– Vidya Bhushan Rawat
It was a massive gathering that had jolted many hearts but brought a new hope in the lives of millions who thronged the venue which today is called as ‘Deekshabhumi’, in Nagpur. The impact is so much that no other political or spiritual leader in the history of post-independence India has that much of following as of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar today. You have to just visit Nagpur during the Dhammachakra Pravartan Diwas and watch the massive gathering of people from different parts of the country, as a mark of their deep respect to the man who changed their lives. While Indian celebrate the life of Gandhi ji as the saint who talked about Ahimsa or non-violence as he was the only person or the first person to speak about it which is completely untrue. The day, I am referring is October 14th, 1956, and incidently, Ashoka Vijayadhasmi day, when Baba Saheb Ambedkar officially embraced Buddhism and then gave deeksha to millions of his followers.
The fact is that over two thousand four hundred years before Gandhi, Buddha spoke of non-violence and his ‘ahimsa’ was not status-quoist but a change maker and Buddha’s ideological revolution was completed in India in the form of Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s call to make India a ‘prabuddha bharat’ i.e. enlightened India. It is strange that Dr Ambedkar’s revolution of bringing India’s 120 million untouchables to follow or look towards the path of Buaddha was not considered worthy by the brahmanical intellectuals who continue to celebrate Gandhi’s ahimsa as ‘landmark’ and promote it unashamedly.
If we look at Gandhi’s work and ahimsa which is no doubt a great political weapon, it is also important to see that at the end of the day Gandhi ji non-violence was status quoists. It did want to defuse the Dalit anger against brahmanical oppression. Gandhi was preaching them the ‘greatness’ of varnashram dharma which was the biggest cultural violence on India’s indigenous people. The Congress Party was originally a party of the landed Zamindars, Brahmins and other upper castes and Gandhi brought the moneyed Marwaris too into it. The ahimsa weapon was not much used against the British but more to foil the local movements. We have seen Champaran, Chauri Chaura and Avadh Kisan Andolan and any honest reading of these movements will reflect that Gandhi demolished the local leadership and anger of the people against the oppressive Zamindars mostly the twice born communities. In most of these places the leadership of the marginalized was ultimately handed over to the oppressive caste forces.
I have heard Gandhian speaking of ‘Ahimsa’. In a rally where massive gathering had happened, poor Adivasis and Dalits who never got their land and other rights in this so-called freedom, that we must not resist, not do anything even if beaten up. We must resist non-violently. I am amused at this non violence. If this is ‘ahimsa’ then, it is time the Gandhians start their campaign in the houses of the twice born Sawarnas who are filled with hatred towards the Dalits and Adivasis. It is time, we teach them the good values of Ahimsa and stop hitting and killing the Dalits and I would say, it would be the great work that a Gandhian can do. Hence, ideologically, even when I acknowledge and appreciate Gandhi’s faith in Ahimsa, I would still call it not change-makers. Gandhi could not change the heart of the Sawarnas, nor could he win the heart of Dalits and Adivasis.
Contrary to this, Dr Ambedkar who faced humiliation and isolation from caste Hindus just because he was speaking for the rights of ‘depressed classes’ and all those communities who were treated as untouchables by the caste Hindus, still talked about ‘fraternity’. Despite all poison that still exists in the minds of the Savarna Hindus for the Dalits and Adivasis, Ambedkar wanted to change their heart. He did not call for a violent revolution against the Hindu hegemony. He always used the term Hindus for the brahmanical caste Hindus and therefore Ambedkar’s belief in Buddha and his five-fold path including Ahimsa have much bigger meaning for India than Gandhi’s status-quoist Ahimsa which failed to give any justice to the victim of our caste apartheid.
Shouldn’t India be celebrating Ambedkar’s path of Buddhism and his call for a ‘prabuddh Bharat’ as it was not meant for the Dalits alone but for all of us? India cannot be enlightened if the Savarnas continue to live in their hatred and it is not possible without freternity as Ambedkar prescribed. Social justice was a key for peace building. Gandhians are speaking of love and ahimsa but is it possible without undoing historical wrongs. Gandhi and Ambedkar both spoke of non-violence but why is that Ambedkar’s path has much solid ideological ground than Gandhi’s. It has to be scrutinized and analysed.
Gandhi’s ahimsa came from ‘Gita’ and his deep ‘faith’ in Varnashram dharma. In fact Dr Ambedkar’s path-breaking work: Riddles of Hinduism exposes the ‘best’ ‘book’ theory of the brahmanical intellectuals. How can Gita be claimed as ‘non-violent’ or how can it inspire us to be non- violent when it actually preached violence. When Arjuna refuses to fight against his own brothers and elders, Krishna preach him: “Nainam chhidanti shastrani, nainam dahati pawakah, nachainam cladiyanti aaph, na shoshiyati marutah). Oh Arjun, go and kill as you will only be killing body and not soul as soul is immortal. So even if you are killing your near dear ones physically, you are not killing them in real as soul is immortal and it transmigrate. None can burn it or wet it”. Now, any sensible person should have laughed at it as Ambedkar says, but it has been made the ‘biggest’ philosophy. Gita actually suggest you that violence is not violence. What an idea?
So in both the fronts, his ‘ideal book’ and ‘ideal religion’, Gandhi failed to inspire the Dalits and Adivasis. His ‘Ahimsa’ has the highest ‘following’ in the castes who don’t believe in at all. If Gandhi’s call for Ahimsa had any impact on his upper caste followers, then, I can bet, violence against Dalits in India would have stopped by now.
