Sunday, April 14, 2013

Working towards Ambedkar’s vision of ‘Prabuddha Bharat’

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

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’ : Dr Ambedkar speaking in Rajya Sabha on 19th march, 1955 on Article 31 or Right to Property.

A vicious debate started by some fringe groups about a month back that Ambedkar has not worked for the cause of Dalits and all his actions failed in its mission. Some said, he was influenced by American Economist in Columbia University and has depended too much on the state while other felt that it is time to call Ambedkar bluff as it has not done anything for the Dalits and time has come to ‘ideologically’ fight against it. It is not new for the ideologues of left, right and centre to denigrate Ambedkar as he is a challenge to their ‘intellectualism’.

There are many intellectuals who were shocked to see whether Ambedkar was anti-communist while the so-called communist leadership just blamed him as ‘agent’ of capitalism which emerge from his forthright debate on the issue of right to property and on the issue of Ceiling Surplus Land. Anyone who understands and if he or she is honest on the village system in India, would subscribe to what Dr Ambedkar said and suggested on the issue in the Constituent Assembly debates. We all know that Baba Saheb Ambedkar wanted nationalization of land and was against individual farming. In fact, he stated that though he was not a communist, he support the Russian model of state farming. A right winger author once write a book on him claiming he was a ‘British’ stooge while Gandhians have their own problem as Ambedkar rarely called Gandhi a Mahatma and trashed his formulations of India’s great culture and village republics.
Although, I am not a communist-the Russian system of collective farming is the only way by which we can solve our agricultural problem. To create peasant proprietorship and to handover land to peasant who have not got any means of production in my judgment would bring a complete ruination.’

In the backdrop of this, I wish to say that it is not necessary for Ambedkar to be a communist or a Gandhian or a socialist for being right or wrong. The attempt to fix Ambedkar in this fixed mode is nothing but belittling his contribution to the society. Countries and societies do not depend on ideological framework but work on pragmatism and local needs of the people. The intellectuals frame those positions to the benefit of their masses but if they become enslaved to a dogma then that perception is bound to fail. Today, one has to see who has won in India. Those who wanted revolution for the proletariat actually ensured that their caste brethren’s remain in safe heavens and rather than launching an anti-caste movement they started questioning others who fought against it and brought radical changes in society. The successful anti caste movement in India were never lead by the so-called champions of the proletariat. Rather people like Ambedkar, Periyar, Phule, Sri Narayan Guru, Birsa Munda , Sahuji Maharaj, Ayyan Kali and many others were never actually proclaimed communists though they were influenced by some of the traits of the communism and socialism as Ambedkar had mentioned many time, the issue of Dalits and other oppressed masses.

It was strange that the meeting did not discuss what failed communism in India and rather it focused more on Ambedkar’s failed mission and his ideology. It is normal practice for any group to discuss the issues related to their ideology and introspect about it as how much it has succeeded. It is therefore legitimate for the Ambedkarites to discuss how much they have succeeded and where they failed. Introspection of any ideology is an occasion for all kind of discussion without any hero worshipping and with an agenda on future of the ideology. One does not know as how many times our friends who initiated discussion in Chandigarh did that about Marxism. Why is Marxism failing world over and how can them make the labour movement a truly inclusive movement and not just event management on a certain date? How many times did we discuss as why Maoism could not go beyond China and why the Chinese governments have itself abandoned Maoism and its basic principles and why is china today focusing on the liberal principles of global economy ignoring the Maoist principles. Can they tell us as why Europe has adopted the name democratic socialism and not communism as most of the communist governments in Eastern European nation were deeply fascist in nature who denied freedom of expression and freedom to organize political dissent. It would be good for our Marxist friends to discuss the failure of Marx, Mao, Lenin and Stalin and think beyond them as why these legends are persona non grata in even in Russia today and no other Eastern European country want to listen about them?

