Brahmjeet's eyes softened as he remembered 1942 when Babasaheb held his hands. "Padho... padhna mat chodna (Study... never leave studying)," he coaxed the youngster. A crusader for dalit rights, Brahmjeet has spent most of his life propagating Ambedkar's message.
One of the founder members of NACDOR (National Confederation of Dalit Organizations), the old man left his home in Vishwas Nagar in east Delhi at 5.30am to reach Parliament.
Reasons For Ambedkar's Popularity.
What makes Ambedkar so popular even today? Brahmjeet is clear on this account. "Babasaheb's slogan for every dalit was ”Shikshit bano, sangathit ho, sangharsh karo (Imbibe education, organize yourselves and keep up the good fight).
Now that more and more dalits have empowered themselves with education, the movement is growing," said Brahmjeet, watching a large rally of youth on Patel Chowk dancing to drumbeats holding large pictures of their icon.
The traffic signal in front of All India Radio headquarters was a convergence point. A small economy came alive around Ambedkar for half a day as people made the most of food on offer.
Chairman, NACDOR, Ashok Bharti spoke of the dalit's journey from near-destitution to mainstream society. "The dalit is ubiquitous. You find him in government offices, temples and corporate houses. He is the street vendor who sells you the packed water bottles and the rickshaw driver you hire. Dalits are a huge success story but the government is not ready to accept it," Bharti said.
He added that the numbers also indicate the growing sense of unrest among marginalized who now face a subtler form of exploitation.
His views were supported by Kiran Kumari, a government school teacher. "My father was not allowed to sit on a chair in the classroom because he was dalit. He grew up to be a teacher. He had to leave his job due to anti-dalit discrimination. My daughter is an engineering student. The discrimination is no longer overt but latent and this bothers us," Kumari said.
A senior manager with a bank, Bhim Sen and his friend Sher Singh, an ex-banker, attended from East of Kailash. "We have been coming here with our families since 1971. This is also an opportunity for reunion with old friends," Sher Singh said.