Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Life and Times of Kumud Pawde

The first Buddhist Ambedkarite scholar of Sanskrit in post independent India

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

I am actually thankful to my Ambedkarite friend Rajni Tilak too who passed away on March 30th this year and today co-incidentally is her birthday too, for encouraging me to interview Kumud Pawde ji, an Ambedkarite and first one to get appointed as a lecturer in Sanskrit.

Mrs Kumud Pawde was born in a Phule-ite-Ambedkarite family of Nagpur on November 18th, 1938. She was witness to the historic Dhamma Deeksha ceremony on October 14th, 1956 as her parents were part of Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s movement. She says, ‘I was 18 years old and Second year student. We felt extremely overjoyed about it. We knew about each movement he started. We were proud that such an outstanding and the most educated man is leading us and trying to give us dignity.  We were known to his writings being published in magazines like Samta,  Bahishkrit Bharat and, Janata’.

Her maternal uncle was the treasurer of Scheduled Caste Federation in Vidarbha region and her mother was influenced by him and joined the social movement. Her father was a Phuleite but as usual all the Phuleites are Ambedkarites too. It is the Ambedkarites who have kept the legacy of Joti Ba Phule alive.

She says , ‘ I  feel Baba Saheb was such a person for whom Dalits had enormous regards. Women virtually worshipped him. In the Mahad styagrah movement, he formed Women’s Parishad. Everywhere in each movement he created a women’s wing.  Over twenty five thousands women participated in a programme called by Baba Saheb Ambedkar in Nagpur. Women’s were always ready to go to anywhere on his call.  Shanta Bai Dane from Nasik was a prominent woman who worked for spreading education. Women came out and participated. Many of them influenced others.’
It was a very curious issue for me as how come a woman from Ambedkarite Buddhist family actually had fascination for Sanskrit language and her answer was interesting.

‘There was a library near a temple not far away from our house.  There were Lots of book in library. I read about Baba Saheb there. I read that Baba Saheb was not allowed to study Sanskrit. That time I was in class eighth and decided to study Sanskrit. There was no problem in the school level  but in college there was problem particularly at the Post Graduation level. The teachers were mostly Brahmin teachers who were not keen to teach me as according to them only vaidik Brahmin could read Sanskriti.  They would discuss among them that she is not a Brahmin, how would I be allowed. I got full marks. I was a topper in my subject.’ Interestingly, she tells me that her high school teacher despite being a Vaidik Brahmin, actually encouraged her. But the problems were not only from her Brahmin teachers but also inside the community where many of the elders were not enthused with her decision to study Sanskrit.

I faced problems both the side. What will you get by studying it. It is a dead language, old language. But my father encouraged me all the time.’

And when I ask her about her teaching experience, she says, ‘ I taught Sanskrit for 36 years. I taught in Morris College. Students still remember me.’ It is also interesting and important that Kumud Pawde also did other masters in English literature.

I was wondering as how come an Ambedkarite Buddhist woman, a Sanskrit scholar got into teaching the language ‘reserved’ for the Brahmins. I asked her, ‘How did you find the job’ and the answer was revealing and more fascinating for me. More than that was her absolute honesty in responding to my question.

“I had a lot of problems. After two years of completing my Post Graduation in Sanskrit, I was not getting any offer.  I wrote a letter to Babu Jagjivan Ram telling him that he would always say that there was reservation for us. I am a meritorious student but I am not getting a job. In the private colleges, I was discouraged; the government colleges were out of bound. Jagjivan Ram forwarded that letter to Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru. Then Nehru ji wrote me to go to Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma and he will help you get a job. He also send rupees two hundred fifty to me from the Prime Minister’s fund. So through Nehru ji and Jagjivan Ram, I got the job. My first posting was in Madhya Pradesh. When YB Chavan became CM, then Nehru wrote him and she met him. Chavan suggested her to do Phd but I told him that it was not possible that I was not having enough time and was very disturbed with the situation. Finally, she got her posting in Amravati and after some year shifted to Nagpur when appointed in a college here.’

Today, when Nehru is being villainised by the current dispensation then it becomes more important for us to share such information in public domain which really shows how Nehru as Prime Minister was so responsive and sensitive to people irrespective of their political ideologies.  In fact, Mrs Kumud Pawde categorically said that Nehru was broadminded and a visionary. The leaders of our freedom movement were really big hearted, she said.
Though, Ms Pawde also said, ‘I got job not because of my caste but because of my husband’s caste. I came from Mahar caste and could not have got the job’.

They had an inter caste marriage. She belonged to Mahar community and her husband Moti Ram Pawde, from Kunbi community. There was opposition from both the families but more from the communities. Her father supported her and got the community realize that this is what Baba Saheb Ambedkar dreamt off. There was lot of protest in many of the Buddhist areas but ultimately they agreed but from the side of her husband, the marriage was not acceptable.

They married as per Vaidik rituals. Court had not accepted Buddhist marriages that time. So, Kumud wanted to do it according to Vaidik dharma as she did not want marriage to be broken just for some technical reasons. She wanted stability. We had lot of problem when people heard of marriages. All the time she had seen lathi and sword wielding communities to separate them so it became important for her to make her best effort that things do not go as per the whims and fancies of those who opposed their marriage.

Finally, both families attended their marriage ceremony. The hall was booked by her husband so there was no problem. The mandap was at a place called Amarjyoti. There was no issue at all as it was booked under the name of Mr Moti Ram Pawde but when people realize that the bride belong to Mahar community, they felt offended, all the women working there as domestics, cooks, cleaners, left. None want to cook for a Mahar girl. ‘My mausi and other people from my family did all the cooking and other related work’, says Kumud Ji.

The painful thing was the un-acceptance of the marriage by her father in law. ‘My elder son was three years old when we went to village. My father in law never came to us. He never drank water from my hand. When he stayed at our place, he never touched my son. My Mother in law was near me because of her son but father in law never felt the same way. All the relatives would tell my father in law that  they would have killed their sons or daughters if they had done the similar thing but my mother in law wanted to file a case against my father in law for his behavior but I did not want to take this matter outside the family .’

Though ultimately when Kumudji’s son became a doctor and went abroad his grandfather realized his mistake and accepted him. It means that our parents only accept us when we succeed and that is a tragic reality.

Kumud ji feel that caste is there even today. ‘People don’t accept despite achievements. Reservation is based on caste based. We have not changed our castes but only changed our religion. There are Dalit among the Muslims, Christians’ but she feel that Buddhism has removed ‘sub-casteism’.
I ask Kumud ji about their affair and she narrates it beautifully. ‘He was more progressive than me. We met at night school. He started night school. He was in a mission’s college. The principle wanted him to work for the poor people. The missionary principle was of the opinion that we should not depend on others to free us. Unless we have our own leaders and change makers, things won’t change. It is this inspiration by the Christian father that he started working in night school.
She informs that her husband had put a photograph of Dr Saheb Ambedkar in his school in 1956. He was the president of Student Union.

