The RSS’s efforts to claim B R Ambedkar’s legacy took a controversial turn Tuesday when the outfit’s general secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi said it was worrisome that Ambedkar received the Bharat Ratna ten years after Mother Teresa.
“Bharat Ratna had been awarded to someone like Mother Teresa ten years before B R Ambedkar. Its cause for worry,” Joshi said at the release of special issues of RSS mouthpieces Organiser and Panchajanya on Ambedkar, whose birth anniversary was observed Tuesday.
The statement comes after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s statement that Mother Teresa served the poor with an intention to convert them had triggered a row.
Speakers at the event tried to bring out “unexplored dimensions” of the Dalit icon.
Comparing RSS founder K B Hegdewar and Ambedkar, Joshi said Hegdewar tried to address questions raised by Ambedkar over untouchability and caste divisions in Hindu society. “Ambedkar envisaged a country where everyone is under one umbrella i.e a Hindu,” Joshi said.
Social scientist and former Planning Commission member Narendra Jadhav said he was attending the RSS function as he considered himself fortunate to be present at an event to honour Ambedkar who, he said, had pioneered several economic initiatives in the country and his Evolution of Provincial Finances in British India had been the basis for all Finance Commissions.
Panchajanya editor Hitesh Shankar, while countering the criticism that RSS and BJP are staking a claim to Ambedkar’s legacy with an eye on elections, said: “Both Panchajanya and Organiser have always carried special articles on Ambedkar’s views… Baba is for everyone. If he is a big tree, everyone gets its shadow”.
A short film on Ambedkar’s life, shown during the function, had messages from Union Ministers Sushma Swaraj and Thawar Chand Gehlot who reiterated that Ambedkar’s legacy cannot be claimed by one party or group.
Articles in the special issue argue that Ambedkar was close to RSS ideology. An article by B R Idate reads: “He had great regard and curiosity about RSS… He visited the RSS camp and felt very happy observing the total absence of caste feeling and affiliation.” Another article by senior RSS leader Krishna Gopal quotes Ambedkar as saying: “The Prime Minister’s (Nehru) whole time and attention is devoted for the protection of the Muslims. I yield to none, not even the PM in my desire to give Muslims of India utmost protection…But what I want to know know is are the Muslims the only people who need protection?.”
The article further says that when Sheikh Abudllah tried to persuade Ambedkar on the issue of Article 370 in J&K, he said: “You want that India should defend Kashmir, India should develop Kashmir and Kashmiris should have equal rights as the citizens of India, but you don’t want India and any citizen of India to have any rights in Kashmir. I am the Law minister of India. I cannot betray the interests of the country”.