Remembering BR Ambedkar on his birthday: His slogan ‘educate, agitate, organise’ has greater relevance today
Dr B R Ambedkar’s apprehensions that minorities would be tyrannised have come true. His remedy that Hindus should come forward to solve it needs urgent attention in our times
Dr B R Ambedkar’s apprehensions that minorities would be tyrannised have come true. His remedy that Hindus should come forward to solve it needs urgent attention in our times. “Minority communities may be crushed. If not crushed they may be tyrannized and oppressed. They are sure to be discriminated against and denied equality before law and equal opportunity in public life.” These prescient lines were written by Dr B R Ambedkar in the chapter “Majorities and Minorities” in his book “Thoughts on Linguistic States”. He authored those lines in the context of elections and observed voting taking place on communal lines and in the process candidates of the majority community usually getting elected.
Tragically, minorities of our country are witnessing denial of equality before law and equal opportunities in public life. This is being trumpeted before the majority community for the purpose of winning elections by polarizing the electorate. Use of polarising narratives by BJP leaders including the Prime Minister in the recently held election in UP and the brazen manner in which UP Chief Minister appealed to majority sentiment by using disparaging narratives against minority communities are crystal clear testimonies to what Dr Ambedkar prophetically wrote.
The alarming scenario we are seeing in BJP-ruled states was apprehended by Ambedkar with respect to the condition of minorities in independent India. The manner in which girls in educational institutions in some parts of Karnataka were denied their fundamental right to access education just because they put on Hijab painfully brought out the discrimination heaped on them on the grounds of their faith. Now Muslim traders are banned from participating in fairs organized in Karnataka on the occasion of Hindu religious festivals clearly testify to their economic boycott solely on the basis of their faith. This is against the fundamental right of every citizen to pursue trade and commerce. Modi regime and other BJP-ruled states are trampling on the fundamental rights of citizens just because they profess some other religion, which is different from the religion of the majority community and not in conformity with Hindutva project of Hindu-Rashtra.
Economic boycott of Muslims on any considerable scale was never witnessed in the history of the country. Such perverse steps are being encouraged by BJP leaders and taken forward. Such policies combined with the manufactured narratives like love Jihad are dividing India on communal basis and creating conditions conducive to animosity and hate. It is tragic and unfortunate that neither the Prime Minister nor any other top leader of the Union government uttered a single word condemning the open calls by so called holy men for genocide of Muslims, instead BJP came to their protection.
Never ever in its history, India witnessed elected leaders responsible for the functioning of the state apparatus indulging in activities that are causing a wide gulf among people based on faith. Under the tutelage of the Manuvadi RSS, attacks and discrimination with Dalits, tribals and women are taking place and the perpetrators are going scot-free. This has to be fought tooth and nail and that too based on ideology celebrating pluralism and constitutional values.
We need to consider the following passage authored by Dr Ambedkar. He wrote “if we want to build up unity, it is not by devising a day, however sacred that day may be, when both Hindus and Mahomedans will come to the same polling booth. If we want really to devise some means to build up unity, what we should do is to break up the social barrier. I say that in this matter the lead has to be taken up by the Hindu community, because they are a very exclusive community. If other communities live a separate life, it is because the Hindu community regards certain interests as its own interests and the fault is entirely due to the Hindu community.”
In this light, everyone who prefers democracy over communal majoritarianism, equality over exclusion, our Constitution over theology must come together to establish a lasting progressive unity to effectively neutralised the agenda of RSS-BJP. We need a movement in the pattern of freedom movement to forge the unity of our people to defend the idea of India enshrined in the Constitution. In our independence struggle, political liberation went simultaneously with social reform. We fondly remember the herculean work done by reformers like Ram Mohun Roy, Ishwarchand Vidyasagar, Jyotiba Phule, Mahatma Ayyankalli, Sree Narayana Guru and EVR Periyar for bringing reforms in the society. This time too, political unity among democratic people should go hand-in-hand with liberating the society from the homogeneity of the RSS. Hinduism as a religion was a diverse and diffused set of practices with great regional variations and the absence of a centralised institution.
Hindus themselves should remove RSS from their self-appointed role as the sole custodian of all Hindus, East-West and North-South. Other organised religions should also make space for reforms and make their practices democratic. Mass education on these pertinent issues, and spirit of agitation against the darkness of majoritarianism and a robust democratic unity can achieve these objectives. In this fight, Dr. Ambedkar’s slogan of “Educate, Agitate and Organise” should become our path for political and social liberation.
The writer is General Secretary, Communist Party of India (CPI).
Views are personal.