On Sunday April 15th, 2018, various progressive organizations from Silicon Valley, San Francisco Bay Area, USA organized a program to commemorate Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s 127th birthday in the Havana room of Stanford University Campus. The theme of the commemoration was “Social Justice in Neoliberal Era.” The program was anchored by Kanakarajan (Ambedkar King Study Circle, AKSC), who started with a brief video introduction of Dr.Ambedkar’s work and life. Mr.Pavan of Association for India’s Development (AID) co-hosted the event.
Participants observed a moment of silence for victims of rape in Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, and for those 11 Dalits killed in violence unleashed by the Hindutva forces during the April 2nd Bharat Bandh and as a protest against the Indian Supreme Court’s ruling to dilute SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
Mr.Karthikeyan, secretary of AKSC, welcomed the gathering. In his welcome address, he talked about ‘Contradiction’ i.e. Contradiction in Social and Economic inequality in the Neoliberal era. He quoted Dr.Ambedkar’s statement on 26th of Jan 1950 on passing of constitution of India, “In politics, we’ll have equality, but in Social life we’ll have inequality, One man one vote, one value, but very structure of Social economic condition, we’ll continue to deny one man one vote”. Karthikeyan expanded Dr Ambedkar’s idea of social justice from Annihilation Of Caste and his party i.e. Scheduled Caste Federation’s (SCF) program. Dr.Ambedkar writes in Annihilation Of Caste that Democracy is a mnodel of associated living, respect and reverence to fellow humans. In SCF’s program Dr Ambedkar writes that we should put an end to exploitation man by man and class by class. Karthikeyan reiterated Dr.Ambedkar’s warning, “How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which is Assembly has to laboriously built up..”. Dismantled labor unions, denied collective bargaining, state working with corporates interest to suppress rights and any protest is anti-national are some features of neoliberalism.
Mr.Elancheran, an executive member of AKSC, shared his detailed study on Hindu Code Bill (HCB) which Dr.Ambedkar introduced in the Constituent Assembly (CA) on Apr 11th, 1947 and how it was dragged on for 4 years, in independent India’s parliament, then killed and died there “Unwept and Unsung”. The Hindu Code Bill was killed by the so called upper caste members, both in the Constituent Assembly and in the parliament. He has put a very strong and valid argument that how many women from the privileged section of Indian society are aware that Dr. Ambedkar fought for their property rights, especially “inheritance rights of daughters and wives”, right to divorce under certain extreme conditions, abolishing polygamy law et al. Mr.Elancheran made a humble appeal to the audience especially Indian women to go through the HCB in general and start the discussion on the same in particular. Eventually Dr. Ambedkar resigned from Mr. Nehru’s cabinet in September 1951 and said, “In regard to this Bill I have been made to go through the greatest mental torture.”
Mr.Pieter Friedric of Organization for Minorities of India (OFMI) was vocal, talked about the argument on policies and beliefs between Mr. Gandhi and Dr.Ambedkar on Caste issue.
Ms.Sonali of Association for India (AID) as a Silicon Valley Techie, narrated her own personal experience. That’s how although she was born in middle class, yet how begin born in so called upper caste family gave privileges and advantage to get ahead of lower caste and untouchable people of India. She explained how the starting point one’s life is very important for molding and shaping an individual.
Mr.Sharat of SJPnJC started his argument with comparing Dr.Sun Yat-sen of China and Dr. Ambedkar of India. He walked through the audience through Dr Sun Yat-sen’s 3 principles, namely nationalism, democracy and people’s livelihood (also as known as “Just Society”). He draws the parallel between Dr.Sun Yat-sen’s democracy and ‘just society’ with Dr. Ambedkar’s democracy and ‘social justice’. Mr.Sharat argued that both Dr.Sun Yat-sen and Dr.Ambedkar’s analysis of their respective countries ie China and India are Marxist analysis where the most of the people thinks that their analysis is not Marxist. He continued that both of these leaders analyzed the ‘social relations of production’ with respect to the conditions of their countries and that’s what Marx did and that’s what Marxism is. Sharat made an appeal to the elite among the Dalits especially who has an opportunity to come to the USA to be politically more responsible in fighting against all inequality since they have sufficient material condition to do so.
Prof. Rajkumar Hans of Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha talked about fraudulent Gods of Hindu religion and religious false practices and how Dr.Ambedkar vehemently opposed Hinduism. He said there are much needed changes to our social system and that we deserve better future. He also went on to say there is no room for social justice in Hinduism.
There was open discussion and Q&A as a last event, audience participated. Audience shared their opinions. One of the audience, Ms.Pramela said that how caste made people exercise superiority by giving inferior treatment. Ms.Saswati raised a question which triggered good discussion. She asked, “Why the reservation is only caste based and economical condition too is not considered”. Detailed explanation is given why reservation based on caste has to continue and some attendees proposed to come out with a details FAQ on the same.
Ms.Asti , Board of Directors of AID, USA, delivered the Vote of Thanks. This program is jointly organized by following list of organization
● Ambedkar King Study Circle (AKSC)
● San Jose Peace and Justice Center (SJPJC)
● Alliance for South Asians Taking Action (ASATA)
● Organizations for Minorities of India (OFMI)
● Sri Guru Ravidass Sabha, Bay Area
● Ambedkar International Center (AIC)
● Association for India’s Development (AID) – Bay Area Chapter
● Asha for Education (Stanford Chapter)
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