By| Syed Mustafa Ahmad
The present moment is apt to assess and reassess the thoughts of Dr B.R. Ambedkar. It is quite compatible with the present time to look at his teachings and know the relevance of his thoughts in India and the world. Ambedkar was a philosopher who not only interpreted the society and the world during his time, but also worked hard to change them, fighting in the frontline. He had a universal vision and shaped and steered struggles for the profound thoughts like secularism, social justice and Socialism. He rightly believed in the annihilation of caste and negation/ rejection of market-driven system or capitalism in order to take forward in particular and the world in general. Ambedkar was the champion of nationalism. In the present context, when nationalism is being invoked in a coercive manner, spreading fear and terror among people. Ambedkar, the principal architect of the constitution, in his numerous writings reflected on nationalism and gave valuable insights. He argued very passionately for adequate representation of the untouchables in the legislature, executive and public service. Nationalism was used as a cover to reject such demands. He categorically wrote that nationalism became the tool in the hands of some people who have vested interests, to create fertile ground for the upsurge or communalism. It is a reality today. The condition of the Dalits as a minority like others , is quite compatible with the sayings of Ambedkar. Everywhere they are being exploited for nefarious designs. The communal fascist forces at the top most level, in the garb of nationalism has been trying for quite a sometime , to use the present situation for their sinister design. Ambedkar prophesied that whenever the exploited classes demand justice and fair and equal treatment and affirmative action for representation, the so-called pseudo nationalists according to Oliver Goldsmith, begin to sing a tune that nationalism is in danger and we are the preservers. He also pointed out that class ideology, class interests and class conflicts would spell disaster for its rule and therefore always side tracked the issues and interests of the exploited masses by playing upon the sentiment of nationalism and national unity. He called it the misuse of nationalism. Under the present dispensation at the central and several states, “Make in India” is witnessing concentration of wealth in a few hands, growing inequality, galloping unemployment, farmer’s suicides and widespread disenchantment of the youth and all sections of the working class.
It is well known that during the freedom struggle untouchables demanded separate electorates. Such a demand was described as anti national. Ambedkar rejected the description by stating that separate electorates for Muslims, Sikhs and Christians didn’t make them anti-nationals. Then he insightfully commented,” Obviously, nationalism and anti nationalism have nothing to do with the electoral system. They are the results of the extra electoral forces.” In 21st century India, it is the extra-electoral forces represented by extremist forces that have’ dedicated experts’ on History, culture and sociology trying to define nation and nationhood. Really, the in-depth analysis of Ambedkar helps us to know the present situation when the false nationalists are hell-bent upon to change history accord to their taste but it won’t work for long. The walls of sand , metaphorically for the false devotion to the Hindu principles, will false sooner than latter.
In his “ Annihilation of Caste” lecture, Ambedkar described caste as anti-national and wanted to address the scourge of caste discrimination and exclusion through law, which he poetically described as “ the greatest disinfectant against inequality”. In his speech in the Constituent Assembly, while emphasizing that India is a compact body, he cautioned, “ The sooner we realise that we are not yet a nation in the social and psychological sense of the world, the better for us. For then only we shall realise the necessity of becoming a nation and seriously think of ways and means big realising the goal.” Therefore , he stressed on justice not only political and economic but also social justice. According to him, the key components of social justice are liberty, equality and fraternity. Ambedkar said” The system of rank and gradation is simply another way of enunciating the principle of inequality, so it may be truly said that Hinduism doesn’t recognise equality.” Ambedkar, being a compassionate rebel, found Buddhism closer to his understanding of social justice. However, it is not bad to say that this dream is also broken. The Rohingyas in Myanmar are butchered by the champions of Buddhism. An economist of the highest order, the quest for social justice led him to become a social democrat and study Karl Marx’s ideology. He compared the Buddha and said ,”The ideology of Buddha and Karl Marx and a comparison between them just forces itself on me.”
Such principles of all embracing nationalism included in its scope gender equality and women’s empowerment which he wanted to achieve in full measure through his epoch-making Hindu Code Bill. Democracy for Ambedkar was a way of living. He wrote,” Democracy is not a merely a form of government. It is primarily mode of associated living of conjoined communicated experience. It is an essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow men.” He strongly felt that a society based on liberty, equality and fraternity should be the only alternative to a caste society and that is why he attached greater importance to the principle of” one man, one vote; one man , one value”. He was very particular that the democracy that he upheld went beyond the formal expressions of it and moved into the social and economic realm where substantial democracy prevailed. This form of democracy , he imagined , would ensure dignity for all.
His political battles and his voracious capacity for intellectual work began affecting his health. His spirit to fight on and his spiritual quest though continued undaunted after a series of failures in the political life. In the 1930s , his first wife, Ramabai, who was dying , had asked him to take her to Pandharpur on a pilgrimage. The entry of untouchables was barred there. He then promised to build a new Pandharpur outside Hinduism. After her death, he declared at Yeola in 1935, “ I was born a Hindu, I had no choice . But I will not die a Hindu because I do have a choice.” In the twilight of his life, on October 14, 1956, he left Hinduism to become a Buddhist. His Brahmin-born second wife and nearly of his six followers did the same.
As he lay down for the night on December 5 ,1996, Dr, Ambedkar had by his side , the preface to his latest book, The Buddha and his Dhamma. He wanted to work on it but it was not to be. The book was published posthumously as Babasaheb , never woke up and moved into history on December 9, 1996. He left a lot unsaid. But it is up to those who know his worth. In the present circumstances, his role forces us to rethink and remake our planning. We have fallen very short. We are politically immature. We are still unacquainted with the principles of the constitution. Nationalism and the minorities are in danger.