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Raju Kamble
Houston, Texas
281-755-7247


All of these articles by Raju Kamble
World Buddhist Convention 2006 Nagpur (India), October 2006
14TH October : The Anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar’s Historic Conversion to Buddhism
Mahaparinirvana Day of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar Day of Dedication for 250 million Dalits of India


14TH October
The Anniversary of Dr. Ambedkar’s Historic Conversion to Buddhism

Raju Kamble


This 14th October will be the 51st anniversary of the historic and unique religious conversion of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar to Buddhism. It was indeed a historic event which has no parallel in the history of the world as far as religion and change of faith is concerned. On a single day, Dr.Ambedkar’s 500,000 followers embraced Buddhism following in the footsteps of their leader. No religious leader, preacher has ever been successful in convincing so many people on a single occasion to change religious faith. This happened 51 years ago. Further it set the ball rolling for the Buddhist movement in India. It was the homecoming for Buddhism back to the country of its birth in the true sense.

This conversion ceremony was conducted at the place which is now called as “Deeksha Bhoomi” in the heart of Nagpur. It is spread over an area of 14 acres. A large stupa is constructed at Deeksha Bhoomi as a memorial to Dr. Ambedkar’s services to the untouchable community in particular and the 70% Shudra population in India. Ever since the conversion ceremony of 14th October 1956, the Deeksha Bhoomi has become a pilgrimage for the newly convert Buddhists. It has become a rallying point a place to show their strength. Every year more than 2 million people assemble at Deeksha Bhoomi. In the early years, it is only the people from all over Maharashtra used to visit Deeksha Bhoomi. Now it has taken a national outlook. People from all states visit this historic place.
Deeksha Bhoomi holds more than 1000 stalls of book sellers, sellers of Dr.Ambedkar’s photos, Buddha’s photos, statues. Most of the SC/ST office employee organization put up their stalls and provide services of different nature to make the 2 day stay of the visiting rural people as comfortable as possible. Many a stalls are put up to provide guidance and advise to the needy people in terms of their health needs, their career needs. Then there are numerous food stalls providing free food to the people who travel with minimum resources. Doctors, from the Ambedkarite community, put up 5-6 stalls, not just to provide on the spot medical services, but provide check ups through specialist services. Hence people look forward to 14th October, for receiving specialist services free of cost. It is indeed a place for a researcher, an observer, an analyzer to visit and convince himself/herself the vitality and vibrancy of Dr.Ambedkar’s movement. The event passes very peacefully without any need for patrolling by police. This is yet another feature of this event.

Why did Dr.Ambedkar select Nagpur for this historic conversion to Buddhism? Nagpur and its surrounding area has always been a stronghold of Dr. Ambedkar’s movement. Whenever Dr. Ambedkar looked for strength, he always looked towards Nagpur. Hence to make his religious conversion to Buddhism as successful event, the choice obviously fell for Nagpur as Dr. Ambedkar knew that he could easily show a strong strength for conversion at Nagpur. Conversion to Buddhism was a commitment which Dr.Ambedkar made 21 years ago, in 1935, when he declared at Yeola that “He was born as a Hindu, which he had no control on, but he will not die as a Hindu”. On 14th October 1956, Dr. Ambedkar fulfilled his long standing vow. The question, people do raise, “Why Dr. Ambedkar did took so long to fulfill this vow of converting from Hinduism?” Dr. Ambedkar basically wanted to make this leaving Hinduism a mass activity and not just a personal activity. As a personal activity, it would have been easy for Dr. Ambedkar; but for the religious conversion a successful mass conversion, he needed to study different religions, make their comparison. Also study these religions as to what are its basic tenets as well as its current practice. To convince himself before Dr. Ambedkar embraced Buddhism, he undertook journey to neighboring Buddhist countries like Sri Lanka, Myanmar etc. He even made a visit to Rome to discuss the pros and cons of conversion to Christianity. So his conversion to Buddhism was a well-thought-of act. As he says, “

"------Question of religion is the most difficult and a very serious question. It is a matter of enormous responsibility, really to educate the people in regard to the merits of this religion and to inculcate in the people the habit of behaving according to the principles of the Dhamma. There is no other person who had to shoulder so grave a responsibility, nor do I think will anybody be called upon to shoulder such a heavy responsibility in future.”

