India until 1997. No state promulgated it until 2000. Irked by the persistent inaction by the government, the SKA, started by the children of the Safai Kamgars in 1994, along with six other civil society organisations and seven people belonging to the community of manual scavengers, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) in the Supreme Court in December 2003. The PIL called for contempt proceeding against the government. The denial mode of the various state governments had to be countered by the SKA with voluminous data during a 12-year battle that culminated in a sympathetic judgment on 27 March 2014.
The Court inter alia directed the government to give compensation of ₹10 lakh to next-of-kin of each manual scavenger who died on duty (including sewer cleaning) since 1993. The Bhim Yatra documented 1,268 such deaths; only 18 of the deceased had received compensation.
Parliament has also passed another act, the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. But nothing has moved on the ground. While the state governments had gone on denial spree after promulgation of the 1993 Act, the 2011 Census of India found 794,000 cases of manual scavenging across India. The biggest violator of this law are the government’s own departments. Toilets of train carriages of the Indian Railways, for example, drop excreta on tracks, which is manually cleaned by scavengers. The Prime Minister, who pompously declared India to be scavenger free by 2019 as part of his Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, and spoke of getting a bullet train network in India, could not even indicate a deadline by which the railways would replace all current toilets with bio-toilets.
Why This Apathy?
The lack of political will is evident in the statement of the central government, apparently in response to the SKA’s Bhim Yatra, on 19 April that it could not receive data from the states and would directly survey the incidence of manual scavenging in the country. It does not require much intelligence to surmise that this survey would buy the government another decade to wear out the struggling safai karmacharis. But why should the government that dreams of playing a leading role in world affairs choose to live with such abiding shame? It is not a very difficult question. Political will in India is informed by electoral logic. The minuscule community of the scavengers is hopelessly fragmented, ghettoised at every locale, detached from not only the larger society but even the Dalit community. Unto itself, the community is insignificant in the electoral schema of any political party. The only deterrence for the ruling classes is that it is a national embarrassment—as untouchability was for early reformers. Like untouchability, the custom of manual scavenging is tied up with the feudal culture, the threatening of which meant incurring displeasure of the majority community.
While understanding the ruling class attitude to the problem is simple, more intriguing is the apathy of the Dalit movement towards the manual scavengers. The mainstream Dalit movement has never really taken up the issue of manual scavenging with any seriousness. The pivotal strategy of the Dalit movement has been representation. Ambedkar struggled to get reservation in politics and thereafter instituted it in public employment (education being prerequisite for employment). He expected that the Dalit politicians would protect political interests of the masses from the community and the educated Dalits entering bureaucracy could provide a protective cover for the labouring masses. There was no direct engagement with the material problems of the Dalit masses. It is therefore that reservations became the sole concern of the Dalit movement, which has distanced from issues relating with the labouring Dalits. The middle class that came into existence among Dalits over the last seven decades, virtually got detached from the Dalit masses.
It is revealing that in the Bhim Yatra, while Ambedkar was an imposing presence as an inspiring icon, the “Ambedkarites” were absent. Notable progressive individuals registered their solidarity with the struggle of the poor scavengers but the self-proclaimed Ambedkarites were conspicuous by their absence.
- See more at: http://www.epw.in/journal/2016/19/margin-speak/dalits-cry-eve-ambedkar-festival.html#sthash.AVAIaVbH.dpuf

