Kaun Banega Crorepati 12 has found itself in a hot soup, after a question asked in an episode invoked the ire of Hindu right wing radicals. In the episode that aired on October 30, featuring special guests – social activist Bezwada Wilson and actor Annup Sonii – Amitabh Bachchan asked this question – ‘On 25 December 1927, Dr BR Ambedkar and his followers burned copies of which scripture?’ BJP MLA Abhimanyu Pawar Files Police Complaint Against Amitabh Bachchan Over ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati 12’ Question.
The answer was Manusmriti, one of the oldest texts in India, which historians claim to be responsible for bringing caste hierarchy in the society. After the contestants gave the right answer, Big B added, “In 1927, Dr BR Ambedkar condemned the ancient Hindu text Manusmriti to ideologically justify caste discrimination and untouchability and he also burned copies of it.” The question and the reasoning irked the haters, who alleged that the reality show was propagating caste differences.
The superstar host and the showrunners are also facing an FIR filed in Lucknow, while #BoycottKBC was trending on social media. But was there anything wrong or fallacious about the question? Did the event never happen?
The answer to both the questions are negative.
Ambedkar, the architect of India’s constitution, and his followers did burn copies of the text on December 25, 1927. The act was done as a gesture of protest against years of rejection that the lower caste communities, like Dalits and scheduled tribes, have been facing over centuries.
The event was a result of the movement begun by Ambedkar against social practices like untouchability, which his followers called as Mahad Satyagraha. Mahad Satyagraha was a protest for the rights of untouchables to use basic amenities like using water for public consumptions, and earning the dignity and respect that other castes enjoyed as a privilege. The movement also included getting access for Dalits to enter religious places like temples.
There have been comparisons to this movement to that of Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi Satyagraha, where he marched to Dandi with his followers to pick up salt from the beaches. While Gandhi’s protest was against taxes imposed on essential items like salt, Ambedkar’s satyagraha was for demanding basic human rights for suppressed communities.
As part of the Mahad Satyagraha, Ambedkar recalled copies of the book and burnt it publically. In his biography of Dr Ambedkar, Narendra Jadhav wrote, “Dr Ambedkar denounced Manu Smriti. Revered by the so-called upper-caste Hindus, it (has been) reviled by the untouchables, as it directed that molten lead be poured into the ears of untouchables if they heard or read the sacred Vedas. There are even worse punishments. Dr Ambedkar felt that Manu Smriti was a charter of rights for the so-called upper caste Hindus but a Bible of slavery for untouchables.” BR Ambedkar Quotes & HD Images: 11 Memorable Sayings by the Father of Indian Constitution to Celebrate Ambedkar Jayanti 2020.
Following the event, Ambedkar followers have called it ‘Manusmriti Dahan‘ and December 25 has been celebrated as Manusmriti Dahan Din since. The event has also been captured in Jabbar Patel’s 2000 film Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, where Malayalam superstar Mammootty had played the social revolutionary (to winning a National Award for his performance).
Watch The Scene Below:
Which makes us wonder if Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had released today, would it have faced similar repercussions as KBC12 is facing?
Manusmriti Dahan Din is also celebrated as Stree Mukti Din by certain Ambedkarites, as Ambedkar had argued that certain texts in Manusmriti were also against giving women equal rights as men.
Interestingly, Ambedkar himself faced a lot of criticism for burning of Manusmriti. When a critic asked why the need to give importance to the book when the ideas in it feel outdated, Ambedkar reportedly gave an answer that could be a response to those criticising Kaun Banega Crorepati now. As per Feminism India‘s article on him, he had said, “Why then to give importance to it? How does it matter to you if somebody burns it?” Touche!
(The above story first appeared on Onhike on Nov 03, 2020 10:08 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website onhike.com).