Then one of the salient aspects of Dr.Ambedkar’s scheme of conversion to Buddhism was to write a bible like concise book for the people to follow. Just few days prior to his death, Dr.Ambedkar did fulfil this requirement by completing his magnus opem, “Buddha and His Dhamma”. This book indeed provided a much needed relief and clarity to the people to follow Buddha’s Dhamma. Over 2500 years of its history, Buddhism was spread into different cultures of world. Hence Buddhist principles, its beliefs, and practises have undergone changes which varied from place to place. Dr.Ambedkar has the tremendous task to find out what is the local culture superimposed on Buddhist principles and what are the actual tenets of Buddhism. He then reviewed and accepted for his people and for himself the original principles/philosophy of Buddhism without the rituals; so much so that the traditional Buddhists took it as yet another school of thought of Buddhism as propounded by Dr.Ambedkar – something close to Dr.Ambedkar’s Buddhism.

Dr.Ambedkar’s revival of original Buddhism definitely opened up lot of debate and criticism from traditional Buddhism. It did indeed make the traditional Buddhist world to introspect and think what is Buddhism and what is local culture.

Posted on October 13, 2007

 


GURU RAVIDASS SABHAS- ROLE AND RESPONSIBILITIES


Introduction
After India’s independence in 1947, Indians slowly started venturing on the shores outsides India. India’s membership with Commonwealth countries helped immigration to U.K and other countries. Movement to U.K was more apparent and visible. Dalits, especially the ones from Punjab became part of this move. However in the case of Dalits, the major contributing factor in making this immigration possible was the extention of Dr.Ambedkar’s powerful movement to empower dalits in India. The beginning of implementation of reservations to SC/ST started appointing dalits as officers. One of such appointment of a dalit (SC/ST) was in the position of Under Secretary for Passports in 1952 in Punjab. The officer was Mr.Ishwar Dass Pawar(1). Between 1954 till 1961 he issued on an average 500 passports to the dalits every year. Those days getting passport was enough to make the move to U.K possible. This rule of issuing about 10% visas to the dalits was implemented until 1968. Thus it can be easily visualized that those SC/STs/ dalits, who entered England in the 50s and 60s could do so because of Dr.Ambedkar’s struggle to secure the rights of dalits.


50s and 60s was a boom time for industrialized activities in England and hence the Indias, dalits too became part of the process of regular employment. Once they settled down with plenty of employment opportunities, they started looking for social interaction, religious activities. Dalits in England started organizing themselves under the Guru Ravidass Sabhas, Balmiki Sabhas and under the Dr.Ambedkar/Buddhist Organisations. Number started growing. Families started joining. Due to the significant number of dalits, they started settling down in different cities. In each city, the Guru Ravidass Sabhas and Ambedkarite Organisations sprang up. In this article, an attempt has been made to review the growth as well as analyse the functioning, the role and responsibilities of the Guru Ravidass Sabhas, towards the society to which it belong.

Emergence of Guru Ravidass Sabhas

The first Guru Ravidass Sabha was built in Wolverhampton, U.K in 1968. Due to the constant flow of new dalit immigrants (thanks to the Scheduled caste Joint Secretary, passport division, Shimla) to England in the last 30 years, 26 Guru Ravidass Sabhas have been built in England alone. It is by no means a less achievement. U.S.A has about 10 Guru Ravidass Societies, while Canada has 4. Not every society is named as Guru Ravidass Sabhas; some are Sabhas, some are societies and some have different names. In this article, Guru Ravidass Sabha will be used as a generic representative name for all the societies under the name of Guru Ravidass.

To organize oneself under the banner of Guru Ravidassji’s name is a straight pointer that the member who joins in this Sabha/Society is a dalit by default. This implies that the people who joined these Sabhas have declared and established their separate identity as a dalit community – who were once untouchables. Establishing a separate identity, identifying oneself openly with whatever ex-caste background thus matches with Dr.Ambedkar’s self-respect movement. Though the Ravidass Sabhas and Ambedkarite organizations of NRIs have been functioning separately, the one advantage is that they have not lost the common cause of being part of the Self-Respect movement, though in their own way. Guru Ravidass Sabhas have done a wonderful job of organizing the dalits, especially the Chamars of Punjab, outside India. It has kept a particular section of dalits organized. This is a step forward, when we see dalits all across India suffering from the syndrome of hiding their identity.

