Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 6, 2018. in a short video posted on his personal Twitter handle to mark the 62nd death anniversary of Ambedkar, said the “mantra of sabka saath, sabka vikas has been inspired by the late leader”. He said Ambedkar pitched for equality before law, equality in opportunities and equality in rights. The prime minister said his government wants to spread the ideas of the Dalit icon to the people, especially the youth. “The entire nation is indebted to him for his contribution in nation building,” he said. Earlier, President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Modi paid floral tributes to Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar at an event organised in the Parliament House complex. (PTI)
It has become a ritual by now to pay respects to Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956), on his death anniversary. Leaders and parties, not to speak of activists, are busy in the formality, with full arrangements for media and social media coverage. Their real intention is to cover up all their crimes and show that they are bound by the Constitution. Ambedkar is projected as the father of Indian democracy and of course as the architect of the Constitution, and they swear by him.
This time the day has come in a season of Legislative Assembly elections in parts of India that have a huge chunk of population: Chattisgarh, Madya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Telangana. Prime Minister Modi has been telling people that but for Ambedkar, and the electoral democracy devised by him, a chai-wala like him would not have been elected to become the leader of a most populous country. It is a half-truth that covers up the façade of Indian democracy.
How Modi and his clan now invoke Ambedkar
Modi used him for his Telangana election campaign at Hyderabad on December 3, as reported by PTI:
“ Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday alleged the caretaker Telangana government is betraying the country and insulting the Constitution architect B R Ambedkar by proposing religion-based reservation with 12 per cent quota for Muslim minority while stealing the rights of Dalits. Addressing an election rally, he said that great leaders of the country, while framing the Constitution, had decided against religion-based reservation at any cost in the interest of the nation’s unity and integrity and for its bright future.Targeting caretaker Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, Modi said he was surprised that “these power-hungry people, to save their chair for their family, resorted to such a step”. “Minority ko aarakshan dene ka khel, yeh desh ke saath gaddari hai ki nahi? (Playing this game of promising quota to the minorities, is it not a betrayal to the nation)?” he said and wondered how the promise will be met as the current Supreme Court’s order does not permit it. “Is it not an insult to the Constitution Assembly, is not an insult to B R Ambedkar…?” Modi asked. “The Supreme Court has put a ceiling (of 50 per cent). You can’t go beyond that. Does it mean that you would steal from the rights (quota) of Dalits, STs, and OBCs?,” he asked.
Thus he invoked Ambedkar to woo the SCs STs and OBCs and simultaneously to pitch them up against Muslims in a purely election-oriented speech. The other BJP leaders have been doing that as part of centrally-guided speeches. Paripoornanada, saffron-clad Bachelor Swami, a new recruit to BJP as a party, has been doing that for a few weeks now. This is the first time, a swami has been drawn into open politics in Telugu-speaking states that did not offer much foothold to the sangh pariwar till now. This swami, projected as a would-be Yogi Adityanath, has been visiting dalit colonies too for some years now, to spread his activities. The TRS led by KCR was not worried much, as one of its leaders said : Who can beat KCR who spends lot of time and money (hundreds of crores) on Hindu temples, yagas, homams, even while allying with MIM, the Muslim party. It is rumoured KCR had a tacit deal with Modi; the contest will benefit both sides.
This does not mean, mind you, Sangh pariwar will oppose reservation for Muslims in a blind manner. Electoral considerations will decide, and they vary from place to place and time to time. It is all tactics, not merely principles. For instance, in Madhya Pradesh where BJP has been in power for several terms in a row, reservation for more than a dozen OBC Muslim castes has been in operation. And in Karnataka BJP Chief Minister Yeddyurappa did not even speak of abolishing similar reservation for dozens of Muslim castes that have been there for decades. In Maharashtra where a Bill for reservation for Marathas was passed recently, a BJP MLA, a Hindu, crtiticised his own party government for not extending reservation to Muslims. Not Manu but Chanakya and Machiavelli guide RSS. The old ways of opposing the pariwar need to be re-calibrated.
Then Ambedkar was invoked to uphold autocratic ways of Modi government. See how ingeniously RSS invoked Ambedkar recently: When others were harping on Ambedkar and Koregaon against Modi regime’s autocratic ways, RSS Chief quoted, not wrongly, Ambedkar to criticize those framed up by Modi government.
Hindustan Times of Oct 19, 2018 reported : “ To sharpen its attacks against so-called urban naxals, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) is now invoking the author of India’s constitution, BR Ambedkar. On Thursday, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, delivering the annual Vijayadashami speech in Nagpur, drew attention to Ambedkar’s speech to the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949, in which he spoke about the need to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving social and economic objectives and abandoning the bloody methods of revolution. …
“He then went on to cite Ambedkar’s speech underlining the need to adopt only Constitutional methods, within the ambit of the democratic discipline. “…Every citizen and politician may remember the famous speech by honourable Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar delivered on 25th November 1949….Ambedkar had stressed that where constitutional avenues are open, there can be no justification for unconstitutional methods, which he said were “nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy”.