‘My home and night school was close. If the girls were to be encouraged then it was important to have a lady teacher. I had just doing MA and joined the school. This was kind of elementary school. It was a literacy school. My husband started the night school because the Christian missionary wanted him to do.’ So the school was their meeting point and she definitely was influenced by the work her husband was doing.

About  Ambedkar Movement, she says, Today Ambedkar’s women are coming up everywhere, in all fields. I am proud’.

She says,‘ We must study Baba Saheb and his speeches. We abuse Manuwadi as abuse in the name of caste but when the question of women comes we become Manuwadi. Women are Dalit among Dalits.’

I feel that it is the Dalit woman who needs to fight against Hinduism. Manavmukti i.e human liberation issue is more important than ‘Strimukti’ or women’s liberation. Buddha, Baba Saheb believed in manavmukti. I don’t believe in foreign imported feminist movement. We want women to lead the manvmukti andolan as an Ambedkarite we have to work for the liberation of all.

She says that we should not consider women as inferior. They should be given knowledge and wisdom. According to her, Hindu religion is like a rotten cloth which cannot be worn by just mending it or stitching it. You will need new cloths now so best way is to leave it and follow the path of Dhamma as guided by Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
Her autobiography ‘Antashfot’ is published in Marathi by Anand prakashan published, Aurangabad.
She says that Baba Saheb’s view does not differentiate between man and woman. We should give respect to all and stop thinking on the basis of sub-castes and gender. We should work for his vision of an enlightened India, a Baudhmay Bharat for which we need annihilation of caste and uplift of women.

For an enlightened India we need all kind of people. It cannot happen with Dalits alone. All should accept it. This is question of 97% people in which 50% are women. Dvijas i.e. twice born, are just three percent and refuse to leave behavior and caste privileges hence they can’t be our people. Buddha said Bahujan Sukhay, Bahujan Hitay and that should be our motto.
She also says that no one should exploit any one. We should not give any pain to anyone. Neither individual nor community.

Kumud Padwde retired in October 1996 and was member Doctoral Committee, Nagpur University. She is still active and is President of All India Progressive Women’s Organisation based in Nagpur. She has travelled a number of countries and attended conferences and seminars world over including participating at the World Women’s Conference in Beijing in 1995 as well as World Conference against Xenophobia and Racism in Durban in 2001.

Kumud Pawde’s life is an example of how Dalit women face double discrimination at home and outside. It equally give us an understanding that we cannot move ahead with prejudices in mind and assure support from the like-minded people. She studied and taught Sanskrit without diluting her Ambedkarite Buddhist identity is an important lesson and to get justice she approached to Babu Jagjivan Ram and through him to Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru definitely reflect her personality. It also reveal how despite dedicated Ambedkarite and Phuleite, families still feel uncomfortable with their children breaking the caste barriers yet she challenged all those norms at every level nearly 50 is remarkable and succeeded living a life on her own need to be celebrated by all.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Defend AMU and its identity to protect constitutional democracy in India

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Aligarh Muslim University is in the news. It was always in the news since pre partition days. Many felt it was responsible for creating a leadership which demanded separate state of Pakistan but broadly India’s secular elite too felt uncomfortable with Muslims speaking for themselves. This was true about the Dalits too but post 1980s, a phenomena called Kanshiram changed that forever. Now, Dalits are not a ‘vote bank’ but assertively seek their representation across the political parties. It is Kanshiram effect that has compelled the political parties to vacate space for Dalits in respectable positions though the brahmanical crookedness still operate.

After the partition of India, Muslims faced systematic isolation in political space and social ostracisation. Riots were engineered wherever Muslims were economically powerful and doing their business independently. So far, we have not seen any conviction in these so-called riots.  Bhagalpur, Mujaffarnagar, Bhivandi, Gujrat 2002, Aligarh, Meerut, Moradabad, Jabalpur, Malegaon, Mumbai and so many places saw worst kind of violence against Muslims and yet so far we have not seen a single conviction. We had ‘secular’ governments and then we have Hindutva government but the isolation of the Muslim remains the same. It is clear that the RSS’s agenda Hindu-ise the polity is succeeding because Muslims are asked to keep quiet in the ‘greater’ national interest.

If Kathua rape case happened or violence in Kashmir continues unabated Muslims are told you can’t speak on it because there is violence against minorities in Pakistan or Bangladesh. If you want to speak about the democratic rights of the Kashmiri then you are anti-national and for a Muslim in India, these are not the issues he should speak. If he speaks up against the state violence then he is anti-national and if he speak up against ethnic violence by anti-Indian groups then he face threat of not speaking up against the security forces. In these times of deeply polarized debate, an honest debate, in defense of human rights is simply very difficult if not impossible.

Now the latest controversy that has been created is a photograph of founder of Pakistan Mohammad Ali Jinnah which is there in a hall at the Aligarh Muslim University.  A group of goons masquerading as activist intruded in the University campus when former Vice President Mr Hamid Ansari was delivering a guest lecture there. The attempt to attack Ansari was diverted by demand to throw the photograph of Mohammad Ali Jinnah from the campus. It is not the first time that AMU is being targeted. Prior to this, several years ago, the ignorant Sanghis tried to put Raja Mahendra Pratap in picture to target Sir Syed Ahmed birthday celebration. Now reports are coming that his grandson want to put his portrait inside the campus as he had leased 3.04 acre land to AMU in 1929 at the rate of Rs 2/- per annum. There is no doubt that AMU should have given due respect to him. I am not sure why it has not happened but RSS’s attempt to claim Raja Mahendra Pratap boomerang as he was a secular man with close association with Muslims. In fact, Jan Sangh stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee lost his deposit in his first election that he contested against Raja Mahendra Pratap, from Mathura Lok Sabha constituency in 1957. So Jinnah’s portrait is not the issue. The issue is to create problems and polarize the debate elsewhere to reap rich harvest of communal hatred.

There are two issues here. The first is a political one. Since we all know that BJP and Hindutva forces will always rake up such issue so they advise the Muslims to voluntarily do away with this. It means that AMU should do away with Jinnah’s photograph and also put the photograph of Raja Mahendra Pratap to do away with the controversy which is a deliberate ploy to vitiate the atmosphere in the campus. Now, for all practical purposes, this, has found support from political parties who have forgotten speaking about Muslims just because they fear ‘BJP and Hindutva forces would use it to communalise the voters’. Now the question is whether this is a solution or a problem?

