6th December 1956: B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, leaves this world, albeit, physically.
6th December, 1992: B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, leaves this world, this time, in spirit.
36 years separate the two incidents, both of which can be said to be among the landmark moments in the history of India. 6th December, every year, marks the anniversary of both of them. While on the one hand, it commemorates the death anniversary of the one who nurtured to life the Constitution that is the fountainhead of this nation, on the other hand, it also commemorates another death anniversary, of the spirit of the very same Constitution.
The struggle that defined the life of B.R. Ambedkar was his struggle against the most depraved institution of the Hindu religion, the caste system. Born in the so-called ‘low-caste’, he lived the reality of extreme caste discrimination, right from his childhood. Despite all odds though, he succeeded in educating himself and in growing up to be a man of an independent mind, a rational and critical thinker. Throughout his life, he waged a continuous struggle against the institution of caste entrenched in the Hindu religion, so much so that a few months prior to his death, he decided to disown the religion of his birth and converted to Buddhism, the religion of his choice, in the process, taking along millions of his fellow-sufferers who had been at the receiving end of this atrocious practice.
The fundamental principle that lies at the foundation of the caste system is the principle of exclusion. It is so defined as to exclude certain people from being treated as equal human beings to the rest, based solely on the accident of their birth. This very same principle of exclusion is also the one that drove the Babri Masjid demolition, the anniversary of which also happens to fall on 6th December.
Exclusion may take any form and may be practiced on any basis, be it caste, religion, region, gender or any such force that seeks to discriminate against one human being, in favor of the other, solely based on the characteristics defined by birth. The Babri Masjid demolition of 1992 was a fructification of the idea of exclusion based on religion. It was an act that sought to establish the supremacy of Hindus in India. It was an act that sought to exclude Muslims from the idea of India that B.R. Ambedkar had sought to establish irrevocably through the Constitution of India.
And so, after experiencing the death of the man as well as his idea of India, this nation was made to experience a peculiarly interesting commemoration on the occasion of death anniversary of both, on 6th December, 2017. Quite interestingly, the very same people who have been watching over an entire nation being torn apart by the idea of exclusion that B.R. Ambedkar spent his entire lifetime fighting against, were seen paying him their ‘heartfelt’ respect and homage. The very same people, who have been the torchbearers of the very idea of Hinduism that he fought tooth and nail against, were seen co-opting the man, without the slightest of compunctions.
The most interesting part of this entire experience, though, was that it failed to elicit a cry of disbelief from the very nation that was thus being so openly and blatantly deceived. Such is the irony of the times that we are living in.
Nivedita Dwivedi has done MA in Elementary Education from Tata Institute of Social Science. I also blog at http://fromwordstovoid.blogspot.in