The grand memorial of Dr B R Ambedkar at the Indu Mills, being designed on the lines of the Statue of Liberty, will defeat the very purpose for which it was approved by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the NDA government in 2000, says Prakash Ambedkar, president of the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh and Dr Ambedkar’s grandson.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Prakash shared some aspects related to his meeting with Vajpayee on the Ambedkar centre and international conclave where caste elimination was debated, and which were never discussed in public.
Questioning the purpose of the “tallest bronze statue” in the Rs 500-crore project, he said, “The original plan was to have an International Ambedkar Centre evolved on the lines of academic campus on smaller scale like JNU or Cambridge or Harvard to facilitate scholars and academics to strengthen the think tank concept on wide ranging issues from Ambedkar’s ideology to caste system. To explore his industrial, foreign policy to tribal policy. To assimilate the evolving social and economic policies.”
Expressing serious concern over the manner in which the Ambedkar memorial has shaped up, he said, “Today, we don’t need to make several crores investments in Ambedkar statues and parks for tourists. We already have two statues in Mumbai. And many more across India. What we require is Ambedkar’s thoughts and writings.”
According to Prakash, “The growing atrocities against Dalits or discrimination against students in premiere institutions (such as IIT Roorkee), is the failure of the Narendra Modi government to adopt Ambedkar in letter and spirit. They are indulging in symbolism by adopting Ambedkar through acquisition of London house, memorials or statue. It suits them as RSS and Ambedkarism cannot co-exist.” Arguing, “This alone could have been the reason why Vajpayee, after giving the nod, could not take the project ahead.”
Prakash, who was then a member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha, said, “At the Durban conclave, there was a proposal to include caste in the draft of elimination of all forces that lead to social discrimination. At the United Nations, post Apartheid Movement of 1990s, 650 international NGOs were debating wide ranging subjects that are perceived as discriminatory. It was pointed out that caste is one factor that needs to be eliminated.”
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He added, “Of the 167 nations, 137 favoured inclusion of caste in the draft. But then there was tremendous pressure on us through foreign officials /offices not to proceed as it could cause embarrassment to the Indian government which was not willing to discuss the sensitive subject. As a result, we ensured that when it came to voting, status quo was maintained with neither rejecting nor endorsing the caste in the draft. It was put on hold.”
On return to India, Prakash held a meeting with Vajpayee. During the discussion, the concept of Ambedkar International Centre was given consent. The BBM leader said, “The concept for this project was to build an academic excellence centre founded on principles of Ambedkar’s core concept to promote right to individuality and freedom.”
He argues, “No matter what RSS-BJP claims, writings of Dr K B Hedgewar or M S Golwalkar do not entirely conform to basic principles of Ambedkar. Often they are at cross purposes.”
While indicating that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat pursue a common ideology, he said, “The biggest dilemma for RSS would be to endorse Ambedkar in letter and spirit…”