Great visionary and social reformer
This book is a collection of writings of some eminent scholars giving an in-depth account of the multifaced personality of Bharat Ratna Dr BR Ambedkar. The learned contributors of this volume have, in their scholarly papers, covered various facets of Dr Ambedkar’s personality in the present day context when the Indian society to-day is standing on the crossroad. It has been edited by Prof SN Mishra, a prolific writer and established scholar. He describes Dr Ambedkar as a versatile personality with a brilliant mind, keen intellect, deep knowledge and scholarship who strode on the political and social scene as a colossus for several decades. He has described him as a champion of ‘Samaiva Dharma’, a worshipper of human feelings and experiences, a votary of human rights and the messiah of the depressed sections of society. The nation owes a lot to him for his significant contribution as an architect of our Constitution as chairman of its Drafting Committee.
In the backdrop of above statements, Dr Anil Dut Mishra in his article touches the various facets of his personality. He makes a special mention of his achievements specially with regard to his education in India and abroad in spite of the misfortune that followed him from his very childhood. He also makes a mention of Dr Ambedkar’s leaning towards Buddhism as a result of his frustration from the caste-ridden Hindu society and absence of social justice therein.
Making a reference to his political thinking, Prof Ramashray Roy emphasises that he has focussed on a group of people in the country who exemplified “the wretched of the earth”. These people are the untouchables of Panchamas, Harijans and Dalit. These epithets apply to those, condemned for ages, to the most demeaning bottom of Hindu social order, shorn of worldly possessions and oppressed by obnoxious ritual abasement inspired by considerations of purity and pollution, have endured indignities, humiliations and insulting discrimination. But that it should be taken note of that political thinking of Dr Ambedkar is by no means a philosophical cogitation of an arm-chair politician; it is the outcome of a close interaction between thought and action.
Examining the political thought of Dr Ambedkar, Prof Singh feels that the problems of Scheduled Castes were always uppermost in the thought and action of Dr Ambedkar, especially prior to his deep involvement in the making of the Constitution of India. He points out two models of political mobilisation and participation of Hindu society variously called ‘Panchmarga’, i.e. the fifth class beyond the fourth vernas. He can be said to be primarily a theorist of Hindu social structure with special reference to the formerly untouchable castes and then emancipation or primarily a comparative political theorist of constitutional engineering and constitutional government. Another important contributor, Prof J Guha Roy analyses Dr Ambedkar’s role in framing the Constitution of independent India. He entered the august body like a belligerent protestant, but was soon destined to hold a key position— the chairmen of its Drafting Committee. His unique idea of social justice, his dynamic political thought, his liberal views on constitutionalism, progressive concepts with regards to the rights of the people and above all his concern for the welfare and development of the poor Indians or the Dalits were reflected in each and every part of the Constitution of India.
Discussing Dr Ambedkar’s view on industrialisation of modern India, Prof PK Chaubey states that he regarded it as the most effective remedy for the agricultural problems of the country. His observations in this regards became more frequent with greater emphasis after he became the Labour Member of Viceyroy’s Council in 1942. In numerous meetings of his ministry and other committees, he always made it a point to make a forceful reference to the need of water for industrial use and power for industries. He forcefully emphasised that industrialisation is one of the most effective means to remove poverty in the country and advocated active state intervention to achieve this goal.
Another contributor, Prof Jai Narain Sharma, in his article makes a pointed reference to his deep insight into the economic problems of the country. He was very much conscious of the fact that nearly one-third of India’s population are living below the poverty line and quite a large number of people are landless. He was a firm believer in the fact that state must play dominant role in removing the economic inequalities among the people. He stood for the progressive transformation of society removing social and economic inequalities. He examined the economic issue with such foresight that his analysis and treatment of some of them is very much relevant even to-day.
In continuation with his ideas on economy, Ruchi Tyagi highlights the fact that Dr Ambedkar was among the first set of Indians which was trained in economics systematically and practised it professionally. Various submissions that he made before the government, both in pre-Independence and post-Independence era is a clear indication of his deep insight into economic problems of the country and was probably the first to manifest a clear understanding and expression of economic dimensions of social maladies in the country. He advocated industrialisation for absorbing surplus agriculture labour. He advocated land reforms for increase in agricultural production. He viewed agriculture as an industry. He stood for smooth centre-state relations for coordinated economic development. His economics is a vivid combination of Dalit emancipation, socialism and nationalism.
Apart from Dr Ambedkar’s economic thoughts, another contributor Prof Sushma Yadav refers to the social vision of Dr Ambedkar and suggests that one of the key themes of his writings was the attunement of social justice and establishment of a first society, which for him, was a casteless society. He was a severe critic of the existing social order and brought forward an alternative model of social order based on justice, liberty, equality, fraternity and annihilation of caste. He is of the view that Ambedkar’s conception of political power was aimed at securing social justice for the deprived on more equitable and honourable terms.
Analysing his social vision, Dr Ashok Kumar Singh makes a pointed reference to his views on caste system in Hindu society. He never compromised with the Hindu philosophers and social reformers who attempted to give reasons and justifications for the inhuman inequalities of the social order ‘Varnashram’. It is this vision against this unjust system that placed him as the foremost among the pioneer social reformers in India. He has written so many volumes on the subject of caste and untouchability.
According to Prof Suresh Misra, he was opposed to any role for the village panchayats in the new set-up because he treated them as institutions of oppression and inequality. His opposition to the village panchayats is to be seen in the backdrop of his being a product of unjust and in equal social system.
Discussing the role of Dr Ambedkar as a champion of human rights, Dr Panda points out that the manner, in which he championed the cause of backward classes in the country, was noteworthy and he will be remembered as a messiah of the poor and the downtrodden in the history of modern India. His commitment for the protection of human rights can he known from his perception of state and religion. His conversion to Buddhism may be viewed as a reaction to the prevailing situation in Hindu society.
Viewing the relevance of his thoughts and vision in the present-day context Dr Bindeshwar Pathak points out that Dr Ambedkar as an architect of India’s Constitution and messiah of the downtrodden fought against caste-based discriminations and inequalities throughout his life and shall hold good so long as Hindu society continues to suffer from caste-based social order in spite of sixty years of introduction of our Republican Constitution.
Dr Mishra in his concluding remarks remembers him as a great humanist advocating principles of human rights throughout his life. He makes a critical reference to some political parties in our country which try to serve their own interests playing Ambedkar’s card and try to belittle the personality of that great visionary and social reformer.
By Prof KD Sharma