On Tuesday, the birth anniversary of B R Ambedkar, various political parties will launch year-long celebrations culminating in Ambedkar’s 125th anniversary on April 14 next year. In this interview, his grandson Prakash Ambedkar accuses the Congress, which is celebrating now, of failing to do him justice when he was alive and of not publicising his work.
How far do you feel B R Ambedkar’s vision has been realised nearly 125 years after his birth?
I think his dream to see a “caste-less” society (has not been fulfilled). It was his endeavour to bring a spirit of equality with the ugly barriers of caste and class dismantled. Unfortunately, successive governments in six decades have done nothing to address the caste conflict across the country.
Divisions in society are often being attributed to reservation, of which Ambedkar is see as the architect.
Ambedkar’s concept of reservation for the backward and outcasts was to bring them on a level footing with the rest of the people in education and jobs. It was specified for a period, not for eternity. Moreover, he had wanted that OBCs, who were treated as outcasts, be identified and given reservation in education. But his views on OBCs were dismissed. It was one of the reasons why he fell out with the Jawaharlal Nehru government. He differed on two issues, Hindu Code Bill and reservation for OBCs.
The Congress has set out to revisit Ambedkar with a yearlong programme from April 14 to mark the 125th anniversary next year. The Congress did not do justice to Ambedkar when he was alive. I wonder what they are trying to celebrate now. Why this new-found affection for Ambedkar against whom the party plotted to ensure his defeat in elections when he contested from Bhandara and Central Bombay? In both those Lok Sabha elections, he was defeated despite his stature and popularity.
Isn’t it a fact that followers of Ambedkar’s principles, or “Ambedkarites”, still consider the Congress their parent organisation?
Die-hard Ambedkarites will never forgive the Congress for the way it treated Ambedkar. In local politics they may have sought to keep communal forces out by going with the Congress. But today Dalits are drifting away from the Congress.
Have you considered making common cause with the Congress to commemorate the birth anniversary?
Why did the Congress forget to celebrate Ambedkar’s 100th anniversary? Today, the Congress is battling for survival. Their affection for Ambedkar is to regain the support of Dalits and consolidate their vote-bank. But people are no longer going to be fooled by such gimmicks. Let them explain what they have done to keep the legacy of Ambedkar alive when in power at the Centre and Maharashtra. Not a single book was republished. None of his writings that were kept under wraps has been made public. The greatest injustice ever done to Ambedkar when he was alive was by the Congress.
Does that mean you feel the BJP can do justice to him?
I am referring to history when the Congress was dominant and the BJP did not exist. I am not supporting the BJP either as it has its own prejudices.
The Congress did make him a Union minister and he drafted the Constitution. It is no secret that Ambedkar always had differences with prime minister Pandit Nehru on fundamental issues. Whether it was on creation of states based on languages or on the economic model, they differed. As far as heading the draft committee for the Constitution was concerned, they had to accord the responsibility because of his merit and expertise. The international community had recognised him for his expertise in law and constitutional studies.
Why do you say Ambedkar has not been done justice?
Today, Ambedkar is remembered only as the architect of the Constitution. His vision for economics and foreign policy, which he has extensively written about, remains under wraps. His identity has been limited to that of a Dalit leader. It was Ambedkar who dismissed the fundamental policy of non-alignment promoted by Nehru. He could foresee it would not work. His vision for mending fences with Pakistan and China and making common cause with the United Nations without going against Russia, which he wrote about, are all coming true. It’s true Ambedkar did not approve of Gandhiji’s village model for economics, nor did he support Nehru’s industrial model. He had proposed an economic model of three layers — essentials that would be under government control, a public-government layer and the private sector.