Comment on Anindya Sen's article - "Ambdekar: the New found Messiah"

Ambedkar under scrutiny

Hiren Gohain

It appears from Anindya Sen's hatchet job on Ambedkar (Vol. 49, No.36, Mar 12 - 18, 2017) that his gravest fault, which makes him unworthy of any regard, was that he was not a Marxist. I find the analysis unconvincing as it seeks to undermine his contribution to modern Indian politics and political ideology.

We should first try to understand his social context and position without prejuduce before judging him. A predecessor like Jotiba Phule had the same critical attitude to the leadership of the national movement against colonial rule. Both felt their support base was too thin and narrow to persuade the upper caste leaders of the vital necessity of social reform in Hindu society, especially alleviation of caste oppression.

This is still serious enough, yet even leftist leaders are disinclined to take it seriously. The present government has sought to erase awareness of this grievous malady, by carefully dismantling the system of reservation. A recent order from MHRD has cut off funding for centres of study of social exclusion and discrimination. A neo-Brahminical order is being carefully and slowly put in place. It is not enough to denounce feudalism. It is vital to deal with the specificity of caste.

It is unfortunate that he has been called a stooge of the British. The unpalatable fact is that only the British rulers, for their own reasons, paid any heed to his struggle against caste oppression. Even Gandhi first became truly aware of the curse of untouchability after Ambedkar's polemics. As national leaders including leftists postponed consideration of the enormity and urgency of caste oppression, Ambedkar was forced to rely on the colonial government for immediate relief.

He was, no doubt, a constitutionalist. That may be his limitation. But he was the man who first put the caste question squarely before Indian leaders and masses as a major national issue. We should honour him for what he gave us and not merely condemn him for where he was wanting.

Dr Hiren Gohain>

Apr 13, 2017