Ambedkar and Oscar Wilde's 'The Doer of Good'
By P N Benjamin
Several thinkers have speculated on the possible reactions of the founders of great faiths, if they happened to inspect the orders that claim the rights to fly their banners. Oscar Wilde has visualised one such situation in a short piece entitled ‘The Doer of Good’. As we know, the miracles Jesus performed included curing a leper, restoring sight to a blind man and life to a dead one. One night Jesus descends on to the land of his activities. He is attracted into a festive mansion, bursting with luxury. He sees the master of the house lying on a couch of sea-purple, his lips red with wine."Why do you live like this?" asked the unexpected visitor. Startled, the young man answered: "But, I was a leper and you healed me. How else should I live?"Jesus left the mansion in silence. In the street he saw a young man, his eyes bright with lust, chasing a playful damsel. Jesus stopped him. "Why do you look at this woman and such vice?" he demanded. "But I was blind once and you gave me sight. And what else should I look?"Outside the city Jesus saw a young man seated by roadside, weeping. "Why are you weeping?" he asked. "But I was dead once and you raised me from the dead. What else should I do but weep?"The utter futility of achievements without an aspiration for a growth in consciousness had never before been stressed so briefly yet so tellingly. Perhaps, a stirring in the memory and sacrifices of the moulders of civilisation could be a faint reminder of the need for that missing quality.Now let’s imagine Ambedkar returns to India to inspect the plight of Dalits whom he wanted to emancipate. After all, he was the human catalyst of social action against injustice to the suppressed sector of the Indian people whom we, in condescending hypocrisy, call ‘Harijans’ or ‘Dalits’! He was a dynamic figure who devoted himself to the cause of justice, freedom and dignity to the lowliest, the lost and the last in the socio-economic hierarchy, and fought for human rights.Dalit groups are disorganisedIt won’t take much time for him to observe the following facts. "Almost all Dalit political leaders have showered only lip sympathy on the Dalits in order to get their votes, but with no intention of doing anything to ameliorate their conditions. Dalit political groups are totally disorganised. Education has only led to the emergence of a Dalit elite class. Dalit movements have either been absorbed within mainstream parties and splinter groups or else have degenerated into negative militancy. Reservation of seats and jobs has had only a marginal effect on the lives of some members of the vast section of Dalit humanity. It has also led to deliberate attempts to divide the Dalits into a ‘privileged’ minority and the completely ignored massive majority."In their blind craze for power, position, profit and pelf the Dalit leaders in every political party have forgotten their primary duty to mobilise and organise the masses against all forms of vested interests. Dalit politicians bereft of any ideology are unwilling to disturb the existing caste equations. These self-seeking status quoits have only aided in pushing the outcastes out of our society, out of the mainstream. Dalit politicians holding very high political posts have in practice proved to be ‘Uncle Toms’ because of the compulsions of Indian polity."What I witnesses today is the strange spectacle of these leaders ganging up with those very forces, which are the political representatives of oppressors of the Dalits. There could be no greater betrayal of the millions kept in poverty and privation."Ambedkar then observes: "Dalits are not a special species of human beings. Their emancipation from poverty and social discrimination and disabilities does not depend upon perpetual special treatment. Like the rest of the poor in India, they have to be taught, helped and made to participate in the process of bettering their lives."India will be truly free only when Indians, the last and the least are free. Dalits ask for justice and the Indian elite have to realise that democracy cannot be hypocrisy. And humanists everywhere are vicariously guilty if they do not speak up. ‘Les Miserables’, in their social millions, are a stain and a wound."Ambedkar will then invite the Dalit leaders and ask them: "What shall we do to ‘change this sorry scheme of things entire and remould it nearer to our heart’s desire?’"
DECCAN HERALD – Panorama – 14 April 2009