Let us now analyze the organization, the activities and objectives of the Guru Ravidass Sabhas. Guru Ravidass Sabhas, basically organize Sunday congregations (Satsangs). The Satsangs comprise an aarti (a prayer), the kirtan, reciting the verses of Guru Ravidassji and that of Kabir and Guru Nanak. Verses are also recited from the Guru Granth Sahab. The kirtan/aarti is then followed by the community lunch (langar).

These Sunday satsangs bring all the dalits together at a place. The advantage is that the dalits meet at a reasonably good frequency (weekly). This frequency of interaction would help the dalits in the long run to protect themselves as a community, since they are already organised. One cannot forget that this same community was made to suffer as slaves, untouchabes for more than 2000 years. As of now, not much of debate takes place among the members to find out why they were made to suffer for such a long time. But one day this mystery will make them restless and force them to ponder over the cause of their past slavery. They do feel the caste discrimination by the fellow caste Hindus/Sikhs in day to day life in England, Canada and U.S.A also. But its severity is quite toned down; plus they are not dependent on the caste Hindus for their employment like in India where 90% of dalits in Punjab are landless labours, who have to work in the fields of feudal lords for their survival. But their ( the dalit NRI’s) self esteem will some day force them to challenge this caste discrimination, even though it is a low profile one. Even when the youth get into browls, they go back to castiest abusing. Some of the dalits in England have reported that the dalit youth are called by specific derogatory identification such as stinkers. I am sure, again some day, the dalit NRI youth will challenge these derogatory words.

Guru Ravidass Sabhas and Dalit Movement

As far as social movement is concerned, one of the drawbacks of Guru Ravidass Sabhas, is their almost complete disconnect with the mainstream dalit movement in India. There are practically no discussions at the Sabha temples about the development of dalit society backhome. Afterall Ravidass community has too ripped the benefits of social movement of Dr.Ambedkar during the period of 1916-1956. Even if we take the exclusive case of Punjab dalits, it was Dr.Ambedkar who was responsible for the abolition of Punjab Land Alienation Act of 1902. This was the single biggest stumbling block, which prevented dalits in Punjab from owning land. They even could not buy the houses in their own name. If a scheduled Caste ever wanted to buy a house, he has to a make an arrangement with the member of a farming community and has to make the payment to the member of the farming country and the purchase would be done in the name of this member of the farming community. This was brought to the notice of Dr.Ambedkar when he visited Punjab as the member of Lothian Commission in 1932(2). Dr.Ambedkar struck down this law when he became the Law Minister of India. Hence Scheduled Castes of Punjab are exclusively indebted to Dr.Ambedkar for having made the legal provision to own houses and property in their own name. This paved the way for the Punjab Scheduled Castes to become eligible for acquiring the Indian passoport without which the scheduled castes would not have got the chance to migrate abroad. This is the single largest contribution of Dr.Ambedkar to the Punjab scheduled castes.
Having thus indebted even to the extent of acquiring the passport, Punjab Scheduled Castes are oblized to pay it back to the society. This is what was Dr.Ambedkar’s expectation from the beneficiaries of social movement.
What needs to be done to fulfill this obligation? Ravidas Sabhas must create Social Cells under their own organizations to discharge this obligation. The social cell should put aside a definite amount of funds for social development like education, creating self-employment, owning land and distributing among the landless scheduled castes, providing scholarships for higher studies abroad etc.
In spite of a strong presence of the Punjab scheduled castes in U.K, Canada and U.S.A startling statistics has been reported about the large number of landless laborers among the scheduled castes in Punjab. Scheduled Castes landowners of Punjab are less than 10%; that is to say that 90% of the Punjab scheduled castes are landless labourers (3). This data must bring the NRI Punjab scheduled castes out of the state of complacency. Punjab Scheduled Castes own 2.4% of Punjab’s land. That means the scheduled castes did not get any benefits of the green revolution in Punjab. Other communities got benefited by the green revolution but not the scheduled castes. Guru Ravidass Sabhas can play a vital role in bridging this gap between the scheduled castes and non-scheduled castes in the matter of landholding. They should try to buy some land in Punjab and distribute among the landless scheduled castes. This may look a stupendous task looking at the dimension of the problem. But it is better to make a positive contribution howsoever small it may be. In the coming 25 years one would see the results easily if this is started now on a micro-level. Even 5 acre land bought by one Guru Ravidass Sabha and distributed to 5 families; easily 200 families would become landowners assuming that there should be at least 40-50 Guru Ravidass Sabhas all over the world. Even though a small help, but it will create a chain reaction in establizing a strong sense of brotherhood in the community. This sense of brotherhood is by and large non-existent among the scheduled castes.
Guru Ravidass Sabhas should also provide financial assistance to the landless scheduled caste laborers to set up their own small businesses including their own grocery shops, vegetable shops and small scale industrial units. This will make them stand on their own feet. It will also help them to get out of the generation to generation transferred bondage of the feudal lords. The extent of exploitation of the landless scheduled castes by the feudal lords came to the surface during the episode of Talhan when :”Social Bycotts” were imposed on the landless scheduled caste laborers as a means to suppress the upsurge at scheduled caste dominant area like Boota Mandi in Jullander district. It was a shocking observation to note that in the 21st century, the scheduled castes in the prosperous state of Punjab which has been the land of social reforms of Guru Nanak and Sikh Gurus. It was all the more reflective of the weak and almost non-existent Dalit movement in PunjabPunjab population as against a national average scheduled caste population of 15%. One can imagine Guru Ravidass Sabhas (so also the Ambedkarite organizations) have to shoulder this responsibility. I am confident the Guru Ravidass Sabhas can accept this challenge and bring about the social and economic equality in Punjab. They must play this role of empowering the dalits in Punjab. This will provide the role model to all the states. inspite of the fact that the scheduled castes are 28% of the