The Ambedkar passage the RSS Chief, in his key Vijaya Dasami speech, referred to about the Grammar of Anarchy was this :
“ If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do?
“ The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.”
(Excerpts from the speech to the Constituent Assembly on November 25, 1949)
Even Gandhian methods like the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha must be abandoned. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy. Now we can see better why Sangh pariwar opted to celebrate every year November 25 as Constitution Day.
We can see not only the logic of this government, but also the Supreme Court that heeded and allowed continuation of imprisonment of so-called urban naxals. It may be recalled Indira Gandhi invoked ‘Ambedkar’s Constitution’ for her Emergency (1975-76), and the Supreme Court upheld negation of Fundamental Rights during emergency.
Thus Ambedkar, who is allegedly appropriated by all and sundry, needs to be relooked even as he has been actively invoked in current elections, in four major states, North and South, even by the Sangh pariwar. Quite successful in making inroads into the dalit community vote bank, the BJP and its allies had won 75 out of 85 reserved seats in the last UP assembly polls. BSP despite its vote-bank, got not a single seat in the outgoing Lok sabha. Mayawati, after her pre-poll, Karnataka alliance with Deve Gowda’s JDS, is now wary to take an anti-BJP posture. She did not repeat the experiment in current elections in four states. Apparently, she decided NOT to attend a conclave, planned for late December, of some anti-BJP ruling class parties. All this is a trailer for 2019 General Election to the Lok Sabha.
Those who wish to oppose Modi-led BJP now in power at the Centre, as well as other reactionary forces who ruled in the past and currently ruling in several states, need to re-study and recalibrate their Ambedkar. Explicitly SC caste-based parties like RPI, BSP cannot hope to reserve Ambedkar for their politics. This reservation has been broken for sometime now. No one can hope to win with their old and outmoded tools and techniques.
It is time to recall some of the related aspects that are sought to be erased from public memory, particularly of the younger generation, even if it involves some repetition for the knowledgeable. In fact even for the latter, it is a good reminder. It is hoped they will help de-addiction from the opium of India’s electoral democracy, which has become worse than a gamble and a fraud by now. Extracts from some articles published in countercurrents.org and a few comments are used to bring out the issue.
There is no doubt that Indian ‘democracy’ has been rotting over the decades, severely distorted by big corporates, linked as they are with imperialism, black-money bags, muscle power, casteism, communalism, liquor barrels, defections, misuse of official machinery, criminality, hereditary politics and what have you. In the process, an impression is created, retrospectively, that the past was based on value-based politics, which is a falsehood. Despite the towering personality as a scholar, politician and a social reformer, Ambedkar’s own bitter electoral experiences belie these claims. They are briefly recounted here:
‘Maker of the Constitution? No, I was a hack’ : Ambedkar
The present Constitution, of which Ambedkar is often referred to as THE architect, was born in bizarre circumstances. It was adopted by a Constituent Assembly that was ‘conceived’ and ‘elected’ much before 1947 August, to be precise in 1946 itself. Who conducted those polls, and under which laws? Obviously, the British colonial masters. They were held under the colonial, much-despised, Government of India Act 1935. Who were the voters? There was no universal, adult franchise at the time. The 1946 elections were held with a limited franchise. Only a small proportion (less than 10 percent ) of the population constituted the voters: Those who paid a certain level of taxes, those highly educated, those deputed by the princely kingdoms were the voters, in the main. That is, only the elite classes of the day who represented no more than 7-8 percent of the population of those days. ‘We the people of India … give to ourselves this Constitution’ – such words were merely formal. In fact, not true. It had no democratic credentials. It was elected not by people, but by only elite. Even those elite were not sovereign; they were subjects, many of them henchmen, of a colonial regime.
There was religion-based communal representation in the ‘secular’ Constitution : There were representatives, besides Hindus, of Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, of scheduled castes. (BJP and Modi not only swallow it all but glorify this Constitution, it needs to be pointed out.) Then there were nominated members. Thus 292 were members indirectly elected from various provinces, by the elite. Then there were 93 who were not elected, but deputed by princely kingdoms. Thus this Constituent Assembly that had no people’s mandate, and no sovereignty, discussed a draft, came to some agreement, and that was worded and reworded into a final draft, which was formally adopted on November 26, 1949. It was this day Modi government highlighted in 2015 November and decided the day would be celebrated every year.
