Saturday, 30 August 2008

What Mayawati has done to the Dalits of U.P.?
S.R.Darapuri
Email: srdarapuri@yahoo.co.in

Uttar Pardesh (U.P.) has got many firsts to its credit in India. Politically it is the first state in India where a Dalit woman has become Chief Minister for the fourth time. U.P. supports the largest population in India. It has also the largest population of the Scheduled Castes (SCs) numbering about 35.1 millions. It has also the highest number of the atrocity cases on the Dalits in India. U.P. has the largest number of women and children suffering from malnutrition. U.P. has also the highest incidence of Polio cases in whole of the country. At present U.P. is also the most corrupt State of India.
Now with so many firsts to its credit where do the Dalits of U.P. stand in comparison with Dalits of other States of India on development parameters? To get a true picture of their position it will be proper to judge them on the following development parameters:-
Female and Male ratio: The sex ratio of female and male of U.P Dalits is 900 per 1000 as against the national average of 936 in respect of all Dalits. Similarly the sex ratio among children of 0-6 year’s age group is 930 against the national average of 988.
These figures show that in respect of sex ratio U.P Dalits are far behind the Dalits of other states at national level. This indicates the low position and poor condition of Dalit females and children in U.P. It is not only the result of feticide and infanticide due to preference of male child over girl child and poverty but also due to incessant and organized discrimination and malnutrition.
According to National Family and Health Survey Report 2005-06 the percentage of women suffering from malnutrition in U.P was 47. Similarly out of 52% children suffering from malnutrition and 46% were stunted in growth. The child mortality rate was 73 percent as compared with 61% of Bihar. This survey also indicated that in the age group of 15 to 49 years, 34% women were underweight. During this survey it also came to light that there were 73 still births out of 1000 live births which were higher than 67.6% at national level nine years ago. At this point of time there were only 22% institutional deliveries against the national average of 34%. This survey also revealed that only 22% children had taken full vaccination where as the state government had claimed to have achieved hundred percent vaccinations in the years 2001-02. The mortality rate was 8.7% which is just next highest to Bihar which was 9.0 percent.
Literacy Rate: According to 2001 Census Report, the literacy rate of U.P Dalits stands at 43% whereas the national average of the Dalits is 54.7%. The literacy rate of U.P Dalits both males and females is 60.3% and 30.5% respectively whereas the national average of Dalits is 66.6% and 41.9% respectively. In Bahraich district the literacy rate of Dalit female is as low as 9 percent. As such U.P Dalits lag behind the Dalits of many other states of India in terms of male and female literacy rates. According to Dr. B.R.Ambedkar the progress of a society is measured by the progress of women. But the position of Dalit women in U.P. is very low. It also badly reflects on the poor performance of U.P government on education front.
Level of Education: Out of literate Dalits of U.P 38% have no level of education or have got education below primary level. The proportion of literates who have attained education up to primary and middle levels is 27.1% and 18.5% respectively. The percentage of literates educated up to matric and higher secondary is 13.3% only. Graduates and above are 3 percent. The non-technical and technical diploma holders constitute a meager of 0.1% only.
School Dropout Rate: As per the Report of Basic Education Directorate U.P, during 1991 the dropout rate of children at primary school stage was 45.02 percent. As such every second child leaves the school before completion of primary education. The dropout rate for girls was 46.25% which was higher than that of 44% for boys. This rate has not changed much even after that. It is well known that for various reasons, the dropout rate of Dalit children is much higher than general caste children. It has a direct bearing on the literacy rates of Dalits.
Untouchability and Discrimination in Schools: It has come out from various newspaper reports that untouchability and discrimination persists in U.P. government school. It is often reflected in the form of boycott of mid-day meal prepared by Dalit cooks in primary and middle schools. In spite of government orders for appointment of Dalit cooks on priority basis, it has been found during a survey that Dalit cooks have been appointed in 17% schools only. The neglect and complacency on the part of government machinery in implementing its own orders has given impetus to the incidents of boycott of mid-day meals prepared by Dalit cooks. It is a pity that punitive action was taken in a few cases only and many others have been hushed up. Apart from it, many incidents of caste discrimination and maltreatment of Dalit students by high caste teachers have been reported in press. This situation badly reflects on the attitude of Mayawati Government towards the incidence of untouchability in government schools.
Work Participation Rate: According to 2001 Census Report, the work participation rate (WPR) of the Scheduled Castes (SCs) population of U.P is 34.7% which is lower than that of all SCs at the national level. There has been a slight decrease of 0.3% in WPR during 1991-2001. Both the male and female WPR (46.9 and 21.2% respectively) are lower than those recorded for all SCs at the national level (50.7 and 29.4% respectively). Among the total workers, 65.25% are Main Workers, which is lower than that recorded for all SCs at the national level (73%). As such 34.8% of Dalits are casual workers.
The above statistics make it clear that U.P. Dalits lag behind in WPR as compared with Dalits at the national level which is reflected in large scale unemployment and consequent poverty.
Dalits as Agriculture Workers: Agriculture Labourers constitute the highest proportion (42.5%) among total SCs workers. This is lower than the national average of 45.6% recorded by all SCs in this category. Cultivators constitute 30.9 percent. Other workers account for 22.2% against the national average of 30.5 percent. Workers engaged in House Hold Industry (HHI) constitute 4.3 percent only.
From the above it transpires that in U.P majority of the workers (75%) are agriculture labourers whereas there is no official arrangement for payment of minimum wages and assured employment. According to the findings of a study it has been found that the average employment of agriculture laborers in U.P. is 60 to 80 days only during a year. On account of lack of development of agriculture in U.P. the average of Dalit agriculture workers is lower than the national average. Apart from backward agriculture, not a single heavy industry has come up in U.P. during the last 15-20 years. As such no employment has been created during this period.
National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS) has been in place for the last two years but on account of rampant corruption and utter neglect on the part of implementing government machinery the job card holders could hardly get 8 day’s average employment during a year as against the guaranteed 100 days employment. Only 6.23 percent families got the benefit of this scheme. On the other hand Mayawati has threatened to abolish this scheme as and when she becomes the Prime Minster of India. It is because this scheme has been initiated by the Central Government headed by Congress Party with whom she has got adverse relations. Her statement had an adverse effect on the attitude of the official machinery which even otherwise is quite complacent in the implementation of such schemes concerning poor men.
Dalits below Poverty Line: As per the statistics of 2004-05, the percentage of persons Below Poverty Line (BPL) in U.P. was 32.8% where as the national average was 27.5 percent. Thus the percentage of Dalits in BPL category is quite high. According to National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO) survey for 1991-2002, the percentage of Dalits in this category was 44 in U.P. As compared with the percentage for BPL in Bihar (59.8) and Orissa (51.8) states, U.P. was only a little better placed. Per Capita Income and Per Capita Consumption in U.P. is also quite low as compared with all India level. The actual figure of BPL for Dalits in U.P. may be around 50-60% indicating very high incidence of poverty.
According to the Statistics Diary of U.P. for 2007 the average Per Capita Income at 1993-94 rates during 2004-05 was Rest. 6138 only i.e. Rest. 512 per month for a family of five members. It was Rest. 13316 during 2005-06 at current prices i.e. Rest. 1101 only for a family of five persons. It works out be Rest. 3.40 and Rs.7.30 only per head per day. These figures show very low per capita income in U.P. Consequently the per capita income of Dalits is bound to be much lower than this figure.
Land Holdings and Land Area with the Dalits: According to the Census of Agriculture Holdings in 1991, SC’s share in agriculture holdings was 17.15% in marginal, 11.6% in small, 7.4% in medium and 7.4% in semi medium holdings. Only 2.4% large holdings were in the possession of Dalits. In respect of area of holdings SCs had only 16.5% of marginal, 11.5% of small, 7.3% of semi medium and 4.2% of medium sized and 2.1% of large holdings. As such Dalits’ share in the land holdings was 16.35% and 10.5% in the total operational area in 1991 where as their population share in the state was 21.15 percent.
The 2001 Census Report shows that 30.9% Dalits were in the category of Cultivators where as according to 1991 Census this percentage was 42.03 percent. As such there has occurred a fall of about 12% in this category during the period from 1991 to 2001. as a result a large number of Dalits have fallen from the category of Cultivators to the category of landless labourers during the last decade. This downfall shows their disempowerment in place of empowerment as trumpeted by Mayawati. This situation is quite worrisome. The high level of corruption in poverty alleviation and various welfare schemes coupled with complacency on the part of implementing government machinery has deprived the poor and Dalits of the intended benefits. On account of this deprivation they were forced to sell their land holdings for sustenance.
Some land has been distributed to the landless people including Dalits during the last 32 years to empower them economically. On the one hand this land was not fertile enough and workable; secondly most of the recipients of this land could not get possession thereof. Where ever they were given possession most of them have been thrown out by the powerful illegal occupants. The latest example is the hunger strike and dharna (sit down) by the Dalits of Hardoi district before the Vidhan Sabha Bhavan, Lucknow. Their main grievance was that they could not get possession of the land allotted to them 32 years ago. In spite of it they have failed to get the possession till today. Now they are planning to resort to fast till death. Similar situation prevails in other districts also and Mayawati has failed to get them the possession as the culprits have become Sarvjan supporters of her Party (Bahujan Samaj Party). According to the National Remote Sensing Agency there was a total area of 3.8 million hectares of waste land (about 14% of total geographical area) which could be developed and distributed to the land less people but the present government has proposed to plant jetropha on it. Similarly millions of hectares of land is still under the control of people of dominant castes and Mayawati is no mood to touch them as they are now her Party supporters as SARVJAN. In reality land reforms have no priority with Mayawati for political reasons whereas these are crucial for empowerment of Dalits.
Lack of Development Agenda: From the above it transpires that U.P Dalits are more backward than all the Dalits of India except those of Bihar, Madhya Pardesh and Orissa. It is true that since1995 Mayawati has become the Chief Minister of U.P for the fourth time. Apart from others, is she not responsible for the underdevelopment of U.P Dalits to a large extent? It is a common knowledge that neither in the past nor at present Mayawati does not have any development agenda for Dalits or the State. In the absence of any development agenda neither the Dalits nor the State has witnessed any development. Sudha Pai has commented, “Bahujan Samaj Party is an Ambedkarite party not in the ideological or programmatic sense, but purely in political terms. Its leadership has a limited vision; it is not interested in social transformation or revolution. Its aim is merely to make some changes in the existing system, which would give power in the hands of Dalits” (Deprivation and Development in contradiction of Uttar Pradesh in “ Deprivation and Inclusive Development-2006” edited by D.M.Diwakar and G.P.Mishra, published by Manak Publishers Pvt. Ltd. India)
The State government has been spending major portion of its annual budget on Non- Plan expenditure. Billions of rupees have been spent on extravagant public shows, parks and installation of statues including heron. Could not this public money be spent on the development of education, health services and other welfare schemes? The politics of symbolism and tokenism pursued by Mayawati has given some emotional elation to the Dalits of U.P. but no development. The rampant corruption has eaten away the benefits of all the welfare schemes.
Dalits as worst victims of Corruption: According to a recent study by Transparency International U.P. is at present the most corrupt state in the whole of India. U.P.’s underdevelopment is the painful result of this corruption. Mayawati and a former Chief Minister, Mr. Mulayam Singh Yadav is under the scanner of Central Bureau of Investigation for possession of disproportionate assets as against their known sources of income. Their political and personal corruption has badly infected the bureaucracy and public life at large. As a result of it the various welfare schemes like N.R.E.G.S; P.D.S; I.C.D.S; Pension and Mother Welfare etc. have fallen prey to open corruption and misuse. It has deprived the poor along with Dalits of the intended benefits thereof. Education, Health and development of Infrastructure have been the low priority areas for Mayawati government.
Again according to Sudha Pai, “There is evidence that the conditions of the poorer sections in U.P. which include the major chunk of the Dalits have become worse during the 1990s. The National Human Development Report (NHDR) has pointed out the poor conditions of life in comparison with many other states. The State’s position in terms of Human Development Index was 29th in 1981 and has fallen to 31 out of 32 states (NHDR 2001:140-41). Similarly the Monthly Per Capita Consumption Expenditure registered a fall in the State between 1993-94 and 1999-2000; that this is due to a drastic reduction in the consumption expenditure on food between two periods clearly suggest deterioration in the standard of living. This down slide took place when the B.S.P. supported by B.J.P. was in power in U.P. for the most part (National Herald, Lucknow May 1, 2002). Despite the fact that the B.S.P. had formed a government twice during the 1990s and was again in power with the support of the B.J.P., the conditions of Dalits have not improved according to the draft proposals of the Tenth Five Year Plan (Jha, 28 December, The Times of India, New Delhi-2002). The B.S.P. did not put forward any policies for improving the socioeconomic conditions of the subaltern sections of the Dalits. The emphasis has been on political empowerment only.”
Atrocities on Dalits: As mentioned earlier U.P. has the highest incidence of atrocities on Dalits. It is on account of high Dalit population, feudal society and above all complacency on the part of government machinery in preventing or dealing with it effectively. The State has the old tradition of every Chief Minister trying to show the crime figures less than his/her predecessor’s period. Mayawati is no exception to it rather she is very stricter about it. During her first stint as Chief Minister in 1995 she had created a terror among police officers by suspending, transferring or punishing them for even a slight increase in crime figures. During her second term in 1997 she issued orders prohibiting use of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities Act, 1989) thereby earning the distinction of being the first Chief Minister of India to slam this Central Act contrary to the absence of any powers to do so. This was done under the pretext of preventing its misuse which is actually a lame excuse to placate her Sarvjan high caste supporters. Later on in 2003 it was withdrawn on paper after a lot of hue and cry was raised by public and it was challenged in the court but it continues to be in practice till today. The result is that lot of atrocities are being committed on Dalits but the official crime figures are being kept low to project low incidence of this crime. As such Dalits are victims of double cross. Due to non registration of their cases they are neither getting any legal relief nor are they getting any monetary compensation which otherwise they would have got. The perpetrators of these atrocities are going scot-free. The National Crime Report for 2006 issued by National Crime Records Bureau also projects U.P. state having the highest number of atrocities against Dalits during 2005.
According to one survey based on the News Paper reports during 2007 as any as 110 Dalit women fell victims to rape in U.P. but only 50% cases were registered by police and the tragedy was that as many as 85% rapes were committed on unmarried Dalit girls. In the same manner out of 19 cases of murder with rape 50%, in cases of murder 25%, in cases of molestation 71% and in cases of kidnapping 80% of the cases were not registered at all. These figures relate to some important News Papers only. The actual incidence of crime and the number of cases may be much higher. It is generally accepted that the number of cases registered by police is hardly 40% of actual crime. This situation depicts the miserable plight of U.P. Dalits under Mayawati.
Dr. Ambedkar’s concept of a Political Party and Political Power: While describing the role of a Political Party in the constitution of the Scheduled Castes Federation, Dr. Ambedkar said “A Political Party does not exist for winning elections but for Educating, Agitating and Organizing the People.” But Mayawati’s Party has learnt the art of winning election only and totally rejected the real role of a political party as described by Dr. Ambedkar. The result of this strategy is before us. Her very constituency is the victim of underdevelopment and her personal corruption.
Dr. Ambedkar while detailing the qualities of a leader said,” Your leaders must have the courage and caliber to match the topmost leaders of any political party. The party without efficient leaders comes to nil.” Now it is the high time that we assess our leaders including Mayawati on these parameters.
. Dr. Ambedkar’s often repeated slogan that” Political Power is the key to all Social Progress” has failed at Mayawati’s hands. It is because she has no Dalit agenda for the socio-economic empowerment of Dalits. In fact she lacks a vision whish is the essential qualification of any leader. Dr. Ambedkar while discussing the role of Politics said,” Politics is not the be-all and end-all of the nation’s life. We must study the Indian Problem in all its aspects, political, social, religious, and economic and fight with own accords for the solution of the down trodden.” But unfortunately for Mayawati achieving the political power is the be-all and end-all of her politics..
Her personal corruption has taken away the benefits of various welfare schemes. She is likely to be charge sheeted by the Central Bureau of Investigation for possession of disproportionate assets to the tune of Rest. 30 crores and she has further added Rest. 60 crores to her income during 2007 without having any known source of income.
While defining the role of administration Dr. Ambedkar remarked,” Purity of Administration is necessary for the Welfare of the people… It may be difficult to provide food and clothing to the people but why should it be difficult to give the people a pure Government”. But unfortunately Mayawti has failed to give pure government. Her personal corruption and unprincipled politics has infected all the branches of the Government At present 60% of her ministers are having criminal records. She herself has proved the dictum that Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. She has also earned for U.P. the dubious distinction of being the Most Corrupt State of India.
Dr. Ambedkar once remarked that his opponents did levy all sorts of allegations against him but none could dare to raise a finger at his character and integrity but can Mayawati dare to make even an iota of this claim. The answer is big NO. During a meeting of the Independent Labour Party Dr. Ambedkar remarked that Dalit Labourers have two enemies: one is Brahmanism and the other is Capitalism. But now Mayawati has embraced both these enemies. Brahmanism in the shape of Sarvjan (high caste Hindus) and Capitalism in the shape of liberalization, privatization and corporatization.
Dr. Ambedkar gave topmost importance to struggle and grass-root level social and political movements. Actually these movements formed the basis of his politics. But Mayawati’s Party is totally bereft of it. It is true that in the absence of grass- root level movements and public pressure the political power is likely to be misused for self aggrandizement as has happened in the case of Mayawati. Apart from amassing wealth through questionable means she is misusing public money to make parks and install statues including her own in an effort to immortalize her.
According to Dr. Ambedkar,” These ideas if hero-worship will bring ruin on you if you do not nip them in the bud. By deifying an individual, you repose faith for your safety and salvation in one single individual with the result that you get into habit of dependence and indifferent to your duty. If you fall a victim to these ideas, your fate will be worse than logs of wood in the national stream of life. Your struggle will come to naught.” But in the case of Mayawati this warning of Dr. Ambedkar is totally being ignored by her blind followers.
What should be done? Now the question arises that when Mayawati has failed to use political power as a key to social progress then what should be done. In this case we have to revert to the earlier quoted slogan of Dr. Ambedkar which says,” A Political Party does not exist for winning elections but for Educating, Agitating and Organizing the People.’ It requires the adoption of a path of struggle and grass-root level movements by taking up public issues. A definite Dalit Agenda has to be worked out and the political parties have to be forced to adopt it. Land reforms have to be first item on the Dalit Agenda because only lands possession only can empower them economically and free them from the bondage. Therefore Dalits must launch a vigorous movement for allotment of surplus and waste land available in the State. Fast track courts could be instituted to expedite the disposal of more than 5,000 land ceiling cases pending in the courts since many years. These cases involve millions of hectares of land. Unless the Dalits launch a similar land movement as was launched by Republican Party of India during 1964-65.
Without a vision and definite Dalit liberation agenda the attaining of political power is not going to solve the problems of the Dalits as well as that of the State. Structural changes and improvement in the delivery system only can remove the poverty syndrome prevailing amongst the Dalits. Grass-root level movements are the key to keep the political leaders under control and make them answerable to the people. Bureaucracy also responds properly under public pressure only. It is the high time that Mayawati’s role in the under development of the Dalits and the State is assessed critically and dispassionately and remedial measures taken as early as possible. Otherwise it will prove to be a missed opportunity.
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Tuesday, 5 August 2008

An Awakened Vision: Dr. B.R. Ambedkar's Struggle to Re-Ethicize Indian Society
Mangesh Dahiwale
Introduction
Dr. Ambedkar's View of Caste Dr. Ambedkar's Seminal Experiences of Caste Dr. Ambedkar's Analysis of CasteDr. Ambedkar's "Awakened" Vision The New Buddhism Steps Towards an Awakened Society Dr. Ambedkar’s Vision of Dhamma and Practice
Dr. Ambedkar's Movement For Justice Just Society through a Model Society (sangha) of Just People Dr Ambedkar and the Future of his Movement
Introduction
Although the words and terminology of Brahmanism and Buddhism look alike, they are functionally counteractive. For example, the idea of "karma" in Brahmanism refers to ritual action, while in Buddhism it refers to ethical action. In this way, the brahmanical worldview of society is diametrically opposite to Buddhist worldview. "Dharma" in Buddhism refers to the natural karmic law of ethical action and the Buddha's teachings on benevolent conduct, which create the basis for a democratic social system. However, "Dharma" in Brahmanism strikes at the basis of democracy by speaking of the religious "duty" of following the principles of graded inequality in varna or caste. According to Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, born on April 14, 1891 in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, Indian history and the history of caste is nothing but the conflict between these two worldviews of Buddhism and Bramhanism. He noticed that caste as human inequality based on birth and maltreatment meted out to one class of people by another has been sanctified by so-called sacred religious texts, such as the Vedas, Smrtis, and Shastras. In Buddhism, he not only found the mechanism to create a democratic social system, but also found a mechanism to liberate individuals classed as "untouchables" and "backward." In order to make Buddhism relevant to modern society, he had two tasks: liberate Buddhism itself from the corruption and distortion injected by the Brahmanical tendency towards ritualism and liberate his people from mental and social slavery in order to establish a democratic social system. While attempting to liberate Buddhism from the dead wood of the past, he suggested minor changes in the form but none in the content. One important example was his attempt to redefine the role of sangha and the role of the monastic. He was in favor of humanistic Buddhism in lieu of monastic Buddhism. Dr. Ambedkar envisioned a just society. A just society is a democratic social system. It is a society based on the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. He knew that if the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity are to be injected in caste-based Indian society, there is a need for sangha, not necessarily monastic, to make these principles a living reality. As he was for humanistic Buddhism, he commented that this order would also include the lay persons. This project of constituting sangh to dissolve caste identities could not become reality during his life, as he died a few weeks after administering initiation, dhamma diksha, to his followers. However, the signposts he placed indicate beyond a doubt that he wanted to create such sangha and make lay persons the torchbearers of a New Buddhism (Navayana) in India.
Dr. Ambedkar's View of Caste
Dr. Ambedkar's Seminal Experiences of Caste Although Indian society is fragmented into castes, there has been some change due to the movement of Dr. Ambedkar and other reformers. Some of his followers have benefited in terms of education and wealth due to his efforts. However, the change is not striking, and many are still subjected to hatred and perish in poverty. Caste-based violence continues to be an all pervading phenomenon. Even after the abolition of untouchability by law, practices, such as inhuman treatment, raping untouchable women and so forth, still occur in India. The situation at the time of Dr. Ambedkar was worse, and he personally experienced the caste system in its most inhuman form, being born into and brought up in an untouchable family.