Thursday, 26 May 2016

A Sharp Decline in Buddhist Growth Rate: A Cause for Concern



A Sharp Decline in Buddhist Growth Rate: A Cause for Concern
SR Darapuri I.P.S. (Retd) and National Spokesman, All India Peoples Front
2011 Census Report has shown a sharp decline in Buddhist population growth rate which should be a cause for concern for all Ambedkarites.  Dr. Ambedkar had adopted Buddhism as a liberating tool for Dalits. His aim behind it was to liberate Dalits from the hellish caste system of Hinduism and usher them into a casteless Buddhist social order. It was not only a change of religion but a way to economic and mental liberation of Dalits.
Dr. Ambedkar had left Hinduism on 14th October, 1956 along with 5 lakhs (0.50 million) Dalits and adopted Buddhism, a religion based on liberty, equality and fraternity. Through it he aimed at ending sub- caste division of Dalits and unite them under a single identity as Buddhists. It was expected that after departure of Dr. Ambedkar Buddhist conversion movement will gain momentum and more and more Dalits will leave the Hindu fold to join Buddhists. He had established Bhartiya Bauddh Mahasabha (Indian Buddhist Association) to carry forward the movement of Buddhist conversion. During his lifetime many Buddhist conversions were arranged in different states and a large number of Dalits left Hinduism and switched over to Buddhism. 
It has been established that Dalits who have adopted Buddhism have progressed much more than Dalits who continue to be Hindus. It is quite evident from the statistics of 2011 Census Report.  According to these figures the Sex- Ratio of Buddhist men and women is 985 as compared with 939 of Hindus, 951 of Muslims and 903 of Sikhs. The Sex- Ratio of 0-6 years Buddhist girls and boys is 933 as compared to 913 of Hindus and 828 of Sikhs. According to this Census the Literacy Rate of Buddhists is 81.3 % as compared with 73.3 % of Hindus and 68.5 % % of Muslims. Similarly Work Participation Rate of Buddhists is 41.3 % as compared with 41 % of Hindus, 32.6 % of Muslims and 36.3 % of Sikhs. These statistics show that sex-ratio, literacy rate and work participation rate of Buddhists is much higher than Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs which shows that Buddhism has helped then in their development.   
The above analysis clearly establishes that Buddhism has helped Dalits in their development. It has brought a qualitative change in their lives. They have left the old dirty professions. Their living standard has improved and their family lives have changed for better. Hence it was expected that with positive influence of Buddhism, more and more Dalits will leave Hinduism and convert to Buddhism and their population will increase considerably. But 2011 Census statistics belie these expectations.
According to 2001 Census Report the population of Buddhists in the country was about 80 lakhs (8 millions) which has grown to 84.4 lakhs (8.4 millions) in 2011 Census Report. But during this decade the population growth rate of Buddhists has fallen from 23.2 % to 6.1 % thereby showing a fall of 17 %. Similarly the Buddhist population in 2001 was 0.8 % of total population of India which has fallen to 0.7 % in 2011 as a result of which there has been an addition of 4.4 lakhs (0.44 millions) Buddhists only during a span of 10 years. This is very low as compared with previous years.
2011 Census has shown that during the last decade there has been a substantial decrease in Buddhist population in the states of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and Karnatka. In U.P. where Mayawati, a Dalit was the Chief Minister for 4 times the Buddhist population has fallen from 3.02 lakhs (0.3 million) in 2001 to 2.06 lakhs (0.2 million) in 2011 thereby showing a shortfall of about 1 lakh (0.1 million). In Punjab it has fallen from 41,487 to 33,237. In Karnatka it has fallen from 3.93 lakhs (0.39 millions) to 95,710. Buddhist population in Delhi has fallen from 23,705 to 18,449. During this period the states of Maharshtra and some other states have shown an increase in Buddhist population but shortfall in growth rate and very small increase in population is a cause for concern.
From the above analysis it transpires that during the decade (2001 to 2011) there has been not only a steep fall in Buddhist growth rate but there has been a shortfall in absolute numbers also in some states. It was expected that with rise of awakening among Dalits there will be a significant increase in Buddhist population but the recent census figures paint a very discouraging picture. It appears that caravan of Dr. Ambedkar has gone back instead of moving forward. Hence it requires a thorough analysis of the causes which have resulted in shortfall in Buddhist population. Some of them can be identified as follows:-
It is well known that a lot of bungling takes place during the census process. A majority of the personnel put on this duty are Hindus who try to boost Hindu population. There has been  a general complaint that these persons were filling up the census forms with pencil against the clear instructions of writing in pen only. It leaves a lot of scope for manipulation of religion of the householders. It is not a new complaint. Rather it has been there for a long time.
Buddhist conversion movement of Dalits has been adversely affected by the opportunist, selfish and corrupt Dalit  politics. Two main components of Dr. Ambedkar’s movement were annihilation of caste and conversion to Buddhism but Dalit politicians have betrayed these ideals and principles. No doubt, Dr. Ambedkar had identified political power as a key to all the problems but at the same time he had said that political power should be used for development of society whereas Dalit politicians have used it for self aggrandisement. Dr. Ambedkar had also said that the task of a political party is not to win election only. The real role of a political party is to give political education to the masses. But Dalit politician’s one point program has  been to win election in any way. The result is that social and religious movement of Dalits has been pushed back resulting in loss of interest among masses.  
The lack of interest among Dalits in Buddhist conversion has also resulted from the quality of Buddhist converts. They have failed to inspire the non-Buddhist Dalits through their role model. Many of them have adopted Buddhism in name only and continue to behave as before. It was incumbent on the converts to be good Buddhists and become role models for others. But it has not happened as required.
After the departure of Dr. Ambedkar there was a need for a well organised Buddhist movement but Bhartiya Bauddh Samiti has failed to carry on this task. For long there have been two processes of Hinduisation and Dehinduisation of Dalits. It is seen that major sub-castes of Dalits like Mahars, Chamaras and Malas have been adopting Ambedkarism and thereby undergoing Dehinduisation. At the same time smaller sub-castes of Dalits who happen to be orthodox Hindus have been undergoing Hinduisation. Rashtriy Svayamsevak Sangh (R.S.S.) has accelerated the process of Hinduisation by co-opting them under the umbrella of Hindutva. Smaller Dalit sub-castes have been acting in reaction against the dominant Dalit sub-castes and RSS has exploited this divide. The result is that if dominant Dalit sub-castes have adopted Ambedkar as their ideal, the smaller Dalit sub-castes have become more orthodox Hindus thereby falling into the trap of Hindutva. The result is that at present Dalits are divided not only socially but they are divided politically also as evidenced by the last General Election results.   
Hence from the above analysis it transpires that social and religious movement started by Dr. Ambedkar has moved backward instead of moving forward. The last census report has made this situation very clear. During the last  decade there has taken not only a steep fall in growth rate of Buddhist population but there has been a shortfall in absolute numbers also. Hence it is necessary to identify the internal and external causes of this downfall and take measures to remove them. The present opportunist, selfish and unprincipled Dalit politics needs to be replaced by a radical politics. At the same time it is essential to give an impetus to the Ambedkarite movement of annihilation of caste and opposition to capitalism so that Dalits may be united to fight against the onslaught of Hindutva and Corporate capitalism. Similarly it is necessary to speed up the Buddhist conversion movement in a well planned manner so that Dr. Ambedkar’s dream of making India again a Buddhist country may be achieved.

