On December 6, 1956, B R Ambedkar attained immortality. Jawaharlal Nehru said that, “B R Ambedkar deserves to be remembered always by us because of his fight against social injustice. The great service that he had rendered in framing the constitution of India”.
On December 6, 1992, the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya was demolished. The demolition was a clear break from what our national liberation movement and Constitution stood for. Hindus and Muslims fought shoulder-to-shoulder against imperialists. The seeds of distrust and disharmony were sown in those days resulted in Partition. Even after that horrific event, India, its leaders, its Constitution and above all the common people chose tolerance, plurality and secularism as the binders of society. The demolition was yet another vulgar attempt to paint Muslims as the “outside enemy”. It was the execution of the plan of the legatees of M S Golwalkar and K B Hedgewar — to cast India in the mould of a Hindu theocratic state. On December 6, it was not just a historical structure that was mutilated. History itself was mutilated, the wounds of which are still raw in the collective conscience of the oppressed of this country. It was an attempt to obliterate the legacy of Ambedkar, Periyar, Phule and Birsa Munda, who fought for justice and equality.
Since their inception, the RSS and other Hindutva forces have maintained a commitment to the hierarchical division of society on the lines of religion and caste, informed by Manu’s sense of purity and pollution. It was no accident that the day they chose for the demolition was associated with one of the tallest crusaders against the caste system and hierarchy. December 6 marks the Mahaparinirvan of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar. Even as the students of Babasaheb, the oppressed of this country are marching to ensure justice and equality, Hindutva forces are pushing the nation onto the path of exclusion and hierarchy. At the symbolic level, the right-wing forces attempted to invisibilise Ambedkar’s legacy by remembering December 6 as “Shaurya Diwas” to mark the violence and violation by Kar Sevaks.
The Sangh stands in opposition to the modern, secular ideas upheld by Ambedkar. Having experienced the barbarity of Hinduism, Ambedkar was firm in his resolve that though he might have been born a Hindu he will never die as one. As the ultimate rebellion against brahmanical violence, Ambedkar rejected Hinduism and embraced Buddhism. For him, the function of religion was the moral upliftment of an individual. For the Sangh, it has always been political mobilisation against the “other”.
Observing December 6, to remember Ambedkar’s vision, is particularly important in these times. The deeply problematic decision of the Supreme Court in the Ayodhya title dispute has emboldened Hindutva forces. Despite the posturing by the RSS and its ilk to recast Ambedkar as one of them, it is clear that the only interest the right-wing forces have is to polarise the society and draw political-electoral gains. Co-option is their preferred methodology. But the mere garlanding of Babasaheb’s statues is not fooling anyone. Each time portions about Ambedkar are deleted from the school textbooks, the true face of the brahmanical forces is exposed.
Ambedkar’s increasing relevance in India gives hope to everyone who dreams of a society free of hierarchies, a society based on equality and dignity. His legacy and relevance is also an undying challenge to the reactionary and divisive forces that seek to perpetrate hierarchy and humiliation. It is time we recognise the power structures of caste, patriarchy, religious majoritarianism and thwart their attempts at distorting Ambedkar’s legacy.
The demolition of Babri masjid is a dark blot on the social and constitutional history of India. The champions of that act are now at the helm, threatening everything Ambedkar stood for. As citizens of a secular republic, it is imperative that we understand the enormity of December 6 and draw hope for the collective fight to ensure equality and dignity for all.
This article first appeared in the print edition on December 6, 2019 under the title “Another December 6”. The writer is general secretary, CPI.