A few seminal experiences awakened him to reality of the caste system. The first took place in Goregaon when Dr. Ambedkar was a boy of nine. He was to visit his father along with his brother. The location of his father's work place was far from the railway station, and no cart man was willing to take them on a bullock cart. One cart man agreed with the condition that the boys would have to drive the cart while he would sit behind. Throughout this escapade which lasted through the night, the boys went hungry because they could not get pure water to drink, even though they had plenty of food. Their inability to get water was of course due to the fact that untouchables were barred from using public wells. This incident had a very important place in Dr. Ambedkar's life and it left an indelible impression on his mind.
His worst experience of the caste system took place in Baroda when he was to become the Military Secretary to the Baroda State. He could not get accommodation in Baroda because he was an untouchable, though highly educated. He found a quarter in a Parsi boarding house and assumed a Parsi name. At work, the Brahman clerks and subordinates kept their distance and threw files and papers on him to avoid his touch. Even in the club, he was only allowed to sit in the corner and was not allowed to take part in games. No clear assignment was given to him, though he was a Military Secretary. When the Parsis discovered his identity, they besieged his boarding house and threatened to beat him. Eventually, the owner expelled him and he had to leave Baroda. The third seminal experience took place in Chalisgaon, where no horse carriage driver was willing to take Dr. Ambedkar from the railway station to the place where a meeting was to be held. After a long wait, a carriage was finally brought. The driver and he were the only two occupants of the carriage. The carriage had not gone 200 paces when there was almost a collision with a motor car. Dr. Ambedkar was surprised that the driver, who was paid for hire every day, should have been so inexperienced. The accident was averted only because of the loud shout of a policeman. They somehow arrived at the culvert on a river. Around it there were no walls as there are on a bridge. The carriage was thrown down on the stone pavement of the culvert, and the horse and the carriage fell down from the culvert into the river. So heavy was the fall that Dr. Ambedkar was knocked senseless. As a result of this he received several injuries. His leg was fractured and he was disabled for several days. On inquiry, Dr. Ambedkar was told the real facts. The delay at the railway station was due to the fact that the carriage drivers were not prepared to drive with a passenger who was an untouchable. They felt it was beneath their dignity. The Mahar untouchables could not tolerate that their leader should walk to their quarters. A compromise was therefore arrived at: the owner of a carriage would give it on hire but not drive. Although they could not find someone to drive it, the Mahars thought this to be a happy solution, evidently forgetting that the safety of the passenger was more important than the maintenance of his dignity. It was then that Dr. Ambedkar learned that even a menial Hindu carriage driver looked upon himself as superior to any untouchable even if that person be a barrister-at-law like Dr. Ambedkar.
There are many more incidences such as these from Dr. Ambedkar's life. These few, however, are sufficient for any person to understand the suffering experienced due to the practice of untouchability and caste. Many people in contemporary India still suffer from this system of graded inequality. They are living the life of degraded human beings. In the end we must ask why is it necessary that they have to suffer so much and occupy such positions in the social system?
Dr. Ambedkar's Analysis of CasteUnderstanding the origin, genesis and mechanism of caste in India is a very complex problem. Many able minds have tried to penetrate it, including Dr. Ambedkar who began work on this issue as early as 1916. He attempted to link the many chains in the history of India in order to show how the caste system evolved. In Dr. Ambedkar's understanding, the prime factor responsible for the evolution of the system of untouchability was the religious persecution of Buddhists, while other social-psychological factors are secondary. The existence of caste in India is due to the notion of inequality imposed by religion, which gives rise to social and cultural practices and prejudices. If these social and cultural practices cease, caste could be annihilated. This is a simple formulation of the quite complex issue of caste.
The life and work of the Buddha marks the flowering of the axial period in India in the sixth century BCE. This period was one of great turmoil as smaller tribal societies were transforming into larger settled ones and eventually mighty empires. It has been shown that these smaller, pre-imperial societies were not based on a graded system of inequality or caste (Chakravarti, 1987). This is not to say that there was no class system. Further, these societies often exhibited unethical and immoral aspects, like incest, alcoholism, war mongering, and the savage practice of ritual sacrifice. Thus the revolutionary role of the Buddha was in first clearly proclaiming that the happiness of humans and society lies in ethics and not in rituals. Dr. Ambedkar understood the Buddha's awakening under the bodhi tree as a true revolution. "It was as great a revolution as the French Revolution. Though it began as a religious revolution, it became more than a religious revolution. It became a social and political revolution."
The Buddha's revolution which culminated in the emergence of the mighty empire of Ashoka (r. 270-232 B. C.) further strengthened the Buddhist worldview based on liberty, equality, and fraternity; a universal message that went beyond the Indian subcontinent. Under Ashoka, equality of punishment irrespective of the social standing of the criminal emerged. The priestly class was given the same treatment as that of the common people. Although Ashoka prevented worship of clan deities (kula devata) which served as the basis of income for the Brahmins, he was ecumenical and promoted inter-religious tolerance. He did not persecute the Brahmins, yet the Brahmans lost their social prestige as the majority of the people abandoned the animal sacrifices that the Brahmans officiated. The rule of law was established, and even animals received good treatment, as noted by the famous Chinese pilgrim, Hsuan Tsang.
In Revolution and Counterrevolution in Ancient India, Dr. Ambedkar described that after the establishment of the rule of law, the Brahmins lived as a depressed class for the nearly 140 years of the Mauryan Empire. Pushyamitra Sunga of the Samvedi Brahmin clan then conspired to destroy Buddhism as the state religion and to make the Brahmins the sovereign rulers of India with the political power of the state behind it through murdering Ashoka's grandson, Emperor Brhadratha, in 185 B.C.. After his accession, Pushyamitra launched a violent and virulent campaign of persecution against Buddhists and Buddhism. Thus, the counter-revolution against Buddhism began with the emergence of the Brahmins under the Sunga Dynasty.
At the same time, various major Brahmanical texts were written in order to counter Buddhism. According to Dr. Ambedkar, these texts are the true sources of inequality and were largely post-Mauryan developments. For example, Dr. Ambedkar showed that the Code of Manu (Manu Smriti) was written by Sumati Bharagava after Psuhyamitra's revolt in 185 B.C. The Code of Manu, which served as the law of inequality, was drafted and enforced with the newly acquired state power by the Brahmins, while the myth of the first cosmic being Purusha, which tells of the divine origin of caste, was interpolated into the Rig-Veda. According to Dr. Ambedkar, the Manu Smriti, the Bhagavad Gita, Shankaracharya's Vedanta, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Puranas are all post-Mauryan texts which serve as sources of inequality.
It should be noted, however, that the Buddhists of ancient India did not accept this worldview all at once - perhaps they never did as is evident from the continuous struggle between the Brahmans and the untouchables (former Buddhists) of modern India. The hatred and contempt preached by the Brahmins was directed against Buddhists in particular and not against other groups. After the Mauryan Period, most Indians who had upheld Buddhism slipped back into Brahmanised Hinduism. Other Indians who did not became untouchables, like the "Broken Men." The "Broken Men", according to Dr. Ambedkar, were the remaining peoples of broken and defeated tribal groups of ancient India. Dr. Ambedkar wrote about this concept of "Broken Men" and how they came into being when the primitive societies were breaking up and transforming into the larger settled societies of imperial India. Brahmanism never tried to absorb these Buddhists into the caste system but rather shut them right out of it by making them untouchables and all that that stood for, like no education, no means of economic development, etc. Untouchability was thus only born sometime around 400 A.D., as these "Broken Men" were not able to abandon beef eating when cow killing was made a capital offence by the Gupta kings. In this way, the cow politics of present day India has its roots in the counterrevolution of the Brahmans against the Buddhists. Untouchability was thus born out of the struggle for supremacy between Buddhism and Brahmanism on a variety of levels from political power to social convention.
This is not to say that Buddhism was destroyed all at once. The struggle went on until the Muslim invasion in 1200 C.E.. The Muslim invasions played a decisive role as the Muslim invaders killed Buddhist monks or caused them to flee India. According to Dr. Ambedkar, "Religion like any other ideology can be attained only by propaganda. If propaganda fails, religion must disappear. The priestly class, however detestable it may be, is necessary to the sustenance of religion. For it is by its propaganda that religion is kept up. Without the priestly class religion must disappear." Due to this onslaught, the Buddhist Sangha in India underwent a great change in its composition. A disorganized system of married clergy with families who were called aryas developed. They took the place of the bhikkhus and began to cater to the religious needs of the general community. They eventually attained the status of bhikkhus through the performance of some sacraments. They officiated at religious ceremonies, but at the same time, in addition to their profession of priesthood, they earned their livelihood through such avocations as masonry, painting, sculpting, gold smithing, and carpentry. These artisan-priests, who were in later times larger in number than the bhikkhus, became the religious guides of the people. Their avocations left them little time and desire for the acquisition of learning, for deep thinking, or for devotion to meditation and other spiritual exercises. They could not be expected to raise Buddhism to a higher position through their endeavors, nor could they check its course towards ruin through the introduction of salutary reforms. It is obvious that this new Buddhist priesthood had neither prestige nor learning and was a poor match for the rival Brahmins (BAWS III, 151-437).
The upheaval caused by the Muslim invaders in the Buddhist Community lasted for a while. However, the Muslims did not destroy or challenge its principles or doctrines, which governed the spiritual life of the people. On the other hand, the Brahmanic invasion changed the principles which Buddhism had preached for centuries as universal ones of a spiritual life. According to Dr. Ambedkar, the Brahmanic invasion of Buddhist India is significant but usually neglected by the historians of India. Buddhist India is not a myth or construction of Dr. Ambedkar. This is supported by material evidence (Rhys Davids 1903). However, the concept of Vedic India or the Golden Vedic Age is truly a construction of recent times by Hindu Nationalists. The neo-Brahmanism of the post-Mauryan period brought the real changes in the political and social structure.
Through the medieval and colonial periods, the struggle against Brahmanism continued, though it was very much weakened due to the forces of time. The saint-poets of the 14th century onwards, such as Kabir, Nanadnar, Chokamela, and Tukaram, came from untouchable castes or backward classes and reflect "Buddhist" sentiments. Their teaching is marked with anti-caste and anti-Bramhanistic ideas. They ridiculed the Vedas and the religious texts of the Brahminism. They praised the ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. This influenced Untouchables in south India who also realized in the beginning of the twentieth century that they were Buddhists and began their now well documented movement (G. Aloysius, 2004).
This deep-seated caste based hatred is responsible for most of the problems and evils in India today, including the degradation of women. The creative energy of the country is imprisoned in the caste system. The life and mission of Dr. Ambedkar was to annihilate caste and create a new society based on the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. He also knew that the solution lies in making people aware of their social history and why they are condemned to such a life. He wanted to usher India into an era of enlightenment, or "Right Enlightenment". (Nanda, 2002). This enlightened vision is the preface and key to everything else in conquering ignorance (the origin of suffering) and in the higher life (the end of suffering). For developing this enlightened vision, Dr. Ambedkar felt one needs to realize and understand the law of causality (paticca samuppada) or dhamma, "This is, that is; with the arising of this, that arises. This is not, that is not. With the cessation of this, that ceases."
Dr.  Ambedkar’s “Awakened” Vision
The New Buddhism
Dr. Ambedkar likened Indian society to an orange. If one removes the artificial rind of Hinduism, what remains is a fragmented society with mutually conflicting groups called the castes that run into 6000 in kind. Ambedkar did not strive for positional change in the whole system of graded inequality. He wanted to bring structural change to Indian society.  He concluded that the contemporary state of degradation in India was due to the triumph of Brahmanism over Buddhism – the victory of a worldview which sanctifies a graded inequality amongst living beings over one which prizes ethical conduct towards all such beings.
David Brazier in his thought-provoking book, The New Buddhism, raises some very important points by questioning what the real project of the Buddha was after his enlightenment. He stresses that the Buddha had a vision of an ideal society which he shared with his disciples and thus awakened them to the reality of the world. This vision he termed as bodhi, that is, awakened vision. This vision of an awakened society moved the Buddha to turn the wheel of the Dhamma and to express his enlightenment experience to others to make this awakened society a reality (Brazier, 2001).
Dr. Ambedkar also challenged traditional Buddhist positions and views. While he accepted that the Buddha was centrally concerned with suffering and the end of suffering, he did not define suffering based on the traditional eight types of suffering. His set of sufferings includes suffering due to humans’ own wrong-doing and suffering due to inequality to other humans. In The Buddha and His Dhamma, he reformulates the life and teachings of the Buddha so that they can speak to contemporary Indian society and modern world. For him, the function of the Dhamma is twofold. That is to purify one’s mind and to reconstruct world. In short, the purpose of the Dhamma is to transform an individual into a buddha and to transform the world into a sangha. In the preface to The Buddha and His Dhamma, Dr. Ambedkar speaks of the purpose of the Dhamma as the creation of Dhamma Rajya, an ideal society based on liberty, equality and fraternity. It is clear that Dr. Ambedkar was trying to revive the Buddha’s original project of the reconstruction of world. He called this vision Navayana or the “New Buddhism,” which is a universal model applicable to all societies.
Steps Towards an Awakened Society
In the early years, Dr. Ambedkar was still struggling with his spirituality and slowly defining for himself this awakened vision. Therefore, most of his work for the liberation of his people came within a framework of activism concerning laws, committees, and commissions in the British India. For example, he gave evidence before the Southborough Committee for franchise and representation to the Indian legislatures in 1919. This was his first successful campaign without any mandate from his people. He successfully gained representation for depressed classes in the legislative assembly in Bombay. He was invited to participate in the Round Table Conference during 1932-1934 in order to discuss the future constitution of India, which he subsequently drafted. At this conference, he clashed with Gandhi, who denied the independent political rights of untouchables by deliberately trying to keep them in the fold of Hinduism. He also submitted a memorandum to the Cabinet Mission Plan in 1946 on behalf of the All India Scheduled Caste Federation (AISCF) in order to guarantee civil and political rights for them in free India.
The limited effect of such work within the system led Dr. Ambedkar to increasingly work outside of it as well. He began initiating mass protest movements, such as the Mahad Water Tank Movement (1927), and the Kalaram Temple Entry Movement (1934). He consciously created conditions for the illiterate people around him to become aware of the reality of the caste system. These conditions included writing books addressing various issues, editing several newspapers, launching political parties, and forming social organizations.
After clashing with Gandhi on the issue of the political empowerment of untouchables, Dr. Ambedkar realized the futility of changing the minds of the high caste Hindus. Although Gandhi outwardly showed his commitment to the untouchables, his real purpose appears to have been political. He wanted to ensure numerical power to Hindus (i.e. high-caste Hindus) vis-à-vis Muslims. These events led Ambedkar to renounce the systemic container of Hinduism. On May 30-31, 1936 at Dadar in Mumbai, he delivered a lengthy speech entitled “What way Liberty?” In this historic speech, he detailed the path leading towards liberty and gave a call to conversion. He did not make it clear as to which religion he was going to convert. However, at the end of this speech, he gave a clarion call to his people, which echoed the teaching of the Buddha, to “be your own light and refuge”:
While thinking over what message should I give you on this occasion, I recollected the message given by the Lord Buddha to his Bhikkhu Sangha just before his mahaparinirvana and which has been quoted in Mahaparinibbana Sutta:
“Once the Bhagwan, after having recovered from illness, was resting on a seat under a tree and his disciple venerable Ananda went to the Buddha. Having saluted, he sat beside him and said, ‘I have seen the Lord in illness as well as in happiness. But from the present illness of the Lord, my body has become heavy like lead, my mind is not is peace. I cannot concentrate on the Dhamma, but I feel consolation and satisfaction that the Lord will not attain the parinibbana until a message is given to the Sangha.’”
“Then the Lord replied, ‘Ananda! What does the Sangha expect from me? Ananda, I have preached the Dhamma with an open heart, without concealing anything. The Tathagata has not kept anything concealed as some other teachers do. So Ananda, what more can the Tathagata tell the Bhikkhu Sangha. So Ananda, be self illuminating like the sun. Do not be dependent for light like the Earth. Believe in yourself, do not be dependent on others. Be truthful. Always take refuge in the truth and do not surrender to anyone.’”
I also take refuge in the words of the Buddha to be your own guide. Take refuge in your own reason. Do not listen to the advice of others. Do not succumb to others. Be truthful and take refuge in the truth. Never surrender to anything. If you keep in mind this message of Lord Buddha at this juncture, I am sure, your decision will not be wrong.
In order to realize an awakened society, Dr. Ambedkar saw than an inner revolution among his people needed to take place in tandem with the social and political work of gaining equal rights for untouchables. This internal revolution he found in the act of conversion from the dependency and subservience of being an untouchable in Hinduism to the independence and empowerment of a Buddhist identity and complete development as a human being. In this way, Dr. Ambedkar began to develop a vision for his people in order to make them realize the importance of the Buddha Dhamma. He saw that religious reformation is often a precursor to political emancipation. In his Annihilation of Caste, he cited such examples in the revolutions of Protestant Europe, the first Mauryan ruler Chandragupta, and the contemporary revolution of Guru Nanak and the Sikhs in Punjab. He concluded that the emancipation of the mind is a necessary preliminary for the political emancipation of the people.

Dr. Ambedkar’s Vision of Dhamma and Practice
Vision of Dhamma
Dhamma is the perfection of life: In  The Buddha and His Dhamma, Dr. Ambedkar describes the path of the bodhisattva and presents the sublime teaching of non-attachment through quotes from the dialogue between the Buddha and Subhuti in the Diamond Sutra. In this sutra, the six perfections (paramita) of giving, morality, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom are taught as not only practices for the individual but also ones to instigate others to do.
Dhamma is to live in Nibbana: Dr. Ambedkar strongly affirmed the nature of Nibbana as experienced here in this life and in this world. He wrote that the Buddha clearly rejected notions of Nibbana held by other schools of thought at the time. Specifically, the Buddha saw that the Brahmanistic and Upanishadic notions of the salvation of a soul made Nibbana into a goal achieved after death. Dr. Ambedkar quotes the famous Fire Sermon (Adittapariyaya Sutta, S.iv.19) to show how the Buddha’s notion of the extinction of the passions, and not physical death, made Nibbana into a much more practical this-worldly goal. Nibbana or “awakened vision” tells one of the difficulties in the realization of the Eight-Fold Path. The chief of these difficulties are the five fetters (samyojana) or five underlying tendencies (anusaya). The third fetter of dependence on the efficacy of rites and ceremonies is especially important in this context. Dr. Ambedkar felt that no good resolutions, however firm, will lead to anything unless we shed ritualism. By ritualism, he meant the belief that outward acts associated with priestly power and holy ceremony can afford one assistance of some kind. It is only when we have overcome our ties to salvific ritual, that humans can be said to have fairly entered the stream of liberation and have a chance to sooner or later win victory.
Dhamma is Karma - the instrument of moral order: Dr. Ambedkar clearly stated that the moral order or the world (kamma niyama) does not depend on a creator god or any other gods. The moral order may be good or bad but this depends on humans and nothing else. The Buddha discovered that the world (loka) revolves due to karma. There are three worlds: the sensual world, the form-ish world, and the formless world. The state of Nibbana, where the law of karma is not operative, is a way of being and acting beyond these worlds. However, the world in which most of us live most of the time is the world of sensual pleasures. The mental states in the sensual world are destructive because enormous strife and suffering come about due to competition for sensual desires. This world is made up of sounds, forms, colors, tastes, tactile objects, ideas, concepts etc. Sometimes, the ideas or concepts are just imposed by society, such as caste or graded inequality in India.
Caste as a consciousness comes into being due to social practices and conventions and is wrong view (miccha ditthi). It is a mental and social conditioning whereby the individual is crushed. Individuals have little or no choice. Clearly, this goes against the Buddha’s teaching of karma and the power of intention (cetana). The intention or mental state behind an action indicates its moral quality and action per se does not determine the nature of karma. As mental states precede actions by body and speech, positive mental states lead to positive actions of body and speech and negative mental states lead to negative actions of body and speech. Thus, the law of karma emphasizes personal responsibility and positive action, not passivity to harmful social conventions. In this way, it clearly does not support that the idea that birth in a lower caste is the deserved result of one’s unwholesome past actions.

Practice – purification of mind, body and speech by meditation and morality
Thus Dr. Ambedkar made it explicit that purification of mind, body and speech is the Dhamma. Dr. Ambedkar emphasized the training of mind in meditation, as did the Buddha, for developing intention or thought, which leads to right states of consciousness. He paraphrases the Sallekha Sutta (M.i.40):
You are to expunge by resolving that, though others may be harmful, you will be harmless.
That though others may kill, you will never kill.
That though others may steal, you will not.
That though others may not lead the higher life, you will.
That though others may lie, traduce, denounce, or prattle, you will not.
That though others may be covetous, you will covet not.
That though others may be malignant, you will not be malignant.
That though others may be given over to wrong views, wrong aims, wrong speech, wrong
actions, and wrong concentration, you must follow (the Noble Eightfold Path in)
right outlook, right aims, right speech, right actions, right mode of livelihood, right
effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.
That though others are wrong about the truth and wrong about deliverance, you will be
right about truth and right about deliverance.
That though others may be possessed by sloth and torpor, you will free yourselves
therefrom.
That though others may be puffed up, you will be humble-minded.
That though others may be perplexed by doubts, you will be free from them.
That though others may harbor wrath, malevolence, envy, jealousy, niggardliness, avarice,
hypocrisy, deceit, imperviousness, arrogance, forwardness, association with bad
friends, slackness, unbelief, shamelessness, unscrupulousness, lack of instruction,
inertness, bewilderment, and unwisdom, you will be the reverse of all these things.
That though others may clutch at and hug the temporal nor loose their hold thereon, you
will clutch and hug the things that are not temporal, and will ensue renunciation.
I say it is the development of thought which is so efficacious for right states of
consciousness, not to speak of act and speech. And therefore, Cunda, there must
be developed the thought to all the foregoing resolves I have detailed.
(BAWS XI, 285-286)

This sutta can be interpreted as one’s own resolve to transform oneself into a buddha even when the world around is steeped with various vices.
Morality & Ethics (sila) – the bridge between the individual and the social or the foundation of a just society
The highest realization in Buddhism is the emancipation of the mind, which Dr. Ambedkar also understood as liberty. The antithesis of liberty is slavery. According to the Buddha, there are two kinds of slavery: inner and outer. A certain deity asked the Buddha: 

The inner tangle and the outer tangle-
This generation is entangled in a tangle.
And so I ask of Gotama this question:
Who succeeds in disentangling this tangle?
