Be critical and self-introspecting for progress of Ambedkarite movement

(Samaj Weekly)

Jai Bhim, Jai Bheem, Jay Bhim, Bhim Salam, Neela Zindabad, Ek Number, Babasaheb Zindabad, Neel Salaam, We are because he was… etc are the comments one would observe in an online social media post, on or about Ambedkar, with lot of likes and comment when posted by a noted person with following.

Ambedkarites have become excessively emotional about Ambedkar, a demi-God now, and are unable to handle criticism, critique, false news, partial information with facts, truth and in parliamentary language. They mostly counter with a slogan or a war cry. One of the root cause for this is their reading and learning is limited, it is limited to few books about Ambedkar and rarely they have read what is written by Ambedkar, rarer is that they don’t venture to read other schools of thoughts like Nehru. They have fallen into a trap to be Anti-Hindu, Anti-BJP but not pro to logics, truth, facts etc which are the foundation of Ambedkar’s writing. This has stagnated them up to 1956, as post-1956 Ambedkar’s view on issues will be unavailable, hence these followers are unable to comprehend and reply.

Try asking them, if what would Ambedkar’s views be on Liberation – globalisation and privatisation, his views on Demonetisation, his views on formation and relationship with Bangladesh, (he had contested from a seat which later became part of East Pakistan, present-day Bangladesh). The events that happened post-Ambedkar, we need to have Amedbakritie ideological answers, but with limited reading learning knowledge this falls short and followers end up in slogans and war cry. They also limit themselves to emotional content. It is tough to find his followers commenting on contemporary politics, international relationships, economics etc with Ambedkarite perspective, a sound logical argument. So-called Mainstream media has already limited their invite to the followers to few dates in the calendar and when an atrocity/incident happens. Social media gives space, which can be pushed to further the agenda, but the followers are falling short, to build a narrative, to argue, to flood the internet with ideology and are leaving a vacuum for future generations.

Social media for many followers seems limited to Facebook, which rarely lets a post go beyond a circle of people and thrives on emotions more than intellect. Twitter and Quora are places where followers seem to be missing. The reach and quality of content on these platforms is different from Facebook. Quora answers and Twitter are filled with saffron brigade often with false n half information gathering huge outreach thus influencing the discourse of the nation. It is here the social media war is actually fought and the warriors are missing, the ones who are present have only weapons like a war cry and slogans.

Through the journey of being part of a book book “Contesting Marginalisations: Conversations on Ambedkarism and Social Justice” along with Mr V B Rawat, I had an opportunity to meet and shoot some of the interviewees. It was a direct learning experience, followed by off the record conversations. I could sense the disconnect the followers had with reality and truth. I have also live witnessed speeches of good Ambedkarite orators at various instances and find them filled with rhetoric content often repeated, repacked and localised to the audience. They offered nothing new or intellect. Post the speech ask any attendee about the content, the answer would be, the speech was good, excellent. They have forgotten the content, lost in that oratory skill and style. The interviews Rawat conducts are not limited to ‘branded’ Ambedkarites but also people who are in the line of thought of the philosophy and are taking it ahead. A lot of intellectual wealth has been unearthed through this, and has time and again shocked me.

Bagwan Das, had an opportunity to meet Babasaheb in person before his conversion to Buddhism, and also asked him “I come from Himachal Pradesh. We have a Buddhist community there and we know. I as a member of the untouchable community, know, that I cannot enter a Buddhist Vihara…” Ambedkar took his time to reply, and it was simple “it won’t happen now”. In another interview, we come across details Savita Ambedkar (Sharda Kabir), the most neglected ‘Ambedkar’ by the followers of Ambedkar. I keep wondering, how people who talk of equality, not give equal space to Savita Ambedkar? Her photos are missing, no songs are written on her, her birth or death anniversary is neglected, whereas Ramabai gets the whole space to herself. Why are these followers being partial while talking of equality and women empowerment, education, against discrimination? Are these followers being casteist while demanding the Annihilation of caste?

