Global Ambedkarites

Speech by Satpal Muman on Global Ambedkarites celebration of 132nd Birth Anniversary of Babasaheb Dr Ambedkar in London

Speech by Satpal Muman on Global Ambedkarites celebration of 132nd Birth Anniversary of Babasaheb Dr Ambedkar in London

Speech by Satpal Muman on Global Ambedkarites celebration of 132nd Birth Anniversary of Babasaheb Dr Ambedkar in London

Speech by Satpal Muman on Global Ambedkarites celebration of 132nd Birth Anniversary of Babasaheb Dr Ambedkar in London

Speech by Satpal Muman on Global Ambedkarites celebration of 132nd Birth Anniversary of Babasaheb Dr Ambedkar in London

Global Ambedkar Jayanti 2023

Villiers High School, Southall, London Borough of Ealing

Speech by Satpal Muman

Honourable Worshipful Mayor of Ealing, Mahinder Midda

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the contribution all those who made efforts to organise this event under the banner of Global Ambedkar Jayanti 2023. 

Namely, Mr Rana Kailey, Mr Balram Sidhu, Mr Amarjit Virdee, Mr Daljit Gil, Mr Ranjit Baudh together with Sanjeev Johal, Mr Rohit Kumar, Rambo, Nisha Rani, Ridhi Gaikwad, Khushdeep and many others involved in the organisation of today’s event. I would also like to acknowledge Dr Shekhar Bodhkar and Dr Shrikant Borkar who have for so many years been active in this arena. 

I send my greetings to everyone. 

Today we are celebrating, 132nd Birth Anniversary. Year on year we see Dr Ambedkar continues to occupy public spaces and is now a global icon against injustices everywhere.

In a speech at Ramdaspur, Jallandhar Punjab during an election campaign, October 27 1951, he said 

I am like a rock which does not melt but turns the course of rivers. 

Mr Dhananjay Keer, biographer of Dr B R Ambedkar in the concluding chapter of Life and Mission, wrote

that the life of Dr Ambedkar has become a new source of learning and a new source of inspiration for devotees. From it has emerged a new deity, and the lamp that will be burning in its temple in this land of temples will be seen from all sides of the nation and from distant corners of the world.

A new academy of knowledge, a new inspiration for poetry, a new place of pilgrimage and a new opportunity for literature have sprung up!

Mr Dhananjay Keer, wrote this word in 1956 when Dr Ambedkar was alive.

A new generation of scholars, historians, social and political scientists across the world after studying Dr Ambedkar, are animated by his political, economic and social perspectives and quest for justice on contemporary problems. 

Literature and the artform whether audio or visual are cultural facets which are embroidered into the fabric of a society. A language, a new vocabulary is created. 

A vocabulary is combination of symbols, signs and letters that have a meaning that identify things and ideas.

As one writer wrote that words by themselves can never constitute a language, any more than a million loose tennis balls can form a vertical wall. What is needed is some glue or cement to stick them together. 

This glue or cement is the great Dr Ambedkar whose birthday celebrations brings us all together today. 

Dr Ambedkar’s language is the language of liberation, emancipation and freedom of mind. He is a symbol of knowledge and symbol of revolt against oppression and exploitation. Dr Ambedkar is an icon of human rights and democracy, freedom and the rule of law. 

Mental Freedom 

He believed that the flame of mental freedom must not be extinguished.

He said

What is the proof to judge that the flame of mental freedom is not extinguished in the mind of a person? To whom can we say that his mind is free. 

Ambedkar said, I call him free who with his conscience awake realises his rights, responsibilities and duties. He who is not a slave of circumstances and is always ready and striving to change them in his favour. 

A free person is not a slave of usage, customs, of meaningless rituals and ceremonies, of superstitions and traditions; whose flame of reason has not been extinguished, I call him a free man. 

A free person does not surrender his free will and abdicate his intelligence and independent thinking, who does not blindly act on the teachings of others, he does not blindly acceptanything without critically analysing and examining its veracity and usefulness, who is always prepared to protect his rights, who is not afraid of ridicule and unjust public criticism, who has a sound conscience and self-respect so as not to become a tool in the hands of others, I call him a free man. 

A free man does not lead his life under the direction of others, who sets his own goal of life according to his own reasoning and decides for himself as to how and in what way life should be led, is a free man.

In short, a free man is a master of his own free will, him alone I call a free man. 

Gandhi accused Dr Ambedkar of setting a very high standard when applying his test to Religion according to which all religions will fail. Dr Ambedkar replied that the Mahatama has the simplicity of a child with child’s capacity for self deception. 

Dr Ambedkar said that question is not whether standards are high but the question is whether they are the right standards to apply. A people and their religion must be judged by social standards based on social ethics.

