Ambedkar King Study Circle
On April 13, 2019, Ambedkar King Study Circle (AKSC), Association for India’s Development (AID), San Jose Peace and Justice Center (SJPJC) and Organizations for Minorities of India (OfMI) have jointly organized Babasaheb Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s 128th birth anniversary celebrations in Cupertino, California under the theme ‘Ambedkar on State Socialism’ to trigger a debate on Ambedkar’s position on state socialism and popularize and introduce his writings on the same, among the masses.
The program started with observing one minute silence in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of Jallianwala Bagh massacre in which several hundreds of people were killed by the British. This incident was instrumental in turning the Indian independence movement into a mass movement.
Dr Suraj Yengde, a Harvard fellow, electrified the audience with his one hour speech with pedantic details on Ambedkar’s state socialism. Besides the historical perspective of Ambedkar’s state socialism he connected the dots with contemporary Indian conditions. He said that if the land had been distributed equally across all the castes who are working on the land after independence, caste discrimination and violence would have ended long ago. Ambedkar’s state socialism provided more job security for the workers and would have addressed their physical and mental health issues. Social discrimination against Dalits was directly linked to their economic dependence on so-called upper castes. In the rural areas, Dalits depend on the so-called upper castes for the land and in the urban economy, Dalits depend on non-Dalits for jobs and employment. He concluded that the annihilation of caste is tantamount to annihilation of landlordism and redistribution of all lands across castes. He emphasized reservation in private sector is an urgent need for social justice in the neoliberal era.
Mr Sandy Perry, the president of affordable housing network of Santa Clara county, California, walked the audience through the history of racism, racial discrimination and its current manifestation. He said that American racism is the product of American capitalism. Race uses identifiable characteristics of humans for political and economic ends. The founding fathers institutionalized racism as a means of preventing unity among the workers. He mentioned the role played by the Highlander Research and Education Center–invaluable historic documents and speeches were lost when it was allegedly set on fire by a white supremacist group two weeks ago. The center was known as Highlander Folk School and it trained and educated prominent black activists including Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and John Lewis. The school was under continuous attack in mid 90s and such institutions are still under attack. Racism was reinforced by economic expansion after 1800 and this continues till today. He concluded that only the working class united on class lines can end racial oppression as Karl Marx had observed, “Labor in the white skin can never free itself as long as labor in the black skin is branded.”
Mr Sharat G Lin, Research Fellow at SJPJC, talked about the intersectionality of class and caste. India’s social contradictions to some extent were addressed by the Public Sector Units (PSUs) but the PSUs have been shrinking due to privatization. He argued that Indian capitalism is casteism. He supported his argument with evidence that succession in family-owned business and non-family owned businesses is overwhelmingly from the same caste. It’s apparent in India that hiring is largely discriminatory. We have to fight all social contradictions such as gender, race and caste which are not encompassed in class exploitation.
Ms. Kanakalakshmi of AKSC welcomed the gathering. In her welcome address she walked through the historical perspective of Ambedkar’s idea on state socialism. She supported her argument with Ambedkar’s position on judicial remedies and state socialism with parliamentary democracy. She added that Ambedkar’s social democracy is based on the ideas of liberty, fraternity and equality.
As part of the program, Suraj Yengde released the Vemani special issue published by Theekkathir, Tamil daily. The special issue has articles, poems and historical essays on the Kilvenmani struggle and the massacre which took place on 25th Dec 1968 in which 44 Dalit landless people were killed by landlords. Mr Mani M Manivanan, Vidya & Pavan of AID and Jaweed and Fazal of Indian American Muslim Council received copies of the special issue from Suraj Yengde, Sandy Perry and Sharat Lin.
Mr. Gopi , Ms. Asti of AID and Mr. Pavan of AID introduced the speakers Dr Suraj Yengde, Mr. Sandy Perry and Dr Sharat Lin respectively. Karthikeyan of AKSC conducted the release of Venmani special issue. Mr. Elancheran of AKSC delivered the vote of thanks. Mr. Selvaraj of AKSC, anchored the overall program. People had one on one interactions after the program and concluded with dinner which continued till 9:30 PM. Many new people attended Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday celebration which is encouraging and participation of non-Indians has demonstrated that Dr Ambedkar is making steady inroads into progressive US politics.
[Via Karthikeyan Shanmugam]