Ambedkar’s Vision Of Secular Socialist India
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat
20 July, 2015
This is Ambedkar’s era of the capitalist world in which identity matters more than ideology and in capitalist democracies you mobilise people more on symbolic issues so that they do not rebel against the ills of these imported democracies which are hurting people more as democracy today is the legitimization of corporate greed and grabbing of the people’s resources. Today, Ambedkar overtake any other political leader in post independent India who matter most for the purpose of politics if not for ideology. He has written enormously over a period of nearly 40 years of public life. In the business of politics people diametrically opposed to Ambedkar’s vision of a ‘prabudhha bharat’ or ‘enlightened India’ which we cannot accomplish without an inclusive vision with participation of religious and linguistic minorities and socially and economically marginalized communities including their women, are trying to appropriate Ambedkar for their own purposes.
Ambedkar’s is a liberator for millions of marginalized all over the world. The liberation comes through his core belief in the principle of state socialism which he was instrumental in placing in the preamble of the constitution of India and most importantly through the ‘Directive Principles of State Policies’ as a ‘direction’ to the state since he knew that most of the segments that he was speaking for, does not have the capacity to raise their own issues and fight for it.
There is no doubt that Ambedkar was a staunch democrat and believer in freedom of individual despite having faced obstacles and insinuations from the upper caste leadership of the different parties including those of the communist parties who could not fight against brahmanical hierarchy and termed everyone fighting against caste system as casteist. Castigating the brahmanical leadership with in parties does not mean that Ambedkar was a votary of capitalism as many of his ‘so-called’ ‘followers’ are trying to portray. Yes, Ambedkar went to Columbia University in United States and later did his doctorate and post doctorate from London School of Economics. He felt liberated in the Americas as none asked his caste and other details about his life, which was a routine feature in India. He could enter any where from libraries to hotels without being asked about his caste and antecedents. Those were the times when Ambedkar could not get a house to live in India even after becoming the Defence of Adviser of the Maharaja of Baroda just he was born an untouchable. The office assistants or peons in the college would refuse to give him water and pass on the files for the fear of getting touched. Moreover, a debate with Gandhi on the annihilation of caste further made Ambedkar aggressive when Gandhi emphasized the importance of ‘shastras’ and ‘birth’ in ‘Jaati’ terming that you cannot change your ‘jaati’ and must do the work according to the divinely prescribed ‘duties’ to the particular ‘jaati’. Later, he fought for the temple entry of the Dalits into Kalaram Temple but realized that the caste Hindus were not ready to accommodate the Dalits in equal terms and came his historical announcement that to renounce Hinduism and embrace Buddhism.
Ambedkar’s quest for equality with dignity remained till his death but the most important part of his mission was fraternity as he felt equality without fraternity was not acceptable to him and in his numerous articles Ambedkar mentioned as why despite his respect for Russian Revolution, he felt more close to appreciating French Revolution as Russian revolution brought equality but not fraternity but French Revolution brought fraternity too. This is an important point made by Ambedkar which is ignored by many of his ‘admirers’ who rarely have time to go through his entire writings.
We cannot ignore the important aspect of social justice, freedom and liberty from Dr Ambedkar’s warning when he presented the first copy of the constitution of newly independent India to the chairperson of the Constituent Assembly Dr Rajendra Prasad. He said,’
“On the 26th of January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality.
In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value.
In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value.
How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions?
How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life?
If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy, which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.’
The warning was important that country must first become a social democracy to ensure that its political democracy succeeded because a failure would keep the entire democratic process in peril. How can political democracy succeed and ensure social democracy?
