Sunday, 29 August 2010

Dr.Bhimrao Ambedkar talks to Reporters_Part-II

Dr.Bhimrao Ambedkar talks to Reporters_Part-I

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Conference - Day 2 - Closing Plenary Session

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Conference

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Conference: Day 1: Introduction and Panel 1

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Institute - Day 1 Panel 2

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Conference - Day 1 Panel 3

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Conference - Day 2 - Panel 1 Q & A

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Conference - Day 2 - Panel 1

original dr.Ambedkar video.avi

Dr. Ambedkar's Debate with recorded video clips I:I immortal voice of Ba...

Ambedkar Speech at the world Buddhist conference in 1956: Nepal

Dr.Bhimrao Ambedkar talks to Reporters_Part-I

Friday, 27 August 2010

Dr.B.R.Ambedkar-the Champion of Women’s Rights
Author:K.B. USHA
Review of the Contributions of a Major Thinker
This issue of Samyukta highlights the contributions of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar.

ABSTRACT--- The operation of caste, both at the systemic level and at the functioning of patriarchy, the growing caste/class divide in feminist political discourses made Ambedkar's views on women's oppression, social democracy, caste and Hindu social order and philosophy become significant to modern Indian feminist thinking. The contemporary social realities warrant close examination of the wide range of his topics, the width of his vision, the depth of his analysis, and the rationality of his outlook and the essential humanity of his suggestions for practical action. For the Indian Women's Movement, Ambedkar provides a powerful source of inspiration to formulate a feminist political agenda which simultaneously addresses the issues of class, caste and gender.
The operation of caste both at the systemic level and at the functioning of patriarchy, the growing caste/class divide in feminist political discourses makes Ambedkar’s views on women’s oppression, social democracy, caste and Hindu social order and philosophy, significant to modern Indian feminist thinking. Although Ambedkar proved, himself to be a genius and was known as a great thinker, philosopher, revolutionary, jurist-par excellence, prolific writer, social activist and critic and strode like a colossus in the Indian sociopolitical scene unto his death, his thoughts never received adequate attention in the generality of Indian society just because he was born as an untouchable. However, the contemporary social realities warrant close examination of the wide range of his topics, the width of his vision, the depth of his analysis, and the rationality of his outlook and the essential humanity of his suggestions for practical action. Hence, for Indian women’s movement Ambedkar provides a powerful source of inspiration to formulate a feminist political agenda which simultaneously addresses the issues of class, caste and gender in the contemporary socio- political set up, which still keeps conservative and reactionary values in many respects, particularly on gender relations. The Writings and Speeches of Ambedkar show what values India should develop and how they would modernize its social and political institutions. Here I do not intend to provide a comprehensive review of all his works on various areas, because of the voluminous nature of his work; but try to attempt only a profile of his perception on women’s status and their rights. The Government of Maharashtra and Government of India have brought volumes of his published and unpublished works during the occasion of Ambedkar centenary celebrations. His works have been published in various regional languages also. Ambedkar saw women as the victims of the oppressive, caste-based and rigid hierarchical social system. He believed that socio-cultural forces artificially construct gender relations, especially by Manusmriti and Hindu religion. As Simone De Beauvoir observed, “Women are made, they are not born”, Ambedkar also raised the question, “Why Manu degraded her (woman)?”. In his The Riddle of the Woman, The Woman And the Counter Revolution, The Rise and Fall of Hindu Women, Castes in India: Their Mechanism Genesis and Development and through the issues of his journals Mooknayak (1920) and Bahishkrit Bharat (1927), Ambedkar tries to show how the gender relations and differences are constructed by Hindu Brahminical order, which conditions women to conform a stereotype feminine behavior, requiring them to be passive and submissive, suited only to a life of domestic and family responsibilities.
In the Women and Counter Revolution and The Riddle of Women Ambedkar portrays the way in which Manu treated women. He pointed out that the laws of Manu on the status of women are very important in moulding the Hindu attitude and perspective (Indian perspective) towards women, perpetuated and maintained through Hindu personal laws based on shastras, caste and endogamy, i.e. the base of Indian patriarchy. He attacked Manusmriti as a major source, which legitimizes the denial of freedom, self respect, right to education, property, divorce etc., to women by attributing a very lofty ideal to them. He observes in the law book of Manu that the killing of a woman is like the drinking of liquor, a minor offence. It was equated with killing of Sudra. Manu even advises a man not to sit in a lonely place with his own sister, daughter or even mother. Some of the other laws Manu prescribed are:
Day and night women must be kept in dependence by the males (of their families), and, if they attach themselves to sexual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control. Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age; a woman is never fit for independence. Nothing must be done independently by a girl, by a young woman, or even by an aged one, even in her own house.
In the matter of property a wife was degraded by Manu just as a slave. He forbade women the study of Vedas, and performing Sanskaras uttering the Ved mantras because he projected women as unclear as untruth is. Manu instructs women: “Though destitute or virtuous or seeking pleasure elsewhere, or devoid of good qualities, yet a husband must be constantly worshipped as a god by a faithful wife. …She must always be cheerful, clever in management of her household affairs, careful in cleaning her utensils, and economic in expenditure”. Ambedkar cites evidences of higher status of women in the pre-Manu days. She was free and equal partner of man and had the right to education, divorce, remarriage and economic freedom. The story of public disputation between Janaka and Sulabha, Yajnavalkya and Maitrei, Yajnavalkya and Gargi, and Sankaracharya and Vidyadhari show that Indian women in the pre-Manu period could rise to the highest pinnacle of learning and education. It is generally believed that Dr. Ambedkar had completed the books entitled The Riddles of Hinduism, The Buddha and Karl Marx, and Revolution and Counter Revolution. All carry chapters on women entitled Elevation of Women and Degradation of Women which expose how Chaturvarna prioritised “birth” instead of “worth,” degraded women and is unable to explain the status and position of women, and endogamy.
He also suggests strategies for emancipation from oppression. He found their emancipation in Buddhist values, which promotes equality, self-respect and education. Ambedkar believes that Buddha treated women with respect and love, and never tried to degrade them like Manu did. He taught women Buddha Dharma and religious philosophy. Ambedkar cites women like Vishakha, Amrapali of Visali, Gautami, Rani Mallika, queen of Prasenajith who approached Buddha, as evidences of Buddha’s treatment of women as equals. (Paul, 1993:383-84) It was mainly the Hindu culture and social customs, which stood in the headway of women’s empowerment.
Like Ambedkar, The National Policy for the Empowerment of Women 2001, also admits, “The underlying causes of gender inequality are related to social and economic structure… and practices. Consequently, the access of women, particularly those belonging to weaker sections including Scheduled Castes/ Tribes Other Backward Classes and Minorities … to education, health, and productive resources, among others is inadequate. Therefore, they remain largely marginalised, poor and socially excluded”. (Govt. Of India, 2001: 2) Moreover, feminist scholars also realized the importance of caste in contemporary India. Many feminist scholars, especially after the Women Reservation Bill debate, agree that one cannot analyze Indian society without taking note of caste. Though patriarchy is pervasive in India, it varies in degree depending on the religion, region, caste, community and social group, maintained and perpetuated through endogamy. The contemporary situation warrants feminists to work for the emancipation of women based on the ground realities as experienced by all sections of oppressed and discriminated women, within the framework of the Indian context. Since Ambedkar himself was a victim of oppression and discrimination in all its severity, his views about women’s oppression and equal rights are more useful than anybody else’s theory based on mere observation for the feminist movement to strengthen its strategy for approaching the systemic challenges and contradictions in a more pragmatic way to bring women to the mainstream. To understand Ambedkar’s arguments and the ideals for which he stood, it is necessary to know some of his bitter and better life experiences that he underwent at the outset of the socio-political awakening from the time of his birth.
In Maharashtra the renowned social reformer Jyotirao Phule, the founder of Satya Shodhak Samaj, started a school for untouchables as early as 1848. He started a school for girls in Pune. Sayajirao Gaekwad, the ruler of Baroda, Gopal Baba Walangkar, Col.Olcott, were some of the others who worked towards the abolition of untouchability and started educational institutions for untouchables th in the second half of the 19 century. Women’s education was given ample stress in these schools. The main inspiration to raise the women question in India during this period was from the ‘First wave feminism’, which was characterized by the demand that women should enjoy the same legal and political rights as men. Its expression can be traced in many feminist works. Christine de Pisan’s Book of the City of Ladies, published in Italy in 1405, foreshadowed many of the ideas of modern feminism recording the deeds of famous women of the past, and advocating women’s rights to education and political influence. (Heywood, 1992:239). Mary Astell (1666-1731) argued that since women also are rational beings, they should be educated equally; they should be enabled to live independently, if they wish, rather than being enforced by economic necessity to become the property of man through marriage. Mary Wollstonecraft’s (1759-97) Vindication of the rights of Women claimed that women also are entitled to enjoy the same rights – right to education, employment, property and protection of civil law- as men do. She also presented th the domestic sphere as a model of community and social order. During the 19 century women’s demand on the right to vote was articulated by feminists such as Elizabeth Candy Stanton (1815-1902), Susan Anthony (1820-1906) in United States, and Harriet Taylor (1807-58) and John Stuart Mill (1806-73) in Britain. Women’s rights movements emerged in many countries such as American Women Suffrage Association, Women’s Social and Political Union in U.K, and such others. It was when its waves reached India to form a new social awakening, Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born at Mhow, in the erstwhile Central Province th of British India on 14th April 1891.
He was the 14 child of Ramji Sakpal and Bhimabai who belonged to Mahar and Murbadkar untouchable communities respectively. The Mahars formed the backbone of the Maratha army and also were important part of the Mumbai Army of the East India Company since they were the first to come into contact with the Europeans in India. Ramji’s father Maloji Sakpal served in the Army and later Ramji also joined the British Army. From the army school he attained excellence in English language, and had keen interest in reading and acquiring knowledge. Later he became teacher and then the headmaster of the army school. Ramji’s family was influenced by the Bhakti Movement, which was critical of, and rejected caste system. Ramji became the follower of Kabir. He was strict about vegetarian food and was interested in religious topics. Moreover, he was a sympathizer of Mahatma Phule, the then known social reformer. Ambedkar was influenced by his father very much in the childhood itself.
At the age of five, Ambedkar was admitted to a Marathi school at Dapoli in 1896. But due to Bhimabai’s death Ramji shifted to Satara. From Satara government school Ambedkar completed primary education and entered high school. Here started the painful story of oppression and humiliation which compelled him later to act to blow up the oppressive social order. At the school he was insulted due to his inferior caste status as an untouchable. Ambedkar was pushed to a side of the classroom and was not allowed to mingle with other students. He was never given the opportunity to participate in sports and other extracurricular activities with fellow students. Even the teachers were reluctant to correct Ambekar’s and his brother’s notebooks and avoided asking them questions because of the fear of being polluted. He was barred from studying certain subjects especially Sanskrit. Ambedkar was given Persian as second language when the Sanskrit teacher refused to teach him. In the midst of humiliations also, Ambedkar concentrated on his studies due to the encouragement from his father.
