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N.G.Uke: Remembering
A True Humanist

By V.B. Rawat & N.G.Uke

10 November, 2006

Mr N.G.Uke, a great Ambedkarite, a friend and guide died on November 4th, 2006 at his Vasant Kunj residence at the age of 82. Uke Saheb, as I would fondly call him was among the rare breed of Ambedkarite who saw Baba Saheb and was selected by him as a scholar though he had already got the same.

As an admirer of Mr Uke for his forthright views and because his open support for atheism, I knew NG Uke was a treasurer who had with him a number of incidents and things and that is why I kept on calling him for an interview. ' You are always welcome', Uke Saheb told me. Last month on October 7 th, I was able to record a conversation with him to keep his memoirs. I know many such Ambedkarite who are treasure of great source are on the wane and I decided to interview them and record conversation to keep their memories safe.

I have rarely found person of strong secular commitment such as N G Uke. Even in his conversation, he hated words like 'fortunate, unfortunate, Mahatma, noble soul, gods' etc. He would say that by using these words we are ultimately trapped into the religious moulding justifying the oppression and exploitation.

Uke Saheb send reply to some of my questions on mails. A freewheeling interview with him was recorded which I would be able to produce after some time. As a tribute to Uke Saheb, I am sending this interview to our friends. He was the first person to use term ' Ambedkar Samaj' and rather than saying ' I am a Buddhist' which he was. Till his last, Uke Saheb remained a sharp mind, concerned about the condition of his community, which he always thought would lead India to 21 st Century.

I salute to his memory.

Excerpts of his conversation with me

VB: Uke Saheb, how did you come in touch with Dr Ambedkar.

NGU: My first meeting with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was in July 1942 at Nagpur

during the Depressed Classes Conferences held on 18,19,20 July 1942. During these conferences were attended by about 75,000 Scheduled Castes persons, including 25,000 women. The three Conferences were: 1. All India Depressed Classes Conference, 2. All India Depressed Classes Women's Conference, 3. Samata Sainik Dal Conference.

During these Conferences we the Scheduled Castes student established All India Scheduled Castes Students Federation (SCSF). I was one of the Joint Secretaries of the SCSF. At that time I was studying in Inter Science at the College of Science Nagpur. We met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and sought his advice and guidance for working of our SCSF. He was very happy and we had a very useful discussion.

Since Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was being appointed as the Labour Member of the Executive Council of H.E. the Viceroy and the Governor General, he could not function as the full time President of the All India Depressed Classes Conferences. In his place Rao Bahadur N. Shivraj, MLA (Central) was appointed as the president of the Conference.

My second meeting with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was at his residence 22 Prithviraj road at Delhi. I had gone to Delhi for an interview before the selection board for the selection of scholars to be sent abroad for higher studies. I was selected by the board for higher studies in Engineering in London. Rai Saheb GT Meshram who was the Estate Officer Govt. of India took me to 22, Prithviraj road to meet Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. As soon as I was introduced to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, he immediately said " Mr. Uke Congratulations since we have selected you for higher studies in UK, under the Scheduled Castes Students Scholarship. We had a selection in Simla". I thanked Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar for my selection in the SC Scholarship. But I told Babasaheb that I have also been selected today by the Govt. of India under general scholarship for study in UK for Engineering. Babasaheb was very happy that I was selected in General Scholarship, thus saving one scholarship of Scheduled Caste.

My next meetings with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar were in London 4 times, on 26 th Oct. 29th Oct. 2nd Nov. and 9th Nov.1946. During this period he had met important personalities from London including Clement Attlee Prime Minister of UK, and Mr. Winston Churchill. On 2 nd Nov. 1946 we invited him to visit our place at 4, Downside Crescent. He blessed us by visiting our place and sitting for a group photo which included number of SC Scholars including Mr. Khobragade studying for Bar.

The next time when I met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was when I was called from London to return to India, for selection for a post in Defence. The Public Service Commission selected me for this post. I met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar along with Raisaheb GT Meshram after my selection. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had a liking for me and suggested to Mr. Meshram that he should propose my marriage with his daughter Kamal. Meshram family and Babasaheb Ambedkar were very close to each other. Whenever Babasaheb used to go to Nagpur he used to stay with Meshram family. Kamal used to know Babasaheb from her childhood of about 6 years since 1935. Our marriage took place on May 8 th,1949 at 4 Lodhi Estate, the residence of Mr. Meshram. Our marriage certificate was signed by 3 Cabinet Ministers of Govt. of India, 1 Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar , 2. Dr. John Matthai, and 3. Dr. Kakasaheb Gadgil.

VB: What was your personality about ? Did you face discrimination during your childhood? How supportive were your parents.

NGU: You desired to know whether I was docile or strong person and whether I suffered from discrimination. In my childhood I was very strong. I normally used to score very high position in my class. The Brahmins did not like my status in the class and they closed the school after I passed class 3 of the primary school. For the 4th class I had to go to near by village about 2 miles from our village. I cleared class 4 th from that school with top record. I had told my father that he should help me financially up to 8th class including the middle school in English at Bramhpuri about 10 miles from my village. I passed the 8 th class with high % and was allotted Govt. Scholarship from 9th class onwards. I secured the high school admission in Patwardhan high school at Nagpur. My further studies were at the College of Science at Nagpur. Later I won the Govt. of India Scholarship for higher studies in London.

