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Home > News > Report

'We have lost an adviser, a mentor'

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai | May 29, 2003 23:38 IST

Member of Parliament and wellknown Dalit leader of Maharashtra Ramdas Athavale remembers Savita 'Mai' Ambedkar, the 95-year-old wife of the late Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, who passed away in Mumbai on Thursday.

Maisaheb Ambedkar was like family to me. Her contribution to the Dalit movement is unparalleled.

She was from a Brahmin family, but still married Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. By this act she proved that the scourge of caste system in India could be destroyed by inter-caste marriages. All her life she spoke against the ills of the caste system in India.

When Dr Ambedkar wrote the Indian Constitution, she was by his side. When he wrote Dharam Granth, Maisaheb helped him. Babasaheb used to say thatSavita was a great help to him in completing his works.

When Dr Ambedkar embraced Buddhism in 1956, she followed suit. She spent eight years with Dr Ambedkar and those eight years had a great influence on his life.

It was in Siddharth College, Mumbai, in 1978 that I first met her. She was a great supporter of the Dalit Panther movement. She was a great inspiration to the youth of my generation. As a college boy, I used to stay at a hostel in Wadala and travel to Dadar to meet her very often. I was greatly influenced by her thoughts.

Whenever we held programmes, she invariably was there as a special guest. She was very helpful to all of us. For the past 24 yearsI was in regular touch with her.

She had great faith in Buddhism. She often urged her Hindu friends to give up their blind beliefs. Many of them criticised her. They felt that she was forgetting her roots of Brahminism.

In Dalit Panthershe was a great source of support and inspiration to all of us. We will always be indebted to her for her contribution. She made a big difference in Dalit politics and inspired many young Dalit leaders like me. Her passing away is a great blow to the Dalit community.

She was not much of a political force because she was never part of active politics. She was not interested in politics and posts. Her only interest was social change. She used to advise us on all matters we took to her.

We have lost an adviser, a mentor.

Dalits are still being discriminated against in India. They are still looking for a voice that can articulate their case. Maisaheb spent a lifetime fighting this discrimination, giving voice to the underprivileged and the dispossessed.

Her only aim in the last few days of her life was to unite all Dalit parties under one roof. She was very disappointed when we all split into different groups. I hope we will come together after her death. If we do, her soul will rest in peace.

As told to Chief Correspondent Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

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