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Dalits ignore Ambedkar's advice, choose Gandhigiri

Dalits ignore Ambedkar's advice, choose Gandhigiri

Author: R Jagannathan
Publication: Firstpost.com
Date: December 21, 2011
URL: http://www.firstpost.com/india/dalits-ignore-ambedkars-advice-choose-gandhigiri-162151.html

Babasaheb Ambedkar's Dalit followers have done him a great disservice. They have taken over a National Textile Corporation mill in Mumbai-Indu Mill-because they want to convert it into a memorial for him. In doing so, they have adopted the "grammar of anarchy" that Ambedkar abhorred.

A division bench of the Bombay high court has called this forced takeover as being "just a step away from anarchy" and compared the act to the destruction of the Babri Masjid.

The issue is not whether Ambedkar deserves a memorial or not. Not just Mumbai, every city and village in India needs to honour Ambedkar for his service to humanity and not just Dalits.

But in occupying someone else's property illegally-for which the high court has criticised both the Maharashtra government and the Republican Party activists who stormed the place-Dalits have effectively buried two important messages their doyen gave India groups: sticking to constitutional methods, and avoiding hero-worship of leaders.

They have also given Gandhi-Ambedkar's bete noire-the last laugh.

This is what Ambedkar had to say on constitutional methods.

"If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing, in my judgement, we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the grammar of anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us."

The above statement was clearly Ambedkar's dislike for Gandhi's agitational methods. But his followers obviously prefer to follow Gandhi's methods despite their hearty dislike for his politics.

This is what Ambedkar had to say on avoiding hero worship.

"There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish Patriot Daniel O'Connel, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, bhakti, or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship."

In making bhakti to Ambedkar the cornerstone of their politics, India's Dalit parties have essentially junked the elevating thoughts of their mentor - which were partially targeted at Gandhi's Mahatma-hood.

Ambedkar's irritation and disagreements with Gandhi are too well documented to bear repetition. The last thing he would have wanted was for his own followers to let him down on his positions vis-à-vis Gandhi.

The Indu Mill takeover-which a spineless state government has been unwilling to prevent and has now passed a resolution in favour of-has essentially given Gandhi the last laugh over Ambedkar.

It is not too late for Ambedkar's followers to honour their hero's timeless words of wisdom.

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