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My Ambedkar vs Yours: A PERFECT CON JOB By Poonam I Kaushish, 19 April, 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 19 April 2016

My Ambedkar vs Yours


By Poonam I Kaushish


It is a perfect con job. On the latest catch word: Ambedkar. So last week India stood testimony to a lot of noises being made over the father of the Constitution’s 125 birth anniversary. While Prime Minister Modi flew to his birthplace Mhow, Congress’ Sonia-Rahul and regional satraps all competed to pay obeisance and profusely garland his statues in Parliament and elsewhere. All staking claim to his legacy. Reducing it to a game of one-upmanship of ‘my Ambedkar vs yours!”


While Modi accused the Congress for undermining his legacy and underscored he is PM thanks to Babasaheb. Countered Sonia, “We made him in charge of drafting the Constitution”, Dalit diva Mayawati dubbed BJP’s OBC leaders as RSS bonded labourers, SP’s Mulayam promised more memorials and JD(U)’s Nitish revisited Dalit student Rohith’s suicide in Hyderabad even as he avowed his Kurmi credentials.


Basically this bloated rhetoric about Ambedkar bandied by all Parties is essentially an intra-Party affair, all wanting to cement a winning bond with the large Dalit vote bank and capitalize on it. Towards that end over the last year alone Modi has participated in 10 events and Rahul in two. More trusts have been founded in his name and a litany of seminars planned.  


No matter that never before have prejudices been widely mistaken for truth, fundamentalism for religion and myth for history. Whereby commitments made are not even worth the paper they are written on. Forget the verbal assurances.


Raising a moot point: Does our polity divided by caste, splintered by religion, riven by political and ideological differences and bereft of statesmen with vision and concern for tomorrow, really genuinely believe in Ambedkar’s ideology, “I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity”? Or a “Constitution which knits us into a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic Republic. Assuring the dignity of the individual and the unity and integrity of the nation.


Alas, those who swear by Babasaheb are not even willing to implement the secular Article 44 which states: The State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India”.


Undeniably, while the BJP plums for it as the Party believes it would help national integration by removing the contradictions based on ideology. Our ‘secular’ Parties vehemently oppose the Code on the ground it would interfere with the right of religious freedom and in personal laws of religious groups unless they are prepared for change, (sic) Secularism is in danger under Modi Raj, they yell. Read Muslim votes.


Forgetting, that Ambedkar was a strong advocate of the Uniform Civil Code as he felt there was no connection between religious and personal law in a civilized society. Or why it should be viewed as encroaching on the right of religious freedom? Or being anti-minority?


Characteristically, during the Constituent Assembly debate on Article 35 (now 44) on November 3, 1948, he made two observations. One, the Muslim personal law was not immutable and uniform throughout India, contrary to what had been stated in the amendments (moved by the Muslim members).


Reminding all that up to 1935 the North West Frontier Province was not subject to the Shariat Law, instead it followed the Hindu Law in succession and other matters. It was only in 1939 that the Central Legislature abrogated the application of Hindu Law to Muslims of the NWF Province and applied the Shariat Law to them. In North Malabar, the Marumakkathayam Law, a matriarchal form of law and not a patriarchal form of law is applicable.


Two, the Article merely proposes that the State shall endeavour to secure a civil code for its citizens. It does not say that after the code is framed the State shall enforce it upon all citizens merely because they are citizens. It is perfectly possible that the future Parliament may make a provision by way of making a beginning that the code shall apply only to those who make a declaration that they are prepared to be bound by it, so that in the initial state the application of the code may be purely voluntary”.


Regrettably, Article 44 has remained a dead letter. As things stand both Hindus and Muslims cling to the husk of religion and have lot sight of the essentials of their respective faiths and are largely misled by bigots and fundamentalists.


Worse, even the educated are speaking the language barely distinguishable from that of Hindu-Muslim fundamentalists. Their stock answer to every critique: Religion is in danger.


Consequently, Ambedkar’s sound advice is often dismissed as an utopism hypothesis. And successive Governments have failed to draw a distinction between politics, caste and religion. Should they not support Babasaheb’s   middle path of a voluntary civil code. Given that many Islamic countries have codified and reformed the Muslim Personal Law to check its abuse. Polygamy has been banned in Syria, Tunisia, Morocco, Iran and even Pakistan.


Another case in point Article 356 which gives the President the emergency power to dismiss State Governments, dissolve Assemblies and impose President’s rule. Ambedkar would surely be turning in his grave. His apprehensions about its misuse have come true.


Unfortunately, this emergency power has been reduced both to a comedy and a tragedy by the Congress and BJP, thereby, making Constitutional democracy a mockery time and again. And a perennial menace to State-level popular Governments. This Article has been invoked with anathematic frequency and callous disregard of democratic norms.


Thereby, making State autonomy the plaything of central adventurism and political expediency by Delhi’s little minds with large powers read midgets who strut about giving fundamentals the go by. This year alone, two States Manipur and Uttarakhand have been put under President’s Rule.


All conveniently forgetting Ambedkar’s formula: “If at all it is brought into operation, I hope the first thing the President will do would be to issue a mere warning to a province that has erred, that things were not happening in the way in which they were intended to happen in the Constitution.


“If that warning fails, the second things for him to do will be to order an election allowing the people of the province to settle matters by themselves. It is only when these two remedies fail that he would resort to this Article.” Adding, “If things go wrong, the reason will not be that we had a bad Constitution. What we will have to say is that man was vile”.”


Where do we go from here? It all depends on whether the Government is willing to get rid of its excess baggage of isms: safeguarding secularism, minorityism, casteism, pluralism etc which are caught in the vortex of vote bankism.


High time our leaders ponder over Ambedkar’s wise assertion, “An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise both will wither and die”. So instead of going through the circus of hypocritical drivel of crooning his legacy we need to see actions rather than words. India and its citizens deserve a lot better. What gives? ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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