Friday, 7 December 2012

What makes Dr Ambedkar "untouchable"?

Yesterday was also the death anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, who devoted much of his life to fighting against the concept of caste and untouchability.  I myself haven’t read much of his writing (yet!) but I am already in awe of his prolific output, his obvious intellect and the impressive range of careers he appears to have had in his lifetime.

How on earth anyone can still believe that caste determines worth is beyond me. They have only to read this wiki on him to know they’ve already been proven wrong. 

I would think the only way this man can be considered "untouchable" is because he reached such heights of self-awareness, knowledge and service, that most of us cannot even hope to touch.

Here are some quotations of his that struck a chord with me:

"Democracy is not merely a form of Government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellowmen."

"It is true that man cannot get on with his fellows. But it is also true that he cannot do without them."

"History shows that where ethics and economics come in conflict, victory is always with economics. Vested interests have never been known to have willingly divested themselves unless there was sufficient force to compel them."

"Hero-worship in the sense of expressing our unbound admiration is one thing. To obey the hero is a totally different kind of worship. There is nothing wrong in the former while the latter is no doubt a most pernicious thing. The former is man's respect for which is noble and of which the great men are only an embodiment. The latter is the serf's fealty to his lord. The former is consistent with respect, but the latter is a sign of debasement. The former does not take away one's intelligence to think and independence to act. The latter makes one a perfect fool. The former involves no disaster to the state. The latter is a source of positive danger to it." 

"I feel that the constitution is workable. it is flexible and it is strong enough to hold the country together both in peacetime and in wartime. Indeed, if I may say so, if things go wrong under the new Constitution, the reason will not be that we had a bad Constitution. What we will have to say is that Man was vile."


-Dr B.R. Ambedkar

14 April 1891 - 6 December 1956 
(Indian jurist, political leader, philosopher, anthropologist, historian, orator, economist, author, teacher, and editor; chairman of the Indian Constitution drafting committee; )


Barb Schanel said...

A sad loss to the world, to be sure.

aEiOu said...

What I found even sadder, Barb, was when I got a chance to speak to some men cleaning up around the statues, and they said that one reason for the delay in completing the project was objections from some "high caste" people who didn't want the statue of an "untouchable" going up!