His experience of insults took the form of refusal of local conveyance, drinking water and the refusal of even a barber to cut his hair, caused to effervesce in him, anger against the cruel system of untouchability. In 1907 Ambedkar passed matriculation. This was a great achievement as far as untouchables were concerned. He was congratulated in a meeting presided over by S. K Bhole, one of the leaders of Satyashodak movement. Soon after matriculation he married nine years old Ramabai, at the age of fourteen. However, with the help of Maharaja of Baroda he continued higher studies and passed B.A. in 1912. In 1913 when his father expired, he was forced to take up a job, since the economic condition of the family was bad. He was appointed in a higher post in Baroda. But the insult and humiliation from upper caste colleagues disappointed him and forced him to leave the job. When he got a scholarship from the Maharaja, again he joined Colombia University for M.A.Degree with Economics, Political Science, Moral Philosophy, Anthropology and Sociology as subjects of study. He passed M.A. in Economics in 1915 and presented a thesis in the university on Ancient Indian Commerce, which was prepared under the able supervision of Prof. Edwin R.A.Seligman. Shortly after this, he was invited to a seminar of Dr.Goldenweiser in May 1916 and presented his paper on Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development. His main observations include “endogamy is the only characteristic that is peculiar to caste; …the superposition of endogamy on exogamy means the creation of caste; a caste is an enclosed class”. (Ambedkar, 1987: 7-15).
The numerical sexual disparity in marriage, he observes as “the problem of caste, then, ultimately resolves itself into one of repairing the disparity between the marriageable units of the two sexes within it”. When woman and man became a surplus woman (widow), and a surplus man (widower) due to spouse’s death, their existence was seen as a menace. To regulate them, the methods practiced in the mechanism of caste presents three singular uxorial customs, namely: “(i) Sati or the burning of the widow on the funeral pyre of her deceased husband. (ii) Enforced widowhood by which a widow is not allowed to remarry. (iii) Girl marriage”. (Ambedkar, 1987:12-13). Since man has traditional domination over woman, his wishes have always been consulted. On the contrary, woman has been an easy prey to all kinds of iniquitous injunctions, religious, social or economic that are made by man. According to Ambedkar, the society must be based on reason, and not on atrocious traditions of caste system. Therefore, in The Annihilation of Caste he suggests as a means the annihilation of caste maintained through Shastras, “Make every man and woman free from the thralldom of the Shastras cleanse their minds of the pernicious notions founded on the Shastras and he or she will interdine and intermarry”. He found education, intercaste marriage and interdine as methods, which may eliminate castes and patriarchy, maintained through endogamy.
When he was in Colombia University, he wrote to a friend on the need to educate the depressed classes, especially the womenfolk. To quote him: “We shall see better days soon and our progress will be greatly accelerated if male education is pursued side by side with female education”. (Mathew, 1991:74). Ambedkar perceived education as a catalyst for a movement for self-respect and self help.
In 1916 Ambedkar joined the London School of Economics and Political Science for the degrees of M.Sc. and D.Sc. He also joined Gray’s Inn for Barat- Law degree. However, he had to come back to India due to expiry of the fellowship. In July 1917 he returned to India and took up a job as the Military Secretary of the Maharaja of Baroda. Though the Maharaja wished to appoint him later as the Finance Minister, the oppressive and inhuman treatment of upper castes became so severe that he could not continue in service. His subordinates, even the peon, threw files on his table at a distance. He was not given drinking water at the office and was denied accommodation anywhere in Baroda. When he managed an accommodation in a Parsi hotel, he was forced to vacate again, as the upper caste inmates resisted his stay. When the Maharaja referred the matter to the Dewan he expressed his helplessness. In 1917 he returned to Mumbai and did small jobs just for a means of survival. Even in great difficulties also he continued his intellectual pursuit. His articles were published in journals like Journal of Indian Economic Society.
By the mid 1910s, the Congress also started the movement against untouchability and worked towards constitutional reforms for them. Ambedkar criticized the proposed agenda of the Congress because under it the executive and legislature derived their mandates from and were responsible to different powers. Meanwhile Depressed Classes Mission Society of India held its first All India Conference in 23-24 March 1918 in Mumbai. Though prominent leaders like Vitalbai Patel, Bipin Chandrapal, B.G Tilak, and others participated in the meeting, Ambedkar did not participate in it since he was critical of those kind of activities started by leaders belonged to upper castes. In 1918, Ambedkar was invited to give evidence before the Southborough Franchise Committee. He demanded separate electorate and reserved seats for the Depressed Classes in proportion to their population. He argued that any scheme of franchise and constituency that fails to bring about representation of opinions, as well as representation of persons, falls short of a popular government. After fifty years of the working of the Indian Constitution, the Indian women’s demand for political reservations and the lower status of other disadvantaged sections proves that his theory is correct.
Ambedkar started his movement in 1920. He started fierce propaganda against the Hindu social order and launched a journal Mook Nayak in 1920 and Bahishkrit Bharat in 1927 for this purpose. Through its issues he put due stress on the gender equality and the need for education, and exposed the problems of the depressed as well as women. It was during this period that Ambedkar could resume his studies in the London School of Economics and Political Science and Gray’s Inn. By 1923, he obtained MSc, DSc and Bar-AtLaw degrees. During 1922-23, he got the opportunity for post-doctoral research
at the University of Bonn in Germany. His exposure to the West has influenced his perception on feminist issues. It was a time when first wave feminism had been coming to an end with the achievements of franchise rights for women in Britain in 1918, and America in 1920 and Ambedkar’s perception of the women question, emphasizing their right to education, equal treatment with men, right to property and involvement in the political process resembled the global feminist demands. It is well known that Ambedkar had the habit of working for more than eighteen hours a day without any difficulty. His reading habit helped him to understand the feminist developments in different cultures and countries around the world. As J.S.Mill expressed in the Subjection of Women, the legal subordination of one sex to the other is wrong in itself and one of the chief hindrances to human development; and ought to be replaced by a principle of perfect equality, admitting no privilege or power on the one side, nor disability on the other, Ambedkar also holds the same views on work for the untouchables and women.
After returning to India he devoted his life fully to work for the depressed classes including women. He was firmly committed to the ideals of equality, liberty and fraternity. In 1923, he started practising law at the Mumbai High Court. In Ambedkar’s movement launched from 1920 onwards, women actively participated and acquired the confidence to voice their issues on various platforms. Venubai Bhatkar and Renubai Shambharakar are worth mentioning. In 1924, Bahishkrit Hitakarni Sabha was formed to work for the socio-political equality of depressed people and promoting their economic interests. Women started participating in satyagrahas and also launched women’s associations for untouchable women for spreading education and awareness among them. In the Mahad Satyagraha for temple entry in 1927, even caste Hindus participated. Shandabai Shinde was one such participant. In the Satyagraha it was decided to burn the Manusmriti, which humiliated women, and shudras. In the demonstration after the bonfire of the Manusmriti more than fifty women participated. Ambedkar addressed the meeting thereafter and advised women to change their style of wearing saree, wear lightweight ornaments, not to eat meat of dead animals. It was upper caste women like Tipnis who taught them proper way of wearing sarees.
In January 1928, a women’s association was founded in Bombay with Ramabai, Ambedkar’s wife, as its president. Along with the Depressed Classes Conference in Nagpur in 1930, women also had their separate conference. In the Kalram Temple Entry Satyagraha at Nasik in 1930 five hundred women participated and many of them were arrested along with men and ill treated in jails. To face tortures along with their men, women also organized their Samata Sainik Dal. When Ambedkar returned to India after attending the round table conference in 1932, hundreds of women were present for the committee meetings. At various places depressed classes women’s conferences were held and they began to present their demands assertively. The encouragement of Ambedkar empowered women to speak out boldly their feelings. As Radhabai Vadale said in a press conference in 1931, “We should get the right to enter the Hindu temples, to fill water at their water resources. We call these social rights. We should also get the political right to rule, sitting near the seat of the Viceroy. We don’t care even if we are given a severe sentence. We will fill all the jails in the country. Why should we be scared of lathi-charge or firing? On the battlefield does a warrior care for his life? It is better to die a hundred times than live a life full of humiliation. We will sacrifice our lives but we will win our rights.” The credit for this self-respect and firm determination of women, goes to Ambedkar.
On 20th July 1942, The All India Dalit Mahila conference was organized and 25,000 women attended. Ambedkar was highly pleased with the awakening and activities of women. On 13th August, he wrote to one of his friends, Meshram about this. On 6th January 1945, the All India Untouchable Women’s Conference was held in Mumbai. (Limaye, 1999:57-61). In the movement, his strategy was similar to Gandhian method though he had disagreements on many things with Gandhi. To him the emphasis was on reconstruction of the Hindu society on the basis of equality rather than the social reforms initiated by Brahma Samaj or Arya Samaj because their attempts were limited only to the upper strata of the society. His in depth study of Smritis and Shashtras and his experience from the response of upper castes during his temple entry movement crystallized his conclusions on Hindu philosophy and society.
Running newspapers, women’s hostels, boarding schools participating in Sathyagrahas were some of the activities of woman for acquiring the personality development to secure efficient administrative and leadership capacity as men have. Gaining inspiration and encouragement from Ambedkar, many women wrote on topics like Planning, Buddhist philosophy and such other topics. Women also wrote plays, autobiographies, and participated in Satyagrahas. Tulsabai Bansode started a newspaper Chokhamela. This showed how Ambedkar created awareness among poor, illiterate women and inspired them to fight against the unjust social practices like child marriages and devdasi system.
Since Ambedkar was well convinced about the status of women, as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, he tried an adequate inclusion of women’s rights in the political vocabulary and constitution of India. Therefore, by considering women’s equality both in formal and substantial senses he included special provisions for women while all other general provisions are applicable to them, as to men. Hence, there are Articles like 15(3), 51(A), and so on. His key work in the preparation of Indian Constitution made it to be known as a New Charter of Human Rights. He looked upon law as the instrument of creating a sane social order in which the development of individual should be in harmony with the growth of society. He incorporated the values of liberty, equality and fraternity in the Indian Constitution.
Based on the belief that any scheme of franchise and constituency that fails to bring about representation of opinions as well as representation of persons falls short of creating a popular government, he submitted the Constitution with a warning. He said in his speech delivered in the Constituent Assembly on 25th November 1949, “Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy.” By social democracy he means a way of life, which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as principles of life. He further said: “On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.” The new social movements emerged especially from Dalits, women and peasants, to assert democratic rights and urged for a new path of development which legitimizes this warning of the Father of the Indian Constitution, when he submitted it to the nation.
