Vidya Bhushan Rawat
I have always been fascinated to the writings of Dr. K. Jamanadas and came in touch with him through our common writings in ‘Dalit Voice’. The depth of his understanding of Ambedkarism as well as Indian history and brutality of Brahmanical invasion on Buddhism would enlighten anyone.
It was such a pleasure to speak to him and listen attentively his thoughts. For me such people who are witness to some of the greatest events of our history and who documented a lot of things which would have gone unnoticed need special salute. They deserve our respect and tribute. There is no doubt in my mind that he remained one of the very few who truly served the Ambedkarite cause and dedicated his life for the same. He was a treasury of enormous information about Baba Saheb Ambedkar as well as Buddhism and his work reflect that but one thing is clear if he had resources and good support, he would have contributed much more. After Bhagwan Das, I am witness to this man of enormous scholarship who actually did not get requisite support and help at the end.
For the last several years, he has not been keeping in great health and was confined to his bed and computer table for work at home in Chandrapur alone. Though he has been writing regularly, very few knew how he was coping with his ill health. It was the spirit of Ambedkarism that was moving him. It was difficult for him to move around without help and yet his spirit was so high that you can only appreciate and acknowledge that. He was a retired surgeon, a devoted Ambedkarite Buddhist and also associated for several years with Kanshiramji and contested on BSP ticket too. He was also a member of the board of studies in History for two terms of three years each in Nagpur University. He wrote extensively and authored several books, the prominent being ‘Tirupati Balaji was a Buddhist Shrine’, ‘Decline and fall of Buddhism’, ‘Maratha revolt against Brahmanism’, ‘Devadasis ancient to modern’ etc. It was a great pleasure when he gave me his book of great research on Materialism in Indian traditions when I went to specifically meet him at his residence in Chandrapur.
He was a young man highly influenced with the mission and vision of Baba Saheb Ambedkar. Hailing from Chandrapur, he was witness to historic conversion of Baba Saheb in 1956 at Nagpur. He was a young man preparing for his final years MBBS examinations when he saw the massive conversion of Baba Saheb Ambedkar to Buddhism at the Deeksha Bhumi, Nagpur. He was also witnessed to his second day’s ceremony in Chandrapur. These are moment great historical importance for us. They were a group of youngsters who actually invited Baba Saheb Ambedkar to their convention. His eyes sparkled whenever the narrative of his live conversation with Dr Ambedkar was ever referred. He narrated in detailed the entire environment to me during our conversation to me when I met him at his residence in October 2012,’
“The crowd was more than the present “Diksha Bhoomi” could accommodate. The area beyond the road, where today there are big buildings was a vacant plot of land. The Deputy Mayor being an Ambedkarite the whole labour gangs of Corporation along with volunteers of “Samta Sainik Dal” (SSD – Volunteer Force for Equality) were busy in uprooting small shrubs and clearing and cleaning the wasteland into a vast ground for the function. The stage was huge and protected from all sides. By the side, there was a road built right from the main street to the stage for Babasaheb’s car and protected by bamboo matting from both sides. The excellent arrangement was for sound projection. Stage of the shape of Sanchi stupa was erected and covered with a white cloth. All the stalls of eatables and free meals were arranged beyond the streets by various organizations.
It was ordained that those who wish to get converted, must come in white apparel, but in the markets white all cloth was exhausted, and then it had to be announced that, any clean clothes of any colour would do. Similarly, it was declared that all those wishing to be converted should enrol themselves in Godbole’s office. The rush was so much that in spite of hundreds of volunteers for record-keeping, the arrangement broke down. That was the magnitude of the numbers. A conservative estimate was half a million people, who poured down from all directions with whatever conveyances they could get. Many walked down with meals packed for three days, dried pieces of homemade jaur bread and an onion or two’.
He was the leader of a group of students that met Dr Ambedkar and was also invited at the tea party at Shyam Hotel in the evening. There are hundreds of aspect of Dr Ambedkar’s life which are unknown or may be ignored by many but K. Jamnadasji brought all those facets through his anecdotes. It was interesting to hear from him how Baba Saheb Ambedkar was trying to do. His narratives of the tea party in the evening of Dhamma chakra Pravartan Diwas provide deep thought on which Baba Saheb Ambedkar was focusing.
‘I had heard Babasaheb on many occasions before, but that was the first time, I was hearing him talk in fluent Hindi. The speech though brief had many new points, and very scanty reports of this speech are available. He said that we all cared more for politics than social and religious change. He had achieved everything in his life for himself. There was nothing more to be achieved for himself, “except perhaps the post of Prime Minister”, among cheers, he declared. But he was worried for all of us, as we keep on fighting amongst ourselves. He said, we were not used to work with people of other castes. Though the “Scheduled Castes Federation” (SCF) would be in existence for some more time and though Buddhists, we could still be members of it, as he had already made provisions in Constitution of SCF for “sympathizers”, it was time we change our ways and start learning to work together with other castes. He was already in touch with other leaders like R. M. Lohia, N. G. Gore, Madhu Limaye, P. K. Atre, S. M. Joshi and others and he had prepared the Constitution of new party, which would be launched soon. He gave a lot of stress on mixing with the people of democratic thoughts, belonging to other castes. It is rather unfortunate, that this aspect of his speech is totally neglected by the next generation of leaders, our predecessors. When next year in 1957, Republican Party of India was formed, there was not one single member of other castes.
Most of us world over know about the Nagpur conversion ceremony but I was amazed to hear from Dr K.Jamanadas that the Chandrapur mass conversion on October 16th, 1956, was equally big and had a huge crowd waiting for Baba Saheb. It is great that he has recorded all these events which give us ideas of how people have so much faith in Dr Ambedkar due to his idealism, conviction and commitment for the cause of the society. The impact of conversion was wider though it remained confined to Mahars in Maharashtra yet they discarded Hindu festivities and symbols. Hundreds of women threw away their ‘Mangalsutras’ once they were informed that it is the symbol of slavery of a woman and against the principles of Buddhism.
