Bharat Ratna Babasaheb Ambedkar unerringly worshipped high values because he was blessed with a high mission in life. His name will forever ecourage us to do what is right
-Dr Ashok Modak
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was blessed with a multi-dimensional personality. This Bharat Ratna’s mission in life is specifically important in current scenario.
Over the past three decades, the country’s middle-class population has touched the 25 crore mark and this year, by end of 2015, this number will reach 50 crores as estimated by the Asian Development Bank. Besides, concern is being expressed at the tendency towards increasing cosumerism, unrestrained behaviour and declining sense of culture. The middleclass is becoming a slave to this mode of conduct. In such an environment, people who have strayed away from the roots of their culture can be brought back by emulating the missionary zeal shown by Dr Ambedkar.
Ambedkar had personally decided to take up the mission of working for the welfare of both the Dalits and the higher class. With concerted effort he tried to fulfil the mission in his life. If we were to cultivate this objective without any subjectivity in our personal and interpersonal behaviour, not only can we redeem ourselves but enrich the society too.
People congratulating Dr Ambedkar on his birthday in 1950
Today, due to globalisation, a wide variety of goods from different nations are abundantly available at our doorsteps even in the remotest of our villages. Competition is in full swing in the production and advertisement of all kinds of products to entice the consumer. As we are aware an ordinary middle-class society harbours the desire to show off his every new acquisition. A philosopher has rightly said that it is the desire of every person to impress the neighbour he dislikes and with this aim in view, he embarks on purchasing of goods that are not even required. As a result, consumerism is inceasing at a a rapid pace. In othe words, capriciousness is rising beyond the limit. To illustrate this phenomenon, let’s see the case of an engineering student, who, on clearing his examination, becomes an apprentice in a factory. It is expected of him to devote his time to work continuously from 9 o’clock in the morning to 6 in the evening. Instead he reaches the factory at 11 in the morning and returns home at 2 or 3 o’clock. What is surprising is that out of the four hours that he passes in the factory, a majority of his time is passed in the canteen. What is more, he spends half an hour daily in gossiping with his fellowmen around the machine. What is especially astounding is that two years before he can complete his two-year apprenticehsip, he seeks a character certificate from the manager. Ironically enough, the manager gives him the certificate.
Incidents involving corruption, rape, empathy, lack of culture are coming to the fore in the form of blatant self-wilfulness. Eat, drink, enjoy and be merry now constitute an individual mission in life. By pondering on Dr Ambedkar’s missionary life, the right path to conquer the current maladies afflicting the society can be found. Somebody has rightly said that Babasaheb Ambedkar can serve as a living guide in the current scenario when one sees how he slogged hard throughout his life to fulfil his mission in life.
On returning to India, while giving a speech in 1933, at a programme to honour him, Ambedkar presented an account of his days as a student, “I was studying abroad but the memory of my Dalit brethren kept piercing my heart and the need for their welfare troubled me, prodding me to concentrate with full dedication on my studies.”
The seeds of his mission were sown during his chidlhood days. Before going abroad, Ambedkar met Maharaja Sayajirao Gaikwad of Baroda in 1893, when the latter asked him, “Why do you want to go abroad?” Bhimrao replied that his intention ws not only to receive higher education in America and Britain but to acquire the qualifications that could help him serve the wider purpose of working for the welfare of his Dalit brethren on returning back. In 1952, that is, merely four years before his death, Babasaheb, while giving a speech in Bombay, informed his audience, “In 1893, what I had promised Sayajirao Gaikwad , I have now fulfilled to a wide extent.” This reminds us of a phrase which says that is is easy to promise but difficult to fulfil but he proved it wrong. Babasaheb was Raja Harishchandra (an Indian king known for his honesty) of the 20th century. It is difficult for us to even imagine how many and what type of ordeals he must have passed through to fulfil his promises.
