Gujarat government school textbooks, stirring another controversy have ‘tweaked’ BR Ambedkar’s commandments - Educate, Agitate and Organise - words that resonate the sentiments of crores of his followers and have become synonymous with decades of dalit struggle movements.
According to an Indian Express report, class 5 Gujarati textbooks have revised Ambedkar’s slogan from its original form to “Educate, organise and self reliance is the true assistance,” eliminating the concept of agitation. The textbooks have been prepared by the Gujarat State Board of School Textbooks.
A protest letter, demanding the restoration of the slogan, has been submitted to the Gujarat Chief Minister by a group of Ambedkarites, the report added.
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Gujarat school textbooks have time and again attracted media attention for rewriting history. While reports might suggest that the Gujarat government is shooting at its own foot with such revisions, academicians and scholars see such attempts as part of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP’s) campaign to change how Indian history is taught in schools. The attempt is to control the past, quite necessary to control the future, by demeaning democracy, undermining the Mughals and sometimes even praising Hitler.
NewsClick spoke to Anil Sadgopal, a renowned Indian educationist and activist, who expressed his anger on how such rewrites discredit the legacy of an individual, Ambedkar in this case, and damages the caste struggles. He commented, given the plethora of writings of Ambedkar that are available today, such tweaks come as disturbing cases to distort the way in which the future generation will get to know about him.
“The words have a history of their own,” says Sadgopal, “and it must be noted that these were the founding principles of Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha in 1924, with an aim to eliminate the difficulties of the untouchables.”
According to him, the revision of Ambedkar’s slogans must not be viewed in isolation, as distortion of his legacy and his contributions have been happening in the past as well. One example of this is the picturisation of Ambedkar as just another ‘dalit leader’ and not as a jurist or Father of the Constitution by the political establishment.
Additionally, to understand the casteist prejudice of school textbooks against Ambedkar, NewsClick also spoke to a scholar and cartoonist Unnamati Syama Sundar. According to him, at first, this revision must be viewed as an attack on the spirit of agitation and an introduction of the concept of a ‘self’ which stands opposite to organising - a significant tool to combat the structures of caste.
“These are deliberate acts,” Sundar said, “by the scholars who often misquote Ambedkar and sometimes even revise his writings according to their own conveniences.”
While that remains the case, one must not fool oneself by accruing reasons like less reading of Ambedkar or possible mistakes in translating to a vernacular language for such acts and term them as mere gaffe, he added.
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Unnamati Syama Sundar has recently authored a book, No Laughing Matter in which he deals with a similar subject and studies the cartoons on Ambedkar in the English language press from 1932 to 1956 which “offers a veritable biography of a man historically wronged.”
Earlier today, in a tweet, Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati also slammed the BJP government in Gujarat for tweaking the slogan and demanded that it be restored to its original form immediately.
"'Shikshit Bano, Sangharsh Karo, Sangathhit Bano' are the immortal words of Dr Ambedkar which inspire crores of Dalits and backwards to march ahead. But the Gujarat government's books are imparting wrong education which exposes the BJP's anti-Ambedkar and anti-Dalit face as that of the Congress," she tweeted.
शिक्षित बनो, संघर्ष करो, संगठित रहो’ बाबा साहेब डा अम्बेडकर का वह अमर वाक्य है जो करोड़ों दलितों व पिछड़ों को आगे बढ़ने की प्रेरणा व शक्ति देता है। पर गुजरात सरकार की पुस्तक में उसे गलत पढ़ाया जा रहा है जो कांग्रेस की तरह बीजेपी के अम्बेडकर व दलित-विरोधी चेहरे को बेनकाब करता है।mdash; Mayawati (@Mayawati)