Face to face with Dr. BR Ambedkar on the eve of Republic Day

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-A Skit by MK Adithya

The jarring sound of alarm from my old time-piece woke me up at 5am. It was quite late last night by the time I was back home. And our editor told our team we should be ready early to cover people’s responses on Republic Day even before the official ceremony begins. Sleepy, I pulled on the blanket for 5 minutes more of sleep and I was lost…..

It was a phone call from Dharmadhikari, police inspector, whom I meet almost daily as part of our police beat. ‘I will be there near your place in 10 minutes. Please be ready near the pan-shop at the corner. I will pick up you. We will go first to Ambedkar (statue). Ask your cameraman also to be ready’. His words in Marathi accent are familiar and musical.

We were rushing fast, as if in a rocket and reached our destination. Many young women were dancing in the hall, with dazzling colour lights amidst catchy beat. Liquor was being served. Dharmadhikari said: ‘they are celebrating the recent court order lifting the ban on bar dances.’ It is democracy’s victory, the bar manager said, offering us two pegs. ‘Moral policing’ is no good, court clearly said. We have to get out fast, said the Inspector, we have some urgent task on hand. It was as if  we moved in heaven, as we walked out through the decorated lounge.

Then we were moving in a police car towards a bungalow. We were ushered into a big hall. Even as we sat on a sofa, someone near the wash basin, with mirror, shaving, turned back to greet us. ’Please be seated, for just 2 minutes’, he said.

Oh! Dr. BR Ambedkar! Clad in lungi and banian, he walked close to us, even as he wiped his face with a towel. ‘There is still time, No? for the official ceremony?’ he said, even as he asked assistants to serve us tea. With a pleasant smile, he sat in the chair, even as he greeted the familiar Inspector in Marathi. Then began the conversation.

‘Yes sir, there is still time. But we came on a different mission,’ the Inspector said wryly, recalling past events.

‘yes we did go to Bhima Koregaon on January 1, 1927. That was the first time for me. Later on, I visited a few times. It came to limelight then only’, fondly recalled Ambedkar. ‘Now I am told, it is very much in the news’, said an aged but ageless Ambedkar.

Then on, it was almost a monologue from Inspector Dharmadhikari, in a mixture of Marathi and Hindi, with only monosyllables and gestures from Ambedkar in between.

Yes sir, we have seen all past records sir. Then only we came to meet you here. Tens of thousands gathered on New Year Day, last year as well as this year. Thousands shouted and sang your name, sir. There were your photos, posters, CDs … we have video-recording of all the events, yes sir. Ambedkar was listening with a smile.

There is lot of correspondence, yes sir, e-mails, phone-calls… a lot of evidence sir, letters to you and from you, some in handwriting too, sir. Yes sir, Kabir Kala manch also wrote to you sir. It was a big event, lot of mobs sir. You know it all sir. Yes sir, Prakash Ambedkar, your grandson, gave a bandh call. Some vehicles were burnt. all the details are well recorded sir; the correspondence indicates your association months before, and after the event. There was correspondence from Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Chattisgarh etc. with your name featuring quite often, sir.

Your other grandson, Anand Teltumbde … ya… husband of your granddaughter, also is there sir… his laptop is seized and we have evidence of complicity of all of you sir … all are fully Linked-In sir … the case is on firm ground sir … our legal experts have seen it all … section 120(B), 121, 121(S), 122, 123, 124 … the conspiracy is clear and patent sir … yes sir, I also completed my law, with your blessings sir, after getting into the job …

Yes sir, many others went to various courts, some even to Supreme Court sir … house arrest was in phase-I sir … Now they are back in Pune, duly remanded sir …Bail was rejected in a couple of courts sir, after serious consideration … sensitive matters sir, you will surely agree sir.. The PM’s life sir..Not a small matter sir… we need not tell you sir, you will have all the opportunity to tell the court sir … Yes sir, your name is in FIR….

