Dr Ambedkar called upon the people to 'Agitate': Would he be called an 'Andolanjeevi' today ?

When the country is celebrating the 130th birth anniversary of Dr. B R Ambedkar, one is painfully realising the disrespect shown to him by the leaders of the present regime governing India

Dr. B R Ambedkar
Dr. B R Ambedkar

SN Sahu

When the country is celebrating the 130th birth anniversary of Dr. B R Ambedkar one is painfully realising the disrespect shown to him by the leaders of the present regime ruling India.

The first sign of disrespect was evident in February when Prime Minister Modi while replying to the debate on Motion of Thanks on President’s Address took a contrarian and contemptible stand against the much invoked slogan of Ambedkar “Educate, Agitate, Organise” and described all those engaged in agitation as Andolonjivis and Parjeevis(Parasites).

A rough translation of Andolanjeevi renders its meaning as some one who makes a living out of agitation. Had Ambedkar been alive today he would have been shocked beyond belief that the Prime Minister of the country could reduce those exercising their constitutional right to protest as Andolonjivis and parasites. In fact to call protestors by using the terms used by none other than the Prime Minister of our country would mean to mock the Constitution itself.

If a Prime Minister sets the national discourse by calling agitators as Andolonjivis, he is inviting a dangerous and even a violent reaction against those who question political regimes on the ground that their policies are not in the interests of people. Questioning and interrogating regimes through agitations are permitted by the Constitution, law and jurisprudence. To treat such interrogation with disdain and derision would do incalculable harm to democracy which provides scope for agitation often described as a form of public reasoning. Authorities who remain sensitive to agitations understand the public mind better and accordingly frame public policy measures for governance.

When questioning laws through agitations are dealt with by employing unconstitutional means, it portends catastrophic consequences for the country. Recall the statement of UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath that he would take revenge against those who agitated against Citizenship Amendment Act. From the outrageous statement of a serving Chief Minister it appeared that he would have taken punitive action against Ambedkar himself for coining the iconic slogan “Educate, Agitate and Organise”.

It is indeed painful that when the nation gratefully celebrates Ambedkar’s birth anniversary by recalling his invaluable legacy rooted in constitutional values and morality, the top leaders ruling the country are making pronouncements and taking actions which defy his vision and worldview.

Take another instance of the ruling leadership bent upon promoting majoritarianism and divisive policies which unfairly and violently target minorities. From 2014 onwards numerous attempts have been made to see the Muslims as the 'Other' and spread poison to disturb communal amity and deliberately promote discord and disharmony in society. Many of them have been lynched for their so called beef eating habits. They have been targeted violently for their dress and even some people of other faiths have faced violence from police just because they sported beard and looked like Muslims.

The use of the term “termite” by none other than the Home Minister of India to describe people entering India from across the boarder has the sub text of pointing an accusing finger at the Muslims of our country. And now criminalization of love of inter faith couple specially that of Hindu and Muslim communities by invoking the so called Love Jihad and framing laws in this reagrd have violently targetted Muslims and people of other minority communities. Such laws have been framed in spite of overwhelming absence of evidence to corroborate such manufactured toxicity.

Now the BJP manifesto for Assam elections contains the idea of Land Jihad and the party promised to deal with it by employing the instrumentality of law. UP Chief Minister even threatened that if Hindu girls are engaged in matrimonial relations by Muslims for the purpose of conversion the latter's Ram Nam Satya Hey journey would begin. Ram Nam Satya Hey journey is associated with the last journey of the dead to the cremation ground. Clearly all such developments constitute an attack on the life and liberty of Muslims and minorities.

It appears as if relentless hatred embodied in an undeclared war has been declared against them. The chilling death threat is evocative of declaration of war which Dr. Ambedkar had seen unfolding in pre partition days of 1946. Such fearful utterances of an elected Chief Minister seventy two years after the adoption of the Constitution is nothing but a replay of those tragic times when the Constituent Assembly had just embarked on the audacious adventure of framing the Constitution and Mahatma Gandhi saw in the work of the constitution making as a remedy to the problem of communalism.

Now let us juxtapose these ominous developments with what Ambedkar said in 1946. Dr. B. R Ambedkar while participating in the discussion on 17th December 1946 on the Objectives Resolution moved by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in the Constituent Assembly referred to the alarming articulations of some leaders who talked of waging war against Muslims. Voicing anxiety and fear that "... if there is anybody who has in his mind the project of solving the Hindu-Muslim problem by force, which is another name of solving it by war... “This country would be involved in perpetually conquering, them".

Ambedkar had insightfully said in the Constituent Assembly that sovereign power should be exercised with wisdom. He then asserted, "That is the only way by which we which we can carry with us all sections of the country. There is no other way that can lead us to unity".

He also said, “If we really want 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”. What he said constitutes a self critical approach to turn the search light inwards. Can those who invoke majoritarianism have the courage to turn the searchlight inwards?

Those with the mandate to govern the country by following the Constitution and constitutional method should ask themselves if the majoritarian approach followed by them or their description of agitators as Andolonojivis is consistent with exercise of power with wisdom. Their entire muscular method of treating Muslims as the 'Other' is unconstitutional and would not help them to carry all sections of the country with them. By calling the agitators as Andolonojivis they are insulting Ambedkar in whose electrifying slogan “Educate, Agitate and Organise” “Agitation” remains the key componenet.

The sage counsel of Dr. Ambedkar to combine power with wisdom for governance means to uphold Constitution eschewing retribution in the name of religion or any other identity. Let the powers that be in twenty first century India be guided by that vision of Dr. Ambedkar by steering clear of Love Jihad and other divisive agenda. That would be fitting tribute to the Constitution on the Constitution Day to defend the idea of India.

( The author served as Press Secretary to President of India late K R Narayanan. Views are personal)

Follow us on: Facebook, Twitter, Google News, Instagram 

Join our official telegram channel (@nationalherald) and stay updated with the latest headlines