Jai Bhim Network

Saddhananda Fulzele: Memories of Dr. Ambedkar and 1956

2008.11.03. Categorized: Uncategorized   

DikshabhumiI met Professor Saddhananda Fulzele, the organizer of the great 1956 conversion ceremony, in a university building adjacent to the Dikshabhumi conversion ground: Dr Ambedkar College, which Prof. Fulzele founded and developed into a top-ranking college. I asked him to tell me his memories of Dr Ambedkar and 1956.

I have known about Dr Ambedkar as long as I have known about the world. When I was growing up my family kept his picture as one of their few possessions and worshipped him as if he was a God. My father was a landlord and we got news of the wider world, even in our remote village. I first saw him in 1942, when I was just 14 years old: he had left mainstream politics to form his own party, the Scheduled Caste Federation, and when he came to Nagpur for a conference, I saw him on the dais.

I saw him again in 1946, when he was Labour Minister and he came to Nagpur for another meeting. He arrived in a large saloon car, and his face was shining – radiant – and his whole bearing was very impressive. All of his followers respected him as if he was a higher being. What he had achieved was so immense for someone from our background, and he carried our hopes for a better future.

Get the Flash Player to see this player. By 1956, when Babasaheb declared that he was to convert to Buddhism, I had been a member of the Municipal Council, and he called several of us to Delhi to tell us the date and discuss arrangements. He was very concerned that everything should be done properly, so I was sent to meet him personally. I sat on the verandah of his house and he came in supported by a stick in one hand, with his other arm propped up by his assistant. He asked about the arrangements and told me to find a suitable piece of land.

The plot I found was where we are sitting now - Diksabhumi - though at that time it was agricultural land outside the town. Nagpur has grown so much since then that now it seems close to the centre. I had to work hard to get the land from the government, but eventually all the arrangements were made, while my colleague arranged the ceremony itself. I was 28 years old.

On October 14th, as soon as Babasaheb stood on the dais everyone was cheerful. There were so many people – now they say around half-a-million – all of us dressed in the white clothes of Buddhist lay-people. People had traveled great distances to be there, as well as coming from the local region, so members of many castes and communities were present.

Babasaheb stood on the dais and rested his head before the Buddha for two or three minutes without moving. He was so moved, so emotional, and the whole crowd was calm and quiet. Then he took diksa from the presiding monk, and after that he repeated the verses for all of us, including the 22 vows. So we took diksha from Babasaheb.

I cannot describe what I felt that day. I do not have the words in English, but I can say that for all of us it was as if our lives started anew. It was as if we had stepped out of the darkness and into the light, or we had been released from prison. For so many thousands of years our people had been treated as animals, but now we were human beings. We could hold our heads high, and I never lost that feeling.

I heard the news of Dr Ambedkar’s death on the radio. Everyone was crying, and yet we could not believe it was true. I rushed to get to Bombay, for the funeral in Dadar, and all along the route of the funeral there were many people, all filled with intense emotion.

We made an application to the central government to have a memorial on the site of the diksha, and eventually it was granted. I became Secretary of the trust controlling the land in 1965 and I decided to start the Dr Ambedkar College as the most fitting memorial: his constant message was, ‘Educate!’ Others wanted a memorial building, and we started efforts to build one in 1972, but we were held back by lack of funds. In 1981 we celebrated the Silver Jubilee of the ceremony and the Maharashtran Chief Minster contributed money for the construction. Work continued over many years and we finished quite recently. The outer appearance is modeled on the Great Stupa at Sanchi, but ours is unique because it has a temple inside the base, and some of Dr Ambedkar’s ashes are there. It’s the biggest hollow stupa in the world, and every year a million people come to pay homage to their revered teacher.

Fifty years is a very short time in the history of a religious movement, and I think that over this period the conversion movement has had a good response. Now many communities that had no connection to Dr Ambedkar are coming to be his followers – people like Lakshman Mane. The Other Backward Castes (the OBC’s or sudras) who hated Dr Ambedkar in his lifetime now see that they will only make progress by following the path he proposed. There are movements now in many states, including Tamil Nadu, where the leaders include many intellectuals and educated people.

Dr Ambedkar dead is more powerful than he was alive. Many of his followers have thrived: after centuries of deprivation there are now many doctors, senior government officers and people who are successful overseas from our community. They have been uplifted by Dr Ambedkar’s movement, which has brought a very good change in Indian society.