Guru Ravidass Sabhas and Dr. Ambedkar

It has been observed that by and large the Guru Ravidass Sabhas have kept themselves away from the social struggle of Dr.Ambedkar. Guru Ravidass Sabhas must play a matured role now and say that Ambedkar and his struggle is not the monopoly of the Ambedkarite organizations. Guru Ravidass Sabhas should formulate their own acceptance level from among the vast dimensions of Dr.Ambedkar’s struggle. They, if they wish, can be selective in this. Dr.Ambedkar or Ambedkarism is no more a name of a person. It has much more diverse and comprehensive connotation. It has already become a theory of fight against human repression. Gail Omdevt defines AmbedkarismIndia, much as Marxism is; it defines the ideologies of the dalit movement and to a larger extent an even broader anti-caste movement.”(4). More so there is practically, barring the controversial spiritual aspect there is no difference between what Guru Ravidassji did in 15th century and what Dr.Ambedkar did in 20th century. The objectives of both the leaders of the dalit community were the same- to destroy the caste system, to create a casteless society and to provide social justice to the dalits/untouchables. The only difference is the timing. Dr.Ambedkar did highlight the contribution of Guru Ravidass when he dedicated his book “The Untouchables” in 1948 to three saints who were born among the untouchables; namely Guru Ravidass, Nandnar and Chokha Mela. thus, “Ambedkarism is the theory of dalit liberation. Ambedkar is today a living force in
The Delhi Ambedkarite activists used to tell that it is Dr.Ambedkar who advised them to take out a procession on the birth anniversary of Guru Ravidass, way back in 1949. This is when Delhi dalits wanted to create their own festivals.
So it is hightime, Guru Ravidass Sabhas take the strong and modern struggle of Dr.Ambedkar in the right earnest. They must introduce vast literature of Dr.Ambedkar to its members and encourage its members to derive inspiration from this literature. This they can do it through its own organizational set up.
Guru Ravidass Sabhas must not stay away from the struggle and vast literature of Dr.Ambedkar. If they wish they could separate social struggle of Dr.Ambedkar from his message about religion and accept at least the non-religious aspect of Dr.Ambedkar’s struggle. This must be done urgently before it gets too late. Dalit movement needs the vital support of the resourceful Guru Ravidass Sabhas urgently. The suffering millions of dalits can not wait for too long.

