‘Anti-caste movement is almost non-existent’: Anand Teltumbde at the launch of Marathi edition of The Leaflet

[dropcap]E[/dropcap]VERYTHING that Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar created in his lifetime is in total disarray today, said Dr Anand Teltumbde on Saturday evening, maintaining that even the Ambedkarites don’t want annihilation of the caste system in the country today.

“How does one articulate the challenges to Ambedkar’s legacy? The Dalit movement or anti-caste movement or Ambedkarite movement is almost non-existent if one takes a negative view” remarked Teltumbde, speaking at the launch of Marathi edition of The Leaflet, at Constitution Club in New Delhi on the eve of the 128th birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar.

“It’s very painful to note that the People’s Education Society, which was set up by Ambedkar for the spread of higher education, is in shambles. Take the case of Republican Party of India, Samata Sainik Dal, Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha…nobody knows about these organisations if they exist at all. Everything that he (Ambedkar) created is in total disarray today,” said Teltumbde, a leading public intellectual who writes on the issues of caste, class, people’s struggle, public policy and democratic politics.  

Dr Ambedkar wanted caste to be annihilated. But a section of Ambedkarites never wanted it…they too have become beneficiaries of the class classification in the society and politics,” he continued, dwelling on ‘Contemporary challenges to the anti-caste movement’.

“Caste only knows hierarchy. It only knows how to split society like an amoeba. So it is always difficult to mobilise people towards an anti-caste goal,” he remarked.

Replying to a query from the audience on whether the government’s move to allow ten per cent reservation in jobs and higher education for the economically weaker upper castes was against the anti-caste movement, he stated that “It is a political move. Constitution doesn’t allow that and it (Modi government’s decision) may not stand (judicial scrutiny).”

Lauding the emergence of alternative media in the form of news websites, he earlier maintained that “the mainstream media had almost sold out barring some exceptions.”

In her keynote address, senior advocate Indira Jaising argued that Article 17 in the Constitution wasn’t enough to eradicate untouchability from the society.

“It was only after the agitation of lawyers from SC, ST community that a portrait of Dr Ambedkar was put in place in the Supreme Court in 2015,” she said, recalling several instances of untouchability practised in the apex court. She regretted that “the Supreme Court of India has not had a single SC, ST judge for a fairly long time now.”

Commenting on the orientation of The Leaflet, Jaising—who is also one of the founding members of the website—said, “It has been founded for the legal news, views and opinions at a time when the press has become highly compromised. We hope The Leaflet stands for constitutional morality—that needs to be understood, deepened and celebrated.”

Vira Sathidar, a cultural-political activist and editor of the Marathi edition of The Leaflet was also present on the occasion. Sathidar has been working for several decades with social movements and part of the Oscar-nominated film Court. A staunch Ambedkarites, Sathidar is also a co-founder of the Republican Panther and is a member of editorial board of its publication, Vidrohi.

The Marathi edition of The Leaflet was launched by Minister for Social Welfare and SC & ST affairs in Delhi government, Rajendra Pal Gautam.

The Leaflet