My friend Mr.Karthick Navayan launched an online Petition to demand the Government to install Dr. Ambedkar’s portrait in Indian courts and police stations.
The petition was online for the last few weeks, untill now only 351 signatures are signed in support. There are various Dalit groups active on facebook, googlegroups, yahoogroups etc. Yet only 351 people have signed. Those signed also belong to various non-dalit caste. Though there can be so many reasons for not signing the petition, the only reason I feel the online group Dalits are yet to be ‘politicized’. There were so many responses Karthick received, for and against the petition. Those signed had a lot to say in their comment.
One of the prominent disagreement even from Dalits, such petitions will do nothing as far as installing Dr. Ambedkar portrait. Partly it is true, however, they should understand it is due to the online petition that many people would have come to know that Dr. Ambedkar’s portrait is not there in government offices, few might even get shocked that Dr. Ambedkar is not recognized by any state government as a national leader. Still I am not here to say that only the online petition started the discussion. Rather this post will give a picture of protest held on the ground.
Few comments written in online petition are here for readers.
“I have signed the petition, but will also like the to add to the list of demands. (1) to change the name of Chandni Chawk to Birsa Munda Chawk (even if it is for the sake of symbolism) so that the delhite power seekers can be reminded of the original freedom struggle. I know it will not change the situation of Adivasis across the country but atleast initiate a process to give rightful place in history, that is the central point of the national capital. At present, there is not a single road or square in the national capital named after the great Birsa Munda.”
“I would prefer renaming places and streets named after 'controversial' people. One such case is the road connecting PVR Saket with Mehrauli-Badarpur road. On 30 Oct 2007 this was named after the late Pramod Mahajan in presence of BJP stalwarts including L K Advani. Giving space to TRUE greats would require 'obliterating' names of the 'controversial' ones.”
“Courts should acknowledge Dr. Ambedkar (as the Chairman of Drafting Committee) by displaying his portrait in their premises.”
“as a muslim i feel the indian judiciary is biased and discriminatory in it's function and the root cause lise with installing Mahatma Gandi picture alone which shows the discriminatory nature of his preaching and practiced by the present judiciary, more over i support Gandi picture but i don't understand the relations between Gandi and court. I strongly support and feel the only person who's picture has to be installed is Dr. B.R Ambedkar. Who is the father of indian Constitution and father of indian Republic also first law minister.”
“Gandhi is the Father of our Nation and his contribution in creating the political awareness amongst all sections of society and his agenda for social transformation has been duly recognised. Similarly, Dr.Ambedkar can be regarded as the Lead Architect of our Constitution. His role in creating the just political space for Dalits and oppressed classes is singularly commendable and is widely recognized. Both the legends belong to the people and should be role models and celebrated. But, Ambedkar potraits are not so much visible, especially in Constitutional spaces such as Courts and Police stations etc. Making them visible will enable creating space for the aspirations of oppressed classes who still percieve the caste bias in the functioning of the Government. Having more visibility for potraits of Ambedkar will give them the moral strength and help to move towards the goal of an egalitarian society.”
Few and even many feel that Ambedkar has become an ‘icon’ for Dalits, therefore it is not proper to put his picture on pubic space, where Gandhi is kept. This argument is castist, because the history on Ambedkar shows.
Discrimination on Ambedkar
The history of unraveling the story and struggle of Ambedkar began in 1970s only by Dalits and Mahar community in particular. If there were no struggles from the Dalits, then it is certain Ambedkar would have been forgotten in India. It is only after a struggle the Government started to publish his books and at recent times to declare his birth date as a national holiday(though not an official status compared with other leaders). Still there are many ideas of his are yet to be unraveled.
In 1990, only after 34 years of Ambedkar’s demises he was awarded Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian award.
Only in 2011 April 14th was declared as public holiday under Negotiable Instruments Act 1881 (26 of 1881).
Arun Krushnaji Kamble led the march as a president of Dalit Panther during an Assembly Session at Nagpur on the issue to publish Ambedkar's complete body of literature (1979).
Keeping or demanding Dr. Ambedkar’s portrait has so many meanings and to understand the importance, we should discuss the discrimination faced by Ambedkar.
Dr.Ambedkar was born to a family of untouchables (known as dailts in contemporary India) of the Mahar caste and was the only one of his siblings to finish high school. He went on post-graduate studies at Columbia and a PhD from the University of London. Back in India he established a successful legal practice.
He being born in an untouchable/ dalit family and excelling in higher education was not an alma matter for many even today. These days there are MP’s who get a seat to contest just for their degree they had in abroad. Ambekdar’s writing stirred the national debate in those days. Such an excellent person, who was also a first law minister, and the chairman of the Constitution of India, was never treated fair then or now in India.