Conclusions:

· Guru Ravidass Sabhas,especially, the ones outside India have done an excellent job in organizing the Ravidass community of Punjab.
· The Guru Ravidass Sabhas have provided courage to the Ravidassi community to come out openly and get organized under the name of Guru Ravidass, who is identified by all the Indians as a medieval saint born in the Chamar community. Thus Guru Ravidass Sabhas have become a symbol of fearless identity by the Scheduled Caste communities.
· Guru Ravidass Sabhas have done very little to play a role in the development of the poor, suffering landless scheduled caste community in Punjab.
· Guru Ravidass Sabhas must on an urgent basis create “Social Cells” under its organization to carry out the socio economic developmental and educational program for the deserving Scheduled Caste community in Punjab. Afterwards the same model can be extended to other states.
· Guru Ravidass Sabhas must set aside a sizable but small %age of their regular collection as “Education Fund” or “Social Fund” to run developmental program through its social cells.
· As part of developmental program, Guru Ravidass Sabhas can take the following activities in India:
Sponser scholarship to SCs in Punjab for higher studies outside India.
Run/support dalit schools in Punjab.
Buy land in Punjab and distribute among the landless scheduled caste laborers in Punjab.
Provide financial assistance to landless, poor SCs to set up their own grocery, vegetable shops, automobile repair workshops etc.
Provide financial assistance to landless poor SCs to set up small scale industrial type of businesses, self employment schemes etc.
Guru Ravidass Sabhas must encourage their members to read and learn from the vast literature of Dr.Ambedkar. They must also encourage their members to derive inspiration from Dr.Ambedkar’s struggle’ especially the young generation.
Sponser at least one family per Sabha for immigration to Canada or U.S.A. This will help our community grow in developed western countries.

References
1. “Religion as Social Vision” by Mark Juergensmeyer

2. Dr.Ambedkar and Punjab by D.C.Ahir
3. Dalit Sikh by Ronki Ram in Dalit International Newsletter.
4.Dalits and the Democratic Revolution by Gail Omdevt
5. Untouchables by Dr.Ambedkar


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World Buddhist Convention 2006
Nagpur (India), October 2006



Background: Buddhism completed its 2500 years in the 20th century, in 1956 to be precise. The same year there has been a unique historic revival of Buddhism in India by Dr.B.R.Ambedkar On this occasion, he converted half a million people to Buddhism on 14 October 1956 in Nagpur at Deekshabhoomi. That was by far the largest religious conversion. The conversions did not stop there. Since this historic event the conversion to Buddhism has seen growth abound. Initially the conversion movement was confined to Maharashtra. Today after 48 years, it has spread in India to almost all the states. The profile of the growth of Buddhism shows a phenomenal growth as can be seen from the Buddhist population according to the census of India.

In addition to the Buddhist population as reported in the census there is a huge population of SC/STs who practise Buddhism but do not report about their Buddhist status, neither in the census nor in any official records, primarily due to the fear of losing the reservation benefits in the central govt. jobs and in professional college admissions. This population could be classified as “Hidden Buddhist Population”. A great deal of propaganda is required to encourage practicing Buddhists to report themselves as Buddhists in the census. More so the hurdle of declaring dalits as Buddhists in the official records is already removed by the Govt. of India directive of 1990, which extends all the benefits of SC/ST reservation to the Buddhists in addition to Hindus and Sikhs.

Compatibility of Buddhism with the modern age

As is mentioned earlier, Buddhism today is 2548 years old. We can also see that the modern world has made rapid strides in the area of technology through scientific inventions, so much so that today’s world is known as “Scientific World”. Are the religious doctrines relevant in this scientific age? What about Buddhism, which is quite ancient comparatively? A cursory look at the tenets of Buddhism vis a vis today’s modern temperament would benefit one and all. Some of the essential features of Buddhism are, “knowledge” and “Cause and effect theory”. Gautama Buddha put lot of emphasis on knowledge, enquiry; so that he told his followers not to follow him blindly. Here is what he says in one of the sermons:

· Do not believe in what you have heard.
· Do not believe in doctrines because they have been handed down to you through generations
· Do not believe in anything because it is followed blindly by many.
· Do not believe because some old sage makes a statement.
· Do not believe in truths to which you have attached by habit.
· Do not believe in the authority of your teachers and elders.

· Have deliberations and analyse and when the results agree with reason and conduces to the good of one and all, accept it and live upto it.

Kalam Sutta

As can be seen from above, Buddha’s approach was completely rationalistic. No other religious preacher/founder has ever given so much liberty to his/her followers. This makes Buddhism completely compatible with today’s scientific temperament. Here is what renowned scientist, Albert Einstein has to say about Buddhism:

If there is any religion that cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism. Albert Einstein
Buddhists, thus have a philosophy, a way of life, which is purely scientific and fit for usage in the scientific world. This is what Dr.Ambedkar has given us after a prolonged thinking.