Ambedkar was the Chairman of a seven-member Drafting Committee, that worked from 1947 August 29 to 1950 January 24, which would do the necessary word-smithy as decided by the Constituent Assembly that was NOT founded on a democratic basis. As if this was not enough, the drafting committee had a British-nominated Advisor sitting on its head, Benegal N. Rao, ICS, a top expert in (British) Constitutional Law etc. The draft was nothing original. It was overwhelmingly borrowed – often copied verbatim, or slightly modified –from the Government of India Act, 1935, that was described by Nehru as a “charter of bondage”. Nehru had said we would and should have one based on adult franchise, which never happened. The 1935 Act in turn had borrowed from that of 1919. Cooperation with 1935 Act would amount to a “betrayal”, the AICC had said in a Resolution. At least 250 Articles were thus taken from 1935. Then there were clauses borrowed from France (ideas of liberty etc.), from Ireland (Directive Principles etc.), from Japan (Acts related to Supreme Court etc.), from Russia (planning-related), and then May’s Parliamentary practices of UK. There were borrowings from US too. One renowned expert and commentator had said: The Constitution was prepared after “ransacking all the known constitutions of the world”. The end product was a “beautiful patchwork”, said one Member in the course of discussions in the House (Durgadas vol-2, p. 613-616). It was a “slavish imitation of the west” said another Member. Congress Working Committee Member Sarat Chandra Bose had said: The very preamble was conceived in “fraud”. A popular cinema–song of Nehru era (Mera Joota hai Japani … phir bhi Dil hai Hindustani, or something like that) perhaps was a reflection of this admixture.
(Most of these facts in this section were taken from, among other sources, Indian Constitution Unriddled : Search for Sources (2015), a 500-page volume by SG Nadgir and KS Sharma, published by Purogami Sahitya Prakashana, Hubli-580032.)
Given the above background, one can understand why Ambedkar had said he was only a “hack”; why he was not owning up the Constitution, and said he was ready to burn it:
In the course of a debate in Rajya Sabha on September 2, 1953, Ambedkar said : “People always keep saying to me: ‘Oh, you are the maker of the Constitution’. “My answer is I was a hack. What I was asked to do, I did much against my will.” (Oxford Dictionary says ‘hack’ is ‘a person hired to do dull routine work.’)
Then a Member from Rajasthan said: “But you defended it.” Ambedkar shot back: “We lawyers defend many things.” The then Home Minister Katju said Ambedkar was responsible for drafting the Constitution. And Ambedkar said: “you want to accuse me of your blemishes?” Then he later added: “ Sir, my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody.”
Ambedkar was never allowed to be elected on his own
The circumstances under which Ambedkar was made the Chairman of the Drafting Committee were themselves bizarre and painful. He was not allowed to be elected as a member of the Constituent Assembly (in 1946) by the ruling classes of the day, represented by the Congress in the main and Hindu Mahasabha , from Maharashtra which was his original and natural constituency. He could enter the House only from the Eastern part of the then undivided Bengal thanks to the support of GS Mondal, of Bengal’s SC Federation, supplemented by some votes of Muslim League. And with 1947 August, partition of Bengal took place and as a result his seat from East Pakistan was lost. By that time, his significant role in the House was noted. And in the wake of partition and related strife, the congress felt it was wise to rope him in so as to impart and retain a semblance of representation to the depressed classes. Thus he was co-opted, also into Nehru’s Union Cabinet, along with Shyama Prasad Mukherjee though both were non-Congressmen.
Thus when the new Constitution was heralded on January 26, 1950, he was very much there. Election based on adult franchise was part of this constitution. for the first time. It was NOT so in 1946 when it was based on a limited franchise, hardly representing less than 10 percent of India’s population.
Under the circumstances, Ambedkar was keen that he should get elected to the Loksabha in the First General Election of 1952. He did not like to be co-opted or nominated. But the “architect” as they call him was defeated by them by a considerable margin of 14000 votes through Congress candidate Kajrolkar, obviously in a seat reserved for SCs. It hurt him badly, morally also. His wife and colleagues were worried about his health, and lobbied for him and he was elected to the Rajya Sabha in an indirect election, allowed or supported by the Congress bigwigs. There came a by-election to the Loksabha in 1954 May which he contested again . And again was defeated by Congress. Thus he was not allowed on his own strength. And he was allowed only to be co-opted and that he humiliation swallowed. He continued in the Cabinet until he resigned later as a protest when the Hindu Code Bill he had piloted with Nehru’s support, could not be passed in the face of Hindu reactionary forces, most of them from within the Congress, in the House. Nehru developed cold feet, backed out, and Ambedkar was let down. So he resigned.
