(On the occasion of Baba sahib’s 119th Birth day.)
Dr Bhimrao Ramjirao Ambedkar, Baba sahib to his millions of followers came on socio-political horizon at a time when the dalits in particular and society and country in general needed him the most. That was the time when a new nation was in its embryonic stage. The alleviation of miseries faced by dalits day in day out was one field he chose to struggle for. The reason is not far from our search, he himself grew facing all the hardships. He was not merely a silent witness but was a subject of all those insults hurled at his face. Discrimination is an understatement to describe what all he underwent living in poverty. That is the principal difference between him and almost all the leaders of that era, as they hailed from affluent kulak class. If there was a single leader of that era who could be called 'self made' it was him. He bulldozed his way with his sheer brilliance and fiery passion few could match till date when it comes to upliftment of dalits in real sense. For him the Power was an instrument to help uplift hapless masses whom he represented while for others Power was the ultimate trophy and dalit movement only a convenient excuse to grab that Power.
No wonder the dalit movement suffered a severe blow 1956 onward after his demise. There was no giant of a leader to take over the baton from him. Who we were left with could best be described as regional forces with limited energy, impact and vision. The vacuum was not created all of a sudden. In fact the Republican Party founded by him could send as many as ten member the highest ever to second Lok Sabha.(incl 1 in R.S.) The Bourgeois class has the necessary wherewithal and patience coupled with fellow 'sympathisers'. Together they could break the very backbone of dalit movement. The decade of sixties saw unabashed hobnobbing with powers that be and the leadership reduced both in size and stature. While Bengal had Jogindernath Mandal,
Bihar had thrown Babu Jagjivan Ram whom Congress kept showcasing till he parted ways to form CFD (Congress for Democracy) in late seventies. We had Rai Bahadur N. Shivraj, popular among his followers as 'Daddy' but alas! he too was not available for long and his area of influence was limited to down south alone.In north we saw Prof B.P. Maurya emerging as a passionate orator and champion of dalit cause. Sadly, his courtship with Powers of the time could get him a ministrial berth in Government of the day and no more. That was the tragic end of his political career. No dalit movement worth the name can ever ever claim anything worthwile for poor masses in general till it rests on the crutches of Governmental support. Dalit leadership has to realise that swimming with the current can give them personal gratification but not the mass base nor the sense of achieving something meaningful for their ‘people’.
The worst affected was
Maharashtra, there was suddenly a dearth of leaders in the land which once boasted to be cradle of dalit surge right since Bhakti movement onwards. The galaxy of social activists who were committed to core and devoted their entire life towards the lofty cause of bringing renaissance in the society hitherto neglected was the best example in the World how a movement is carried forward to the masses in the various forms be it Tamasha, temple entry or intellectual inputs. In Maharashtra, Bhayya sahib Y.B. Ambedkar son of Babasahab failed to rise to occasion and capture the imagination of masses. He had no program. By then Powers had already made deep in roads in the movement. We had Dadasahab B.K Gaikwad a sole torch bearer but he too needed support of Congress to return to Lok sabha or Rajya sabha. All others were not in reckoning for national leadership be it B.C. Kamble, Barrister B.D. Khobragade, Anna sahab Patil or R.S. Gavai. Their vision, if any, was pathetically limited and they were low achievers and often found happiness in the crumbs.
This generation of freedom movement era once faded away, we were left with self styled leaders who were searching for the 'led' and were jostling for as little as Membership of Council of Ministers. We had whole lot of 'young' leaders who wanted as little as membership/chairmanship of local bodies. For them it became an easy medium of acquring self serving recognition and riches.Like career diplomats, we had a new breed of career politicians, worst still career 'champions' of anything dalit, be it welfare, politics, or literature. Ram Vilas Paswan, once an entrant of Guinness Book of World Record for having won the Lok sabha election with highest margin was vying for ministrial berth in Government after Government. In fact by now dalit leaders became truly 'secular' they had no qualms whatsoever to be with any group or political party. Choice was clear, objective unambiguous and Ideology a casualty. The dalit movement had reached its nadir.
Nature abhors vacuum. Slowly but surely, late shri Kanshi Ram,though from Punjab but again
Maharashtra as his 'karmbhoomi' was busy with his mission through DS-4, BAMCEF and finally BSP. The BSP had its own high and lows but one thing the leadership knew right from beginning was always, always to swim against the current. The movement could not have been handed over in a platter as a swap for anything temporary and mundane. Whenever it was alliance time, that too was on the Terms dictated by BSP and rest as they say is a history. The dalit movement has come a full circle.
Dalit leadership has to understand this and understand it too well that you swim with current; you lose your identity forever for some 'silver'. You swim against the current; you gain Identity and a prominent place in Golden letters in the annals of dalit resurgence. But you require strong will, stronger strategy and strongest of vision for that. That is where Baba sahab’s magic words resonate 'Educate... Organise ...Agitate'