While January 26, when the Constitution of India came into effect in 1950, is observed as Republic Day, do we even spare a minute to remember the man behind it? Why is he not celebrated or even talked about in public, despite the fact that the order of the nation was envisioned and devised by him? It was these questions that drove the trio —Amutharasan, Saravanan and Mugunthan, founders of Panuval bookstore — to do something about it in their capacity and with inputs and guidance from writers and activists V Geetha and Prema Revathi was born the idea of Samooga Needhi Maadham (Social Justice Month). It is a month-long celebration of Ambedkar’s birthday with thematic events during the weekends every April.
Inaugurated in 2013 on the 133th birth anniversary of Ambedkar, the event has entered its fourth year now. “There is a perception about every leader. For example, Gandhi is known for his simplicity and celebrated for the same. So if Ambedkar has to be celebrated, it should be for his intellect. It is unacceptable either to restrict him to a community or ignore his unparalleled contribution by giving him a castiest identity. He worked for everyone’s welfare; he ensured women’s rights,” says Amutharasan.
True to the title, the month-long celebration aims at looking at different social events that are taking place around us from the point of view of Ambedkar, with a variety of programmes such as book reviews, film screenings and panel discussions etc. “Last year, we discussed social justice in education following the death of Rohit Vemula in Hyderabad University and arrest of Jawaharlal Nehru University student Kanhaiya Kumar.”
This year’s theme is aptly titled social justice in democracy. “At a time when even our choice of food is probed and prohibited, it becomes necessary to look at what democracy is in Ambedkar’s perspective,” says Amutharasan. Geetha and Prema Revathi, who put together the schedule for the annual event, have come up with a comprehensive schedule for this April. The firsr fortnight was marked by readings from Ambedkar’s works, analysis of a book titled Dalit-Parpanan penned by Sharankumar Limbale and screening of a documentary titled Saadhihalidam Jaakiradhai ( Beware of Castes ) directed by Jayakumar. “In fact, even the weekly events have been curated with sub-themes,” says Prema Revathi, former journalist who is now associated with Maithri Publications. On April 15, lawyer Sathiyachandran will discuss the importance of Prevention of Atrocities Act to ensure justice to scheduled castes and minorities. On April 16, Geetha herself will talk about social democracy from the perspective of the Constitution.
The theme for the third week is caste, gender and justice and on April 23, there will be a discussion on caste, gender and rights in which Kausalya, who lost her husband Sankar to alleged honour killing in Udumalpet last year, will also be a participant. The monthlong observance will culminate with a talk on Buddhism and Democracy by writer Gnana Aloycious and discussion by Nila Thamma group on April 29 and 30, respectively. “The idea behind the month-long event is to give enough time for elaborate discussions as participants from varied backgrounds and students in large numbers attend the events,” says Prema Revathi.
Though the event has been receiving appreciation from various quarters, Amutharasan admits that there is still a long way to go. “Until the day comes when Ambedkar statues wouldn’t need protection, there is a necessity to conduct such events across the country. And the day will definitely come because the next generation only seeks the truth and reality,” concludes Amutharasan.