FORMER DIRECTOR of the Indian Council for Social Science Research, Prof Sukhdeo Thorat, received the Ambedkar Foundation award for the year 2011 on Friday, and told The Indian Express soon afterward that while it was important to accept the award, it was equally important to flag some concerns about “atrocities against Dalits” in the country today.
Thorat, who received the award from President Pranab Mukherjee at a ceremony in Vigyan Bhawan, did not get a chance to speak at the event. He told The Indian Express on the sidelines of the event, “I accepted the award with great humility, but with mixed feeling of anguish and pain…. (This is due to the) situation of rising wave of atrocities on Dalits in recent times in Mirchpur (Haryana), Una (Gujarat), Ahmednagar (Maharashtra), Saharanpur (UP), and other places.”
Expressing anguish at such events, he said, “The best tribute to Dr Ambedkar through this award is to stop the increasing open mass violence against Dalits and secure the fundamental right of protection of life and personal liberty guaranteed in Article 21 of the Constitution.” Thorat has been the chairman of University Grants Commission for two terms and is among the most respected and scholarly voices from the Dalit community. Through his research and trenchant observations, Thorat has spoken on discrimination and how institutionalised discrimination needs to be fought back.
The Ambedkar Foundation, under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, had instituted Ambedkar Award on the birth centenary of B R Ambedkar. This year, President Mukherjee gave it away for 2011, 2012, and 2014 – no one was found up to it in 2013.
While Thorat was awarded for his contribution towards uplift of the downtrodden, the award for 2012 was presented to Samta Sainik Dal. The 2014 award was shared by Babu Lal Nirmal of Rajasthan, for his contributions in upholding rights of the poor in rural and urban areas of Baran district, and Amar Sewa Sangam of Tamil Nadu for its services for the welfare of the marginalised.