Saturday, 16 April 2011

SLAVERY and UNTOUCHABILITY : WHICH IS WORSE? javascript:void(0)_____________________________________________
[Dr. Ambedkar has dealt with the subject of Slavery and Untouchability in chapter 3 & 8 of Vol. 5 of this series, under the caption-' Roots of the Problem ' ' Parallel cases '.
We have however now come in possession of a booklet in which there are certain paragraphs which do not find place in Vol. No. V chapter 3 & 8.
The material reproduced here when read together, makes consistent and complete reading. We have also no reason to doubt the genuineness of the material as the publisher of the said booklet Shri Devi Dayal was associated with Dr.Ambedkar during 1943-47. The facsimile of the title at the beginning of the chapter, as printed in the booklet vouchsafe the authorship of Dr. Ambedkar. Earlier paragraphs in the booklet i. e. from page I to 11 upto * considerations of humanity ' are already printed in Vol. 5 at page nos. 80 to 88. Mr. Bhagwandas of Delhi deserves credit for publishing this article for Mr. Devi Dayal—Editor]

Slavery in India

Among the claims made by the Hindus for asserting their superiority over other nations the following two are mentioned. One is that there was no slavery in India among the Hindus and the other is that Untouchability is infinitely less harmful than slavery.
The first statement is of course untrue. Slavery is a very ancient institution of the Hindus. It is recognised by Manu, the law giver and has been elaborated and systematised by the other Smriti writers who followed Manu. Slavery among the Hindus was never merely ancient institution, which functioned, only in some hoary past. It was an institution which continued throughout all Indian history down to the year 1843 and, if it had not been abolished by the British Government bylaw in that year, it might have continued even today. While slavery lasted it applied to both the touchables as well as the untouchables.
The untouchables by reason of their poverty became subject to slavery oftener than did the touchables. So that up to 1843 the untouchables in India had to undergo the misfortune of being held in double bondage-the bondage of slavery and the bondage of untouchability. The lighter of the bonds has been cut and the untouchable is made free from it. But because the untouchables of today are not seen wearing the chains of slavery on them, it is not to be supposed that they never did. To do so would be to tear off whole pages of history.
The first claim is not so widely made. But the second is. So great a social reformer and so great a friend of the untouchables as Lala Lajpat Rai in replying[f1] to the indictment of the Hindu Society by Miss Mayo insisted that untouchability as an evil was nothing as compared with slavery and he fortified his conclusion by a comparison of the Negro in America with the untouchables in India and showed that his conclusion was true. Coming as it does from Lala Lajpat Rai the matter needs to be more closely examined.
Is untouchability less harmful than slavery? Was slavery less human than untouchability ? Did slavery hamper the growth more than untouchability does ? Apart from the controversy raised by Lala Lajpat Rai, the questions are important and their discussions will be both interesting and instructive. To understand this difference it is necessary to begin by stating the precise meaning of the term slavery. This is imperative because the term slavery is also used in a metaphorical sense to cover social relationship which is kindered to slavery but which is not slavery. Because the wife was entirely in the power of the husband, because he sometimes ill-used her and killed her, because the husband exchanged or lent his wife and because he made her work for him, the wife was sometimes spoken of as a slave. Another illustration of the metaphorical use of the term is its application to I serfs. Because a serf worked on fixed days, performed fixed I services, paid fixed sums to the lord and was fixed to the land, he j was spoken of as a slave. These are instances of curtailment of I freedom, and inasmuch as they are akin to slavery because slavery also involves loss of freedom. But this is not the sense in which the word is used in law, and to avoid arguing at cross purpose, it would be better to base the comparison on the legal meaning of the word slavery.
In layman's language, a person is said to be slave when he is the property of another. This definition is perhaps too terse for the lay reader. He may not understand the full import of it without further explanation, property means something, a term which is used to denote a bundle of rights which a person has over something which is his property, such as the right to possess, to use, to claim the benefit of, to transfer by way of sale, mortgage or lease and destroy. Ownership therefore means complete dominion over property. To put it concretely, when it is said that the slave is the property of the master, what it means is that the master can make the slave work against his will, take the benefit of whatever the slave produces without the consent of the slave. The master can lease out, sell or mortgage his slave without consulting the wishes of the slave and the master can even kill him in the strictest legal connotation of the term. In the eye of the law the slave is just a material object with which his master may deal in any way he likes.