I will now take a minute to return to the language as a signifier of culture.

If you look into India today, there has been a paradigm shift in public political discourse. It is horrifying to see TV public debates that spread poison and hate.

Modi’s India and the rise of Hindu Nationalism and the rise of ethnic democracy – a book by Christophe Jafferlot provides a comprehensive analysis of the rise of BJP as a dominant electoral force. 

Public discourse and new lexicon 

A new language has emerged more powerfully than before in the Indian polity since the rise of BJP-RSS hegemony. 

Hindutva; Sangh Parivar;

Moditva: personalisation of Power and Heroisation; Rise of Bajrang Dal – Sangh Parivar’s Armed wing 

Hindu majoritarianism; Hinduising the public space ; The crusade against ‘liberals’

Targeting of Minorities ; Anti Christian xenophobia ; Recurrent mobilisation against Muslims

 A de-facto Hindu Rashtra: vigilantes and state administration 

The rise of parallel state; Digital vigilantism a physical violence against secularists 

Slow death of the Right to Information 

The supreme court: from resistance to surrender 

Electoral authoritarianism 

Majoritarianism – fighting dissent

Judicial majoritarianism : which prepared the ground for Ram Temple in Ayodhya. 

Redefining citizenship on an ethnoreligious basis: citizenship Amendment Act; National population register 

Dilution of Reservation 

Ghar Wapsi; Anti conversation Laws; Demonitisation ; Resisting Love Jihad 

Gau Rakshak vigilantism; lynching in the name of cow protection 

Control of media; Weakening of the election commission; The decline of Parliament 

Modi Bhakts 

Chanting of Jai Shri Ram during violence and hate campaigns 

From these sub headings contained in this book and the language which occupy public discourse, we observe that a new powerful political lexicon has emerged under the Modi regime which is different to what we have seen in India since Independence.

Bhakti and Hero Worship 

In India, ‘Bhakti’ or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship plays a part in politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other part of the world. 

Dr Ambedkar said that, 

‘Bhakti’ in religion may be a road to salvation of the soul. But in politics, ‘Bhakti’ or heroworship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship. 

Hero worship is playing its part now when we see Indian Prime Minister himself being paraded in a Bhakti like fashion .

Dr Ambedkar warned against Hero worship: 

Hero-worship in the sense of expressing our unbound admiration is one thing. To obey the hero is a totally different kind of worship. There is nothing wrong in expressing admiration but hero worship is a pernicious thing that leads to mental slavery and loss of intelligent thought involving disaster to the state.

In his book Pakistan or partition of India (1946 pages 354-355), Dr Ambedkar writes that If a Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt be the greatest calamity for this country …

In a memorandum on the Rights of States and Minorities dated March 24 1947 which he submitted to the sub-committee on Fundamental Rights, 

he wrote,

Unfortunately for the minorities in India, Indian nationalism has developed a new doctrine which may be called the Divine Right of the majority to rule the minorities according to the wishes of the majority. Any claim for the sharing of power the minority is called communalism, while the monopolising of the whole power the majority is called nationalism. 

Today, the rise of Hindu fundamentalism and majoritarianism is a threat to Indian Democracy. 

Dr Ambedkar had warned that there is danger of democracy giving place to dictatorship in India.

A functioning democracy must of necessity have functioning opposition to put the government of the day on anvil. Democracy must of necessity must also allow for dissent. People should be allowed to express their views and opinions with the limits of law. 

2013 BJP Electioneering

During 2013 BJPs electioneering, speeches and campaigns, PM Modi attempted to present himself as advocate of “Dalits”. And so, at the beginning of his 2014 term, he professed that he drew inspiration from their historic leader Dr B R Ambedkar, who he claimed, had not been given the respect he deserved by the Congress and Nehru (who however, had appointed him Law Minister) 

Eulogise Brahmin authority

However, BJP leaders eulogise Brahmin authority without any inhibitions. 

BJP speaker of the Gujarat Assembly at the time Rajendra Trivedi, had remarked that the draft Constitution was prepared and handed over to Dr Ambedkar by a Brahmin Sir B N Rau. 

The BJP speaker at the time of the Lok Sabha, Om Birla, went step further in defence of the caste system:

‘Brahmin community always works towards guiding all other communities, and the community has always held a guiding role in this nation. It has always played a role in spreading education and values in the society. And even today if just one Brahmin family lives in a village or a hutment, then that Brahmin Family always hold a high position due to its dedication and service… hence Brahmins are held in High Regard in society by virtue of their Birth. 