Not that you do not know sir … But it is our duty to inform you… our Fundamental Rights chapter in Article 22 provides for preventive detention (PD) sir…We are not saying you committed any crime sir, it is PD sir … it is only to prevent any crime, sir, before our investigation … Our chief told me to remind you Article 22(3) to 22(7) … After all, it is so many decades ago you wrote them sir …  No sir, not more than 2-3 months of PD sir. If needed, surely, we will refer it to the Advisory Board sir ,,,, No room for arbitrariness sir …

You ask for ‘cause’ sir? … The law is clear sir. Article 22(5) and 22(6), you know sir, discuss “grounds” sir, but we are not required to “disclose facts” sir … security of state and maintenance of public order, you will agree, are important sir … During PD, Art. 19 to 21 regarding personal liberty, cannot be invoked sir… of course you can argue your case in the court sir … I still kept my guide of BL days sir, I refer it whenever needed sir… It is all your grace sir…

Yes sir, you have the right to be told sir… that we need not disclose the facts and grounds sir… we have the duty to tell you sir, and you have the duty to obey law sir… there is no force sir, you can freely walk with us sir…

Meanwhile Smt Ramabai and Dr. Savitabai, both appeared from inside… They were raising questions. Inspector Dharmadhikari was very courteous and polite: Tayi Ramabai amma, it is difficult for you to grasp all these things … No, no Amma, Sir did not draft when you were there… Dr. Savitamma can understand all these things well … Madam, do not you agree, all are equal before law, that is the greatness of our law … small or big, in power or out of power …. Amma, it is our duty to inform you madam … Sir knows everything, we have to do our duty … your hot tea was very good, thank you madam, it helps us to do our duty on this cold day…

Sir… Bhima Koregaon was clearly mentioned, with all irrefutable evidence… No sir, we are not saying you have gone there, many have not gone too, sir… your guidance is there, we have evidence sir…your name figures frequently in correspondence of many… conspiracy and abetment are key words sir … you will have to be our honoured guest for a few months sir…

Yes sir, your past record was looked into sir… you may not exactly remember the date, 1953 September 2 sir… but you would not forget your remarks in Rajya Sabha on that day sir… “But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it it. It does not suit it anybody.” Quite incendiary remarks sir….

Not that it is the only or first time sir… I am not a big man to remind you sir… but our Chief asked me to remind you sir… he is a wise man who often tells us: Age and law do not spare anybody… on 1949 November 25, you said in the Parliament: “On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality, and in economic life we will have inequality … In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man and one value.… We must remove this contradiction at the earliest moment…” Yes, sir, our Chief underlined this sir … “or else those who suffer with inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.”

Yes sir, it did not, of course, happen that way, thanks to your Constitution, its Emergency and PD provisions etc…. We are secular sir, we spared none whether it is Hindu, Christian, Muslim or Buddhist…It did not happen, true sir. But your abetment was clear sir. The relevant extracts are all marked and kept ready sir.

Yes sir, … sufficient grounds for ‘sedition’ sir… you have seen sedition cases in 1930s, 1940s, you know it all sir… you can argue your case sir, we are not competent sir, we are not judges sir… you had the posthumous  Bharat Ratna sir… Now you will go down in history with a posthumous sedition case sir. … You can argue whether that can be sustained or not sir… our job is only to frame charges sir… the Court is supreme sir… this separation of powers is characteristic of our democracy sir, no arbitrariness sir…It is all your contribution sir.

Our legal experts keenly studied it all sir… ample grounds for sedition sir… your letters, speeches, remarks are irrefutable evidence sir… you are ‘linked’ through your correspondence sir…sufficient evidence is there about your links with ‘urban naxals’ sir.. Your name is implicated in and around Bhima Koregaon case sir… security of state is supreme sir…

Yes sir, the van is ready outside sir… Amma, the car is full madam; We have to go to Republic Day function madam, along with these media persons. No problem madam, we will make him comfortable in the van… we will drop Sir at the police Head Quarters and go madam… you already finished shaving sir, it is good. Bath, you can have later. Thanks to this case, we are fortunate to have your ‘darshan’ so early on this Republic Day morning. These media persons are also fortunate to witness all this… sir, please walk fast sir…

***   ***   ***

I was up with a jolt by my wife, with a cup of bed-coffee in her hand. ‘You set the alarm, and you shut it and doze off. You have to drop the children at their school and go. Our elder boy got First prize in elocution on ‘Ambedkar and our democracy.’ The girl got prize for singing ‘sare jahan se accha’. Come quick and leave. You too have your Republic Day duty’

MK Adithya is a media person, and a contributor to countercurrents.org


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