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Quote and misquote related to Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar have become part of political discourse particularly since the abrogation of article 370 ( which is technically not correct as the article is not yet abrogated, special status is abrogated using the same article). Many people are quoting Baba Saheb in Kashmir as if he and Shayama Prasad Mukherjee, the leader of the Jan Sangh were on the same ideological wavelength. Baba Saheb Ambedkar wrote extensively on issues concerning us and his two work : Thought on Pakistan and Pakistan or partition of India, show him a great statesman, rising above the narrow confine of nationality and religion while dealing the issue of Hindu and Muslim in a very balanced way. These two books are often used by ‘experts’ for selective quoting of Baba Saheb. The Sangh Parivar quotes him copiously on his views on Muslims and Islam while the others quote him when he speak about Hindutva or Hinduism.

In this note, I wish to clarify that I dont want to quote him here again but certain facts about Dr Ambedkar must be kept in mind. The first and foremost of that was the interest and welfare of the Dalit community and ensuring its fair representation everywhere. In fact, we always discuss the subcontinental history from the binary of Hindu and Muslims, basically, Hindu upper castes and Muslim upper castes or landed peasantry. Why shouldn’t the others issues be discussed. So Dr Ambedkar’s concern those times were about the Dallit and ensuring their human rights and he articulated them at every opportunity. That made him put for the case of strong centre because he felt that If the laws have to implemented, it is essential that centre has to play the lead and guiding force as states might have their prejudices.

I am not going to quote what Dr Ambedkar said about Kashmir because the portion being quoted from two important work, has his own concern. We may agree with them or disagree but my point is not with what he said but what he would have said today.

Now, I want people to think for a moment. Leave aside, all ideological prejudices and think about Dr Ambedkar. Who he was and atleast people like me would always say, the greatest dissenter of independent India, the leader and statesman, a human rights icon for all of us. So, what would have Dr Ambedkar said today on Kashmir ? Would he support suspension of people’s political rights ? Would he support arrest of political leaders ? Would he support curtailment of dissenting voices which are nothing compare to what he has written and spoken which can still send shivers in the heart of the brahmanical elite and yet they are forced to chant his bhajans though they may not like his ideological dissent.

It is sad that many people are suggesting today that Dr Ambedkar did not want 370 or autonomy of Kashmir. The question is not what happened in the Constitution Assembly debate.Dr Ambedkar worry was all about the conditions of untouchables in Pakistan particularly in the East Pakistan or what now is Bangladesh where Muslim fundamentalists and Pakistani army that time tortured non Muslims and forcibly converted Hindus, Christians and Dalits in embracing Islam. There was lot of pressure on the government and Ambedkar wanted the central government to look into that affair. I am not exaggerating these factors but they are the reason for which Jogendra Nath Mandal, first law minister of Pakistan, Chairman of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, had to relinquish his post and leave his Pakistani citizenship and came back to India. Kashmir question is a valid assurance by Government of India to people of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 is a strong pillar of that. My simple point is that whether Dr Ambedkar today would have endorsed the way things were done. I can say never. Talking about Kashmir, he always talked that it has three parts. Kashmir valley where the dominance of Muslims exists while in Jammu, it is the Hindus and in Ladakh, it is the Buddhist. He was pragmatic enough about these things that end of the day, no domain want to work under any one. He never wanted a war hence wanted to resolve it. Obviously, Nehru hailing from Kashmir, wanted it as his personal conviction towards secularism.

Dr Ambedkar wrote that democracy does not mean rule of the majority alone the minorities have to be included in decision making. Life long, he was fighting for the rights of the depressed classes under minorities. Even in Kashmir, his concern would have been that of the Dalits there but if he were standing today, I can say with full conviction, he would have chosen to stand with the people of the state who have been denied right to speak, communicate and assemble to voice political dissent. There was no question of his standing with those who claim everything is normal after full communication blockade.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat is a social activist. Twitter @freetohumanity


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