In Thy Name, Ambedkar - Anand Teltumbde

In Thy Name, Ambedkar | Kractivism

Friday, 13 May 2016

Dr. Ambedkar faced untouchability even as Law Minister of India

Dr. Ambedkar faced untouchability even as Law Minister of India.
In 1983 I had gone to National Police Academy, Hyderabad to attend Senior IPS Officers Course. During this Coursenwe had a few days training at National Institute of Rural Development. There I met Prof. Mathur who had studied at Columbia University of which Dr. Ambedkar had been a student. He told me that once as Alumni of Columbia University they had arranged a dinner at Delhi where he was seated next to Dr. Ambedkar. During the conversation Dr. Ambedkar said," Mr. Mathur, look I am the Law Minister of India. When my colleagues invite me to their homes on social functions I go and eat what ever is cooked there. But when I invite my colleagues to my home many of them do not take anything under the pretext of being on fast. This is my social status among my colleagues."
You can see the behaviour of caste Hindus with their colleague Minister who was incidentally the Constitution Maker also. You just can imagine the plight of an ordinary untouchable in a village. That is why Dr. Ambedkar had to leave the hellish caste system of Hindu religion.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Why Ambedkar supported Sanskrit as national language: A response to Murli Manohar Joshi | The News Minute

Why Ambedkar supported Sanskrit as national language: A response to Murli Manohar Joshi | The News Minute

