Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation

Discussion on “Relevance of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s thoughts in AmritKaal”

  • Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation (SPMRF) organized a discussion titled ‘Relevance of B. R. Ambedkar Thoughts in AmritKaal’ on 15th April 2023 at 3:00 PM. The speakers were Dr. Pravesh Kumar Choudhary, Assistant Professor, Comparative Studies, JNU and Dr. Guru Prakash Paswan, Assistant Professor, Patna University and National Spokesperson, BJP. The discussion was held under the guidance of Shri V. Satish, the National Joint General Secretary of Bharatiya Janata Party.
  • The Welcome Address was delivered by Shri Shiwanand Dwivedi, Senior Research Fellow, SPMRF. He introduced the guests to the listeners and gave a brief intro of the topic under discussion by saying that various aspects related to Babasaheb Ambedkar like his imagination of Bharat, his views on social equality and his emphasis on creating a non-discriminatory society have impacted our history, politics, economy and society. Undoubtedly, during the last 9 years, the current government led by Shri Narendra Modi has made sincere efforts towards bringing the depressed and marginalised classes into the mainstream and these efforts have bore fruit to a great extent. Equal opportunities have been provided to everyone without any discrimination whatsoever. 5 places in related to Babasaheb’s life, have been accorded the status of ‘Panchateerthas.’ The Modi government has also declared Babasaheb’s birth anniversary as a national holiday. Earlier, Babasaheb was not accorded the place he deserved in the annals of Indian history. His views and teachings were subject to a very narrow-centric approach.  So, his contributions and his relevance in today’s context, especially during the Amrit Kaal, needs to be explored in detail.
  • The first speaker, Shri Guru Prakash Paswan highlighted the fact that since Babasaheb’s death in 1956, those who have been in the seat of power have bestowed the highest civilian honour, the ‘Bharat Ratna’ to their close ones, whether be family members or ones sharing ideological affinity with them. But why was it that someone like Babasaheb who deserved it the most was given the same recognition after so many decades, is a question of paramount importance. We need to understand the mindset of the various governments viz. a. viz Babasaheb that have so far ruled the country.
  • Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee and Babasaheb, both were non- Congress ministers in Nehru’ Interim Cabinet and there were many similarities and merger of thoughts between the two, especially regarding urbanization. Giving ‘Bharat Ratna’ is one thing but an academic propaganda, a deliberate and sustained misinformation campaign has been run using the name of Babasaheb. Whenever any ‘mahapurush’ (great personality) passes away, his legacy is hijacked or made into a club. Unfortunately, Babasaheb has been appropriated as the leader of a particular group, or a particular political party.  It is highly unfortunate that Babasaheb, who embraced the peaceful religion of Buddhism in his later years, his name is invoked by a section of the society who conduct political violence in the name of securing justice for the marginalised sections of the society.
  • Babasaheb’s legacy certainly spreads far beyond this narrow-centric realm. Economist Dr. Amartya Sen has termed him as the greatest economists of all times. He wrote many papers on administration and finance. His Phd theses from Columbia University was titled ‘Provincial Finance in British India.’  The present govt, during the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav has celebrated the unsung heroes of our freedom movement. So far, with regard to the Indian freedom movement, only one family or one particular organisation has been given all the credit. The question therefore, which needs to be pondered over is why Babasaheb has been treated as a subject of academic enquiry instead of being seen as subject of intellectual curiosity? We need to explore the unexplored dimensions of Babasaheb’s personality. Some work has been done on this aspect, no doubt, but it is like a needle in a haystack. Babasaheb’s thoughts are relevant till today. The foundation of the Reserve Bank of India., Comptroller and Auditor General, among many other institutions lie in Babasaheb’s thoughts. As a journalist, a foreign policy visionary and as a diplomat, we can immensely benefit from his views, and these can be frequent topics of academic discussions.
