In what has rankled Ambedkarites, who have called it an attempt to appropriate Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) will use soil from his birthplace at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh for the consecration of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya.
While Ambedkar criticised obscurantism in Hinduism and had to convert to Buddhism in 1956 after he realised that caste-ridden Hindus were unwilling to give Dalits their due, his book ‘Riddles in Hinduism’ had criticised deities like Ram. The publication of these works by the Maharashtra government in the late 1980s had led to a confrontation between pro-Hindutva parties like the Shiv Sena and the Buddhist Dalits.
On Thursday, the VHP announced that water and earth from holy rivers and pilgrimage centres would be brought to Ayodhya for the consecration ceremony, which may be attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on August 5. One of the sites includes Mhow, where Ambedkar was born (1891), apart from the birthplace of Saint Ravidas in Varanasi, Maharishi Valmiki’s Ashram at Sitamarhi in Bihar, and Tantya Bhil’s land in Madhya Pradesh.
Former Lok Sabha Member of the Parliament (MP) Prakash Ambedkar, who heads the Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA), and is the grandson of Dr Ambedkar, charged that this was an attempt to appropriate the icon.
“Demolishing someone can be done either by appropriating their legacy or by running them down like it is happening with (Jawaharlal) Nehru… So, they are adopting Babasaheb (to appropriate him),” he said. Prakash also questioned the logic of beginning the construction of the Ram Mandir instead of using these resources in the fight against COVID-19.
Ambedkarite intellectual JV Pawar, who was among the founders of the radical ‘Dalit Panther’ movement too questioned the logic. “They have no option but to adopt Babasaheb. Hence, they are trying to co-opt his legacy to suppress his ideas. Does the idea of a Ram Mandir fit into Babasaheb’s ideology?” asked Pawar. He added that this was also an attempt to strengthen the emotional bonds between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and a section of Dalit leaders who had crossed over to them.