Modi’s Faux Pas on Ambedkar



Modi’s Faux Pas on Ambedkar
EPW : Vol. 51, Issue No. 16, 16 Apr, 2016
Narendra Modi
recently described himself as an Ambedkar bhakt and also assured Dalits that he
would never dilute reservations even if B R Ambedkar himself were to come back
to life and demand their revocation. The faux pas reveals the desperation of
the Hindutva forces to woo Dalits by misrepresenting Ambedkar and the critical
role reservation plays in the political schema of the ruling classes.
Reservations, which are assumed to be a boon for Dalits, have actually been the
tool of their enslavement. 
I am no
worshipper of idols.
 I believe in
breaking them.
—B R Ambedkar1
Prime Minister
Narendra Modi while delivering the sixth Ambedkar Memorial Lecture on 22 March
at Vigyan Bhavan made many interesting points. Two of them, however, are
particularly important insofar that they expose him as a representative of the
ruling classes, in deliberately misrepresenting B R Ambedkar. The first point
was his proclamation that he is an Ambedkar bhakt (devotee). The second
was his assertion that the reservation policy for the Dalits and the tribals
will not be diluted even if Ambedkar himself were to come back to life and
demand its revocation. Of course, both these statements, as indeed all his
utterances and displays of Ambedkar-love, are simply meant to woo Dalits into
the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) fold.
Logic
behind Ambedkar-love
Dalits constitute
an important part of the Sangh Parivar’s game plan. Its strategic apple cart of
polarisation of the Indian population into Hindus versus others and communists
(those who do not agree with it) can be potentially toppled by Dalits. With
their historical, social, ideological and cultural profile, Dalits can indeed
be a big spoilsport. It cannot be taken for granted that Dalits would identify
themselves as Hindus anymore.
Way back in 1909,
the issue had naturally surfaced in the wake of the colonial plan to seed
Indian politics along communal lines. During the negotiations for the
Morley–Minto Reforms (Indian Councils Act, 1909) the Muslim League had
challenged the Congress that the Dalits and the Adivasis were not part of
Hinduism. The incipient Dalit movement, which was still focused on the
rudimentary right of Dalits to be treated as humans, had not yet taken the form
of independent political articulation. Nonetheless, the Congress was compelled
to take note of the Dalits after it entered into the Lucknow Pact with the
Muslim League in the wake of the Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms for promulgation of
the Government of India Act, 1919. This was the first time in history that the
Hindus took political note of the Dalits. Symbolically, it was M K Gandhi, who
spoke in Ahmedabad against the evil practice of untouchability in June 1916,
and showed concern for the Dalits.
The Congress
organised at least four conferences in 1916 to seek the support of the Dalits
in Bombay province alone. Ambedkar, after his disillusionment with the Hindus
in the Mahad struggle in 1927, used this space to create an independent
political identity for Dalits. His attacks on the Hindus and their religion,
which culminated in his renouncing Hinduism and embracing Buddhism barely two
months before his death, permanently stamped a separate religio–cultural
identity on Dalits. It is this history that comes in the way of the Sangh
Parivar in accomplishing its goal of making India a Hindu rashtra, the
euphemism for restoring the old Brahminic structural paradigm of the
totalitarian rule of high-bred elites with a unitary command of a supreme
leader, the equivalent of ein Volk, ein Reich, ein F├╝hrer (one people,
one nation, one leader) of Nazism.
It is for this
reason that Ambedkar assumes critical importance in the Sangh Parivar’s
strategy. Unless it saffronised Ambedkar adequately, this history would haunt
them. The new-found love for Ambedkar stems from this political expediency. The
ideological weakness of the Dalit movement, the bankruptcy of Dalit leadership,
the self-centred Dalit middle class and Dalit masses’ deification of Ambedkar
in place of the Hindu gods, whom they had discarded at his instance, makes it
so much easier for the Sangh Parivar to accomplish the seemingly impossible
task of saffronising Ambedkar.
It was actually
during the tenure of Balasaheb Deoras (Madhukar Dattatraya Deoras), perhaps the
most low-profile sarsanghchalak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh
(RSS), that many such strategic moves were initiated. It was during his tenure
that the conscious work by the Sangh among Dalits had begun under the
non-governmental organisation Seva Bharati, devoted to uplifting the Dalits.
This included placing Ambedkar among the Sangh’s pratahsmaraniya, and
floating of a special purpose vehicle, the samrasata manch, to woo
middle-class Dalits who yearned for social recognition of the upper castes.
Until then, Ambedkar had been an anathema for the Sangh Parivar, for his
vitriolic attack on what they held sacred. With this strategic shift, it began
projecting him as the friend of K B Hedgewar, as the greatest benefactor of the
Hindus, admirer of the RSS, one opposed to Muslims and communists, one
supportive of the ghar wapsi, an advocate of the saffron flag as the
national flag, a great nationalist, and so on. No doubt, these were white lies,
at best having tenuous links to the issues, but they were projected as truths
with Goebbelsque zeal.
Howsoever one may
dismiss these gimmicks, they cannot be ignored. They created a solid ground for
