An Ambedkar for our times ANAND TELTUMBDE with a disclaimer
Our dear friend ANAND TELTUMBDE had been kind enough to inform me about this article while he wrote it in the context of Arundhati`s outlook interview and the controversy created by her preface to Annihilition of caste.Our respected friend Vidya Bhushan Rawat wrote and excellent piece,the dissent essence write up.Rather Rawat intelligently emphasised that anybody has the right to write on Ambedkarite movement and his ideology.It is a positive departure from the point of view expressed by Dalit intelligentsia including AIBSF and Forward Press who oppose Non Dalits who write on Dr Ambedkar.There had been a little misunderstanding while I replied to our respected author Anita Bharati criticising the suicidal globalisation supporter flagbearers of Ambedkarite movement.Rawat,however,has a different point of view that Annihilition of Caste or any other writins by Ambedkar needs no preface by others.
Here you are!
I have been writing on Ambedkarite movement as an Ambedkarite activist and have been discussing about the greater role of the followers of Dr Ambedkar in present day context of ethnic cleansing of the ninety percent Indian People including SC, ST, OBC, Minorities, peasants, labour,women from every community who are tread Shudra and underclass irrespective of religion and caste and racially discriminated geography along with the so called caste Hindu people but virtually reduced to untouchable status,degenerated because of exclusion and deprivement of purchasing power in the open market economy.
Mind you,Ambedkarite activists are not the whole sole property of opportunist co opted creamy layer politicians and other elements who use Ambedkarite movement as an ATM.
It is to be noted that Activists who have been working with Dr BR Ambedkar and Kanshiramji have become disillusioned with Ambedkarite power sharing,fence crossing,corporate politics.
We have already suffered very much during last two decades of reforms which is treated as Golden age by those only who have adjusted very well under the fatty cover of the creamy layer at the cost of the ninetynine percent.Now we do face a fascist turnaround of the zionist corporate imperialist state power empowered with a manipulated mandate created by intensive misinformation campaign and unprecedented mind control with surgical precision by the ruling hegemonial racist manuist class.
Second generation of ethnic cleansing all on the name of development killing agrarian communities and the productive forces with a racist gender bias is the agenda to be accomplished and it is religious identity tsunami all the way to select a fascist corporate Hindu government.
At this juncture, tagged activism would not help our topmost priority to breakthrough an avenue out of the Killing fields,the Indian People`s Republic reduced to.Irony is that all those people involved neck to bottom in identity politics has aligned with Hindutva fascism which is strictly based on caste system,racial apartheid,purity myths and rituals, exclusive economics, social and geographical exclusion,militarisation of state,army rule in untouchable geography,havoc builder promoter raj, unplanned urbanisation,displacement,retrenchment, irrelevant reservation politics,war against people, corporate lobbying, corporate funding and policy making by extra constitutional elements killing the constitution,democracy,republic,the people and the nature.
Key to power politics deviated entire Ambedkarite movement whereas Babasaheb had said that the depressed classes have to fight against two enemies at the same time,the Brahaminical class and the capitalism.He never did mention caste anyway.We have embraced the caste identity only to destroy ourselves forgetting the enslavement of thousands of years.it is the catse,the Indian version of apartheid which have been subjecting us to not only racial discrimination,exclusion but also demonising majority communities to justify the ethnic cleaninng.The myth industry is all about ethnic cleanisn which produces the religion and it is all the way Hindutva.Our leaders have crossed the fences to align with the fascist killers and our intelligentsia is glorifying them.
Mind you Baba Saheb warned:
Parliamentary Democracy has never been a government of the people or by the people, and that is why it has never been a government for the people. Parliamentary Democracy, notwithstanding the paraphernalia of a popular government, is in reality a government of a hereditary subject class by a hereditary ruling class. It is this vicious organization of political life which has made Parliamentary Democracy such a dismal failure. It is because of this Parliamentary Democracy has not fulfilled the hope it held out the common man of ensuring to him liberty, property and pursuit of happiness.
-Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar
For me,Arundhati is the best person to write on the current system run by corporate fascist imperialism.
The debate should continue so that we may opt for a gesture of resistance at least.
The urgency highlighted by Arundhati is the call of the day provided we opt to stand against corporate fascist tsunami enveloping the nation and the people.
Thus,we have been debating.Anand wrote this article to address our present problems and the real issues long forgotten.
We must thank the Hindu editorial.
But the article mentioned Gandhi as Gandhiji.As Dr Ambedkar never said Gandhi was the mahatma.Anand also never caled Gandhi Gandhiji.
We talked on this issue and Anand confirmed with a SMS and a letter followed.
It should be noted to avoid further deviation and controversy.
I just sent an sms to you. In the article, a jarring reference to Gandhi is coming as 'Gandhiji' . While those who know me, do know also that I never use Gandhiji for Gandhi, there is a section who might exploit it in the social media forgetting the core issues in the article.
I think you can explain (when you will circulate it-- I hope you will) that you spoke to me and that I explained that it was done by the copy desk of Hindu. Either way, I have never used Gandhiji ever. We should preempt the irrelevant controversy by our esteemed brethren!!!
