Commemoration opened with the Buddhist prayer by Ven. Vijithavansa Thero, Head of the Buddha Vihara, Southall.
The event began with an opening speech from Mr Arun Kumar, General Secretary of FABO UK. Paying tribute to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, he said that Dr Ambedkar was a national leader par excellence. He worked for all Indians irrespective of one’s caste, religion, language or gender. The constitution is not for one community, it is for all Indians. Hindu Code Bill also changed the lives of all Indian women. It is pity that in India, one is judged by one’s birth not worth. Had he been born in so called upper caste, he would have been worshipped in every house hold. But Because of his birth, he is generally referred to as a Dalit leader. But the academics all over the World are recognising his contribution to the human rights movement.
Ms. Santosh Dass MBE, President of FABO UK said “On this day and any other day when we mark Babasaheb Ambedkar’s death or birth anniversary or Constitution day we must reflect on his struggles, achievements and what he strove for to make India’s society better. We have a duty as Ambedkarites to live by Babasaheb’s example of the continuation of education of oneself and making a social difference no matter where we live. Babasaheb left us too soon. He should have lived for at least another 30 years. Today I want to reflect briefly on Babasaheb and womankind empowerment. He believed in, and his work as the first Labour minister and when drafting the Constitution of an independent India demonstrated was to empower and improve the plight of the woman. This was not only at home as part of the Hindu Code Bill but also in the workplace. As early as 1916 he had written from Columbia University to his father advocating the need for education for girls and women to go hand in hand with educating boys and men”. Ms. Dass continued: “The other thing I always reflect on daily is what are the current issues that are not in keeping with Babasaheb’s mission that we need to raise our voice about. I have huge concerns about the democracy not working in India that Babasaheb warned us about in a rare BBC interview in 1953. Even at that time, he talked about the political system failing because puppets who have been put up by the various parties from our community to meet a proportional representation of MLAs and MPs. Not all MLAs and MPs carry out the work with the courage expected to improve the plight of our community. There are serious issues to do with the way the political systems and democracy is working in India that is failing our people right, left and centre on a daily basis. Examples include Demonetisation, the horse-trading of MLAs to stay in power, the ebbing away of the fundamental rights of freedom of speech. Intellections and activists like Dr Anand Teltumbde and Soni Suri are labelled as Maoists. They are threatened with imprisonment because they have stood up against the unfair actions or land-grab of Corporates or the Government and are labelled Maoists or being anti-national. This is absolutely outrageous. We must stand shoulder to shoulder with people who have the courage to stand up and call the Indian Government and the nationalists to account. The other issue of concern to me is EVM. This is failing our people. Something is going wrong when we get reports of loads of machines going missing from areas where the vote may go in a way the ruling party does not want. So the principle of one man, one woman vote, is being seriously jeopardized. Another policy of concern is to do with citizenship in India – the Citizenship Bill. They are going for the Muslims now but they will come after us too. In this country, we’ve seen Windrush as an example.” Ms. Dass ended with the message “So when we call ourselves Ambedkarites we have to stand up and be counted. We have to spell out what is right and what is wrong and praise where praise is due. Jai Bhim”.
Dr Prerna Tambay, FABO UK Executive of Public Affairs and academic researcher and champion of gender equality said “On this day of Dr Ambedkar’s death anniversary, I pay my humble tribute to him. We are because he was!!! Dr Ambedkar’s seminal work “Caste in India (1916)” says that caste originated and is sustained by control over women. Clearly then, if we want to solve the problems created by caste, then freeing women needs to be part of the solution. 50% of India’s population is between the age of 10 and 27. 50% of these young people are women and 22% of these young people are caste-oppressed (SC+ST). Therefore, the future of India depends on what these 60 odds % of people achieve in their lives. Most women are limited to pink professions in India including being a homemaker and caste-oppressed people are limited to undesirable professions. This control over their employment opportunities is exerted by denying access to better education, employment and enterprise opportunities to these segments through visible and invisible methods. They are encouraged through cultural signaling by society to take up professions aligned to their caste and/or gender, even if they may have a talent for other professions. The privatization of education has made education expensive, preventing a large segment of women and caste-oppressed from receiving an education suitable to their natural talent. Despite such signaling and expensiveness of education, if they take up better professions, the well-established caste-gender networks in these professions make it difficult for them to succeed. Many of them drop out of the race and return to their caste-gender determined professions or under-achieve, despite their talent. As a result, a large proportion of the Indian population is not able to achieve their highest potentials.
Surely, this is not good for the GDP of India. Consider the fact that digital disruption is destroying the business models sustaining the lives of large segments of the Indian population, which are not able to participate in digital business models. Clearly, there is a hidden genocide waiting to happen as those whose livelihoods are snatched by digital business models and directly or indirectly are unable to survive. The deterrent to caste and gender crimes = The size of the punishment X the chances of getting caught for crimes X the chances of getting convicted if caught. We all know that caste and gender crimes go unreported many a time, due to social pressure as well as due to the justice process being complex and difficult to access. The justice process also becomes difficult to access for many for its use of complex ceremonies and use of the English language. We all know that powerful people and people connected to them are hardly caught by the police. And we all know how the lack of jurisprudence in caste and gender crimes is caused by the low conviction rate. Finally, the size of the punishments meted out to those found guilty of these crimes is rarely large and most of the time is small. So, there is nothing surprising in the fact that these crimes are not decreasing. Our laws do not work well enough, despite an admirable constitution. Despite the lack of good education, employment, enterprise opportunities and the high number of caste and gender crimes, if caste and gender-oppressed people raise their voice on social media and in general in the public domain, they are quickly branded as Naxals or presstitutes or sundry similar terms. There is trolling, lynching, raping to silence them. Those who speak out despite this are always at risk. Most caste and gender-oppressed, despite their own views, learn not to confront the system which holds them in bondage.” She concluded by saying that “Certainly, there is the need for change. On the death anniversary of Dr Ambedkar, let us work towards building a coalition of caste and gender-oppressed people in India. “
Mr. Devinder Chander, chief editor of Samaj weekly paper said that “Dr Ambedkar fought against so many obstacles and came out victorious. Now it is our responsibility to continue his legacy. He wanted the constitution to be the emblem of liberty, equality, fraternity, justice and we need to strive that his dream come true and remains true.”
Among other distinguished guests who addressed the meeting were: Harbans Lal Bali, Ramesh Klair, Jagdish Gaware, Ranjit Boudh, Sudhakar Goud and Gampa Venugopal.