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Real Tribute To Ambedkar Is More ‘Filthy Rich Indians’

Sutanu Guru argues why real freedom for Dalits will come through urbanization, entrepreneurship and wealth creation

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There is a race to “appropriate” the legacy of Dr B.R. Ambedkar on his 125th birth anniversary. Forget the Sangh Parivar, the Congress eco system and the postmodern Marxist ideologues, even the canny opportunist Arvind Kejriwal has jumped on the bandwagon with full page ads in newspapers (apart from separate full page ads extolling the Odd-Even Revolution!). The body of work left behind the towering giant of the 20th century is so vast and so diverse that people of all ideological hues are quoting Ambedkar today to put the “other” down. Liberals and Marxists will quote chapter and verse to “prove” how Ambedkar denounced Hinduism and its evil practice of untouchability. The Congress and its still flourishing eco system will slam the BJP’s hypocritical claims on Ambedkar. Modi fans will quote Ambedkar to “prove” how Nehru, and his heirs of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty betrayed and marginalized Ambedkar. The more hardline Sangh Parivar warriors will quote Ambedkar to “prove” how the great man was contemptuous of Islamic beliefs and practices. To each their own prejudice, I guess.

But there are two things all ideological warriors (except the lunatics) agree on: first, that Dalits were victims of the worst kind of discrimination and oppression in Indian society. So pervasive has been the prejudice against Dalits over the centuries that even in “egalitarian” religions like Islam and Christianity, converted Dalits continue to face Hinduism “style” discrimination. Second, despite reservations and a large body of laws, the story of Dalits escaping prejudice and poverty is an incomplete one. All sorts of pundits bowing at the altar of their ideological deities have offered an array of solutions to the “Dalit” problem. These range from mass conversion to better education to reservations in the private sector. Fortunately, the last two decades have seen the emergence of a large group of Dalits who have a “radical” approach. Their ideology for emancipation is simple: Dalits must be “empowered” to make more money.

Most Marxists and many liberals will froth at the mouth at this: but the fact is that it is urbanization, entrepreneurship and wealth creation that offers real hope and salvation to Dalits. Post 1991, a small but now rapidly growing number of Dalits managed to break through walls of prejudice and become successful entrepreneurs. Go to the website of the Dalit Chamber of Commerce & Industry and search for related links to find stirring and inspiring stories of successful Dalit entrepreneurs. The most powerful message these success stories send out is how “upper caste” Indians now happily work in factories, organizations and offices owned by Dalits. Without a shadow of doubt, urbanization and education have played a key role in the emergence of this class of Dalits. When you travel in a crowded local in Mumbai or metro in Delhi, caste prejudices become unaffordable luxuries. When more and more foreign investors open factories in India, they will be more concerned with a return on their investments than on the caste composition of their work force. In the long run, money is color and caste blind.

Sure, affirmative action will continue to play an important role. But that is ideally confined to “empowering” Dalits through better quality education. But at the end of the day, it is “filthy rich Indians” or entrepreneurs who will provide jobs, respect and dignity to Dalits.

In recent times, it has become fashionable once again to target “filthy rich Indians” aka entrepreneurs for all the governance failures that haunt India. But ask any Dalit whether he would prefer to work in a farm or a factory, and you will get a brutally honest answer. The question is: can Indian “intellectuals” be as honest?

Tags assigned to this article:
dalits Bhimrao Ambedkar inequality congress sangh parivar