The Buddha replied:
When a wise man, established in Virtue
Develops Consciousness and Understanding
Then as a Bhikkhu ardent and sagacious
He succeeds in disentangling this tangle. (S.i.13)
Liberty is freedom from any control and in return demands no will to control others. The ethics of Buddhism ensures this freedom from control. Therefore, sila is the foundation of a just society. It is universal and not marked with sectarian feeling. If it does, it will only protect the “group interest,” and according to Dr. Ambedkar will become anti-social. Sila is right or ethical behavior by one person towards another. Thus Dr. Ambedkar wrote that religion is personal, while Dhamma as the practice of sila is interpersonal. Therefore, society cannot do without Dhamma or righteousness.
In this way, Dr. Ambedkar clearly shows an understanding of the difference between the type of morality belonging to personal power and threat and the type belonging to collective power and personal responsibility. He makes the observation that the former type belongs to religion, which is concerned with the relation between humans and God. This type of morality helps to maintain peace and order and "is attached and detached as the occasion requires" to protect the interests of a particular group (Sangharakshita, 1986:156). In the latter understanding of morality, Ambedkar speaks not of religion but of Dhamma:
Morality is Dhamma and Dhamma is Morality. Morality and Dhamma arise from the direct necessity for man to love man. It is not to please God that man has to be moral. It is for his own good that man has to love man. (Sangharakshita, 1986:156)
This Dhamma is the universal morality which protects the weak from the strong and which safeguards the growth of the individual. It gives common models, standards, and rules. Finally, it ensures that liberty and equality can be established.
The only remedy lies in making fraternity universally effective. What is fraternity? It is nothing but another name for the brotherhood of men which is another name for morality. This is why the Buddha preached that Dhamma is morality and as Dhamma is sacred so is morality. (Sangharakshita, 1986:157)This morality, however, is not just a set of ideals, but part of the three-fold training of the mind in morality, concentration, and wisdom. For Dr. Ambedkar, training in sila is formalized for non-monastics in the practice of the five basic precepts (pancasila) and the “taking of refuge” in a ceremony called diksha. In the institutionalization of the diksha ceremony for untouchables converting to Buddhism, Ambedkar included taking the five precepts as well as twenty-two additional vows. Dr. Ambedkar made this ceremony of taking refuge central to his vision of a new Buddhist identity for the lay Buddhist movement he led among untouchables. He recognized the fundamental need of a very conscious statement of Buddhist identity for his community as it renounced Hinduism and embraced Buddhism. In order to face the oppressive system of caste society in India, this new Buddhist identity could not be fuzzy or passive, especially since there was no monastic order to lead and defend the community. He also felt a strong lay community was imperative to re-establishing a proper ordained community in India, since he saw the existing monastic order, especially in Theravada countries, as corrupt (Sangharakshita, 1986:123).
Dr. Ambedkar's Movement For Justice
Just Society through a Model Society (sangha) of Just PeopleThe vision of an awakened society led the Buddha to set in motion the Wheel of the Dhamma. The Buddha set in motion the wheel of the Dhamma when he awakened five disciples in Sarnath. According to Dr. Ambedkar, the Buddha organized the Bhikku Sangha to make this just society a living reality and to set a model for the society to imitate.
But the blessed Lord also knew that merely preaching the Dhamma to the common man would not result in the creation of that ideal society based on righteousness. An ideal must be practical and must be shown to be practicable. Then and then only people strive after it and realize it. To create this striving, it is necessary to have a picture of a society working on the basis of the ideal and thereby proving to the common man that the ideal was not impracticable but on the other hand realizable. The Sangha is a model of a society realizing the Dhamma preached by the blessed Lord. (BAWS XI, 434)
According to Dr. Ambedkar, the code of the bhikkhu, the patimokkha, was formulated to make the sangha an ideal society. Thus, the bhikkhu must always be seen as subordinate to and enfolded into the sangha or ideal society. The training of a bhikkhu/bhikkhuni is aimed at making him/her a perfect citizen of the ideal society. In another sense, the rules of the monastic are not meant for making a perfect being, but for creating a servant of the society who will be committed to ending suffering and to living the ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. The monastic should not be indifferent to the suffering of lay people. S/he must fight for establishing an ideal society.
Since the Buddha established the sangha in order to lay the foundation of an awakened society, he preached his Dhamma to all without distinction, to monastic as well as to lay people. Ambedkar felt there was no difference between the monastic and a lay person as far as the practice of the Dhamma goes. The distinction, however, is in the degree of involvement in the preaching and propagating of the Dhamma, essentially of time and commitment. Monastics are the full-timers, having neither the worldly responsibilities of marriage nor private property. On the other hand, lay persons are the part-timers, insconsed in worldly duties. As the full-timers have no private property, the part-timers have had to support them with dana. The part-timers have mainly given alms, and provided abodes and robes to the full-timers. The Buddha put in place these dependencies, which are also freedoms, as a check and balance mechanism to ensure that the full-timers should not betray the mission. The part-timers could complain to the larger sangha about the misconduct of any of the full-timers. Thus, the bond of alms between monastic and lay person was instrumental in the successful spread of the Dhamma.
However, this bond of alms was taken to extremes when the lay emperor Ashoka supported and interfered in the matters of sangha. The history of this disappearance of Buddhism in India is the history of the gradual weakening of this bond of alms and the disappearance of the nucleus of the Buddhist society, the monastic sangha. How could any teaching survive with the destruction of its organization and propaganda base? Buddhism eventually disappeared, because although the lay sangha strove hard, they could not give their best energies and could not organize themselves effectively.
Despite his often strong criticisms, Dr. Ambedkar did not wish to do away with the monastic sangha. On the contrary, he saw the sangha as having an important role in the awakened society. His ideal society was the Buddhist Sangha. But here is a departure from the tradition. He wanted lay persons to be part and parcel of the New Sangha. With this basic view in mind, Dr. Ambedkar expressed his views on the reconstruction of the sangha to suit modern society.
Firstly, he felt that the absence of a dhamma diksha for lay followers was a grave omission. Throughout history, the bhikkhus have been initiated and organised but the lay sangha has not. Except for a few insignificant exceptions, the Dhamma is common to both. Dr. Ambedkar wanted to correct this anomaly, and so accepted the challenge to initiate his own lay followers in the Dhamma. He also suggested the creation of lay preachers who could go about and preach the Buddha's Dhamma among the people and look after the new converts to guide their practice, rather than creating newly ordained monastics or depending on foreign monastics for this purpose. He felt these lay preachers must be paid and that they could be married. He wanted to restructure the Sangha so as to fit it in the modern society. Unfortunately, Dr. Ambedkar did not live long enough to build a movement to actualize this new understanding of the role of monastics in an awakened society.
However, the British monk Sangharakshita, who met Dr. Ambedkar thrice and helped lead the neo-Buddhist movement in India after Ambedkar's death, did develop Ambedkar's basic concept further. He has integrated Ambedkar's criticisms of the bhikkhu sangha in the creation of his new orders, the British-based Friends of the Western Buddhist Order (FWBO) and the Indian-based Trailokya Bauddha Mahasangha (TBM) order nurtured by Dhammachari Lokamitra. In the spirit of Ambedkar's notion of married lay preachers who would spread the Buddha Dhamma about India, Sangharakshita has developed an intermediate form of Buddhist practitioner, called a dharmachari/charini or "dharma-farer," which dissolves the dichotomy between lay and monastic. Sangharakshita's order has sought to intensify serious training for those interested while not creating a distinction of superiority between those who choose less arduous courses. This flexibility of practice models has significantly allowed those with a high level of training to maintain a lay appearance, thereby facilitating involvement in social activities. The uniting factor of the different levels of practice is the commitment to social service within the community and the society. Sangharakshita's vision is one of a decentralized community of people sharing the same spiritual commitment without the need for ecclesiastical structure (Sponberg, 1996:90).
Dr. Ambedkar also had other concrete ideas for the creation of an awakened society based on the Buddha Dhamma. He had planned to establish a Buddhism and Religions Seminary where persons who wished to become preachers could be taught Buddhism and trained in the comparative study of other religions. He suggested the introduction of congregational worship in the Buddha Vihara every Sunday followed by a sermon. The Buddha and His Dhamma, itself, was an attempt to create a "Buddhist Bible" - a single volume work which could be a constant companion of the convert. Like the lay preacher, the Buddhist Bible represents a middle way intended to bridge the gap between the lofty ideals of monastic practice and learning and the daily needs of the larger lay sangha.
Dr Ambedkar and the Future of his Movement
Dr. Ambedkar made many provisions to create the Dhamma as a living force in India. Besides his emphasis on the Dhamma, which he wanted to make heart of his movement, he knew the importance of social awakening and politics. After his conversion, he planned to constitute a political party, The Republican Party of India. The aim was to ensure the social, political and economic justice enshrined in the preamble of the constitution of India in order to create an ideal society. Society, according to Ambedkar, cannot do without Dhamma nor without just government.
Society has to choose one of the three alternatives. Society may choose not to have any Dhamma as an instrument of government. For Dhamma is nothing if it is not an instrument of government. This means society chooses the road to anarchy. Secondly, society may choose the police, i.e., dictatorship as an instrument of government. Thirdly, society may choose Dhamma plus the magistrate wherever people fail to observe the Dhamma. In anarchy and dictatorship liberty is lost. Only in the third liberty survives. (BAWS XI, 316-317)
According to Ambedkar, the norm or the criterion for judging right and wrong in modern society is justice. Justice is ensured when the society is based on the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. The system of grading people as in the caste system will always lead to injustice. Ambedkar saw no solution in communism or capitalism, the two political currents dominant during his day. He found a solution in Buddhism. He said. “Man must grow materially as well as spiritually. Society has been aiming to lay a new foundation which was summarized by the French Revolution in three words, Fraternity, Liberty and Equality. The French Revolution was welcomed because of this slogan. It failed to produce equality. We welcome the Russian Revolution because it aims to produce equality. But it cannot be too much emphasized that in producing equality in society one cannot afford to sacrifice fraternity or liberty. Equality will be of no value without fraternity or liberty. It seems that the three (liberty, equality and fraternity) can coexist only if one follows the way of the Buddha” (BAWS III, 462, Italics and bracket added).
He saw the ideal society as one full of channels for conveying change taking place in one part to other parts. In an ideal society, he remarked, there should be many interests, consciously communicated and shared. There should be varied and free points of contact with other modes of association. In other words there must be social endosmosis. This is fraternity, which is only another name for democracy. Democracy is not merely a form of government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow beings. Finally, this reconstruction of the world is possible through Dhamma. Dhamma is essentially and fundamentally social. In this way, his ideal society is based on the universality of Dhamma, which consists of liberty, equality and fraternity. In the All India Radio broadcast of his speech on October 3,1954, Dr. Ambedkar clarified the usage of these terms:
Positively, my social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Let no one, however, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I have not. My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my master, the Buddha.
The sad part of Dr. Ambedkar’s movement, however, has been the lack of recognition in the entire movement of the role of Dhamma (the practice of liberty, equality and fraternity). As a result of this, the social organizations and political parties based on Ambedkar face the problems of caste and conflict. They fall asunder due to organizational problems. The success of Dr. Ambedkar’s movement lies not just in education and agitation but in how effectively his followers organize themselves; that is to say how they use fraternity as a principle to make fraternity universal. Ambedkar wanted to establish universal fraternity which was not to be based on sectarian attitudes and caste prejudices. He wrote:
There are two forces prevalent in society: individualism and fraternity. Individualism is
ever present. Every individual is ever asking "I and my neighbours, are we all brothers, are we even fiftieth cousins, am I their keeper, why should I do right by them?" and under the pressure of his own particular interests acting as though he was an end to himself, thereby developing a non-social and even an anti-social self.
Fraternity is a force of opposite character. Fraternity is another name for fellow feeling. It consists in a sentiment which leads an individual to identify himself with the good of others whereby "the good of others becomes to him a thing naturally and necessarily to be attended to like any of the physical conditions of our existence." It is because of this sentiment of fraternity that the individual does not "bring himself to think of the rest of his fellow-creatures as struggling rivals with him for the means of happiness, whom he must desire to see defeated in their object in order that he may succeed in his own." Individualism would produce anarchy. It is only fraternity, which prevents it and helps to sustain the moral order among men. Of this there can be no doubt. (BAWS III, 44)
There are many offshoots of the political party of which Dr. B. R. Ambedkar himself planned and wrote a constitution. Their main motivation is anti-Brahmanism and anti-caste. However, most of them are trapped in their own prisons of caste or the interests of their group, and therefore become anti-social. Dhamma is the way to break the prison of caste and prejudices. Dhamma is to extend fraternity both horizontally and vertically in the social structure and hence the Dhamma can help in overcoming caste identities.
In conclusion, the most unfortunate part of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s movement was his untimely death. He died just after the great conversion movement in 1956. Most of the ideas in his mind died with him. However, he left enough material and blueprints for his millions of followers to follow and organize themselves as an ideal society to set up a model for the world. The re-entry of Buddhism to India after a gap of hundreds of years has been very dramatic. Buddhism has come back as a mass movement among the untouchables.   The success of the Buddhist movement depends on the organization of a sangha of full-timers and part-timers. This sangha must transcend caste and should not get trapped in one caste or group. It needs to integrate with the larger Indian society by breaking isolation. This sangha should exemplify liberty, equality, and fraternity to live and act in harmony within itself. There is a necessity for trained dhammasevak (servants of the Dhamma). The dhammasevak must have at the same time a strong sense of history and should be ready to go beyond the great wall of caste. The new servants of the Dhamma must passionately fight for practicing and propagating liberty, equality, and fraternity. In short, Dhamma can re-ethicize Indian society but it depends on how the followers of Dr. Ambedkar understand and situate the Dhamma in the various movements organized under his name and philosophy.
ReferencesAloysius, G. (2004). "Transcendence in Modern Tamil Buddhism: A Note on the Liberative in Popular Religious Perceptions". In S. Jondhale and J. Beltz (Eds.) Reconstructing the World: B.R. Ambedkar and Buddhism in India. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Ambedkar, B. (1987-) Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writing and Speeches [BAWS] (Vol. I-XVIII) Mumbai: Education Department, Government of Maharastra.
Brazier, D. (2001), The New Buddhism. London: Constable Robinson.
Chakravarti, U. (1987). The Social Dimensions of Early Buddhism. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Nanda, M. (2002). Breaking the Spell of Dharma and Other Essays New Delhi: Three Essays Press.
Sangharakshita. (1986). Ambedkar and Buddhism. Glasgow: Windhorse Publications
Sponberg, A. (1996). "TBMSG: A Dhamma Revolution in Contemporary India". In C. Queen & S. King (Eds.), Engaged Buddhism: Buddhist Liberation Movements in Asia (pp. 73-120). Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Rhys Davids, T.W. (1903). Buddhist India. London: T. Fisher Unwin.
Mangesh Dahiwale is a member of the Trailokya Bauddha Mahashangha Sahayak Gana (TBMSG) founded by Ven. Sangharakshita to promote the advancement of ex-Untouchable Buddhists in India according to the vision of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. He coordinates the International Ambedkar Forum which organizes meetings to educate especially young Buddhists in several schools and universities in Bombay and New Delhi.

DALITS AND THE AD DHARM MOVEMENT IN PUNJAB
ARTICLE BY : Ronki Ram (Dr.), Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh. E-mail:mailto:ronkiram@yahoo.co.in.
Punjab has been a site of invasions, conflicts, agitations and martyrdoms. It has also been a boiling cauldron for various social and political movements. Its history is rich with innumerable instances of people’s upsurge against the tyrant systems. However, what makes the case of Punjab, a unique, is that its tirades against the system of oppression and violence remained always progressive and secular. They were not against a particular caste or community but against systems of tyranny and oppression.
It is interesting to note that in all of the struggles and movements, the contribution of the lower castes and the untouchables was second to none. The share of these deprived sections of the society was equally tremendous in the sphere of Bhakti movement. One can quickly count the names of Dhanna, Sadna, Sain and Ravidass who were among the prominent stars of the Bhakti movement. Their share is equally remarkable in the struggles of the Khalsa against the then system of oppression and injustice. The popularity of the Rangretas (scavengers converted to Sikhism) has been established by a rhyme Rangreta Guru ka Beta (the Rangreta is the son of Guru). This rhyme is attributed to the Rangretas on account of the valorous act of bringing the severed head of Guru Teg Bahadur from Delhi to Anandpur Sahib, the seat of 9th and 10th Master of the Sikh faith by a Rangreta Sikh named Jeeta.
Yet another movement which rose in the 1920s in the Doaba region of Punjab brought together all the Scheduled Castes (then known as Depressed classes) on a single platform to fight against the system of social oppression, economic deprivation and political indifference. Though this movement laid the foundation of dalit consciousness in Punjab, it could not succeed in getting the serious attention of scholarship. However, Mark Jurgensmeyer’s pioneer work Religious Rebels in the Punjab (1988) remained the only reference to the share of Punjab in the ‘Adi Movements’ in India. This movement is known as Ad Dharm movement. It draws its inspiration from the Bhakti movement, especially from Kabir, Ravidass and Namdev. It also assigns equal importance to the teachings of Valmiki. What makes this movement the most relevant case for study is its being a purely low caste character and its fight against social structures of domination. Ad Dharm was the only movement of its kind in the Northwestern region of the country that aimed at securing a respectable place for the scheduled castes through cultural transformation and political assertion rather than seeking patronage from above. Another important feature of this movement was that it intended to bring social transformation and spiritual regeneration in the lives of the downtrodden. Although, this movement ceased to exist in its vehement form after the first general election in independent India, its emphasis on social transformation and political assertion against structures of social inequality and oppression continues to attract the Ad-Dharmis and other scheduled castes of Punjab. At present, the movement finds its sustenance in Punjab through the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Ambedkarite organizations.
Ad Dharm Movement: The Genesis
The beginning of the 20th century witnessed a series of political developments, which among others led to the formation of Adi movements in different parts of the colonial India. The main objective of these movements was to liberate the downtrodden, poverty-stricken-oppressed classes, contemptuously branded as untouchables, from the most oppressive and obnoxious practice of untouchability meticulously observed by the Savarna Hindus, and to bring the former at par with the socio-cultural level of the twice born so that they could lead a life of dignity with a sense of equality. The Ad Dharm movement was one of them.
Although, the abolition of untouchability was also on the agenda of the protagonists of social reform movements (Brahmo Samaj, Prarthana Samaj, Arya Samaj and Singh Sabha), they wanted to achieve it without changing the basic structure of caste system. Since these movements were operating on the social reform front of the nationalist struggle, they could not totally devote themselves to the removal of untouchability. The immediate goal of the nationalist movement was to liberate the country from the British imperialism.
The most virulent opposition to the system of caste emanated from the lower caste movements. For these movements, the immediate important issue was caste domination, not Western hegemony; social emancipation, not political autonomy. The struggle against imperialism and other such issues were of secondary importance. These anti-caste movements, of course, constitute an inseparable part of the broader revolutionary democratic movement in India, alongwith the national movement and communist-and socialist-led working class and peasant movements. The main exponents of these movements were, among others, Jyotiba Phule, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, E.V. Ramasamy Naicker, Naraynaswami Guru in Kerala, Achutananda in U.P. and Mangoo Ram in Punjab.
The present paper confines to the Ad Dharm movement in Punjab. It aims at exploring the social situations and political configurations in colonial Punjab during the 1920s, which led to the rise of this movement. Another objective of the study is to document the present status of the movement in Punjab.
It would be appropriate to focus on certain aspects relating to the rise of this movement in 1926 and its so-called demise in 1946. Some of the close associates of the Ad Dharm movement, however, did not approve the closure of the movement in 1946. They were of the opinion that Ad Dharm continued to play an important role for the upliftment of the untouchables even after 1946. In 1946 Mangoo Ram got elected to the Punjab Assembly and remained there to espouse the cause of the Ad Dharmis till the first general elections in independent India. By that time, Mangoo Ram had grown fairly old. According to Chanan Lal Manak, a close associate of the movement, Ad Dharm could not produce any one of the calibers of Mangoo Ram to replace him. The rank and file of Ad Dharm was more interested in their individual vested interests rather than in the upliftment of the Dalits as a community. However, Mangoo Ram till his death did not surrender the herculean task that he had taken on his shoulders for the dalit consciousness and their upliftment (Interviews with Ishwar Das Pawar, Chandigarh, April 23, 2001; Chanan Lal Manak, Jalandhar, May 1, 2001; and Chattar Sain, son of Mangoo Ram, Garshankar [Distt. Hoshiarpur], April 27, 2001). What were the circumstances in which the Ad Dharm movement was originated? Who were its protagonists? What objectives did they seek to achieve? What were the tactics and strategies they adopted for the realization of these objectives? Whether such objectives sharpened the struggle against social oppression or led to blunt the very struggle itself? Was it really a struggle against social oppression or only a ploy to gain some incremental change for meager benefits? To whom the Ad Dharm considered its sympathizers and also its adversaries? What status did such sympathizers and adversaries hold in the socio-economic and politico-administrative setting of the Indian society? What is its present status? What are its goals and objectives? And how it intended to realise them?
Ad Dharm: Socio-Political Settings
Ad dharm movement was born out of a volatile social and political background in the early 20th century. Although, the similar socio-political situations were prevalent throughout the length and breadth of the country, the presence of various communal organisations in Punjab makes the case of the latter a peculiar one. The communal organisations like Arya Samaj, Christian Church, Sikh Khalsa Diwan and the Ahmadiyya movements were active in their endeavors to promote their respective communal interests.
It was exactly during this period of socio-political uncertainties that the British government passed the Land Alienation Act of 1900, Indian Counsel Act of 1909 and The Government of India Act of 1919. These acts provided further impetus to the ongoing competition among the various communal organizations. Although, the Land Alienation Act of 1900 was aimed at preventing the transfer of land from the hands of agriculturist castes into the non-agricultural money-lending castes, it has by its very nature debarred many castes to own land.
Untouchables, who were already kept deprived of land according to the Varna-vyavastha system of the Hindu caste hierarchy, were now legally debarred from land ownership. The system of separate electorates introduced in 1909 and 1919 further exacerbated the communal and separatists stance of politics. It brought serious implications in the province of Punjab where Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had their respective political organisation to strive for their vested interests. Since Scheduled Castes did not have their own organisation to articulate and defend their interests, they became the center of attention of all the communal organizations. Each of these organizations was trying to woo them on its side to secure an edge over the others in terms of numbers. This was, perhaps, the first time in the history of the Scheduled Castes that their numerical strength became important in the calculation and formulation of social and political forces. The provision for separate electorate also raised their expectation to enter into political arena as an independent force rather than to be used, by the Arya-Samaj, Congress or Akalis, as a pawn on the chessboard of electoral politics.