All dirty tricks were played in the process of defeating him, and that in seats reserved for SCs. He was allowed to be in the Constituent assembly or parliament, not on his own, but only at the mercy of the ruling classes. This situation remains unchanged basically in vast parts of India. Unless one surrenders or compromises with ruling classes as well as principles, no sincere candidate can win elections in today’s India, however deserving and merited. This is the take-away from Ambedkar’s electoral experience
Ambedkar’s historical speech at Agra
Ambedkar was indeed highly disappointed and demoralized, no doubt by the electoral defeats, but that was only one factor. He was physically ailing, and emotionally wailing for more than an year before his death on 6 December 1956. He poured out his anguish in one of his last major political speeches, i.e., Dr. Ambedkar’s historical speech (18th March, 1956) at Agra. It was a short but loaded speech.
“ So far this speech was available in Hindi only. I have translated it into English,” wrote SR Darapuri, a retired IGP, an IPS officer, who later chose to be an activist, as a Founder of platforms, Jan Manch and All India Peoples’ Front (Radical), based in UP, who had the honor of being arrested by the current Chief Minister of UP, Yogi Adityanath, for the crime of trying to exercise his Fundamental Right of protest. It was published in countercurrents.org not long ago (August 26, 2016).
In a brief but telling intro to the speech, SR Darapuri wrote:
“ In fact it was a guideline for future Dalit movement but it is quite agonising to say that Dalits have forgotten it…. Today Dalit society has moved away from Dr. Ambedkar’s agenda of annihilation of caste and conversion to Buddhism. Unprincipled and opportunistic Dalit politics has pushed back social and religious movement. Today Dalit society is infected with caste divisions. It appears that caravan of Babasaheb is moving backward in place of moving forward. It should be a cause for worry for all Ambedkarites.”
We can recall a few lines, from that translation, to size up the reality, more relevant today than ever:
“ To Government Servants : Our society has progressed a little bit with education. Some persons have reached high posts after getting education. But these educated persons have betrayed me. I expected that they would do social service after getting higher education. But what I see is a crowd of small and big clerks who are busy in filling their own bellies….” It is these sections that, in the main, are fuelling the dalit movement.
“My appeal to the students is that after completing education instead of becoming a petty clerk they should serve their village and nearby people so that exploitation and injustice arising out of ignorance may be ended. Your rise is included in the rise of society.”
“ Future Worry
“Today I am just like a pole which is supporting huge tents. I am worried about the moment when this pole will not be in its place. I am not keeping good health. I do not know when I may leave you people. I am not able to find a young man who could defend the interests of these millions of helpless and disheartened people. If some young man comes forward to take up this responsibility I will die in peace.”
But most important was a self-critical note by Ambedkar:
“ To the Landless Labourers
“I am much very much worried about landless labourers. I could not do enough for them. I am not able to bear with their sorrows and hardships. The main cause of their vows is that they do not own land. That is why they are victims of insults and atrocities. They won’t be able to uplift themselves. I will struggle for them. If the government creates any hurdles in it I will give them leadership and fight their legal battle. But I will make every possible effort to get them land.”
Eversince this speech Ambedkar was unwell and could do little that he promised for the rural poor.
It is well known that bulk of the dalits are landless laborers, most of them also being landless peasants, tenants who are actual tillers and producers. Eversince 1956, more and more of them are deprived of their means of production and pauperized. The dalit movement after 1960s totally ignored the land question, reduced itself into mere identity movement, to please the landlord classes and the State. The educated persons who betrayed Ambedkar are at the head of this betrayal. It is only recently a few like Jignesh Mevani, a new entrant to politics, raised this question. And all efforts are on to turn him into the mainstream of politics of ‘betrayal’ mentioned by Ambedkar. And his being elected as an MLA in Gujarat, welcome, is blown up to lure and floor him. Not only the opportunist Ambedkarites and the worn-out parliamentary Left, but a few tired and retired ex-CPI ML factions, are engaged in drawing him away from the land question he stressed, and deeper into the parliamentary mire. It is better to remind all concerned what Ambedkar himself once said about this mire.
“Parliamentary Democracy is in reality a government of a hereditary subject class by a hereditary ruling class.”
It appears as if this is a statement of very recent origin. But it was long ago in 1943 Ambedkar made this statement, not casually but as part of a prepared speech. The following views of Dr.Ambedkar are extracted from the speech he delivered at the concluding session of the All India Trade Union Workers Study Camp held in Delhi from 8th to 17lh September 1943 under the auspices of the Indian Federation of Labour. This historic document seems to have been lost sight of by political pundits, even those who are severe critics of parliamentary democracy.