In spite of such a scientific and rationalistic religion, the growth of Buddhism in India has not been so obvious. Its growth has not been so smooth. On the contrary, this great religion has suffered very badly at the hands of mythological, unscientific, superstitious faith in India in the past. This mysterious happening about Buddhism has to be studied in depth.

Current Issues/Concerns of the Buddhists

The legal status to the Buddhists as a separate religion in the constitution of India is one of the main issues of the Buddhists. This problem has been acting as a deterrent for the Buddhist movement to come up as a separate identity. As per article 25 of our constitution, Buddhists, Jains and Sikhs are governed by the Hindu code. This must be changed. Buddhists must get a separate status under the constitution of India. Babasaheb Dr.Ambedkar, in order to spread Buddhism in India has envisaged a great deal of emphasis on creation of training facilities for Buddhist monks. Production of learned and dedicated monks is one of the basic needs of practice and spread of Buddhism.

Buddhist festivals or festivity for the Buddhists is another area of concern. Hindu festivals have considerable influence on the Buddhists. Babasaheb wanted gave 22 vows to the Buddhists during the conversion so that the influence of Hinduism is completely eliminated.

It has also been noticed that a general shyness is observed among the Buddhists especially among the elites. This observation needs to be analyzed and remedies identified.

In the last 48 years, there have not been enough efforts done to spread Buddhism among the different SC/ST/OBC communities. Very few communities among the Scheduled Castes have accepted Buddhism. Positive and specific efforts are required to spread Buddhism among the different communities as mentioned above.

In the history of 2500 years of Buddhism, various schools of thoughts have come up within the domain of Buddhism. The reasons for such a development could be many. Followers of different schools of Buddhist thought are now living in different countries. Coordination and communication among the various Buddhist schools need to be established.

Efforts are also required to standardize the Buddhist practices. At present different versions of Buddhists practices are being followed. There is a need of communication between Indian Ambedkarite Buddhists and the original Buddhists in India as well as abroad. The place of Buddha’s enlightenment, Buddha Gaya has been in occupation of the Hindus. The struggle to free this main Buddhist monastery is going on for more than a decade. The struggle has to be strengthened until this most important heritage of Buddhists is restored back to the Buddhists.

There are many such issues, which need to be brainstormed and an action could be prepared to address these burning issues of the Buddhists.

Ambedkarite Buddhists during the course of last 4 decades migrated to countries like U.K.U.S.A, Canada etc in a large number. These Buddhist NRIs established contact with their traditional counterparts in countries like Japan, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka etc. Thus Buddhism revived by Dr.Ambedkar has acquired a global dimension. The issues relating to the Buddhist NRIs and also define/ensure the magnitude of their support to practice and spread Buddhism in India have to be discussed and solution found out. However the spread of Buddhism among the Indians is still too far away from the goals set by Dr.Ambedkar. He declared during the conversion ceremony on 14 October 1956 that efforts will be made towards a Buddhist India. The dream of Babasaheb has not been fulfilled. Action plan to achieve this goal must be drawn and action started thereafter.

A 2 day World Buddhist Convention is planned in Nagpur, India during October 2006 to review the Buddhist movement comprehensively. Feedback of the review will be collected from the followers, preachers, scholars, researchers of Buddhism. Based on the feedback, the future course of action can be planned. The detailed program along with program dates of the convention will be issued in due course.

Documentation: A souvenir will be brought out on the occasion of this historic convention. Resolutions will be read out and passed. The participants are requested to send their research papers on any of the subjects indicated in the attachment.

Participation : Delegates from all the countries of the world are hereby invited to attend this historic convention and share their experiences/views about the practice and propagation of the great religion given by the great master. Delegates from U.S.A, U.K, CANADA, JAPAN, GERMANY, THAILAND, MALAYSIA, SINGAPORE, AUSTRALIA etc. are expected to attend the convention
.
Arrangemets : Accomodation and meals will be provided to the delegates on both the two days.

Organisation : The convention will be organized by following committees:
· Advisory Committee
· International Organising Committee
· National Organising Committee
· Reception Committee
· Advertising and Media Committee
· Facilities Committee
The above committees will be set up shortly. Those who wish to volunteer for any of the above committees should notify.

