“By independence, we have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. If hereafter things go wrong, we will have nobody to blame except ourselves. There is great danger of things going wrong.” Sixty-nine years ago, Babasaheb Ambedkar made this prophetic observation in his last Constituent Assembly speech. As the country celebrates its Independence Day, we find that things have gone horribly wrong because of the rise of communal and fascist forces which today control the State apparatus. Under this dispensation, Muslims, Dalits and Adivasis have been lynched in the name of Hindutva and cow protection.
This is inconsistent with the safeguards for minorities in the Constitution. An attack on the idea of citizenship enshrined in the Constitution is an attack on our nationhood, which is not based on any denomination. It will cause disaffection across the body politic.
The government, which invokes B R Ambedkar, should be mindful of his core vision of annihilating caste and promoting constitutional morality. He looked beyond religion and described the idea of Hindu Rashtra as nonsense. The present regime invokes Ambedkar’s legacy almost like an event management strategy. At the same time, the actions of the BJP-RSS have increased the dangers that Ambedkar outlined in his last Constituent Assembly speech.
In his last speech in the Constituent Assembly, Ambedkar had also said, “Castes are anti-national. The sooner we realise that we are not yet a nation in the social and psychological sense of the word, the better for us. For then only we shall realise the necessity of becoming a nation and think of ways and means of realising that goal. The realisation of this goal is going to be very difficult — far more difficult than what it has been in the United States. The United States has no caste problem. In India, there are castes. The castes are anti-national in the first place because they bring about separation in social life. They are anti-national also because they generate jealousy and antipathy between caste and caste.”
The freedom struggle gave us a creative, constructive and inclusive idea of nation. But the narrative of nationalism today goes against that vision. The pro-corporate policies of the government have caused distress to all sections of the working people.
All the institutions of our country have suffered erosion. The Parliament, judiciary, media or the architecture of the Right to Information regime have been compromised by the government’s measures that have been calculated to push its Hindutva agenda. It is, however, heartening that the people of the country are showing resolve amidst such crises. They have presented a determined resistance to communal and fascist forces and have tried to safeguard their freedom. This freedom does not only mean political empowerment but also social and economic empowerment, which is a distant dream for the teeming millions.