3 Comments:

1 | Ashwin Jangam

November 5th, 2008, 4:04 am

Dear Dhamma Lovers,                                     I am very happy to read this article.Jaibhim.hu has such like articles for Youth to inspire them towards Buddhism,Dr.Ambedkar and Education. Its the historical flashback of the Conversion in Buddhism of 14 oct. 1956..Thanks to Kalyanush,Tibor and Janos

2 | yashwant wankhede

October 15th, 2010, 12:34 pm

Dear all Ambedkarites, what we are today are the blessings of Dr Ambedkarji, we should follow the path of Dhamma to uplift ourself, we should inspire through the way of Dr babasaheb adopt, Educat, unite and agitate but unfortunately what we are doing today is getiing education by the grace of ambedkarji, dividing ourself individually agitetating and by that we are powerless still today, get lesson from this…thanks  Jaibhim

3 | Sundip Warke

December 14th, 2010, 8:53 am

Dear all nice to see our people doing good in hungry and really proud to be a gr8 community…Jai bhim Sundip

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Our Inspiration 1st Part

Our Inspiration (1st Part)
Jai Bhim is a cheerful greeting. Ten million Indians greet each other in this manner. They're the Dalits who are a proud community. They inherited an extremely difficult life. Their parents and grandparents and untold generations before them were outcasts in society. Even today they still encounter prejudice and experience helplessness.
For more than a millenium their ancestors lived as outcasts. People had a horror of touching them. Others even avoided being in their proximity as their shadow was considered polluting. If they went to school they were seated separately, If they were able to obtain work they did the dirtiest and lowest paid jobs.

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Our Inspiration (2nd Part)
With their greeting of Jai Bhim they remind each other of their own successful revolution in 1956 for their human rights. Their cause is sacred. It inspires us here in Hungary, as we also face segregation and prejudice today. We would like to know discrimination is a thing of the past.
The dalit's story is like a fairy tale.

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Once upon a time, a hundred years ago, there lived a seventeen year old untouchable boy in a big family, His name was Bhim. He was the youngest child among 14 siblings. He surpassed all of them because of his brilliant mind. A wealthy maharaj acknowledged his poverty and bestowed a scholarship on him. Bhim was aware that Indian schools were being discriminatory and practiced segregation. Therefore, he tried his fortune in London and New York where he achieved university degrees. He received the title Dr. Ambedkar when he returned home to serve his people as a barrister.

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Nevertheless, he was considered as an untouchable in accordance with the holy books of the Hindu religion. Therefore, he convened with his friends and publicly burned Manu's Laws, the Hindu holy script which bids the Hindu to hold the Untouchable in disdain. He became a human right fighter and his authority was constantly growing throughout the whole country. When India gained independence in 1947 he was nominated as law minister. He was entrusted with drafting the Constitution for the country. He wrote in it that discrimination is forbidden.

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In his old age the Dalit people addressed him with veneration as Dr. Babasaheb. He and his laws, however respected they were, he still stared frustratedly at the discrimination existing all over the country. He decided then to show the people a spiritual alternative. As our judgment is determined by our faith, he took an oath: "I was born a Hindu Untouchable. It was beyond my power to prevent that but I declare that it is within my power to refuse to live under ignoble and humiliating conditions. I solemnly assure you that I will not die a Hindu". He abjured hindu religion that had brought so much suffering and humiliation to the Untouchable people (today's Dalits).

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He studied thoroughly all the faiths of the world. He was seeking a religion which fitted together with reason, with modern science, and which declared liberty, fraternity and equality amongst people. He decided to follow the path of the Indian prince who lived 2500 years ago: he would be a follower of the Buddha. This was a decision of profound importance for the Dalits because the Buddha is venerated thoughout the world, and India is entitled to take pride in her great son. Dr. Ambedkar showed his astuteness: all of us can choose the way to be respected, we can change our fate for the better. Hundreds of thousands followed Ambedkar to the magnificent ceremony in Nagpur in October 1956. This was the rebirth of Buddhism in India. Babasaheb died six weeks later.

Our Inspiration 7th Part

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Those who at that time embraced a new world view with him, they are today grandfathers and grandmothers. Their grandchildren are as numerous as the whole population of Hungary. They follow Ambedkar's example: they face even the biggest difficulties in all things - to study and to exercise their human rights.

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  • Sunil Sagar: Jai Bhim Janos it's great seeing Dr. Ambedkar's follower in Hungary. The Emancipator, The god of Small. What Millions of god and goddess of Hindu's c
  • Ashwin Jangam: Struggle for liberation of Mulnivasis When freedom struggle of our country was going on, we were dual slaves. The Arya Brahmin
  • Ashwin Jangam: Jaibhim Abhinav Thank you Abhinav for putting up a superb photos of our ancestors to know our peop
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