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Monday, 21 January 2013

Caste issue: Ambedkar grandson’s suggestions incur wrath

Caste issue: Ambedkar grandson’s suggestions incur wrath

19 January 2013
statesman news service
MUMBAI, 19 JAN: Mr Prakash Ambedkar, former member of Parliament and grandson of BR Ambedkar, has stirred up a hornet's nest by suggesting to do away with the caste column in school admission forms because its mention often creates bias among children at an early age. He also questioned the need for persisting with political reservation to Dalits and OBCs or other backward classes when these age-old practices are irrelevant to today's young generation.
The suggestions coming from a respected Dalit leader incurred instant wrath of his sworn rival and Republican Party of India's factional president Mr Ramdas Athavale who described Mr Ambedkar's suggestions anti-Dalit and “stunt to earn cheap publicity.” Mr Athavale said if the Dalits were deprived of their caste identity they would not only be without a strong leadership but would forfeit the right to education, reservation in employment and even seeking elections to Parliament or state legislatures. “These rights and privileges are guaranteed by the Constitution,” he added.
The political row raised by the nephew of Babasaheb Ambedkar was today limited to two sparring factions of the Dalit movement as no mainstream party has taken a firm stand on the sensitive caste issue that often creates sharp differences amongst the citizens.  In a tacit backing to views expressed by Mr Ambedkar, Shiv Sena mouthpiece Saamna today played up his suggestions as front page lead story. Although the Shiv Sena and the BJP alliance has co-opted Mr Athavale's RPI faction as a part of “Maha-uti” or extended alliance two years ago to fight civic body and municipal corporation election with an eye on backward class votes.
The regional party founded by Bal Thackeray, however, has consistently opposed caste-based reservations. The Shiv Sena favours special rights to economically backward classes. Saamna also cited the book Annihilation of caste by Dr BR Ambedkar which laid down an approach to achieving a classless society. Without directly joining the issue with Mr Athavale, Mr Ambedkar said his rival within the Dalit movement has grossly misunderstood what he wanted to convey. In a guarded comment, state rural development minister Mr Jayant Patil of the NCP said Mr Ambedkar's idea was good but impractical in today's political system.