In the light of this legal definition, slavery does appear to be worse than untouchability. A slave can be sold, mortgaged or leased; an untouchable cannot be sold, mortgaged or leased. A slave can be killed by the master without being held guilty for murder; an untouchable cannot be. Whoever causes his death will be liable for murder. In fact, the slave could not be killed with impunity; the law did recognise his death as being culpable homicide as it did in the case of the death of a freeman. But taking the position of the slave as prescribed by laws the difference between the condition of the slave and the untouchable is undoubtedly clear-that the slave was worse off than the untouchable.
There is however another way of defining a slave which is equally legal and precise although it is not the usual way. This other way of defining a slave is this; A slave is a human being who is not a person in the eye of the law. This way of defining a slave may perhaps puzzle some. It may therefore be necessary to state that in the eye of the law the term person is identical with the term human being. In law, there may be human beings whom the law does not regard as persons. Contrariwise there are in law persons who are not human brings. This curious result arises of the meaning which the law attaches to the word person. For the purposes of law a person is defined as an entity, human or nonhuman, in whom the law recognised a capacity for acquiring rights and bearing duties, A slave is not a person in the eye of the law although he is a human being. An idol is a person in the eye of the law although an idol is an inanimate object. The reason for this difference will be obvious. A slave is not a person although he is a human being, because the law does not regard him as an entity endowed with the capacity for rights and duties. Concisely an idol is a person though not a human being because the law does-whether wisely or not is another question-recognise the capacity for rights and duties. To be recognised as a person is of course a very important fact fraught with tremendous consequences. Whether one is entitled to rights and liberties upon this issue, the rights which flow from this recognition as person are not only as life but are as vital as life. They include right over material things, their acquisition, their enjoyment and their disposal—called right to property. There are others far more important than these rights over material things. Firstly, there is the right in respect of one's own person—a right not to be killed, maimed or injured without due process of law called a right to life, a right not to be imprisoned save in due process of law-called right to liberty. Secondly, there is a right to reputation-a right not to be ridiculed or lowered in the estimation of fellow men, the right to his good name i. e. the right to the respect so far as it is well founded which others feel for him shall not be diminished. Thirdly, there is the right to the free exercise of powers and liberties[f2]
Every person is entitled without molestation to perform all lawful acts and to enjoy all the privileges which attach to him as a person. The most specific right of this kind is to be the unmolested pursuit of the occupation by which a man chooses to gain his livelihood. Under the same head falls the right of every person to the free use of the public highways, of navigable rivers and all public utilities. It also includes the right of every person that the machinery of the law, which is established for the protection of all persons shall not be maliciously set in motion to his detriment. Thirdly, there is the right of immunity from damage by fraud or coercion-it is a right not to be induced by fraud to assent to a transaction which causes damage, and not to be coerced into acting contrary to one's desire by force. Fourthly, the rights of a person are those which are collectively called Family Rights. These family rights may be distinguished as ‘marital’, ‘parental’, ‘tutelary’, and ' dominical '. The marital right, the right of a husband as against the world, is that no other man shall, by force or persuasion, deprive him of his wife's society, still less be criminally intimate with her. An analogous right might conceivably be recognised as being vested in the wife and is recognised in parts of America. The parental right extends to the custody and control of children, to the produce of their labour till they arrive at the age of discretion without interference. The tutelary right is the right of the parent to act as the guardian not for the benefit of the guardian but for that of the ward......... whose want of understanding he supplements and whose affairs he manages. The dominical right is the right to use labour of the ward. The right is infringed by killing, by injuring so as to make him less valuable or by enticing him away.
Not being a person, a slave had, so far as law is concerned, none of these rights. The untouchable is a person in the eye of the law. It cannot therefore be said that he has none of the rights which the law gives to a ' person '. He has the right to property, to life, liberty, reputation, family and to the free exercise of his liberties and his powers. Define the slave as one may, either as a piece of property or as one who is not a person, it appears that the slave was worse off than the untouchable.
This is so if we consider only the de jure position of the slave. Let us consider what was the defacto position of the slave in the Roman Empire and in the United States. I take the following extracts from Mr. Barrow[f3] :
" Hitherto, it is the repulsive side of household slavery that has been sketched. There is also another aspect. The literature reveals the vast household as normal. It is, of course, the exception. Large slave staffs undoubtedly existed, and they are generally to be found in Rome. In Italy and the Provinces there was less need of display; many of the staff of the Villa were engaged in productive work connected with land and its produce. The old-fashioned relationship between foreman and slave remained there; the slave was often a fellow worker. The kindliness of Pliny towards his staff is well-known. It is in no spirit of self-righteousness and in no wish to appear in a favourable light in the eyes of the future generations which he hoped would read his letters that he tells of his distress at the illness and death of his slaves. The household (of Pliny) is the salves' republic. Pliny's account of his treatment of his slaves is sometimes regarded as so much in advance of general or even occasional practice as to be valueless as evidence. There is no reason for this attitude.
