December 31, 2020
Angry Dalits plan to march from Ahmedabad to Gandhinagar on Republic Day to mount pressure on Vijay Rupani administration
Mahesh Trivedi | Clarion India
AHMEDBAD — Stung by the exclusion of the late Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar by the Gujarat government from its list of national leaders, the five-million-odd Dalits in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s homeland are boiling with rage over the ‘insult’ of the chief architect of ndia’s Constitution.
Treated like dirt by upper castes for a dog’s age, hundreds of angry Scheduled Caste men and women in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled state will join a massive protest march being brainstormed by the Dalit Adhikar Manch for the Republic Day (January 26) when the world’s longest-written, 146,385-word statute came into effect in 1950 in the country.
“If the Vijay Rupani administration fails to include the name of Bharat Ratna Dr Ambedkar in its list of national leaders by January 26, we will take out a march from Ahmedabad to the state capital of Gandhinagar,” Manch convener Kirit Rathod told Clarion India, adding that an awareness campaign was on in all districts.
Rathod said that despite countless representations for over a year, the Gujarat government had insulted Babasaheb by not even ordering its various departments to put up his portrait or statue on their premises, and wondered whether the raw deal was being meted out to the Messiah of the Untouchables just because he was a Dalit.
“It is so shameful that people of the marginalised community have to agitate to demand respect for the Father of the Constitution,” said Rathod who has been going round government offices, including educational institutions, police department, administrative blocks, etc. to persuade the decision-makers for paying tribute to Dr Ambedkar by at least hanging his photo frame along with those of other national leaders.
Promising their support to Rathod’s agitational plans, several lawmakers representing India’s lowest caste have dashed off letters to Chief Minister Rupani to recognise the great constitutionalist and champion of the downtrodden as a national leader.
Following Rathod’s strongly-worded complaint, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes on December 15 shot off a notice to the Gujarat government and sought its reply by January 15 on why Dr Ambedkar’s name was missing from its list of national leaders.
Rathod’s marathon efforts since January 23 to fight injustice done to the crusader of human rights who was also known as a symbol of knowledge did pay dividends in August when at least the Ahmedabad district education officer ordered the 1,500-odd government schools to display Dr Ambedkar’s images along with those of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.
With the revelation that most government offices do not have even a single photograph of the man who is credited with bringing about major labour reforms and campaigning against social discrimination, the Governor, in May, sent a letter about this to the General Administration Department (GAD) of the state administration.
However, the departmental heads turned a deaf ear to even Governor’s advice. Instead, on November 21, the GAD dropped a bombshell on Rathore with a letter citing a 1996 government resolution about the approved list of national leaders. This list did not include the name of Ambedkar.
Shell-shocked, Congress legislator Naushad Solanki asked: “Dalits have no problem if the Gujarat government adds even Baba Ramdev’s name to the list of national leaders but how can the man who drafted the country’s constitution be left out in the cold?”
Senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia said that each and every government office should have Babasaheb’s portrait or statue to remind employees and visitors of his exemplary life. But right from the beginning BJP dumped Dr Ambedkar’s ideology and philosophy and later confined him to small portraits and statues.
“It is frustrating to know that now the Gujarat government just does not want any image of the man who was the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee,” he said.
Jignesh Mewani, independent member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, told Clarion India that just four days after Ambedkar’s Constitution was approved on November 26, 1949, RSS and its ideologues made it clear that they never liked the new statute and wanted Manu’s laws to be implemented.
“The government departments of the saffron regime may not put up portraits or statues of Babasaheb on its premises but the image of the Great Liberator will remain etched in the hearts of millions of socially-disadvantaged people forever,” he said.
Mulji Khuman, editor of the prestigious Disha Gujarati weekly voicing the woes of the underprivileged, felt that there was a systematic conspiracy to insult and ignore Babasaheb and gradually wipe out his image from the textbooks and minds of the people.
Sunil Jadav, member of the sub-committee of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, said that ever since BJP came to power in 1995, it had always been against Dr Ambedkar’s reservation policy and so it was not surprising that the BJP-controlled Gujarat government had refused to accept Dalits’ messiah as a national leader.
“The Rupani regime will do well to rectify its blunder of excluding his name from its list of national leaders, and apologise to Dalits,” opined Jadav, who is a Rajkot-based college lecturer.
Jayesh Kumar, a young and active member of Mevani’s Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch, said that Babasaheb had taken up the cudgels not just for Dalits but for all sections of Indian citizens and hence his portraits and statues would encourage everyone to fulfil his dream of a ‘United India’.
Well, as Rathod says, Dr Ambedkar deserves a square deal from the Gujarat government. “After all, the legal luminary and historian was independent India’s first Law and Justice minister and was posthumously conferred with Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, on 31 March, 1990.”