An Ambedkar for our times
Today, Ambedkar certainly outshines every other leader in terms of public acceptance. However, the incidences of casteism also show parallel growth. This paradoxical phenomenon can be explained only by separating the real Ambedkar from the unreal one
In an interview published in Outlook (March 10, 2014), Arundhati Roy says, “We need Ambedkar — now, urgently” — it was in connection with the publication of a new annotated edition of Ambedkar’s text, The Annihilation of Caste, brought out by Navayana, a New Delhi-based publishing house. Ms. Roy wrote a 164-page essay titled “The Doctor and the Saint” as an introduction to the book, which has now become 415 pages thick, expanding the core text of just about 100 pages.
Behind the controversy
Her introduction has already created an unseemly controversy in Dalit circles, reminiscent of the debate in the 1970s in the wake of incipient Dalit literature, about who could produce Dalit literature. The protagonists of Dalits insisted that one had to be born a Dalit to do that. The controversy now reflects a similar identitarian obsession that one had to produce a caste certificate (Scheduled Caste) to introduce either Ambedkar or his text. It is intriguing however why such a controversy has cropped up only in the case of Ms. Roy especially when scores of non-Dalits have written on Ambedkar and his writings earlier. Is it because of her celebrity status or of her infamy as a Maoist sympathiser as perceived by middle class Dalits? The latter is more probable. For them, anything even remotely connected with communism is enough to evoke despisal and disapproval.
Whatever be the motivation behind this uproar, it is surely unwarranted. Ignoring the outpouring of nasty “one-liners” in social media, the main objections, at a reasonable level, to her writing this piece appear to be her undue projection of Gandhiji to introduce Ambedkar or to her being qualified to do the job in the first place or even her purported introduction not being an introduction to the text that followed. Even if one concedes the validity of these viewpoints, they need not have been expressed with such vehemence and negativity. As a matter of fact, the creative writer in Ms. Roy chose not the text per se but the stand-off between Ambedkar and Gandhiji in the context of Gandhiji’s reaction to the text in his magazine Harijan. She imagined that she could bring forth the problem of castes far more effectively if she used the contrast between Ambedkar and Gandhiji, who best represented moderate Hindu society, than dealing with the subject matter in a dry and mechanical manner. As for the qualification, while she took great pains to understand the issue she wrote on, her writings never reflected any aura of authority beyond a commonsensical objectivity necessitated by her style. Perhaps, and therefore, they appeal more to common people than to the so-called intellectuals.
Ambedkar, real and unreal
The most interesting argument however came not from Dalits but, paradoxically, an upper caste journalist (“B.R. Ambedkar, Arundhati Roy, and the politics of appropriation” by G. Sampath,Livemint, March 18, 2014). Challenging Ms. Roy, it said that if she wanted the bauxite under the Niyamgiri hills to be left to the Adivasis, why did she not leave Ambedkar who has been the only possession of Dalits to Dalits themselves? Interestingly though, the implication of the argument can be dangerous insofar as any engagement of the “other” defined as such on the basis of caste can be dismissed as illegitimate. May be, Ambedkar symbolises the cultural good of Dalits, but still, to ghettoise him to Dalits alone will mean downright disrespect to him and incalculable harm to the cause of Dalits. Niyamgiri left to the Adivasis implies a progressive interrogation of the prevailing developmental paradigm, while leaving Ambedkar to Dalits will mean retrogressive destruction of the annihilation-agenda of Babasaheb Ambedkar.
The controversy has surprisingly gone past the main point — that it is the bland business logic of the publisher that has fundamentally drawn Ms. Roy into writing the introduction. With her stature as a Booker Prize awardee, later amplified by her fearless pro-people stands on various issues on various occasions, the book was sure to go global. Moreover, it can well be imagined that her writing would certainly create a controversy, as has happened before. All this would mean a bonanza for any publisher in boosting sales of the book. Whether Navayana had consciously thought it out this way or not, these established product strategies of a publisher cannot be grudged by anyone as, after all, s/he has to follow the grammar of business. Notwithstanding the “anti-caste” tag Navayana tends to wear of late, publishing adulatory and cultish literature on Ambedkar is not the same thing as supporting the annihilation of castes. Once this controversy raked up by a few dies down, the vast majority of Dalits would rather take pride in the point that even Arundhati Roy joined them in worshipping their god. Every such form of Ambedkar adulation has indeed been reinforcing the caste identity and directly distances the annihilation project.
The acceptance of Ambedkar does not necessarily equate itself with the spread of an anti-caste ethos. Today, Ambedkar certainly outshines every other leader in terms of public acceptance. No other leader can rival him in the number of statues, pictures, congregations, books, research, organisations, songs, or any other marker of popularity of/on him. Curiously, his picture has become a fixture even in movies and television episodes. However, the incidences of casteism as indicated by cases of caste discrimination, caste atrocities, caste associations and caste discourses, etc. also show parallel growth. This paradoxical phenomenon can be explained only by separating the real Ambedkar from the unreal one, cast into the icons constructed by vested interests to thwart the consciousness of radical change ever germinating in Dalit masses. These icons package the enigmatic real Ambedkar into a simplistic symbol: an architect of the Constitution, a great nationalist, the father of reservations, a staunch anti-communist, a liberal democrat, a great parliamentarian, a saviour of Dalits, a bodhisattva, etc. These icons of the harmless, status quo-ist Ambedkar have been proliferated all over and overshadow a possible, radical view of the real Ambedkar.