co-opting Dalit leaders. In the last couple of elections, the BJP has been
having more reserved seats in its fold than all parties together. But, just the
reserved seats are not enough. Their polarisation strategy is contingent on
deradicalising Dalits and winning them over. It is only then that their
strategy of polarisation is viable. Because its converse is the alienation of
the minorities—which with Dalits could make up to 30% of the votes—it would
seriously impede their plans for a Hindu rashtra. The strategy subsumes
isolation of Dalit radicals like Rohith Vemula; it is similar to tagging
Adivasis as Maoists.
Ambedkar
Disliked Bhakts
Modi should know
that Ambedkar disliked bhakts. He disliked being worshipped like a hero. He was
totally against it in the political life, because it prevented a spirit of
inquiry, a sense of creativity and an independent attitude of the mind. His
biographer Dhananjay Keer writes,
At another meeting
held in Bombay to present him with an address, in the first week of March 1933,
he said, ‘This address is full of superlatives about my work and qualities. It
means you are deifying a common man like you. These ideas of hero worship will
bring ruin on you if you do not nip them in the bud. By deifying an individual,
you repose faith for your safety and salvation in one single individual with
the result that you get into the habit of dependence and grow indifferent to
your duty. If you fall a victim to these ideas, your fate will be no better
than logs of wood in the national stream of life. Your struggle will come to
naught’ (2005: 234).
In 1943, in a
lecture delivered on the 101st birthday of Mahadev Govind Ranade, he further
explained why he was against hero-worship. It is said that in Nagpur on the eve
of the conversion ceremony in 1956, people came to greet him and began falling
on his feet in reverence. Ambedkar, although not well, took his stick and hit
one of them and shouted that he did not like their servile behaviour. If he had
been alive, even Modi would have faced admonition. Ambedkar would have advised
him to focus on his constitutional duty to protect Dalits from societal
prejudices.
Modi, in curtailing
allocation of funds for development of Dalits, is allowing a free hand in
crushing radical expression of Dalit students and creating conditions that lead
to the institutional murders of promising Dalit scholars like Rohith Vemula.
They are being thrashed black and blue by the police on demanding justice—as
what happened on 22 March at the University of Hyderabad. He is simultaneously
singing paeans to Ambedkar. Modi should know that Ambedkar was not a petty
politician to be pleased by sycophants. Painting him as one is insulting him.
Ambedkar would have
certainly detested his deification. Unfortunately, his so-called followers have
also fallen prey to the machinations of the ruling classes to iconise him into
his antithesis. Instead of understanding their intrigues, the Dalits too take
pride in the state conferring honours on him and showering him with praises.
Ambedkar would have never approved of building grand memorials for politicians
or for himself. He would have rather questioned the priorities of squandering
public resources over dead men when millions did not have basic necessities for
survival. The manner in which the BJP government grabbed the opportunity to
build memorials after Ambedkar in an act of one-upmanship over the Congress
should have made Dalits wary. Unfortunately, a majority of them celebrated it,
took pride in the state honouring their icon and willingly got into the BJP’s
trap.
The
Trap of Reservations
The second point
Modi made is more intricate as it is important. The reservations for the Dalits
have been an emotional issue and hence were never viewed objectively by anyone.
When Modi said in a reassuring tone that the reservations would not be touched
even if Ambedkar came and demanded their revocation, he inadvertently revealed
their importance to his class.
Ambedkar is
singularly responsible for reservations; initially for political
representation, and later for reservations in public employment and in
educational institutions. The intent behind the former measure was defeated at
the outset. The intent was to send Dalit representatives to legislative bodies
so as to promote their interests. Ambedkar conceived of separate electorates
for Dalits in order to ensure they elect their true representative. He had
managed to secure this in the Round Table Conferences (1930–32), despite fierce
opposition from Gandhi. But, soon after their announcement, Gandhi blackmailed
him with his fast unto death. Ambedkar gave up separate electorates and
accepted joint electorates instead, through what came to be known as the Poona Pact
(1932).
As against the
separate electorates, which could ensure independent representation of Dalits,
the joint electorates guaranteed the election of such Scheduled Castes as would
be admissible for the majority of non-Dalits, thereby producing stooges, to use
Kanshi Ram’s (1982) language. There remained no theoretical possibility of a
true protagonist of Dalit masses getting elected. The earliest proof is
provided by the fact that none other than Ambedkar himself could never win an
election in post-independence India—even against non-entities.
Ambedkar was
uncomfortable with these reservations, but could do nothing when they were
incorporated into the Constitution, except putting a time limit of 10 years. It
is testimony to their utility to the ruling classes that the 10-year limit has