For further details about the convention, please contact:

Raju Kamble
Convenor
World Buddhist Convention 2006
262 Citadel Crest Green NW, Calgary AB, CANADA T3G 4W3
e-mail : kamblerd@yahoo.co.in or kamblerd@shaw.ca
Ph. :403-615-4590 (cell), 403-289-8215 (home), 281-755-7247( C )
JAI BHIM! NAMO BUDDHAYA!!

 

“EDUCATE AGITATE ORGANISE”

 “The world owes a duty to the untouchables as it does to all the suppressed people to break their shackles and set them free. The problem of the slaves, the Negroes and the Jew is nothing in comparison to the problem of the untouchables.” -Dr.B.R.Ambedkar  

Mahaparinirvana Day of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar
Day of Dedication for 250 million Dalits of India


Raju Kamble
 

Forthcoming 6 December would be the 51st Mahaparinirvana Day of Babasaheb Dr.B.R.Ambedkar. On this day 51 years ago, dalits lost their messiah after a crusade of their emancipation from Hindu caste system for 40 years (1916-1956). Dr. Ambedkar’s life long struggle transformed the lives of 250 million untouchables. And this happened for the first time in the history of human rights activism in India.

Prior to the emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the social horizon in India, dalits, they were known as by their literal nomenclature then viz. “The Untouchables, were leading a sub-human life, without access to public amenities, without social interaction with the fellow caste Hindus and more so were completely denied access to learning: unparalleled in any part of the world. This 250 million mass was untouchable, unapproachable, unseeable for most of the 2000 years.

Dr. Ambedkar himself was born one among the untouchables; but managed to get access to education Thanks to the British Army of 19th century in India who not only included untouchables in their army but gave formal education to the military personnel, though they were untouchables. Dr. Ambedkar’s father was in this army. Dr. Ambedkar did his early education by sitting outside the classroom. His sister used to cut his hair as no barber would cut the hair of an untouchable. He had to remain without water throughout the day in the school since some caste Hindu student has to pour water on Dr. Ambedkar’s hands for drinking. Since no caste Hindu would do this, Dr. Ambedkar used to remain thirsty all through the day.
Dr. Ambedkar could also manage to get the scholarship from the progressive Sayajirao Gaikwad, the King of Baroda to study abroad. It was a three year scholarship. Dr. Ambedkar made the best use of this scholarship; finished his M.A. and Ph.D. from the prestigious Columbia University, New York in the shortest possible time and then straightaway moved to England to take up studies in Economics and Law. Eventually Dr. Ambedkar did his D. Sc in Economics from London School of Economics and Bar-at-Law from Grays Inn, London.

On return to India, with a strong foundation of higher education, Dr. Ambedkar plunged into the work of emancipation of 250 million untouchables. Dr. Ambedkar was so much determined to crusade the emancipation of the untouchables, that he directed most of his studies so as to prepare the onslaught on the Hindu caste system, which was the root cause of the problems of dalits. While doing his M.A at Columbia University, Dr. Ambedkar read a paper on “Castes in India, Their genesis, mechanism and Development” in a seminar on Anthropology, way back in 1915.

Dr. Ambedkar started his social struggle with a witness to the “Southborough Committee” on Franchise in 1917. This was the first ever representation by an untouchable for the demand of share in the power for the untouchables in proportion to their population. He also demanded adult suffrage for all including untouchables. This demand was eventually met. This was the first success of Dr. Ambedkar as far as the freedom struggle of untouchables was concerned.

Dr. Ambedkar also demanded reserved seats for the untouchables. This demand was finally met when this provision was incorporated in the new constitution of India in 1948. With the law coming in force, few million dalits could get descent jobs in Government/Semi- Government organizations. This was solely due to the relentless work of Dr. Ambedkar.

In 1927, Dr. Ambedkar publicly burnt “Manusmiriti”, the law book of Hindu religion at Mahad, Maharashtra. Manusmiriti has documented all the possible legislations which had deprived the untouchable’s rightful place in the society as human beings. Dr. Ambedkar by this public burning of the derogatory law book of Hindus hit the right cord for the freedom of untouchables.