Look at Dr Ambedkar. He did not proclaim to be non-violent but all his action categorically indicate that he believed in it and more than that the philosophy which bring equality, liberty and fraternity. So Gandhi’s Ahimsa may be even at the cost of equality but for Dr Ambedkar, Ahimsa is acceptable only when it bring Equality, Liberty and Fraternity. While Gandhi believed in his ‘village’ ‘republics’ who actually were never so, Dr Ambedkar felt that without a philosophy that talks of equality, liberty and fraternity, it is not possible to democratize the villages and bring ahimsa. Ambedkar continuously emphasized on social democracy and warned on November 26th, 1949, in his address at the Constituent Assembly, that if there is no social democracy, then the constitutional democracy would fail and then the same people who had built this structure so laboriously, will demolish it. So, Ambedkar’s warning was clear that in the absence of an equitable social order, our political system is bound to fail and will ultimately compel the marginalized communities denied their fundamental rights historically might pick up arm and destroy it.
Over seven decades have passed and the caste hatred against the Dalits and Adivasis continues unabated. Not merely that, the hidden apartheid in the form of untouchability is practiced rampantly despite a great constitution and the reason is the inability and ill-will of those who have the responsibility to implement the constitutional provisions. And yet, despite that, Dalits have deep faith in Constitution. They have rejected all paths towards violence as Buddha’s way is showing them enlightenment and the results are worth research. That is why, I mentioned, if any one wish to see what Ambedkar means to more than Twenty Crore Dalits of India, then visit Deekshabhumi in Nagpur during Dhammachakra Pravartan Diwas, Mumbai’s Chaityabhumi on December 5th and 6th and rest of India on April 14th. The crowed that come and celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti in the villages, in hamlets are not state sponsored but spontaneous. Ambedkarite literature is sold in huge number during these events all over the country.
Ambedkar’s path to the Dalit was emphatically clear that they have to leave the religion and values which degrade them and believe in birth based inequality and he found that only Buddha’s way can create an enlightened society based in Equality Liberty and Fraternity and interestingly not only the Dalits, but OBCs are also attracted towards Buddhist movement as espoused by Baba Saheb Ambedkar. It is growing and it will reach the nook and corners of India. Now, Dalits do not seek justice from Savarnas who have oppressed them from centuries but wish that this constitution is impartially implemented and it is not possible without their fair representation in all structures of power. Yes, for making our politics function, it is also essential for them to delink themselves from brahmanical habits which divinely sanctified inequality and glorified certain communities. Such a philosophy would only create sick society which cannot make a strong India and that is why Dr Ambedkar wanted people to follow ‘Navayana’, new path. This new path is leaving the dirty old world of castes ghettoes and live a life on your own, in the world of Buddha and its enlightenment.
Dr Ambedkar’s call was whole heartedly accepted by a majority of Dalits who realized that being ‘Harijan’ under the Brahmanical patrons would never give them dignity and self-respect. So all the talks of Gandhian Ahimsa would be just a fluke for them as long as they continue to do age old traditional work and face caste based discrimination. On October 14th, 1956, when Baba Saheb gave Deeksha to people at Nagpur, the people were celebrating and huge sea of humanity visible everywhere. It was not merely in Nagpur, Baba Saheb gave Deeksha at Chandrapur too and the ceremony happened for several days. Mr Sadanand Fulzale, who was the deputy Mayor of Nagpur and a follower of Baba Saheb says :
“It was a huge celebration he says. Photographs of the functions are well placed decorating his drawing room in Nagpur and each event reverberate his mind in passion. ‘’First Baba Saheb took Deeksha through Chandramani ji. He was so overwhelmed that he did not raise his head. Then Chandramani ji gave him panchsheel. Then he got up and said now I have become Buddhist. All those who want to have deeksha should stand up. Then baba sahib gave them trisharan and panchasheel.. and later gave them 22 bows. The people were there for two days. Baba Saheb spoke for nearly two hours. Later in the night Baba Saheb departed for Chandrapur.’’
It is not merely Ambedkarites in India and abroad, but even the African Americans have now started understanding Dr Ambedkar and his historical struggle. Prof Kevin Brown, from Indiana University in the United States is so much impressed with Baba Saheb’s work that he bring number of African American and other religious and racial minorities to India to learn from Dr Ambedkar’s work. He tells me in an interview :
“ I want to start by noting that I was born the evening of October 13, 1956. If you adjust for the time difference between India and the United States, then as Dr. Ambedkar was leading the conversion of Dalits to Buddhism, my mother was in labor delivering me. So, in a way, I was fated to learn about Dr. Ambedkar and the Ambedkarite movement in India. “
From an international point of view, Dalits must inform the rest of the world of their struggle. Caste Hindus have controlled the international image of the caste system. They typically discuss how things have changed in India and how caste is not very important anymore. They talk about reservation and how much Dalits have advanced since Independence. Because this is the typical story that caste Hindus tell, it is imperative for Dalits to publicize their experiences, perspectives and realties as much as possible.”
Unlike Gandhi and Gandhians, Ambedkar and Ambedkarites don’t harp on ‘non-violence’ theme too much because the focus of Ambedkarite is Equality-Liberty and Fraternity and for that Ambedkar did not ask the Dalits to pick up guns and eliminate the caste Hindus. He did not ask the depressed communities to live in perpetual hatred but enlighten themselves, ‘be better than their best’, as our Ambbedkarite friend N G Uke used to say. It is time, India celebrate Dr Ambedkar’s path of enlightenment embrace Equality-Liberty and Fraternity which he described through the path of Buddha, respect individuals and build a modern society. You cannot build modern India on the edifice of celebrating the spirit of Manusmiriti. A modern India which will equal rights to all is possible only through socialization of constitutional values of egalitarianism and cultural path shown by Baba Saheb Ambedkar who brought the biggest nonviolent revolution in the history of independent India on the Dhammachakra Pravartan Day on October 14th, 1956.
Celebrate the revolution and spread it.