 The political parties are afraid of raising the general issues of Muslims, related to their socio-economic-cultural side shows that the democracy has reduced to majoritarian propaganda tool which is serious in nature. A healthy democracy is the place where minorities and the dissenters can live without fear and holding their head high. Minorities can’t be held responsible for every act of the past and history cannot be an instrument for the lynch mob to settle scores are the ground. Academic institutions should actually debate and discuss this issues which we avoided during those tumultuous years. As both India and Pakistan enter into fourth generation India, they can trust the younger one who should be free from prejudices at least those who are in the academics. Unfortunately, situation in India is getting worst with Sangh Parivar pushing its agenda and wanting to convert all the academic institutions into Gurukuls, not allowing dissent to flourish and deeply fishing into old stereotypical agenda against the Muslims and other minorities. So, after seventy years of our partition, we can’t discuss the follies of our political class. We can understand that historians and political writers might have been influenced by the wider political thoughts during the day but so many years after it, we now have the opportunity to independently analyse the reasons of division, if we are so conscious about it. One thing for sure, we must respect that India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Nepal and Sri-Lanka are different countries and there is nothing to discuss here that talks of a ‘Akhand Bharat’ kind of fictitious idea that the Sangh Parivar nurture for their political purposes but it serves a lot of purpose to analyse things independently and learn a few lessons from our past. It would be absolutely stupid and absurd to say that we can’t talk about Jinnah or revere him while we can go to bow in front of the Queen and feel pride in being part of the British CommonWealth. But then the Sangh Parivar’s history version is not bothered about the struggle against colonialism but against the Muslims. In fact, if Great Britain opens up its citizenship for Indian citizens, I am sure, a majority of the ‘Deshbhakt’ won’t wait for a second thought to leave India.

India was partitioned in 1947 and Pakistan in 1971. There are so many countries which got divided in one struggle or other. SriLanka faced severe ethnic crisis in late 1980s and now moving into the right direction. China has Tibetan issue at the back side. All the countries of the world have several issues. Inside the country, there are so many ethnicities, who are seeking separate state for them. People’s grievances do not emerge out of a blue but systematic isolation and exclusion from the structure. The world today is a village and sharing knowledge and information. We can’t change our neighbors. We have common history from which the entire society can learn a lot for the betterment of their future. Why the country gets divided? The factors are clear that some communities/identities have grievances of under representation and being left out. When there are forces of extremism on both the sides who harp on ‘discrimination’ then this grow. Much before Mohammad Ali Jinnah could think of two nation theory, the Hindutva ideologue V D Savarkar declared Hindus a separate nation. All those whose fatherland is India can claim India as their country. During those years, the Hindus and Muslims lived together too and fought together against the British. Yes, both the Congress Party and Muslim league were of the upper caste feudal varieties.  We have enough evidences to prove that India failed to protect its minorities and give enough representation to Dalits and Adivasis. We have success stories too. What was important and made us better than our neighbors were that we had institutions and state’s commitment to inclusive society while all over neighbors were either theocratic or military dictatorship where extra-constitutional authorities ran the state. Pakistan today is not really that of the dreams of Mohammad Ali Jinnah who wanted an inclusive Pakistan. In fact, so powerful are the religious forces there that it is difficult for common person to stand against them yet those who believe in human rights and human values are fighting for that. Is it not wonderful to see how lawyers and activists are fighting case for Shaheed Bhagat Singh to be declared a hero of Pakistan too? Will it not be great if Lahore High Court give a judgment on Bhagat Singh’s execution terming that as farce and seeking British apology? We have not been able to do so even after so many years but if our neighbors do it, we must appreciate it. I have Pakistani and Bangladeshi friend who actually speak against Islamic fundamentalism and a common secular approach. Many of them spoke against creation of Pakistan.

Pakistan, Bangladesh paid a price for state’s active support to Islamic fundamentalists. The main victims of their fundamentalism and hatred were minorities particularly the Hindus, Christians and Ahmadis but they did feel that those Muslims championing the cause of secularism and protection of minorities as a threat to their society and Islam. At the end, common Pakistani and Bangladeshi are fed up with Islamic fanatics and look forward for a better life where rule of law prevail. What happened in Sri Lanka and Myanmar is known to us. Despite the fact that Buddhism is a very reasonable and peaceful religion, when the state uses it as a propaganda tool, then, the dangers are obvious. Nepal was a Hindu Rashtra and people got fed up with that and ultimately threw away the King who felt he was the ‘avatar’ or incarnation of Lord Vishnu but we know the Lord perpetuated caste system and a rigid undemocratic brahmanical regime on the people.

Most important question must be asked to the proponents of Hindu Rashtra as what is their ideal model. They claim despite all proof that they sided with the British, apologized to them, that they opposed partition of India. Let us agree to their point but I wish to ask them as what was their model to avoid partition. It could only have been to win the confidence of Muslims but were they doing it or they were creating thousands of Pakistan in every village. Did RSS ever work for inclusion or its sole policy has been to divide people, create rumours and convert fictions created at their drawing rooms into history which has become their important tool to abuse the Muslims and other minorities. It is a difficult task as India’s history is not merely between the Muslims and Hindus but there are layers and layers. RSS want Hindu identity but India’s vast majority of people, the Bahujans feel, RSS is nothing but the brahmanical agenda to keep the Dalit Bahujan subjugated under their nefarious caste order. So, keeping the divide between Hindus and Muslims suits both the upper caste Muslims and upper caste Hindu leadership sidelining the entire Dalit Bahujan interests. How can an idea which does not believe in inclusion, which believe in supremacy of a particular race or caste, build an inclusive society? The Sangh idea of brahmanical supremacy today has no takers except for the Brahmin themselves and it deny others the space on the equality basis. World over, when societies negotiates to live together, their idea is based on the principles of equal partnership. None would like to live in a society where discrimination has got divine sanctity.

But then the Sangh Parivar has not believed in ‘people’. For their ignorant devotees if people are protesting then they have no right to live in India. They say easily as everything is a Jumla. So, they will say if Kashmiris are opposing, they must leave India go to Pakistan but same thing is not possible for them say in Nagaland or Manipur. Actually, the entire concept of the Sangh’s Bharat mata philosophy is importance of ‘geographical’ area and nothing to do with people. So, national boundaries are ours whether people are included in it or not. These are simple jargons which are taught in the primary level schools when they cry patriotism. Children do not know that we feel proud of getting associated with our colonial masters but not with our neighbors who was part of us.