Ambedkar’s defense for women as the Law Minister of free India appeared in the form of the Hindu Code Bill in Parliament on 11th April 1947, which invited strong opposition from the Hindu orthodoxy in post-independent India. The Bill provided for several basic rights to women.
It sought to abolish different marriage systems prevalent among Hindus and to establish monogamy as the only legal system. It aimed at conferment of right to property and adoption of women. It provided for restitution of conjugal rights and judicial separation. It attempted to unify the Hindu code in tune with progressive and modern thought. (Mathew, 1991:73-73; Ahir, 1990).
In 1948 when the Hindu Code Bill was introduced in parliament and debated on the floor of the house, the opposition was strong against the Bill. Ambedkar tried his level best to defend the Bill by pointing out the drawbacks of Indian society and arguing that the ideals in the Bill are based on the Constitutional principles of equality, liberty and fraternity and that in the Indian society characterised by the caste system and the oppression of women since women are deprived of equality, a legal frame work is necessary for a social change in which women have equal rights with men. He also pointed out that the aim of the Bill was “ to codify the rules of Hindu Law which are scattered in innumerable decisions of High Courts and of the Privy Council which form a bewildering motley to the common man”. (Arya, 2000:63). However, the Bill could not withstand the opposition from the Hindu orthodoxy. Their major argument was that the Bill was an attempt at the “demolition of the entire structure and fabric of Hindu Society. The very foundations not only of one pillar but of all the pillars on which the Hindu society rests are shaken”. In reality, the Bill was a threat to patriarchy on which traditional family structure, was bounded and that was the major reason behind the opposition. Therefore, on the eve of the first elections in 1951 Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dropped the Bill by saying that there was too much opposition. On this issue, the then Law Minister Dr.Ambedkar resigned.
His explanations for resignation show how the parliament of independent India deprived its women citizens of even basic rights. His resignation letter dated 27th September 1951 reads as follows:
I will now deal with a matter, which has led me to finally to come
to the decision that I should resign. It is the treatment, which was
accorded to the Hindu code. The Bill was introduced in the House
on the 11th April 1947. After a life of four years it was killed and
died unwept and unsung after 4 clauses of it were passed. While
it was before the house it lived by fits and starts. For full one year
the Government did not feel it necessary to refer it to Select
Committee. It was referred to the Select Committee on 9th April,
1948.The report was presented to the House on 12th August, and
1948.The motion for the consideration of the Report was made
by me on 31st August 48. It was merely for making the motion
that the Bill was kept on the Agenda. The discussion of the motion
was not allowed to take place until the February Session of the
year 1949. Even then it was not allowed to have continuous
discussion. It was distributed over 10 months, 4 days in February
1 day in March and 2 days in April 1949. After this, one-day was
given to the Bill in December 1949, namely the 19th December
on which day the House adopted my motion that the Bill as
reported by the Select Committee be taken into consideration.
No time was given to the Bill in the year 1950. Next time the Bill
came before the House on 5th Feb. 1951 when the clause by clause
consideration of the bill was taken. Only three days 5th 6th and 7th
of February were given to the bill and left there to rot. This being
the last session of the parliament, the Cabinet had to consider
whether the Hindu Code Bill should be gone through before this
Parliament ended or whether it should be left over to the new
Parliament. The Cabinet unanimously decided that it should be
put through in this Parliament. So the Bill was put on the Agenda
and was taken up on the 17th September 1951 for further clauseby-
clause consideration. As the discussion was going on the Prime
Minister put for a new proposal, namely, that the Bill as a whole
may not be gone through within the time available and that it was
desirable to get a part of it enacted into law rather than allow the
whole of it to go to waste. It was a great wrench to me. But I
agreed, for, as the proverb says “ it is better to save a part when
the whole is likely to be lost.” The prime minister suggested that
we should select the Marriage and Divorce Part. The Bill in its
truncated form went on. After two or three days of discussion of
the Bill the Prime Minister came up with another proposal. This
time his proposal was to drop the whole Bill even the Marriage
and Divorce portion. This came to me as a great shock--a bolt
from the blue. I was stunned and could not say anything. I am not
prepared to accept that the dropping this truncated Bill was due
to want of time. I am sure that the truncated Bill was dropped
because other and powerful members of the Cabinet wanted
precedence for their Bills. I am unable to understand how the
Banaras and Aligarh University Bills and how the Press Bill could
have been given precedence over the Hindu Code even in its
attenuated form? I got the impression that the Prime Minister
although sincere had not the earnestness and determination
required to get the Hindu Code Bill through.
In regard to this Bill I have been made to go through the greatest
mental torture. The aid of Party Machinery was denied to me.
The Prime Minister gave freedom of Vote, an unusual thing in
the history of Party. I did not mind it. But I expected two things.
I expected a party whip as to time limit on speeches and instruction
to the Chief whip to move closure when sufficient debate had
taken place. A whip on time limit on speeches would have got
the bill through. But such a whip was never issued. The conduct
of the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs who is also the Chief
whip of the party in connection with the Hindu Code, to say the
least, has been most extraordinary. He has been the deadliest
opponent of the Code and has never been present to aid me by
moving a closure motion. For days and hours filibustering has
gone on a single clause. But the Chief Whip whose duty it is to
economize Government time and push on Government Business
has been systematically absent when the Hindu Code has been
under consideration in the House. I have never seen a case of
Chief whip so disloyal to the Prime Minister and the Prime
Minister so loyal to a disloyal whip. Notwithstanding this
unconstitutional behavior, the Chief Whip is really a darling of
the Prime Minister. For, notwithstanding his disloyalty he got a
promotion in the Party organization. It is possible to carry on in
such circumstances.
It has been said that the Bill had to be dropped because the
opposition was strong. How strong was the opposition? This Bill
has been discussed several times in the Party and was carried to
division by the opponents. Every time the opponents were routed.
The last time when the Bill was taken up in the Party Meeting,
out of 120 only 20 were found to be against it. When the Bill was
taken in the Party for discussion 44 clauses were passed in about
3-1/2 hours time. This shows how much opposition there was to
the Bill within the party. In the House itself there have been
divisions on three clauses of the Bill 2, 3 and 4.Every time there
has been an overwhelming majority in favor even on clause 4,
which is the soul of the Hindu Code.
I was, therefore, quite unable to accept the Prime Minister’s
decision to abandon the Bill on the ground of time. I have been
obliged to give this elaborate explanation for my resignation
because some people have suggested that I am going because of
my illness. I wish to repudiate any such suggestion. I am the last
man to abandon my duty because of illness. (Haksar, 1986: 56- 57)
Although most of the provisions proposed by Ambedkar were later passed during 1955-56 in four Bills on Hindu ‘marriage’, succession’, ‘ minority and guardianship’ and ‘maintenance,’ and later in 1976 some changes were made in Hindu Law, it still remains true that the basic rights of women have yet to be restored to them even after fifty years of the working of the Indian Constitution based on the principle of liberty, equality and justice to all Indian citizens. The nature of controversy on Hindu Code Bill made it clear that the rights for women documented in the Book of Indian Constitution is very difficult to translate into reality. One can find an adequate answer for this in Ambedker’s analysis of the Hindu social order and its philosophy that perpetuates inequality, slavery, poverty, ignorance and powerlessness for the oppressed classes and also to women, which has its impact in modern times also. However, the Hindu Code Bill helped the resurgence of feminist movement in India. This crusade of Ambedkar to emancipate women from injustice inspires the women leaders in Parliament to keep the issue alive until its enactment. This was the starting point for women to recognize their position and pursue rights movement by acquiring strength from ‘second wave feminism’ started in the early 1960s. Women are still fighting issues such as rape, dowry death, communalism, fundamentalism, sexual harassment, violence-domestic and social, poverty and so on.
Ambedkar’s strong disagreements with Hindu ideals compelled him to accept Buddhism as his religion. In a speech at Nagpur on 15th October, 1956 he said that according to the tenets of Hinduism only the so called higher castes have been benefited. Sudras and untouchables have nothing much to gain from it. “As soon as the wife of a Brahmin conceives, she thinks of the High Court whether any post of a Judge has fallen vacant but when our women becomes pregnant, she cannot think of anything better than a sweeper’s post under the Municipal Committee”. In contemporary India the globalization process has made this thesis applicable to all economically deprived sections irrespective of caste due to the trend of making the rich richer and the poor poorer and deneying labour rights to them. He concluded that Hinduism will ruin the Hindus and ultimately India. The inclusion of Hinduism in politics is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship. He recalled Daniel O. Connell to caution India that “No man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty”. The dissatisfaction with Hinduism which led to the mass st conversion of 30000 untouchables into Buddhism even in the 21 century, is a point to rethink about the manifestations of Hinduism in the post modern era. If not, as Ambedkar said, Hinduism will remain as a religion that glorifies ignorance and preaches inequality and hatred, divides people into multitudinous castes and sub castes, sanctions poverty and keeps majority of its followers poor, illiterate, ignorant, disunited and divided. Re-domestication of women will be the ultimate result. That women can be raped and paraded naked through the streets is a reality in contemporary India and is a symptom of restoration of Manusmriti Raj.
The Parinirvan of Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar who was recognized internationally as a crusader against caste system, a vigilant fighter for the human rights of all the oppressed and enslaved and the emancipator of humanity from social and economic injustice, occurred on 6th December 1956. In the condolence message, on Ambedkar’s death in Parliament, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru said; “ Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar was a symbol of revolt against all oppressive features of the Hindu society”. His dream of society based on gender equality is yet to be realized and therefore his thoughts are important for the social reconstruction that favours women’s empowerment.
The Nation honoured Baba Saheb Ambedkar by offering Bharat Ratna posthumously to him which was received by his widow Savita Ambedkar in 1990. Dr. Ambedkar Foundation was set up under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment on 24th March 1992 for the purpose of promoting and propagating his ideology of social justice so as to reach the common masses.The Foundation implemented Schemes such as Dr. Ambedkar National Memorial, Dr. Ambedkar National Public Library, Dr.Ambedkar Chairs in Universities/ Institutions, Dr. Ambedkar Award for Social Understanding and Upliftment of Weaker Sections and the Dr. Ambedkar International Award for Social Change. It made a feature film on Ambedkar and published 144 volumes of his speeches and writings so far in various languages. Dr.Ambedkar Chairs have been set up in nine universities/institutions. Baba Amte was given Dr.Ambedkar International Award for Social Change in 1999 and Remy Fernand Claude Satorre Bonhomme of Spain has been selected for the year 2000. As Lord Casey said, Ambedkar stands as the “fountainhead of wisdom and knowledge” in modern India also.