Notwithstanding the intrigues behind the promotion of such icons by vested interests with active support from the state, the evolution of Ambedkar, the pragmatist sans any ideological fixation, all through his life, makes him intrinsically difficult to understand. A young Ambedkar who theorised castes as the enclosed classes, the enclosure being provided by the system of endogamy and exogamy, expecting the larger Hindu society to wake up and undertake social reforms like intermarriage in order to open up castes into classes is in contrast to the post-Mahad Ambedkar, disillusioned by the rabid reactions from caste Hindus, turning his sights to politics to accomplish his objective. Were his threats of conversion to Islam for a separate political identity for Dalits, or to force caste Hindus to consider social reforms? Then there is the Ambedkar of the 1930s, anxious to expand his constituency to the working classes sans castes, who founded the Independent Labour Party (ILP), arguably the first Left party in India, and walked with the communists but at the same time one who declared his resolve to convert to some other religion to escape castes. What about the Ambedkar of the 1940s, who returns to the caste, dissolves the ILP and forms the Scheduled Castes Federation, shuns agitational politics and joins the colonial government as labour minister or the one who wrote States and Minorities, propounding state socialism be hardcoded into the proposed Constitution of free India? Or Ambedkar, the staunchest opponent of the Congress or the one who cooperated with the Congress in joining the all-party government and accepted its support to get into the Constituent Assembly? Or even the Ambedkar who developed the representation logic culminating in reservations, expecting that a few advanced elements from among Dalits would help the community progress or the one who publicly lamented that educated Dalits had let him down? Or the Ambedkar who was the architect of the Constitution and advised Dalits to adopt only constitutional methods for a resolution of their problems or the one who disowned it in the harshest possible terms and spoke of being the first person to burn it down? And finally, the Ambedkar who kept referring to Marx as a quasi benchmark to assess his decisions? Or the one who embraced Buddhism and created the ultimate bulwark against communism in India to use the words of one of his scholars, Eleanor Zelliot, or even the one who would favourably compare Buddha and Marx just a few days before bidding adieu to the world, saying their goal was the same but that they differed in the ways of achieving them — Buddha’s being better than Marx’s? These are just a few broad vignettes of him, problematic in typifying him in a simplistic manner. If one goes deeper, one is bound to face far more serious problems.
Ambedkar is surely needed as long as the virus of caste lingers in this land but not as a reincarnation of the old one as most Dalits emotionally reflect on. Not even in the way Ms. Roy would want him to come now and urgently. He will have to be necessarily constructed to confront the far messier problem of contemporary castes than that obtained in his times.
(Anand Teltumbde is a civil rights activist with CPDR, Mumbai.)
"The pragmatist sans any ideological fixation" thats what Ambedkar is
.Very good one
Posted on: Apr 2, 2014 at 12:30 IST
Both Gandhiji and Ambedkar were complex personalities. However each was useful to India in their own way. Gandhiji's movements achieved independence in a unique non violent manner. Ambedkar helped frame a constitution based on the principles of equality, equity and justice to all. There may be a purely academic purpose in discussing the nitty gritty of their actions and words today. Let us give them credit where it is due to each one of them and move ahead. India today needs practical solutions to everyday problems of the common people which can be achieved if common people rise above their apparent differences (of caste, religion. language, race etc.) and use their democratic right of voting to choose honest politicians and honest leaders (irrespective of party affiliations) to take India forward.
from: Aditya G
Posted on: Apr 2, 2014 at 12:11 IST
Ambedkar is misunderstood by the leftists not because he did not have full support to left ideology in indian context but on indian socio-political reality. He wanted to do best possible help to the Dalits. indian marxists failed to understand him from their point of view.
from: anil bharali
Posted on: Apr 2, 2014 at 11:53 IST
The term 'Dalit' is a thing of past . They all belong to Hindu community . Dalits were prosecuted in past by so-called 'upper caste' Hindus . Now a days these people have progressed a lot . No such untouchable factor is there now a days. The real danger country suffers is terrorism and extremism.
Posted on: Apr 2, 2014 at 10:58 IST
Dr Ambedkar envisaged reservation for a short period so that the Dalits will get the necessary social surrounding to compete with others . If he has put in black and white that the family of the person who gets reservation benefit should not be given further reservation, many more dalit families would have benefited in the last 60 years. Now at least dalits who have not benefited should insist on this change , otherwise the vested interests will enjoy the benefits forever and the rest cannot compete with general population .The caste factor has been blown out of proportion since even in the brahmin community inter marriages within eight sub castes of brahmins is rare .More than the caste the type of profession pursued decides the persons level in the society .An alternative to the present system ,
reservation should be based on the profession pursued by the parents
from: s balaraman
Posted on: Apr 2, 2014 at 10:27 IST