From reasons both of display and genuine literary interest, the rich families attached to their households, slaves trained in literature and art. Calvisices Sabinus is said by Seneca to have had eleven slaves taught to recite Homer, Hesioid, and nine lyric poets by heart. ' Book cases would be cheaper ' , said a rude friend. ' No, what the household knows the master knows ' was the answer. But, apart from such abuses, educated slaves must have been a necessity in the absence of printing;. . . . .The busy lawyer, the dilettante poet, the philosopher and educated gentlemen of literary tastes had need of copyists and readers and secretaries. Such men were naturally linquistic also; a librarius who dies at the age of twenty boasts that he was ' literatus Graecis at Latinis '. Amanuensis were common enough; librarians are to be found in public and private libraries.... .Shorthand writing was in common use under the Empire, and slave Notary were regularly employed....
Many freemen, rhetoricians and grammarians are collected by Snetonius in a special treatise. Verrius Flaccus was tutor to Austus's grandsons, and at death was publicly honoured by a statue. Scribonius Aphrodisius was the slave and disciple of Orbilius and was afterwards freed by Scribenia. Hyginus was librarian of the Palatine Library, in which office he was followed by Jullius Modestus, his own freedman. We hear of freedmen historians of a slave philosopher who was encouraged to argue with his master's, friends' slaves and freed architects. Freemen as doctors occur frequently in the inscriptions, some of them specialists ; they had been trained in big households as slaves, as is shown by one or two examples; after Manumission they rose to eminence and became notorious for their high fees."
" The tastes of some section of society demanded that dancers, singers, musicians, montebanks, variety artists, athletic trainers and messeiurs should be forthcoming. All these are to be found in slavery, often trained by teachers who had acquired some reputation "[f4]
* * * *
" The age of Augustus was the beginning of a period of commercial and industrial expansion. . . .. slaves had indeed been employed (in arts and crafts) before, but the sudden growth of trade. . . .their employment in numbers that would otherwise have been unnecessary. Romans engaged more freely and more openly in various forms of commercial and industrial venture. Yet, even so the agent became more important, for commercial activities became more widespread; and such agents were almost necessarily slaves..... (this is so) because the bonds of slavery (are elastic). They could be so relaxed as to offer an incentive (to the slave) to work by the prospect of wealth and freedom, and so tightened as to provide a guarantee to the master against loss from the misconduct of his slave. In business contracts between slave and master third person seem to have been common, and the work thus done, and no doubt, the profits were considerable. ...... . Renting of land to the slave has already been noticed. . .. and in industry much the same system was used in various forms; the master might lease a bank, or a business of the use of a ship, the terms being a fixed return or the slave being paid on a commission basis[f5]”.
" The earnings of the slave became in law his peculium. Once the peculium was saved it might be used to a variety of purposes. No doubt in many cases this fund was expended in providing food or pleasure...... But peculium must not be regarded merely as petty savings, casually earned and idly spent. The slave who made his master's business yield profits, to his own profit too, very often, had a keen sense of the best use to make up his own money. Often he reinvested it in his master's business or in enterprises entirely unrelated to it. He could enter into business relations with hi master, from whom he came to be regarded as entirely distinct, or he could make contracts with a third person. He could even have procurators to manage his own property and interests. And so with the peculium may be found not only land, houses, shops but rights and claims.
" The activities of slaves in commerce are innumerable; numbers of them are shopkeepers selling every variety of food, bread, meat, salt, fish, wine vegetables, beans, Aupine-seed, honey, curd, ham, ducks and fresh fish, others deal inclothing—sandals, shoes, gowns and mantles. In Rome, they plied their trade in the neighbourhood of the Circus Maximus, or the Portions Trigeminus; or the Esquiline Market, or the Great Mart (on the Caolian Hill) or the Suburra[f6] . ....
' The extent to which slave secretaries and agents acted for their masters is shown very clearly in the receipts found in the house of Caecilius Jucundus at Pompei[f7].