Ahir, D.C.: The Legacy of Ambedkar, Delhi, 1990.
Ambedkar, B.R. “Women and Counter Revolution”, “Riddles of Hindu Women” in Dr.
Baba Saheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches, Vol.3, Department of Education,
Government of Maharashtra, 1987.
_____. “Castes in India: Their Mechanism Genesis and Development”, “Castes in India” in Dr.Baba Saheb Ambedkar: Speeches and Writings, Vol.I Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1979
______. ”The Rise and Fall of the Hindu Women”, The Mahabodhi (Calcutta), 59.5-6 . 137-151. 1950.
Arya, Sudha, Women Gender Equality and the State, Deep and Deep Publications, New Delhi. 2000.
Chirakarode, Paul: Ambedkar: Boudhika Vikshobhathinte Agnijwala, Dalit Books, Thiruvalla, 1993.
Government of India: The National Policy for the Empowerment Of Women 2001, Department of Women and Child Development, Ministry of Human Resource Development, New Delhi, 2001
Haksar, Nandita, Demystification of Law for Women, Lancer Press, New Delhi. 1986.
Heywood, Andrew: Political Ideologies: An Introduction, Macmillan Press, London. 1998.
Limaye, Champa : Women: Power and Progress, B.R.Publishing Corporation, New Delhi, 1999.
Mathew, Thomas: Ambedkar: Reform or Revolution, Segment Books, New Delhi, 1991.
K.B.USHA : U.G.C. Research Associate at the Department of Politics, University of Kerala. She has taken her Ph. D on Soviet Studies from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Currently working on the topic ‘Political Empowerment of Women – A Critical Study of the Indian Experience.’
Harish K. Puri