Moreover, the adoption of the removal of untouchability by the Indian National congress as an integral part of its policies in 1917 provided a further impetus to the scheduled castes in their efforts to seek a respectable place in the Indian society. The California based Ghadar Movement was another important political development which fascinated the youths of Punjab who were eager to bask in an egalitarian system free from discrimination and colonial tutelage. The Babbar Akali movement was yet another significant political development that catapulted Punjab into the vortex of revolt against injustice and foreign rule. In addition, another important social and political movement that swept the cities and countryside of Punjab was the loud appeals of Arya Samaj to restructure the Indian society on the basis of equality and social justice. Ghadar movement and the Babbar Akali movements were revolutionary and militant movements in comparison to the non-violent and passive postures of the Indian National Congress and Arya Samaj.
Interestingly enough, the Ad Dharm movement, particularly, some of its key protagonists had close affiliation with the Arya Samaj before they became active in the movement. Obviously, the rise and growth of the Ad Dharm had to be deeply influenced by the Arya-Samaj. The trio that initially conceived the idea of the Ad Dharm movement consisted of Vasant Rai, Thakur Chand and Swami Shudranand. They were also active in the Arya Samaj Movement. Vasant Rai was associated with the Arya Samaj as a teacher. Swami Shudranand was a missionary of the Samaj and Thakur Chand, though a Dalit like Vasant Rai and Shudranand, was called pandit because of his association with the Arya Samaj. They were either pracharaks (preachers) or Updeshaks (missionaries) of the Arya Samaj. Even after their absorption into the newly formed Ad Dharm movement Arya Samaj offered them important role in the movement to lure them back. Mention may be made here that they quit the Ad Dharm movement and returned to the Samaj.
Mangoo Ram And Ad Dharm
Mangoo Ram literally took the movement to the doorsteps of the untouchables in the Doaba region and soon emerged as a cult figure of the Dalits in Punjab. He was born at Mugowal, a village in the district of Hoshiarpur, on 14th January 1886. His forefathers were practising the occupation of tanning raw hides. However, his father, Harnam Dass, had abandoned the traditional caste-based occupation of tanning and preparing hides, and taken up the profession of selling the tanned leather on commercial basis. Since the leather trade required the knowledge of English language to read the sale orders, he was eager to have Mangoo Ram receive education to free him from the begar (forced labour), which he had to do in lieu of English orders read for him by the upper caste literates. Initially, Mangoo Ram was taught by a village Sadhu (Saint), then after studying at different schools he joined a high school at Bajwara, a town few miles away from his home. Being a chamar, he had to sit separately from the other upper caste students. In fact, he used to take a gunny bag from his home for sitting in a segregated place outside the classroom. In 1905 Mangoo Ram left the high school to help his father in leather trade. For three years he helped his father develop leather trade into a thriving business. However, in 1909 he left for America to follow into the footsteps of his peer group in the Doaba region.
Interestingly enough even in America Mangoo Ram had to work on the farms of a Punjabi Zamindar who had settled in California. In other words, even in America he had to experience the same relations of production as back home in India. How a shudra immigrant worker, who works on the land of an Indian upper caste landlord settled abroad, feels and experiences work conditions and its resultant relations of production is an altogether a separate question. However, while in California, Mangoo Ram came in close contact with the Ghadar Movement - a radical organisation aimed at liberating India from the British rule through armed insurrection. In fact, he participated in the weapon smuggling mission of the organisation. He was arrested and given the capital punishment but was saved from the death sentence by a chance as someone else in his name was executed. The news of his supposed death reached his village. According to the tradition of his community, his widow, named Piari married his elder brother. Mangoo Ram, on reaching India, remarried and had four sons from his second wife named Bishno.
After his return from abroad where he spent as many as sixteen years, Mangoo Ram did not find any change in Indian society that was still infested with the disease of untouchability. He said
While living abroad, said Mangoo Ram, I had forgotten about the hierarchy of high and low, and untouchability; and under this very wrong impression returned home in December 1925. The same misery of high and low, and untouchability, which I had left behind to go abroad, started afflicting again. I wrote about all this to my leader Lala Hardyal Ji that until and unless this disease is cured Hindustan could not be liberated. In accordance with his orders, a program was formulated in 1926 for the awakening and upliftment of Achhut qaum (untouchable community) of India.
Having settled in his native village, he opened up a school for the lower caste children in the village. Initially, the school was opened up, temporarily in the garden of Risaldar Dhanpat Rai, a landlord of his village. Later on, Lamberdar Beeru Ram Sangha, another landlord of the same village, donated half-acre land for the purpose of formally opening up the school. The school had five teachers including Mangoo Ram. One of the teachers of the school was a Muslim, Walhi Mohammad and one was Brahmin, who was later on converted into a Shudra. The conversion ceremony comprised of an earthen pot (Douri), which contained water mingled with sugar balls (Patasha) and stirred with leather cutting tool (Rambi). Thus the prepared sweet water considered as holy was given to Brahmins to baptize them into Shudras (Interview with Chatter Sain, 27 April 2001). Now a days, the school land has been declared as Shamlat (common land), and no remnants of the building exist except the old dilapidated structure of the well meant for drinking water in the school. It was in that school that the first official meeting of the Ad Dharm movement was held on June 11-12, 1926. There is another version about the school that traced its origin to the support provided by the Arya Samaj. However, given his close association with the Ghadar movement in California, Mangoo Ram’s relationships with the Arya Samaj was not as close as that of Vasant Rai, Thakur Chand and Swami Shudranand. Moreover, his personal experience of being treated as an equal in America, particularly by his fellow Ghadarites, inculcated in him an intense desire and inspiration for equality and social justice. This led him to lay the foundation of the Ad Dharm movement to streamline the struggle against untouchability. Soon he emerged as a folk-hero of the dalits who started rallying around him, particularly in the dalit concentrated areas of the Doaba region. However, after a while the Ad Dharm organisation got factionalised resulting in a split in 1929 into two groups: one headed by Vasant Rai and the other by Mangoo Ram. There emerged two independent organisations: the Ad Dharm Mandal with its office in Jalandhar was headed by Mangoo Ram and the All Indian Ad Dharm Mandal with its headquarters in Lyalpur was headed by Vasant Rai. The All India Ad Dharm Mandal got disbanded and merged with the organisation led by Dr Ambedkar in 1933 and after some years the same fate fell on Ad Dharm of Mangoo Ram, who closed the office of the Ad Dharm Mandal and changed its name to Ravidass Mandal. However, close associates of the Ad Dharm movement contested this observation. They said that Ad Dharm Mandal was not changed into Ravidass Mandal. In fact, later on, Ravidass School was opened up in the premises of the Ad Dharm Mandal building. So it was Ravidass School, which merely came to occupy the space of the Ad Dharm Mandal building rather than its being taken over by Ravidass Mandal. (Interviews with: late Chanan Lal Manak, Jalandhar, May 29, 2001; K.C. Shenmar I.G. (P) Pb. (retd.) Chandigarh, April 28, 2001).
The Vasant Rai group of the Ad Dharm Mandal was thoroughly soaked into the ideology of the Arya Samaj. In fact this group was lured back by the Arya Samaj. Although the Arya Samaj dominated section of Ad Dharm Mandal withdrew itself from the Mangoo Ram’s group in 1929, the latter played an active part in the politics of Punjab for a period of two decades from 1926 to 1952.
Mangoo Ram set a clear agenda for Ad Dharm movement. The agenda was to create a new religion for the lower caste. The Hindus who for political motives considered them as part of their religion treated them shabbily. Arya Samaj was making frantic efforts to bring the Shudras back into the Hindu fold who had proselytised into Islam, Christianity and Sikh religion. Arya Samaj and the Christian church were not the only organisations, which were trying to win over the lower castes. Sikhs and Muslims were equally interested in bringing them into their respective religions. Mangoo Ram thought it appropriate to intervene at this juncture to espouse the cause of Dalits by carving out a separate identity of their own.
In the poster announcing the first annual meeting of Ad Dharm Movement, Mangoo Ram devoted the entire space to the hardships faced by the untouchables at the hands of the caste Hindus. He also made an appeal to the Achhuts to come together to chalk out a program for their liberation and upliftment while addressing the Chamars, Chuhras, Sansis, Bhanjhras, Bhils etc. as brothers, he said,
We are the real inhabitants of this country and our religion is Ad Dharm. Hindu Qaum came from outside to deprive us of our country and enslave us. At one time we reigned over ‘Hind’. We are the progeny of kings; Hindus came down from Iran to Hind and destroyed our qaum. They deprived us of our property and rendered us nomadic. They razed down our forts and houses, and destroyed our history. We are seven Crores in numbers and are registered as Hindus in this country. Liberate the Adi race by separating these seven crores. They (Hindus) became lord and call us ‘others’. Our seven crore number enjoy no share at all. We reposed faith in Hindus and thus suffered a lot. Hindus turned out to be callous. Centuries ago Hindus suppressed us sever all ties with them. What justice we expect from those who are the butchers of Adi race. Time has come, be cautious, now the Government listens to appeals. With the support of sympathetic Government, come together to save the race. Send members to the Councils so that our qaum is strengthened again. British rule should remain forever. Make prayer before God. Except for this Government, no one is sympathetic towards us. Never consider ourselves as Hindus at all, remember that our religion is Ad Dharm.
The way, the leaders of Ad Dharm chose to restore dignity and freedom to the untouchables was to completely detach them from Hinduism and to consolidate them into their own ancient religion - Ad Dharm - of which they had become oblivious during the age-old domination by the ‘alien Hindus’. In fact, the task of the revival of their ancient religion was not an easy one by virtue of the fact that during a long period of persecution at the hands of the Savarnas, the untouchables had forgotten their Gurus and other religious symbols. In fact they were never allowed to nurture an aspiration to have their own independent religion. They were condemned as profane and were declared unfit to have their own theology. Thus to revive Ad Dharm was tantamount to developing an altogether a new religion for the Achhuts. Mangoo Ram’s appeal that the Dalits were the real inhabitants of this land made an enormous psychological impact on the untouchables who were treated as, even inferior to animals in Indian society. The appeal inspired them to come out of their slumber and fight for their freedom and liberty. The Ad Dharm provided a theological podium to sustain and reinforce the new Dalit identity. For centuries, they were bereft of any identity and remained in the appendage of the hierarchically graded Hindu society.
Before 1920’s, especially before the rise of Ad Dharm movement, the untouchables in Punjab hardly envisaged the idea of seeking a separate identity. The growing communal politics and resultant unrest within Punjab in the 1920’s coupled with the emergence of Dalit organisations in different parts of the country, offered them a good opportunity to carve out such an identity. In the pre-partition Punjab, untouchables constituted one-fourth of the total population. Since scheduled castes did not have their separate religion, they were being counted as Hindus. In a system of communal representation, Muslim leaders were thinking that the Achhuts, who were never considered as equal by the caste Hindus, should be separated from them and equally divided between the Hindus and Muslims.
It was not only Muslims who alone had such an approach, even the Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus also wanted to absorb them into their respective religion for political benefits. In the absence of any other alternative open to them, a large number of the Achhuts of Punjab converted into Christianity (especially the chuhras of Sialkot and Gurdaspur), Sikhism (in Sialkot and Gurdaspur), and Islam (Rawalpindi, Multan and Lahore division).
Consequently, the Hindus in the province had been reduced from 43.8% in 1881 to 30.2% in 1931 while the Sikhs increased from 8.2% to 14.3% and the Muslims from 40.6% to about 52% and in the British territory the population of the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Muslims in 1931 was 26.80%, 12.99% and 56.4% respectively (Census of India, 1931, Vol. xvii, Punjab Part i, p. 291).
Obviously, it alarmed the Arya Samaj to put an end to the conversions of Achhuts lest it turned out as a political suicide for Hindus. Lala Lajpat Rai’s “Achhut Udhar Mandal” at Lahore, Swami Ganesh Dutt’s “Antyaj Udhar Mandal” at Lahore and Lala Devi Chand’s “Dayanad Dalit Udhar Mandal” at Hoshiarpur came up in response to these conversions. As a matter of fact, the Arya Samaj started Shuddhi campaign to bring the converted Achhuts back into the Hindu-fold. This also brought the Arya Samaj into confrontation with the Sikhs and the Muslims. “In a famous incident in 1900, Sikhs rebelled at the Arya Samaj’s practice of publicly shaving lower caste Sikhs and offering them Shuddhi”.
It was at this stage that Ad Dharm entered into the volatile territories of communal politics in Punjab. There was no one to welcome it. However, they received some support from the British government as it had helped in weakening the growing unity in the country.


Dominant Castes, Violence And Ad Dharm

The Ad Dharm faced stiff opposition and its followers fell victim to physical violence at the hands of both Hindus and Sikhs.They were also denied entry into meadows and common lands to fetch fodder for their cattle, access to the open fields to answer the call of nature, and were interned in their houses by the Sikhs and Hindus for no other fault than that of their being registered as Ad Dharmis in the census of 1931. In Ferozepur district, two chamars were burnt alive because they registered themselves as Ad Dharmis. In Layalpur district, the innocent daughter of an Ad Dharmi was murdered. In Nankana Sahib, the Akalis threw ash into the langar (food prepared in bulk for free distribution) meant for those who came to attend the Ad Dharm meeting. In Village Dakhiyan-da-Prah of the Ludhiana district, the Sikh boys abducted Shudranand from the dais of the Achhuts’ public meeting. In Baghapurana, many Achhuts were beaten up and their legs and arms were broken. In many villages of Ludhiana, Ferozepur and Layalpur, the Achhuts were boycotted for two months. These Achhuts were living in villages where the Jat-Sikhs or Muslims were in a dominant position. The Jat-Sikhs had compelled the Achhuts to record themselves as Sikhs. However, despite repression and intimidation the Achhuts did not give in and recorded Ad Dharm as their religion. In village Ghundrawan of the district Kangra, the Rajputs even smashed the pitchers of the Ad Dharmi women who were on their way to fetch water. When denied water from the village pond the Ad Dharmis had to travel for three miles to fetch water from the river. The ongoing torture at the hands of the Rajputs ultimately compelled them to leave the village to settle in Pathankot. It was only after the interference of Sir Fazal-i- Hussain, Chief Commissioner, on the request of Mangoo Ram that their grievance was looked into and eventually they were rehabilitated in their native village. In face of opposition by the upper caste Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, the leaders of Ad Dharm had tough time at the Lothian Committee to prove that they were neither Hindus or Sikhs or Muslims nor Christians. The Lothian committee (Indian Franchise committee) was constituted in December 1931 under the Chairmanship of the Marquees of Lothian, C.H., and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for India. It consisted of 18 members. Dr. Ambedkar was one of them. The committee began its work, of hearing the views of the parties concerned and the provincial franchise committees constituted by the respective Provincial Legislatures, at Delhi on 1st February 1932. It conducted its enquires in Lahore on 31st March and Ist April, 1932. Ad Dharm Mandal and Dayanand Dalit Udhar mandal represented the depressed classes of the Punjab before the committee. The Ad Dharm Mandal delegation consisted of eighteen members including Mangoo Ram (President) Hazara Ram Piplanwala (General Secretary), Hans Raj (Vice-President), Ram Chand Khera (Editor, Adi Danka), Pt. Hari Ram and Sant Ram Azad (Ahir 1992:8-9). The Sikh representatives claimed that since many of the Achhuts believed in Guru Granth Sahib and solemnised their marriage ceremonies in accordance with the Sikh customs half of their population should be added to the Sikh religion and the other half be merged with the Hindus. Likwise the Muslim representatives told the Lothian committee that since some of the Achhuts perform Namaz (offer prayers), keep rozas (long fast kept in a particular month) and bury their corpses in cemeteries instead of burning them, they should be divided equally between Hindus and Muslims. Similarly, the Hindu representatives on the other hand stressed that since the Achhuts believed in Vedas and perform their marriage ceremonies in accordance with the Hindu customs no one except the Hindus have the right to seek their allegiance. Above all, Lala Ram Das of the “Dayanand Dalit Udhar Mandal” (Hoshiarpur) and Pandit Guru Dev of “Achhut Mandal” (Lahore) informed the franchise committee that there was no untouchable in Punjab. According to them the untouchables were the backward class of Hindus who were made at par with the rest through the performance of Shuddhi. Hence, no separate treatment for the untouchables in Punjab.
In addition, the various religious groups in a bid to scandalise the movement also hurled insinuations and condemnations at the Ad Dharm Mandal. The leaders of Ad Dharm were alleged to have hob-nobbed with the Muslims during the crucial time of communal representation where Hindus and Muslims were juxtaposed against each other. The Ad Dharm’s political alliance with the Unionist Party during the Punjab Assembly elections, first in 1937 and then again in 1945-46 was an eye sore both for the congress and the Hindu Sabha. The Hindu leaders did not like the Ad Dharmis’ growing links or association with the British government. In fact, the British secretly in the 1937 election supported the Ad Dharmis.
As regards the Ad Dharm’s closeness to Muslims, it was more of political expediency rather than a blind alliance. It was, in fact, Mangoo Ram, who categorically said no to the mandarins of partition (Chumber 1986:52; Sain 1985:37). But on the issue of communal representation for the Achhuts, he showed keen interest in its implementation for the Achhuts. When Gandhi sat on fast-unto-death at Poona against the separate electorate for untouchables, Mangoo Ram followed suit declaring “Gandhi if you are prepared to die for your Hindus, then I am prepared to die for these untouchables”. On this Mangoo Ram was accused of being a casteist.
Gandhi pleaded on behalf of the Sudhras and tried to live like a Bhangi among them to experience what hardships they faced. But Mangoo Ram was one of them. He was a Chamar who experienced the pangs of untouchability. Thus, his response to the epic fast against separate electorate was not merely pragmatic but also an existential one. When Dr. Ambedkar compromised with Gandhi and the Poona Pact was signed, Mangoo Ram rang up Dr. Ambedkar in an angry mood and expressed his anguish as to why he agreed to the Pact. Dr. Ambedkar said that he had to sign the Poona Pact on human grounds to save the life of Gandhi. The Ad Dharmis perceived that the scheduled castes had lost much more than what they gained in the Poona Pact (Chumber 1986: 51). That is why Mangoo Ram continued his fast even after the Pact was signed. He broke his fast only after the government made the declaration that eight seats were reserved for the untouchables in Punjab. The fast undertaken by him continued for 28 days from 20th September to 17th October 1932 until the Pact was received at Jalandhar. Mangoo Ram used to say “those people (Hindus) who had humiliated us for thousands of years how we could trust their promise”. Thus the followers of Ad Dharm movement were put to severe hardships and violence for carving out an identity for them and asserting for their rights. In spite of all types of pressures and hardships, the Ad Dharmis succeeded in registering ‘Ad Dharm’ as a separate religion for the lower castes in Punjab in the 1931 census.
Ad Dharm And Dalit Identity
A close study of the objectives set forth by the Ad Dharm founders and the methods adopted by them shows that they endeavored to establish a religious identity for the lower castes than building up the subaltern consciousness. The Ad Dharmis wanted to remove the stigma of untouchability from the face of their community and secure equal rights and respect for the lower caste people. However, the methods and ways adopted by the Ad Dharm leaders ended up with creating another religion. The Ad Dharmis were asked to salute each other in the name of Jai Guru Dev (Victory to the divine guru) and in response to that the reply was Dhan Guru Dev (blessed be the divine guru). These greetings were meant to differentiate them (the untouchables) from the other religious communities having their own specific nomenclatures to accost each other within their own social circles. For example, the Hindus address each other by ‘Namaste’, Sikhs by ‘Sat Sri Akal’ and Muslims by ‘Salaam’. The salutation of Jai Guru Dev and Dhan Guru Dev as a response to that provided a separate identity to the Ad Dharm, a new religion of shudras.
Sant Ravidass was projected as a spiritual preceptor and Guru. Bhagwan Satguru Namdev, Maharaj Kabir and Rishi Valmiki were also included in the theology of Ad Dharm. The Sanskrit phrase sohang (I am that) was adopted as a mantra by the new religion, Ad Dharm. It is still being used in the wall calendars showing Guru Ravidass’s picture. As far as the salutations are concerned, they have become memorabilia of the Ad Dharm movement.
The protagonists of the Ad Dharm movement also strived to provide their new religion with a sacred book called Ad Prakash, the original light. The purpose of such a move was to institutionalize the newly created religion. Mangoo Ram expressed his will among his closest circle that on his death only the sacred couplets from the Ad Prakash should be chanted. So after his death, only the Ad Prakash was recited on the death ceremony. At that time only a hand written copy of the Ad Prakash was available. Subsequently, Sant Isher Dass of village Nandgarh of District Hoshiarpur compiled the holy book. Thus the Ad Dharm movement provided a new sense of identity to the untouchables that they lacked earlier. In fact, the Ad Dharm developed into a qaum (a community) similar to those of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.
The Ad Dharm made substantial contribution to the social and political life of dalits in Punjab. It tried to generate an awareness among the Dalits for bringing a cultural revolution in the society perforated with the evil of low and high caste dichotomy. Although, a large number of social organizations had sprung up since the early twenties for the benefits of the untouchables, all of them were patronized by the upper castes and failed to bring any significant change as far as the trajectories of varna system and caste configuration of the Indian society were concerned. Given the obnoxious contents of the social taboos and the anti-Dalit social practices, it was adventurous for the untouchables to think about forming an organisation to fight for the cause of social liberation. Why Ad Dharm had to project Dalits as a separate qaum with an independent religion, was not only a sociological issue but had deep political undercurrents in an inegalitarian social system where some people were excluded from the mainstream on the basis of their birth. Interestingly enough, their being untouchable was more pronounced in terms of denying them the benefits of facilities available in the civil society and less in terms of seeking their menial services.
However, with the introduction of the adult franchise the untouchables have no longer been ‘untouchable’ so far as their votes are concerned. But they are hardly encouraged to aspire for the seat of power. The game of numbers has made it imperative for the Hindus to have claim on the untouchables. Even in the instruction guide for the 1931 census mention was made that
[a]ll chuhras who are not Muslims or Christians, and who do not return any other religion, should be returned as Hindus. The same rule applies to members of other depressed classes who have no tribal religion (1931 Census, Punjab, Vol. 20, Chap. 11, p. 289, as quoted in Juergensmeyer 1988:73)
The emancipatory project launched by Mangoo Ram inspired the lower castes to make efforts for their upliftment. The scope of the project, as vividly enunciated in the resolution passed in the first meeting of the Ad Dharm posited emphasis on the social equality of the Dalits and stressed on creating social and cultural awakening rather than merely seeking jobs and other benefits from the government. The Ad Dharm Report listed ten basic principles and twelve duties of the Ad Dharm organisation and fifty-six commandments to be followed by the Ad Dharmis. The report of the Ad Dharm Mandal, 1926-1931 was published on May 15,1931 in Urdu. Mark Juergensmeyer and Surjit Singh Goraya translated it into English (Jurgensmeyer 1988). C. L. Chumber translated it into Hindi and Punjabi (Chumber 11 June 2000). The Hindi and Punjabi translation include the name of the five hundred members of the Ad Dharm Mandal and its fifty-five missionaries, which were not included in the English translation.
