Dr Jas Simran Kehal
Revisiting Poona pact through literature, I was wondering what frame of mind Dr Ambedkar would have been in prior to signing the pact. One needs to have nerves of steel to single-handedly manage that sort of tough bargain while safeguarding interests of the depressed classes. That somber mood was disrupted by crowning of a Dalit chief minister and the subsequent reaction from my online community, which was initially euphoric and later inquisitive.
When queries continued to pound, I flipped over my reading material from Poona Pact and ended up at Kanshi Ram’s “The Chamcha Age”. As rightly stated by Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes that “The pen is tongue of the mind”; I decided to wield mine on the eve of the historic Poona Pact day.
To put an end to this entire hullabaloo over the issue of a Dalit CM and restore insight among our masses, I have coined three phrases which appear similar but are poles apart:
1. A leader who is a Dalit.
2. A Dalit Leader
3. An Ambedkarite Leader.
Although most of us will be able to grammatically appreciate the difference between the three but we also have to see which phrase fits our leader the best.
My sincere apologies to all those who are in elation as respect to this Dalit CM, but he fits phrase 1 in my opinion. Does becoming an MLA from a reserved constituency entitle one to automatically become a representative of the Dalit community? Definitely not. Had it been so, Sadhu Singh Dharamsot, another minister elected from an SC constituency, would not have been embroiled in a multi-crore Post-matric scholarship scam. This scam made universities withhold degrees of thousands of Dalit students. Remaining silent on this issue at that time and allowing loot of funds meant for Dalit students, makes the current Dalit CM an accomplice in the crime. Ironically, prior to the previous election, during the ‘SC Leaders’ conclave, he was presented as Dalit face of the party and he announced that our children will study along with children of the rich.
How can an MLA of a reserved constituency whose ticket is decided by the upper caste high command and whose election is decided by upper caste voters as well, act as a Dalit-leader? This reminds us of Babasaheb’s concerns prior to signing the Poona Pact. Right from the young age of 27 years in 1919 when giving testimony before the Southborough Committee, Dr Ambedkar had a crystal clear idea: that true representation of Dalits could only be possible through separate electorates. Almost one century down the line, his worst fears have come true leading to an era of stooges-as described by Kanshi Ram.
Punjab has about 37% of population as Dalits who own only about 3.5% of land in the state. Two land reform laws were introduced in Punjab in 1952 and 1972. A large part of land went to upper castes who are still purchasing land from small farmers. Being landless makes Dalits vulnerable to discrimination and poverty. Has any Dalit MLA, including the current Dalit-CM ever talked about land redistribution? By enforcement of land ceiling act, these leaders who call themselves Dalits could have justified their election from reserved constituencies.
Coming to the second phrase- A Dalit-leader: a leader who is a true representative of the Dalit community. In my opinion, in today’s political scenario, it is difficult to balance political equations to become a Dalit-leader. Had the communal award granted by British Prime Minster Ramsay MacDonald survived Mr. Gandhi’s fast unto death blackmail, genuine Dalit political representation would have wiped off caste-barriers by now. Nevertheless, even if the masses are made aware of the difference between ‘a leader who is a Dalit’ and ‘a Dalit-leader’, a day will come when wolves hiding in sheep’s clothing will get exposed.
An Ambedkarite leader is the need of the hour. I personally have high hopes that the days of Ambedkarite leadership is going to come. It is this type of leadership which will stage the revolution and turn the tables. Dr Ambedkar vied for a genuine Dalit-leadership and the current generation is striving for an Ambedkarite-leadership. Social activism of Ambedkarites is bound to transform into political strength sooner or later. This will undo the injustice done to Babasaheb during the Poona Pact.
Only an Ambedkarite leader can fulfil the dream of an egalitarian, enlightened, equal and classless society.
An Ambedkarite leader will act like a Mook Nayak to annihilate caste, tackle the problem of the rupee, work for the state and minorities, understand riddles in Hinduism and have a clear vision and policy on Pakistan.
He will use his knowledge about Gandhi, Ranade, Jinnah, Buddha, Karl Marx and Manu to govern as per Ambedkar’s thoughts.
It is an indirect effect of this type of leadership that the state with highest percentage of Dalit population has been coerced to choose a Dalit-CM. Although, it seems to be a symbolic gesture by the Congress as it appears to have appointed a night watchman to tide over its own political crisis ahead of elections, but it still gives a ray of hope for evolution of Dalit politics.
The Dalit-CM of Punjab is ‘a leader who is a Dalit’. Similar are the 77 reserved parliamentarians of BJP with maximum SC/ST MPs currently. They all invoke Ambedkar to further their personal interests. Punjab CM did the same in his first press conference as chief minister, saying he once living in a roofless house & further claimed to be representing the downtrodden. Incidentally, he owns multi-crore assets as per official records. This is indeed false representation and this is what Gandhi dreamt of while allotting 148 seats through a common electorate in lieu of the 71 seats promised through a separate electorate. These stooges produced by Gandhi and well described by Kanshi Ram are definite dangers to democracy and also played their part in the persistence of social and economic disparity prevalent till date.
For a successful democratic setup, even a Dalit-leader isn’t adequate. This is because once bestowed with power, he is expected to focus on interests of only a particular section of society.
Only an Ambedkarite political leadership can ensure political, social and economic democracy. Only a true proponent of Ambedkar’s ideology and philosophy can simultaneously cater to the interests of each and all. Implementation of Babsaheb’s ideology as envisaged in his book ‘States and minorities’ aims at state socialism and economic democracy can only be achieved by this type of leaders.
As I fall back to my somber mood thinking about Dr Ambedkar’s untiring efforts to give us real political power, we all need to introspect. The place we are placed politically as of now encompasses a political vacuum for Dalit politics. We seem thrilled if this space is occupied even by a pseudo-representative from among us. On the Poona Pact day, let’s undo the 90 years old blackmail and elect true Ambedkarite leaders to rule us.
Dr Jas Simran Singh Kehal, MS (ORTHO), is an Orthopaedics Surgeon. He also has a Masters degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Punjabi University, Patiala. He can be contacted at Kehal Trauma Centre, Nangal Dam, Punjab.