Hence, it is unusual for the ‘revolutionaries’ to discuss on the issue which is not their own. They never considered Ambedkar their own so why is the problem? The brahmanical communists who love their ‘Janeus’ more than their ideology can never ever do justice to the issue of marginalized. Most of the communist leaders not only hailed from the upper castes but also upper classes. A number of times, we are asked question that Ambedkar always used caste as the main identity and we were told that communists believed in class system. I want to ask how many of the top leaders of the all the major communists parties hail from the so-called ‘proletariat’ classes. Despite my high respect for many of them, in terms of both class and caste, they hail from upper echelon of our society and betray the facts about classes which they claim. For years, we know that major communists’ parties in Uttar-Pradesh and Bihar were dominated by the powerful Bhumihar group which owned the maximum number of land. Similarly in Andhra Pradesh, they were led by powerful Reddy’s who were the biggest land owning community in their region and even today hold Andhra Pradesh to virtual ransom.  Why didn’t’ the issues of caste identities never came in the minds of our comrades when taking a political decision. Was not that an identity politics when power elite joined the parties? Where are proletariats in the leadership of the communist parties? All those who claim to work in the name of proletariat in these parties are either the too rich landed peasantry or the middle class bhadraloks of brahmanical variety who are expert in ‘articulations’ but their relationship with the Dalits and Shudras remain the same. Hence, ‘who failed whom’, is a question they should ponder over as how much they succeeded.

Ambedkar was clear about his mission. He knew every well what his people needed. It is not that he was not aware of Marxism but he knew that danger also in India. He did not want to talk in jargons and rhetoric as he wanted pragmatic and immediate solutions for his people. And he knew very well the hypocrisies of those who were talking about ‘international politics’ yet unable to focus on the hidden apartheid in the country. Is not it treacherous for the historians who never focused on the wide ranging discrimination based on caste and issue of untouchability in India?  Gandhi was speaking about foreign power but Ambedkar knew well that the transfer of power from British to Indian hands would be more dangerous if the interest of dalits were not negotiated. He had this fear of a Hindu Raj which he said would be a calamity if it comes to India and hence he was not much keen on buying Gandhi’s Swaraj which was being projected as end of ‘all kind of discrimination’ in India. Ambedkar said that ‘this view would be correct if it could be proved that with the disappearance of Imperialism all vestige of capitalism will also disappear from India.  But it does not require much intelligence to realize that even if the British depart from India, the landlords, the mill owners, and the moneylenders will remain in India and will continue to bleed the people and that even after Imperialism has gone labour will have to fight these interests just as much.’

Ambedkar was an iconoclast who never believed in hero worshipping. He exposed the holy text written in our religious books. He challenged them with greater articulations. He knew how Gandhi was being worshipped by the people and how any question to Gandhi was considered as a ‘challenge’ to loyalty to the nation. He cautioned India against hero worshipping. ‘For in India, ‘Bhakti’ or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part of its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other part in the world’. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti, or hero worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship’, warned Ambedkar.

Yes, some of our friends may be unhappy with Ambedkar’s constitutional-ism but one must understand what he meant for that and why.  He knew that now we have a constitution where negotiations are part of political process hence it was important to fight a political battle and not use the extra constitutional methods to get your thing done. Today, we have seen mass protests in India which actually are aimed at undermining its democratic process and bring the American model of corporate version totally in the hands of the caste Hindus. Today, with more and more participation of Dalits and OBCs in our power structure, we are realizing that democracy is being undermined by the same political class who sings ‘songs’ of ‘greatness’ of Indian democracy and who are afraid of such wide scale participation from India’s diverse marginalized communities.

‘We must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the methods of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was some justification for unconstitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives. These methods are nothing but Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned the better for us.’

