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Dr. Ambedkar: A Social Reformer Through the Magnifier of Antonio Gramsci SAVITA V. DEOGIRKAR Lecturer in English, Adarsha Mahavidyalaya, Dhamangaon (Rly) Distt: Amravati (M. S. ) Abstract A Champion of Human Rights, Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar was a multi dimensional personality. He was a great thinker, a philosopher, a true revolutionist, a prolific writer and at the top a devoted reformer.
If studied and analyzed his noble saga to fight against Castes’ and untouchability through the magnifier of Antonio Gramsci, a German philosopher of 1940’s, he could be hailed as an ‘organic intellectual. His undeniable reforms in annihilating Caste, his views regarding women empowerment, his Dalit movement are really credible moves to wage a counter revolution against Hindu Religion. At the same time he tried to restructure his chosen religion to meet the needs of Dalit community.
The noble cause to have unification of caste was one of the constitutional features of Democracy which he propagated that label him as a precursor of Social Democracy to meet the present day situation.
The operation of caste, his views on Women’s oppression, his reinterpretation of the role of the monk proves him to be a social reformer that warrant a close examination of his biography and his lion’s share to set a perfect platform for World’s biggest Democratic country none other than India.
————————————————————————————————- “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity Educate, Agitate and Organize! ” This great message was spread all over the world by an architect of Indian Constitution none other than Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.
A statue of a man having a book under his left hand and an index finger of a right hand pointing towards a Parliament Building is very familiar for all the Indians. But for the children it is the matter of curiosity of what that book was. That was a book of Indian Constitution drafted by Dr. Ambedkar in 1948 and that is his statue. Bhim as his name was, born to a middle class family of untouchables at Mhow in 1891. Being an untouchable himself, Ambedkar went through all agonies of untouchability. The exploitation of blacks in the hands of White America and the sufferings of the Jews in Germany are well known.
In this comparison the horrifying sufferings of untouchables need an extensive study of how inequality creates a breach in the social relations and how different strata of society pollute public relations. These muted people in outcaste community were given voice by the heroic efforts of Ambedkar. He emancipated his people from age-old slavery though virtually. The agonies of his people were recorded by a grown up Dalit Leader, Ambedkar who denied India to be his motherland due to brutal behaviour of his own people where all the untouchables were even denied to be called as men.
For a school goer prohibition to draw water from public tanks and wells, his experience of insults in the form of refusal of local conveyance sharpened his anger against the cruel system of untouchability. As a result of that a ‘messiah’ of these Dalits successfully campaigned against these odds like Chowdar Tank campaign, Mahad campaign in 1927. His ceremonial burning of Manusmriti suggests his hatred towards Hinduism and Hindu social order which triggered up the mass movement of the conversion to Buddhism in 1920’s. Depressed classes were prohibited entry in the temples of Hindus those were made open to them under the leadership of Dr.
Ambedkar in 1930’s. All over Maharashtra this campaign was observed successfully. These underprivileged were given justice by Ambedkar. Dr. Ambedkar waged a lifetime struggle against Hinduism. He knew that there was no salvation for the untouchables within Hinduism. So while writing his ‘The Buddha and his Dhamma’, he consciously tried to restructure his chosen religion to meet the needs of the Dalit Community. His was a deliberate attempt to change traditional teachings of Buddha so as to meet the needs for the ages to come. Herein, I contend, that Dr. Ambedkar performed a job of an ‘organic intellectual, for his community.
Antonio Gramsci, a German philosopher is less explored till present. First wave of interest in Gramsci was screwed up after the publication of his prison writings in the form of letters in 1947. His extensive observation on the role of intellectuals in society and their function, his post Marxist theory, Coercion and counter revolution opened up new vistas for re-reading texts of ethnic, post-colonial studies. His theory rekindled interest in academic intellectuals, Subaltern studies and social hierarchy. More or less Gramsci has become a ‘classic’ to be read, interpreted, analyzed and applied.
According to Gramsci, ‘organic intellectuals’ function to fashion the intellectual, moral and political leadership by engaging organizational activity. They fuse moral and intellectual dimensions. Every social group creates with itself, organically one or more strata of intellectuals. Gramsci noted, “All men are intellectuals…. but not all men in society have the function of intellectuals. ”1 Therefore an intellectual is defined by the qualities of their activities, but being an intellectual is more than just being involved in ‘brain work. ’ They lead the masses.
