Today is 14th April. A significant day for all Indians as it is the birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, aka Babasaheb Ambedkar, who is generally known as the ‘Father of Indian Constitution’. I Salute the great man.
Born into a poor Mahar family, belonging to an untouchable caste, a dalit, Ambedkar spent his whole life fighting against social discrimination, inflicted on him and millions like him due to the Hindu caste system. Finally, he renounced Hinduism with its caste system and embraced Buddhism, a religion that shuns Casteism.
After all these years of fight against this scourge, how successful are we in defeating this menace of caste system? The situation on ground doesn’t look very encouraging. Here are a few instances that makes my heart sink.
- Last week, a dalit officer’s office was cleansed after he retired. The office and furniture of a scheduled caste officer was cleansed by sprinkling cowdung water and cow urine, things considered very sacred. And the officer retired as inspector general of registration, one of the top government positions.
- The March issue of ‘Congress Sandesh’ describes Bhagat Singh as a freedom fighter “born in a Jat Sikh family” and Rajuguru as “belonging to the Deshastha Brahmin community”. Given the high ideals the two freedom fighters who are revered across the country espoused, the bid to reduce them to their caste identities is abhorrent. Did it really matter what caste they belonged to? Did you know it, and did you care? Why should that be published?
- The candidates for ALL elections are selected depending on the caste arithmetic of the constituency. Not the work done by the candidate, but his caste decides if he is elligible to fight an election or not.
- Our government cleared a caste-based census. Did we really need one? Apparently political parties demanded it so there can be a good basis for deciding on caste based reservations and quotas. Even the framers of the constitution including Ambedkar wanted the reservations reviewed after five year. However, this period was routinely extended by the succeeding governments. And now, more and more castes want to get reservations. I do believe in affirmative action, but does it have to be caste based?
All these seem to indicate that we are strengthening the caste system rather than renouncing it. In Marathi, we say, जात नाही ती जात (one’s caste identity will never go away, Caste is cast in stone!)
The best tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar would be to do our best to chip away at the caste system.