"Understanding B.R. Ambedkar" by Dr. Harish Puri provides certain parameters for fixing Ambedkar's role in India's unity and integrity. While working with M.K. Gandhi, and J.L. Nehru, Dr. Ambedkar recorded his experiences in his writings. Readers are invited to respond to the portrayal of Baba Sahib Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's personality and contribution by Dr. Harish Puri. A retired professor of Guru Nanak Dev University Amritsar, (Punjab) Dr. Puri headed Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Chair in the Political Science Department. He has authored many books on India's freedom movement.

There is a widespread misunderstanding about B.R. Ambedkar’s ideas and role particularly with regard to the independence and unity of India. Reasons for that are well known. Ambedkar did not join the Indian National Congress-led struggle for independence. In fact he denounced the Congress and opposed the Quit India Movement. He became a member of Viceroy’s Executive Council and was, therefore, accused of loyalty to the British rulers and dubbed as a ‘traitor’. At the Round Table Conference, he pleaded for a separate electrorate and reservations of seats for the minority community of “untouchables”, as for several other minority communities. When that was conceded by the British government in the Communal Award 1932, Ambedkar was accused as an evil genius bent upon dividing the Hindus. Mahatma Gandhi’s fast unto death against the provision pitted the mainstream public opinion against him. He was held guilty of putting Gandhi’s life in danger. His support for Muslim League’s demand for Pakistan was no less galling to many Indian nationalists. The burning of a copy of the Manusmriti, his trenchant criticism of Hindu social system, rejection of Hindu religion and ultimately his conversion to Buddhism along with over a hundred thousand untouchables were regarded as affronts to the Hindu community. Many observers of the Indian political scene today believe that the policy of ‘reservation’ and special concessions to the Scheduled Castes which was later extended by the V.P. Singh government to include Other Backward Classes (OBCs), has been a cause of social divides and instability of the political system. Ambedkar was regarded as the original villain of piece. As a consequence, there has been a controversy regarding his contribution. Not many non-Dalits, cared to understand and appreciate his fundamental contributions to the enrichment of social and political thinking in India