We can’t alter history. We can’t change our neighbors but nothing is better than having a good relationship. SARRC is the biggest market in South Asia yet it is China and UK who will control it further because of our conflicting stand. Going to Lahore which is 30 minutes from Delhi, actually take around 8 hours when you fly via Dubai or any other airlines. There are very few flights for Dhaka too. If the trade is opened between different countries, it will open new avenues. The people will become friends and will understand that the borders created were actually artificial because two people who have common language, common culture, music, cinema and literature, can’t really be divided but the problem is if there is a people to people contact then the work of the hate-mongers will end. Today, in democratic polity, multicultural society face such crisis because the right-winger crony capitalists who don’t feel about Bharatmata when sale dignity of their country, its assets and its monuments of historic importance, but use religion to isolate people and mobilise gangs against them.

Aligarh Muslim University is a prestigious institution of the country. It has a secular past also. It created a growing middle class and their intelligentsia. Muslims are equal citizens of India and hence to deny them space and seek answers from them all the time for the ‘alleged’ sins of creating Pakistan is highly objectionable and must be condemned. History cannot be corrected. What will happen if the Dalit Bahujan population of this country starts seeking compensation and retaliation for the brahmanical sins perpetuating untouchability and caste system on the vast population of India?

Mature societies do not hound their people for the past sins of their ancestors. In fact, it is better to admit mistakes and faults. The brahmanical Hindus not only target Muslims but Dalits too. They seek response from Muslims about Jinnah’s sins but they are themselves not ready to even acknowledge their own sins committed on the vast Bahujan communities. Have any of India’s brahmanical politician apologized to the indigenous population for the historical wrongs. It is time they do it. Similarly, better to make our society better. Let us be clear that no country can today live peacefully if its minorities and marginalised are not given space in decision making. Hounding and embarrassing of minorities will ultimately be detrimental for the national interests as a citizen of India all people have equal rights. Hindus, Muslims, Dalits, OBCs, Jews, Christians and so many other communities will live in India and one can only pity on those who assume that one community can be wiped out and flag of their religion will only fly when all other religions and individuals are eliminated.  In Todays world, one community can be majority here and minority elsewhere and therefore any suppression and humiliation of any community will only result in counter reactions in the other parts of the world Civilisations can only grow if they appreciate, acknowledge their fault lines and promise to follow not only their constitutions but all the international laws and treaties that we have signed. It is better History to be dealt by historians and not street rogues and third rated politicians who want to divide communities for their vote bank. Politics in the country should be issue based. Let the governments go to people on the basis of their performance and not on the stories they built up vilifying the minorities and claiming to respect the Dalits. Your good intentions should be reflected in the work you do and not what you talk.

Finally, history has lots of lessons for us. Though Pakistan came into being on the basis of religious identity, the fact was it got divided later because under that religious identity, the ethnic identity issue was sought to be disowned and disrespected by the dominating Punjabi-Sindhi elite of Pakistan. Bangla identity broke the religion as uniting factor and brought the issue of language as uniting factor. India was careful enough when it allowed its diversity as its strength and not allows domination of Hindi as being done today. Brahmanical hatemongers in Europe and America who seek equal status and enjoy all the strength of democracies there should think twice before exporting hatred against minorities in India. We will only become a strong nation once we allow its diversity to flourish and learn positive lessons from history but not by hiding or deleting the uncomfortable chapters but researching them well so that future generation is better prepared. You can fight Jinnah-ism with inclusive politics and not by Savarkarism which talk of exclusivism and denial of rights to minorities.

Muslims and Christians too are Indian citizens and need to be defended on the basis of their citizenship rights. You cannot paint an entire community and its institutions as anti-national just because it has a photograph of Mohammad Ali Jinnah. We have accepted Pakistan as a reality and that is why BJP leader Lal Krishna Advani went to Minar-e-Pakistan in Lahore and Jaswant Singh paid rich tribute to founder of Pakistan. Truth from history can expose us. Who can deny the fact that India and Pakistan elite followed the same pattern in the constituent Assembly? The chairman of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly was Mr Joginder Nath Mandal, a follower of Dr Ambedkar from Bengal. He became the first law minister there. The Jinnah which RSS hates so much fought the case of Bal Gangadhar Tilak as well as organized lawyers for Bhagat Singh in Lahore. He called Bhagat Singh, a national hero while Gandhi could not protect them from execution. Shayma Prasad Mukherjee was the Minister in Nehru’s cabinet along with Sardar Baldev Singh, Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Maulana Azad, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai and many others. Similarly, the same Shayama Prasad Mukherjee was Finance Minister in the Krishak Praja Party-Muslim League Coalition led by Fazul-Haq in Bengal. They all joined Nehru’s cabinet despite diversity of ideas because the aim was to build a united India.

Let us not dig history to humiliate people as fact is all of us have dirty past. We live among majoritarian tendencies carefully crafted by the religious rights where minorities are considered to be obstacles in their growth and progress. Fact is that it is all power games to control communities and therefore detrimental to individual freedom and freethinking ideals. Majoritarianism ultimately leads to the creation of theocratic state which ultimately pose a serious threat to democracy and human rights of the people. For democracy to flourish, we need to respect people’s right to differ with popular notion of history as well as diversity of political thoughts and ideas. In the interest of an inclusive and democratic India, we must defend rights of intellectuals, minorities to express for themselves as well as strengthen their institutions like AMU as well as other such institutions. Discrediting them will ultimately ruin our social fabric as well as destroy the constitutional democracy. It is equally important for political parties to speak up on the issue and provide a better defense of Muslims and others as citizen of India and not take shelter that it would help the BJP. We know the dark realities but it is time when political parties will have to take a stand and speak up against isolation of communities because you might win an election but lose the nation. No one from minorities and marginalized communities in India should feel excluded and it is the duty of political parties and other civil society activists to take a clear stand on the issue and ensure that the communities feel part of the country and broader society only then we will be a able to build a strong and united India. The war is for proportionate space in our power structure which means those who have grabbed more space from others will have to cede and perhaps that is the reason why every day we get new versions of history and keep the pot boiling. Proportionate distribution is the only solution to India’s issues but then it create problem for a tiny minority which enjoyed fruits at the cost of our divisions. This war on Muslims is nothing but an attempt to deny them space and representation which must be resisted at all cost in the greater interest of democracy, secularism and human rights apart from unity and integrity of our country

Monday, April 30, 2018

Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s vision of liberation in Buddhism

