US prez has given dalits a reason to smile: NCSC chief
Subodh Ghildiyal, TNN, Nov 9, 2010, 01.38am IST
NEW DELHI: Barack Obama's mention of Mahatma Gandhi as the man who
made his presidency possible and his invocation of "a dalit",
Ambedkar, as the author of the Constitution had the MPs in audience
gushing that his words could boost the struggle for social justice
like few statements can.
PL Punia, chairman of the National Commission for SCs, said that
"Obama identified himself with champions of dalit rights" which was
unheard of for a major political figure like the head of the US. "It
is a moment of pride for dalits. He gave an opportunity to dalits to
smile," Punia said.
The strong empowerment message of the US president, loaded with the
symbolismof his own paradigm-busting success as the first black to win
the top post in US, was lapped up by all, especially the dalit MPs.
Ashok Tanwar, youngster from the Congress stable, said the mention of
Gandhi and Ambedkar in the context of peace and equality was
Chairman of the OBC parliamentary forum Hanumantha Rao said, "Obama
shook all by his mention of Ambedkar-Gandhi and by his recalling of
Vivekananda's Chicago address."
The admiration for Obama's bold speech was universal but drew a
discordant note too. Pramod Kureel, BSP member of the Rajya Sabha,
gifted Obama the ninth volume of the "collected works of Ambedkar"
which contains his book, "What Gandhi and Congress have done to
While Obama was leaving, Kureel intercepted him on the aisle to give a
"gift from 300 million dalits of India". The young MP said Obama
glimpsed at it, thanked him and handed over the book to his staff.
Hailing from the dalit outfit which revers Ambedkar and forms the core
of anti-Congress political axis, Kureel's gesture was aimed to suggest
that the father of the nation was antagonistic and not complimentary
to the dalit icon unlike the way the US president presented.
Later, Kureel said, "Obama sent a big message to the underprivileged
as his speech was not Gandhi-centric but mentioned Ambedkar. It is
While business and strategic partnership have dominated the chatter
about the high profile visit, Obama's social justice face with a very
local touch moved the audience. The symbolism of the US president's
own success was not lost on anyone.
As Speaker Meira Kumar earlier said, "As a person, he has the
qualities and accomplishments which enabled him to transcend the very
deep-rooted barriers in his own country."
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