In those days, the plight of the Dalits was utterly miserable. They faced all kinds of opposition at the hands of the upper class. In the words of Veer Savarkar, the Hindu society had tightly imprisoned itself in seven bonds – of the Vedas, occupation, touch, bread, daughter, hygiene and water, which were like seven bonds. Dalit brothers and sisters had to severely suffer the effects of these bonds. Bhimrao Ambedkar himself had suffered the effects of these bonds during his childhood. Despite obtaining the highest level of education and occupying important positions after returning from abroad, he could not find relief from these bonds. Constant humiliation and ridicule! He however did not relent; he continued his struggle against all his miseries. In the epic Mahabharata, Karns says to Niyati, “Madayatm tu purushum, pujyate raja vidwaan sarvtra pujyate,” that is, “on attaining knowledge, I can become pure and respectful”. This limited purpose was not what he desired. Instead, “my scholarship would prove instrumental in the growth of the Dalits. My veneration would encourage the high castes to tread the path of justice and humanity and those Dalits, who are just and humane, will be partners in the growth of fellow Dalits.” Ambedkar had this faith in his heart.
Not only during his student days, but throughout his entire life, Ambedkar studied hard, pondered and wrote. Every article written by him reveals that his arguments were pure and revealed his scholarship. Rising above prejudices and biases, every article and book by him displays his resolve to come to a just conclusion. On the birth centenary of Justice Ranade in 1943, in a moving speech, Ambedkar conveyed his heartfelt respects to Ranade, Tilak, Gokhale and other predecessors of his while expressing sorrow at the downfall in the prevailing conditions. It is said that no longer is that generation alive – a generation which used to trudge proudly on the path of learning for public welfare. Their sole aim was to learn, ponder and implement.
During his student days, Bhimrao could neither watch films nor go sightseeing or indulge in futile gossip with his friends. With complete dedication like brave Arjuna did in the Mahabharata, Bhimrao, through his sharp intellect, concentrated seriously on his studies, despite not possessing the means to fulfil even his ordinary needs. He dutifully despatched a portion of his scholarlship money to his wife. He continued to devote his time to study, surviving on a single cup of tea or coffee that he could manage. Spending 18-19 hours daily on his studies, passing the days on an empty stomach at times, his dedication bore fruit after two years, when even to take short leave to rest was not in his nature. His research project, titled National Deviant of India, was completed in a few months and after despatching it to Columbia University, Ambedkar revealed his erudition. In 1942, his research project got published in book form. India became independent and the Finance Commission was constituted on the basis of his book.
Ambedkar was in America deeply engrossed in his project when Lala Lajpat Rai requested this bright student to join politics. The British Minister Montague too invited him to come to Bombay, but Ambedkar turned down both the proposals. Shahu Chhatrapati, the king of Kolhapur, like Maharaja Sayajirao Gaikwad of Baroda, was his benefactor rendering him financial assistance. In his letters to the king, Ambedkar conveyed that instead of earning individual fame, his desire was to attain as much knowledge as possible and not deviate from his chosen path of working for the welfare of the Dalits.
On returning to India, while giving a speech in 1933, at a programme to honour him, Ambedkar presented an account of his days as a student to the audience, “I was studying abroad but the memory of my Dalit brethren kept piercing my heart and the need for their welfare troubled me, prodding me to concentrate with full dedication on my studies.”
In 1924, Babasaheb returned to India. He took to writing seriously and the titles of the many journals he edited were significant – Mooknayak, Bahishkrit Bharat, Samta and Janata in Marathi. This devotee had resolved to devote his body, heart and mind to the service of mankind. He decided to bring out the weekly Mooknayak, but gave his idea practical form in the presence of a large gathering. The poor of India saw in him their redeemer. At thousands of places, programmes were organsied to honour him. On every occasion, Ambedkar offered his gratitude. He even conveyed very humbly that he was an ordinary instrument in the hands of God whose desire it was that he should fulfil through his work. In the present situation when rank cosumerism is on the rise, Ambedkar, by expressing his humility and by calling himself an instrument, can enthuse the current youth who have gone astray to return to the right path.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s life journey proves the words of eloquence that our saints have uttered in the past. It seems that keeping this missionary in mind, these ascetics had said the following thoughtful words:
1. Na ritey shrantasya sakhyay devaru
2. Uddyam sahasam dhairyam buddhiru shaktiru parakram.
Shadetey yantra vartante tantra dev sahaykaru. (God helps those who are endowed with six qualities like industriousness, bravery, patience, intelligence, strength and vigour.)
Vidyaya vivadaya dhanam madaya.
Shaktiha upresham parsheernay.
Khalasya sadhoru vipreetmedat.
Gyanaya danaya cha rakshanay. (A villain uses his knowledge, wealth and strength for the purpose of starting a controversy, to get into a state of frenzy and inflict pain on others, while a righteous person adds to the knowledge, price and protection to his existing treasure.)
