Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Fwd: Two stalwarts in the field of social reform

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Date: Thu, 28 May 2015 08:16
Subject: Two stalwarts in the field of social reform
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Today, 28 May is the birth anniversary of Swatantryaveer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (28 May 1883- 26 February 1966). The nation is also observing the 1

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Today, 28 May is the birth anniversary of Swatantryaveer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar (28 May 1883- 26 February 1966). The nation is also observing the 125th birth anniversary year of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (14 April 1891-06 December 1956). These two contemporaries shared several similarities. Both hailed from Maharashtra and finally settled in the Dadar area of Mumbai. Both enrolled for the Bar course at Gray's Inn, London. Both were social reformers and scholars. In particular, they belonged to a rare breed of leaders who had studied Islam thoroughly. Both were prolific writers and journalists. Savarkar's mouthpieces were 'Shraddhanand', 'Balwant' and 'Hindu' weeklies. Ambedkar had his 'Mooknayak' and 'Bahishkrit Bharat' fortnightlies as also the 'Janata' journal later named as 'Prabuddha Bharat'. Both had sharp differences with Gandhi. Neither ever joined the Congress and historically faced opposition from that party.

In spite of these similarities, both admittedly had their differences. Savarkar was a Brahmin by birth though he never cared about his caste. Ambedkar was a Mahar Hindu by birth and died a Buddhist. Savarkar was a fiery political revolutionary. Ambedkar did not take part in anti-British politics though he fought for the political and social emancipation of the Dalits. Incidentally, Savarkar used the word 'Poorvasprushya' (ex-untouchables) while Ambedkar used the word 'Dalit' to designate those who suffered the indignity of untouchability. Savarkar considered Manusmriti and other religious texts as man-made historical documents that reflected the social and cultural milieu of their times, fit to be studied but never adhered to in the present day. Ambedkar rejected the orthodox Hindu texts and in fact symbolically burned the Manusmriti, an act criticized by Savarkar who was against any type of book-burning. Savarkar was one of the few leaders who whole-heartedly declared support to Ambedkar's Mahad Satyagraha and the Kalaram Temple Satyagraha for temple-entry to ex-untouchables. In fact, Savarkar's followers worked hard for the success of the Mahad Satyagraha with Dr. Narayanrao Savarkar himself taking the lead. Savarkar fiercely opposed the Partition of India while Ambedkar justified it in his 'Thoughts on Pakistan'. Savarkar remained a political pariah even after Independence and suffered imprisonment twice in independent India. Ambedkar became independent India's first Law Minister and later Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, charged by the Constituent Assembly to write India's new Constitution. Ambedkar reputedly worked within his limits as Law Minister to secure Savarkar's release in the Gandhi Murder Case. Savarkar criticized Ambedkar's conversion to Buddhism and debunked his view that Buddhism was free of superstition. Savarkar's Six Glorious Epochs was essentially a rejoinder to Ambedkar's pronouncement that the history of Hindus was one of shameful defeat.

Savarkar and Ambedkar differed on many issues but that did not diminish the profound respect they had for each other. When Savarkar invited Ambedkar to inaugurate the Patit Pavan Temple in Ratnagiri in 1929, Ambedkar declined the invitation due to previous engagements. He however wrote to Savarkar, "I however wish to take this opportunity of conveying to you my appreciation of the work you are doing in the field of social reform. If the untouchables are to be part and parcel of the Hindu society, then it is not enough to remove untouchability; for that matter you must destroy chaturvarnya. I am glad that you are one of the very few who have realised this." Offering his hearty felicitations to Ambedkar on his Golden Jubilee, Savarkar observed, "I heartily join you all in offering my felicitations to Dr. BR Ambedkar on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee. His personality, erudition and capacity to lead and organize would have by themselves marked him out as an outstanding asset to our nation. But in addition to that, the inestimable services he has rendered to our motherland in trying to stamp out untouchability and the results he has achieved in instilling a manly spirit of self-confidence in millions of the depressed classes constitute an abiding patriotic as well as humanitarian achievement. The very fact of the birth of such a towering personality among the so-called untouchable castes could not but liberate their souls from self-depression and animate them to challenge the super-arrogative claims of the so-called touchables. My own persistent efforts for the last thirty years or so on my own lines to uproot untouchability and the response I had been receiving throughout India on the part of the Hindus of all castes, touchables and untouchables, convince me that untouchability, at any rate in the public sphere and the civic life of our nation, is bound to be swept away within a couple of decades whether it is found amongst the untouchables, castes themselves in relation to each other and this uprooting of untouchability is bound to contribute inevitably to the solidarity and strength of the Pan-Hindu cause even if some may not be aiming at this ultimate effect. That is why I appreciate the Herculean efforts of Dr. Ambedkar to raise the depressed classes to the level of full citizenship and am confident that even his occasional anti-Hindu utterances and attitude cannot but lead ultimately to the strengthening of the Hindu Sanghatan movement. With great admiration for the man and his work I wish Dr. Ambedkar a long, healthy and eventful life" (15 April 1942)

We offer our respectful homage to both Veer Savarkar and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Veer Savarkar.


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