Dr. B.R. Ambedkar will always be remembered in the history as the unquestioned leader of depressed classes and the principal architect of the Indian constitution. His entire life has been a saga of relentless crusade for social justice and a symbol of revolt against all the oppressive features of the Hindu society. He was not just a social revolutionary but also a prolific scholar, a lawyer, an exemplary economist and a true ‘Bharat Ratna’. He played a vital role in shaping the modern Indian society. He continued the fight for social and economic equality even amidst the struggle for India’s freedom.

           His struggle started the moment he was born in a poor mahar family and continued till his last breath. With his resoluteness and hard work he went up against all odds and became the first person from the backward classes to earn a law degree and doctorates from Columbia University and the London school of economics. As non-violence  was to Mahatma Gandhi, education was to Babasaheb. He firmly believed that “cultivation of mind should be the ultimate aim of human existence”. The pursuit of knowledge and academic excellence remained his primary weapons. He founded ‘bahishkrit hitkarini sabha’ in 1924 to educate and unite the depressed classes in an attempt to rouse self consciousness and self respect among them. He knew knowledge and unity, strengthened with agitation can bring down anything.

           Dr. Ambedkar has left a legacy so rich that it is nearly impossible to match his steps but after more than 69 years of independence we are nowhere near what he set out to achieve and it is partly because the two of his most important contributions have sadly been misconstrued by dalits and non-dalits alike. His most celebrated contribution was the introduction of positive discrimination. The idea was to break monopoly by proportional representation and bring all backward classes on one platform to break the caste system. This step has been criticized  all along but more so in the past few years. Nevertheless, it has survived for so long because it is the least expensive and politically most rewarding of all policy options. Although, it is a matter of debate whether reservations have been successful or not? but it is a common notion that it has benefited only a small section of the backward classes. It must, however , be admitted that even if this small number can throw up leadership for the community to bargain for larger interests, the purpose is more or less met. Although more and more people are willing to lend their hand forward, but the numbers are still not enough to make a mark or to shut the opposition. Moreover, the over-estimation of the amount and effectiveness of preferential treatment reinforces the notion that too much is already being done which prevents the gentry from coming forward with a contribution. Also, the fact that ‘Dr. Ambedkar professed for the pursuit of knowledge his whole life’ has lost place to the introduction of reservation policy. Many people still rely more on reservation than their own hard work which Babasaheb must have never intended to. The reservation should compensate for the educational, social and financial background and not for hard work. It will be a tribute to the legend if we can remain true to this simple fact. 

          Another major contribution was rejuvenating Buddhism in India. He accepted Buddhism after a lot of research with the sole aim of abolishing discrimination against the backward classes. Buddhism is based on rational thinking and reasoning and is free from any form of discrimination or hatred. But it is unfortunate to say that this discrimination still exists in India to the extent that it can be seen even among the different backward classes. It is unwise, illogical and unfair to be riding on both the boats simultaneously. But neither Buddha nor Babasaheb is among us anymore and their ideologies are waning too fast or at least being bent for personal or political gains. 

          He believed ideas need propagation as much as plants need water to flourish. His garlanded idols have definitely cropped up all over the country but unfortunately his ideas are scarcely witnessed. Parroting his name on politically crucial occasions and social gatherings is not enough but sadly this is where most of his ‘followers’ now stop. Times have changed and so should we. The first challenge is to transform and redirect the feeling of raw, stifling anger against the upper castes into intra-community caring and unity. People should come forward to help and mentor each other for the betterment of the whole community. Dalits should realize that government policies and political protections can only facilitate them but cannot fully change the society on their behalf. They should stand tall and open up new grounds for an innately positive moral and social identity and accept the fact that dalits and non-dalits are competitors in many ways but are not enemies

           Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has certainly succeeded in bringing about a very evident change in the life style of backward classes but a lot of ground work still needs to be done for the overall development. He has done more than any human could possibly do for the depressed classes and bring them this far. Now  it  is upon them to  rise  to the  occasion  and   help him achieve  what  he  always  wanted.  

Published by Amit Prakash