The basic principles listed in the Report are: (1) The essential teachings of the Ad Dharm will always be the same: no one can change them. They can stay alive and persist only through the help of a guru. (2) Every man and woman belongs to the faith, but they may not know it. To live without a guru is a sin. (3) A guru should be someone who truly and rightly knows the teachings of the previous masters. He should be able to distinguish between falsehood and truth. He should be able to bring peace and love within the community. (4) Everyone should be instructed by the lives of previous masters; progress comes from following the masters’ examples. The practices of previous masters should not be abandoned. This leads to progress. (5) There should not be any discrimination in regard to eating with other castes. (6) Ad Dharmis should abstain from theft, fraud, lies, dishonesty, looking at someone else’s wife with bad intentions, using anything which brings intoxication, gambling, and usurping other persons’ property or belongings. All of these things are against the law of nature and therefore the law of Ad Dharm. (7) Every Ad Dharmi has the duty to teach his children current knowledge and also to teach them to be obedient to the present king. (8) Every Ad Dharmi should read the Ad Prakash and act upon it. This is a foremost duty. (9) Ad Dharm does not believe in the caste system or any inferiority or superiority of this sort. (10) To learn and seek knowledge, and to learn and seek progress is compulsory for every man and woman.
The twelve duties mentioned in the Report are as follows: (1) To publicize and propagate Ad Dharm. (2) To take pride in Ad Dharm. (3) To promote the use of name of the community and to use the red mark, which is its sign. (4) Ad Dharmis should try to retrieve any property of fellow Ad Dharmi that has been usurped. (5) We should distinguish among Hindus, Ad Dharmis, and other communities of India. (6) Those books, which have created the problem of untouchability and led to discrimination - books such as the Laws of Manu and other Shastras – should be completely boycotted and abandoned. (7) We should celebrate the festivals of our gurus and follow our faith to the utmost. (8) Abandon idolatry. (9) Receive education for ourselves and others in the brotherhood. (10) Boycott those who curse us as “untouchables” or discriminate against us. (11) Bring all demands of Ad Dharmis before the government. (12) Abandon expensive marriage and practice of child marriage.
The fifty-six commandments included in the Report are: (1) Each Ad Dharmi should know everything about the faith. (2) For the betterment and salvation of one’s body – physical and spiritual – one should recite the word soham. (3) Each Ad Dharmi should remember Guru Dev for half an hour each morning or evening. (4) When Ad Dharmis meet, their greeting should be “jai Guru Dev.” (5) We should be true followers of the founders, Rishi Valmiki, Guru Ravi Das, Maharaj Kabir, and Bhagwan Sat Guru Nam Dev. (6) A guru is necessary, one who knows about previous gurus and has all the capabilities of being a guru. (7) The wife of a guru should be regarded as one’s mother, the guru’s daughter as one’s sister. (8) Devotion to one’s wife should be a part of one’s faith, for therein lies salvation. (9) Every Ad Dharmi should abstain from theft, fraud, lies, dishonesty, and usurping the property of others. (11) One should not cause someone else heartache. There is no worse sin than this. (12) Every Ad Dharmi should enthusiastically participate in Ad Dharmi festivals and rituals. (13) There should be equally great happiness at the birth of both boys and girls. (14) After the age of five, every boy and girl should be given proper religious teaching. (15) Extravagant expenses at weddings are useless. Every marriage should be conducted according to rituals of our tradition. (16) Ad Dharmis should marry only Ad Dharmis. To marry someone outside Ad Dharm is not legal, but if someone does marry an outsider, he or she should be brought into the faith. (17) All Ad Dharmis, both men and women, should be obedient to their parents. (18) After the death of both parents it is the duty of each Ad Dharmi to cook food and distribute it among the poor. (19) The dead should be cremated, except for those under the age of five, who should be buried. (20) Ad Dharmis do not follow any other law except their own. (21) In the Ad Dharm faith only one marriage is allowed, but a husband may marry after the death of his wife. Also, if the first wife does not bear children, the husband may take another wife, provided he has the consent of the first wife. If this happens, the first wife remains a legal wife, with all the rights she had before. (22) Ad Dharmis should marry their children to the Ad Dharmis of the surrounding areas. (23) A girl should be more than twelve years old at the time of the marriage. The boy should be four years older than the girl. (24) It is illegal to receive money for a bride; on the other hand, there should not be a dowry. Those who sell their daughters commit a very great sin. (25) Offerings and sacrifices for prayers should be given only to those holy men who are Ad Dharmi and who have shown themselves to follow Ad Dharmi principles religiously. (26) It is necessary for each Ad Dharmi to provide primary education to both boys and girls. (27) The girls should be educated especially in household work such as sewing and needlework. (28) Young girls and boys should not be sent out to cut grass and gather wood. (29) It is the duty of parents not to allow young widowed daughters to remain in their household, because a young widowed daughter is a cause of disgrace. (30) If an Ad Dharmi widow with children wants to hold a commemoration of her deceased husband, but cannot afford it, then the Ad Dharm Mandal of Jullundur and its members will help her. (31) It is not good to cry and beat oneself at a death or funeral. To do so is to anger Guru Dev. (32) Among the Ad Dharmis sons and daughters should receive an equal inheritance. (33) To eat the meat of a dead animal or bird is against the law of Ad Dharm. (34) To use wine or any other intoxicants is a sin, except in the case of sickness. (35) It is legal to eat food offered at noon – Ad Dharm marriages, but the food should be decent, and not leftovers. (36) Cleanliness is important. It guaranteed good health. (37) It is forbidden to practice idolatry and worship statues, and one should not believe in magic, ghosts, or anything of the sort. (38) All Ad Dharmis should forget notions of caste and untouchability and work toward the unity of all people in the world. (39) Each Ad Dharmi should help a fellow Ad Dharmi in need. (40) One Ad Dharmi must not work at a place where another Ad Dharmi works until the first Ad Dharmi has been paid his wages. (41) If Ad Dharmis enter into a dispute with one another, they should attempt to come to some agreement by themselves or within the community. If no agreement is accomplished, they should refer the case to the Ad Dharm Mandal, Jullundur, and the Executive Committee will take action. (42) Ad Dharmis should open shops and business in every village. (43) Every Ad Dharmi should be a missionary for the faith. (44) Ad Dharmis should call themselves such and register in the census as “Ad Dharmi”. (45) A Red turban on the head is mandatory, for it is the color of our ancestors. (46) Every Ad Dharmi should work hard for the progress and peace of the community. (47) Ad Dharmis hould organize themselves into cadres called martyrdom cells. They should work hard on the Ad Dharm’s projects. (48) Each Ad Dharmis hould separate himself form Hindus, Sikhs, and members of other religions. (49) Each Ad Dharmi should be a good citizen, a patriot loyal to the present government, and should follow the law of the land. (50) Ad Dharmis have the obligation to consider the Ad Dharm Mandal of Punjab, city of Jullundur, as their rightful representative, and to recognize that the programs of the AD Dharm are for their benefit. (51) It is the duty of every Ad Dharmi to trust the Ad Dharm Mandal of jullundur, and to share its work. (52) All local branches of the Ad Dharm should be certified by the Ad Dharm Mandal of Jullundur, and those, which are not certified, should not be considered genuine. (53) All Ad Dharmis should save their fellow Ad Dharmis from fraud and selfishness on the part of other communities. If such a situation arises, the Mandal should be informed. (54) Each Ad Dharmi should report any difficulty concerning the community to the Mandal in Jullundur. (55) Ad Dharmis should subscribe to the qaum’s newspaper, Adi Danka. They should receive it regularly, read it regularly,a nd help support it regularly. (56) Anyone violating the laws of the Ad Dharm or of the guru, or who insults these laws in one way or another, will be liable to punishment, even the greatest punishment – being banished from the community.
The main emphasis of these commandments, principles and duties was on the cultural, social and religious aspects of the life. The Report also includes twenty-five resolutions passed in the first Ad Dharm Conference in 1926. The government was requested to provide special schools and scholarships for the untouchable children (resolutions 7,10,11); proper representation in elected bodies and government departments (resolution 17); to eliminate rayit-namma and not to apply the Land Alienation Act to the untouchables (resolution 13). The Ad Dharm Mandal led by Mangoo Ram was able to raise the religious and organisational status of the untouchables beyond imagination. The new constitution of independent India, adopted on 26 January 1950, incorporated special provisions for Dalits to raise their social status and to help them to come at par with the rest of the society. In fact, the voice for such special provisions were first raised by the Ad Dharm in 1926 and subsequently documented in its report in 1931. In 1950, Mangoo Ram requested his qaum to relieve him of active social service life and called upon young Ad Dharmis to come forward to take the flag of Dalit liberation.
However, for two decades, i.e. from 1950 to 1970, Ad Dharm movement remained dormant for reasons best known to its leaders. In fact, most of the Adi movements in different parts of the country ceased to play an active role in the post-colonial India until 1970. Some of their leaders either joined the Congress or, for some time, carried out their political struggle under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar. Some scholars believed that the Ad Dharm movement was eventually absorbed into Dr. Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes federation and finally transformed into the Republican Party of India. It has also been said that in 1946 the Ad Dharm Mandal handed over the charge of political struggle to Dr. Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes Federation and confined itself to the social and religious matters affecting the Scheduled castes.
However, facts do not support such an analysis. After the 1937 Punjab Assembly elections, in which the Ad Dharm won all but one-reserved seats, the low-lying factionalism within its organisation came onto the surface. The main factional confrontation was between Seth Kishan Das and Master Gurbanta Singh. Seth Kishan Das was a rich man of the famous Boota Mandi, whose financial support to the Ad Dharm Mandal was no secret. He was also in the good books of Mangoo Ram, President of the Mandal. Master Gurbanta Singh was an Arya-samaji turned congress sympathiser who had also served Ad Dharm at one time as a General Secretary. He projected himself as a real representative of the untouchables being one of them as a poor man. Seth Kishan Das, a wealthy leather merchant, in his view, could not empathise with the poor untouchables. He contested 1937 Punjab Assembly election as a congress nominee from the Jalandhar reserved seat against Seth Kishan Das who was supported by the Ad Dharm Mandal. Seth Kishan Das defeated Master Gurbanta Singh with a big margin. This further widened the gulf between them. In the meantime, Seth Kishan Das formed the Achhut Federation, a Punjabi version of Dr. Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes Federation. Mr. Gopal Singh Khalsa, an M.L.A. from the Ludhiana reserved seat, joined him as a Vice-President. Seth Kishan Das formed Achhut Federation without taking Mangoo Ram into confidence who, in turn, got enraged by his behaviour. Master Gurbanta Singh exploited this opportunity and stepped into the Ad Dharm Mandal. He managed to come closer to Mangoo Ram. However, Master Gurbanta Singh had also formed “Ravidass Naujawan Sabha” and carried out for some time ‘Ravidass Jaikara’, as the publication of the sabha. Bhagat Singh Mal, Pritam Singh Bala, Karam Chand Shenmar were some of the prominent members of the Ravidass Naujawan Sabha. He, in fact, reportedly wanted to emulate Mangoo Ram by forming an organisation and a publication to match ‘Adi Danka’, the weekly newspaper of Ad Dharm. In the 1946-47 Punjab Assembly election, Mangoo Ram put his weight behind Master Gurbanta Singh who was a congress nominee against Kishan Das of the “Achhut Federation”. This time, Master Gurbanta Singh defeated Seth Kishan Das.
However, by now the leadership of the Ad Dharm Mandal got scattered into different political segments, thanks to the allurement of political offices. Mangoo Ram himself got elected to the Assembly with the support of the Unionist Party from the Hoshiarpur constituency. The “Ad Dharm Mandal” building, which was constructed with the financial support of Seth Kishan Das, came under the control of Master Gurbanta Singh who eventually became the custodian of its property and Chairman of Ravidass High School.
A cursory glance at these developments in the Ad Dharm conjured up a pessimistic image about the Ad Dharm movement as if it had ceased to exist in the late forties. But what one needs to keep in mind while analysing the scope of the movement is that movement is too big a phenomenon to be confined within the boundaries of a compact organisation or a political party. Political organisations and political parties may branch out from the domain of a movement. And the movement may for some time go into a gestation period to resurface again.
The “Achhut Federation” and the emergence of an articulate dalit leadership, which eventually joined the congress, was, in fact, the product of the Ad Dharm movement. The coming up of the Achhut Federation and joining of the congress party by some of the Ad Dharmis should not be interpreted as the demise of the Ad Dharm movement. Even when the movement was in low ebb, Mangoo Ram and his associates like Sant Ram Azad and Chanan Lal Manak remained steadfast on the principles and sustenance of Ad Dharm movement.
Rejuvenation
Even in 1970 when Mangu Ram Jaspal made efforts, another Ad Dharmi of the Doaba region who had returned from England to settle in Jalandhar, to revive the movement, the veteran Mangoo Ram promptly came forward to help resuscitate the movement. Some other distinguished Ad Dharmis, who remained loyal to the movement even during its gestation period, wrote series of articles in the Ravidass Patrika of the new Ad Dharm movement. The new Ad Dharm movement got resurged and revamped on December 13, 1970 under the banner of “Ad Dharm Scheduled Castes Federation”.
There were striking similarities between the “Ad Dharm Mandal” and the “Ad Dharm Scheduled Castes Federation”. As a matter of fact, Mangoo Ram commented that ‘We’re back to where we were in 1925'. Until the objective conditions or contradictions that initially propelled the movement were altered or resolved, the goals and ideology remained intact to reemerge at the slightest opportunity.
The main objectives of the Ad Dharm movement were to carve out an independent identity for the untouchables and to blot out the stigma of untouchability. Although, the Ad Dharm movement played an effective role in mobilizing Dalits on these vital issues, the shift in the then political arena, induced by the electoral system, forced the movement to adjust itself with the changed political scenario. As the majority of the Ad Dharm leadership got involved in the electoral process to gain political power, it eventually diluted its emphasis on the goals of removal of untouchability and the construction of a separate identity. As a result the ‘objective conditions’ remained unchanged. In spite of legal provisions enshrined in the new constitution, the traditional authority structures of hierarchy resisted and stalled the process of transformation.
“Our people, said Mangoo Ram, in the government are still treated like slaves. They fear their superiors and high caste people. (Juergensmeyer 1988: 258). In other words, the evil of untouchability has not been eradicated from the complex social structure of the society. “Physical untouchability has given way to the mental untouchability”.
Moreover, the goal of constructing a communal identity for the untouchables by developing a separate religion, though partly achieved in the 1931 census, was rolled back in 1932 by the Poona Pact. Henceforth, from the status of a religion, Ad Dharm was reduced into a category of caste. So, instead of elevating the status of the untouchables, it had a negative impact on the Dalit mobilization. A new caste was added to the already long list of Scheduled castes. Chamars were further categorized into Chamars and Ad Dharmis.
The new Ad Dharm movement in the seventies was organized against this background. It pledged to revive the spirit of social and cultural transformation, as ignited by Mangoo Ram in the 1920’s. Efforts were also made to keep away from the vicissitudes of power politics that had marred social and cultural stances of the original Ad Dharm movement. The Ad Dharm Scheduled Castes Federation reiterated on the importance of communal identity of the Ad Dharmis as a separate qaum. In fact, the revived movement was more theological. Religion was employed as a rallying point for harnessing the allegiance of the untouchables. The construction of Ravidass Temple in Benares and highlighting the Ravidass temple (Dera Sach Khand Ballan) in village Ballan near Bhogpur town of Jalandhar was the focal point of the new Ad Dharm movement. The first conference of the revived movement was held at a religious place – Dera Sach Khand Ballan. It focussed on the renewal of the qaumi identity. However, in due course some material demands were also included. Land reforms and raising the income limit from Rs.3600 to 6000, for defining poverty, were among the most important demands in this regard.
The revived Ad Dharm movement attempted to widen the scope of Ad Dharm religion by including in its fold, the Chuhras (sweeper caste), Mazhbi Sikhs, Ramdasias, and the Ambedkar Buddhists. In order to enlist the support of the Chuhras, who got estranged from the Ad Dharm, (Saberwal 1976:68) Valmiki, the patron saint of the sweeper caste, was assigned special importance in the revived movement.
Although the “Ad Dharm Scheduled Castes Federation” adopted the well-tried-out formulae of Dalit mobilization, it could not succeed in eliciting the same level of response. The practice of untouchability, the most important ‘structural factor’ in mobilizing untouchables in 1920s, has been bridled to a significant extent. Moreover, the articulate leaders of the Scheduled castes were co-opted in the congress system, which operated like an umbrella to incorporate various shades of political orientations and organizations. Moreover, what the Ad Dharm was aspiring for during the British regime, the congress delivered the same in the postcolonial phase. Even Mangoo Ram had acknowledged it and said
Dhanwad karna congress raj wala chotte waddhe da bhaid mitta ditta. Mahatama Gandhi ji bauhat upkar kitta girian kauman nu saath mila ditta. (Thanks to the congress regime for bridging the gap between the lower and the higher. Mahatama Gandhi ji did a lot of social service to bring the downtrodden at par with the other communities).
However, before the revived Ad Dharm movement lost in the whirlpool of militant fundamentalism in Punjab in the 1980s, fresh efforts were made to keep the struggle alive by publishing souvenirs, journals, and weekly news bulletins to glorify the various aspects of the movement. In January 1985, the Mangoo Ram Mugowalia Souvenir Committee released a souvenir in commemoration of the 99th birth anniversary of Mangoo Ram. The purpose of the souvenir was to generate awareness among the scheduled castes about the protagonists and sympathizers of the Ad Dharm mandal. Moreover, as a sequel to the Adi Danka of the 1920s and Ravidass Patrika of the 1970s, a Punjabi monthly named Kaumi Udarian was launched from Jalandhar in December 1985. It endeavored to give wide coverage to the different aspects of the Ad Dharm movement of the 1920s and its contemporary relevance. In January 1986, a special issue of the Kaumi Udarian was published on the birth centenary of Babu Mangoo Ram. Likewise on 12 January 1997 the “Bahujan Samaj Bulletin” (a weekly newspaper of the Bahujan Samaj Party) also focussed on various themes of the Ad Dharm movement. It was, in fact, through the columns of souvenirs, journals and news bulletins that many of the rare official documents of the “Ad Dharm Mandal” were made public. In addition, on 14 April 1986, the Ambedkar Mission Society, Punjab, posthumously honoured Babu Mangoo Ram with the title of Kaumi Messiah (saviour of the community). The important factor that distinguished the revival of the Ad Dharm movement in the 1980s, particularly under the BSP, was that it laid less emphasis on the appeal of religion to seek support for the movement. It is politics that has now acquired the centrestage pushing religion into the background. No doubt the movement right from the very beginning had shown interest in gaining political power for purposes of bringing about the basic social transformation as witnessed during the Assembly elections in 1937 and 1946-47. The Ad Dharmis found it convenient to use religion as a strategy to political power. However, the real objective of the Ad Dharm movement was to create an egalitarian social structure where Ad Dharmis would be proud of their community and feel free to aspire for equal opportunities.
With an aim of achieving the same objective, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has become active in Punjab since 1985. Of late the Party has claimed, “the ideology of Ad Dharm has become the spine, heart, brain, eyes, feet, and arms of the struggle of the BSP” (Bahujan Samaj Bulletin 12 January 1997:8). In 1996, it won three of the thirteen parliamentary seats and recorded leads in as many as seventeen assembly constituencies in Punjab (Verma 1999). Kanshi Ram, founder of the BSP, was elected to Loksabha (1996) from the Hoshiarpur constituency, wherefrom 50 years ago Babu Mangoo Ram, founder of the Ad Dharm movement, got elected to the Punjab Assembly in 1946. More interestingly, it was again in Hoshiarpur that the BSP celebrated 75th year of the AD Dharm movement on 28 February 2001. On this occassion , Kanshi Ram in his address exhorted the “bahujan samaj” to follow the principles of the Ad Dharm movement of which the BSP has, now, become the torch-bearer.
The pamphlet, issued by the BSP, also emphasized that the Party had taken forward the mission of the Ad Dharm movement. It reiterated that although Dr. Ambedkar tried to give political freedom to the downtrodden by granting them the right to vote in the constitution, but in actual practice it could not be realised fully. Further, the Pamphlet stressed that the ‘Manuite regimes’ have conspired to deprive the Dalits of their hard earned rights by proposing to amend the constitution. The BSP, which drew inspiration from Ad Dharm and Dr. Ambedkar, strongly condemned such moves and sought support in its tirade against the Manuite government.
Simultaneously, the efforts have also been made to revive the spirit of the Ad Dharm movement abroad. Begumpura Times Quarterly, a bilingual publication of the “Ad Dharm Brotherhood Intl. Wolverhampton, U.K.” (Started in 1999) has carried a series of articles on various aspects of the Ad Dharm movement and the steps taken for its revival. The Ad Dharm Brotherhood Intl. also celebrated the Platinum Jubilee of the Ad Dharm movement at Shri Guru Ravidass Community Centre, Wolverhampton, on 11 June 2000. Earlier, on 25 July 1976, it celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the Ad Dharm in U.K. where Babu Mangoo Ram was invited as the chief guest and also honoured with a pension of Rs. 1000 per month (Sain, 1985:37).
In India, the Platinum Jubilee function of the movement was organised at the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall, Jalandhar on 11 June 2000. On this occassion, Mr. Chumber released the report of “Ad Dharm Mandal” 1931 (in Punjabi and Hindi) which included the names of 500 members and 55 missionaries of the mandal. The purpose of publishing the names of the members and missionaries was to acknowledge their contributions to the upliftment of the dalit community and also to generate an active interest among the younger generation of their families. The report also made a call to the scheduled castes to record Ad Dharm as their religion in the 2001 census as was done in the 1931 census. The Ad Dharm Brotherhood Intl., U.K, made a similar appeal. Mention may be made here that the Ad Dharm movement of the 1920s had also received support from the immigrant Ad dharmis settled in New Zealand, Fiji, Singapore, U.K. etc. As the ideology and principles of the Ad Dharm movement greatly influenced the dalits of the Doaba region, most of the immigrants who supported the movement from abroad also hailed from this very region. The present BSP, under the leadership of Kanshi Ram, which claims to fight for the rights of dalits in the framework of the Ad Dharm movement, has high hopes from the Doaba region. Moreover, given the significant number of Scheduled Castes in Punjab (28.31% as per 1991 census), there is a possibility of the emergence of alternative dalit politics.