His Labor connection may be understood better by recalling that Dr. Ambedkar established Independent Labour Party in August, 1936, obviously not limited to SCs. After this on 19th July, 1942, he formed another party known as All India Scheduled Castes Federation (AISCF). Dr. Ambedkar dissolved AISCF on 14th October, 1956 at Nagpur and announced the formation of Republican Party of India (RPI), of which he himself drafted the constitution. However, RPI came into existence on 3 October, 1957, one year later, i.e.. after his death on 6th December, 1956.His political views and experiments obviously varied over time. And he recalled and regretted his bitter experiences in his Agra Speech (18th March, 1956).
In his opening remarks of this 1943 speech, Dr. Ambedkar says that “as the autocracy of Despotic Sovereigns was replaced after a long and bloody struggle by a system known as Parliamentary Democracy, it was felt that this was the last word in the frame of Government. It was believed to bring about the millennium in which every human being will have the right to liberty, property and pursuit of happiness. It is therefore a matter of surprise that there has been a revolt against Parliamentary Democracy although not even a century has elapsed since its universal acceptance and inauguration”.
“I have no doubt that what has ruined Parliamentary democracy is the idea of freedom of Contract. Parliamentary Democracy took no notice of economic inequalities and did not care to examine the result of freedom of contract on the parties to the contract should they happen to be unequal. It did not mind if the freedom of contract gave the strong the opportunity to defraud the weak. The result is that Parliamentary Democracy in standing out as protagonist of liberty has continuously added to the economic wrongs of the poor, the downtrodden and the disinherited classes”.
And adds : “Democracy is another name for equality. Parliamentary Democracy developed a passion for liberty. It never made even a nodding acquaintance with equality. It failed to realize the significance of equality, and did not even endeavor to strike a balance between liberty and equality, with the result that liberty swallowed equality and has left a progeny of inequities“.
(It may be added: In reality, in post-1947 India , even liberty remains a mirage, it disappears the moment rights are sought to be exercised by toiling classes and their supporters. Ex-IPS officers being imprisoned and suppressed, even tortured in some cases, as in UP, Gujarat, Punjab etc are instances of a perennial police-military state, occasionally added with fascist topping, as under the leadership of Indira Gandhi and Narendra Modi.)
Dr.Ambedkar further says: “All political societies get divided into two classes – the rulers and the ruled. This is an evil. If the evil stopped here it would not matter much. But the unfortunate part of it is that the division becomes, stereotyped and stratified so much so that the Rulers are always drawn from the Ruling Class and the class of ruled never becomes the Ruling Class. People do not govern themselves; they establish a government and leave it to govern them, forgetting that it is not their government. That being the situation, Parliamentary Democracy has never been a government of the people or by the people and that is why it has never been a government for the people. Parliamentary Democracy, notwithstanding the paraphernalia of a popular government, is in reality a government of a hereditary subject class by a hereditary ruling class.”
Dr.Ambedkar further analyses and advises the oppressed and toiling classes as follows:
“In the first place, they have shown most appalling indifference to the effect of the economic factor in the making of men’s life….The labouring class far from being fat like pigs are starving, and one wishes that they thought of bread first and everything else afterwards …. The labouring classes have failed to acquaint themselves with literature dealing with the government of mankind. Everyone from the labouring classes should be acquainted with Rousseau’s Social Contract, Marx’s Communist Manifesto, Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical on the conditions of labour and John Stuart’s Mill on liberty, to mention only four of the basic programmatic documents on social and governmental organization of modern times. But the labouring classes will not give them the attention they deserve. Instead, Labour has taken delight reading false and fabulous stories of ancient Kings and Queens and has become addicted to it”.
He continues to analyse this aspect and says: “There is another and bigger crime which they have committed against themselves. They have developed no ambition to capture government, and are not even convinced of the necessity of controlling government as a necessary means of safeguarding their interests. Indeed they are not even interested in government”.
Dr.Ambedkar laments that of all the tragedies which have beset manki nd the biggest is that whatever organization the working class has, has taken the form of Trade Unionism. He categorically states that “it would be a great mistake to suppose that Trade Unions are a panacea for all the ills of labour”.
These statements of Ambedkar are reminiscent of the statement of Karl Marx in Communist Manifesto, wherein he said: “The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle for democracy”. It is important to note that Karl Marx, the founder of Scientific Socialism had given this prescription of the Proletarian Class becoming the Ruling Class in order to put an end to the exploitative capitalist system.
After a perusal of Ambedkar’s views presented above, anybody would say that it looks as if he was speaking of Parliamentary Democracy as prevalent today. Perhaps, he had thought UK’s parliamentary democracy was an exotic plant for a feudal India that would lead to a hereditary ruling class.
Now we have a semi-feudal, semi-colonial hybrid democracy, funded by a big business that is a junior partner of imperialism so that it better serves the latter.
Though his views are akin to Marxist Left, it should be noted that the above views of Ambedkar are rooted in UK’s Fabian Socialism and Labor politics of the day. That was but one phase in his political life, even as Ambedkar the politician evolved and changed.
