Shashi Tharoor. Photo: PTI
Jaipur: From promoting birth control and equal wages for female labourers to asking women to stand up to their husbands, Dr B R Ambedkar was constantly thinking about women empowerment, Congress leader and writer Shashi Tharoor said here on Thursday.
Terming Ambedkar the "first male feminist" of India, Tharoor said his speeches from the 1930s and 40s to female audiences would still be considered "extraordinarily progressive" in some parts of the country.
"So here is a guy who tells women that don't marry early, don't let your parents push you into marriage, when you do get married stand up to your husbands, you are their equals, you are not there just to serve them, make sure you are not coerced into having too many children too early. You should have control over the children you have," the Thiruvananthapuram MP said at the 16th edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival.
Tharoor was joined by Ambedkarite scholar Sumit Samos at a session titled 'BR Ambedkar: Life and Times' at the event.
The Congress leader also noted that while in the Bombay legislative assembly, Ambedkar introduced a Bill to promote birth control and "needless to say the conservatives shot it down and he lost that attempt".
Despite the legal letdown, Ambedkar went on to advocate for equal wages for women labourers and "succeeded in trying to get similar terms and conditions including leave rights, maternity leaves and so on".
"This is a man who is constantly thinking of how much women need to be empowered, so he was thinking of empowerment at all levels and gender and caste, I think in his mind these were different phases of the same sort of disability," Tharoor added.
Talking about Ambedkar's efforts towards social reforms, Tharoor noted that he wanted the "controversial Hindu Code bill" to contain much more than it eventually did.
"He ran up against massive resistance from the conservatives and which became a genuine problem and ultimately led to his resignation from the cabinet...he resigned in some bitterness feeling the Hindus won't allow reforms to take place," Tharoor said.
The Congress MP said Ambedkar had said that while "in the Constitution we are bringing one person, one vote, but in our society we don't have one person, one value".
Touted as the "biggest" literary festival in the world, JLF 2023 will host some of the world's best thinkers, writers and speakers over the next five days.
Among the 250 speakers across some 240 sessions, including music concerts, are Booker winners Bernardine Evaristo, Marlon James, Geetanjali Shree, besides author Amia Srinivasan, academician David Wengrow, MP Varun Gandhi, and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani. PTI