Modern age is the age of science and high speed technology which is making fast paces, almost in every sphere of life. You simply can’t imagine a field where computer technology is not carving a niche and making deep inroads. These days, there is a mobile application called WhatsApp which is being extensively used to exchange interesting / informative and many other sorts of messages aimed at infotainment and also for marketing some goods and services. The messages are made in text form, audio and video etc. It is also a matter of concern that people often exchange such audio / video and text message without verifying correctness / factual position of such messages. It is also observed that sometimes, such messages are composed to boost somebody’s lost / bad image and sometimes, it is also aimed at spreading wrong information about some great personality or an event or incidence. That is why sometimes, we receive some messages which malign some great person based on concocted information. A few months ago, I received a small video which is aimed at providing some information on two famous personalities i.e. about Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Jawahar Lal Nehru.
About Dr. Ambedkar, this message say that he was not Ambedkar, rather he was a Mahar. This video further says that Ambedkar was the name of his Brahmin teacher who advised Dr. Ambedkar to add this surname to his name in case he wants to study. This is totally wrong and malicious campaign aimed at maligning Dr. Ambedkar. No doubt, Dr. Ambedkar was a Mahar by caste, but Ambedkar was his Gotra and in our country, it is a tradition or a custom to add name of your Gotra or caste or some other surname to your name. His father was Ramji Malo ji Ambedkar and he was serving as Subedar in Mahar regiment (Indian Army) at that time. It is also not correct to believe that Dr. Ambedkar could have adopted the surname of a Brahmin teacher, as he was a constant victim of caste system and often grossly against it. It is also pertinent to mention here that it was primarily Brahmins who opposed him vehemently asserting that Dalits don’t have the right to education. And it was also with great difficulty that Dr. Ambedkar was admitted in school and that too, with so many conditions which were not applicable to the upper caste students. Many a time he had to suffer a lot due to this totally bad and malicious caste system which is totally based on wrong footings, as it blindly supports some sections of society to make big progress and prosperity, but at the same time, puts a lot of hindrances in the ways of other poorer sections of society known as Scheduled castes and scheduled tribes. Initially, it also did not give Dalits the right to education and right to property as well. In fact, they were made totally subservient to all other three castes of society with the sole purpose and intention of blocking their ways to rise in life and thereby make progress and prosperity.
Then how could Dr. Ambedkar have adopted the surname of some Brahmin? It is certainly unbelievable to think such a scenario taking place. Even though he was born in a low caste family, but by the virtue of his hard work, perseverance, and struggle made throughout his life, he got himself educated in a much bigger manner and he remained a brilliant student throughout his life. He was one of the seven most well-read and hugely qualified personalities of the world of his times. No other leader of India was as highly qualified as Dr. Ambedkar was MA (Economics), Ph.D., Bar at Law, M.Sc., D.Sc., L.L.D., D.Litt. (Osmania University). Doctor of Law Barrister-at-Law (Gray’s Inn, London), Highest law qualification in England at that time) and he often used to say that “education is longer than life.” Dr. Ambedkar who fought for civil rights struggle for abolishing caste system and declaring untouchability a crime, and it was sheerly by the virtue of high academic and scholastic qualifications that he was selected and made Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC). As the caste system was so deeply rooted in our society at that time and many other members of this committee did not want to work under the Chairmanship of Dr. Ambedkar, they told the then Prime Minister either to change the chairman of this committee or else, they intend to resign; as they were not feeling comfortable working under Dr. Ambedkar. As there was no other such a highly qualified and capable leader to shoulder such a gigantic responsibility of drafting the constitution for a country (which was diverse in many manners), and many such upper caste leaders and members of the CDC resigned.
It is not that such deep rooted prejudices and wrong notions based on caste, colour creed, gender, religion and region are prevalent in Indian society only, they often used to surface in other advanced countries as well. Recently, when Barack Obama was elected president of USA around 9/10 years ago, even he had to face stiff competition due to his black colour. Not only during his campaigning alone, people insulted him even after he was elected and took over as 44th President of USA. One such incidence was reported in newspapers just after three/four months of his taking over the charge as president of USA. The report goes like this – that an English white man was travelling in an aeroplane and a young girl in the age of around 15 or 16 was sitting next to him. Just out of curiosity, the white man who was having some notions about his superiority over the people of other castes, creed and colour, started a conversation with the black girl and he said, “Hallow ! I am so and so and working in a big company as its Vice President, can we talk for a while………” The black girl responded with humility and said, “Yes please, you may go ahead ….” Initially the white man asked some preliminary questions to that girl asking about her name, class in which she studies, her hobbies and interests etc. but suddenly he posed a serious question to her and that too in a derogatory manner. He said, “You know, Barack Obama has become president of USA, the biggest and most powerful nation of the world, but don’t you think that he is not capable of becoming president of USA?”
