Ambedkar on Caste: Why are Ambedkar’s ideas ignored in public debates?

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Dr. Ambedkar is a very relevant social and political thinker but he is often neglected and ignored from the mainstream discussions. On various occasions, politicians mention his name but they are afraid to talk about his thoughts.

    Ambedkar envisaged an India based on the concepts of liberty, equality, and fraternity. For him, liberty means freedom to do whatever you want to do and also the freedom of thinking and its expression. He believes that every human being must be free and have equal opportunity.

For Ambedkar, the greatest obstacle between realizing the above goals is the caste system in India. The caste of a person determines what kind of job he or she can take. Thus, one’s caste determines one’s occupation. Hence, there is no freedom for a person to choose what he or she wants to choose. The caste system does not allow to think freely; it promotes thinking within its boundary. For example, in the caste system, no one is equal. There is a sense of superiority and inferiority. A person cannot think outside these categories as everyone equal. It leads to discrimination and practices like untouchability.

  Further, as the caste system maintains a hierarchy among the various groups; therefore, the idea of equality cannot be realized. To be equal, according to Ambedkar, the caste system must be abolished. Moreover, as it maintains hierarchical relations among different caste group, the caste system never let the people have fraternity and brotherliness. Therefore, Ambedkar maintains that until the caste system is annihilated, the ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity can never be achieved.

Now, why are Ambedkar’s ideas on caste and his idea of India not discussed? The reason is people in the privileged caste who holds most of the institutional positions afraid of leaving their privileges. No one wants to leave their privileges; even though one shows sympathy to an oppressed caste, he or she may not be willing to take a step to bring the change.

 The mainstream platforms of discussions and debates are filled with the people of the privileged castes who do not make space for the oppressed castes. People who still believe in caste superiority in the name of merit, will not come forward to discuss Ambedkar’s thoughts for abolishing social hierarchy.

Ambedkar shows that brahmins (who declare themselves as the most superior caste and make the rules and regulations for the other castes) have the right to education and the right to hold property. But the oppressed castes shudra and atishudra (Dalits) do not have these rights. These social regulations make the lives of oppressed castes such that they have to be always dependent on the upper castes’ mercy.

   The distribution of unequal rights in society advantages one group and disadvantages the others. Specifically, it advantages the upper castes as they hold power and capital. In contrast, it snatches power and equal opportunity from the lower castes. However, the privileged castes are in the illusion that they have merits. Having privilege means having less or no obstacle in doing what you want. The upper caste has no social barrier; they hold most of the land and other resources; no one discriminates or humiliates them in the name of their castes. They are not ready to accept that there is a problem if they are more privileged than others. They equate privilege with merit and also think that they have the right to rule others.

Ambedkar’s ideas challenge this conception of merit by showing how the Brahminical social order is based on an unequal distribution of power and resources. He breaks the myth of the merit of the Upper caste. Moreover, he aims to make a society based on the ideas of equality, liberty, and fraternity. For this reason, Ambedkar’s ideas are ignored in mainstream discussions.

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