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Ambedkar For Our Times

His egalitarian narrative can help save the country from fanatics of all hues.

Written by Rakshit Sonawane | Published: December 7, 2017 1:10 am
ambedkar statue damaged, B R Ambedkar, Shukertal ambedkar statue, ambedkar statue, Shukertal tensions, Muzaffarnagar tensions, UP dalits, India news, indian express news The egalitarian narrative can save the country from the fanatics of different religions who make a hue and cry over “hurt sentiments” at the drop of a hat. (Express archive photo)

The only leader from the pre-Independence era who continues to inspire millions, has become an icon of social revolt and is being discovered by more and more Indians across castes and religions is Babasaheb Ambedkar. As the country observed his 61st death anniversary on December 6, it is important to look at his core insights that were distilled in the Indian Constitution amidst the growing melee over mythology, legends, history and belief.

Many Indians believe in a single narrative fed to them by conservatives about India’s past and juxtapose it with the advent of foreign culture and hostile events. It was Ambedkar who wrote in Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Ancient India that long before the arrival of Islamic invaders and Christian explorers and missionaries, two parallel schools of thought existed in India.

The dominant one was the Vedic school, which believed in “divide and rule” by stratifying society into four tiers. The largest population was of the Shudras (modern day Other Backward Classes), divinely ordained to serve the upper three ranks. There were broken men living outside villages as “untouchables”, tribals living in hills and nomadic tribes. Half of the population — of females — was deprived of individual liberty.

The other school of thought that intermittently ran parallel to the Vedic tradition — like the Charvaka school and the worldview of the Buddha — was egalitarian. This ideology negated the Vedas and its structure. It peaked when emperor Ashoka implemented the Buddhist philosophy which emphasised not just on a welfare state for humans, but for animals and the ecology as well. This did not last long, as the Brahminical school, armed with powerful emotional instruments, managed to keep its flock together by promoting rituals, beliefs and ensuring the hegemony of Brahmins assisted by Kshatriyas and Vaishyas. According to Ambedkar, the worship of cow and vegetarianism stemmed out of a strategy to demonise Buddhists, who were ultimately branded “untouchables”. Ambedkar called Buddhism a revolution which turned the wheel of progress for all, not just the privileged minority of upper castes.

The arrival of foreigners and their missionaries radically changed the socio-economic, political and religious scenario. The impoverished and oppression-ridden Indian society was conducive to conversions. Besides, the political ambitions of warrior-kings made them seek the help of foreign invaders to settle scores with their domestic rivals. Meanwhile, the Brahmin orthodoxy continued to monopolise learning and controlling the minds of the masses. They interpreted hostilities in terms of the binaries of Hindu versus Muslim, Hindu versus Christian, etc, despite the fact that Hindu kings were assisted by Muslim warriors and advisers and vice versa.

After Independence, the nation builders, who were faced with the challenge of integrating not just hostile princely states, but binding people of different castes, religions and languages, turned to the Buddhist philosophy. The Constitution incorporated justice, liberty, equality and fraternity at its core. Its chief architect, Ambedkar, went a step further and converted to Buddhism in 1956. Among the constitutional values, fraternity is yet to manifest, as a majority of Indians fail to transcend narrow mental barriers, often becoming hostile in order to preserve privileges of caste, gender, religion, language etc. Most of them still equate Indian history only with the Vedic narrative.
The universalisation of education and the quota for OBCs (subject to economic backwardness) is making more Indians discover Ambedkar and identify with the parallel narrative. The most glaring example of how the two ancient schools of thought function is the manner in which Mahatma Gandhi’s detractors dealt with him. When Gandhiji criticised some points in Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar incorporated them in the next edition of his book with a point-wise rebuttal. When some Hindu fanatics had issues with Gandhiji, Nathuram Godse killed him.

The egalitarian narrative can save the country from the fanatics of different religions who make a hue and cry over “hurt sentiments” at the drop of a hat. The question is: How long are we going to stoop to the hyper-sensitivity of ill-informed people, misguided by the shroud political and religious interests?

The writer is a senior journalist based in Mumbai

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  1. M
    MercifulMouse
    Dec 9, 2017 at 10:33 am
    These journos don't know anything about the vedic texts . They just blabber with their half baked knowledge. Caste is a wrong thing and has gradually become minimal. Our present generation doesn't believe in caste. Vedas , first of all , don't recognise this English version of Caste. It was division of labour without any hierarchical form.Hierarchy was later introduced. In Ambedkar's time , hierarchy did exist , so he wrote bitter things ,but the current generation doesn't believe in this hierarchy. Hinduism is a lot more than only caste.
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      snehjeet gundawar
      Dec 7, 2017 at 10:49 pm
      you know one thing .....ambedkar said for annihilation of castes and married a brahmin women ......nowadays the philosophy has changed with revival of castes by sp,bsp,ncp for sake of votes......ambedkar never put word secularism in the cons ution because these nation was formed on the basis of 2 nation theories ......ambedkar refrain to take shelter of abrahmic religions even though nawab of hyderabad offered him huge bounty of money......ambedkar was always against nehru and gandhi who were hypocrites and sickularists ......ultimately what happened nehru made ambedkar fall in bhandara and mumbai elections
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      1. Seshubabu Kilambi
        Dec 7, 2017 at 9:43 pm
        If Ambedkar thought were followed, there would not have been any communal riots in the country
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        1. HOLEY FATHER
          Dec 7, 2017 at 5:44 pm
          Why did ambedkar marry a brahmin woman?
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            avantika
            Dec 7, 2017 at 10:40 pm
            Ambdekar marrying a brahmin woman goes on to show that he didn't hate brahmans as people but the flawed ideology based on discrimination. And your comment shows your hatred towards non- brahmanic followers.
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            yatin gangu
            Dec 7, 2017 at 4:24 pm
            Upper caste people hates those people (OBC,SC ST) who uses reservation as tool for their upliftment. there are classes who denied right to education for thousands of years. how the classes denied educations for thousands years can compete with upper caste with in 70 years of their education Education provided to them after the hard effort of baba shaheb ambedkar. The privileged uppar caste who gots better education in private school colleges , doesn't think that lower caste people studied in poor ill equipped government schools colleges. Your are better because your are privileged people , not because your are talented or have high iQ. You may be better educated but your are poor human being. and now about Hindu , tell me where is word hindu wriiten in any ved book , there no word of hindu wriiten in any ancinet hindu books . hindu word comes in 1930 to counter muslim of india.
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            1. HOLEY FATHER
              Dec 7, 2017 at 7:23 pm
              even words like dalit , SC, ST OBC etc,,which you are using is not mentioned in any indian ancient text. These are words cooked up by the triple alliance of left, christ and religion of peace. the word "caste" is also a portugese word. And your ambedkar married a bramin woman.
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                mark
                Dec 7, 2017 at 10:25 pm
                The term Shudra appears in the Rig veda. This mention is found in a verse in the Purusha Sukta which is one of its 1,028 hymn
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                  avantika
                  Dec 7, 2017 at 10:37 pm
                  Ambdekar marrying a brahmin woman goes on to show that he didn't hate brahmans as people but the flawed ideology based on discrimination. And your comment shows your hatred towards non- brahmanic followers.
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