That the State should possess slaves is not surprising; war, after all, was the affair of the State and the captive might well be State-property. What is surprising is the remarkable use made of public slaves under the Empire and the extraordinary social position occupied by them. .. ..
" Public slave came to mean before the Empire a slave of the state employed in its many offices, and the term implied a given occupation and often social position. The work of slaves of the State, slaves of the townships, and slaves of Caesar comprises much of what would now fall to parts of the higher and the whole of the lower branches of the civil services and of the servants of Municipal Corporations, working both with head and hands. . . In the subordinate levels (of the Treasury) there worked numbers of clerks and financial officers, all freedmen and slaves. The business dealt with must have been of vast range. . .. The Mint . . . the immediate head was a knight, in charge of the minting processes.... a freedman was placed under him, served freedmen and slaves . . .. From one branch of State service, at any rate, slaves were rigorously excluded, except on one or two occasions of exceptional stress. They were not allowed to fight in the Army because they were not thought worthy of honour. Doubtless other motives were present also; it would be dangerous experiment to train too many slaves systematically in the use of Arms. If, however, slaves served merely in the fighting line, they are regularly to be found in great numbers behind it employed as servants, and in the commissariat and transport. In the fleet slaves were common enough[f8] "
Such was the defacto position of the slave in Roman Society. Let us trun to the defacto position of the Negro in the United States during the period in which he was slave in the eye of the law. Here are some facts*[f9] which shed a good deal of light on his position :
" Lafayette himself had observed that white and black seamen and soldiers had fought and messed together in the Revolution without bitter difference. Down in Granville Country, North Carolina, a full blooded Negro, John Chavis, educated in Prince-ton University, was conducting a private school for white students and was a licentiate under the local Presbytary, preaching to white congregations in the State. One of his pupils became Governor of North Carolina, another the State's most prominent Whig senator. Two of his pupils were sons of the Chief Justice of North Carolina. The father of the founder of the greatest military academy of the State attended his school and boarded in his home . . ..
Slave labour was used for all kinds of work and the more intelligent of the Negro slaves were trained as artisans to be used and leased. Slave artisans would bring twice as much as an ordinary field hand in the market. Master craftsmen owned their staff. Some masters, as the system became more involved, hired slaves to their slave artisans. Many slave artisans purchased their freedom by the savings allowed them above the normal labour expected."
" The advertisements for runaways and sales are an index to this skill. They received the same or better wages than the poor white labourer and with the influence of the master got the best jobs. The Contractors for masons' and carpenters' work in Athens, Georgia in 1838 were petitioned to stop showing preference to Negro labourers. " The white man is the only real, legal, moral, and civil proprietor of this country and state. The right of his proprietorship reached from the date of the studies of those whitemen. Copernicus and Galileo, who indicated the sphericity of the earth; which sphericity hinted to another white man, Columbus, the possibility by a westerly course of sailing, of finding land. Hence by whitemen alone was this continent discovered, the whitemen alone, aye, those to whom you decline to give money for bread or clothes for their famishing families, in the logical manner of withholding work from them defending Negroes too in the bargain." In Atlanta in 1858, a petition signed by 2 white mechanics and labourers sought protection against the black slave artisans of masters who resided in other sections. The very next year sundry white citizens were aggrieved that the City Council tolerated a Negro dentist to remain and operate in their midst. ' Injustice to ourselves and the community it ought to be abated. We, the residents of Atlanta, appeal to you for justice '. A Census of free Negroes in Richmond County, Georgia, in 1819 showed carpenters, barbers, boatcorkers, saddlers, spinners, millwrights, holsters, weavers, harness makers, sawmill attendants and steamboat pilots. A Negro shoe-maker made by hand the boots in which President Munrow was inaugurated. Harriet Martineau marvelled at the slave workmanship in the delicately tiled floors of Thomas Jefferson's home at Monticello. There still stands in the big house of the old plantation, heavy marks of the hands of these Negro craftsmen, strong mansions built of timber hewn from the original oak and pinned together by wooden pins. Negro women skilled in spinning and weaving worked in the mills. Buckingham in 1839 found them in Athens, Georgia, working alongside with white girls without apparent repugnance of objection.
