A Round Table Discussion on “Celebrating Centenary of Babasaheb’s Journey to Columbia”
[Via Amol Vajji]
Babasaheb’s journey to Columbia in 1913 marks the completion of a century in 2013 which, according to Mulnivasi Sangh (JNU), must be celebrated by Mulnivasi people with great vigor and enthusiasm. With this jovial idea, the organization successfully organized a Round Table Discussion on “Celebrating Centenary of Babasaheb’s Journey to Columbia” at Jawaharlal Nehru University on 16 February, 2013. The Round Table was chaired by Mr. Ganesh Manjhi (Research Scholar, JNU) with a panel consisting of Mr. Anil Kumar (Member, Mulnivasi Sangh, JNU), Mr. Amol Vajji (President, Mulnivasi Sangh, JNU), Mr. Babu Waghmare (Member, Mulnivasi Sangh, Delhi State), Ms. Neetisha Xalxo (Research Scholar, JNU) and Mr. Arvind Kumar (Centre for Arabic Language, JNU).
The programme started with the screening of a video of Nicholas Dirks (Eminent Anthropologist) paying tribute to Babasaheb at Columbia University in 2010. Thereafter Mr. Ganesh Manjhi, the chair, elaborated upon the need of celebration of the Centenary by calling attention of audience towards some moot questions – What if Babasaheb had not gone to Columbia? He presented with greater emphasis that what would have been our situation, had Babasaheb not come back to India? To do away with the conspiratorial ‘reductionism’ with Babasaheb, the chair also put forth an issue of Babasaheb’s contribution in the nation-building process. Mr. Ganesh Manjhi asked the panel to sketch Babasaheb’s scholarship having impact on the lives of Mulnivasis.
Mr. Anil Kumar spoke in very detail about the contribution made by Babasaheb in different arenas and expressed his bitterness of feeling for the reductionism which Babasaheb became victim of. He pointed out that Babasaheb has been tagged as a “leader of Scheduled Castes” only which is greatest disrespect to him. Mr. Anil Kumar also opined that Babasaheb worked not only for Scheduled castes, he worked for all Mulnivasis and even for higher castes women also. He also brought out the reflection of Babasaheb’s foresight through various articles in the Constitution, the constitution which has become now eyesore of the so called higher castes.
Mr. Babu Waghmare, while speaking in the context of Phule-Ambedkarite Movement, at the outset informed about the importance of the first paper presented by Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in Columbia University before Alexander Goldenweiser titled as “Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development”. For annihilation of caste, he quoted Babasaheb stressing the need of going among illiterate masses. Mr. Waghmare also argued that both Gandhi and Nehru appreciated Babasaheb for his crusade against social ills in Indian Society, but the point is –why did they not support him in his fight? Rather they opposed Babasaheb.
Mr. Amol Vajji started his presentation with a citation of Babasaheb’s quote expressing his experience – “My five years of staying in Europe and America had completely wiped out of my mind any consciousness that I was an untouchable”. Secondly, he quoted excerpts from Babasaheb’s letter from Columbia to his father’s friend “Let your mission therefore be to educate and preach the idea of education”. He also informed about the Babasaheb’s bust in Lehman Library and his name in a list of “People ahead of their time” by Columbia University. Babasaheb also got opportunity to work with great scholars like Seligman, Clark, Seager, Moore, Mitchell, Chadwick, Simkovitch, Giddings, Dewey and Goldenweiser. Moreover, he quoted Dr. John Dewey in “Annihilation of Caste” in order to substantiate many of his points.
Mr. Arvind Kumar argued that the so called higher castes tried to create a false consciousness among Indian masses of renascence. They attempted to glorify the hoary past Brahmanism by over-pouring the literature required for the same. He gave many examples of the reinterpretations of Geeta and Mahabharata and other Brahmanical texts in the changing situation. Babasaheb opposed this idea of renascence. He opined that glorification of Brahmanical past was very dangerous for Mulnivasis. Mulnivasis needed to go ahead, not the back. Hence, Babasaheb’s journey to Columbia is the thing that deserves pride.
Neetisha Xalxo stated that she is a tribal from Jharkhand where our icon is unknown to most of the people. Even the educated of us also do not know much about Babasaheb. The reason behind this is the environment created around us by ruling castes which is instilling a way of thinking in our minds that is taking us away from Babasaheb. But, I will read Babasaheb more and make my people also know about him.
After the presentations, the house was opened for discussion. Participants discussed many important issues regarding Babasaheb’s excelling in intellectual field, his contribution in Nation-building, Women Empowerment, formation of OBC Commision, contribution to Diasporic Community etc.
Dr. Y.S. Alone (Associate Professor, JNU) Congratulated the Mulnivasi Sangh for organizing such an inspiring programme. Dr. Vivek Kumar (Associate Professor, JNU) said that this is the first-of-its-kind programme which must be declared as historical. Mr. Sanjay Ingole (Asst. Professor, Jamia Millia Islamia) shared Babasaheb’s conclusion – after the study of saints before him who fought against Brahmanism – of setting right objective, having literature and pan-indian organization for the movement.
Students and Faculties from JNU, DU and Jamia Millia Islamia attended the Round Table in large number and participated to turn out the programme into a grand success. At the end of programme, Mr. Bal Gangadhar read out some revolutionary poems. The programme ended with vote of thanks presented by Mr. Milind Ghate.