On another occasion when speaking about inter caste marriages he said if we want to bind the society together, then there is only one arrangement today, like our ancestors used to forge alliances for marriage. We today have brahmin parichay sammelan, and if we want to save the society then this alone is the alternative. 

As per reports, after Yogi Adityanath was elected chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, Hindu priests ‘made elaborate arrangements for purifying rituals at the sprawling Chief Minister’s bungalow which had been previously occupied by Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati and MulayamSingh Yadav. Similar rituals were also organised in Udipi, by Sangh Parivar ‘alleging that it was rendered impure due to the presence of Dalit Demonstrators. 

Saints and Untouchability 

Dr Ambedkar had remarked that 

The Saints have never according to my study carried on a campaign against caste and untouchability. They were not concerned with the struggle between men and men. They were concerned with the relation between man and God. They did not preach that all men were equal. They preached that all men were equal in the eyes of God – a very different and very innocuous proposition which nobody can find difficult to preach or dangerous to believe in. 

Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.

In this country we have democracy but it is a democracy which has ceased to exercise its intelligence. It has bound itself hand and foot to one organisation and only one. 

He was speaking of the Congress Party at the time but his remarks are also apply to the present BJP.

It is not prepared to sit in judgement over the doings or thinking of this organisation. I consider it the greatest Malaise , a disease and a sickness. It has suffered all our people. They are intoxicated. Unfortunately, the Indian people are by tradition men who have more faith and less wit. Anyone who does anything out of the ordinary does something so eccentric as to be called in other countries as insane person, acquires in this country the status of a Mahatma or Yogi and people follow him as a sheep follow the shepherd. Democracy must learn to give a respectful hearing to all who are worth listening to.

Republic of Fear 

And finally, I say that The republic of India has become a Republic of fear. 

According to a report by Indian express June 30 2022:

In the Rajya Sabha, 71 (31 per cent) have declared criminal cases against themselves and 37 (16 per cent) have declared serious criminal cases. 

According to not-for-profit Association for Democratic Reform as reported in the Hindustan Times August 11 2021, in 2019, 43% Members of Parliament had declared criminal cases and 29% had serious criminal cases 

The state Law enforcement agencies the Enforcement Directorate the CBI are routinely used to crack down on dissent as anti-national; Political opposition and anyone criticising government policies live in constant fear and threat of intimidation and harassment under some pretext or the other. 

Although I am no friend of Rahul Gandhi, but you all know what happened to him following his speech at Cambridge University about Indian democracy being under threat. 

The ruling party accused him of ‘discrediting’ India. Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Piyush Goyal led the BJP’s attack and demanded an apology from Rahul Gandhi. 

Subsequently, Rahul Gandhi was stripped of his parliamentary seat after he was convicted of defamation in Modi’s home state of Gujarat for a 2019 campaign-trail remark seen as an insult to the Prime Minister.

Ambedkar International Mission, London recently invited professor Ratan Lal on a lecture tour to the UK and to also to attend Ambedkar Jayanti celebration to be held in East London on 14 May. 

Professor Ratan Lal teaches History at Delhi University. He is a freethinker and regular contributor to a YouTube channel called Ambedkarnama. From time to time he criticises Government Policy and invokes thought and ideas of Dr Ambedkar to better understand contemporary Indian politics. He was to visit the UK for 21 days. 

His visa application was rejected by the British Embassy in Delhi on the ground that the Embassy did not receive a reply to their request to the Delhi Police for clearance of Professor Ratan Lal to travel to UK.

Prof Ratan Lal alleges that Delhi Police at the behest of politicians and Vice Chancellor of Delhi University deliberately caused obstruction.

It is also worth emphasising that the BJP Government is on the lookout for anyone living outside India that criticise the Indian Government. 

A recent case has emerged that of an actor namely Mr Chetan Kumar whose OCI was cancelled after he was arrested for questioning Hindutva Policy. He referred to Brahminism as the cause of inequality in India. 

Dr Ambedkar’s powerful advocacy of Human Rights of the so-called Untouchables; Rights and upliftment of women before feminism assumed ascendancy across the spectrum and for being the Chief Architect of India’s Constitution is a legacy which the people of India continue to benefit from and cherish. 

Ambedkarites Trajectory 

How can Ambedkarites, as friends of India and as advocates for Democracy, Freedom and Human rights build solidarities to strengthen democracy in India. 

Remember Dr Ambedkar’s words: 

I am like a rock which does not melt but turns the course of rivers. 

He achieved so much for the people of India. It’s a difficult act to follow, however, Ambedkarites must continue the trajectory shown by Dr Ambedkar to improve people’s lives that is to strengthen democracy bring about Social and Economic improvements; protect Human Rights and the Rule of Law!

Jai Bhim 

23rd April 2023