5 February 1988: Massive counter demonstration of Dalits to pin the Government of Maharashtra to publish the “Riddles in Hinduism”
With the death centenary of Mahatma Jyotiba Phule and the birth centenary ofDr. Babasaheb Ambedkar due in 1990-91, the state government of Maharashtra had begun the project of publishing the complete works of both. As part of this project, it brought out a volume that contained Dr. Ambedkar’s hitherto unpublished work, “Riddles in Hinduism” (volume no 4) in October 1987. In this, he made a rational and dispassionate analysis, from the standpoint of social justice, of the life stories of Hindu deities. The work also had a section (appendix 1) which was called “the Riddle of Ram and Krishna”.
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The Shiv Sena party in Mahatashtra pounced on “Riddles”, branded it as an intolerable insult to Hindu religion and Hindu deities and demanded a ban on its publication. It held a huge demonstration in Mumbai on 15 January 1988 and began disturbances all over the state, abusing Dr. Ambedkar and widening caste-communal divisions. It was only after an even larger counter-demonstration by all Dalit groups that was led by Prakash Ambedkar (grandson of Dr. Amebdkar) on 5 February 1988 that the publication could further proceed with a note from Government that it does not concur with the views expressed in the chapter on Ram and Krishna.
It is worthy to note that as per Nanak Chand Rattu, Dr. Ambedkar had planned to write a separate book on “Riddle of Rama and Krishna”. Compilation of material under different headings in the form of rough notes, written in small note books and loose sheets, some typed extracts, markings and references put together in file covers and paper bags, under different headings, indicated his ambition to bring out the following books one after the other – (i) Buddha and His Dhamma, (ii) Buddha and Karl Marx, (iii) Revolution and Counter-revolution in Ancient India, (iv) Riddles in Hinduism, (v) Riddle of Rama and Krishna, (vi) Riddle of Trimurti and (vii) Riddle of Woman.
He knew fully well that no body would be able to complete these books and as such he was keen to get these published in his life time. However, his priority was “Buddha and his Dhamma”. But he also devoted time for his other work.
The book “Riddles in Hinduism” that he started writing in the frist week of January 1954 as brought to completion by the end of November 1955 and four press coipes typed out on a fine strong paper. When his attention was drawn by Nanak Chand Rattu that to prepare four copies of the manuscript was unnecessary he lost no time to quip with a smile. “Look”, he said, “what is the title of the book – Riddles in Hindusim – which is itself a reply. I haven’t got my own press and naturally it has to be given to some Hindu Press for printing. It can be lost, burnt or destroyed and my several years of hard labour will thus go waste. Doesn’t matter what the cost involved. I must have a spare copy with me.”
The book though complete in all respects, its printing was held up as he wanted to add two very important photos. One related to Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of Indian Republic, when he went to Benares, worshipped Brahmins, washed their toes and drank the water. The second photo related to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, when on 15 August 1947 he sat at the yagna performed by Brahmins of Beneras to celebrate the event of a Brahmin becoming the first Prime Minister of free and independent India, wore the Raja Danda given to him by these Brahmins and drank the water of the Ganges brought by them. Dr. Rajendra Prasad’s photo had become available, search was on for the photo of Nehru.
Whenever Dr. Ambedkar took up the writing of a book he did it with hope, belief, confidence and determination. He felt overjoyed after completion, having a look at the manuscript ready to be sent to the Publisher. He got heavenly joy when the book was published and his thoughts printed. He would then enjoy the event in a jubilant mood, cutting jokes and singling a song in tune with his favorite song displayed on the radiogram.
But alas! He could not see the book in his life time. Tragedy is that, after his death, all the four copies of the manuscripts disappeared all at once. Savita Ambedkar had stayed in the Bunglow at 26 Alipore road where her husband Dr. Ambedkar breathed the last till 1967. One Madan Lal Jain had purchased the bunglow in 1966 and allowed her to stay in the rooms already in her possession. Madan Lal quietly moved an application in the court to evict her. And on 20 January 1967 when she went to Alwar district, Madan Lal Jain and his son-in-law entered the premises with three bailiffs and 20 muscle men and forcibly opened the rooms and a big store room taking bunch of keys from Mohan Singh, her servant, who was listening, at ease, the radio program.
On 27 January 1967 with the facilitation of Nanak Chand Rattu she got the help from Home Minister Shri Y B Chavan, Lt Governor and Deputy Commissioner. Consequently she was permitted to enter the premises and have access to rooms in her possession. The worst was that Madan Lal Jain and his the men had removed countless precious documents and important papers, nicely kept in several racks of the big store room and recklessly dumped in an open yard opposite the shed in a shameful manner, not realizing the importance of these. In addition the store room had contained manuscripts of his several wirtings which at that time were unpublished. But many of them were destroyed and reduced to waste paper due to the reckless handling and rain the same night.
Subsequently the papers were taken into the custody by the custodian of the High Court of Delhi. Later these were transferred to the Administrative General of the Government of Maharashtra. Later Shri J B Bansod, an Advocate from Nagour, filed a suit against the Government in the High Court at Nagpur making a simple request seeking permission from court to allow him to publish the unpublished writings of Dr. Ambedkar or to direct the Government to publish the same. Government then formed a committee called as Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Source Material Publication Committee and appointed Vasant Moon as the Officer on Special Duty. The work of Dr. Ambedkar then got published due to the unrelenting hard work of Vasant Moon.
Nanak Chand Rattu in his book ‘Last few years of Dr. Ambedkar’ has thanked the Maharashtra Government for bringing together the scattered material from different sources and publishing the work in the form of a book – “Riddles in Hinduism” – the original one disappearing immediately after Dr. Ambedkar’s death. However “Riddles of Rama and Krishna” were added only as an appendix to the book that was published by Government of Maharashtra. Perhaps the papers were destroyed and reduced to waste during reckless handling and rain between 20 and 27 January 1967. The dream of Dr. Ambedkar of a separate book on “Riddles of Rama and Krishna” remained unfulflied.