It is ironic that a man who was defiantly against hero worship today is worshiped more than any other individual from the last 100 years in India. It is understandable that idolisation of Ambedkar is nothing more than looking up to a man that in all of the 2000 or so year history of the caste system was the single most influential person to fight it tooth and nail against the very power structures at play trying to uphold it and even winning substantially against these power structures. The results of this fight are not just visible in terms of gains by minority Dalit middle class but also the rest of the 85 percent of the populace that today can boast of making inroads into white collared professions and higher education all because of the clauses enacted into the constitution to set up a commission to classify castes according to their socio-economic backwardness. This being the spark which ultimately let to the reservation for the 55 percent chunk of the Indian populace the OBCs.
However, hero worship which has even taken an extraordinary social reformer for his times like the prophet Muhammad who transformed a barbaric Arabic populace to being civilized into an icon of ultra-orthodoxy according to the liberal standard of today is exactly the curse that has befallen Ambedkar just 60 years since his demise. If this statement is to be falsified, let us consider the most important criteria for idol worship. If an individual is not worshipping someone as an idol he should be able to present at least one statement made or the viewpoint held by the possible idol, that he disagrees with. If the individual cannot come up with even one such statement and given the fact that no idea is true for all space and time, would imply that this individual is into idol worship.
This is true for the case of the prophet as well as the case of Ambedkar. Take the case of Ambedkarites supporting the constitution with full gusto, only because Ambedkar was the chairman of the drafting committee. The question needs to be asked whether if it was not Ambedkar would the Ambedkarites so vehemently support the constitutional mechanisms that have for except a tiny minority of a Dalit middle class have done absolutely nothing in taking care of the grievances of the masses. The bigger question is whether Ambedkar himself considered the constitutional mechanisms as the way to Dalit emancipation given that the way to power in this mechanism, the ballot, seems to not have been of much favor to him, as he himself lost from a reserved seat that too from the Dalit heartland of Nagpur.
The idol worship of Ambedkar becomes so ridiculous that the entire constitution is almost considered as a brainchild of Ambedkar, without realizing the fact that Ambedkar’s job was the one of being an architect to make sure that the various sections of the constitution fit together. And just like any architect, the job of a drafter then becomes producing a product which is in line with the requirements of the ones who gave you the job in the first place. I mean is not it idolatry that people do not realize that a congress government which was completely higher caste dominated and had got the mandate of the people who were vehemently casteist in comparison to today’s standards, would give the job of framing the laws to an individual who would be at his own whims to frame these laws. Even the fact that the constitution had to be okayed in the constituent assembly of its time so as to become the rule book of India and this constituent assembly was completely higher caste does not seem to make a dent in the minds of the Ambedkarites. The same Ambedkarites that today will complain about political parties being dominated by higher castes interests that are opposite to Dalit interests, somehow suspend this thinking when it comes to the constituent assembly which was dominated by higher castes, to an extent that they gulp the cool aid that such a constituent assembly would pass a document that would ensure the uprooting of the higher caste power structure in future generations.
It is this apparent contradiction in the Ambedkarite thought process which is borne out of idol worship that can easily be seen as one of main the reasons behind the unstoppable apartheid against Dalits in India. If the solutions you start off with are not meant to work the problems you have will never be solved. In an electoral democracy it is fallacious to expect a minority to get any change in its conditions if it is pitted against a biased majority. With Ambedkarites accepting the fact that in the end all castes above the Dalits are pitted against their upward mobility it does seem to be odd that the same Ambedkarites then somehow talk about gaining political power as a solution for Dalit problems.
If one is to analyze without any emotional bias it just seems that this was the specific reason for the Congress government of its time to choose Ambedkar to draft the constitution. The abilities of Ambedkar to do the job were obviously unquestionable. But in politics jobs are never given out of individual abilities but how these favors play out in the long run. As President Assad of Syria said ‘in politics one has to read between the lines’ one realizes that a Gandhi who was against separate electorate for the Dalits which would have given true representation for Dalits leading to almost wiping out of Dalit apartheid in a few decades, all of a sudden becomes such a Dalit lover that he chooses a Dalit to draft the constitution was really playing a game which would ensure perpetual Dalit servitude forever. A 20-25 percent of a populace that is oppressed and has nothing to lose is a goldmine as far as the espionage activities of bordering nations that are always on the lookout for destabilizing the neighbor so as to improve their own strategic positions in the region. It would have been a piece of cake for these bordering nations like Pakistan and China to cause a complete breakdown of the Indian state by arming this Dalit populace, unless obviously the top brass of the Dalit populace could be co-opted away from this direction. Getting Ambedkar to draft the constitution easily gets the elite Dalits to associate the constitutional mechanisms as the solution to Dalit problems completely negating any future insurgency of any kind against the Indian state by the Dalits.
In the end, whatever the reasons behind Ambedkar drafting the constitution the main issue is that a people’s movement based completely on the idolization of an individual or at times even simply an idea becomes a caricature, instead of a solution to the problems it claims to stand represent. Whether Ambedkarites are ready to separate the spirit from plain idol worship when it comes to Ambedkar finally will decide whether Dalits will remain oppressed for another century or will actually strike back their way to freedom.
Author – Vaibhav Wasnik
Image Credit – Reuters