These views, however, need to be taken note of by Ambedkarites as well Leftists, in fact by all those who cherish real democracy, a democracy of people. They are more relevant today than ever.
Ambedkar on nationalism and patriotism
These are days when nationalism and patriotism has been marketized and corporatized as never before. There is only a thin line dividing them from national chauvinism and jingoism. And electoral politics are increasingly pegged to nationalist pretences. It is the sugar-coated poison sold by the ruling classes. Those who are critical of them are branded as anti-nationals and face the risk of sedition cases. If Ambedkar were alive, he would be the first to be branded as anti-national, and framed in sedition cases. Or would he be slapped with a post-humous sedition case like post-humous Bharat Ratna, as asked earlier by a writer in countercurrents? Ambedkar’s views on nationalism etc are also very significant as he says:
“Free independent nation-state turns to be the enemy of the working class under the hegemony of their masters”
Dr.Ambedkar further said: “The third besetting sin of the labouring class is the very way which they are led away by an appeal to nationalism”. This remark coming from Ambedkar exhibits the depth of his understanding of the class dimension of nationalism, which is a product of industrial revolution and came to be used by the bourgeois for strengthening and perpetuating capitalism. To put it in the words of Ambedkar himself :
“The working classes who are beggared in every way and who have very little to spare, often sacrifice their all to the so-called cause of nationalism. They have never cared to enquire whether the nationalism for which they are to make their offerings will, when established, give them social or economic equality. More often than not, the free independent nation-state which emerges from a successful nationalism and which reared on their sacrifices, turns to be the enemy of the working class under the hegemony of their masters. This is the worst kind of exploitation that labour has allowed itself to be subject to”.
(September 1943 Speech at the Indian Federation of Labour, cited above)
(Note : It is another matter that Ambedkar himself, in the later years, did not focus on these views and goals that he stated in his speech of 1943. However, he in his Agra Speech regretted about his bitter experiences. Why ? This question needs a separate discussion.… For the present, it may be noted that his priorities and pre-occupations as a politician were undergoing a change culminating in his being co-opted as Chairman of Drafting Committee of the Constitution, and later into Nehru’s Cabinet. As Anand Teltumbe writes: “Ambedkar was not a Marxist. His intellectual upbringing has been under Fabian influence in Columbia University and London School of Economics, the institution founded by the Fabians. ….Fabians believed socialism could be brought in an evolutionary manner not through revolution….”( see Countercurrents.org of 16 August, 2012.)
(The above section is based on and extracted from the article Ambedkar And Parliamentary Democracy, By Dr KS Sharma, published in Countercurrents.org on 14 April, 2016. https://www.countercurrents.org/sharma140416.htm )
KS Sharma wrote another article with the apt title : The Forgotten Message of Ambedkar. As Darapuri says : “ it is quite agonising to say that Dalits have forgotten it” all. Kanshiram and Mayawati probably had not forgotten but left it all.
Do BSP’s politics uphold Ambedkar?
Eversince BSP came to power in UP, lot of claims have been made by many. It is projected as if the golden era of Ambedkarite politics had arrived.
Her critics however see Mayawati as a dalit-clone of Jayalalita, authoritarian, arrogant and corrupt to the core. Some of her apologists do acknowledge BSP’s flaws as they see them, but still see it as the hope of the future. It needs to be evaluated objectively. Beyond Ambedakar statues all over, there was no basic change. But if statues are the criterion, they are there everywhere in India, more so in the last 25 years or so. A section of the ruling classes found him useful as a distinct icon, different from Gandhi-Nehru dynasty. After a belated Bharat Ratna to Ambedkar, the Congress too woke up to claim his heritage they neglected for decades. Now the Sangh pariwar, not only BJP but also RSS, finds him useful.
So BSP’s claims need to be evaluated in the light of Ambedkar’s Agra speech, more so about betrayal of the rural poor by elite dalits. SR Darapuri, an IPS officer from UP, who has been making a valuable concrete study of Mayawati’s performance puts it in objective terms. The article dated October 31, 2016 points out:
“ It is known that in Uttar Pradesh from 1995 to 2012 Mayawati, a Dalit, was Chief Minister for four times. During her regime only some land was distributed in 1995 in Central and Western Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) and that too in a very small quantity and no land was distributed in the remaining parts of the state. In Eastern U.P. which has got a dense population of Dalits no land was distributed except in Gorakhpur district which was due to the initiative of Mr. Harish Chandra, the then Commiissioner of Gorakhpur Division. I witnessed the pitiable condition of landless Dalits in Sonbhadra and Chandauli districts of eastern U.P. when I contested Lok Sabha election in 2014 from Robertsganj constituency. The condition of the Adivasis of these districts is really very shocking.