Dr Jamanadas was a devoted Ambedkarite who lived every day according to principles of Ambedkarism and Buddhism. The women question was very important to him and he felt that Ambedkarites were not doing enough in that direction. He felt that the joint family system was destructive and governed by Mitakshara law which is in force in practically the whole of India. According to him, Dr. Ambedkar wanted the Dayabhag Law should replace it. This is not achieved as of yet. Unfortunately, the Ambedkarites are not fighting for the demand of introduction of Dayabhag Law all over the country. They have not yet realized that this one single measure would give a strong blow to the caste system.
He explained the differences between Mitakshara and Dayabhag laws so that Ambedkarite could fight for the latter.
‘While stating that the main difference after Hindu Code would be ‘the abolition of the right by birth and the principle of survivorship and the substitution of the Dayabhag for Mitakshara in the Mitakshara Provinces, Dr. Ambedkar, in his speech on Hindu code, explained the fundamental differences between two systems of inheritance in Mitakshara and Dayabhag Law. According to Mitakshara, the property of a Hindu is not his individual property. It is property, which belongs to what is called a coparcenary, which consists of a father, son, grandson and great-grandson (the ‘sapinda-s’). All these people have a birthright in that property and the property on the death of any member of this coparcenary passes by survivorship to the members who remain behind and does not pass to the heirs of the deceased.
‘The Bill, while it does away with coparcenary’, Dr. Ambedkar said, ‘maintains the joint family’. He further clarified that ‘The only distinction will be that the members of the joints family instead of holding their rights as a joint tenant will hold them as tenants in common’.
We had several conversations on phone and on email. He would ask me to come to his place and stay over. He used to send me a lot of stuff written by him and complimented many times on my writings. He always admired the way I was involved in with people and writing those experiences from the grassroots. In my zeal to record things, I went to meet him at his residence in Chandrapur on October 28, 2012. Actually, I had long wanted to have a conversation with him and record it but unfortunately, my camera ditched me that day and all the videos and photographs that day got deleted inadvertently. It is one of the biggest regrets of my life. Anyway, the interaction with him was thought-provoking and cleared many of ambiguities in my mind. He was thought-provoking and you would just hear him attentively to understand the depth of his knowledge. I send him a questionnaire but due to ill health, he could not respond to all the questions and send his thoughts, materials and submissions etc. to me to make from them. In fact, a majority of quotes have been taken from his email conversations and material that he made available to me.
He was very clear that Naxal movement was not helping the Dalits and Adivasis but definitely expressed his unhappiness on the issue of continuous erosion of natural resources. He maintained that ‘Land of Adivasis should be treated as a special category. If they are sitting over metal ore or forest produce, the ore and produce must belong to them. They should get the benefit of that product. But our business community is not willing even to give them 26 per cent share in the profit. It must be realized that it is the property of Adivasis and they are entitled to a hundred per cent profit, why only 26%? If they cannot utilize the ore themselves, the government should form their co-operative societies and fund them in initial stages or arrange finance for tapping these resources and bring it to the market and export by financing by state agencies or by long-term bonds at government guarantee.
Unlike many other Ambedkarites, Dr Jamnadas considered land issue as very important for Dalits, Adivasis and minorities and essential for their identity and dignity. He was against loot of natural resources and building of SEZs. He said, ‘This is urgent need. Enforce land ceiling and tenancy laws, with due consideration of SC, ST and religious minority rights. Distribute the surplus lands to these people. Stop all grabbing land by mafias, with or without consents of bureaucrats and/or ministers and politicians. Punish the guilty, recover back the land from mafia, demolish all illegal constructions and cancel all SEZs and prevent all land grabbing by vested interests. Bring in new proper laws for acquiring land from farmers, and pay them according to market rates. Define unambiguously what constitutes ‘public interests’ and keep a strict vigil on implementation’.
He was equally vocal on the issue of electoral reform when I discussed some of these issues with him. He felt that entry of criminal should be banned and felt the best way to do it is to the basis of the filing of a charge sheet against the person. ‘If a charge sheet is filed one year before and case is still pending, he should not be allowed to contest. A minor offence, or a politically motivated charge, one year should be considered enough time for him to clear it out. He was very apprehensive of forces trying to convert Indian electoral system on American presidential pattern which he mentioned was a Brahmanical conspiracy. ‘It is a venomous idea of Hindutva forces to destroy the Constitution and bring in a dictator and fix his term for five years. What they could not do while in power, they want to do it through the means of so-called ‘Civil Society’, which is neither civil nor society, he suggested.
He passed away living a fruitful life of about 88 years yet at a time when India is at crucial stage and Dalits, Adivasis and minorities live in uncertain time as a right-wing Hindutva government is preparing to take charge of the country. The politics of parties like BSP and RPI has faced serious rout in the elections and parties have compromised on their basic principles. He was upset with the things happening in Maharashtra and that is why kept away from political parties after making his attempt to contest as BSP candidate.
He was doing things singlehandedly when actually he required support. Despite that he remained a very warm hearted Ambedkarite whose main consideration was to spread the message of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and to write history from an Ambedkarite perspective. His contribution to the growth of Ambedkar movement will always be remembered for extraordinary work that he produced through his powerful writings which will be guiding principles for new generation of people, a man who was witness to history and who document each aspect of it so well despite all disabilities that he had to face at his ripe age yet he has become immortal and milestone in the Ambedkar movement for all the work that he has done and deserve to be acknowledged and appreciated.