Dalits Win First Battle as Primary Schools in Gujarat Told to Display Ambedkar Portrait


Dr Ambedkar’s portrait being put up in a school in Dhandhuka taluka

Both the district magistrate and the district collector had on February 17 directed all government offices to have a photograph or a statue of the Messiah of the Downtrodden

 Mahesh Trivedi | Clarion India

 AHMEDABAD – The 4.8 million Dalits in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state have won the day. In a decision that raised many eyebrows, all the 1,500 government and private primary schools in Ahmedabad district of Bharaitya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled Gujarat will now have to put up a portrait or a statue of Dr B R Ambedkar, Father of the Indian Constitution, on their premises, thanks to the marathon efforts of the Dalit Adhikar Manch.

Manch convener Kirit Rathod also told Clarion India that following his seven-month-long campaign, the district education officer on August 28 shot off a circular to all taluka officials who in turn on August 30 directed all school principals in their region to implement the order.

On August 31, several schools, which had so far been displaying images of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, began installing the portraits of the Bharat Ratna-awardee Dalit icon who had campaigned against social discrimination and is also credited with bringing about major labour reforms.

Dalit Adhikar Manch convener Kirit Rathod has been campaigning for installing Dr Ambedkar’s images in government offices and buildings

“It is the duty of the government toward Babasaheb in the 71st year of introduction of the Constitution who was the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee but even this minor, affordable exercise was not carried out”, says Rathod, who, since January 23, ahead of the Republic Day on January 26, has been going round government offices, including educational institutions, police department, administrative blocks, etc. to persuade the decision-makers for paying tribute to Dr Ambedkar by at least hanging his photo frame.

Indeed, after his representation, both the district magistrate and the district collector had on February 17 directed all government offices to have a photograph or a statue of the Messiah of the Downtrodden. On February 28, as the 129th Ambedkar birth anniversary day, April 14, drew nearer, the Ahmedabad police commissioner also ordered all police stations to put up Babasaheb’s portraits along with those of Gandhiji and the Sardar.

In May, even the Governor sent a letter about this to the General Administration Department of the saffron regime but, according to Rathod, upper-caste departmental heads turned a deaf ear to the directives with the result that most government offices do not have even a single photograph of the social reformer.

Senior Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia welcomed the district education officer’s order to schools but suggested that the preamble of the Constitution in local language should also be framed with Babasaheb’s photo and displayed in all schools and public buildings to remind the mottos of the statute and founding fathers.

Congress leader Arjun Modhwadia wants preamble of the Constitution also in schools

Says independent Dalit MLA Jignesh Mevani: “It’s a welcome move. But it won’t serve much purpose simply for the reason that BJP is on its way to distort the Indian constitution. They have absolutely nothing to do with the values dear to the great Crusader for Human Rights.”

He told Clarion India that Dr Ambedkar’s photos might inspire both teachers and students but such tokenism was most convenient for the BJP, adding that by such tokenism gave an impression to the Dalit masses that the saffron party was all for Ambedkar, but the reality was completely different.

Dalit activist Jayesh Kumar said that the decision of the Primary Education Officer, Viramgam on the occasion of the 71st Republic Day was welcome but just placing a photo or a statue of the Great Liberator would not increase the level of education.

“We will be able to realise the dream of a ‘United India’ only if we increase social education at the ground level and cultivate social harmony among students of different castes,” said Kumar, who is also an active member of Mevani’s Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch.

Sunil Jadav, a Rajkot-based college lecturer and member of the sub-committee of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, said that a deadline should be set to implement the government decision and legal action should be taken against those principals who fail to display in their school a photo of Dr Ambedkar who was also known as the Symbol of Knowledge.

Social worker Dr Mahendra Yadav told Clarion India that it was regrettable that schools put up photographs of many not-so-great leaders and deities but had no place for the Father of the Constitution.

Dalit activist Jayesh Kumar feels that Babasaheb’s portrait should inspire students

Dr Ambedkar was independent India’s first law and justice minister and was posthumously conferred with Bharat Ratna, the country’s highest civilian award, on 31 March, 1990. He was the first double PhD holder in Economics in South Asia. The Hilton Young Commission conceptualised the Reserve Bank of India based on the guidelines presented by him. No wonder,  Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen called him the Father of Economics.

Ambedkar, who had inspired the Dalit Buddhist Movement, launched the Mahad Satyagrah in 1927 for the emancipation of Dalits when he came to know that Dalits were treated as untouchables by the upper caste at that time.

Ambedkar brought changes in the working hours– from 12 to 8 hours in the 7th session of Indian Labour Conference in 1942. He is credited for initiating various development projects like the Bhakra Nangal Dam project, the Damodar Valley project and Hirakud Dam project.

Clarion India - News, Views and Insights about Indian Muslims, Dalits, Minorities, Women and Other Marginalised and Dispossessed Communities.


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