On 23rd April, 2014
1.00 pm onwards
at CSSSC campus, Baishnabghata Patuli, Kolkata
This April 14 is the first time that Government of India declared a national holiday to mark Babasaheb’s birth anniversary. This act must be seen not only in the context of the elections underway in the country but also as part of a series of other appropriations in contemporary times – often violently against the spirit of Ambedkarite thought – of the figure and legacy of Ambedkar and the larger Dalit movement(s).
Given this, it is important to pose the question of how Ambedkar Jayanti has been celebrated and by whom. Many Dalit, minority and Buddhist organizations, and people have celebrated Ambedkar Jayanti every year without fail, recalling thus his contributions to the transformation of society. For all these people who kept the tradition of remembering a great man and his legacy alive, it is nothing short of a festival. Many mass gatherings have been taking place across the country organized by various Dalit and Buddhist organizations that have not gained any media attention but have circulated widely among the Dalit public sphere. This year Ladakh Buddhist Association celebrated Ambedkar Jayanti in Leh, a remote region in the Himalayas. Though this did not attract any media attention, news and pictures of this celebration is being circulated in various Dalit forums online along with celebrations at many other places across the country. The popular media however only presents us with photos of politicians garlanding Ambedkar’s statues, reducing it to a standard political ritual rather than giving us a sense of the importance and festivities that mark this day for those who follow and have truly embraced Dr. Ambedkar’s ideas and his fight for equality.
This is of a piece with the relegation of Ambedkar’s contributions only to fighting against untouchability and the ‘uplifting’ of Dalits and ‘backward’ populations and his framing as a Dalit leader, both in political and scholarly discourses. This has translated to minimal engagement with Ambedkar and Ambedkarite thought in Indian academia and has largely become the responsibility of Dalit organizations that follow the path shown by Ambedkar.
In this regard, some of us from the student community of CSSSC have come forward to celebrate Dr. B R Ambedkar’s birth anniversary on 23rd April, 2014 in our Centre because we believe that Ambedkar’s call for transformation of caste society implicates us all and has immense relevance cutting across sections of Indian society. As part of this, a visual display in our canteen and a seminar on “Remembering Babasaheb” by a Dalit Activist and intellectual will be conducted. The purpose of this seminar will be to hear from those who have been part of Dalit movement in Bengal and also part of the long tradition of celebrating Ambedkar Jayanti by Dalits. It is aimed at understanding the history and importance of Ambedkar Jayanti celebrated by Dalits and the implications of an absence of such events in the wider public domain.
Beef will be served for lunch as a mark of Dalit tradition; and Dalits’ practices of commemorating Ambedkar and keeping his wider contributions to the society alive.
All Are Invited
10 am onwards – Exhibition of images of Ambedkarite Publics
1 pm – Lunch (Beef will be served)
Dalit literature and other works on caste from the CSSC library will be displayed
2:30 pm – Talk by Prof. Dilip Halder titled “Relevance of Ambedkar in Present Day India”
[Via Georgy Kuruvilla Roy]
Cartoon by Unnamati Syama Sundar.