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Ambedkar and clash of colors

Venkatram Reddy Sureddy

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

In March 2018, when BJP won Tripura Assembly elections dislodging CPM which ruled the state for 25 years, a Lenin statue was toppled. This was followed by breaking Periyar’s statue in Tamil Nadu and very soon like a stack of dominoes falling, many more statues including that of Ambedkar were vandalized throughout the country.

This Monday when BJP government in Uttar Pradesh reinstated Ambedkar’s statue in Badaun, the statue was not in the usual Blue color but in Saffron. Very soon BSP leaders painted it Blue. One may quote William Shakespeare and say ‘What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.’, but this clash of colors is a manifestation of attempts to appropriate Ambedkar’s legacy for one’s own political gains.

BR Ambedkar was born on Apr 14, 1891 in an impoverished dalit family. However, fighting all odds and raising above the limitations life bestowed upon him, Babasaheb secured a scholarship to do his graduate studies in Columbia University, USA followed by Law course at Gray’s Inn, UK and Doctorate from London School of Economics, UK. Coming back to India, he had a chequered career and very soon found himself practising law in the Bombay High Court. Ambedkar strongly believed in education as a way of betterment for dalits. Very soon he started public movements, joined politics and rest is history. After India’s Independence, he successfully took over the onerous task of steering the drafting committee that made Indian Constitution a reality. Balancing civil liberties of Individuals with the State’s responsibility to eradicate the socio-economic inequalities, Indian Constitution would remain one of the biggest legacies of Ambedkar. In his later life, he converted to Buddhism along with many of his supporters. Soon after, he died on Dec 6, 1956.

Today, Ambedkar has become a dalit icon inspiring many and despised by few. However, if one looks at the historic context and realize the sheer determination and will power of one individual to overcome the difficulties his circumstances in life created, the remarkable character of Ambedkar shines through. In his life, he found education breaking barriers for upward mobility. At the same time, education also brought him solace when suffering indignities because of his caste. He championed the same for others throughout his life and reservations was one such attempt to provide that one opportunity for those millions who were lost in a ghetto of insults and limitations.

One may paint Ambedkar Saffron or Blue but if one fails to understand that the awakening he fought for all his life is deep within – to strive hard and succeed by getting educated despite whatever hurdles life gives us – the color one paints would certainly not be a sweet smelling color.