By beginning with this slogan, I don’t intend to reveal my caste or religion; I use it as it gives me power and confidence to express my views fearlessly to the ever-dominating majoritarian society which doesn’t want to give space to those who do not belong to their (mainstream) school of thought.
Belonging to a community that has always proved its merit through the ages and yet always been denied basic rights, I started to realise the real challenges that Babasaheb had spoken of. I am part of the third generation in my family of Babasaheb followers, and I admire him for his intellect, diligence and sacrifices.
But I truly came to know what the Ambedkarite movement was all about when I had to leave my studies after a diploma in engineering due to lack of financial resources, and, thus, began to take a keen interest in understanding the movement.
Ambedkarite Movement is About Awakening of One’s Dignity
Ambedkar called his movement a ‘caravan’; he said, “I have brought this caravan march where it is seen today. Let the caravan march further on despite the hurdles, pitfalls and difficulties that may come in its ways. If my people, my lieutenants are not able to take the caravan ahead, they should leave it where it is seen today, but in no circumstances they should allow the caravan to go back.”
After Babasaheb, Manyavar Kanshiramji brought a new wave into the Ambedkarite movement at the national level which brought many Dalit communities together. This movement grew to involve every community that suffered injustice at the hands of the caste system.
The Ambedkarite movement is not about protests and agitations only, but about the awakening of one’s dignity; being aware of humanity and human rights. It’s about enlightening speeches and lokshahiri songs which don’t entertain but disturb.
Lokshahir Sambhaji Bhagat used to say before his performances, “I am not here to entertain you, I am here to disturb you.” One must be disturbed by the inequality and inhumanity that exists in society. Unless you are disturbed, you will enjoy injustice and that’s where Babasaheb’s thoughts come in, to enable us to wake up, get up and speak up against injustice.
Does Today’s Media Care About Dalits?
Babasaheb said,“Gulamala gulamichi jaaniv karun dya, mhanje to bund karun uthel” which means, ‘make the slaves aware of their slavery and they will revolt’.
As every movement weakens one day, this movement too started declining at one point. I perceived this (crumbling) movement as a fake togetherness. What I saw as a journalist was that the movement had become not a fight for rights but a directionless mass unaware of their own rights.
The movement has seen three generations till now. The first generation gave up their lives to make it what it is today, the second generation was busy building their homes on the basis of whatever they gained through the hard work of the first generation, and the third generation is excitedly exploring the first ever opportunity to seek knowledge.
The reason behind the failure of the Ambedkarite movement was lack of leadership. But anything which falls also rises. And that’s what happened with the Ambedkarite movement.
Dalit atrocities continued, but what changed was that, unlike before, Indian mainstream media started to cover Dalit issues with new vigour. Only two years ago, I had conducted a research which revealed that Dalits had less than 1 percent representation in mainstream media, in terms of both news coverage and jobs in media. And therefore I was surprised to see the sudden and rapid increase in coverage of Dalit issues.
Is it that the media now cares for the Dalits? Of course not, but it has surely changed its strategies for gaining TRPs. Earlier they excluded and neglected such stories which they now cash in on.
But do they give it a straight and justified narrative? Do they justify the Dalit assertion or do they place it cleverly within the so-called nationalist Brahmanwadi lenses of narration, like in the coverage of the recent Bhima Koregaon violence?
The Dalit Movement is Back With a Bang
With this changing scenario, we see once again a strong resurgence of the Ambedkarite movement. This was propelled by atrocities upon Dalit students such as Rohith Vemula, Anita’s suicide in Tamil Nadu, atrocities in JNU, and student protests in TISS, Mumbai. The government is trying to cut funds for education for the reserved categories in higher education programmes at various institutes and universities, which has brought about greater resistance among students against the system.
This time the movement has emerged with the double power of the third generation which is deeply interested in Ambedkar’s thoughts and uses social media to create awareness.
The Ambedkarite movement today has the support of Dalits, Bahujans, Adivasis, Muslims and Christians. They are all set for radical change which has the potential to upset and change the political scenario of the country.
The movement once again has grown strong enough to sustain itself and also shows signs of being able to bring about great social and political change in the coming years. The Ambedkarite movement is a symbol of power for many of us.
(The author was an MA student in Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai and has worked with Awaz India as a journalist. Views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)