3. Prabdhbhutbhajnaha na parityajanti. (An exceptionally good person never leaves a task incomplete once he takes it up.)
That Dr Ambedkar enriched this Indian tradition to become a Bharat Ratna cannot be argued. A person who is weak and silly and lost all vigour is bound to suffer torment. To build self-confidence in him, to make him stand on his own feet and estabilsh a new India by making the freedom struggle inclusive in his life was the objective of Dr Ambedkar’s life. A representative from the newspaper Manchester Guardian paid a visit to India in 1945. He had come with the view to interview Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Dr Ambedkar and other leaders. He went to meet Gandhiji at 9 o’clock at night. Gandhiji was fast asleep. He then reached Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s residence. He received the same information on Jinnah. In the end, he went to Dr Babasaheb’s house. He was surprised to find Babasaheb lost in thought in his tudy room. “Gandhiji and Jinnah have gone to sleep but you are still studying instead of sleeping,” expressed the represenative of Manchester Guardian in surprise. Babasaheb gave a very meaningful reply, “Oh well, those two are guiding a society which is enlightened, but I have to lead those who cannot get sleep.” In the Bhagwad Gita, a saint has been described thus: ‘Yasyaam jagriti sanyami’ and that is what Ambedkar was.
Dr Ambedkar frequently advised his Dalit brethren to educate the society. The camps on the path to fulfilment of this objeceive were education, movement and organisation, though the most essential prerequisite of his was to lead an honest and upright life. One day, he reached a tiny remote village to address Dalit women. In his momentous speech, he advised them, “If one of you sisters were to become a prostitue and sell your body, you may earn much more than what is earned by a second sister who goes and washes utensils and clothes in the house of an upper caste man. This second sister will inevitably be poorer than the first but in my eyes, the second sister is worthy of praise. Sheelam param bhooshanam.”
Dr Babasaheb agreed that the common man in India was influenced by Dharma. It was because of this influence that even if a poor woman toiled in the house of the rich, she never committed robbery. His favourite definition was that Dharma meant maintaining the highest values in one’s own and in inter-personal behaviour throughout life.
Babasaheb was simply unable to accept that the Dalit brothers and sisters should only be concerned with the welfare of the higher castes and sub-castes and behave in a certain manner. He chose to launch the weekly Mooknayak and completed his journalistic career by bringing out the journal Janata. This great prersonality, who toiled and struggled througout his life, passed his last days reciting the mantra of people, morality and sympathy before seeking refuge at the feet of Lord Gautam Buddha.
A representative from the newspaper Manchester Guardian paid a visit to India in 1945, he asked Ambedkar, “Gandhiji and Jinnah have gone to sleep but you are still studying instead of sleeping.” He replied, “Oh well, those two are guiding a society which is enlightened, but I have to lead those who cannot get sleep.”
The mission in whose light Dr Ambedkar passed his entire life was multidimensional. It would be wrong to assume that he was concerned only about a specific caste or path. The first step of this missionary was concern for the world humanity and India. Traits like envy, anger, rebellion, etc. encourage man to turn towards the wrong path, but that genuine qualities like love, brotherhood, greatness, etc. should be encouraged constituted the second step in his mission.
Ambedkar’s favourite mantra was that of brotherhood. That the roots of moral ethics should penetrate deeply into one’s personal and inter-personal life constituted the third dimension of Ambedkar’s mission. While studying in London, he met an Irishwoman named Francesca Fitzgerald with whom he became very close but being conscious of the fact that he was a married man and that his honest wife was leading a life of seclusion, prompted him to lead a moral life too. This helped him to develop a relationship with Francesca that was restrained and pure. Changdeo Khormode, with whom Babasaheb could discuss personal issues uninhibitedly, is the author of Ambedkar’s biogrpahy. Khormode has written that Ambedkar’s friendship with Francesca was pure and in no way crossed any limit. Ambedkar had himself informed Khormode about Francesca.
In this repect, moral conduct alone can guide us to keep to the straight and the narrow in personal life. Bharat Ratna Babasaheb Ambedkar unerringly worshipped high values because he was blessed with a high mission in life. His name will forever ecourage us to do what is right. Our humble homage to him!
(The writer is eminent thinker & adjunct Prof, Centre for Eurasian Studies University of Mumbai)