Mysore/Mysuru: Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Ramdas Athawale has said that if the Poona Agreement was not done, Dalits would have got separate voting rights and the community would have got more opportunities and representations.
The Minister was speaking after floral tributes to the portrait of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and inaugurating a seminar on ‘Nine Decades of Political Reservation: Issues, Effects and Changes’ organised on the eve of Poona Agreement Day, by University of Mysore’s Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Research and Extension Centre, at the Centre’s Vishwajnani Auditorium recently.
“At the First Round Table Conference Dr. Ambedkar argued for the separate voting rights for Dalits and Scheduled Tribes (STs) and the Britishers had agreed for this. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had argued that though we were Hindus, we were not allowed inside temples, not supposed to touch water of lakes, ponds and rivers. There was a practice of untouchability everywhere. Hence, they need separate voting rights and had convinced the Britishers to accept his argument. But Mahatma Gandhi opposed this saying that Hindu community will be divided if separate voting rights are given and started a hunger strike at Pune’s Yerawada prison,” he added.
“Dr. Ambedkar was not for Poona Agreement. When Gandhiji did not accept the separate voting rights for Dalits and STs, Dr. Ambedkar proposed the Reservation System. Dr. Ambedkar reluctantly agreed to the Poona Agreement fearing threat of life to Mahatma Gandhi and the resultant dangers to the Dalit and ST community,” said the Union Minister.
“Dalit community doesn’t have more than 22 percent of population in any of the Constituencies. Because of this, we have to depend on upper castes to contest the elections. We really need separate voting rights. But Dr. Ambedkar’s dream was not fulfilled. Otherwise, he would have become the Prime Minister. His death, soon after our independence, was a great loss to our community. Today, we are availing many benefits because of Dr. Ambedkar,” he opined.
The Union Minister said that the Union Government is committed to the encouragement of Higher Education of Dalit students. Last year, 120 Dalit students were provided assistance to study in foreign countries. Financial assistance of Rs. 30 lakh to Rs. 90 lakh will be given and asked the Dalit students to make use of this opportunity.
New Delhi Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Centre for the Study of Social Systems Head Prof. Vivek Kumar, who spoke on the occasion, said that Dr. Ambedkar believed that representations are needed to strengthen Democracy. “Apart from the Legislature, he sought for reservations in the Ministry also. In this backdrop, we should think of representations once again. Reservation is not a poverty elimination programme. It should be inclusive of Dalits, Backward Classes and Women. Reservations should continue till we get adequate representation,” said Prof. Vivek Kumar.
University of Mysore Vice-Chancellor (VC) Prof. G. Hemantha Kumar appealed to the Union Minister to release a grant of Rs. 6.9 crore towards the 4th phase works of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Museum and Dalits Registration Centre. The VC also informed the Minister that Mysore University has set up Buddha Study Centre and Member of Parliament V. Sreenivasa Prasad had appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during the latter’s recent visit to Mysuru, to sanction a grant of Rs. 10 crore towards setting up of Buddha Study Centre.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Research and Extension Centre Director Dr. S. Narendrakumar, Prof. Dr. J. Somashekar and others were present on the occasion.