Posted by: Vikram | July 18, 2012

Reflections on Dr. Narendra Jadhav’s ‘Untouchables’

As devout followers of Babasaheb, Sonu and I strove to educate our family. Babasaheb had inculcated in us the belief that education was the solution to all our ills. As I stood with my eyes closed to pay my respects to Babasaheb, I vowed that giving my children the highest possible education would be the mission of my life. They would fulfill Babasaheb’s dream, my dream. – Damu Jadhav

Aamir Khan’s Satyameva Jayate has been criticized in some quarters due to the absence of any mention of Dr. Ambedkar. Quite ironic, given that more Indian netizens today seem to search for Dr. Ambedkar than Mahatma Gandhi. Dr. Ambedkar remains an inspiration and icon for Indians, whether they are Dalits or not. However, the imprint and influence of Dr. Ambedkar remains especially strong on Indian Dalits, for whom he is a true hero.

Narendra Jadhav‘s ‘Untouchables’ brings out this impact in many different ways. From leading demonstrations for opening wells and temples long closed to Dalits, reviving the practice of Buddhism, leading the drafting of the Constitution and setting a personal example of academic achievement, Ambedkar is everywhere in Dr. Jadhav’s life. ‘Untouchables’ is written in a particularly interesting manner. It is not an autobiography of the accomplished Dr. Jadhav, who has a PhD from the US and is a member of the Planning Commission of India. It is actually the story of his father and mother. Each chapter alternates between his father’s perspective (Damu) and that of his mother (Sonu), but keeps moving forward in time. Only at the end, does Jadhav (Chotu) himself come in.

The story of Damu and Sonu is interesting enough to read just because of who they were and the times they lived in. However, a few things stood out for me as I read the book. One of these was the intense religiosity of Sonu Jadhav; she came across as an extremely devout Hindu. Indeed, the chapter where Damu proposes that the family convert to Buddhism is quite riveting, with Damu’s political interpretation of religious belief coming into conflict with Sonu’s more personal and spiritual understanding of it.

Dr. Jadhav’s description of his conquest of the Vithoba temple was another high point. Denied entry for centuries by the Hindu priestly order, the Dalit was now greeted by the chairman of the temple trust and the head priest when he arrived for puja.

Before I knew what I was doing, I had the left the priests and rushed toward the boulder. I hugged it hard, prostrated before it, and clasped it, its ragged edges bruising my palms, as startled onlookers looked aghast.

This boulder was the boundary beyond which the untouchables were not allowed to step. … The touchables had the temple. The untouchables had only the boulder. Their boulder that stood rugged and alone, a few feet outside the temple. The boulder became their makeshift Vithoba – crude, buffeted by the elements, quite unlike the richly clad, bejeweled idol of the god within.

I hugged the boulder, and a sigh escaped me. Like my ancestors, I clutched it, trying to understand what they had endured. I suddenly knew for whom I wept.

Powerful stuff.

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Responses

  1. Ambedkar was against independence and was blinded by his hate.It is sad that so many indians like the sheeps they are,in this matter too are merely growing up hating their own country.

    • Ambedkar was not against independence by any means. He considered formal independence without actual social change meaningless, so he repeatedly emphasized the fact that the real independence struggle would only begin after political freedom.

      This is what he told the Constituent Assembly when the Constitution was adopted,
      “On the 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of democracy which this Constituent Assembly has so laboriously built up.”

  2. The comment of Mr. Naas is extremely unfortunate. It is extremely irresponsible Ambekarites loves their country much more than Non Ambekarites. And don’t have to prove this to anyone. Recently one TV shows conducted a survey and declared Dr. Ambedkar as a greatest Indian. The people who voted for this was not only his followers but also the entire nation.

    No one in this world who is normal mental condition would love the social system still prevailing in India which don’t consider humans as human being.

    Put yourself in the shoe of dalits and see if you love or hate the system.

    Dr. Ambedkar’s mammoth efforts were towards achieving the simple goal, that is equality among the fellow Indians that includes Mr. Naas also.


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