“It is a fact that in 1995 there was sufficient land available under Ceiling Surplus Land, Gram Samaj, Fallow Land and Bhoodan Land in U.P. for distribution to landless Dalits, Adivasis and other landless families but Mayawati did not distribute it with the result that it continued to remain in the posession of illegal occupants. Not only this, she did not take any action to give possession of land to the families who were given land pattas (land entitlements) during earlier Congress regime. After 1995, Mayawati did not take any initiative to distribute land or restore possession to the owners of Land Pattas just to avoid ire of the powerful communities who became her voters under the so called “Social Engineering.” It came to light from the Land Owners statistics of 2001 Census that during 10 years span of 1991-2001, 23% of Dalits became landless who previously owned land. It is worth noting that during this period Mayawati was thrice Chief Minister of U.P.
“ For empowerment of Adivasis, Forest Rights Act-2006 and Rules came into force in 2008. Under this Act the Adivasis and others living in the Protected Forest area were to get title of the land as a matter of right which they had in their possession and under cultivation . For this they had to submit their claims to the Revenue authorties.
Mayawati was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh from 2007 to 2012 but Mayawati government did not take any effective action to implement this Act with the result that as on 30.1.2012 out of 92,406 claims 74,701 claims i.e. 81% claims were rejected. The result was that only 17,705 claims (19%) were accepted and 13977 hectares of land was distributed….
“ In the face of Mayawati’s carelessness and anti-Dalit/Adivasi policy, All India Peoples Front (AIPF) had to file a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in Allahabad High Court in which the Court gave an order for reprocessing of claims under Forest Rights Act but neither Mayawati nor Mulayam Singh Yadav government took any interest to reprocess the claims…. At the national level the rate of rejection of claims is 53.8% whereas it is 80.15% for the state of Uttar Pradesh which has been ruled by Mayawati, a Dalit and Mulayam Singh, a Backward Class Chief Minister. It transpires that, both Mayawati and Mulayam Singh are responsible for the tardy implementation of Forest Rights Act in Uttar Pradesh….”
Let alone handling the land question, even minimum demands of agri labor were not attended to. Darapuri reveals in an earlier article of 2 September, 2008 :
“ From the above it transpires that in U.P majority of the workers (75%) are agriculture labourers whereas there is no official arrangement for payment of minimum wages and assured employment. According to the findings of a study it has been found that the average employment of agriculture laborers in U.P. is 60 to 80 days only during a year. On account of lack of development of agriculture in U.P. the average of Dalit agriculture workers is lower than the national average. Apart from backward agriculture, not a single heavy industry has come up in U.P. during the last 15-20 years. As such no employment has been created during this period.
“ National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) has been in place for the last two years but on account of rampant corruption and utter neglect on the part of implementing government machinery , the job card holders could hardly get 8 days’ average employment during a year as against the guaranteed 100 days employment. Only 6.23 percent families got the benefit of this scheme. On the other hand Mayawati has threatened to abolish this scheme as and when she becomes the Prime Minster of India. It is because this scheme has been initiated by the Central Government headed by Congress Party with whom she has got adverse relations. Her statement had an adverse effect on the attitude of the official machinery which even otherwise is quite complacent in the implementation of such schemes concerning poor men. ”
Not surprisingly, Maywati’s Dalit Vote Bank Has shrunk, Darapuri analysed in another article of 18 May, 2014 : “ In 2007 Assembly election BSP got 30.46 %, in 2009 Lok Sabha election 27.42 % (-3.02%), in 2012 Assembly election 25.90 % (-1.52%) and now in 2014 Lok Sabha election it has come down to 19.60 %.”
Going by these details, it looks as if BSP proved Ambedkar right about what he said of betrayers of the cause of the oppressed.
Dalit elite roped in by the Big Business
Obviously, the Indian ruling classes and their State encouraged and backed up the evolution of a dalit elite to join their own ranks. Renowned scholar-activist, Anand Teltumbde, who focused on the dalit question, wrote years ago, in March 2011:
“ It is this section which has been having five star conferences and international conclaves and had even planned a Dalit Capitalism March in 2006 of 5000 Dalits in three piece suit and an umbrella in hand on the roads of Delhi to demonstrate their progress. It is a different matter; they could not do the latter.” …
“The celebration of Dalit capitalists and their Chamber of Commerce on the basis of some hundred odd individuals (out of more than 17 crores) in businesses, the cumulative value of which may not even be a droplet in the corporate ocean will certainly elate the neoliberal propagandist but in itself it is not a great development.” (Teltumbde : Dalit Capitalism And Pseudo Dalitism)
It may be noted that the big business organizations and the Indian state have been fostering them, with a few crumbs and quotas too. It is part of their endeavors to broadbase their social base, and secure their hegemonic rule from any possible revolt from the oppressed masses.
