Monday, Apr 14, 2003
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By Nagesh Prabhu
In an interview to The Hindu, on the eve of Dr. Ambedkar's 112th birth anniversary, Prof. Rodrigues, Agatha Harrison Fellow at Oxford University during 1989-91, said the disadvantaged groups had drawn on Dr. Ambedkar's legacy to negotiate for a set of preferences for themselves. They also attempted to carve out a socio-political space for themselves, and all dalit groups subscribed to Dr. Ambedkar's ideas on rights.
His ideas on rights, reason and identity, pluralism and its limits, constitutionalism, and rule of law are relevant even today, says Prof. Rodrigues, who is Chairman, Department of Political Science, Mangalore University.
Prof. Rodrigues, who has been commissioned to write another book, "Difference and disadvantage in the consideration of justice," by Oxford University Press (OUP), says that Dr. Ambedkar's ideas are more relevant than those of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Gandhiji did not talk much about the rights of the disadvantaged groups, while Nehru spoke about development by focussing on democratic nationalism.
"Many disadvantaged groups reaching out to Dr. Ambedkar wish to bring out changes in the existing social relations. They assert a different kind of politics to dismantle the old order based on hierarchy." There have been attempts by major political forces to use Dr. Ambedkar's name. This is done by attempting to subscribe to his ideas. "Given the sheer number of dalits, no political party can afford to ignore the electoral dividends that could be reaped by taking Dr. Ambedkar's name," he says.
Prof. Rodrigues says Dr. Ambedkar saw freedom, equality, and fraternity as essential conditions for a good life. He advocated that they should be understood and pursued. "It was only on their foundation that a comprehensive regime of rights could be built."
According to Dr. Ambedkar, "rights are protected not by laws, but by the social and moral conscience of society." At the Conference of the Depressed Classes Women in Nagpur in 1942, he protested against inequality between people, and between men and women. He fought for the rights of women.
Opposing the ranking of castes, Dr. Ambedkar preached Buddhism saying that it alone advocated equality, freedom, and fraternity. "It is, therefore, eminently suited to be the moral basis of society."
Prof. Rodrigues says Dr. Ambedkar favoured constitutional order to facilitate a vibrant civil society to respect rights of the disadvantaged sections. For Dr. Ambedkar "a healthy constitutional order sustains public reason and popular participation and keeps emotive elements at bay," he said.
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