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

A few months back, I was introduced an Indian settled in the United States who worked with the American military and wrote extensively against Gandhi. One thing that I don’t like is that writing against Gandhi does not mean some body has become an Ambedkarite. We met in Delhi and there were lots of discussions. He was quite ‘rational’ till a certain point. Slowly, he said, that Ambedkarite are very aggressive when one talks about Buddhism and Dr Ambedkar and that they too need to be critiqued. I said, I would never hesitate in agreeing with you but both Buddha and Ambedkar have been critiqued by all. Then he pointed to me that Buddha was never born and that he is a mythological figure like Ram, Krishna, Jesus and Mohammad which disturbed me a lot. He said that Americans have done a lot of research about it. I told him, I have no issue with their research and it is not necessary for me to agree with that research. The second point which was very disturbing was his ‘’information’’ about Ambedkar having met a Christian priest in Bombay after his embracing Buddhism and admitting to him that it was a wrong decision on his part and he was disappointed with it. I was along with another friend and became very upset with such a futile allegation. I responded, Sir, Dr Ambedkar did not become a Buddhist all of a sudden. He has known about Buddhism for long and as our friend Vijay Survade ji informed me with document available with him that Dr Ambedkar had embraced Buddhism with his wife Savita Ambedkar about two three years before his public conversion on October 14th, 1956. Secondly, Dr Ambedkar participated in International Buddhist Conference in Kathmandu, Nepal and on December 6th, 1956, he passed away, so where was the time to be with the priest. I found out the book he referred and read the book in which the priest in Mumbai write about Dr Ambedkar but nowhere is this written that he was dissatisfied with his embracing Buddhism. A man of Dr Ambedkar’s character, who was actually a rationalist and explained Buddha and Buddhism in a very different way, can’t be victim of wrong choices. I am narrating this story here because so many people have been trying to malign Dr Ambedkar in different ways. I have no issue if somebody critique his policies but to doubt his integrity and put suspicion on his choices is very disturbing. Frankly, it was the dream of Baba Saheb Ambedkar to make India an enlightened society which was possible in Buddhism in real sense and his appeal for conversion to Buddhism was not merely to Dalits but to all including upper castes if they want to see India a better society.

Now, Dr Ambedkar’s Buddhism is essentially humanism and rationalism. It is more humanist because it has a compassion part in it and not merely a debating philosophy but an ideology or a way of life that has compassion in it and must be philosophically liberating for people. In many sense, Dr Ambedkar’s rationalism comes close to Marxian philosophy too except that he never believed in ‘dictatorship of the proletariats’. The one question which has debated largely among both Ambedkarite and left circles is about his relationship with the left, his thoughts about Marx and so on. Ideologies of individuals are product of their time and societies hence it is important for us to understand that we use the best of them which is suitable for us in the existing circumstances and leave the other. For millions of marginalized, oppressed and victim of brahmanical hegemony in India, Dr Ambedkar remain far more relevant and potent force than any other contemporary of his time. It does not mean we leave them aside or look down upon them in contempt but it means that any idea of theirs which compliment us should be taken to strengthen the movement and that we should not become victim of ‘ideologies’. It does not mean to make one compromising on things but the fact is Dr Ambedkar remained absolutely committed to his conviction but at the same time was not rigid to political alliances or formations.

In an interview to me Prof Kevin Brown from Indiana University in United States felt that Ambedkar was one of the greatest intellectuals of the world, simply extraordinary. As an African American, he felt sad why Martin Luther King remained unaware of the work of Dr Ambedkar. Had he known Ambedkar that time, the later would have been known world over and not Gandhi? Popularising Gandhi myth internationally, to a large extent, comes from Dr Martin Luther King’s acceptance of him as the icon of non-violence.  Prof Brown says, ‘From an African-American viewpoint, Gandhi is connected to the non-violent protest movement of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.  Reverend King often referred to the fact that he adopted his non-violence philosophy from Gandhi.  Thus, when African-Americans think of Gandhi, we tend to think of him as a role model for Reverend King.  As a result, Gandhi is held in high regard by African-Americans, despite the very racist views that Gandhi expressed about blacks while in South Africa. Unlike most of my people, I am very aware of the Gandhi-Ambedkar conflict.  At the core of African-American culture is a struggle against racial oppression.  From that standpoint, Gandhi’s stand on separate electorate for Dalits was most unfortunate.  That move substantially undercut Dalit political power to this day.  And political power has been a huge help to the African-American struggle for equality.’

At the same point of time Prof Brown says that Marxism did not appeal to blacks in United States because Marx failed to address their core issue of racism and slavery. It is not surprising that Marx’s way of addressing all the issue is through economic view point and he failed to understand or address, I am not sure whether it was a deliberate failure or out of ignorance, the issue of racial discrimination, segregation and slavery in the west as socio cultural subjugation. Many people in India blame Marx for not addressing the caste issue but how would he do when he failed to understand the cultural aspect of racism in the west.

It is not that Ambedkar did not know about Marx or any other ism that time but for him the most important thing of his life was to ensure justice to the vast communities of untouchables and other marginalized people. He did not have the luxury of claiming to be an ‘ideologue’ and sitting in his chamber rather he was with the common persons most of the time and used all the paths which he felt would get justice, for his people.

It is true Ambedkar belong to the world and he deserve a place among the high echelons of world philosophers, thinkers and social revolutionaries but, for millions of Dalits and Bahujans in India, he is their ‘father’ and ‘guide’. This is an unprecedented situation for an individual. Ambedkar as an emancipator of Dalit Bahujans but at the same point of time a philosopher, without reading him, you cannot claim to have understood Indian society. No studies of social sciences in India would complete without understanding Ambedkar. Scholars have written a lot about whether he was against Marx or communism but Ambedkar was unambiguous about his faith in Buddha because he wanted to enlighten people and never ever believed in retribution. It is important to understand what exactly Ambedkar wanted and why his perception and philosophy could become the ideology of human rights of 21st century.