They educate them and try to awaken them and prepare them for the counter revolution against Hegemony. For Gramsci intellectuals were the instrument for the organization of human life. These intellectuals were not independent but rather products of the class into which they are born. They carry a special bond between themselves through which they organize their community. He is a ‘permanent persuader’ who sets a role model for the society. 2 Dr. Ambedkar was born to the same community of outcastes who set a role model for the Dalit community and tried to educate, agitate and organize them in true sense of a phrase coined by Gramsci i. . Organic Intellectual. He succeeded in decoding the real meaning of Buddhism and tried to re-structure this religion to meet the requirements of present day Indian Society. So as to say, he was a true visionary who churned up the mass movement of the conversion to Buddhism. Having a Ph. D. to his credit, an advocate by profession Dr. Ambedkar advocated banishment of casteism, then and then only Democracy will prevail. The noble idea of drafting Indian Constitution took shape in his mind that gave fundamental rights to the citizens and dwelt on the responsibilities and rights of the four pillars of democracy.
A staunch believer of democracy, Dr. Ambedkar is remembered only on his birth and death anniversaries and his ideologies are almost wiped and washed out of our mind. It’s high time we should emulate the ideals of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and strive for prosperity in educational, social and political fields. But the perception of democracy is a matter of complexity nowadays. As we all know Indian Society is a beautiful amalgam of Castes which are exclusive in their life. Though this is the fact, Caste System poses a great threat to Democracy itself.
Most important evil of it is “Graded Inequality”. 3 Castes are not equal in their status but is filled with contempt and hatred towards each other. This widens a gap between people and divides the society into two strata; higher class and lower class. Higher class always dominates lower class and treats it to be the slave. They are not allowed to have basic facilities including education In wider sense Democracy means a way of life, order of society, a way of social economic relation that is based on the ideals of Principles of Equality, Liberty and Fraternity.
To implement these ideals, favourable conditions are pre-requisite to have Democracy prevailing; which was just the opposite in the case of Untouchables who were denied of education. There was no equality. They were not given liberty to do what they wanted without being permitted. They were not allowed to enter in the temples or to drink water in public places. And there was no Fraternity amongst the people of the society. For the Hindus, Dalits were not the brothers. But the cursed people. “Justice delayed is Justice denied”. Same happened with them.
The preamble of Indian Constitution and chapters referring fundamental rights and State Policy state it very clearly that there should be ‘Non-discrimination on grounds of Religion, Race, Caste, Sex or Place of Birth. ’4 Reservation Bill, the brain child of Ambedkar was just another step towards elevating social, economic standard of the country. That proves that the sculptor of Indian Constitution Ambedkar wanted it to be instrumental of socio-economic justice and the basis of all justice is equality. Ambedkar knew it that since eternity India is the World’s classic unequal society that observes rigid caste system.
That was the primary issue of Ambedkar’s struggle for annihilation of caste. Dr. Ambedkar stated fearlessly in the constituent assembly, ‘We are going to a life of contradictions. In politics…. equality.. in social life……inequality. ’5 His ideas, his ideals and his philosophy being an ‘organic intellectual’ of the downtrodden, always revolved around human welfare. His struggle was to consolidate Dalits and to make them aware that they too were human beings. To restore their dignity and to give them respectable place, Ambedkar devoted his forty years and sought a chosen religion that could deliver the depressed classes from the shackles of ocial evil. Buddhism’s fundamental issue is to recognize the pain, sufferings in human beings. And real religion resides in the heart of a man and not in Shastra. What attracted Ambedkar towards Buddhism was its preaching of Prajna( Understanding), Karuna( Love) and Samata( Equality) that no other religion advocates. So he gave Dalits new religion to be clinged. In fact Dalit Buddhist Movement is a ‘symbol of identity transformation’ than a true religious conversion. 6 According to Ambedkar definition of Nirvana is not only easily but also theoretically attainable within a single lifetime.
He also re-interpreted the role of the monk. They are the active participants in re-writing history. A Bhikku should fight to spread Dhamma. This life time contribution of Dr. Ambedkar in the field of religion, his educational philosophy, his drafting of Indian Constitution and his views on women’s oppression justify him to be a social reformer par excellence. A vast section of India still dwells under unhygienic conditions, poverty, illiteracy and unemployment. We still engage in casteism. What lessons were taught to us by this great reformer is conveniently forgotten.
Politicians are running behind vote banks and interested in their selfish gains than the welfare of the masses. On surface we find no untouchability. But at heart the breach is more widened. One has to come to this ground reality and as ‘charity begins at home’ everything good should begin from us. Then and then only in true sense we will show gratitude towards this great social reformer and an active ‘organic intellectual’ who let the Dalits educate, agitate and organize towards a counter revolution.
References 1)Aditi Misra. The Political Philosophy of Antonio Gramsci. Commonwealth Publishers, New Delhi, 1991. p. 116. 2)Ibid. 116. 3)Rahi Gaikwad. “Need for Feminists to reclaim Ambedkar seen. ” The Hindu. January 10, 2010. 4)Subhash C. Kashyap. Our Constitution: An Introduction to India’s Constitution and Constitutional Law. National Book Trust, India. 1994. p. 93. 5)An Essay on rethinking on Democracy. www. preservearticles. com/… /rethinking-on-democracy. html 6)Buddhism17-25. pdf p. 20