The government’s decision to commemorate November 26 as Samvidhan Divas, or Constitution Day, has by and large evoked positive response from the Dalit community, which believes the agenda of social and economic equality still remains an unaccomplished task even after six decades of Independence. Dalit leaders believe Constitution Day is also a clarion call for the citizens to deliver their duties.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Republican Party of India (A) president and Union Minister for Social Justice Ramdas Athawale said, “Maharashtra has taken the lead in celebrations of the Constitution Day in letter and spirit. I am glad that Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the decision to observe November 26 as Constitution Day to revive the great work of Babasaheb (Ambedkar).”
Maharashtra saw a major response to the Constitution Day celebrations for the second consecutive year with Dalit organisations and intellectuals beginning a new debate on rights of the citizens as recommended by the architect of Indian Constitution, Dr B R Ambedkar.
The Dalit population across Maharashtra averages to 10.8 per cent. But there are some pockets in Vidarbha and Marathwada where Dalits constitute up to 30 per cent of the population.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis participated in the reading of the Indian Constitution Preamble Saturday. Speaking on the occasion, he said, “Let us renew our pledge to unitedly abide by our Constitution to protect the high values of democracy.”
The Congress and the NCP, however, took a dig at the ruling BJP. “We are not against Constitution Day. But we feel the BJP has started using Ambedkar to serve their politics,” said a senior Congress leader who did not wish to be named.
Similar sentiments were aired by the NCP camp.
Athawale, however, strongly refuted the charges. He said, “Why not give credit to the BJP if it has given due recognition to Dr Ambedkar and his work. Why did Congress and NCP fail to take the decisions in the last six decades?”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Prakash Ambedkar, the grandson of Ambedkar and Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh chief, said, “I would like to state that Constitution Day has greater relevance as the agenda of social and economic equality still remains a challenge. Yes, the first part of Constitution of political equality has been achieved.”
He, however, cautioned that annual celebrations should not become a forum to push the hidden political agenda. “It’s real objective of socio-economic equality should be served,” said Ambedkar.
Dalit Indian Chamber of Industries and Commerce (DICCI) Milind Kamble said, “The decision to celebrate Constitution Day was taken by a committee set up under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the 125th anniversary celebrations last year.”
Ambedkarites believe Ambedkar has remained hostage to the “Dalit politics” for the last six decades. They say the Constitution has not been imbibed by the people in letter and spirit.
“People often evoke the Indian Constitution for fault finding of the government, which is not wrong. Ambedkar’s larger vision of what should be the duties of the citizens have long been overlooked. The citizen charter has relevance in present context as it mandates every individual should ensure social harmony, gender sensitivity (dignity of women), scientific temper, respect for freedom fighters, national anthem and uphold composite culture and respect diverse religion,” said Dr Tusshar Jagtap, an Ambedkarite.