I put Dr Ambedkar as a freethinker, a humanist whose world vision was of Equality, Fraternity and Liberty; a world where individual is supreme and could take decision about his life. He stood for the rights of absolute freedom of expression to the extent of even challenging the ‘Shastras’. Those who have seen his argument over ‘caste system’ with Gandhi will vouch how he demolished Gandhi’s‘ chaturvarna’ theory and shastras being sacrosanct, with his argumentative skills and theoretical evidences. Ambedkar never accepted the supremacy of the authority of Shastras while Gandhi said Shastras are written and dictated by God and those who do not believe in them are not Sanatan Dharmis. In his Harijan, Gandhi defended the Varnashram dharma and unsuccessfully try to differentiate between Caste and Varna. Dr Ambedkar writes in ‘Annihilation of Castes’ :

Caste has nothing to do with religion. It is a custom whose origin I do not know and do not need to know for the satisfaction of my spiritual hunger. But I do know that it is harmful both to spiritual and national growth. Varna and Ashrama are institutions which have nothing to do with castes .The law of Varna teaches us that we have each one of us to earn our bread by following the ancestral calling. it defines not our rights but our duties. It necessarily has reference to callings that are conducive to the welfare of humanity and to no other. It also follows that there is no calling too low and none too high. Ail are good, lawful and absolutely equal in status. The callings of a Brahmin— spiritual teacher—-and a scavenger are equal, and their due performance carries equal merit before God and at one time seems to have carried identical reward before man. Both were entitled to their livelihood and no more. Indeed one traces even now in the villages the faint lines of this healthy operation of the law. Living in Segaon with its population of 600, I do not find a great disparity between the earnings of different tradesmen including Brahmins. I find too that real Brahmins are to be found even in these degenerate days who are living on alms freely given to them and are giving freely of what they have of spiritual treasures. It would be wrong and improper to judge the law of Varna by its caricature in the lives of men who profess to belong to a Varna, whilst they openly commit a breach of its only operative rule. Arrogation of a superior status by and of the Varna over another is a denial of the law. And there is nothing in the law of Varna to warrant a belief in untouchability. 

Baba Saheb Ambedkar said that there might definitely be certain good things in Shastras but if there are things which are against basic human dignity and common goods of the people and which violate the principle of equality then we must either delete those text or amend them, to which Gandhi responded with his typical contempt that Shastras are written by Gods and human beings have no right to amend it. Gandhi’s stand was not dissimilar to that of any other religious fanatic who considers their ‘holybook’ as God written texts and give nobody the liberty to challenge those verses or quotes mentions in these books. Castes are powerful bodies, autonomous and each one of them feel superior to other. They have no connectivity unless you do the work destined for you under the chaturvarnya philosophy.  Hinduism is nothing but a ‘collection’ of castes, said Dr Ambedkar.

Whether the Hindu religion was or was not a missionary religion has been a controversial issue. Some hold the view that it was never a missionary religion. Others hold that it was. That the Hindu religion was once a missionary religion must be admitted. It could not have spread over the face of India, if it was not a missionary religion. That today it is not a missionary religion is also a fact which must be accepted. The question therefore is not whether or not the Hindu religion was a missionary religion. The real question is why did the Hindu religion cease to be a missionary religion ? My answer is this. Hindu religion ceased to be a missionary religion when the Caste System grew up among the Hindus. Caste is inconsistent with conversion. Inculcation of beliefs and dogmas is not the only problem that is involved in conversion. To find a place for the convert in the social life of the community is another and a much more important problem that arises in connection with conversion. That problem is where to place the convert, in what caste ? It is a problem which must baffle every Hindu wishing to make aliens converts to his religion. Unlike the club the membership of a caste is not open to all and sundry. The law of caste confines its membership to person born in the caste. Castes are autonomous and there is no authority anywhere to compel a caste to admit a new-comer to its social life. Hindu Society being a collection of castes and each caste being a close corporation there is no place for a convert. Thus it is the caste which has prevented the Hindus from expanding and from absorbing other religious communities. So long as caste remains, Hindu religion cannot be made a missionary religion and Shudhi will be both a folly and a futility.’

In a rare but candid interview to BBC in 1956 Dr Ambedkar said that India is still not a society as none care about others. We are not bothered about our neighbors. We are bothered about his caste first and hence how can we become a society when there is no man to man relationship, where we cannot shake hands with an individual despite knowing him just because he happen to belong to another caste. He was bitter but he never lost reasoning and sanity. He was deeply influenced from that thoughts of Buddha and that is why believed that we can only be a great society if people follow human values democratically and a changing the heart happens after positive realization.

Many votaries of Marxism feel Ambedkar was the product of  ‘liberalism’ where individual matters the most and his faith was in strengthening democracy but not through the path of ‘revolution’ while the votaries of the ‘Right’ like Arun Shourie felt that he opposed or should I say, questioned, Gandhi and hence was a British ‘plant’ to subvert our ‘freedom movement’.  As we have mentioned that retribution was never what Ambedkar wanted otherwise he would have been happier with Russian revolution but he never believed in ‘communist’ form of ‘government’, which he felt would only perpetuate violence and injustice. His focus was social justice and not in retributive justice. It means he believed in an equalitarian society where human being believed in concept of equality not because of fear of law but because of principle of their faith in equality. This is an important part where Ambedkar differed with Communism and its whole theory of ‘dictatorship of the proletariat” as Ambedkar felt democracy is the only way out where untouchables would be able to get justice and politically united. For democracy to survive, we would need philosophers like Voltaire as Dr Ambedkar said who would question the state and society whenever and where they were wrong. So dissent remains Dr Ambedkar’s biggest strength.

Dr Ambedkar believed that State must owned all the land and nationalize it. It is here he had been influenced by the Soviet module where he felt that state must distribute the land according to needs of the farmers and those who do not till the land have no right to control it. Ambedkar had appreciated the communist thinking on land. He also promoted idea of cooperative farming for the better results of it in India particularly in the drought prone regions of Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharastra.

If we just keen aside the differences, Dr Ambedkar’s main emphasis was towards the emancipation and liberation of untouchables and ensuring that they get fair representation in the new framework of governance. So, he had enormously difficult task for him. One a community leader who is negotiating with the government for their rights and the other role is of a guide of the community telling them what they should do. The role of the guide of the community is very important as it is where Baba Saheb Ambedkar focused a lot the cultural changes in the community as he felt that without them there would not be a change. Hence he thought of ‘Prabuddha Bharat’ i.e. an enlightened India or enlightened world where people share common concerns of humanity and stand for the most oppressed together.

Dr Ambedkar had realized that the vast masses of untouchables need to be delinked with the brahmanical practices and the religion they follow which have degraded them and put them in subhuman conditions. And he found that he it is not merely leaving Hinduism and following any other religion but returning to his roots. He never wanted people to become prisoner of religion and therefore after a big thought he embraced Buddhism which was not only native but redefined Buddhism from original Navayana perspective which is nothing but humanism.

In his book ‘Buddha and Marx’ Dr Ambedkar mention why and how is Buddha different than others.

‘ Religion is important fact of life and must relate to it and not to speculation about God, soul and heaven etc.  It is wrong to make God centre of religion or universe. The purpose of philosophy is to reconstruct the world and not to explain the ‘origin’ of it.’

If we analyse the above statements carefully then it is clear that Ambedkar is a humanist as he has not accepted the ‘supremacy’ of written texts and that he emphasizes on that the centre of ‘religion’ should be ‘human being’. It clearly reflect his mind how he envisaged religion. He did not want to engage with those who wanted to speak of ‘atma’, ‘paratma’, ‘punarjanm’, ‘avatar’ etc as he felt these are brahmanical construct to keep their monopoly over religion and continue to misguide poor.  Hinduism for him was minus any ‘Karuna’ or humanity as it divide people on the basis of their birth.

