Delhi: Two grandsons of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar have lashed out at the Uttar Pradesh government for officially adding ‘Ramji’ to his name.
Both Prakash Ambedkar and Anand Ambedkar told CNN-New18 that the UP state government’s move was “nothing but vote bank politics by the BJP”.
The reaction came after the UP government acted upon the suggestion of Governor Ram Naik and added Ramji to BR Ambedkar’s middle name by passing a resolution in the state Assembly. Following the resolution, all UP government records and textbooks will refer to him as Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar.
He acquired this middle name from his father - a common practice in Maharastra.
“BJP wants to have their own agenda before the 2019 elections. My sense is close to elections, they might try to tell the voters that Ambedkar was also a ‘Ram bhakt’,” Prakash said.
He used to write Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar only in his signatures and for all other purposes he used only initials, he added.
BJP has defended the move with UP minister Swami Prasad Maurya (who had switched over from BSP to BJP) saying BR Ambedkar’s original name has not been represented properly till now so his government is only rectifying the mistake.
Anand Ambedkar said that no one from the UP government had contacted him or any other members of his family before taking such a decision.
“Let me get the draft copy of the UP government order and accordingly I will decide the next course of action,” Anand said, indicating that he is not ruling out a legal route to the move.
While admitting that his grandfather was proud of using the middle name Ramji, he said, “He (BR Ambedkar) was very proud of his father Ramji Maloji Sakpal who was in the British Indian Army and as a common practice in Maharastra adopted his name.”
He added that there were a lot of misconceptions that Ambedkar had denounced his middle name Ramji.
“In Marathi my grandfather used to sign with his full name Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar while in other languages such as English and Hindi he used only initials B.R Ambedkar,” he said.
“Why bring in Ramji to his name now. What political motives you have,” Anand asked.
Even Dalit leader Udit Raj, who is BJP MP from North-West Delhi, has objected to the move, saying Ambedkar always chose his name to be written only as Bhimrao Ambedkar or BR Ambedkar.
“Why so many years after his death his name is being changed? This is completely uncalled for,” Raj said.
“After death a person name should not have been changed it does not matter even if Baba Sahib he had signed with middle name Ramji in the constitutional draft. I do not find any reason to change in his name now as till his last breadth the Dalit icon preferred to not to use Ramji along with his name,” he told CNN-News18.
Dalit scholar Kancha Ilaiah agreed with Raj’s views. “Ambedkar might have signed the constitutional draft with the Ramji but in his day to day life he never used his full name. What BJP is doing might be factually correct but ideologically they are opposed to Ambedkar’s anti- Brahminical philosophy,” he said.
“In North India it is not uncommon for a large number of Dalits to use Ram with their name, including BSP founding Kanshi Ram, but the conation of Ram is not Lord Rama,” he added.
While BR Ambedkar signed the first draft of the Indian Constitution as Bhimrao Ramaji Ambedkar, a study of his documents show that he preferred to sign as Bhimrao Ambedkar or BR Ambedkar.
BR Ambedkar converted to Buddhism in 1956. Among the several oaths he took was that he would not worship Lord Ram as Buddhism denounced the idea of reincarnation. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Ram is believed to be incarnation of Lord Vishnu.
“This is all symbolism. This is not what Dalits of this country want. The government had failed them on all fronts. They are natak mandali (drama artists),” Sudhindra Bhadoria, BSP’s national spokesperson, said.