Ambedkar’s distinct contribution to the unity of India lies in two domains. One related to the preparation and adoption of a constitutional framework which could provide for adequate safeguards for the territorial integrity and political unity of India. This was the work for which he was profusely lauded. The second related to a distinct conceptualization of good society and the “unity of the people” in this vast country of multiple diversities and entrenched inequities. Through that he laid the basis for a radical socio-economic change. This was a highly contested domain. He was not alone. He shared with Jawaharlal Nehru a new humane and just social order. But Ambedkar was more skeptical. Perhaps, no other leader was so acutely conscious of the strength and tenacity of the entrenched social forces which were ranged against the agenda of social transformation.

Ambedkar’s social location at the bottom of caste and class hierarchy provided a view of the social reality from below. Those at the higher and top levels, saw the world differently. Gandhi’s experience of social discrimination in South Africa and India shaped his anti racial anti-colonial discourse. The massacre at Jallianwala Bagh in April led him to regard the British rule as ‘satanic’. Ambedkar’s life experience as an ‘untouchable’ determined the direction of his discourse and struggle against the structure and practice of caste oppression. End of caste inequalities and guarantee of just status for minorities were to him the essential conditions of human dignity and unity, more important then political freedom. Others thought differently. However, given the strength of the hegemonic force in the Constituent Assembly, the provision for social transformation was grudgingly and partially included in the constitution. Even the limited agenda was only partially implemented. The society and the polity are apparently more fractured today. But the social and political assertiveness of the earlier downtrodden has the potential for accelerating social change. Appreciation for Ambedkar’s constribution to India’s unity in this respect remains misunderstood and divided along caste-class lines.

Let us now look to his position and what did he actually do in the two domains.Despite his vigorous struggle for separate electorates for ‘untouchables’, he had made one thing very clear to the British at the Round Table Conference: “It is only in a Swaraj Constitution that we stand any chance of getting political power into our own hands, without which we cannot bring salvation to our people”. Mahatma Gandhi told him categorically, when Ambedkar met him for the first time on 14 August, 1931: that “from the reports that have reached me of your work at the Round Table Conference, I know that you are patriot of sterling worth”. Let there be no doubt about Ambedkar’s patriotism. But he was convinced that freedom of the country does not necessarily mean freedom of the people.

