Friday, December 08, 2006

"It is worth trying to understand why"

P. Sainath on how the Mumbai media handled "an event that speaks to the hearts of people":

... There was no effort to look at why it is the poor and the dispossessed who come here. No mention that this was a man with a Ph.D from Columbia University who returned to lead what is today the greatest battle for human dignity on planet earth.

There was little journalistic curiosity over what brings 85-year-olds with just two rotis in their hands all the way from Mhow in Madhya Pradesh to Dadar in Mumbai. People for whom the journey means both hardship and hunger. Musicians and poets who perform through the day for nothing. Hard-up authors who print books and pamphlets at their own cost for their fellows. And yet make the trip — driven by their hearts and drawn by the hope of a noble vision as yet unfulfilled. A casteless world.

Which other national leader commands this respect 50 years after his death? Let alone when alive? Why are there more statues of Ambedkar in India's villages than those of any other leader the country has ever seen? His statues are not government installed — unlike those of many others. The poor put them up at their own expense. Whether in Tamil Nadu or Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra or Orissa, see whose portraits can be found in the humblest of huts. It's worth trying to understand why.

See Harini's post to get a better idea about the biased way in which the press covered this massive congregation in Mumbai.


  1. Anonymous said...


    It is true that Ambedkar came back to India with a PhD from Columbia (begging the question if he would have been a lesser man if he hadn't gone there in the 1st place). And so did Gandhi return to India with an admittance from the Inns of Court (and yes I know Sainath respects Gandhi; JP returned to India with his PhD at Wisconsin unfinished. And what about that other comrade of Gandhi who returned from Columbia, J.C. Kumarappa, whom Nehru derided as a village idiot!

    Ambedkar certainly was a great thinker (and while we praise let's read his Thoughts on Pakistan also!) who got some things right and others wrong. He was a great humanist, but also a believer in the ancient and timeless India. So let's not cherry pick. So while we praise him let's not lose ourselves in rapture and forget the great man's admonishment of Indians for their bhakti and mindless devotion.