The Impediments
What stumbled the dalits in Punjab to emerge, as a political alternative despite their numerical strength is that they have not been able to consolidate themselves as a homogeneous group. In fact, they form a conglomerate of thirty-seven distinct Dalit castes with different sub identities and diverse religious affiliations. The Thirtyseven Castes are: Ad-Dharmi, Valmiki (Chura, Bhangi), Bangali, Barar (Burar of Berar), Batwal, Bauria (Bawria), Bazigar, Bhnajra, Chamar (Jatia Chamar, Rehgar, Raigar, Ramdasi, Ravidasi), Chanal, Dagi, Darain, Deha (Dhaya, Dhea), Dhanak, Kabirpanthi (Julala), Khatik, Kori- koli, Marija (Marecha), Mazhbi, Megh, Nat, Od, Pasi, Perna, Pheera, Sanhai, Sanhal, Sansi (Bhedkut, Manesh), Sansoi, Dhogri (Dhangri, Siggi), Dumna (Mahasha, Doom), Gagra, Gandhila (Gandeil), Sapela, Sareta, Sikligar, Sirkiband, (Census of India 1991, Series 17-Punjab). The rules of the caste grammar treating one caste as superior to another are equally followed by the scheduled castes in the state. A study based on the fieldwork has found that 76.6 percent of the dalit respondents ranked Ad Dharmi at the top of the hierarchy of the scheduled castes in Punjab. Being conscious of their superior status the Ad Dharmis practice endogamy to maintain their distinctness from the other dalit castes. Further, the study reported that 91.6 percent of the Ad Dharmis had married within their own caste. Another emperical study reveals that among the Valmikis and the Ad Dharmis in Punjab there exists a substantial measure of active caste consciousness, which further precluded them, forging unity to fight out the socio-economic and political backwardness.
According to 1981 census, in terms of their numerical strength the Mazhabis, the sikh counterparts of Valmikis also known as chuhras, were 13,66,843; chamars (also called Ramdasias, Ravidasies etc.) 12,21,145; Ad Dharmis 6,80,132; Valmikis 5,32,628; Dumnas 1,24,929; Bazigars 1,20,250; Meghs 78,405; Bawarias 62,624; Sansis 61,986; and Kabirpanthis 56,888 followed by rest of the scheduled castes in varied smaller denominations. Out of the thirty-seven castes, the Punjab government declared thirteen as the ‘Depressed Scheduled Castes’. Seven of these thirteen Depressed Scheduled Castes are identified by the Punjab government as the ‘De-notified Tribes‘ or the ‘Vimukta Jatis’ who were declared by the colonial administration as ‘Vagrant and Criminal tribes’. These thirteen castes together constituted only 11 percent of the scheduled caste population. Chamars, Mazhabis, Ad Dharmis and Valmikis together constitute nearly three-fourth of the total scheduled castes population of Punjab.
Apart from above, the factor of economic inequalities among the dalits in the state is no less significant. The Ad Dharmis of the Boota Mandi in Jalandhar who control the leather industry are the richest among the scheduled castes of Punjab. Moreover, a group of scheduled castes has established its hold over the surgical tool-manufacturing units in the Jalandhar town. Likewise, a small number of scheduled castes households also own cultivable land (around 0.40 percent of the total holdings in Punjab) that makes them different from most other Dlits whose mainstay of livelihood depends on the income as manual and landless labourers. Similarly, some sections of the scheduled castes, particularly the chamar and Ad Dharmis have acquired administrative positions in the state administration.
The above analysis shows that Dlits of Punjab constitute a motley group of castes, economic strata and religious identities. Besides, the Dlits lack an all-Punjab leader to mobilize them across religious and regional variations. It was precisely because of these intra-Dlit cleavages that they could not emerge as a cohesive force to reckon with in the politics of Punjab. In the absence of a common platform, some of the Dlits and their local elites seek their salvation through different political outfits including the Congress and the Akali Dal.
Conclusion
What we have tried to argue above is that the Dlit consciousness is a consciousness of seeking justice and equality,which was born in the early 20th century. Another aspect of Dalit consciousness that needs to be underlined is that it has never been an exclusive domain of Dalits only. Intermittently it continued to receive inputs from non-Dalit quarters as well. Be it a phase of Bhakti movement, Sufis, Indian renaissance or of national freedom movement, there is an ample proof of efforts being made by non-Dalits in the direction of eradication of untouchability. However, almost all of them thought it appropriate to take measures for the removal of untouchability without doing away with the inegalitarian social structure. This has led to a sharp division between the orientation of the Dalits and the higher caste protagonists of social reform movements. The rise of Ad Dharm movement and Gandhi-Ambedkar dispute are testimonies to such polarization between the Dalits and the twice born. This division in turn further strengthened the process of consolidation of Dalit consciousness in a framework of ‘we’ and ‘others’. The issues of caste and untouchability instead of emerging as a common social problem with a unified response across the length and breadth of Indian sub-continent has taken on a path of confrontation and antagonism. Dalit consciousness grew along these fault lines. Indian freedom struggle failed to provide an environment for the emergence of a politics based on consensus and common concerns. This was probably the main reason for the continuance of the ideology and principles of the Ad Dharm movement in Punjab through the efforts of the BSP.
More curiously, Dalits became victim of their own Dalit consciousness, which instead of transcending caste and caste based hierarchies strengthened caste identities. Uptil very recently they (Dalits) were condemned as untouchable because of their being low caste, now they have been given favours constitutionally, too because of their being low caste. Hence as far as the social status of Dalits is concerned no significant change has really taken place. The blatant untouchability of yesteryears got transformed into a subtle form. Once a Scheduled Caste succeeded to raise his economic status by making use of reservation, he absolutely finds no avenues to concomitantly raise his social status also. He then desperately seeks new identities in borrowing religions and sometimes even borrowing respectable sub-caste titles. Such borrowed identities haunt him incessantly because his new incarnation failed to get recognition in the hierarchical social set up.
It is in this context that the contribution of the Ad Dharm movement becomes crucial. It helped the scheduled castes to seek social recognition through the process of cultural transformation on the one hand and spiritual regeneration on the other. It carved out a new identity for them. It gave them a new name: Ad Dharmi. The very title of Ad Dharmi instills in the minds of the scheduled castes a sense of pride. It reminds them of their pristine rich heritage. It also realised them as to how they were deprived of freedom and liberty and made subservient to the twice born. The Ad Dharm movement succeeded in raising the consciousness of the downtrodden people of the Doaba region of Punjab in particular and of the entire state in general. It gave them gurus to believe in, a qaum to belong to and a sense of history to relate with. It envisions them the possibility and potentiality of a social change whereby the scheduled castes could think and make efforts to improve their lot. The process of cultural transformation and spiritual regeneration started by the Ad Dharm movement under the leadership of Mangoo Ram continued to reverberate the cities and villages of Punjab into the 21st century through different platforms and political formations.
For detail references and documentation see: Ronki Ram,”Untouchability, Dalit Consciousness, and the Ad Dharm Movement in Punjab”, Contributions to Indian Sociology (New series), Vol.38, No.3, September-December 2004, pp.323-349.
ARTICLE BY : Ronki Ram (Dr.), Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh. E-mail:.


1)
DALITS AND THE AD DHARM MOVEMENT IN PUNJAB
Punjab has been a site of invasions, conflicts, agitations and martyrdoms. It has also been a boiling cauldron for various social and political movements. Its history is rich with innumerable instances of people’s upsurge against the tyrant systems. However, what makes the case of Punjab, a unique, is that its tirades against the system of oppression and violence remained always progressive and secular. They were not against a particular caste or community but against systems of tyranny and oppression.
It is interesting to note that in all of the struggles and movements, the contribution of the lower castes and the untouchables was second to none. The share of these deprived sections of the society was equally tremendous in the sphere of Bhakti movement. One can quickly count the names of Dhanna, Sadna, Sain and Ravidass who were among the prominent stars of the Bhakti movement. Their share is equally remarkable in the struggles of the Khalsa against the then system of oppression and injustice. The popularity of the Rangretas (scavengers converted to Sikhism) has been established by a rhyme Rangreta Guru ka Beta (the Rangreta is the son of Guru). This rhyme is attributed to the Rangretas on account of the valorous act of bringing the severed head of Guru Teg Bahadur from Delhi to Anandpur Sahib, the seat of 9th and 10th Master of the Sikh faith by a Rangreta Sikh named Jeeta.
Yet another movement which rose in the 1920s in the Doaba region of Punjab brought together all the Scheduled Castes (then known as Depressed classes) on a single platform to fight against the system of social oppression, economic deprivation and political indifference. Though this movement laid the foundation of dalit consciousness in Punjab, it could not succeed in getting the serious attention of scholarship. However, Mark Jurgensmeyer’s pioneer work Religious Rebels in the Punjab (1988) remained the only reference to the share of Punjab in the ‘Adi Movements’ in India. This movement is known as Ad Dharm movement. It draws its inspiration from the Bhakti movement, especially from Kabir, Ravidass and Namdev. It also assigns equal importance to the teachings of Valmiki. What makes this movement the most relevant case for study is its being a purely low caste character and its fight against social structures of domination. Ad Dharm was the only movement of its kind in the Northwestern region of the country that aimed at securing a respectable place for the scheduled castes through cultural transformation and political assertion rather than seeking patronage from above. Another important feature of this movement was that it intended to bring social transformation and spiritual regeneration in the lives of the downtrodden. Although, this movement ceased to exist in its vehement form after the first general election in independent India, its emphasis on social transformation and political assertion against structures of social inequality and oppression continues to attract the Ad-Dharmis and other scheduled castes of Punjab. At present, the movement finds its sustenance in Punjab through the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and Ambedkarite organizations.
Ad Dharm Movement: The Genesis
The beginning of the 20th century witnessed a series of political developments, which among others led to the formation of Adi movements in different parts of the colonial India. The main objective of these movements was to liberate the downtrodden, poverty-stricken-oppressed classes, contemptuously branded as untouchables, from the most oppressive and obnoxious practice of untouchability meticulously observed by the Savarna Hindus, and to bring the former at par with the socio-cultural level of the twice born so that they could lead a life of dignity with a sense of equality. The Ad Dharm movement was one of them.
Although, the abolition of untouchability was also on the agenda of the protagonists of social reform movements (Brahmo Samaj, Prarthana Samaj, Arya Samaj and Singh Sabha), they wanted to achieve it without changing the basic structure of caste system. Since these movements were operating on the social reform front of the nationalist struggle, they could not totally devote themselves to the removal of untouchability. The immediate goal of the nationalist movement was to liberate the country from the British imperialism.
The most virulent opposition to the system of caste emanated from the lower caste movements. For these movements, the immediate important issue was caste domination, not Western hegemony; social emancipation, not political autonomy. The struggle against imperialism and other such issues were of secondary importance. These anti-caste movements, of course, constitute an inseparable part of the broader revolutionary democratic movement in India, alongwith the national movement and communist-and socialist-led working class and peasant movements. The main exponents of these movements were, among others, Jyotiba Phule, Baba Saheb Ambedkar, E.V. Ramasamy Naicker, Naraynaswami Guru in Kerala, Achutananda in U.P. and Mangoo Ram in Punjab.
The present paper confines to the Ad Dharm movement in Punjab. It aims at exploring the social situations and political configurations in colonial Punjab during the 1920s, which led to the rise of this movement. Another objective of the study is to document the present status of the movement in Punjab.
It would be appropriate to focus on certain aspects relating to the rise of this movement in 1926 and its so-called demise in 1946. Some of the close associates of the Ad Dharm movement, however, did not approve the closure of the movement in 1946. They were of the opinion that Ad Dharm continued to play an important role for the upliftment of the untouchables even after 1946. In 1946 Mangoo Ram got elected to the Punjab Assembly and remained there to espouse the cause of the Ad Dharmis till the first general elections in independent India. By that time, Mangoo Ram had grown fairly old. According to Chanan Lal Manak, a close associate of the movement, Ad Dharm could not produce any one of the calibers of Mangoo Ram to replace him. The rank and file of Ad Dharm was more interested in their individual vested interests rather than in the upliftment of the Dalits as a community. However, Mangoo Ram till his death did not surrender the herculean task that he had taken on his shoulders for the dalit consciousness and their upliftment (Interviews with Ishwar Das Pawar, Chandigarh, April 23, 2001; Chanan Lal Manak, Jalandhar, May 1, 2001; and Chattar Sain, son of Mangoo Ram, Garshankar [Distt. Hoshiarpur], April 27, 2001). What were the circumstances in which the Ad Dharm movement was originated? Who were its protagonists? What objectives did they seek to achieve? What were the tactics and strategies they adopted for the realization of these objectives? Whether such objectives sharpened the struggle against social oppression or led to blunt the very struggle itself? Was it really a struggle against social oppression or only a ploy to gain some incremental change for meager benefits? To whom the Ad Dharm considered its sympathizers and also its adversaries? What status did such sympathizers and adversaries hold in the socio-economic and politico-administrative setting of the Indian society? What is its present status? What are its goals and objectives? And how it intended to realise them?
Ad Dharm: Socio-Political Settings
Ad dharm movement was born out of a volatile social and political background in the early 20th century. Although, the similar socio-political situations were prevalent throughout the length and breadth of the country, the presence of various communal organisations in Punjab makes the case of the latter a peculiar one. The communal organisations like Arya Samaj, Christian Church, Sikh Khalsa Diwan and the Ahmadiyya movements were active in their endeavors to promote their respective communal interests.
It was exactly during this period of socio-political uncertainties that the British government passed the Land Alienation Act of 1900, Indian Counsel Act of 1909 and The Government of India Act of 1919. These acts provided further impetus to the ongoing competition among the various communal organizations. Although, the Land Alienation Act of 1900 was aimed at preventing the transfer of land from the hands of agriculturist castes into the non-agricultural money-lending castes, it has by its very nature debarred many castes to own land.
Untouchables, who were already kept deprived of land according to the Varna-vyavastha system of the Hindu caste hierarchy, were now legally debarred from land ownership. The system of separate electorates introduced in 1909 and 1919 further exacerbated the communal and separatists stance of politics. It brought serious implications in the province of Punjab where Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had their respective political organisation to strive for their vested interests. Since Scheduled Castes did not have their own organisation to articulate and defend their interests, they became the center of attention of all the communal organizations. Each of these organizations was trying to woo them on its side to secure an edge over the others in terms of numbers. This was, perhaps, the first time in the history of the Scheduled Castes that their numerical strength became important in the calculation and formulation of social and political forces. The provision for separate electorate also raised their expectation to enter into political arena as an independent force rather than to be used, by the Arya-Samaj, Congress or Akalis, as a pawn on the chessboard of electoral politics.
Moreover, the adoption of the removal of untouchability by the Indian National congress as an integral part of its policies in 1917 provided a further impetus to the scheduled castes in their efforts to seek a respectable place in the Indian society. The California based Ghadar Movement was another important political development which fascinated the youths of Punjab who were eager to bask in an egalitarian system free from discrimination and colonial tutelage. The Babbar Akali movement was yet another significant political development that catapulted Punjab into the vortex of revolt against injustice and foreign rule. In addition, another important social and political movement that swept the cities and countryside of Punjab was the loud appeals of Arya Samaj to restructure the Indian society on the basis of equality and social justice. Ghadar movement and the Babbar Akali movements were revolutionary and militant movements in comparison to the non-violent and passive postures of the Indian National Congress and Arya Samaj.
Interestingly enough, the Ad Dharm movement, particularly, some of its key protagonists had close affiliation with the Arya Samaj before they became active in the movement. Obviously, the rise and growth of the Ad Dharm had to be deeply influenced by the Arya-Samaj. The trio that initially conceived the idea of the Ad Dharm movement consisted of Vasant Rai, Thakur Chand and Swami Shudranand. They were also active in the Arya Samaj Movement. Vasant Rai was associated with the Arya Samaj as a teacher. Swami Shudranand was a missionary of the Samaj and Thakur Chand, though a Dalit like Vasant Rai and Shudranand, was called pandit because of his association with the Arya Samaj. They were either pracharaks (preachers) or Updeshaks (missionaries) of the Arya Samaj. Even after their absorption into the newly formed Ad Dharm movement Arya Samaj offered them important role in the movement to lure them back. Mention may be made here that they quit the Ad Dharm movement and returned to the Samaj.
Mangoo Ram And Ad Dharm
Mangoo Ram literally took the movement to the doorsteps of the untouchables in the Doaba region and soon emerged as a cult figure of the Dalits in Punjab. He was born at Mugowal, a village in the district of Hoshiarpur, on 14th January 1886. His forefathers were practising the occupation of tanning raw hides. However, his father, Harnam Dass, had abandoned the traditional caste-based occupation of tanning and preparing hides, and taken up the profession of selling the tanned leather on commercial basis. Since the leather trade required the knowledge of English language to read the sale orders, he was eager to have Mangoo Ram receive education to free him from the begar (forced labour), which he had to do in lieu of English orders read for him by the upper caste literates. Initially, Mangoo Ram was taught by a village Sadhu (Saint), then after studying at different schools he joined a high school at Bajwara, a town few miles away from his home. Being a chamar, he had to sit separately from the other upper caste students. In fact, he used to take a gunny bag from his home for sitting in a segregated place outside the classroom. In 1905 Mangoo Ram left the high school to help his father in leather trade. For three years he helped his father develop leather trade into a thriving business. However, in 1909 he left for America to follow into the footsteps of his peer group in the Doaba region.
Interestingly enough even in America Mangoo Ram had to work on the farms of a Punjabi Zamindar who had settled in California. In other words, even in America he had to experience the same relations of production as back home in India. How a shudra immigrant worker, who works on the land of an Indian upper caste landlord settled abroad, feels and experiences work conditions and its resultant relations of production is an altogether a separate question. However, while in California, Mangoo Ram came in close contact with the Ghadar Movement - a radical organisation aimed at liberating India from the British rule through armed insurrection. In fact, he participated in the weapon smuggling mission of the organisation. He was arrested and given the capital punishment but was saved from the death sentence by a chance as someone else in his name was executed. The news of his supposed death reached his village. According to the tradition of his community, his widow, named Piari married his elder brother. Mangoo Ram, on reaching India, remarried and had four sons from his second wife named Bishno.
After his return from abroad where he spent as many as sixteen years, Mangoo Ram did not find any change in Indian society that was still infested with the disease of untouchability. He said
While living abroad, said Mangoo Ram, I had forgotten about the hierarchy of high and low, and untouchability; and under this very wrong impression returned home in December 1925. The same misery of high and low, and untouchability, which I had left behind to go abroad, started afflicting again. I wrote about all this to my leader Lala Hardyal Ji that until and unless this disease is cured Hindustan could not be liberated. In accordance with his orders, a program was formulated in 1926 for the awakening and upliftment of Achhut qaum (untouchable community) of India.
Having settled in his native village, he opened up a school for the lower caste children in the village. Initially, the school was opened up, temporarily in the garden of Risaldar Dhanpat Rai, a landlord of his village. Later on, Lamberdar Beeru Ram Sangha, another landlord of the same village, donated half-acre land for the purpose of formally opening up the school. The school had five teachers including Mangoo Ram. One of the teachers of the school was a Muslim, Walhi Mohammad and one was Brahmin, who was later on converted into a Shudra. The conversion ceremony comprised of an earthen pot (Douri), which contained water mingled with sugar balls (Patasha) and stirred with leather cutting tool (Rambi). Thus the prepared sweet water considered as holy was given to Brahmins to baptize them into Shudras (Interview with Chatter Sain, 27 April 2001). Now a days, the school land has been declared as Shamlat (common land), and no remnants of the building exist except the old dilapidated structure of the well meant for drinking water in the school. It was in that school that the first official meeting of the Ad Dharm movement was held on June 11-12, 1926. There is another version about the school that traced its origin to the support provided by the Arya Samaj. However, given his close association with the Ghadar movement in California, Mangoo Ram’s relationships with the Arya Samaj was not as close as that of Vasant Rai, Thakur Chand and Swami Shudranand. Moreover, his personal experience of being treated as an equal in America, particularly by his fellow Ghadarites, inculcated in him an intense desire and inspiration for equality and social justice. This led him to lay the foundation of the Ad Dharm movement to streamline the struggle against untouchability. Soon he emerged as a folk-hero of the dalits who started rallying around him, particularly in the dalit concentrated areas of the Doaba region. However, after a while the Ad Dharm organisation got factionalised resulting in a split in 1929 into two groups: one headed by Vasant Rai and the other by Mangoo Ram. There emerged two independent organisations: the Ad Dharm Mandal with its office in Jalandhar was headed by Mangoo Ram and the All Indian Ad Dharm Mandal with its headquarters in Lyalpur was headed by Vasant Rai. The All India Ad Dharm Mandal got disbanded and merged with the organisation led by Dr Ambedkar in 1933 and after some years the same fate fell on Ad Dharm of Mangoo Ram, who closed the office of the Ad Dharm Mandal and changed its name to Ravidass Mandal. However, close associates of the Ad Dharm movement contested this observation. They said that Ad Dharm Mandal was not changed into Ravidass Mandal. In fact, later on, Ravidass School was opened up in the premises of the Ad Dharm Mandal building. So it was Ravidass School, which merely came to occupy the space of the Ad Dharm Mandal building rather than its being taken over by Ravidass Mandal. (Interviews with: late Chanan Lal Manak, Jalandhar, May 29, 2001; K.C. Shenmar I.G. (P) Pb. (retd.) Chandigarh, April 28, 2001).
The Vasant Rai group of the Ad Dharm Mandal was thoroughly soaked into the ideology of the Arya Samaj. In fact this group was lured back by the Arya Samaj. Although the Arya Samaj dominated section of Ad Dharm Mandal withdrew itself from the Mangoo Ram’s group in 1929, the latter played an active part in the politics of Punjab for a period of two decades from 1926 to 1952.
