Saturday, June 16, 2012

Attack an insult to Dr Ambedkar

Attack an insult to Dr Ambedkar-
    It was very disappointing to hear about Prof Suhas Palshikar’s office at the University of Pune being vandalised on Saturday. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar himself was a hardcore supporter of liberty of thought. It was because of his reverence for the freedom of speech and thought that he specially incorporated Article 19 in the Constitution of India, which assured citizens the right to think and express their thoughts.

    Liberty of thought is the most important tool to defend the rights of the downtrodden, weak and those unable to express themselves. The Ambedkari movement (progressive movement) has so far faced much criticism and has rebutted them at the intellectual level. For example, when Bal Gangal, editor of Sobat, criticised Mahatma Jyotiba Phule in the late 1980s, a plethora of Dalit writers successfully proved him wrong.

    Again, when Arun Shourie made defaming statements in his ‘Worshipping False Gods’, similar rebuttals were given. These types of criticisms were shown their worth through well-supported and well-worded retorts.

    The Ambedkari movement has the capability to face off with and counter anybody in the world without an iota of fear. More so, because it shows that we have lost the capability to engage in an intellectual debate. This violent attack is very much out of line with Dr Babasaheb

    Ambedkar’s vision and is an insult to his teachings.

    Both Prof Palshikar and political commentator Yogendra Yadav are close to the Ambedkari movement. They have contributed immensely towards progressive thought throughout their careers. To doubt their integrity or to target their offices is not only unfortunate, but also a condemnable act.

    The controversial textbook, at the heart of all the acrimony, was written five years ago and is being taught in schools all over the country under the NCERT syllabus. All of a sudden, pandemonium erupted in Rajya Sabha on Friday, with Union HRD Minister Kapil Sibal finally announcing that he has ordered the ‘offensive’ content to be removed from the books.

    These governmental steps aside, it would have been welcome had the objection to Shankar’s cartoon come via the same or similar medium instead of a violent attack. Having said that, it must be remembered that Dr Ambedkar himself had seen the cartoon in question, and had not objected to it.

    Dr Ambedkar was sporting by nature, and he knew how to respect opponents’ ideology. Now, political stunts are being used to gain instant publicity. It is damaging for the progressive movement to indulge in such violent means when we have the constitutional recourse of expressing differences of opinion with Prof Palshikar and Yadav.

    The point is open to debate whether this cartoon, which was drawn and published in 1949, is obsolete and putting it in a textbook is out of context. But such attacks close the routes to debate, which is the more untoward development.

    Discussion is the wealth of democracy. That is why, as a worker of the Phule-Ambedkar movement and as a teacher as well, I condemn this ghastly act. I also appeal to all not to close the doors to debate and discussion and to not shrink the vast expanse of Phule’s and Ambedkar’s thoughts.

    (The writer is Chair Professor and Head of the Mahatma Phule Chair, University of Pune and member, Maharashtra State Backward Classes Commission)

Dr Hari Narke