Reservations are no panacea
The dalit movement over the decades has been reduced to identity politics. The ruling classes claim they spent thousands of crores on doles and sops for SCs, most of which fattened a few power brokers and the officialdom. Despite reservations for seven decades, the plight of the dalit masses remains basically the same. Anand Teltumbde further writes :
“If one looks at the profile of Dalits as the predominantly (81 percent) rural people, linked with land as landless labourers and marginal farmers with a small (19 percent) section living in urban areas, a large part of which lives in slums and works in informal sectors, one surely finds that the historical Dalit discourse revolving around reservation has always been unrelated with the majority of people, because it was articulated by upwardly mobile urbanite Dalits, who detested stereotypical Dalit description and aspired to see themselves as ‘arrived’.”
More recently, Teltumbde afte a deeper study for his latest book, Republic of Caste: Thinking Equality in the Time of Neoliberal Hindutva, (Navayana 2018) Anand Teltumbde went deeper into the question . See this Report of May 18, 2018, of the Book Release function, titled Reservations are not a measure of justice: Anand Teltumbde .
“ Teltumbde has reasons to be vehemently anti-reservation. Pointing to the abolition of untouchability, he remarks, “Untouchability is just an aspect of caste. Unless caste is abolished, how can this practice end? The newly-independent Indian state was projected as a progressive one, so untouchability was abolished while caste was preserved through reservation.” In 1935, the colonial government introduced an administrative category of Scheduled Caste, which snapped the connection with the caste system. In 1950, the Indian government restored this connection by instating caste-based reservation. It also created another Schedule for tribes, also linked with backwardness. This, according to Teltumbde, was a move that preserved caste. “If the intention to root out caste was honest, then the government would have combined the Schedules, since tribes do not come with the stigma of caste. It would have gone a long way in diluting the effect of caste discrimination.”
“ Reservations are simply a mechanism to ensure dalit participation, not a measure of justice, he argues further. This is how caste is written into the Constitution. “If it is justice one is aiming for, then you need to focus on three basic factors — healthcare, education, and livelihood security; and these have to be provided universally — to all people, regardless of caste or background. Without this, reservation policies will always be detrimental to the people they are meant for, especially when associated with caste.”
The Report significantly added:
“… Mewani, is disarmingly honest about how no one in the movement still had any clear idea on how to go about annihilating caste. “For too long, dalit demands have coalesced around reservations and untouchability, but now the focal points of the anti-caste struggle must be public health, education, land, and roti-kapda-makaan,” he says to resounding applause.”
New and young politician , Jignesh Mewani stressed the obvious message about future tasks. He had famously remarked : You take the cow-tail. And give us land.
Teltumde’s is not the only voice. Speaking to The Hindu, May 23, 2016, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s grandson Prakash Ambedkar , who heads the Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh (BBM), had said, “Political reservation should be done away with because voting for a Dalit candidate is not a big issue now. But educational and services reservation should stay as Dalits still face social discrimination.”
He was bold enough to call a spade a spade. In an interview to OUTLOOK , weekly magazine, as early as 23 August 2004, he explained :
“ the cancellation of political reservation would have made no difference to the Dalit movement because Dalit politicians who have benefited from the reservation of constituencies have turned out to be puppets in the hands of parties like the Congress and the BJP. These parties exploit political reservation to increase their own seat count. The welfare of Dalits has been lost in political calculations. So if political reservations end today, it may not make a difference to the larger welfare of Dalits.”
Now we can understand why the Sangh pariwar, Modi, even RSS , re-assured that they would continue as long as necessary. “ These parties exploit political reservation to increase their own seat count.”
There have been movements , natural as well as sponsored, to divide and divert the masses from the path of struggles. Among them are those for categorization of SC reservations, among sections of dalits, piting one against the other, on the basis of caste like one by MRPS (Madiga Reservation Porta Samiti. Madigas may be grouped with chamars of the North). There was one occasion when around one lakh Malas confronted one lakh people of Madigas in Hyderabad. An imminent clash was engineered but stopped at one stage. After all the SCs are not one caste, but a grouping made by the State of a few hundred dalit castes across India. The same thing happened among STs for categorization of reservations.
It may be recalled that Dr. BR Ambedkar had himself called for the abolition of reservations for elections to Legislatures both in states and at the Centre. Very few mention this fact, and those who had mentioned also stopped doing that. This he did in a speech he made at the All India Conference of SC Federation on December 27, 1955. In fact the Conference passed a resolution to that effect. (The text of this resolution, not with us, needs to be brought out. Someone may help it.)
(All emphases added. The author is a political observer.)