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Ambedkar's Vision of a Secularised Polity and Minorities as Equal Citizens

By S N Sahu | PUBLISHED: 14, Apr 2022, 11:39 am IST | UPDATED: 14, Apr 2022, 11:48 am IST

Ambedkar's Vision of a Secularised Polity and Minorities as Equal Citizens While celebrating 131st birth anniversary of Dr. B R Ambedkar on 14th April 2022 and flagging his many splendoured contributions to nation building we are painfully mindful of his worst apprehensions that minorities in India would suffer exclusion and deprivation because of communally charged electoral process.   

Those worst apprehensions have become frightening realities putting the constitutional vision of India asunder. In his book, “Thought on Linguistic States” he devoted a chapter “Majorities and Minorities” and wrote, “Minority communities may be crushed. If not crushed they may be tyrannized and oppressed. They are sure to be discriminated against and denied equality before law and equal opportunity in public life.” Dr. B R Ambedkar expressed those ominous thoughts after deeply analysing the elections and the voting pattern which, according to him, demonstrated communal dimensions of exercising franchise and the victory registered by candidates of communal majority.

The violent manner in which Muslims in many States of India were targeted on the occasion of Ram Navmi, their places of worship vandalised and their houses demolished by political regimes by ruthlessly employing bulldozers in complete violation of law prove the apprehensions of Ambedkar frighteningly right. The communal nature of regimes registering victory without fielding a single candidate from minority community has been at the root of lumpenised majoritarianism which in the words of Ambedkar is crushing the minorities, oppressing and tyrannizing them and denying equality before law and equal opportunity in public life.
The incendiary speeches of the so called Sants calling for war and killing of Muslims and the calculated divisive statements of occupants of high constitutional posts by using Hindu-Muslim binaries to treat Muslims as the other clearly proves the apprehensions of Ambedkar right.

That was why Ambedkar had warned that India would face calamities if the idea of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ were to become a reality and he appealed to all concerned to resist and defeat it.

It is quite paradoxical that the warning of Ambedkar is wilfully lost sight of by those political formations and extra electoral forces which are now calling for genocide of Muslims and even issuing rape threats to women pursuing Islamic faith for establishing Hindu rashtra. The calamities associated with the establishment of Hindu Rashtra so prophetically outlined are being confronted by India and minorities are becoming the worst victims of exclusion and exploitation.

With such overwhelming communal narratives scripted by leaders of ruling regime in India one is reminded of Dr. Ambedkar’s description of politics in India as theology in action. The manner in which political regimes in India are hardly invoking secularism and failing to make it central to political and electoral discourse generate an unmistakable impression that politics and political persuasion are now determined by religiosity and fanaticism. It is all the more so in the context of the top leadership operating State apparatus of the country treating secularism with utter contempt. This complete erasure of secularism has derailed politics from the constitutional tracks and endangered the republican values. Such reluctance of political leaders to invoke secularism spells danger for the cause of the Constitution of which secularism is the basic structure. In spite of constitutionally enshrined provision of secularism and judicial pronouncement declaring it as the basic structure the body polity is witnessing fatal blow to it.

In 1928 Ambedkar had written about the nature of politics of India characterised by weaker secular dimensions in sharp contrast to European countries. He presciently wrote, “If the representative government is so weak when operating among European peoples, where the secularisation of politics has gone far further, how much weaker must it be in India where politics is nothing but theology in action”.

The weakening of secularisation of politics in India which Ambedkar wrote in 1928 has become a grim reality dangerously spawning rogue majoritarianism. It has also endangered constitutional structure of governance. In fact the weakening of secularisation of politics since 2014 has been manifested in the ascendance of Hindutva imperiling society and polity.

Dr B R Ambedkar in his book Pakistan and Partition of India while outlining Savarkar's Hindutva wrote that Hindutva put Muslims in a disadvantageous position without ensuring their equal status with Hindus. He then observed, “Mr Savarkar will give the Hindus an empire over the Muslims and thereby satisfy their vanity and their pride in being an imperial race”. Proceeding further he added “... his scheme is really creating a most dangerous situation for the safety and security of India”.

Every word of Ambedkar has been proved to be true. The full blooded Hindutva is now in operation in India and the most dangerous situation for the safety and security of India has been multiplied. Preventing Muslims to offer Namaz in some States of India, denial of access for Muslim girls to education just because they put on Hijab and call for economic boycott of Muslims and Halal meat are all indications of violently targeting a section of our population based on faith. It almost amounts to declaration of war against them.

In fact Dr. Ambedkar while participating in the discussion on Objectives Resolution in the Constituent Assembly had raised his voice against those who talked of war to solve Hindu-Muslim problem. He said, “…if there is anybody who has in his mind the project of solving the Hindu-Muslim problem by force, which is another name of solving it by war… in order that the Muslims may be subjugated”, “[t]his country would be involved in perpetually conquering, them”.

He, therefore, appealed to the Constituent Assembly and the political regime of that time to exercise power with wisdom. Unfortunately the political regimes out to crush minorities are using State power to treat them as second class citizens and rob of their constitutionally guaranteed rights. Use of State power to do so is dangerous and contravenes the vision of Ambedkar.

On the occasion of the birth anniversary of Ambedkar let those entrusted with responsibility to wield powers be mindful of the words of Dr. Ambedkar to save the Republic and Constitution which guarantees equal rights to all and celebrates fraternity and dignity of people of India. It should be a categorical imperative to eschew the polarised politics and divisive narratives for defending the idea of India which is endangered by those who consciously perpetuate their rule by the policy of divide and rule. Such a policy will create a war like situation perpetually with dire prospects for the country. By following the vision of Ambedkar we need to defend the secularisation of polity and society and defeat the polarising politics which is pursued to consolidate Hindutva and Hindu votes. That would constitute a real tribute to Ambedkar on his birth anniversary.

#The author served as Officer on Special Duty and Press Secretary to President of India late Shri K R Narayanan and had a tenure in Prime Minister’s Office and Joint Secretary in Rajya Sabha Secretariat. Views expressed in the article are in his personal capacity.
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