As per the Asian Development Bank report, in the last 30 years, the volume of middle class population in Bharat has gone upto 25 crores. During the same period, we are witnessing the perversion in terms of materialism and excesses of perverse behaviours in the name of freedom. In such a situation, the life of Ambedkar can be torch bearer to bring the society on right path. In the situation of desperation and perversion, the self motivated and dedicated life of Dr Ambedkar, devoted for the larger mission, can be guiding force for many.
From the childhood itself the seeds of mission were sowed in his life. Before going to his first foreign trip in 1893, he had a meeting with Maharaja Sayajirao Gaikwad of Vadodara. The Maharaja in his style asked Babasaheb about his purpose to visit the foreign country. His prompt reply was, my purpose of this visit is not limited to pursue higher studies. To attain necessary qualification for the larger objective of upliftment of my Dalit brothers and sisters is my real objective. In 1952, he revealed this incidence to the audience, at the same time expressed satisfaction that I have sufficiently fulfilled the commitment I had given to the Maharaja. It is easy to give a word but keeping it is the most difficult task, which Babasaheb practiced throughout his life.
Babasaheb was a Harishchandra of the 20th century. One cannot assess number and nature of his sufferings he had to face to keep his words. Those were the days when the life of Dalit families was miserable in many sense. In the words of Savarkar, they were bound by the seven chains of restrictions by the society. Babasaheb suffered all of those pains not only throughout, even after returning from the foreign countries with highest academic degrees and obtaining best of the positions he could not get rid of them. He was well aware that the kings are worshipped at home but a knowledgeable person is recognised all over the world. But his efforts were not limited to the self-recognition. It was an instrument of upliftment of downtrodden for him. He wanted to bring Savarnas on the path of justice and humanity to ensure these virtues for Dalits.
His reading, writing and thinking was continued throughout his life. Each of his writings reflects a pure heart and rationalised logic. Overcoming preconceived notions and extreme opinions, his articles and books display a zeal for proof with logical evidence. When he delivered his speech on the occasion of birth centenary year of Justice Ranade in 1943, he recognised the contribution of Ranade, Tilak and Gokhale and at the same time conveyed his concerns for deteriorating situation. Thinking and studying was profoundly rooted in his personality. This trait is largely missing in the present day public life.
His could enjoy his childhood like a normal child. Like, Arjun he dedicated himself to the studies with single objective. Even basic needs were not fulfilled. During his higher studies, it was inevitable to send a part of his scholarship to his wife to run the house. Many a times, Babasaheb studied for 18-20 years with just a cup of tea or coffee. His dedication started showing results. He submitted his doctoral thesis to the Columbia University titled – The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India. After Independence, his book published in 1924 with the same title became the founding stone of the finance commissions in Bharat.
When Ambedkar was studying in the US, Lala Lajpat Rai gave this extraordinary student a call to join politics. While Minister of State for Bharat Montague proposed him to come to Mumbai. He rejected both the offers. Like Maharaja Sayajirao Gaikwad of Vadodara, Raja Shahu Chhatrapati of Kolhapur was also a well wisher of Dr Ambedkar and always offered him a help. In a letter written to him Dr Ambedkar wrote that instead of personal name and fame, gaining maximum knowledge is my goal and therefore, I do not intend to divert in my path. After returning to Bharat, while addressing a public function organised for his felicitation in 1933, Babasaheb disclosed his mental state throughout his student life. He said, “Though I was studying in a foreign country, I was always thinking about my Dalit brethren here, a vision for their welfare used to disturb me a lot at the same time it was an inspiration for me to study hard with dedication.”
Babasaheb returned to Bharat in 1924. The titles of each and every publication he edited were meaningful – ‘Mook Nayak’, ‘Bahishkrut Bharat’, ‘Samata’ and ‘Janata’. He had pledged to serve people in every which way. He started with ‘Mook Nayak’ but his journey was ended with a publication dedicated to the common masses ‘Janata’. Many downtrodden saw him as the sole saviours, many functions were organised to felicitate him. But Ambedkar was humble in his approach and remained indebted to the people. For him he was just an instrument in the hands of God and just doing his duty. In the present days when the materialism in on rise and valus are deteriorating, life and works of Babasaheb is certainly inspirational.
Dr Ambedkar added new dimensions to the treasure of Bharateeya civilisation. He wanted to awaken everyone who is weak and illiterate, and therefore have become incapable, through the process of confidence building. Making the freedom struggle all inclusive and building a new Bharat was his ultimate objective. A journalist of Manchester Guardian visited Bharat in 1945. He wanted to interview leaders like Gandhi, Jinna and Ambedkar etc. When he reached to places of Gandhi and Jinnah, he came to know that they were sleeping. When went to Babasaheb’s place, he was surprised to see him awake and reading something in his study room. The representative of Manchester Guardian ask him a question how is still awake while leaders like Gandhi and Jinnah are sleeping, his answer was meaningful. He said the people they represent are already awakened, while my people are still in deep sleep. That shows his character on the lines of principle of Bhagwatgita, which says a true Sadhu is always awake and stable.
He gave the message of social awakening to the Dalit brothers and sisters. For achieving the objective Studying, Movements and Organisa-tion building were the three steps. In this process he considered character building as the important virtue. In fact, in one of his speeches to women in Maharashtra, he said that a woman who is doing household work and comparative poor is more respectable for me than a richer woman earning through prostitution.
He was well aware of the fact that Dharma plays a critical role in the lives of common people of Bharat. His simple definition of Dharma was nothing but practicing supreme righteous values in private and public life. Because of this foundation, his vision of welfare was not limited to a caste or sub-caste. After a lifelong struggle he adopted Buddhism amidst the rhymes of Knowledge, Character and Compassion.
The basis of his mission in life was multi-dimensional. His vision was not limited to a caste or a religion. Think for humanity through thinking about whole Bharat was his mission. Another dimension was encouraging compassion, and openness instead of tendencies of distrust or revolt. Fraternity was his mantra. Thirdly and most importantly he wanted to nurture the roots of morality in personal and public life was important dimension of his mission. Even in foreign countries his commitment to a moral character remained firm because of this conviction. Changedeo Khairmode, his biographer and a close associate, writes about the friendship of Babasaheb with an Irish student in London, Francesca Fitzgerald, was pure, which was shared by Babasaheb himself.
His life with mission based on a strong moral character continues to guide and inspire us and will do so for coming generations. My tribute to this great son of Bharat.
Dr Ashok Modak (The writer is adjunct professor at Centre for Eurasian Studies, University of Mumbai and eminent thinker)