-Fr. Cedric Prakash sj*
December 6th has once again come and gone! It was on this day that Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar died in 1956. Ambedkar gave to the country a vision and the courage to live up to it. He is universally regarded as the father of the Indian Constitution which he ensured was founded on the four great principles of justice, liberty, equality and fraternity. He campaigned vigorously against social discrimination and for religious freedom of all Indians. Having embraced Buddhism, he led thousands of dalits to the Buddhist fold; this one move is hailed as one of the most significant protests of the country.
December 6th and we once again hang our heads down in shame! On this day, in 1992, the Babri Masjid was demolished by fascist and fundamentalist forces. These forces still do their best to destroy the rich legacy of secularism, pluralism and diversity left to us by Ambedkar and the other elders of our Constituent Assembly. Till today, the culprits of this dastardly act – which has left the country polarized and divided on religious lines - have not been brought to book. These divisive elements continue to take law and order in their own hands with immunity and impunity.
December 6th and it is a time for deeper introspection as to what we would like to make of our country. It is true that politicians of every hue and cry have let down the people in every possible way. There are the powerful vested interests, the big corporates (who also control the media) would like “their man” to be up there. The middle class who have not gained much from the process of liberalization are crying hoarse because they think that the poor now are literally swallowing the share of the pie which was theirs for keeps. So obviously, they too are baying for the blood of the ruling class.
December 6th one cannot help but be reminded of the ‘kristallnacht’ (the night of the broken glass)! It took place way back on November 9th - 10th, 1938 in Austria & Germany. Many of the so-called civil society kept silent or did not intervene at that time because they hoped to reap the fruits of a new found policy and ideology. Today, every one realizes that ‘kristallnacht’ was the beginning of the ‘Final Solution’ and the ‘Holocaust’.
December 6th and for us many in India, the choice is clear: do we celebrate the spirit and the courage of Ambedkar for a free and secular India or do we give in to those forces which destroyed the Babri Masjid?
Perhaps, the words of the German Pastor Martin Niemoller should touch deep into our conscience:
“In Germany, the Nazis came first for the communists, and
I did not speak up because I was not a communist,
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak because
I was not a Jew,
Then they came for the trade unions, and
I did not speak up because I was not a trade unionist,
Then they came for the Catholics, and I was a Protestant and so
I did not speak up,
Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left
to speak for any one.”
The answer they say is blowing in the wind!!!
7th December, 2013
(* Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ is the Director of PRASHANT, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace)
Address: PRASHANT, Hill Nagar, Near Kamdhenu Hall, Drive-in Road, Ahmedabad - 380052