The young girl was really flabbergasted and she replied, “Please note that Mr. Obama has been elected president of USA under the well-defined process of law and he has not been nominated.“ But the Whiteman again posed a teasing question, “I know that, but lakhs of the people feel that a black man should not be chosen or elected president of the most powerful country……..” This made the black girl somewhat offended and she put a counter question to him, “Why, perhaps you are not aware that there is a constitutional process to elect a leader to steer the country as its president, and Mr. Obama has been duly elected president through that process and the entire world is witness to it….. and nobody should have any grudge after that.” However, the Whiteman again hurled another query, “Even then, a black man is after all, a black man, he or she is simply not that much capable of running the country as big as America. Black people lack intelligence of that level………” On hearing his comments on intelligence of black people, the young girl really got furious and she said, “You think, only white people are intelligent or wise and shrewd enough to run a big country as USA, perhaps you are not aware that God has made all people equal, to discriminate some person on basis of his caste, colour, creed, sex, religion or region, is really bad and if someone still boasts of his intelligence by the virtue of his white or fair skin only, he is very badly prejudiced and he lacks intelligence of justice and rationality. By the way, in case you feel that only white people are more intelligent, can you answer my simple question?” The big Whiteman was quite snobbish / proud of his colour and the high post he was holding in a big company, crossed the age of fifty, whereas, this little girls is barely 15 or 16, and thus, she may not be able to pose him some difficult question, and thus, he said, “Yes, you may ask me any question which is lurking on in your mind………”
The black girl thought for a while and then asked him, “You might be knowing well that cow, horse, goat, sheep, elephant, camel, deer, hare, rabbit and buffalo etc., all these animals eat grass, big or small, some sort of vegetation only, but why do shit differently, I mean ….. cows and buffaloes excrete flat shit, horses’ and elephants’ shit is big dry pellets. While goat and sheep shits are small dry round pellets, and still some small animals like hare and rabbit etc. whose shits are smaller pellets whereas, some other animals shits are big dry pellets…….. tell me – why it is so?” Now the Whiteman was really puzzled and bamboozled, he was really perplexed to hear such a troubling question from a small school girl whom he had presumed to be half-dumb? As he was trying to rummage his brain to answer that question, the black girl put another question to him, “Can you tell me as to why some animals like hare, rabbit, sheep and goat excrete round shaped small pellets, while another animal called wombats – excrete square shaped pellets? And mind it, don’t talk to me unless you have some satisfactory answers to my questions. And Whiteman was simply speechless, helplessly displayed a blank face, as was simply not aware of what to say and what to avoid. For the rest of the journey, the white man just shamefully kept clinging to his seat, trying his utmost to avoid her glances and yearning to end his journey.
Here, I am reminded of another incidence which occurred to the world famous heavy weight boxer, Muhammed Ali. Like Dr. B.R. Ambedkar here in India, Mohammed Ali too faced many incidents of discrimination, mental agony and exploitation which primarily came over his life due to his black colour. Muhammad Ali was born in a Christian family as Cassius Clay in Kentucky, USA, in 1942. But due to his black skin he was being not looked upon nicely and he faced many upheavals in his life. The white people often posed their so called superiority over him and caused him a lot of mental agony and tension. Fed up the constant nagging and bad behaviour in society, he too decided to convert to Islam and thus, became Muhammad Ali. As he was very health conscious and a fitness freak, he developed fondness for boxing and became Olympic gold medalist in 1960 and the world heavyweight boxing champion in 1964. His great height of 6’3” was an added advantage to him. He visited many countries and won so many boxing titles and championships. During the course of sports events, he won many rewards, trophies and name, fame and the goddess of wealth also showered her blessings on him; nevertheless, freak incidents of discrimination due to his black colour did not end even then.
Once, there was a merry occasion in his family (his marriage anniversary) and his kids wanted him to take them to some big hotel and have a sumptuous dinner there. He tried to persuade his children that he will go to market and bring for them whatever they wanted to eat, they will cook the same at home and the entire family can relish good food, but his children just did not listen to his pleadings. They wanted a good treat in a big hotel. At last, they went to big hotel and as they sat down around a table hoping that some attendant will come to them to take their food order. But contrary to their expectations, many people present there started looking at them in a weird manner. Then Muhammad Ali gestured to an attendant of the hotel to come to their table, that person informed him that no food shall be served to them, as only white people are welcome there. Muhammad Ali tried to reason with him that hotels are meant for eating out and any person can go there so as long as he has money in his pocket to pay the bill. But the manager of the hotel who was also standing nearby, remarked, “If some dog becomes rich, it does not mean that he has become equal to a horse.” The language of the manager was already rude, and he again shouted at Muhammad Ali by saying, “Moreover, mind it Mr. Ali ! Dogs and blacks are not allowed here.” The derogatory remarks of the manager of the hotel infuriated the boxing champion and thus, from hot words, they started blows and beating each other.
Soon, the hotel authorities called the police and charged Muhammed Ali of beating them and causing some damage to the hotel furniture. The police arrived within a short while and enquired about the whole incidence. On persistent demand of the hotel people, the Police arrested Muhammad Ali and took him to police station.
When Mr. Ali explained the real reason of the fight, i.e. refusal of the attendant to serve food to them and also insulting them by calling them names on the basis of his caste and black colour etc., which was also legally banned there, he was let off with a warning that he can’t compel hotel employees to serve them food or anything else, in case they don’t want to.
R.D. Bhardwaj “Noorpuri”