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Why is Ambedkar untouchable?
John B. monteiro
The recent controversy over the cartoon of Babasaheb Ambedkar sitting on a snail and Pandit Nehru whipping it from behind, indicating that Ambedkar had made the process of making the Constitution slow, whereas Nehru was for hastening it, created a massive ruckus in Parliament. The reaction of Dalits to the inclusion of the cartoon in the textbook has been amazingly uniform: they have seen it as a deliberate undermining of Ambedkar’s stature; they have seen it as trivialising their prophet. For them, he is not just a Constitution-maker, as he is to Hindu intellectuals. For a large number of Dalits, Gautam Buddha is God and Ambedkar is a prophet who established a spiritual relationship between the Buddha and them. For many insensitive, upper-caste intellectuals, he is just a leader or an intellectual, a lesser mortal than Gandhi. How and why did Ambedkar cross the stage of a mere leader and intellectual in the mind of Dalits?
How did he acquire the status and stature of a prophet? As in the case of the old Arab tribes, the Dalits of India were godless untouchables—exploited, worshipping local idols, living in oppression and superstition—at the time Ambedkar arrived on the socio-political scene of India. Ambedkar introduced Buddha to soulless Dalits. Rama and Krishna, who were seen and referred to as gods by Hindu nationalist leaders, were never seen as the liberators and saviours of Dalits. Ambedkar worked as a leader and as an intellectual, wrote volumes, among which is the Constitution of India, but finally realised that religion is the source of liberation here and salvation hereafter. He created a new religion—Navayana Buddhism. Unlike the other prophets, Ambedkar never performed miracles, but his birth, growth, education, and finally his pitting of Buddhism against Hinduism itself appear miraculous. Ambedkar reviving Buddhism as the answer to iniquitous Hinduism is a miracle. Ambedkar is a prophet of the poorest of the poor—the Dalits. Ambedkar infused soul into a soulless people. As Buddhists, they now walk with their head high. In drawing his cartoon, Shankar could not even imagine this. He was just an upper-caste man living off fun pictures. That is okay with Gandhi and Nehru. That funny game cannot be played with prophets who changed the lives of poor people, who were hitherto never allowed to be human beings. Yes, prophets too play politics. But their politics is meant to liberate the oppressed. Ambedkar did that without any compromise at any stage of his life.
The subject is open to many views. What are yours? Over to you.
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