I would again emphasise that we have to see Ambedkar in his true perspective who admitted in the Constituent Assembly debate that there was nothing final and things have to be decided based on situations according to time. That is why the constitution provides opportunity to amend our laws according to the needs of the time which changes with the passage of time. It is not that Ambedkar is saying that we must not engage in political protest. His warning was clear that there will be many forces who are afraid of democracy and they can always bring such huge crowd to the ground. We know the dangers of Anna and Kejriwal movements which threatened the very basic of our constitution. We need to understand as why such movement became popular with our middle classes as well as media because there was a feeling of disgust with participation of India’s Dalits and Shudras and Anna and Arvind, they thought, would undo all the ‘provisions’ meant for the Dalits and OBCs. All the right wingers in India hate our constitution. They want to continue shout that it has failed but they don’t know what they are going to give us. What kind of governance model the RSS or Hindu Mahasabha would like to give us? What is the structure that a Maoist can provide us?  Will that be like the ‘democracy’ in China? So, it is important to understand who the forces are talking about all these ‘changes’. In the name of change, we must not succumb to brahmanical lies, all those jargon of internationalism, imperialism and what not, that ignore the Hindu imperialism of India, its hidden apartheid, its caste structure.

Yes, Ambedkar never said that this constitution is the greatest. He felt that it was the responsibility of the constituent assembly to make it and there were lots of issues. He also said that if the constitution would not work well he would be the first to burn it but he always felt that it is not the constitution which will fail us but if the constitution goes in the hands of those people who do not respect democracy, it is bound to fail. For that he said that India’s political democracy will never succeed unless we have social democracy. And today, if we see India and its abject failure, we have to salute Ambedkar for his forthright thoughts as why India is unable to stand up as a society because religious thugs have made hell of this nation. Caste system, untouchability and discrimination is still order of the day. Ambedkar did what he could do and much bigger than his strength. He was all alone in his struggle and yet could change so much. If the constitution is failing, it is not the fault of Ambedkar. If the Dalit movement is not growing, it is not the fault of Ambedkar. It is not the time to find fault with Ambedkar. It is time to understand him well. Ambedkar is not just father of India’s constitution but father of modern India after renaissance which could be called as humanist India. Actually, we need all social churning so that the real leaders emerges who have vision to carry forward that legacy of Dr Ambedkar which he espoused for sure, without a social revolution, India’s political democracy will be at peril. All those ‘champions’ of ‘democracy’ are failing India who are feudal in their personal lives and using democracy a tool to push forward their retrogressive dubious religious agenda on the country.

Gandhi’s India is the nation that glorifies caste hierarchies and village communes. It is an India that believes in the finality of religious text and hence suitable to all kinds of religious thugs who promote Gandhism to fulfill their own religious agenda. Ambedkar’s India will be an enlightened India which does believe in freethinking traditions, where you can challenge the religious books and restore the freedom to individual to decide about his life and choices. Ambedkar’s India does not believe in the ‘sanctity’ of ‘dogmas’ whether political or religious. The centrality of Ambedkar’s India would be the restoration human dignity and human rights for all and without that all ideals and political philosophies would be clear humbug.  Clearly, Ambedkar’s India want to restore us to the values of democracy, social justice and equality for all and hopefully once we achieve that, India would find its place in the comity of nations which can claim proudly to be civilized countries. In the absence of that, we will head for anarchy and chaos and the forces of religious nationalism will take over and the only state then we will have the Hindu Rashtra, which would be the greatest calamity that India can have as Ambedkar said. It is time we heed his warning. It is time we work hard to achieve Ambedkar’s vision of Humanist India or what he termed as Prabuddha Bharat.


Vidya Bhushan Rawat said...

There have been lot of discussion on Dr Ambedkar and his philosophy. Some criticised him that all his 'mission' ended up in 'failures' while others felt he was 'agent' of British empire. There is no need for us to write any rejoinder as Ambedkar has written and worked so much that he does not need this yet we need to remember him, his perception about a nation and his idea of society. Sharing this thought of mine with you.

Bankim said...

It's a loss not only for the "Excluded" but for the Humanity at large if it fails to understand the vision of Dr.Ambedkar.A vision for equality of men and women cutting across gender,caste and religion.It's time we delve a little deep to see what cause he actually espoused for....Thanks for this wonderfully articulated write-up.

Shamshad Elahee "Shams" said...

well, I am not convinced with many arguments referred to Communist and their practices in India and abroad. One can hardly find even a single Leader after Dr Ambedkar who is committed to the values and sacrifices made by great leaders of the past. Apart from it, concealing the crimes of those parties who are in business in the name of Ambedkar is really worrisome and conscpicous too.