My Ambedkar Vs Yours
By Poonam I Kaushish
It is a perfect con job. On the latest catch word: Ambedkar. So last week India stood testimony to a lot of noises being made over the father of the Constitution. Asserted Prime Minister Modi, “Everyone rushes to do politics in Ambedkar’s name but it is my Government which has honoured, given respect to him.” Retorted Dalit messiah BSP’s Mayawati, “The BJP is anti-Ambedkar and anti-Constitution.” Alongside her foe-turned-friend’ SP’s Akhilesh they grandiosely celebrated Babasaheb’s 127th birth anniversary. All staking claim to his legacy. Reducing it to a game of one-upmanship of ‘my Ambedkar vs yours!”
Basically this bloated rhetoric about Ambedkar bandied by all Parties is essentially an intra-Party affair, all wanting to cement a winning bond with the Dalit icon and capitalize on it. Understandable, as the community accounts for 20% of the vote bank and its votes would tilt the balance on who sits on India’s Raj gaddi.
Towards that end, the BJP-led Government is constructing two memorials in Delhi and the BSP-SP combine are commemorating him in 90 UP districts and BUILDING statues. Clearly, none wants to jeopordise castevote banks which has become the most luscious mistress to be measured through the prism of power glass politics. Wherein, the fight over Ambedkar has been reduced to politics of optics and perception.
Consequently, the more India changes, it remains the same whereby caste has cast a long shadow over Indian politics. The scepter that haunts the nation is not of class struggle but caste struggle. “Backwards” and “Forwards” are more meaningful than the Left and the Right in politics. Thereby, giving further impetus and widens the caste divide. But who cares?
Raising a moot point: Does our polity divided by caste, splintered by religion, riven by political and ideological differences and bereft of statesmen with vision and concern for tomorrow, really genuinely believe in Ambedkar’s ideology? “I feel the caste system must be abolished if the Hindu society is to be reconstructed on the basis of equality, goes without saying. Untouchability has its roots in the caste system,” said he.
Alas, the caste genie unleashed three decades ago, which Ambedkar was against, is now devouring the country. Whereby this issue erupted into a conflagration last week when Dalit groups across the country took to the streets in a “Bharat Bandh” in response to the alleged “dilution” of the Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) (Prevention of Atrocities) Act 1989. Leaving over 10 dead and many injured in Rajasthan, MP, Punjab and Delhi.
Recall, the Supreme Court banned automatic arrests and registration of criminal cases under the legislation which seeks to protect members of scheduled castes and tribes against discrimination and abuse last month.
Notably, given that the Dalits form a crucial vote bank in UP and Punjab, constituting more than 20 per cent and 32 per cent respectively of the population, as also having a large populous in the Hindu heartland including Bihar, MP and Rajasthan any wonder our Parties are desperate. All are falling over each other in positioning Ambedkarism as the ideological alternative to Gandhism as vote-banks on caste lines are easier to build.
From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, Maharashtra to Manipur communal and caste explosions and exploitations rule the roost. With parties defining it according to its own warped and selfish needs.
Not just that. With everyone propounding their own recipes of communal and caste harmony, the nation is getting sucked into the vortex of centrifugal bickering. So caught up are our leaders in their frenzied pursuit of political nirvana through separatism that they confuse themselves.
Touch any sphere of national life — political, social, economic, administrative, educational and judicial. The cancerous C2 has already spread into its vitals. Tragically, bringing things to such a pass whereby everything today has degenerated into the caste paradigm.
Mandalistation of politics and the emergence of the Dalit-OBC-Muslim combine in electoral politics brought about a sea change in our polity. Wherein it is now polarised on a caste basis with elections being fought on caste considerations.
In fact, voters are regressively but decisively voting along caste lines. This social engineering via the ballot has become its mainstay. After all, why should the Brahmins and Thakurs, a mere 15 per cent of the vote bank, rule the roost? In other words, political consciousness today terminates at the caste and community level.
Hence, this social chasm has widened with the emergence of the “Made in India” leaders like Lalu, Mulayam and Mayawati. If Lalu kid gloved the forwards with his massive backward following, Mulayam played his Yadav and Muslim card to the hilt in Government and judicial appointments. Mayawati revealed in “transfer Raj”, replacing many upper caste officers by Dalit officials.
Thereby, giving the rootless down-trodden a new identity and attitudinal changes. Think. Today, Bihar resembles a battle ground of caste senas. If yesterday it was a tussle between the Ranveer Sena, private Army of Upper caste landlords vs the Left, Marxist Communist Centre today it is the Jai Shri Ram Sena, which has just been floated to defend farmers, against the two. All merrily turning Bihar into the killing fields.
Clearly, our leaders are either unable or unwilling to break out of the caste mould. In the long run, this is bound to increase dissatisfaction all around. By making noises and finding a scapegoat, our polity runs the risk of changing major political alignments on caste lines.
Forgetting that it is equally dangerous to indulge in the ongoing political power games passed on caste rivalries. By that token, the whole social reform movement will become meaningless. It is clear that if political consciousness terminates at the caste level, divisive caste combinations will continue to dominate Indian politics. Granted it will be suicidal not to take cognizance of the new found political aspirations of the backward castes. At the same time, it is equally dangerous to indulge in the ongoing political power games based on caste and communal considerations.
Alas, with all merrily playing the caste zerosum game it is now difficult to recognize India as the same country which Emerson described as the “summit of human thought.” The time has come to undergo catharsis — a course in emptive cleansing and in cementing a cohesive society. The moment for soul searching, not soul searing. Away from the electioneering fields.
Where do we go from here? It all depends on whether the Government is willing to get rid of its excess baggage of casteisms which is caught in the vortex of vote bankism. It remains to be seen who will come up trumps in this “battle of ideologies for a new India”
Undoubtedly, India stands testimony to the fact that power in privilege stands further transformed through electoral competition into power in numbers. Time now for our petty power-at-all cost polity to think beyond vote-bank politics and look at the long-term implications. Which, if not arrested, could well boomerang on them and spell danger to our democracy.
Our leaders need to ponder over Ambedkar’s wise assertion, “An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise both will wither and die”. So instead of going through the circus of hypocritical drivel of crooning his legacy we need to see actions rather than words. India and its citizens deserve a lot better. What gives? —– INFA