We are iniquitous society and it was important therefore that the modern constitution of India succeed. It put its own on state to do certain things. The responsibility of Indian state was much bigger and important to bring equality and social justice to all. The Zamindari Abolition Act was meant to democratize land relations, which dominate our socio-political system. In fact, Ambedkar wanted radical land reforms in the form of ‘nationalization’ of land for which he appreciated highly the Chinese and Russian models of agrarian system. One the private property in agriculture is diminished there will be enough land for all. Private property was the root cause of social injustice even when Ambedkar could not bring many other radical changes in the constitution because of the pulls and pressure of the diverse sections of society. He wanted the government to strengthen public sector and initiate welfare measures, as he knew without state’s interventions the vast majority of marginalized would never be able to progress. In fact so much was his faith in political state that he felt that the failure of state intervention would endanger the lives of millions of the Dalits who were victims of caste system and untouchability, which were still prevalent in the society despite a progressive constitution.
‘State and minorities’ was a memorandum on behalf of All India Scheduled Caste Federation, to Constituent Assembly in 1946 talked about equality and abolishing privileges based on birth, region, hierarchy and all the citizens of the country should be treated equally.
Today, it is important to understand Ambedkar and why State owns an important part in the lives of the Dalits and other marginalized in our society. Without fulfilling our constitutional promises the power elite of the country want that Indian state abdicate its responsibility as a welfare state and embrace ‘capitalist’ system. Thousands of young boys and girls from Dalits, OBCs, Aadivasis have come up in the ladder and succeeded in their life through affirmative action programmes. After the Mandal revolution in India in 1990s, the OBC students also succeeded and the power equations have changed now as Dalits, OBCs and Aadivasis have understood the value of their vote and have consistently demanded their share in power. Ofcourse, Indian state has been highly prejudicious and stereotypical against Muslims who did not get any state protection as citizen of the country. Muslims and Christians too have backwards and Dalits in their communities and they need equal protection by the state.
After the Mandal revolution in 1990, the forces detrimental to the Dalit Bahujan communities unleashed the economic liberalization, which actually meant to defeat the socialist agenda as defined by the constitution of India drafted by Baba Saheb Ambedkar. Socialism became a dirty word and all that was ‘inefficient’ and ‘corrupted’ was linked to socialism termed as ‘license permit raj’. Actually liberalization under Narsimharao was a carefully crafted policy of the upper caste upper class Hindus who were desperate to foil the state socialism, which provided space and opportunities to the most marginalized sections of society and acceptance of Mandal Commissuon Report became the death knell for their mischiefs.
So capitalism in India came through a wrap of anti Muslim sentiments carefully developed by the Hindutva’s gangs. In the post 1990s on the one side Dalits and OBCs were asserting for their share in power structure and other side, India’s ruling classes actually ensured that their process in power structure is stopped through vicious privatization process. Reservation was threatened, natural resources were being private, Aadivasis were losing their access to forest and water and crony capitalism was being promoted. Soon, the state was being advised to withdraw from health and education sector and land reforms were being considered as problem points. Farmers lost their fertile land and were virtually made landless. A few people gained maximum but a majority of them lost their access to jobs, natural resources and livelihood.
As the country is standing against the crony corporate they are misusing Ambedkar's name today and dividing Dalits and Bahujans for their narrow political goals. Ambedkar is being portrayed as ‘free-market economist’ and a Hindutva ideologue. The sad side was that at another level Ambedkar and Lohia have been placed under diametrically opposed camps for political purposes despite known factor that one of the biggest tragedies of Indian political life is failure of Ambedkar , Lohia, Periyar and others like minded coming together. Lohia actually made all efforts to bring Ambedkar to his political view and felt that Ambedkar should not be just leader of untouchables alone but of all the Indians. It is important to understand that all those who worked for an inclusive India from Nehru to Lohia, Ambedkar to Bhagat Singh, Acharya Narendra Dev to M N Roy... socialism was their faith and if the ruling classes of today are deviating from its path, they are not just betraying the historical legacy of India’s freedom movement but also playing fraud to our constitution.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social and human rights activist. He blogs at www.manukhsi.blogspot.com twitter @freetohumanity Email: email@example.com
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