As mentioned before his social location made him the only prominent leader of his time to counter-pose a view of Indian reality from below to that of the mainstream political leaders. He was opposed to the Congress conception of nationalism. Professor M.S. Gore has discussed, for example, that there was a clear opposition between Nehru’s and Ambedkar’s points of view on Indian history. Nehru’s viewpoint, as clearly laid out in his Discovery of India, was that there was a definite undercurrent of synthesis and unity in the midst of great diversity. Ambedkar’s, on the other hand, was that India’s was a deeply divided and stratified society with conflicting cultural streams. Nehru’s view reflected the ideology of the mainstream and Ambedkar’s that of ‘minority’ groups. The logic of historical evolution of nationalism points to the fact that nationalism generally reflects the ideology of the emerging ruling class. Since it represents the ideas and interests of the most advanced segment of society, it is basically sectarian. Ambedkar was very clear that blind nationalism could turn out to be dangerously anti-people. It has to be resisted and given a strong social foundation of equality.
It is understandable that during their fight against the British rulers, the “nationalist” ideology emphasized on homogeneity of the people claiming for them a national identity. So they not only de-emphasized internal differences based on class, caste, religion, region, language etc., but also regarded reference to these differences as divisive and anti-national. Ambedkar denied the commonality of interest between Hindus of all castes or Indians of all communities. So he stressed upon legal constitutional safeguards for the untouchables and other minorities. But he knew that mere legal safeguards were not enough. He therefore also advocated that the untouchables must organize and relentlessly agitate for securing their rights of equality and justice.
Whereas to the mainstream nationalist leadership the primary struggle was for political freedom, Ambedkar saw in that kind of freedom the threat of a more arrogant and unhindered domination and ‘oppression’ of the upper caste and upper class, over the lower caste/class strata socially, economically and politically. Under that kind of rule by the hegemonic forces the possibility of social reform for reducing inequity would become even more remote. Therefore, he emphasized upon the urgency of social reform, before political freedom. He became convinced by the middle of 1930s, that even for Gandhi, the first choice was a struggle for freedom rather than for eradication of untouchability. Thus, he could not become a part of the mainstream national struggle.
In his distinctly different struggle, however, he was deeply concerned about strengthening the Indian polity. When the Simon Commission came to India in 1928 to prepare recommendations for new constitutional arrangement including provincial autonomy, the Congress launched a boycott of the Commission. Ambedkar, on the other hand, appeared before it, to present his memorandum and discuss important issues. One of the clear positions he took may be stated. He argued:
While I am anxious to see that there should be established complete provincial autonomy, I am opposed to any change which will in any way weaken the central government or which will impair its national character or obscure its existence in the eyes of the people… My view is that the national government should be so placed as not to appear to stand by virtue of the provincial government.
He thought a strong central government was necessary to safeguard political unity. He then presented very clear-cut recommendations.
That all residuary powers must be with central government;
That central government must have the specific power to coerce a recalcitrant or rebellious province acting in a manner prejudicial to the interest of the country;
That all powers given to a provincial government in case of its non-functioning shall return to the central government;
That the election to the central legislature shall be direct, (Writings and Speeches of Dr. Ambedkar, Vol. II, p.385).
When he was given the task of drafting the constitution, one of his major objectives was safeguarding the unity of India, besides ending of “untouchability” and providing safeguards for Scheduled Castes and minorities. India had been partitioned and about 550 princely states existed with sovereign or semi-sovereign status. Holding India together was a daunting task. The threat to unity was ominous. Ambedkar brought his exceptional legal, constitutional expertise to the building of a framework for unity and pleaded with skill and passion for adoption of his proposals by the Constituent Assembly.
Nine sub-committees had been constituted by the Drafting Committee for dealing with different subjects and preparing drafts. What may appear surprising, the draft constitution by these sub-committees had left Indian princely states as more or less independent entities, having the liberty to frame their own constitution, including provision for their own armies. Dr. Ambedkar was disturbed and angry. He told the Constituent Assembly, “ I regard this as a most retrograde and harmful provision which may lead to the break-up of the unity of India and overthrow of the central government.” He saw to it that there was uniformity between the provinces and the Indian princely states in their relationship to the Centre.
Unity of India, according to him, required both a strong central government and a federal system. He was personally more inclined towards a unitary government. As he told the Constituent Assembly, “What perturbs me greatly is the fact that India has not only once before lost her independence but she lost it by the infidelity and treachery of her own people.” He cited several instances and then raised the question: “Will history repeat itself? Our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost for ever. We must be determined to defend our independence till the last drop of our blood.” (Keer, op.cit)

The central government had to be “a powerful stimulus in the formative period.” Articles 355, 356 and 365 of the present constitution were in essence based on such an arrangement under the Government of India Act 1935. He preferred to use the word “Union” instead of federation. But he was not innocent about the dangers of a very strong central government. “We must resist the tendency to make it stronger”, he said. “It cannot chew more than it can digest. Its strength must be commensurate with its weight. It would be a folly to make it so strong that it may fall by its own weight.” The division of powers between the centre and the states was therefore, necessary. An important central feature of the constitution was that it was made flexible. The strong defence of the parliamentary government for its mechanism of ministerial accountability and of the nominal position of the president pointed to his concern for checks on power.

He was also deeply concerned about the social conditions for political stability in a country as large and diverse as India. Three principles appeared to him to be basic for such stability: associated life; common objectives and free social interaction. Caste system, in particular, was a major obstruction to associated life and free social interaction. It was, as he wrote in his Annihilation of Caste, against the sprit of nationalism. It killed public spirit. A caste society could have no public opinion.

Deprivation of a large section of society from property and education did not only make them servile to the upper strata of society, but also deprived the country of their loyalty and great potential contribution to social and economic development. As he emphasized in the Constituent Assembly, “India as a nation is still in infant stage. We have to go long way in cementing various social forces and binding them emotionally as a nation.” That required development of the social infrastructure of national unity. The provisions in the chapters on Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles of State Policy were aimed at that. These included abolition of untouchability, rights to liberty and equality for all without discrimination, special provisions of compensatory weightage through reservations of seats in the legislative bodies, for jobs, for education; for building an egalitarian economic system and protection of the rights of the minorities, etc. However, more serious work of radical socio-economic change was yet on the agenda. The obstacles were formidable. A day before the constitution was adopted; he gave a warning as follows: On the 26th of January, 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics, we will have equality and in social and economic life, we will have inequality…. We must remove the contradiction at the earliest possible moment, or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy, which this Assembly has so laboriously built up.

But the social change programme outlined in the Directives to remove the contradiction did not proceed apace. Ambedkar was totally dejected when he saw that Jawaharlal Nehru, despite his tremendous stature and power, failed to ensure legislation of even a part of the Hindu Code Bill. He, therefore, resigned from the cabinet as a protest. But the continued the struggle till this death on 6 December, 1956.

In a private latter to Madhu Limaye, Ram Manohar Lohia stated: “Dr. Ambedkar was to me a great man in Indian politics, and apart from Gandhiji, as great as the greatest of caste Hindus.” His regret was that Ambedkar refused to become a leader of “non-Harijans” and that he was so “bitter and exclusive.” There is little doubt that Ambedkar remained essentially a leader of the Untouchables and his bitterness was nowhere reflected as prominently as in his attitude towards Mahatma Gandhi. Yet, paradoxically, one complemented the other. Both of them had an emanicipatory agenda.
Mahatma Gandhi was awakened to the cause of the removal of untouchability by Ambedkar’s sledge-hammer blow of claiming a minority status for the “Depressed Classes”. But to Gandhi, it was a question of social morality; of building a new moral order. He did not recognize the political nature of the caste divisions which Ambedkar underlined. His strategy was described as that of “molecular transformation and mobilisation”. Perhaps that is why he was instrumental in “tempering of articulate casteist opinion” and making it possible for Ambedkar to achieve what he did through the law of the Constitution in free India. It may be appropriate that instead of the oppositional positioning between the Dalits and Gandhi’s caste Hindu followers, they recognize the complementary contribution of the two and get down to the completion of the unfinished agenda of Ambedkar, Gandhi and Nehru.
* Edited version of Chapter III in G. S Bal (Ed.), Understanding Ambedkar, Ajanta Books International, Delhi, 2000.
** Retired Professor, Dr. B.R.Ambedkar Chair, Department of Political Science, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar
Courtesy :

Friday, 20 August 2010

Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar are no longer national icons. You can be arrested for reading them.

