Thursday, December 14, 2006

Reflections: 3

Much the same can be said vis-à-vis Dalits and Adivasis. If the desire for Pakistan was a historically vindicated aspiration for the subcontinent’s Muslims, similarly, so can I understand Dr BR Ambedkar’s alienation and non-identification with upper caste Hindu dominated discourse and association.

Gandhi, by his own admission, failed miserably in his mission. His dream lay torn and drenched in blood. He made mistakes all his life. But he always tried to learn from them. As he said, consistency is the virtue of an ass. His books have a note by him which say that he has constantly changed his beliefs, and that a later statement should be considered a truer representation of his beliefs that an earlier one. Subhash Bose left the Congress party after Gandhi ensured his ouster from the party president-ship. Yet, after the partition resolution, Gandhi lamented “if my son Subhash had been here this would not have happened.”

At the end of his life, Gandhi came to have some emotive meaning for India’s Muslims. And even gave his life eventually, in the cause of Hindu-Muslim amity. Dalits do not have that emotive pull. Gandhi is irrelevant to India’s Dalits. Dr Ambedkar is the preferred icon of Dalits. I am not expressing an opinion. I am merely describing what exists. If Gandhi had been with us today (aged 137), he would not have needed the Sachar report to tell him what the plight of Muslims was, or have to read about atrocities against Dalits. He would have seen for himself. And he would have been in an ongoing freedom movement, to bring real freedom to the bereft.

If India is to sustain, healing, reconciliation, reconstruction and renewal has to take place in society, between those who have moved ahead without rein and are in prosperity and comfort, and those left behind in despair and rage.

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