It is Dhamma Chakkra Parivartan Divas. This day in 1956, Babasaheb, along with millions of men, women and children, takes vows to reject the religion and rituals that enforced the caste system and embraced Buddhism- the religion of Sila, Samadhi and Prajna. This is probably one of his last and final acts efforts to annihilate caste system. Twenty years before, in “Annihilation of Caste”, he admits caste is a notion of mind, a belief system, that cannot be undone with a mere change of practices such as discouraging untouchability (by promoting a ritual of dining together) or inter-caste marriages. [Theoretically, inter-caste marriages do have the potential obliterate caste eventually, but remember that mate-choice is not solely be driven by the purpose of obliterating caste. Given the huge inequalities built up between castes, the inter-caste marriages are too few and far between to create a ripple in the sea of this labyrinth of graded-inequal caste society. More importantly what will be a principle or motivation to for a casteless society either through inter-caste marriage or other means?] The only principle that can push for that he concludes, is the principle of liberty, equality, and fraternity. Hindu Sastras ordain against that. With the Hindu faith, the notion of caste-system is mixed like milk and water. He draws up suggestions to restructure Hinduism so as to inculcate the principle of liberty, equality, and fraternity. He is convinced that Hindus would not come anywhere near it and declares he is leaving Hinduism.
So Dhamma Chakkra Parivartan Divas is the day to recite the vows to leave that notion of mind and the belief system, the faith that sustains it and embrace a principled and rational Dhamma. That is why the 22 vows that Babasaheb Dr. B. R. Ambedkar takes start with rejecting Hindu rituals and go on to accepting Budhhism. Also, that is why it is not surprising that Dhamma Chakkra Parivartan Divas fell on the Hindu festival day Vijaya Dashmi and it is celebrated Ashoka Vijaya Dashmi as a tribute to the beginning of Emperor Ashoka’s life as a Buddhist.
That is why one cannot celebrate Dussehra and Dhamma Chakkra Parivartan Divas the same time. That is why one cannot be a Hindu and a Budhhist the same time. It is the day one should be celebrating rejection of the practices that bound a million of people to the inhuman condition. Have things changed today? Is the priest doing puja not Brahmin? Are the community and the priest doing puja reject all aspects of Sastra that support caste and inequality? Do you see a proportionate representation of Indian population in that puja community? If not, why? Do you not see, hear or read about in caste-based atrocities anymore?
It is even difficult for someone who grows up participating in religious festivals in the fringes. Growing up untouchable, there are Durga Pujas at every important location, but he watches from a distance. Now, you can tell him did anyone told you not to go near it? You can ask him did you even try to go near it? And he would be dumbstruck. No, he knew like that baby elephant who knows he can’t fly not to go near it. The notion of mind becomes an insurmountable wall that he can’t scale. But sometimes the human instincts take over and the borders are drawn, infiltrator is put down and shown his place. Like many before him, he does not forget it. In a one-out-of-thousand case, a miracle happens. A caterpillar turns into a butterfly in the eyes of the same kind of people. He is still scarred by his previous humiliating incidences, but now he can pass off as if nothing ever happened. He probably can cross those boundaries without having to ask anyone.
When he is invited to cross one of those boundaries, he is forced by the same human instincts that made him cross those boundaries before, to remember those incidences and ask, “are those lines still there?”.
“By walking across the line, am I saying those millions who can’t, ‘be one of the thousands like me and maybe someday the line won’t restrict you’.”
“Can I actually assure that? What about the nine hundred ninety-nine”
These are places he is not allowed to ask that question. Someone somewhere decides for him. He has to cross the line knowing that he is an infiltrator. Limited desecration is allowed. Caste has become immune to contamination. Earlier, caste was an anxious a tiny drop of precious water in an undulating lily leave. Touch and it is gone. See it and it is gone. But never lost, as an ode to its eternal character. Caste thrives. Like a Satan, it grows powerful the more people it touches by allowing to cross that line and making sure they never question that notion-of-mind that is deeply interwoven with the Sastras.
He is now an accomplice.