New Delhi: Making it clear that there will be no change in the reservation policy for Dalits, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today asserted that nobody can snatch their right even as he accused his opponents of spreading “untruths” on the issue.
The Prime Minister also compared Constitution architect B R Ambedkar to Martin Luther King who had fought for the rights of blacks.
Delivering the Ambedkar Memorial Lecture here, Modi said, “Nothing has ever happened to the reservation for Dalits, tribals, when we are in power but still lies are being spread to mislead people. “When Vajpayeeji became PM, a campaign was run saying reservation will be abolished. He was the Prime Minister for two terms and nothing of that sort happened.
“BJP has ruled in Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, and Haryana for many years and the quota policy never suffered a scratch. Yet untruths are being spread. People, who are only interested in doing politics, fail to come out of it,” Modi said.
Asserting that quota is the “right” of the Dalits and the underprivileged that nobody can snatch, the Prime Minister noted, “As I had said earlier also that even if Ambedkar appears today, he cannot snatch this very right of yours. What are we before Baba Saheb”.
Laying the foundation stone for Ambedkar National memorial, the Prime Minister targeted his political opponents accusing them of “spreading confusion and lies” on the issue and rued that while its “serves their politics”, such things “weaken” the social fabric of the nation.
The Prime Minister’s renewed pitch on reservation comes ahead of assembly polls in five states — West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Assam, Kerala and Puducherry beginning next month.
He repeatedly questioned “why it took 60 years” to do it and reminded that Ambedkar as law minister had to resign from Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet owing to lack of backing on the Hindu Code Bill that was a progressive move aimed to codify and reform Hindu personal law in India by giving the women equal rights in many spheres like property.
Terming it “injustice” to call Ambedkar only a messiah of Dalits, the Prime Minister said that he was the voice of all marginalised sections and was a “Vishwa Manav” (global personality) and likened him to civil rights campaigner Martin Luther King.
Linking the waterways bill brought by his government in Parliament with Ambedkar’s views on India’s maritime strength, Modi said no work on it happened in last 60 years and the difference is visible “when some bhakta (devotee) of Baba Saheb comes in government”.
Training his guns on opponents, he said that it is “indeed difficult to digest defeat”, a swipe at Congress which faired poorly in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
“Some people don’t like us. They don’t even want to see us. They get fever on seeing us and in fever, one loses control of mind.
“That is why they say all kinds of lies and all absurd things. Those who did not work for 60 years have given us a chance to do this and we take pride in doing such works like building a memorial at 26 Alipur Road,” he said.
Modi said it was for the first time that the Prime Minister of the country was delivering the Ambedkar Memorial lecture being organised for the sixth time.
Without naming Congress, the Prime Minister repeatedly attacked the main Opposition on the treatment meted out to Ambedkar in the last 60 years, saying had the Dalit icon been projected rightly many of the problems that grip society now would not have existed.
“The problem that we see in society would not have been there, had we not forgotten Ambedkar,” he said.
“Everybody knows what injustice was done to Baba Saheb and who did this injustice to him. What was the reason that the previous governments kept the decision on Indu Mills pending for so long?
“Same was for the place where Baba saheb stayed in London.
Even after this, we are being blamed and a bad name is given to us...Wherever we have got the opportunity to serve, we have taken decisions out of ‘shradha’ (reverence) towards Dr Ambedkar,” said Modi, whose government was recently under attack from the Opposition over the suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula.
“All these works were taken up only when the BJP governments came to power. Why were they not done earlier. For 60 years this did not happen. Vajpayeeji saw the dream and I have got the opportunity to fulfil it,” Modi said as he listed a number of measures taken by his government for welfare of Dalits.
Recalling the efforts and role played by former Prime Minister Vajpayee in remembering Ambedkar, he said he initiated the process to acquire the places associated with the icon and developed them into memorials.
“But his government did not remain in power. After that the governments that came did not have Amebedkar in their hearts. That is why even after acquisition of Ambedkar’s Alipur Road house it (memorial) could not be built. Our pledge is to complete it by March 2018 and I declare here that I will inaugurate it on April 14, 2018,” Modi said amid chants of ’Bharat Mata ki jai’ from the audience.
He said the memorial to be built on 26, Alipur Road will be a grand and an iconic building of Delhi. It may be an iconic building for the world, but for us it will be a source of inspiration and the coming generations should draw inspiration from it.”
Modi said, “We have done injustice to Babaseheb Ambedkar by limiting him as a messiah of dalits alone as he was against anything inhuman and had raised his voice against all injustice and fought for the rights of the marginalised and the oppressed sections in society”.
On the issue of Ambedkar’s resignation from Nehru cabinet on the issue of Hindu Code bill, Modi said, “why was it that Dr. Ambedkar had to resign from the ministry? People do not know about it. Either history is enroached upon or is diluted and diverted in another direction.”
He said that when the issue of equal rights to women came up, Babasaheb was clear that if women don’t get equal rights, he cannot be a part of the ministry. “The then government bowed to pressure,” he said.
The Prime Minister compared the contribution of Sardar Vallabhai Patel and Babasaheb Ambedkar and said while Patel did the task of uniting the princely states, Ambedkar did the task of uniting society.
Modi also talked about the three mantras given by Ambedkar — to educate, organise and struggle, which are relevant even today. Laying stress on education and organising, he said if these are accomplished there would be no need for the third one, as most people lay stress on struggle these days.
He also highlighted how the icon held no bitterness against anyone when he had power, despite suffering so much humiliation, including that against his mother.
“No bitterness is seen in the expressions of Ambedkar.
There is no feeling of revenge. For Ambedkar, the upper castes also belonged to him as also the dalits,” Modi said, adding that sometimes the tongue is inadvertently cut by the teeth but we do not uproot the teeth for the same.
Alluding to the defeat of Congress in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the Prime Minister said it is very difficult to digest defeat, but noted that society and country are bigger than defeat and victory.
In a veiled dig at his political opponents who have repeatedly targeted the government on Dalit issues, he said while Ambedkar worked for the cause of the downtrodden inspired by the duty for the nation and society and not for power, there are others for whom only the last mattered and not nation and society.”
Accusing the previous governments of not projecting Ambedkar in the right perspective, he said had this been done a number of social problems would not have existed.
“This question can arise in any body’s mind that Ambedkar passed away in 1956 but why work for a memorial is being started 60 years after. 60 years have passed, I don’t know who will be held accountable for this. But, we had to wait for 60 years. Perhaps, it was a blessing of Babasaheb Ambedkar on me that I got the opportunity to do it,” he said.
Modi also recalled the vision of Ambedkar, saying he had envisioned a lot of things during his time, which later governments have brought in. He cited examples of labour reforms and steps taken for empowerment of women, besides strengthening India’s maritime power.
He also said that Ambedkar had worked a lot for labour reforms as he thought of industrialisation for the progress of India and labour reforms for the poor.