been extended, every time it lapsed, without anyone ever asking for it. These
reservations have been clearly detrimental to the interest of Dalits as they
have decimated the independent Dalit movement and created a class of brokers
masquerading as Dalit leaders.
The reservations in
public employment and educational institutions came into being initially as a
preferential system and became a quota system in 1943 at the behest of Ambedkar
when he was a member of the viceroy’s executive council. They surely proved
quite beneficial initially, to the extent that the sizeable Dalit middle class
that we see in urban areas is largely attributable to them. But, thereafter,
their limitation and adverse effects began surfacing. Reservations became a
powerful alibi to preserve castes as a weapon in the hands of the ruling
classes to keep the Indian masses divided perennially.
The entire social
justice issue could have been handled very differently during the making of the
Constitution, but it was systematically driven towards not only preserving
castes, but fortifying them. Since reservations, even in its quota form, had
been instituted during the colonial times, and were provided for the people
with an administrative identity of “Scheduled Caste,” snapping their umbilical
cord with Hinduism, the Constitution could have easily done away with castes
too when it pompously outlawed untouchability.
Moreover,
reservations could have been conceived as an exceptional policy for exceptional
people due to the larger society’s inability to treat them as equals. With this
conception of reservation there could have been an intrinsic motivation for
society to do away with its inability, which, besides becoming a terminal
condition as desired for the public policy of such nature, would have been a
powerful force in the annihilation of castes. It is only the larger society
that could annihilate castes. The premise of backwardness implicit in the
reservation system, which unfortunately remains unnoticed, reinforced the basic
notion prevailing in society of the inferiority of lower castes.
Not an
Innocent Act
Missing this
crucial conception of policy was unfortunately not an innocent act or the
imagination deficit of the Constituent Assembly, but a deliberate plan to forge
reservations into a powerful weapon to make it impossible for people to
threaten the monopoly of political power of the ruling classes. In its
mechanics, reservations have again ensured that they would progressively keep
benefiting the beneficiaries, creating thereby potential class of allies from
among these masses.
Leave aside the
public sector jobs, which have been consistently reducing since 1997 under the
pressure of neo-liberal policies, thereby effectively bringing reservations in
public employment to an end, the reserved seats in our premier educational
institutions have been supply-starved. The reserved seats in IITs and IIMs have
not been filled for the past many years because of the narrow supply base of
Dalits and Adivasis. There are numerous anomalies, moreover, with serious
implications to social amity. Reservations benefit the family of a beneficiary,
but are given in the name of caste, making the latter bear the brunt of
prejudice. They could, thus, be seen as directly responsible for the increasing
atrocities on Dalits in rural areas.
Reservations may be
seen as hugely detrimental to the Dalit masses inasmuch as they are perennially
blocked by their urban counterparts. Reservations are unquestioningly seen as
benefits without reckoning the huge social and psychological costs they entail.
The biggest cost of reservations is survival of castes and the decimation of
Ambedkar’s project of “Annihilation of Caste.” The psychological havoc it plays
on the minds of Dalit children early on in schools, that they belong to some
inferior species, reduces them to conform to the self-fulfilling prophesy of
their inferiority. Reservations also have provided a cover for the ruling
classes’ neglect of their obligation to provide for basic needs of the
population, namely, basic public healthcare, education and employment.
Ambedkar had sensed
the shortcomings of his vision, which had created an island of higher-educated
Dalits. He publicly expressed his displeasure in his speech in Agra in 1953, saying
that the educated Dalits had cheated him. He had imagined, from his own
example, that a few well-educated Dalits would occupy crucial administrative
positions and support the Dalit cause. He saw during his lifetime that instead
of caring for the Dalit masses, these educated Dalits were getting disconnected
from them. Unfortunately, he could not fathom the causal linkage that the class
transformation of these higher-educated Dalits would prevent them from
identifying with the Dalit masses.
If he had been
alive today to see the full unfolding of these policies, Ambedkar would have
certainly demanded their revocation as Modi insinuated. The real meaning of
reservations should be seen in terms of who benefits from them and who pays the
cost for them.
Note
1 In “Ranade,
Gandhi & Jinnah,” address delivered on the 101st Birthday Celebration of
Mahadev Govind Ranade, held on 18 January 1943 in Gokhale Memorial Hall, Poona.
References
Keer, Dhananjay
(2005): Dr Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Mumbai: Popular Prakashan.
Ram, Kanshi (1982):
The Chamcha Age (An Era of the Stooges), published on 24 September 1982
on the occasion of 50th anniversary of the Poona Pact, pamphlet, published by
Kanshi Ram, New Delhi.
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