Surwade gave us amazing insights on the relationship of Savita and Babasaheb Ambedkar, while we all respect Ramabai for her role, we have collectively denied Savita her right. When asked about the controversies and narratives built over Babasaheb’s death and role of Savita in his death, his concluding remarks were “…We were ultimately deceiving Babasaheb. We are trying to tell as if Dr Ambedkar was fool. They had a love affair for over a year. She was Babasaheb’s love…”

I discovered Basasaheb had set up a tobacco trading company, also a stock trading/brokering firm, he was one of the richest lawyers in that era, his clientele were high profile individuals, could be understood with the property he earned and later donated to the trust. He had the finest collection of pens which could cost in lakhs today. I tried to discover the person behind the philosophy, and it constantly hits me when followers depict him in different shade. All I can do is beg them to read, read Ambedkar and beyond. A lot is also said about Jawaharlal Nehru by these followers, and it pains to read the comments on one of Babasahebs good friend. Very few have written on their bonding and friendship, their post parliament talks in either’s residence over tea. Both were Barrister and hence their intellect had a different layer of bonding. I am yet to discover Ambedkar’s relationship with Jinnah, if you are aware of it do enlighten me.

While many followers of Ambedkar comment and brand Anand Patwardhan with different labels, it was surprising for me to read Patwardhan elaborating “…it is true that in the decade of the 1930’s Dr. Ambedkar spent several months living, writing and studying at our family farm home in Ahmednagar, but this again is a chapter of history that has been irretrievably lost.”

In another interview, M C Raj, I got to know about Proportional Representation, Ambedkar’s view post-Independence on Separate Electorates or Poona Pact, and the Schedule Caste federation had passed a resolution on 21st August, 1955 at 4 p. m. at Jairaj House, Colaba, Bombay.

Resolution No. 6: This meeting of the Working Committee is of the opinion that the provision for the reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes in Parliament, in State Assemblies, in Municipalities and District and Local Boards be done away with immediately even before the next election”. Moved by: Shri A. G. Pawar and Seconded by: Shri A. Ratnam. This resolution was carried unanimously.

I had the privilege to spend a couple of days of my childhood at Jairaj House, a place where Babasaheb lived as a Member of Parliament, he didn’t prefer his residence Rajgruha in Dadar towards the end days. The reason for this that I received was off the record conversation, but to summarise it I would say, Babasaheb was a man of principles and values and somewhere he was hurt inside.

While a lot has to be read and discovered, followers should not limit themselves to slogans and few words, often repeated. Its time they evolve to the year they are in. During my travels across India, I noticed that non-Maharashtra followers of Ambedkar, look upon the Marathi to show them the path. It could be due to historical reasons of Phule Shahu and Ambedkar belonging to Maharashtra, but also because they have not been exposed enough to Bhima Bhoi, Periyaar, Bhagat Singh, Birsa Munda and numerous others who are now confined to the followers’ constructs.

The Maharashtrian followers are unaware of this expectation, from them, from across India and now many are busy finding replacement logics in Buddhism. If 786 is considered holy in Islam, they say let’s have 358 as a holy number in Buddhism… explained with logic, trishalan/tripitak, five noble truths and eightfold path. Some have tried to counter Babasaheb’s conversion with installing Ganpati in their homes/cars/doors etc and going further to observe fasting, have satyanarayan puja etc. They are free to reconvert to Hindu fold and enjoy the benefits of a caste society, but then they should stop pretending to be Buddhists during a marriage ceremony and death.

Very soon, April will begin, and we will have social media flooded with Ambedkar’s quotes, images and glorification. The movement has come to a standstill, these acts of celebration or observance of Babasaheb’s birthday seem a ritual. No new idea is brought in, no strategy is built, no resolution is passed. With economic prosperity, the mode and methods of celebration have upgraded, leaving the intellectual vacuum as it was.

A simple question ponders over my mind. If Ambedkar was alive today, how would he react to these actions/comments/posts.

– Vivek Sakpal (vivek.sakpal@gmail.com)