It is essential to understand how he looked at Buddha and his teachings.

Let us talk of the Eight Fold Path ( Ashtang Marg)

1.     Right view (freedom from superstition)
2.     Right Aims (high and worthy)
3.     Right speech (Kind, open and truthful)
4.     Right Conduct ( Peaceful, honest and pure)
5.     Right livelihood ( causing hurt or inury to no living human being)
6.     Right Mindfulness ( with a watchful and active mind)
7.     Right perseverance in all the above
8.     Right contemplation ( earnest thought)

According to him all the above are meant for the creation of Kingdom of righteousness. The most important thing is how ‘means’ too are important for Buddha. He will not ‘achieve’ things by ‘any means. It means that you have to have right ‘mean’ to achieve your path.  So, ‘dictatorship of the proletariat will neither lead to democracy and will not be without violence.  The end of the dictatorship is to make revolution permanent but then you have only duties in communism and no right to criticize if you disagree.  It is the biggest point of disagreement of Ambedkar of communism or say communist form of governance.

He says, “Buddha was against violence but in favor of justice’ who promoted democracy at every level in his Shakya world. There were 13 monarchies and 4 Republics among the Shakyans”.

Buddha’s commune concept was nothing but communism where none of the Bhikkhus had personal possession.  According to Dr Ambedkar, Buddha established communism without being violent and dictatorial.  So the changes, that Buddha wanted to bring was through mind and attitude. Whatever you do, do it voluntarily. According to Ambedkar, ‘We need religion, as we are human being, emotional and work to satisfy our spiritual need too’ but then his meaning of religion was based on concept of humanism and felt that it was needed to protect human values and should have focus on wellbeing of human being rather than an illusory ‘God’.

Dr Ambedkar was impressed with French Revolution and its ideals of Fraternity, Liberty and Equality.  He respected Voltaire and wishes if we had person like him India would have gained immensely in terms of knowledge and democratic spirit. 

He explain his respect for Russian Revolution too as it brought equality but he was not ready for the dictatorship of proletariat and felt that equality without fraternity is not acceptable to him. Society should be equal but not at the cost of sacrificing fraternity and equality, he emphasized. Any changes that the law enforces will be cosmetic and compulsory aversion and India is witnessing that humbug politically and administratively when the love for ‘Dalits’ is not in the heart but because of the constitutional promulgations, which result in falsifications and violation of their rights.  Ambedkar was absolutely clear that we need to change the heart of the people and that is why he embraced the guiding principles of Buddha. You cannot change people through laws but through their mindset and change of heart. We need to understand that Ambedkar was hurt but never bitter at the end as he found right path in the preaching’s of Buddha.

So in the context of today, we need to see what he should have been doing.

Today, Ambedkar remain an icon beyond boundaries. He is finding his place in the history books among the historians and politicians as well as political philosophers who were the most influential in 21st century. He will be scrutinized and further critiqued. There will be people who have vilified him because he stood up against authoritarian Gandhi and for whom the ‘freedom’ of Dalits from the ‘servitude’ of caste Hindus was more important than the ‘transfer of power’ in India, as he felt British were far more justice loving people than the caste Hindus.

Annihilation of caste made a few things clear and we must understand that. That was Ambedkar in 1930, fighting with Gandhi, trying to improve Hinduism but he was disappointed with Gandhi’s approach and learnt his lesson. He moved away and decided that people need an alternative vision, a better one to guide their destiny. There is no time for ‘improvement’ but the best way is to walk out of the system and develop your own system. That is where he revitalized Buddhism in India, it is Navayana, a new way of life, much different than that of Dalai Lama and his superstitious ways of life. Let us see what does Ambedkar learnt from his entire altercation with Gandhi which has been produced in ‘Annihilations of Castes’.

1.     That Dr Ambedkar was not ready to accept the Supremacy of ‘God’s words’ and for that he was not just ready to take on to the high and mighty like Gandhi but also to Pope John Paul. We cannot ignore an important publication of Times when Ambedkar was invited for hearing in Rome by Pope. After initial introduction and the concern of Dr Ambedkar towards the untouchables, the Pope viewed that it will take a few centuries before the caste system is completely ‘eradicated’. Upon hearing this, Ambedkar just walked out of the meeting saying that he did not have time to wait for this much of centuries to liberate his people.
2.     Annihilation of caste was an attempt by Ambedkar to radicalize the Hindu system. He felt that if the caste Hindus change, it would be great. Till that period Ambdkar contended with claiming to be a ‘protestant Hindu’.

3.     The whole debate on the issue of ‘caste system’ with Gandhi made one thing unambiguously clear that the Hindus were not ready to change their attitude towards Dalit a bit. Caste system, as a Ambedkar said was a ‘graded inequality’ and divide oppressed too on the basis of ‘hierarchies’. It has made a false sense of pride among people. Hence the entire edifice of Hinduism is nothing but caste system and if caste system is demolished the entire system of varna will collapse like a castle of cards. No Hindu believing in the Varna system, would like to demolish his faith. Gandhi knew it well and hence created myth around everything so that uncomfortable questions are not raised and if they are then the answer should be wrapped in mysticism.

4.     Dr Ambedkar realized that Hindus are not ready to change. It is no point discussing with them to change when they are not ready to accept the fundamental of the problem. Caste system and discrimination are inherent part of Varnashram dharma and cannot be resolved by propagandist’s statement and patronizing attitude of Gandhi, suggesting that ‘untouchables’ are ‘Harijans’, son of God. Ambedkar considered it a virtual abuse as Harijan was a term used for the children of ‘Devdasis’ who were sexually exploited by the temple priests. Despite objections by Ambedkarites this term continued to be used in India portraying Gandhi as a ‘great’ emancipator of Dalits. It was only after 1991 when BSP’s fire brand politics threatened to agitate and the government finally ordered to remove the word from the government files. For Dr Ambedkar, saving Hinduism is nothing but saving Brahmanism and as all efforts to change it were countered by Gandhi under the pretext of Shastras, he decided that ‘ though I was a born Hindu, I would not die as a Hindu’.