  • In the above-mentioned context, this discussion at SPMRF is just the beginning and in due course of time, more such discussions must be done. The legacy of Babasaheb should not just remain confined to celebrating his birth anniversary, or just holding Ambedkar Memorial Lectures and all. There should be a sincere effort to understand Babasaheb’s worldview.  There are different layers of his personality, beyond symbolism and rhetoric, that we need to explore. We can apply his thoughts in our personal lives as well. We need to ask ourselves whether the India of Babasaheb’s dreams has been formed or not. In some aspects yes, in some, no. People from marginalised communities are getting political representation, best exemplified in the form of election of our current President. They have also been recipients of Padma Awards over the last few years. India today is he world 5th largest economy and is assuming its role as a global leader. Undoubtedly, challenges still remain. Untouchability as a problem still prevails in our society. However, on the basis of the progress that we have achieved towards securing social equality during the last few years, it will be no exaggeration to say that we are heading in the right direction. Transformation has indeed come about and we need to debate and discuss the future course of action so that we can make Babasaheb’s dream come true.
  • The second speaker, Dr. Pravesh Kumar Choudhary, mentioned that the role of Babasaheb in nation building is being acknowledged today, whereas earlier there was this prevailing discourse that Babasaheb was only the leader of the depressed classes or at most, as Chairperson of the Constitution Drafting Committee.  This change has come about ever since Modi government came to power in 2014. In fact, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had once mentioned that- ‘…to call Ambedkar as the leader of only ‘Bahujans’ shall be a great disservice to the iconic personality, He was our national leader.’ It is ironical that Vajpayee ji had once written a letter to the Parliament, asking for Babasaheb’s picture to be placed in the building, but this proposal went unheeded.
  • As an ardent advocate of free economy, Babasaheb had advocated involvement of women as well as backward classes in industry. He wanted education to be all- inclusive. He advocated the cause of ‘Maternity Leave’ for working women. So, we can see that he had inspired the lives of women too. However, the question which needs to be asked is that has Babasaheb’s name ever been invoked in women related movements across the country? He also gave due importance to agrarian advancement which he felt was of utmost importance as it provided raw materials. He laid emphasis on ‘collective farming.’ Babasaheb also fought for the cause of labourers and even fought elections in for the Labour Party, winning 15 seats. However, one Communist leader went to the extent of terming him as the leader of only one community- The ‘Mahars’ to which Babasaheb himself belonged.
  • Dr. Choudhary also mentioned that Babasaheb was critical of Hindu social set up but he was not against Hindu religion per se. He was of the view that Hindu society had many evils but so did Islam. Also, with regard to Hindu community, voices have been raised against such evils from time to time but that is not the case against Islam because it then gets categorized as ‘un-Islamic.’
  • After both the esteemed speakers finished their presentations, Shri Shiwanand Dwivedi said that Babasaheb was of the opinion that the foundation of India rests on brotherhood and fraternity. His views on nationalism rested on the principle of love towards the motherland. He was a true patriot who said that he loved India, shall live as well as die for the sake of India, and that he was born to serve the nation. It is interesting to note that Babasaheb criticized the social evils prevailing in the Hindu society but he never ever criticized the RSS. So, there is a need to find out whether there was any ideological coordination between Babasaheb and the RSS. All in all, it can be said that the current government is doing really a good job in towing Babasaheb’s line and carrying his legacy forward.
  • Shri V. Satish ji, in his concluding remarks spoke of the fact that Babasaheb Ambedkar had not been given due recognition by the successive Congress governments right from the time of Nehru. It is the responsibility of the modern generation to seek inspiration from Babasaheb’s personality, endorse his views and carry forward his legacy. In the present circumstances, we need to ponder as to what can transpire in the next 25 years because the colonial stereotypical mindset is still prevailing in our country. So Babasaheb’s views and ideas should be kept in front of the people and a thought needs to be given as to how Babasaheb’s teachings can be appropriated in our personal lives.
  • The discussion was followed by a brief interactive session involving the attendees and the speakers for around 15 minutes.
  • The programme ended with a vote of thanks by Shri Shiwanand Dwivedi.