By Mohammed Abdul Mumin
B. R. Ambedkar was a pragmatic leader with a clear vision: of annihilating caste from Indian society. His ideas are not confined to Indian society alone, but touch a multitude of things that govern the socio-political fabric of the world.
He was in the league of Budhdha, Kabir and Phule. Although each one of them struggled against the oppression but each one having unique style. Ambekar took on the age old law book of Varna system “Manusmriti”, which he proved as the reason for oppression of almost 80% of the Indian population since its inception.
Ambedkar started “Mahad Satyagraha” to embark the struggle against the deep rooted casteism and untouchability in 1927 and successfully led a group of untouchables to drink water from a public tank they were denied to use!
He wrote number of books on the caste problem, its dynamics in Indian society, annihilation of caste and had the conversation with M. K. Gandhi on the same lines. Gandhi was of the counter view to the ideas of Ambedkar. The whole conversation between the two has been published in “Annihilation of Caste”, while many a translations have also been done in Telugu, Marathi, Hindi, etc.
Ambedkar’s sole purpose in life was to annihilate caste, come what may, for he considered caste to be the whole-and-only-reason for the disfranchised communities of the Indian peninsular. His dream to annihilate caste remains unfulfilled.
Recent happenings in India, especially the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a research scholar from Hyderabad Central University, was the clear case of deep rooted casteism in India where even a place of knowledge generation is not free from casteism. Rohith rightly points out in his final letter:
“The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility. To a vote. To a number. To a thing. Never was a man treated as a mind…My birth is my fatal accident. I can never recover from my childhood loneliness. The unappreciated child from my past.”
These words of the late research scholar are enough to give a glimpse of what Ambedkar emphasized about untouchability* that carves out of casteism and its horrendous affects:
“Slavery was never obligatory. But untouchability is obligatory. A person is permitted to hold another as his slave. There is compulsion on him if he does not want to. But untouchable has no option. Once he is born untouchable he is subject to all the disability of an untouchable.”
“The law of slavery permitted emancipation. Once a slave always a slave was not the fate of the slave. In untouchability there is no escape. Once an untouchable always an untouchable,” Ambedkar observed.
Further, he noted: “Untouchability is an indirect form of slavery. To tell an untouchable ‘you are free, you are a citizen, you have all the rights of a citizen’, and to tighten the rope in such a way as to leave him no opportunity to realize the ideal is a cruel deception.”