VB : What impression did you get from Baba Saheb. What do his followers need to do to take forward his mission?

NGU: When we met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in London during 1946 he advised us that our people should be better than their best. Some of us definitely tried to come to the expectation of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism on 14th of October 1956 along with 5 lacks of people at Nagpur. His mission was to make whole of India as a Buddhist Country. How ever he expired within 53 days of his embracing Buddhism.

His followers were not of the required capacity for the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar with same vigor and achievements. They have been working in different groups and are not united.

Ambedkarites must join together under one platform. I had met Dalai Lama in Ashoka Hotel a few years ago and I had suggested to him that he should take up the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar of converting India into a Prabuddha Bharat. For my suggestion he became very happy and embraced me very warmly. In order to convert India into Prabuddha Bharat on the advice of Buddha and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, it is necessary to workout a rational program.

There are various factions in Buddhism. We must consolidate all the Buddhists of the world. For that matter we will have to spell out the Buddhism as has been prescribed by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

VB: A number of people are redefining Ambedkar's conversion. Some says that he wanted to embrace Islam while others suggest that he was in fact for Christianity. There is a Sikh angle also. To strengthen their point, they say that Ambedkar buckled under the pressure of the upper caste Hindu leadership? For me it is difficult to digest as Ambedkar remained a man of conviction and character all his life and it would have been difficult for him to accept anything as final word or Gods word. As a staunch Ambedkarite how do you respond to such questions?

NGU: It is wrong. He never wanted to become Muslim or Sikh or Christian. Neither did he want to remain as a Hindu. He wanted to become Buddhist and he had declared in 1935 that though he was a born a Hindu, which was not in, his hand but he would not die as a Hindu. When he was in his matriculation, he was given a book on Buddhism. Baba Saheb had been reading about Buddhism for a very long time. Nizam offered him a lot of money. Others also offered him but he was not worried about money. He was worried about India. To make India a Prabuddha Bharat, an enlightned India and no religion can do that. He believed in Buddha but never in those rituals. He redefined Buddhism. Scriptures and Gods cannot help India at all.

VB: Reservation issue has again rocked the country. While the current row has been actually against the OBC reservation in government services but it seems that in this entire scheme of things, it is the Dalits who have become target of the upper caste contempt. The Dalits are fighting the battle for OBCs while the latter are not visible anywhere, only to be found hitting at them in the villages. Now questions are being raised about creamy layer as well as different Dalit identities. As an Ambedkarite how to you resolve this crisis?

NGU: As per as the reservation for Scheduled Castes is concerned people refused to understand the Constitutional provisions regarding SCST reservation. The Constitution is very clear. Constitution provides for reservations for the Scheduled Castes. These reservations are Universal. However the Govt. have excluded a large number of Jobs from the reservations, which goes against the spirit of the Constitution.

There is also a view that a creamy layer from Scheduled Castes must be taken away from Scheduled Castes. This view is totally wrong The Creamy layer is the cream of the society. The Cream, which consists of the intellect of the Scheduled Castes are the people who guide and lead the Scheduled Castes. Nobody can deprive the Scheduled Castes of their intellectual leaders. All the rulers namely The President, The Prime Minister and the other leaders come from Creamy layer and govern. The Scheduled Castes cannot be divided as very rightly ruled by the Supreme Court.

As far as the reservations for Scheduled Castes are concerned no Non-SC is affected and they have nothing to do with reservations.

VB : You are a rare breed of Ambedkarite who are proclaimed atheists. Why?

NGU: Scheduled Castes cannot gain anything from Gods and their work. The only way out is to prove that our society, our system is better than theirs. We believe that superstitions, rituals ultimately exploit human being.

VB: What do you think of economic globalisation. I mean many new Dalit scholars have complimented capitalism and often condemn Marx and his vision. What is an Ambedkarite vision of India.

NGU: Privatisation is a threat to our soverignity. Land should be nationalized and redistributed among our people. Why should we allow the national resources to the private companies to suck our blood. Privatisation is nothing but taking away people's resources and we must oppose it.

Once you privatize things, our people lose jobs in the government sector. Private companies are not going to follow that. The government must bring out a law to protect the interest of the Scheduled Castes.

Baba Saheb was a revolutionary and so was Marx though Baba Saheb differed with his violence theory yet in no way was Baba Saheb anti Marx. We may have differences with Marxist theoreticians in India yet Marx and his philosophy are for the benefits of the common man.

VB: What are the activities of Ambedkar Samaj. What does it aims at?

NGU: We have started Ambedkar Samaj to bring all Ambedkarites on one platform to fulfill the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar not only to convert India as a Prabuddha Bharat but we have to transform the whole world as a Scientific Humanity without any differences. The Ambedkarites must lead to take the world forward as one humanity.


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