Democratisation of the state

Chandrabhan Prasad

Babasaheb Dr BR Ambedkar was a dreamer. One of his dreams was to be able to expand his political organisation. But the then social context, and his engagements did not allow the dream to become a reality.

Literacy amongst Dalits was near dismal and there were few graduates, there were fewer in government jobs. The community, at the time, was in very real bondage.

Today however, Babasaheb's dream has come true to an extent. The BSP is a national party, although its presence is notable only in the Hindi heartland. Kanshi Ram has brought about this wonder. Millions of Dalits are literate today. Several lakhs are graduates and many in government jobs. Ambedkar's Volumes have reached almost every village and Parliament Street turns into a virtual Dalits' Book Fair every April 14.

Thus, the advantages Kanshi Ram has today, were not apparent in Ambedkar's times. Kanshiji came at a time when representation in government jobs seemed to have outlived its role. To Dr Ambedkar, the Doctrine of Representation, which most of us know as "Reservation", was meant to democratise institutions of the state. In turn, the state was to democratise society. But a section of the community misinterpreted Ambedkar's message and began to think of reservation as an end in itself and not the means. By the late 70s, unemployment had begun to affect the Dalits as well. The community at large, had been kept away from the fruits of development. The resurgent upper OBC sections had begun viewing itself as the new ruling castes, and medieval forms of repression were only a logical tool in their hands.

Kanshiji came up with the Bahujanwad slogan and launched the BSP. The BAMCEF and the army of Dalit employees were at his command. His sheer genius, sacrifice, organisational capacity, sincerity and hard work had woken the community. Dalit teachers spread the BSP message and Dalit students joined in. But the BSP remained a platform for only the Dalits. The OBCs chose the Samajwadi Party in UP, the RJD in Bihar and the Congress elsewhere. But there has been one silver lining. In two regions of UP, Bundelkhand and the eastern Bhojpuri belt, the artisan OBCs or the most backward classes (MBCs), have shown a leaning towards the BSP.

While Kanshi Ram remains the greatest Ambedkarite today, he is not an Ambedkar. There cannot be another Ambedkar. He was primarily a philosopher born in an epoch or rather, he was the product of an epoch. Since old epochs cannot be brought back, no one can become Ambedkar or Karl Marx or Plato. But there can still be Lenin or John Lock or Mao. Philosophers continue to come, in newer epochs with newer philosophies, newer relevance some times even more important than the earlier ones. Thus, Kanshi Ram cannot become another Ambedkar but he could become a Lenin or a Mao. He could however, become an Ambedkar in the sense of relevance, ideas and visions. We all try to emulate our idols, that is a human tendency. In truth, Kanshi Ram could become more relevant than Ambedkar if he can carefully explore the present day crises of India and address questions on the basis of priority.

First. Why, after persisting with the slogan of Bahujanwad, does the BSP remains a platform only for Dalits? Why have only a section of artisan OBCs shown an inclination towards the BSP. Is it because Shudras are divided into two broad occupational categories the artisans and kisans, whose interests are irreconcilable considering that artisan Shudras (after a steady decline of their profession) are turning into landless agricultural labourers? Is it because Dalits and kisan (read neo-kulak) Shudras are poised against each other and that the contradictions between Dalits and kulak Shudras is evolving into the fundamental contradiction of Indian politics? We know that the contradictions between the Dalits and Dwijas will remain the most fundamental ones for several thousand years! Then, are artisan Shudras the Dalits' only natural allies?

Right from his first intervention in 1891, when Dr Ambedkar appeared before the Franchise Committee, till 1946, when he wrote States and Minorities, Ambedkar was bent upon proving that Dalits were a social minority, a separate element in India's social life and therefore, a settlement of the Dalits' agenda was a must. Kanshiji must also ask why the BJP and Congress, the parties of the Dwijas, have shown an inclination to ally with the BSP? Is it because they (considering the Dwijas' minority status) are haunted by the Shudras' rise in the South and are scared that the Southern wind may sweep over the North as well. Are they then, albeit reluctantly, looking for an ally in the Dalits? Time is running out. Kanshiji has a historic opportunity to build on the ground laid down by Ambedkar for the Dalits' total emancipation and an annihilation of the Chatur-Varna order.

Referred by:Sashi Kanth
Published on: February 21, 2001
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