One of the salient features of Dr. Ambedkar’s struggle was to prepare the untouchables themselves with their own resources, how so ever meager it might have been. Dr. Ambedkar gave utmost importance to gaining self-respect for the dalits rather than merely gaining economic advancement; so much so that his movement became synonymous with
“Self Respect Movement”

While Dr. Ambedkar was fighting for the empowerment of dalits, Caste Hindus under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi were fighting for their freedom from the British. They were also trying to draw Dr. Ambedkar into the national freedom struggle. Dr. Ambedkar did not yield to these pressures. On the contrary, he asked Mahatma Gandhi, “Whose freedom are you fighting for? Is it the freedom of Caste Hindus alone or freedom of all Indians? Will the untouchables be free in free India?” To these questions, Gandhi and his Congress had no answer. Beauty and uniqueness of Dr. Ambedkar’s movement lies in this strategy of understanding the game plan of Caste Hindus. That is why Dr. Ambedkar became the first and the only social revolutionary in the 2000 year history of India, who could make untouchables free from the clutches of Hindu caste system. No other social revolutionary/social reformer could emancipate untouchables before Ambedkar. How true was Dr. Ambedkar when he told Mahatma Gandhi during one of their meetings:

“Mahatmas have come and Mahatmas have gone, but the untouchables remained untouchables. Mahatmas were fleeting phantoms who raised the dust but not the level.”

Dr. Ambedkar’s onslaught on Hindu caste system was so strong that it shook the age-old roots of Hindu caste system. He always put forward the case of untouchables in a logical and scholarly manner. Congress had no choice but to accept Dr. Ambedkar’s demand for the reservation of seats for the untouchables.

Dr. Ambedkar prepared the untouchables to fight their own struggle. He gave the slogans,
“EDUCATE AGITATE ORGANISE”.

He not only gave these slogans but motivated the dalits to imbibe these actions in their lives.
In the field of education, Dr. Ambedkar established “Peoples Education Society” and started number of colleges in Mumbai and Aurangabad. In the field of politics, he left a legacy of independent political organizations like, “Independent Labour Party”, “Scheduled Caste Federation” and then laid the foundation for the more broad based political organization, “Republican Party of India”.

Dr. Ambedkar not only fought tooth and nail against the caste system, which was part and parcel of Hindu religion, but gave an alternate religion in the form of Buddhism, which was free from the graded inequality of Hindu caste system. Buddhism suited Dr. Ambedkar because it was free from the imaginary concept of god; it is based on rationality and is in line with scientific reasoning. Dr. Ambedkar revived Buddhism on a mass scale converting himself with his 500,000 followers on a single day on 14 October 1956 at Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur. This event was the epoch making event, first of its kind in the history of religious conversion. No religious preacher/founder in the history of world ever converted as many people as Dr. Ambedkar did. He had a dream to make India a Buddhist country.

Thus Dr. Ambedkar played a pivotal role in the emancipation of 250 untouchables/Tribals, right from providing the untouchables access to education, ensuring services in govt./semi-govt sectors, providing voting rights based on “one vote one value” and finally providing the untouchables with equality, fraternity and karuna through Buddhism.

6 December in India is commemorated as the “Day of Dedication” by 250 million followers of Dr. Ambedkar. On this day, his followers rededicate their efforts, renew their resolve, and draw plans to fulfill the unaccomplished dream of Dr. Ambedkar, viz. “HUMAN RIGHTS TO ALL THE UNTOUCHABLES”. Most of the organizations in India and abroad hold their annual convention on the eve of Babasaheb’s Mahaparinirvana Day. More than a million people, from different parts of India visit Dr. Ambedkar’s funeral place, called as “Chaitya Bhoomi” at Dadar Chowpati in Mumbai, India. The city of Mumbai sees mass of people walking all over Mumbai on this day with blue flags in their hands. A rare tribute paid to their great leader year after year. The gathering on 6th December in Mumbai has become a point of show of strength for the Ambedkarites, exactly the same way they do it on 14th October at Deeksha Bhoomi in Nagpur. These two places, namely Deeksha Bhoomi and Chaitya Bhoomi have become the pilgrimages of the Ambedkarites.

Come one and all and join in saluting this great social revolutionary, a human rights activist par excellence, a statesman, great constitutionalist, who was solely responsible for providing freedom to 250 million dalits of India.
Jai Bheem!

Posted on www.ambedkartimes.com (December 06, 2007)

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