Home Dalit 128th Dr Ambedkar Birthday Celebration in Cupertino, California

128th Dr Ambedkar Birthday Celebration in Cupertino, California

TCN News

Ambedkar King Study Circle (AKSC), Association for India’s Development (AID), San Jose Peace and Justice Center (SJPJC) and Organizations for Minorities of India (OfMI) jointly organized Babasaheb Dr B.R Ambedkar’s 128th birthday celebration in Cupertino, California on 13th April. The theme was ‘Ambedkar on State Socialism’  to trigger a debate on Ambedkar’s position on state socialism and popularize and introduce his writings on the same, among the masses.

Before beginning the celebrations, one minute silence was observed to pay respects to the martyrs of Jallianwala Bagh. This is the 100th anniversary of the incident that was instrumental in turning the Indian independence movement into a mass movement.

Dr Suraj Yengde, a Harvard fellow, electrified the audience with his one hour speech with pedantic details on Ambedkar’s  state socialism. He said that if the land had been distributed equally across all the castes who are working on the land after Independence, caste discrimination and violence would have ended long before. Ambedkar’s state socialism provided more job security for the workers which would address their physical and mental health. Social discrimination against Dalits was directly linked to their economic dependence on so called upper castes.

In the rural areas, Dalits depend on the upper castes for land and in the urban economy Dalits depend on non-Dalits for jobs and employment. He concluded that the annihilation of caste is tantamount to annihilation of landlordism and redistribution of all lands across the castes. He emphasized reservation in private sector is an urgent need of social justice in the neoliberal era.

Mr Sandy Perry , the president of affordable housing  network of Santa Clara county; California , spoke about the history of racism, racial discrimination and its current manifestation. He said that American racism is the product of American capitalism. Race uses identifiable characteristics of humans for political and economic ends. Founding fathers institutionalized racism as a means of preventing unity among the workers.

He mentioned about the role played by the Highlander Research and Education Centre which has allegedly been set on fire by the white supremacist group two weeks ago resulting in loss of historic documents and speeches. This very centre then known as Highlander Folk School trained and educated prominent black activists including  Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and  John Lewis. The school was under continues attack in mid 90s and still such institutions are under attack. Racism reinforced by economic expansion after 1800 and continues till today.  He concluded by quoting Karl Marx, “Labour in the white skin can never free itself as long as labour in the black skin is branded.”

Mr Sharat G Lin, Research Fellow at SJPJC, talked about the intersectionality of class and caste. India’s social contradictions to some extent were addressed by the Public Sector Units (PSUs) but the PSUs have been shrinking due to privatization. He argued that Indian capitalism is casteism. He supported his argument with the evidence that succession in family-owned business and non-family owned businesses is overwhelmingly from the same caste. It’s apparent in India that hiring employees is largely discriminatory. We have to fight all social contradictions such as gender, race and caste which are not encompassed in class exploitation.

Ms. Kanakalakshmi of AKSC in her welcome address took the gathering through the historical perspective of Ambedkar’s ideas of state socialism. She supported her argument with Ambedkar’s position on judicial remedy and state socialism with parliamentary democracy. She added that Ambedkar’s social democracy is based on the ideas of liberty, fraternity and equality.

As part of the program Suraj Yengde released the special issue of ‘Vemani’ published by Theekkathir, Tamil daily. The special issue has articles, poems and historical essays on Kilvenmani struggle and the massacre which took place on 25th Dec 1968 in which 44 Dalit-landless people were killed by the landlords. Mr Mani M Manivanan, Vidya & Pavan of AID and Jaweed and Fazal of Indian American Muslim Council received the copy of the special issue from Suraj Yengde, Sandy Perry and Sharat Lin.

Mr. Gopi , Ms. Asti of AID and Mr. Pavan of AID introduced the speakers Dr Suraj Yengde, Mr. Sandy Perry and Dr Sharat Lin respectively. Karthikeyan of AKSC conducted the release of Venmani special issue. Mr. Elancheran of AKSC delivered the vote of thanks. Mr. Selvaraj of AKSC, anchored the overall program. People had one on one interactions after the program and concluded with dinner which continued till 9:30 PM.

Many new people attended Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday celebration which is encouraging and participation of non-Indians has demonstrated that Dr Ambedkar is making steady inroads into progressive US politics.