6.     Gandhi was always claiming that untouchability was not part of Hinduism and a blot to it. Ambedkar on the other hand felt that discrimination and caste segregation are inherent part of brahmanical values defined by Manu. Hence, just speaking of untouchability yet protecting caste system reveal the greatest double speak. How can a person ‘condemn’ untouchability and decide to work for its removal but at the same point of time openly advocate work based on caste. Gandhi unambiguously said that caste are based on ‘divinity’ of Shastras and cannot be changed. Those who challenge the supremacy of the religious be text have to leave the ‘religion’ and can’t be called Hindus, said Gandhi. Actually, Gandhi was a deeply religious person who was ‘defining’ things according to his own concepts without challenging the authority of religion to dictate our lives. Ambedkar on the other hand was not ready to accept the ‘authority’ of Shastras if they violate the dignity and human rights of the people. Ambedkar was of the belief that every religion has good things too and bad things too but most important part of them should be to delete those which are wrong and change according to the time and need of human being.  Prior to this, Ambedkar had led the temple entry movement in famous Kalaram temple of Nasik and was heavily objected by caste Hindus.
8.     On December 25th, 1927, along with his supporters, Dr Ambedkar burnt Manusmriti and drank water from Chavdar pond of Mahad, in Maharastra. It need to be reminded to people that Dalits were denied right to drink water from the village ponds and wells. Ambedkar challenged this and led the movement against such discriminatory practice.

Dr Ambedkar realized that Caste is a big ‘political’ power for the Brahmins and bring many privileges hence all their talk of working against it would be just hypocrite as at the end of the day we all would not like to do away with our ‘powers’ and ‘privileges’ but he also knew that there are good people everywhere who were ready to associate with him in this battle for Indian renaissance and therefore he made them partner in his struggle. One should not ignore the symbolism in how it was not Dr Ambedkar but Shahshrabuddhe, a Brahmin who burnt the Manusmriti in Mahad.

So for the humanists of the world, Dr Ambedkar is perfect example who challenged the religious supremacy and never accepted the finality of religious texts. He suggested that they should be amended as per needs of the time. However, many friends raised objection to his ‘embracing’ Buddhism in a traditional way ignoring the vital factor of 22 vows that he asked his followers to obey before joining Buddhism and in my opinion these are nothing but humanism. One must have a look at them as most of them guide people against superstition perpetrated by the Brahmins in the name of traditions.

Dr Ambedkar’s belief in Buddha was ultimate as he knew it is because of this vision that India and rest of the world would be an enlightened society. He was not taking his people to the path of darkness but to a place where people would be enlightened and engaged with each other in reasoning (tark) with humanity (Manavta) and it is Humanism of modern day definition where human being is the centre of universe of philosophy.

Through his anti-caste movement, Baba Saheb Ambedkar wanted to change the Hindu society but he realized that it was not possible. As long as you believe in those dogmas and beliefs, you won’t be able to do justice to other people. Baba Saheb knew the futility of a casteless society through ‘reforming’ Hinduism or brahman dharma and that is why he gave a clarion call to embrace the path of Buddha. Therefore, annihilation of caste is not possible without making our way to new path. A debate on annihilation of caste must understand that by annihilating castes we will be demolishing Varnashram dharma or what we call Brahman dharma. Are we ready for that? Baba Saheb knew it well that Hindus may say that they are against untouhability but as long as they believe in basic foundation of the same, they cannot really fight against it. That is why he called to his followers to leave the varnashram dharma and embrace a new way of life where your universe will be the philosophy of life and where you are treated equally. The Hindus must continue to fight against caste system but those who really follow Dr Ambedkar have really moved far ahead on the path shown by him which is the way of Buddha’s enlightened world of humanism. There is no other way. India and rest of the world cannot progress by fighting against an ideology but the only possible way is to give people a better alternative. Budddha gave to the world a big humanist way of life without engaging himself in ‘critiquing’ the follies of ‘others’. He learnt the lessons and ensures that all the evils of brahmanical value system do not come in his way and that is why Buddha’s way is the way of life for millions of people world over, it is the path of happiness and equality for all. It is a positive idea and Ambedkar knew well that negativity takes a toll and does not take us anywhere except many of us actually start following it. Therefore, it was important to give people a way of life, which was actually Buddha’s path of salvation, where they become decision makers of their ‘destiny’ rather than believing in some ‘Mahatma’ to guide them to ‘liberation’.

Unfortunately the left in India never understood that and remained more dogmatic in its views. Dr Ambedkar remained a pragmatic person and was ready to cooperate and coordinate with forces who were there to support the cause of untouchables. Dr Ambedkar speaking in Rajya Sabha on 19th march, 1955 on Article 31 or Right to Property, he said, ‘I am prepared to pick and choose from everyone, socialists, Communists or other. I do not claim infallibility and as Buddha says there is nothing infallible, there is nothing final and everything is liable to examination’.

Even when the Congress played all the games to stop him winning election, the record of communist party of India is not fair in this regard whose tallest leader S A Dange contested against him. It is not that he was not trying to create a better opposition but he found caste arrogance of the political leaders of his too big to leave aside their farcical egos and support him. But it is also a fact that Dr Ambedkar was in close touch with many of the socialist leaders of his time. Dr Ram Manohar Lohia, Mr N G Gore, S M Joshi and Acharya Atre were among few with whom he was in touch to form a united opposition party to fight against Congress which was the most powerful political force during those days.

It need to be understood that as a politician both the Congress and the left could not shed their caste biases against Dr Ambedkar which definitely disappointed him if not made him bitter and ultimately he also realized that without a cultural revolution political changes in India would merely be cosmetic and therefore the Dhammadeeksha on October 14th, 1956 on Ashoka Vijayadashmi day was perhaps the most powerful expression of his vision for making India a prabuddha Bharat. He had more faith in common masses than ‘powerful’ politicians of his time who actually betrayed him. 

The politicians who hated him, berated him, today acknowledge and bow before him but the threat are bigger. While a majority of the Ambedkarite intellectuals and political activists have felt the necessity of Buddhism as a uniting factor and breaking of caste barrier but the situation now is serious with petty political minds playing diverse caste games. The deras in Punjab and sub-casteism elsewhere are the biggest threat to the cultural change that Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar has brought. The mission Prabuddha Bharat will remain difficult as long as we continue to live in those identities given to us by someone else. The power of Ambedkarism is in the modern thinking and delinking from the past that segregated people and created a false sub consciousness among people about their superiority or inferiority of others. Definitely, those who assert their caste identities and want to congregate on that basis at the end remain in the varnashram dharma. We know political ambitions of people are the biggest impediment in the way to achieve a casteless humanist society. I always felt it that political power may be important but unless there is a cultural change, India will not grow. All our progressive constitutional provisions of equality, liberty and fraternity are being defeated by the regressive caste minds who have a duty to implement it and therefore it become imperative for us to work for the cultural revolution in India which is only possible through the liberated humanist path of Buddha and which Baba Saheb wanted us all to follow.