Mangoo Ram set a clear agenda for Ad Dharm movement. The agenda was to create a new religion for the lower caste. The Hindus who for political motives considered them as part of their religion treated them shabbily. Arya Samaj was making frantic efforts to bring the Shudras back into the Hindu fold who had proselytised into Islam, Christianity and Sikh religion. Arya Samaj and the Christian church were not the only organisations, which were trying to win over the lower castes. Sikhs and Muslims were equally interested in bringing them into their respective religions. Mangoo Ram thought it appropriate to intervene at this juncture to espouse the cause of Dalits by carving out a separate identity of their own.
In the poster announcing the first annual meeting of Ad Dharm Movement, Mangoo Ram devoted the entire space to the hardships faced by the untouchables at the hands of the caste Hindus. He also made an appeal to the Achhuts to come together to chalk out a program for their liberation and upliftment while addressing the Chamars, Chuhras, Sansis, Bhanjhras, Bhils etc. as brothers, he said,
We are the real inhabitants of this country and our religion is Ad Dharm. Hindu Qaum came from outside to deprive us of our country and enslave us. At one time we reigned over ‘Hind’. We are the progeny of kings; Hindus came down from Iran to Hind and destroyed our qaum. They deprived us of our property and rendered us nomadic. They razed down our forts and houses, and destroyed our history. We are seven Crores in numbers and are registered as Hindus in this country. Liberate the Adi race by separating these seven crores. They (Hindus) became lord and call us ‘others’. Our seven crore number enjoy no share at all. We reposed faith in Hindus and thus suffered a lot. Hindus turned out to be callous. Centuries ago Hindus suppressed us sever all ties with them. What justice we expect from those who are the butchers of Adi race. Time has come, be cautious, now the Government listens to appeals. With the support of sympathetic Government, come together to save the race. Send members to the Councils so that our qaum is strengthened again. British rule should remain forever. Make prayer before God. Except for this Government, no one is sympathetic towards us. Never consider ourselves as Hindus at all, remember that our religion is Ad Dharm.
The way, the leaders of Ad Dharm chose to restore dignity and freedom to the untouchables was to completely detach them from Hinduism and to consolidate them into their own ancient religion - Ad Dharm - of which they had become oblivious during the age-old domination by the ‘alien Hindus’. In fact, the task of the revival of their ancient religion was not an easy one by virtue of the fact that during a long period of persecution at the hands of the Savarnas, the untouchables had forgotten their Gurus and other religious symbols. In fact they were never allowed to nurture an aspiration to have their own independent religion. They were condemned as profane and were declared unfit to have their own theology. Thus to revive Ad Dharm was tantamount to developing an altogether a new religion for the Achhuts. Mangoo Ram’s appeal that the Dalits were the real inhabitants of this land made an enormous psychological impact on the untouchables who were treated as, even inferior to animals in Indian society. The appeal inspired them to come out of their slumber and fight for their freedom and liberty. The Ad Dharm provided a theological podium to sustain and reinforce the new Dalit identity. For centuries, they were bereft of any identity and remained in the appendage of the hierarchically graded Hindu society.
Before 1920’s, especially before the rise of Ad Dharm movement, the untouchables in Punjab hardly envisaged the idea of seeking a separate identity. The growing communal politics and resultant unrest within Punjab in the 1920’s coupled with the emergence of Dalit organisations in different parts of the country, offered them a good opportunity to carve out such an identity. In the pre-partition Punjab, untouchables constituted one-fourth of the total population. Since scheduled castes did not have their separate religion, they were being counted as Hindus. In a system of communal representation, Muslim leaders were thinking that the Achhuts, who were never considered as equal by the caste Hindus, should be separated from them and equally divided between the Hindus and Muslims.
It was not only Muslims who alone had such an approach, even the Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus also wanted to absorb them into their respective religion for political benefits. In the absence of any other alternative open to them, a large number of the Achhuts of Punjab converted into Christianity (especially the chuhras of Sialkot and Gurdaspur), Sikhism (in Sialkot and Gurdaspur), and Islam (Rawalpindi, Multan and Lahore division).
Consequently, the Hindus in the province had been reduced from 43.8% in 1881 to 30.2% in 1931 while the Sikhs increased from 8.2% to 14.3% and the Muslims from 40.6% to about 52% and in the British territory the population of the Hindus, the Sikhs and the Muslims in 1931 was 26.80%, 12.99% and 56.4% respectively (Census of India, 1931, Vol. xvii, Punjab Part i, p. 291).
Obviously, it alarmed the Arya Samaj to put an end to the conversions of Achhuts lest it turned out as a political suicide for Hindus. Lala Lajpat Rai’s “Achhut Udhar Mandal” at Lahore, Swami Ganesh Dutt’s “Antyaj Udhar Mandal” at Lahore and Lala Devi Chand’s “Dayanad Dalit Udhar Mandal” at Hoshiarpur came up in response to these conversions. As a matter of fact, the Arya Samaj started Shuddhi campaign to bring the converted Achhuts back into the Hindu-fold. This also brought the Arya Samaj into confrontation with the Sikhs and the Muslims. “In a famous incident in 1900, Sikhs rebelled at the Arya Samaj’s practice of publicly shaving lower caste Sikhs and offering them Shuddhi”.
It was at this stage that Ad Dharm entered into the volatile territories of communal politics in Punjab. There was no one to welcome it. However, they received some support from the British government as it had helped in weakening the growing unity in the country.


Dominant Castes, Violence And Ad Dharm

The Ad Dharm faced stiff opposition and its followers fell victim to physical violence at the hands of both Hindus and Sikhs.They were also denied entry into meadows and common lands to fetch fodder for their cattle, access to the open fields to answer the call of nature, and were interned in their houses by the Sikhs and Hindus for no other fault than that of their being registered as Ad Dharmis in the census of 1931. In Ferozepur district, two chamars were burnt alive because they registered themselves as Ad Dharmis. In Layalpur district, the innocent daughter of an Ad Dharmi was murdered. In Nankana Sahib, the Akalis threw ash into the langar (food prepared in bulk for free distribution) meant for those who came to attend the Ad Dharm meeting. In Village Dakhiyan-da-Prah of the Ludhiana district, the Sikh boys abducted Shudranand from the dais of the Achhuts’ public meeting. In Baghapurana, many Achhuts were beaten up and their legs and arms were broken. In many villages of Ludhiana, Ferozepur and Layalpur, the Achhuts were boycotted for two months. These Achhuts were living in villages where the Jat-Sikhs or Muslims were in a dominant position. The Jat-Sikhs had compelled the Achhuts to record themselves as Sikhs. However, despite repression and intimidation the Achhuts did not give in and recorded Ad Dharm as their religion. In village Ghundrawan of the district Kangra, the Rajputs even smashed the pitchers of the Ad Dharmi women who were on their way to fetch water. When denied water from the village pond the Ad Dharmis had to travel for three miles to fetch water from the river. The ongoing torture at the hands of the Rajputs ultimately compelled them to leave the village to settle in Pathankot. It was only after the interference of Sir Fazal-i- Hussain, Chief Commissioner, on the request of Mangoo Ram that their grievance was looked into and eventually they were rehabilitated in their native village. In face of opposition by the upper caste Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, the leaders of Ad Dharm had tough time at the Lothian Committee to prove that they were neither Hindus or Sikhs or Muslims nor Christians. The Lothian committee (Indian Franchise committee) was constituted in December 1931 under the Chairmanship of the Marquees of Lothian, C.H., and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for India. It consisted of 18 members. Dr. Ambedkar was one of them. The committee began its work, of hearing the views of the parties concerned and the provincial franchise committees constituted by the respective Provincial Legislatures, at Delhi on 1st February 1932. It conducted its enquires in Lahore on 31st March and Ist April, 1932. Ad Dharm Mandal and Dayanand Dalit Udhar mandal represented the depressed classes of the Punjab before the committee. The Ad Dharm Mandal delegation consisted of eighteen members including Mangoo Ram (President) Hazara Ram Piplanwala (General Secretary), Hans Raj (Vice-President), Ram Chand Khera (Editor, Adi Danka), Pt. Hari Ram and Sant Ram Azad (Ahir 1992:8-9). The Sikh representatives claimed that since many of the Achhuts believed in Guru Granth Sahib and solemnised their marriage ceremonies in accordance with the Sikh customs half of their population should be added to the Sikh religion and the other half be merged with the Hindus. Likwise the Muslim representatives told the Lothian committee that since some of the Achhuts perform Namaz (offer prayers), keep rozas (long fast kept in a particular month) and bury their corpses in cemeteries instead of burning them, they should be divided equally between Hindus and Muslims. Similarly, the Hindu representatives on the other hand stressed that since the Achhuts believed in Vedas and perform their marriage ceremonies in accordance with the Hindu customs no one except the Hindus have the right to seek their allegiance. Above all, Lala Ram Das of the “Dayanand Dalit Udhar Mandal” (Hoshiarpur) and Pandit Guru Dev of “Achhut Mandal” (Lahore) informed the franchise committee that there was no untouchable in Punjab. According to them the untouchables were the backward class of Hindus who were made at par with the rest through the performance of Shuddhi. Hence, no separate treatment for the untouchables in Punjab.
In addition, the various religious groups in a bid to scandalise the movement also hurled insinuations and condemnations at the Ad Dharm Mandal. The leaders of Ad Dharm were alleged to have hob-nobbed with the Muslims during the crucial time of communal representation where Hindus and Muslims were juxtaposed against each other. The Ad Dharm’s political alliance with the Unionist Party during the Punjab Assembly elections, first in 1937 and then again in 1945-46 was an eye sore both for the congress and the Hindu Sabha. The Hindu leaders did not like the Ad Dharmis’ growing links or association with the British government. In fact, the British secretly in the 1937 election supported the Ad Dharmis.
As regards the Ad Dharm’s closeness to Muslims, it was more of political expediency rather than a blind alliance. It was, in fact, Mangoo Ram, who categorically said no to the mandarins of partition (Chumber 1986:52; Sain 1985:37). But on the issue of communal representation for the Achhuts, he showed keen interest in its implementation for the Achhuts. When Gandhi sat on fast-unto-death at Poona against the separate electorate for untouchables, Mangoo Ram followed suit declaring “Gandhi if you are prepared to die for your Hindus, then I am prepared to die for these untouchables”. On this Mangoo Ram was accused of being a casteist.
Gandhi pleaded on behalf of the Sudhras and tried to live like a Bhangi among them to experience what hardships they faced. But Mangoo Ram was one of them. He was a Chamar who experienced the pangs of untouchability. Thus, his response to the epic fast against separate electorate was not merely pragmatic but also an existential one. When Dr. Ambedkar compromised with Gandhi and the Poona Pact was signed, Mangoo Ram rang up Dr. Ambedkar in an angry mood and expressed his anguish as to why he agreed to the Pact. Dr. Ambedkar said that he had to sign the Poona Pact on human grounds to save the life of Gandhi. The Ad Dharmis perceived that the scheduled castes had lost much more than what they gained in the Poona Pact (Chumber 1986: 51). That is why Mangoo Ram continued his fast even after the Pact was signed. He broke his fast only after the government made the declaration that eight seats were reserved for the untouchables in Punjab. The fast undertaken by him continued for 28 days from 20th September to 17th October 1932 until the Pact was received at Jalandhar. Mangoo Ram used to say “those people (Hindus) who had humiliated us for thousands of years how we could trust their promise”. Thus the followers of Ad Dharm movement were put to severe hardships and violence for carving out an identity for them and asserting for their rights. In spite of all types of pressures and hardships, the Ad Dharmis succeeded in registering ‘Ad Dharm’ as a separate religion for the lower castes in Punjab in the 1931 census.
Ad Dharm And Dalit Identity
A close study of the objectives set forth by the Ad Dharm founders and the methods adopted by them shows that they endeavored to establish a religious identity for the lower castes than building up the subaltern consciousness. The Ad Dharmis wanted to remove the stigma of untouchability from the face of their community and secure equal rights and respect for the lower caste people. However, the methods and ways adopted by the Ad Dharm leaders ended up with creating another religion. The Ad Dharmis were asked to salute each other in the name of Jai Guru Dev (Victory to the divine guru) and in response to that the reply was Dhan Guru Dev (blessed be the divine guru). These greetings were meant to differentiate them (the untouchables) from the other religious communities having their own specific nomenclatures to accost each other within their own social circles. For example, the Hindus address each other by ‘Namaste’, Sikhs by ‘Sat Sri Akal’ and Muslims by ‘Salaam’. The salutation of Jai Guru Dev and Dhan Guru Dev as a response to that provided a separate identity to the Ad Dharm, a new religion of shudras.
Sant Ravidass was projected as a spiritual preceptor and Guru. Bhagwan Satguru Namdev, Maharaj Kabir and Rishi Valmiki were also included in the theology of Ad Dharm. The Sanskrit phrase sohang (I am that) was adopted as a mantra by the new religion, Ad Dharm. It is still being used in the wall calendars showing Guru Ravidass’s picture. As far as the salutations are concerned, they have become memorabilia of the Ad Dharm movement.
The protagonists of the Ad Dharm movement also strived to provide their new religion with a sacred book called Ad Prakash, the original light. The purpose of such a move was to institutionalize the newly created religion. Mangoo Ram expressed his will among his closest circle that on his death only the sacred couplets from the Ad Prakash should be chanted. So after his death, only the Ad Prakash was recited on the death ceremony. At that time only a hand written copy of the Ad Prakash was available. Subsequently, Sant Isher Dass of village Nandgarh of District Hoshiarpur compiled the holy book. Thus the Ad Dharm movement provided a new sense of identity to the untouchables that they lacked earlier. In fact, the Ad Dharm developed into a qaum (a community) similar to those of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus.
The Ad Dharm made substantial contribution to the social and political life of dalits in Punjab. It tried to generate an awareness among the Dalits for bringing a cultural revolution in the society perforated with the evil of low and high caste dichotomy. Although, a large number of social organizations had sprung up since the early twenties for the benefits of the untouchables, all of them were patronized by the upper castes and failed to bring any significant change as far as the trajectories of varna system and caste configuration of the Indian society were concerned. Given the obnoxious contents of the social taboos and the anti-Dalit social practices, it was adventurous for the untouchables to think about forming an organisation to fight for the cause of social liberation. Why Ad Dharm had to project Dalits as a separate qaum with an independent religion, was not only a sociological issue but had deep political undercurrents in an inegalitarian social system where some people were excluded from the mainstream on the basis of their birth. Interestingly enough, their being untouchable was more pronounced in terms of denying them the benefits of facilities available in the civil society and less in terms of seeking their menial services.
However, with the introduction of the adult franchise the untouchables have no longer been ‘untouchable’ so far as their votes are concerned. But they are hardly encouraged to aspire for the seat of power. The game of numbers has made it imperative for the Hindus to have claim on the untouchables. Even in the instruction guide for the 1931 census mention was made that
[a]ll chuhras who are not Muslims or Christians, and who do not return any other religion, should be returned as Hindus. The same rule applies to members of other depressed classes who have no tribal religion (1931 Census, Punjab, Vol. 20, Chap. 11, p. 289, as quoted in Juergensmeyer 1988:73)
The emancipatory project launched by Mangoo Ram inspired the lower castes to make efforts for their upliftment. The scope of the project, as vividly enunciated in the resolution passed in the first meeting of the Ad Dharm posited emphasis on the social equality of the Dalits and stressed on creating social and cultural awakening rather than merely seeking jobs and other benefits from the government. The Ad Dharm Report listed ten basic principles and twelve duties of the Ad Dharm organisation and fifty-six commandments to be followed by the Ad Dharmis. The report of the Ad Dharm Mandal, 1926-1931 was published on May 15,1931 in Urdu. Mark Juergensmeyer and Surjit Singh Goraya translated it into English (Jurgensmeyer 1988). C. L. Chumber translated it into Hindi and Punjabi (Chumber 11 June 2000). The Hindi and Punjabi translation include the name of the five hundred members of the Ad Dharm Mandal and its fifty-five missionaries, which were not included in the English translation.
The basic principles listed in the Report are: (1) The essential teachings of the Ad Dharm will always be the same: no one can change them. They can stay alive and persist only through the help of a guru. (2) Every man and woman belongs to the faith, but they may not know it. To live without a guru is a sin. (3) A guru should be someone who truly and rightly knows the teachings of the previous masters. He should be able to distinguish between falsehood and truth. He should be able to bring peace and love within the community. (4) Everyone should be instructed by the lives of previous masters; progress comes from following the masters’ examples. The practices of previous masters should not be abandoned. This leads to progress. (5) There should not be any discrimination in regard to eating with other castes. (6) Ad Dharmis should abstain from theft, fraud, lies, dishonesty, looking at someone else’s wife with bad intentions, using anything which brings intoxication, gambling, and usurping other persons’ property or belongings. All of these things are against the law of nature and therefore the law of Ad Dharm. (7) Every Ad Dharmi has the duty to teach his children current knowledge and also to teach them to be obedient to the present king. (8) Every Ad Dharmi should read the Ad Prakash and act upon it. This is a foremost duty. (9) Ad Dharm does not believe in the caste system or any inferiority or superiority of this sort. (10) To learn and seek knowledge, and to learn and seek progress is compulsory for every man and woman.
The twelve duties mentioned in the Report are as follows: (1) To publicize and propagate Ad Dharm. (2) To take pride in Ad Dharm. (3) To promote the use of name of the community and to use the red mark, which is its sign. (4) Ad Dharmis should try to retrieve any property of fellow Ad Dharmi that has been usurped. (5) We should distinguish among Hindus, Ad Dharmis, and other communities of India. (6) Those books, which have created the problem of untouchability and led to discrimination - books such as the Laws of Manu and other Shastras – should be completely boycotted and abandoned. (7) We should celebrate the festivals of our gurus and follow our faith to the utmost. (8) Abandon idolatry. (9) Receive education for ourselves and others in the brotherhood. (10) Boycott those who curse us as “untouchables” or discriminate against us. (11) Bring all demands of Ad Dharmis before the government. (12) Abandon expensive marriage and practice of child marriage.
The fifty-six commandments included in the Report are: (1) Each Ad Dharmi should know everything about the faith. (2) For the betterment and salvation of one’s body – physical and spiritual – one should recite the word soham. (3) Each Ad Dharmi should remember Guru Dev for half an hour each morning or evening. (4) When Ad Dharmis meet, their greeting should be “jai Guru Dev.” (5) We should be true followers of the founders, Rishi Valmiki, Guru Ravi Das, Maharaj Kabir, and Bhagwan Sat Guru Nam Dev. (6) A guru is necessary, one who knows about previous gurus and has all the capabilities of being a guru. (7) The wife of a guru should be regarded as one’s mother, the guru’s daughter as one’s sister. (8) Devotion to one’s wife should be a part of one’s faith, for therein lies salvation. (9) Every Ad Dharmi should abstain from theft, fraud, lies, dishonesty, and usurping the property of others. (11) One should not cause someone else heartache. There is no worse sin than this. (12) Every Ad Dharmi should enthusiastically participate in Ad Dharmi festivals and rituals. (13) There should be equally great happiness at the birth of both boys and girls. (14) After the age of five, every boy and girl should be given proper religious teaching. (15) Extravagant expenses at weddings are useless. Every marriage should be conducted according to rituals of our tradition. (16) Ad Dharmis should marry only Ad Dharmis. To marry someone outside Ad Dharm is not legal, but if someone does marry an outsider, he or she should be brought into the faith. (17) All Ad Dharmis, both men and women, should be obedient to their parents. (18) After the death of both parents it is the duty of each Ad Dharmi to cook food and distribute it among the poor. (19) The dead should be cremated, except for those under the age of five, who should be buried. (20) Ad Dharmis do not follow any other law except their own. (21) In the Ad Dharm faith only one marriage is allowed, but a husband may marry after the death of his wife. Also, if the first wife does not bear children, the husband may take another wife, provided he has the consent of the first wife. If this happens, the first wife remains a legal wife, with all the rights she had before. (22) Ad Dharmis should marry their children to the Ad Dharmis of the surrounding areas. (23) A girl should be more than twelve years old at the time of the marriage. The boy should be four years older than the girl. (24) It is illegal to receive money for a bride; on the other hand, there should not be a dowry. Those who sell their daughters commit a very great sin. (25) Offerings and sacrifices for prayers should be given only to those holy men who are Ad Dharmi and who have shown themselves to follow Ad Dharmi principles religiously. (26) It is necessary for each Ad Dharmi to provide primary education to both boys and girls. (27) The girls should be educated especially in household work such as sewing and needlework. (28) Young girls and boys should not be sent out to cut grass and gather wood. (29) It is the duty of parents not to allow young widowed daughters to remain in their household, because a young widowed daughter is a cause of disgrace. (30) If an Ad Dharmi widow with children wants to hold a commemoration of her deceased husband, but cannot afford it, then the Ad Dharm Mandal of Jullundur and its members will help her. (31) It is not good to cry and beat oneself at a death or funeral. To do so is to anger Guru Dev. (32) Among the Ad Dharmis sons and daughters should receive an equal inheritance. (33) To eat the meat of a dead animal or bird is against the law of Ad Dharm. (34) To use wine or any other intoxicants is a sin, except in the case of sickness. (35) It is legal to eat food offered at noon – Ad Dharm marriages, but the food should be decent, and not leftovers. (36) Cleanliness is important. It guaranteed good health. (37) It is forbidden to practice idolatry and worship statues, and one should not believe in magic, ghosts, or anything of the sort. (38) All Ad Dharmis should forget notions of caste and untouchability and work toward the unity of all people in the world. (39) Each Ad Dharmi should help a fellow Ad Dharmi in need. (40) One Ad Dharmi must not work at a place where another Ad Dharmi works until the first Ad Dharmi has been paid his wages. (41) If Ad Dharmis enter into a dispute with one another, they should attempt to come to some agreement by themselves or within the community. If no agreement is accomplished, they should refer the case to the Ad Dharm Mandal, Jullundur, and the Executive Committee will take action. (42) Ad Dharmis should open shops and business in every village. (43) Every Ad Dharmi should be a missionary for the faith. (44) Ad Dharmis should call themselves such and register in the census as “Ad Dharmi”. (45) A Red turban on the head is mandatory, for it is the color of our ancestors. (46) Every Ad Dharmi should work hard for the progress and peace of the community. (47) Ad Dharmis hould organize themselves into cadres called martyrdom cells. They should work hard on the Ad Dharm’s projects. (48) Each Ad Dharmis hould separate himself form Hindus, Sikhs, and members of other religions. (49) Each Ad Dharmi should be a good citizen, a patriot loyal to the present government, and should follow the law of the land. (50) Ad Dharmis have the obligation to consider the Ad Dharm Mandal of Punjab, city of Jullundur, as their rightful representative, and to recognize that the programs of the AD Dharm are for their benefit. (51) It is the duty of every Ad Dharmi to trust the Ad Dharm Mandal of jullundur, and to share its work. (52) All local branches of the Ad Dharm should be certified by the Ad Dharm Mandal of Jullundur, and those, which are not certified, should not be considered genuine. (53) All Ad Dharmis should save their fellow Ad Dharmis from fraud and selfishness on the part of other communities. If such a situation arises, the Mandal should be informed. (54) Each Ad Dharmi should report any difficulty concerning the community to the Mandal in Jullundur. (55) Ad Dharmis should subscribe to the qaum’s newspaper, Adi Danka. They should receive it regularly, read it regularly,a nd help support it regularly. (56) Anyone violating the laws of the Ad Dharm or of the guru, or who insults these laws in one way or another, will be liable to punishment, even the greatest punishment – being banished from the community.