Bhagat Singh and Ambedkar are no longer national icons. You can be arrested for reading them.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Bhagwan Das As I Know Him

I have known Bhagwan Das for the last thirty thirty six years. He was known in Delhi as one of the most learned and dedicated followers of Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
I heard him for the first time in the weekly meetings of the Boudha Upasak Sangh in Lakshmi Bai Nagar, New Delhi. Ambedkar Bhavan was the centre of Buddhist activities for some years. Buddhist society of India organized weekly religious meetings. Two Shastries, Mr. Y.C.Shaankranand Shastri and Mr. Sohan Lal Shastri, both product of the Braham Vidyalaya, an Arya Samajist institution of Punjab, were the leaders of the Buddhist movement. They organized these weekly meetings on the pattern of the Arya Samaj meetings. For some reason some differences developed between the two Shastries and they parted company. Mr.Shankranand Shastri along with some of his friends formed the Boudha Upasak Sangha and began to hold weekly meetings in front-yard of one room flat owned by Mr. Rama Rao Bagde, an employee of the reserve Bank of India. He and his wife devotedly made the preparations, cleaned the floor, provided flowers, incense etc. Mr. Das was one of the prominent speakers in these meetings.
He was interested in the unity of Dalits and had tried to bring in many castes like Dhanuks, Khatiks, Balmikis, Helas, Kolis into the movement.
Besides working at grass root level he contributed articles on diverse problems of the Dalits and minorities which were published in the Sarita, Milap, Naya Zamana, Ujala and, Bheem Patrika etc. He has good command over English and Urdu. He can read and write in simple Hindi and Punjabi in Gurmukhi script, Bengali which he learnt while serving in the Air force in Bengal and Arakans, he has forgotten.
I have traveled throughout India and know many officers, professors, teachers and leaders belonging to the Scheduled Castes. I believe Mr. Das owns the largest collection of books and journals. He is a voracious reader and spends most of his working hours in reading. He spends good deal of money on purchasing books and journals. In his collection one finds some very rare books written by foreign and India writers. In his files lie many good articles and booklets on diverse subjects which he could not get printed or just forgot about them.
From the talks I had with him, I have come to the conclusion that although he was brought up in a Cantonment near Shimla, the summer capital of India, and the family was well to do, yet he suffered from insults and humiliations owing to his birth in an untouchable family. He is proud of his father who has contributed a great deal in molding his character. He was an admirer of Baba Saheb Ambedkar and very fond of reading newspapers. Study of Ayurveda was his hobby beside reading scriptures of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Sikhism. Mr. Das has inherited love for knowledge from his father.
It seems Mr. Das was influenced by Christianity like most Untouchables of his times. Later on he studied Arya Samajists literature and Koran and other books on Muslim theology. For considerable time he had been reading Marxist literature and also wrote on Marxism. Class character of Communist leaders, however, deterred him. To cap it all he read Ingersoll, Tom Paine, Voltaire, Bernard Shaw and Bertrand Russell. He developed his own ideas about religion before he came in direct touch with Baba Saheb Ambedkar.
He was introduced to Baba Saheb Ambedkar by late Mr. Shiv Dayal Singh Chaurasia, an imminent leader of the Backward Classes who served as a Member in Kaka Kalekar Commission and also as a Member of Rajya Sabha.
Mr. Das had no plan to marry but it was Mr.Chaurasia who got him married to a well educated girl belonging to Dhanuk caste of Lucknow. Mr. Das was sixteen when his father died. He had to brave another calamity. Immediately one month after the death of his father, his house caught fire on the 14th May 1943 and in the evening of that fateful day he was reduced to the level of a pauper. He had to support a large family of six members of his family getting them reasonable high school education and later on they themselves improved their acquisitions and status.
Mr. Das has written many books besides compiling and editing the speeches and writings of Baba sahib Ambedkar long before this work was undertaken by the Government of Maharashtra. He wrote four books on the Sweepers and, Scavengers and a booklet on the Dhobies. His books on Buddhism and caste and the seminar papers which he has presented in the seminars and conferences in India and abroad give an idea how deep is his study and how dedicated he is to the cause of the down-trodden and discriminated against people of the world. If Marx gave a call to the workers of world unite, Das’s call has been Dalits of India Unite, Dalits of Asia Unite. I do not think there is any body who has tried to bring all Dalits of Asia on a common platform and struggle for liberation and for the right to live with dignity. At present Mr.Das has 23 books to his credit. He has three books in hand: Untouchability in Asia, History of Reservation and Balmiki but his failing health and memory are the biggest impediment.

He leads a very simple life; eats little, just enough to do the work which he has chosen to do. He is modest and in the words of late Bhadant Anand Kausalyaayan, “You have too much of humility”. He has very strong ascetic tendencies. As a lawyer he works hard when he accepts a brief but choosy about the kind of cases he would like to handle. Avarice is certainly not his weakness. Mr. Das does not have many friends nor does he happily attend social functions. He feels more at home in the libraries or in the company of the intellectuals and people who are working for the upliftment of the oppressed and the discriminated against people.
Mr. Das has visited many countries of the world and addressed public meetings or read papers on Human Rights, discriminated nation, problems of women and disadvantaged people, revival of Buddhism in India. He does not only preach Buddhism but also practices Buddhism.
There are few people in India having vision, courage, intelligence, commitment and dedication to the cause of the deprived and disadvantaged people – Untouchables, indigenous people, other backward classes, unorganized labour, victims of the violation of human rights and women as Mr. Das has.
His contribution towards the propagation of ideology of Baba Saheb Ambedkar whether it is appreciated in India or not, officially recognized or not is great and has attracted the attention of scholars and leaders in the sub-continent and abroad. He is by nature quiet and unassuming and avoids publicity.
One wishes if there were a few more followers of Baba Sahib Ambedkar with the same qualities, commitment, knowledge, courage and character as Mr. Das has the caravan of Baba Saheb would have covered great distance and attained great heights. One wishes he lives longer but those who know him intimately know he lived as he liked and will die according to his wishes. Euthanasia has great attraction for him.
But we do not want to lose him. We wish him a long life.