Ambedkar would be, perhaps, the only leader in India left behind a strong ideology for his followers, that can be shortened into 'educate, agitate and organise'.
Every year on December 6, Chaitya Bhoomi, in Dadar, Mumbai is visited by over half a million people without any formal notice or invitation! This is where the Father of the Indian Constitution, Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar, popularly known as 'Baba Saheb' was cremated on December 7, 1956.
All that congregate here, consider him as their liberator, who fought till his death against caste oppression and for an equal and just society. His legacy is still around us like Reserve Bank of India, employment exchanges, reservation in jobs and education etc.
However, the greatest legacy of Ambedkar lay in the framing of the Constitution of India and his life-long struggle for social justice. He would be, perhaps, the only leader in India that left behind a strong ideology for his followers, that can be shortened into "educate, agitate and organise".
On his 62nd death anniversary, Deccan Herald publishes the views of some Ambedkarites from across India on his legacy for them. We posed one question to all: What did Ambedkar leave behind for you? These are their answers.
Riya Singh, research scholar at Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS)
Baba Saheb Ambedkar left behind the possibility of a better and dignified life for me and my family. I know it is only because of Babasaheb that my mother and I could access education. It is not as simple as it seems, this simple thing has brilliant consequences and effects on our lives. We all know the fact that India is a highly casteist and patriarchal society, we Dalits are considered untouchables by Brahminical patriarchal practices.
My mother who is now sixty one-year-old has also been brought up in the same sphere but it is because of Babasaheb and his views that, despite poverty, she was sent to school and after completing her class XII, she managed to attain a clerical job via National Employment Exchange.
Babasaheb was instrumental in bringing the establishment of employment exchanges. He created this after the Second World War during the British government. My mother is the first literate woman in our family. Ambedkar left behind the right to education not only for some but all women in India.
For me, in particular, he has left behind a vision of a better future, when we Dalits will be not abused, raped and murdered, will not be questioned to prove our merit, our worth, when our hard work will be valued and no son and no daughter would get onto roads early morning to sweep it and no one dies in manholes. He has left behind immense energy and courage for so many of us to stand against the oppressor, look him right in the eyes and say, "yes, you are the oppressor and we won't take it anymore".
Babasaheb left behind those rights for me which this nation would have never assured to a Dalit daughter. I know that I may still not be given many of those rights but Ambedkar gave us a base created from where with a little courage and struggle, we can take what is rightfully ours. Babasaheb left behind an educated, assertive and agitating generation and I am one among them.
Kuffir Nalgudwar, founder of roundtableindia.co.in
The Indian constitution is Ambedkar's major contribution. Human rights, democracy and modernity are values he strongly stood for. No one has spoken about these values as strongly as Ambedkar. There was a substantial increase in Dalit movements and anti-caste movements in the seventies, that helped the spread of education among Dalits. But the representation of the community in the media had not seen any improvement as media houses were reluctant to incorporate any Dalits or their efforts, therefore we had to find alternative means. We found the internet more liberal. This was one of the reasons that we started the Round Table India web portal.
There were several writers, scholars, activists, lawyers, engineers among Dalits who helped populate the website with content. The contributions of senior thinkers especially Dr K Jamanadas, Katti Padma Rao and Suresh Mane are very helpful. That was the time the Dalits and Bahujan wanted to be a critical media audience. The potential of the writers and readers of the portal could not be ignored by the mainstream media. Eventually, they also started giving space for Dalits. We believe the Round Table India played the role of a catalyst in this transition.
Babasaheb himself felt the scarcity of Dalit's voice in Indian media. That's why he started four periodicals Mooknayak, Bahishkrut Bharat, Janata, and Prabudhha Bharat at different times of his life. Due to a lack of resources and support he had to shut down all of them. If he had had resources then his efforts would have been successful.
After Ambedkar's efforts, there was a vacuum and expectation among Dalits of being accommodated by the mainstream media was very low. So that gap had to be filled. That is another reason for establishing a media dedicated to Ambedkar's thought.
The name itself mirrors the historical representation of Ambedkar in three roundtable conference in the early 1930s and his vociferous effort to get reservations for Dalits in assembly elections, which was hitherto dominated by upper castes. Roundtableindia.co.in is a totally independent media entity without backing from any big corporate company or godfathers.
Pradeep Singh, founder of velivada.com
The message of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: "Lost rights are never regained by appeals to the conscience of the usurpers but by relentless struggle" made me pursue the fight he left for us, “the fight against injustice and equality”. Everything he wrote or said is still relevant today and holds the key to the most pressing questions of our time, be it the rights of minority communities, the annihilation of caste or how states should be carved out.
For example in his work "Thoughts on Linguistic States", 1955, he had suggested the division of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh etc for better development of these states. After almost 45 years both states were divided and Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand were formed in the early 2000s. There is no other leader who brings such learning to practical problems. This distinguishes him from other leaders we had/have. I wonder whether we will see anyone like him again.
Babasaheb Ambedkar is the only leader in India, that is hugely referenced for political assertion as well as academic purpose. There will be a bright future for India if only, we Indians dare to read him and work accordingly, if only!
Somnath Waghmare, documentary director
For me, Ambedkar is a household personality, he is part of our family. The result of his struggle is why I am now a filmmaker and a student at Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS). He left behind an unending struggle for democratic and constitutional rights, in which rights are not only for Dalits but also for all Indians in the shape of the Constitution. We took up his struggle and it is now our duty to fulfil a casteless society. In other words, I should lead the efforts for an equality based society. He is always a personal as well as social inspiration.
Now, higher education rate of neo-Buddhists (83%), the Dalits who converted to Buddhism after Ambedkar's conversion, is similar with Brahmins (86%). This is the success of Ambedkar's struggle, his aim to uplift the society, which was undergoing historical backwardness due to socio-religious oppression.
My aim is to go ahead with Ambedkar's thought about the annihilation of caste and creating equality in society through cinema. There is a conscious cultural dominance by Brahmanist politics even in the film industry. I am trying to bring a counter Ambedkarite culture here. As long as caste prevails in India, Ambedkar's thoughts have relevance.
Rahul Sonpimple, research scholar at JNU and leader of BAPSA
There are three things I can say Ambedkar left behind for us. Firstly, the legacy, not just an air-bag legacy, but a strong anti-caste consciousness. The consciousness was developed by Babasaheb through rigorous theoretical and practical understanding of the reality prevailing in Indian society at that time. He considered Jyotirao Phule as his Guru, but in fact, he went beyond Phule and crafted his anti-caste consciousness and talked about complete annihilation of caste in society.
Secondly, to spread this anti-caste consciousness and to get rid of social discrimination, Ambedkar worked out to create some practical ways such as democracy. He categorically said that democracy will only come through the people of lower strata of the society. For this, he worked for institutional reforms which are based on some moral ideas. At the same time, he strived for enhancing social morality. According to Ambedkar, the constitutional morality would be fulfilled only through a reciprocal moral upliftment in society in the form of a sense of equality by annihilating the caste.
Thirdly, I believe most important was his advocacy for building autonomous institutions. During his lifetime Ambedkar started People's Education Society, which led to the establishment of Milind College in Aurangabad and Siddharth College of Law in Mumbai and numerous schools and educational institutions. Through these, he was trying to articulate to the oppressed community to stand up on their own legs by starting autonomous institutions run by them and fight against the oppressors. For Ambedkarite movements all over India, these are everyday activities. They take up these as their mission.
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