The main emphasis of these commandments, principles and duties was on the cultural, social and religious aspects of the life. The Report also includes twenty-five resolutions passed in the first Ad Dharm Conference in 1926. The government was requested to provide special schools and scholarships for the untouchable children (resolutions 7,10,11); proper representation in elected bodies and government departments (resolution 17); to eliminate rayit-namma and not to apply the Land Alienation Act to the untouchables (resolution 13). The Ad Dharm Mandal led by Mangoo Ram was able to raise the religious and organisational status of the untouchables beyond imagination. The new constitution of independent India, adopted on 26 January 1950, incorporated special provisions for Dalits to raise their social status and to help them to come at par with the rest of the society. In fact, the voice for such special provisions were first raised by the Ad Dharm in 1926 and subsequently documented in its report in 1931. In 1950, Mangoo Ram requested his qaum to relieve him of active social service life and called upon young Ad Dharmis to come forward to take the flag of Dalit liberation.
However, for two decades, i.e. from 1950 to 1970, Ad Dharm movement remained dormant for reasons best known to its leaders. In fact, most of the Adi movements in different parts of the country ceased to play an active role in the post-colonial India until 1970. Some of their leaders either joined the Congress or, for some time, carried out their political struggle under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar. Some scholars believed that the Ad Dharm movement was eventually absorbed into Dr. Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes federation and finally transformed into the Republican Party of India. It has also been said that in 1946 the Ad Dharm Mandal handed over the charge of political struggle to Dr. Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes Federation and confined itself to the social and religious matters affecting the Scheduled castes.
However, facts do not support such an analysis. After the 1937 Punjab Assembly elections, in which the Ad Dharm won all but one-reserved seats, the low-lying factionalism within its organisation came onto the surface. The main factional confrontation was between Seth Kishan Das and Master Gurbanta Singh. Seth Kishan Das was a rich man of the famous Boota Mandi, whose financial support to the Ad Dharm Mandal was no secret. He was also in the good books of Mangoo Ram, President of the Mandal. Master Gurbanta Singh was an Arya-samaji turned congress sympathiser who had also served Ad Dharm at one time as a General Secretary. He projected himself as a real representative of the untouchables being one of them as a poor man. Seth Kishan Das, a wealthy leather merchant, in his view, could not empathise with the poor untouchables. He contested 1937 Punjab Assembly election as a congress nominee from the Jalandhar reserved seat against Seth Kishan Das who was supported by the Ad Dharm Mandal. Seth Kishan Das defeated Master Gurbanta Singh with a big margin. This further widened the gulf between them. In the meantime, Seth Kishan Das formed the Achhut Federation, a Punjabi version of Dr. Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes Federation. Mr. Gopal Singh Khalsa, an M.L.A. from the Ludhiana reserved seat, joined him as a Vice-President. Seth Kishan Das formed Achhut Federation without taking Mangoo Ram into confidence who, in turn, got enraged by his behaviour. Master Gurbanta Singh exploited this opportunity and stepped into the Ad Dharm Mandal. He managed to come closer to Mangoo Ram. However, Master Gurbanta Singh had also formed “Ravidass Naujawan Sabha” and carried out for some time ‘Ravidass Jaikara’, as the publication of the sabha. Bhagat Singh Mal, Pritam Singh Bala, Karam Chand Shenmar were some of the prominent members of the Ravidass Naujawan Sabha. He, in fact, reportedly wanted to emulate Mangoo Ram by forming an organisation and a publication to match ‘Adi Danka’, the weekly newspaper of Ad Dharm. In the 1946-47 Punjab Assembly election, Mangoo Ram put his weight behind Master Gurbanta Singh who was a congress nominee against Kishan Das of the “Achhut Federation”. This time, Master Gurbanta Singh defeated Seth Kishan Das.
However, by now the leadership of the Ad Dharm Mandal got scattered into different political segments, thanks to the allurement of political offices. Mangoo Ram himself got elected to the Assembly with the support of the Unionist Party from the Hoshiarpur constituency. The “Ad Dharm Mandal” building, which was constructed with the financial support of Seth Kishan Das, came under the control of Master Gurbanta Singh who eventually became the custodian of its property and Chairman of Ravidass High School.
A cursory glance at these developments in the Ad Dharm conjured up a pessimistic image about the Ad Dharm movement as if it had ceased to exist in the late forties. But what one needs to keep in mind while analysing the scope of the movement is that movement is too big a phenomenon to be confined within the boundaries of a compact organisation or a political party. Political organisations and political parties may branch out from the domain of a movement. And the movement may for some time go into a gestation period to resurface again.
The “Achhut Federation” and the emergence of an articulate dalit leadership, which eventually joined the congress, was, in fact, the product of the Ad Dharm movement. The coming up of the Achhut Federation and joining of the congress party by some of the Ad Dharmis should not be interpreted as the demise of the Ad Dharm movement. Even when the movement was in low ebb, Mangoo Ram and his associates like Sant Ram Azad and Chanan Lal Manak remained steadfast on the principles and sustenance of Ad Dharm movement.
Rejuvenation
Even in 1970 when Mangu Ram Jaspal made efforts, another Ad Dharmi of the Doaba region who had returned from England to settle in Jalandhar, to revive the movement, the veteran Mangoo Ram promptly came forward to help resuscitate the movement. Some other distinguished Ad Dharmis, who remained loyal to the movement even during its gestation period, wrote series of articles in the Ravidass Patrika of the new Ad Dharm movement. The new Ad Dharm movement got resurged and revamped on December 13, 1970 under the banner of “Ad Dharm Scheduled Castes Federation”.
There were striking similarities between the “Ad Dharm Mandal” and the “Ad Dharm Scheduled Castes Federation”. As a matter of fact, Mangoo Ram commented that ‘We’re back to where we were in 1925'. Until the objective conditions or contradictions that initially propelled the movement were altered or resolved, the goals and ideology remained intact to reemerge at the slightest opportunity.
The main objectives of the Ad Dharm movement were to carve out an independent identity for the untouchables and to blot out the stigma of untouchability. Although, the Ad Dharm movement played an effective role in mobilizing Dalits on these vital issues, the shift in the then political arena, induced by the electoral system, forced the movement to adjust itself with the changed political scenario. As the majority of the Ad Dharm leadership got involved in the electoral process to gain political power, it eventually diluted its emphasis on the goals of removal of untouchability and the construction of a separate identity. As a result the ‘objective conditions’ remained unchanged. In spite of legal provisions enshrined in the new constitution, the traditional authority structures of hierarchy resisted and stalled the process of transformation.
“Our people, said Mangoo Ram, in the government are still treated like slaves. They fear their superiors and high caste people. (Juergensmeyer 1988: 258). In other words, the evil of untouchability has not been eradicated from the complex social structure of the society. “Physical untouchability has given way to the mental untouchability”.
Moreover, the goal of constructing a communal identity for the untouchables by developing a separate religion, though partly achieved in the 1931 census, was rolled back in 1932 by the Poona Pact. Henceforth, from the status of a religion, Ad Dharm was reduced into a category of caste. So, instead of elevating the status of the untouchables, it had a negative impact on the Dalit mobilization. A new caste was added to the already long list of Scheduled castes. Chamars were further categorized into Chamars and Ad Dharmis.
The new Ad Dharm movement in the seventies was organized against this background. It pledged to revive the spirit of social and cultural transformation, as ignited by Mangoo Ram in the 1920’s. Efforts were also made to keep away from the vicissitudes of power politics that had marred social and cultural stances of the original Ad Dharm movement. The Ad Dharm Scheduled Castes Federation reiterated on the importance of communal identity of the Ad Dharmis as a separate qaum. In fact, the revived movement was more theological. Religion was employed as a rallying point for harnessing the allegiance of the untouchables. The construction of Ravidass Temple in Benares and highlighting the Ravidass temple (Dera Sach Khand Ballan) in village Ballan near Bhogpur town of Jalandhar was the focal point of the new Ad Dharm movement. The first conference of the revived movement was held at a religious place – Dera Sach Khand Ballan. It focussed on the renewal of the qaumi identity. However, in due course some material demands were also included. Land reforms and raising the income limit from Rs.3600 to 6000, for defining poverty, were among the most important demands in this regard.
The revived Ad Dharm movement attempted to widen the scope of Ad Dharm religion by including in its fold, the Chuhras (sweeper caste), Mazhbi Sikhs, Ramdasias, and the Ambedkar Buddhists. In order to enlist the support of the Chuhras, who got estranged from the Ad Dharm, (Saberwal 1976:68) Valmiki, the patron saint of the sweeper caste, was assigned special importance in the revived movement.
Although the “Ad Dharm Scheduled Castes Federation” adopted the well-tried-out formulae of Dalit mobilization, it could not succeed in eliciting the same level of response. The practice of untouchability, the most important ‘structural factor’ in mobilizing untouchables in 1920s, has been bridled to a significant extent. Moreover, the articulate leaders of the Scheduled castes were co-opted in the congress system, which operated like an umbrella to incorporate various shades of political orientations and organizations. Moreover, what the Ad Dharm was aspiring for during the British regime, the congress delivered the same in the postcolonial phase. Even Mangoo Ram had acknowledged it and said
Dhanwad karna congress raj wala chotte waddhe da bhaid mitta ditta. Mahatama Gandhi ji bauhat upkar kitta girian kauman nu saath mila ditta. (Thanks to the congress regime for bridging the gap between the lower and the higher. Mahatama Gandhi ji did a lot of social service to bring the downtrodden at par with the other communities).
However, before the revived Ad Dharm movement lost in the whirlpool of militant fundamentalism in Punjab in the 1980s, fresh efforts were made to keep the struggle alive by publishing souvenirs, journals, and weekly news bulletins to glorify the various aspects of the movement. In January 1985, the Mangoo Ram Mugowalia Souvenir Committee released a souvenir in commemoration of the 99th birth anniversary of Mangoo Ram. The purpose of the souvenir was to generate awareness among the scheduled castes about the protagonists and sympathizers of the Ad Dharm mandal. Moreover, as a sequel to the Adi Danka of the 1920s and Ravidass Patrika of the 1970s, a Punjabi monthly named Kaumi Udarian was launched from Jalandhar in December 1985. It endeavored to give wide coverage to the different aspects of the Ad Dharm movement of the 1920s and its contemporary relevance. In January 1986, a special issue of the Kaumi Udarian was published on the birth centenary of Babu Mangoo Ram. Likewise on 12 January 1997 the “Bahujan Samaj Bulletin” (a weekly newspaper of the Bahujan Samaj Party) also focussed on various themes of the Ad Dharm movement. It was, in fact, through the columns of souvenirs, journals and news bulletins that many of the rare official documents of the “Ad Dharm Mandal” were made public. In addition, on 14 April 1986, the Ambedkar Mission Society, Punjab, posthumously honoured Babu Mangoo Ram with the title of Kaumi Messiah (saviour of the community). The important factor that distinguished the revival of the Ad Dharm movement in the 1980s, particularly under the BSP, was that it laid less emphasis on the appeal of religion to seek support for the movement. It is politics that has now acquired the centrestage pushing religion into the background. No doubt the movement right from the very beginning had shown interest in gaining political power for purposes of bringing about the basic social transformation as witnessed during the Assembly elections in 1937 and 1946-47. The Ad Dharmis found it convenient to use religion as a strategy to political power. However, the real objective of the Ad Dharm movement was to create an egalitarian social structure where Ad Dharmis would be proud of their community and feel free to aspire for equal opportunities.
With an aim of achieving the same objective, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has become active in Punjab since 1985. Of late the Party has claimed, “the ideology of Ad Dharm has become the spine, heart, brain, eyes, feet, and arms of the struggle of the BSP” (Bahujan Samaj Bulletin 12 January 1997:8). In 1996, it won three of the thirteen parliamentary seats and recorded leads in as many as seventeen assembly constituencies in Punjab (Verma 1999). Kanshi Ram, founder of the BSP, was elected to Loksabha (1996) from the Hoshiarpur constituency, wherefrom 50 years ago Babu Mangoo Ram, founder of the Ad Dharm movement, got elected to the Punjab Assembly in 1946. More interestingly, it was again in Hoshiarpur that the BSP celebrated 75th year of the AD Dharm movement on 28 February 2001. On this occassion , Kanshi Ram in his address exhorted the “bahujan samaj” to follow the principles of the Ad Dharm movement of which the BSP has, now, become the torch-bearer.
The pamphlet, issued by the BSP, also emphasized that the Party had taken forward the mission of the Ad Dharm movement. It reiterated that although Dr. Ambedkar tried to give political freedom to the downtrodden by granting them the right to vote in the constitution, but in actual practice it could not be realised fully. Further, the Pamphlet stressed that the ‘Manuite regimes’ have conspired to deprive the Dalits of their hard earned rights by proposing to amend the constitution. The BSP, which drew inspiration from Ad Dharm and Dr. Ambedkar, strongly condemned such moves and sought support in its tirade against the Manuite government.
Simultaneously, the efforts have also been made to revive the spirit of the Ad Dharm movement abroad. Begumpura Times Quarterly, a bilingual publication of the “Ad Dharm Brotherhood Intl. Wolverhampton, U.K.” (Started in 1999) has carried a series of articles on various aspects of the Ad Dharm movement and the steps taken for its revival. The Ad Dharm Brotherhood Intl. also celebrated the Platinum Jubilee of the Ad Dharm movement at Shri Guru Ravidass Community Centre, Wolverhampton, on 11 June 2000. Earlier, on 25 July 1976, it celebrated the Golden Jubilee of the Ad Dharm in U.K. where Babu Mangoo Ram was invited as the chief guest and also honoured with a pension of Rs. 1000 per month (Sain, 1985:37).
In India, the Platinum Jubilee function of the movement was organised at the Desh Bhagat Yaadgar Hall, Jalandhar on 11 June 2000. On this occassion, Mr. Chumber released the report of “Ad Dharm Mandal” 1931 (in Punjabi and Hindi) which included the names of 500 members and 55 missionaries of the mandal. The purpose of publishing the names of the members and missionaries was to acknowledge their contributions to the upliftment of the dalit community and also to generate an active interest among the younger generation of their families. The report also made a call to the scheduled castes to record Ad Dharm as their religion in the 2001 census as was done in the 1931 census. The Ad Dharm Brotherhood Intl., U.K, made a similar appeal. Mention may be made here that the Ad Dharm movement of the 1920s had also received support from the immigrant Ad dharmis settled in New Zealand, Fiji, Singapore, U.K. etc. As the ideology and principles of the Ad Dharm movement greatly influenced the dalits of the Doaba region, most of the immigrants who supported the movement from abroad also hailed from this very region. The present BSP, under the leadership of Kanshi Ram, which claims to fight for the rights of dalits in the framework of the Ad Dharm movement, has high hopes from the Doaba region. Moreover, given the significant number of Scheduled Castes in Punjab (28.31% as per 1991 census), there is a possibility of the emergence of alternative dalit politics.
The Impediments
What stumbled the dalits in Punjab to emerge, as a political alternative despite their numerical strength is that they have not been able to consolidate themselves as a homogeneous group. In fact, they form a conglomerate of thirty-seven distinct Dalit castes with different sub identities and diverse religious affiliations. The Thirtyseven Castes are: Ad-Dharmi, Valmiki (Chura, Bhangi), Bangali, Barar (Burar of Berar), Batwal, Bauria (Bawria), Bazigar, Bhnajra, Chamar (Jatia Chamar, Rehgar, Raigar, Ramdasi, Ravidasi), Chanal, Dagi, Darain, Deha (Dhaya, Dhea), Dhanak, Kabirpanthi (Julala), Khatik, Kori- koli, Marija (Marecha), Mazhbi, Megh, Nat, Od, Pasi, Perna, Pheera, Sanhai, Sanhal, Sansi (Bhedkut, Manesh), Sansoi, Dhogri (Dhangri, Siggi), Dumna (Mahasha, Doom), Gagra, Gandhila (Gandeil), Sapela, Sareta, Sikligar, Sirkiband, (Census of India 1991, Series 17-Punjab). The rules of the caste grammar treating one caste as superior to another are equally followed by the scheduled castes in the state. A study based on the fieldwork has found that 76.6 percent of the dalit respondents ranked Ad Dharmi at the top of the hierarchy of the scheduled castes in Punjab. Being conscious of their superior status the Ad Dharmis practice endogamy to maintain their distinctness from the other dalit castes. Further, the study reported that 91.6 percent of the Ad Dharmis had married within their own caste. Another emperical study reveals that among the Valmikis and the Ad Dharmis in Punjab there exists a substantial measure of active caste consciousness, which further precluded them, forging unity to fight out the socio-economic and political backwardness.
According to 1981 census, in terms of their numerical strength the Mazhabis, the sikh counterparts of Valmikis also known as chuhras, were 13,66,843; chamars (also called Ramdasias, Ravidasies etc.) 12,21,145; Ad Dharmis 6,80,132; Valmikis 5,32,628; Dumnas 1,24,929; Bazigars 1,20,250; Meghs 78,405; Bawarias 62,624; Sansis 61,986; and Kabirpanthis 56,888 followed by rest of the scheduled castes in varied smaller denominations. Out of the thirty-seven castes, the Punjab government declared thirteen as the ‘Depressed Scheduled Castes’. Seven of these thirteen Depressed Scheduled Castes are identified by the Punjab government as the ‘De-notified Tribes‘ or the ‘Vimukta Jatis’ who were declared by the colonial administration as ‘Vagrant and Criminal tribes’. These thirteen castes together constituted only 11 percent of the scheduled caste population. Chamars, Mazhabis, Ad Dharmis and Valmikis together constitute nearly three-fourth of the total scheduled castes population of Punjab.
Apart from above, the factor of economic inequalities among the dalits in the state is no less significant. The Ad Dharmis of the Boota Mandi in Jalandhar who control the leather industry are the richest among the scheduled castes of Punjab. Moreover, a group of scheduled castes has established its hold over the surgical tool-manufacturing units in the Jalandhar town. Likewise, a small number of scheduled castes households also own cultivable land (around 0.40 percent of the total holdings in Punjab) that makes them different from most other Dlits whose mainstay of livelihood depends on the income as manual and landless labourers. Similarly, some sections of the scheduled castes, particularly the chamar and Ad Dharmis have acquired administrative positions in the state administration.
The above analysis shows that Dlits of Punjab constitute a motley group of castes, economic strata and religious identities. Besides, the Dlits lack an all-Punjab leader to mobilize them across religious and regional variations. It was precisely because of these intra-Dlit cleavages that they could not emerge as a cohesive force to reckon with in the politics of Punjab. In the absence of a common platform, some of the Dlits and their local elites seek their salvation through different political outfits including the Congress and the Akali Dal.
Conclusion
What we have tried to argue above is that the Dlit consciousness is a consciousness of seeking justice and equality,which was born in the early 20th century. Another aspect of Dalit consciousness that needs to be underlined is that it has never been an exclusive domain of Dalits only. Intermittently it continued to receive inputs from non-Dalit quarters as well. Be it a phase of Bhakti movement, Sufis, Indian renaissance or of national freedom movement, there is an ample proof of efforts being made by non-Dalits in the direction of eradication of untouchability. However, almost all of them thought it appropriate to take measures for the removal of untouchability without doing away with the inegalitarian social structure. This has led to a sharp division between the orientation of the Dalits and the higher caste protagonists of social reform movements. The rise of Ad Dharm movement and Gandhi-Ambedkar dispute are testimonies to such polarization between the Dalits and the twice born. This division in turn further strengthened the process of consolidation of Dalit consciousness in a framework of ‘we’ and ‘others’. The issues of caste and untouchability instead of emerging as a common social problem with a unified response across the length and breadth of Indian sub-continent has taken on a path of confrontation and antagonism. Dalit consciousness grew along these fault lines. Indian freedom struggle failed to provide an environment for the emergence of a politics based on consensus and common concerns. This was probably the main reason for the continuance of the ideology and principles of the Ad Dharm movement in Punjab through the efforts of the BSP.
More curiously, Dalits became victim of their own Dalit consciousness, which instead of transcending caste and caste based hierarchies strengthened caste identities. Uptil very recently they (Dalits) were condemned as untouchable because of their being low caste, now they have been given favours constitutionally, too because of their being low caste. Hence as far as the social status of Dalits is concerned no significant change has really taken place. The blatant untouchability of yesteryears got transformed into a subtle form. Once a Scheduled Caste succeeded to raise his economic status by making use of reservation, he absolutely finds no avenues to concomitantly raise his social status also. He then desperately seeks new identities in borrowing religions and sometimes even borrowing respectable sub-caste titles. Such borrowed identities haunt him incessantly because his new incarnation failed to get recognition in the hierarchical social set up.
It is in this context that the contribution of the Ad Dharm movement becomes crucial. It helped the scheduled castes to seek social recognition through the process of cultural transformation on the one hand and spiritual regeneration on the other. It carved out a new identity for them. It gave them a new name: Ad Dharmi. The very title of Ad Dharmi instills in the minds of the scheduled castes a sense of pride. It reminds them of their pristine rich heritage. It also realised them as to how they were deprived of freedom and liberty and made subservient to the twice born. The Ad Dharm movement succeeded in raising the consciousness of the downtrodden people of the Doaba region of Punjab in particular and of the entire state in general. It gave them gurus to believe in, a qaum to belong to and a sense of history to relate with. It envisions them the possibility and potentiality of a social change whereby the scheduled castes could think and make efforts to improve their lot. The process of cultural transformation and spiritual regeneration started by the Ad Dharm movement under the leadership of Mangoo Ram continued to reverberate the cities and villages of Punjab into the 21st century through different platforms and political formations.
For detail references and documentation see: Ronki Ram,”Untouchability, Dalit Consciousness, and the Ad Dharm Movement in Punjab”, Contributions to Indian Sociology (New series), Vol.38, No.3, September-December 2004, pp.323-349.