Like how Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, was just not a Baniya, the mercantile caste into which he was born, B.R. Ambedkar was not just a Dalit, but a national leader and a nationalist, noted political scholar Bhikhu Parekh has said.
“Like Mahatma Gandhi was not just a Baniya, Rabindranath Tagore was not just a Bengali, Dr. Ambedkar was not just a spokesperson of Dalits.
He was an Indian and a nationalist,” said Mr. Parekh, while delivering a lecture on the second day of the three-day international conference on B.R. Ambedkar, sponsored by the Congress-ruled Karnataka government here on Saturday.
Recently BJP president Amit Shah’s statement calling Mahatma Gandhi a “Chatur Baniya” drew flak from scholars across the country. Mr. Parekh, an acclaimed author of several books on politics and political theory, said that by calling Ambedkar a Dalit leader and a spokesperson, we were reducing the significance of his contribution to the nation. “We have to revisit Ambedkar to reclaim justice” to the marginalised sections of society, he added.
Noting that Ambedkar fought for social and economic democracy, Mr. Parekh said Ambedkar took on Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhai Patel to ensure social and economic justice to the downtrodden and marginalised sections of society. The father of the Indian Constitution fought for inclusion of the word “Republic” in the preamble of the Constitution. For Ambedkar, democracy confined only to political rights, while the “Republic” guaranteed political, economic, and social rights, Lord Parekh said.
Former UGC chairman and present ICSSR chairman S.K. Thorat noted that a large number of Dalit graduates remained unemployed owing to withdrawal of the State following liberal economic policies.
He said privatisation of public sector enterprises and contracting out services to the private in the public and government sectors led to the erosion of reservation of jobs to the Scheduled Castes.
Reservation had “eroded from the backdoor” by contracting out services. Unemployment was 13 to 14% among Dalits, he said.