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Celebrating Babasaheb, punishing his lads

  By Vijay Darda | 01-06-2015

This is the 125th birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Dr Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar, the chief architect of our Constitution. He is an iconic figure on the thought landscape, and his ideas, values and thinking have altered the lives of millions of socially oppressed citizens. It is to him that they owe their considerably altered educational, social and professional status. Much remains to be done, but they surely have a better quality of life thanks to his pioneering efforts.

Now, Babasaheb has never been an ideological favourite of the ruling Sangh Parivar. The leaders of the saffron brotherhood do pay lip service to Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay, and Ram Manhohar Lohia or Sardar Vallabbhai Patel. But seldom do they mention Babasaheb. So, it is a welcome sign that even if rather belatedly, the Modi sarkar has decided to celebrate this occasion with fanfare which is due to such an icon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi would himself be chairing this celebrations committee, and there would be a stamp and commemorative coin during the course of the year. Commentators have always seen an element of competitive politics in this business of appropriating the legacy of such iconic figures. The BJP has thrived on the notion that led by the Gandhi dynasty the Congress has always ignored other iconic figures.

However, in the context of Babasaheb’s political legacy both the Congress and the BJP seem to be nowhere in the race. The top spot has already been grabbed by the Bahujan Samaj Party and it has demonstrated its vice-like grip on the communities that owe their allegiance to Babasaheb’s ideals and ideas. Though in this domain as well, the RSS with its “One temple, one well, one cemetery” slogan is approaching its idea of Hindu consolidation as a major social project. The concept is certainly laudable and could do wonders for social equality as the Dalits have been traditionally discriminated against in their social life on these and other counts.

But then actions always speak louder than words. They betray the real intent of the persons making such holy sounding statements. The latest evidence of the hidden agenda of the RSS being actively supported by the Modi sarkar came out in the open when the India Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) banned a students’ initiative Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle (APSC) following an anonymous complaint forwarded by the Union ministry for human resource development. The crux of the charge against APSC was that it had violated the guidelines of IIT-M. To soften the blow it was added that the ban was temporary and that the APSC will get the opportunity to have its say in front of the students’ representative body and that decision would be final.

However, no one can miss the message. The Modi sarkar is celebrating Babasaheb’s 125th birth anniversary but punishing his lads for being true to his ideas and ideals. This dichotomy is the hallmark of the RSS style of functioning. It fits well with the use of an anonymous complaint as a tool to achieve its political objective and is symbolic of the secretiveness that prevails in the RSS mode of spreading disinformation through whispers.

We must not forget some basic issues here. The IIT-M is no ordinary institute. Founded in 1959 with German support, it is one of the most important hubs of super computing, and its lads race to the top in the globe when it comes to the business of information technology. It is known for academic excellence. So, academic freedom is at the root of its creative functioning. It has several study circles and these are not officially funded by the institute, nor do these circles receive any grants. So, what is the guideline that has been violated? That no permission was taken to use the term “ IIT Madras” on the letter head and the facebook page? If students from IIT Madras would not use its name for a study circle based there what is the option?

The real objective of the ban is political. The problem is not the use of the name of the institute, the difficulty lies for the government in the ideas that the APSC is propagating. We can be certainly be sure that if the APSC had been laudatory of the Modi sarkar, there would have been no anonymous complaint, no questions about the violation of the IIT-M guidelines and no ban on APSC.

So, the question is do we really want the regimentation that the RSS dreams of? Or do we wish to stay a plural democratic society. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is surely an RSS pracharak and a believer in its ideology and so by that logic he rejects Nehruvian constructs but his prime ministership is a creation of the Nehruvian ideal of democratic freedom for every citizen. His candidature may have been a gift from the RSS, but his victory was ensured by the Nehruvian ideal. When he allows such incidents to take place under his eyes, he is surely not guilty of perpetrating these personally, but he becomes culpable because of the same logic he uses against his predecessor Dr Manmohan Singh. To blame Smriti Irani for incidents like the IIT-M ban on APSC is to apportion credit where it is not due.

Free-thinking students unhemmed by any ideological constraint are the essence of democracy. As yet, not even brute force has managed to suppress this freedom even in countries that have authoritarian regimes. We are a fully functional vibrant democracy and the Sangh credo may be something else, but the fact remains that acts like the IIT-M ban on APSC are not tenable and the sooner this is realised by the powers that be, the better it will be for all of us.

Before I conclude…

We have to welcome President Pranab Mukherjee’s comments on the Bofors controversy ahead of his proposed visit to Sweden next week. It is pertinent to mention that that the Bofors controversy about the purchase of 155 mm gun originated from there nearly 30 years ago, and caused irreparable damage to the then prime minister Rajiv Gandhi. “It was a media trial,” the President has said and added that no Indian court has ever been able to prove that there was a scam. He has also said that subsequently when he was the defence minister all Generals certified that it was a good gun. So, should it not make us a bit more sensitive about levelling charges without evidence? Should we not feel a bit more responsible towards those whom we level charges? May be the country’s history would have taken a different turn if the Bofors charge had not erupted?


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Celebrating Babasaheb, punishing his lads


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