This is no surprise, while there is widespread public admiration for Ambedkar in India, there is little or no appreciation of his ideas. Even the public admiration is quite often a façade, with the caste elite in India reserving their contempt for the privacy of their homes much as they would their anti-Muslim sentiments. As a result of a few government presses and new publishers such as Navayana, Ambedkar’s own writings are now accessible to those willing to make the effort but we are still far from a good biography of the man or a critical engagement with his ideas
There is an incident where after his completion of his education in abroad he took up a teaching position in Law college Bombay. The students who were from upper caste told the administration that if Ambedkar (an untouchable) can never teach us. If he continues then we student will leave the college. This was the treatment he got from the so-called dominant India. What so ever, but how is he treated at present in contemporary India. He is never treated as a national leader.
In 1949, two years after India’s Independence, a year before the Indian Constitution came into force, the man who was chairman of the drafting committee, made a speech where he argued:
If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgement we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us.
If today revolutionary groups such as the Maoists seek recruits and fail to find them in large numbers among the untouchables it is largely because of Ambedkar. The above argument is more true if we get into the history of the Naxal/Maoist movements in India.
How is Ambedkar treated now:
One of the law colleges in Tamil Nadu was named after Dr. Ambedkar Law College. A group of Upper caste while publishing pamphlets they wrote Chennai Law College. Even they also went to the High court of Tamil Nadu to remove the name of Ambedkar. The future lawyer who are studying Law do not even recognize the father of Indian constitution.
If this was the case how are these lawyers going to protect the constitutional rights framed by the same person whose name they are opposing.
It is also true that the Supreme Court is the apex court which often over rules the constitutional rights. Especially the reservation policy. In few of the cases, the Supreme Court has openly showed its true colour by saying the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if capital punishment is awarded to the offender.
If we go with the Supreme Court’s Judgment we may also have think that the Supreme Court can say since, majority of the upper caste feel that Dalits are to be discriminated, therefore Dalits in India are to be discriminated.
One of the RTI activist writes to the Gujarat government asking to install Ambedkar photo in all government offices. The Government responds that
Government offices in the state are allowed to display portraits and photographs of only eight leaders, namely, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, incumbent President and the Prime Minister, Mother (Goddess) India, Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyay and Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, the state government has said in reply to an RTI query, adding that some off.
Dr. Ambedkar is missing?
The so called ‘progressive’ state or the land of “periyar’ do not authorize to install Ambedkar picture in practice. Though the Government Order passed on October 24, 1980 to display the portraits of the incumbent President, Prime Minister, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Saint Thiruvalluvar, Arignar Anna, K. Kamaraj, C. Rajagopalachari, Thanthai Periyar, B.R. Ambedkar and U. Muthuramalinga Thevar in government offices.
The petitioner had alleged that the portraits of the last five leaders in the list were not displayed at all in any of the government offices.
It will be 62 years since the Indian Constitution came into force, but the man who drafted it, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, does not feature in the list of 14 national leaders who have a memorial in their name in Delhi.
What is worse is that in their replies to an RTI filed by Bhandare, neither the central home affairs ministry nor the urban development ministry in charge of land allotment know the policy for allotting land for memorials of national leaders in Delhi. In their reply, these departments said that ‘information is not available’ on whether Ambedkar is a national leader.
The Central Public Works department, in its reply, sent a list of ‘location of memorial land of national leaders’ which included 14 names including Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Sanjay Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Charan Singh, Gyani Zail Singh but do not mention Ambedkar.
Therefore it is very important to understand the reason behind for not installing Ambedkar’s portraits in Government offices, and the reason for reject. I am not concerned of Government offices but the Police station and the Courts in India should alteast install his picture, not for his glory, but a recognition for his commitment for the India Constitution. It seems we celebrate Republic Day without recognizing the person who was behind the drafting the Indian Constitution. It is an insult not only to Ambedkar, to all Dalits.
It is only the BJP government in Karnataka to adorn the portrait of Dr B R Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, in all government offices, schools and colleges across Karnataka.
Therefore it is important to sign the petition for installing Ambedkar's portrait in Indian court and Police station. click the link, It is a small recognition for his contribution.
Further reading on his statue being damaged by upper castes:
Tribute to Ambedkar at Columbia: Prof.Nicolas Dirks
Protests in Ghaziabad over damage to Ambedkar statue
EC bans photos of leaders in government, public offices
Ambedkar statue damaged in L'daga Lohardaga
Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar are no longer national icons. You can be arrested for reading them
The Absence of Ambedkar
“Declare Ambedkar birth anniversary ‘public’ holiday”
Dr BR Ambedkar image on currency notes
Kavitha wants Ambedkar statue installed
Tension over Ambedkar statue
A Tale Of Two Memorials
Despair of the discriminated Dalits
Desecration of Ambedkar statue triggers protests in Uttar Pradesh
Decision to bifurcate Metropolitan Transport Corporation upheld