Negro craftsmen in the South slave and free fared better than their brothers in the North. In 1856 in Philadelphia, of 1637 Negro craftsmen recorded, less than two-thirds could use their trades; ' because of hostile prejudice '. The Irish who were pouring into America from the very beginning of the nineteenth century were being used in the North on approximately the same motives of preference which governed Negro slavery. ' An Irish Catholic ', it was argued in their favour, ' seldom attempts to rise to a higher condition than that in which he is placed, while the Negro often makes the attempt with success. Had not the old Puritan Oliver Cromwell, while the traffic in black slaves was on, sold all the Irish not killed in the Drogheda Massacre into Barbados? ‘Free and fugitive Negroes in New York and Pennsylvania were in constant conflict with this group and the bitter hostility showed itself most violently in the draft riots of the New York. These Hibernians controlled the load carrying and the common labour jobs, opposing every approach of the Negro as a menace to their slight hold upon America and upon a means of livelihood."
Such was the de facto condition of the Roman slave and the American Negro slave. Is there anything in the condition of the Untouchables of India which is comparable with the condition of the Roman slave and the American Negro slave? It would not be unfair to take the same period of time for comparing the condition of the Untouchables with that of the slaves under the Roman Empire. But I am prepared to allow the comparison of the condition of the slaves in the Roman Empire to be made with the condition of the Untouchables of the present day. It is a comparison between the worst of one side and the best of the other, for the present times are supposed to be the golden age for the Untouchables. How does the defacto condition of the Untouchables compare with the defacto condition of the slaves? How many Untouchables are engaged as the slaves in Rome were, in professions such as those of Librarians, Amanuenses, Shorthand writers ? How many Untouchables are engaged, as the slaves in Rome were, in such intellectual occupations as those of rhetoricians, grammarians, philosophers, tutors, doctors and artists? How many untouchables are engaged in trade, commerce or industry as were the slaves in Rome? Even comparing his position with that of the Negro while he was a slave it cannot be said that the condition of the Untouchable has been better. Is their any instance of untouchables having been artisans? Is there any instance of untouchable having maintained a school where Brahmin children have come to sit at his feet in search of learning? Why such a thing is unthinkable? But it has happened in the United States of America. In comparing the defacto condition of the Roman slave and the American Negro I have purposely taken the recent condition of the Untouchables as a basis of comparison for the simple reason that the present times are supposed to be the golden age for the untouchables. But comparing even the condition of the untouchables in modern times they are certainly a sunken community as compared with the condition of slaves in time which historians call barbarous. There can therefore, be no doubt that untouchables have been worse off than slaves. This of course means that untouchability is more harmful to the growth of man than slavery ever was. On this there is a paradox. Slaves who were worse off in law than the untouchables were in fact better off than untouchables and untouchables who were better off in law than slaves were worse off in fact than slaves. What is the explanation of this paradox? The question of all questions is this; what is it which helped the slave to overcome the rigorous denial of freedom by law and enabled them to prosper and grow? What is it that destroyed the effect of the freedom which the law gave to the untouchables and sapped his life of all vitality and stunted his growth.
The explanation of this paradox is quite simple. It will be easily understood if one bears in mind the relation between law and public opinion. Law and public opinion are two forces which govern the conduct of men. They act and react upon each other. At times law goes ahead of public opinion and checks it and redirects in channels which it thinks proper. At times public opinion is ahead of the law. It rectifies the rigour of the law and moderates it. There are also cases where law and public opinion are opposed to each other and public opinion being the stronger of the two forces, disregards or sets at naught what the law-prescribes. Whether through compulsion arising out of convenience of commerce and industry or out of the selfish desire to make the best and the most profitable use of the slaves or out of considerations of humanity, public opinion and law were not in accord with regard to the position of the slave either in Rome or in the United States. In both places the slave was not a legal person in the eye of the law. But in both places he remained a person in the sense of a human being in the eye of the society. To put it differently the personality which the law withheld from the slave was bestowed upon him by society. There lies a profound difference between slavery and untouchability. In the case of the untouchable just the opposite has happened. The personality which the law bestowed upon the untouchables is withheld by society. In the case of the slave the law by refusing to recognise him as a person could do him no harm because society recognised him more amply than it was called upon to do. In the case of the untouchables the law by recognising him as a person failed to do him any good because Hindu society is determined to set that recognition at naught. A slave had a personality which counted notwithstanding the command of the law. An untouchable has no personality in spite of the command of the law. This distinction is fundamental. It alone can explain the paradox— the social elevation of the slave loaded though he was with the burden of legal bondage and the social degradation of the untouchable aided as he has been with the advantages of legal freedom.
Those who have condemned slavery have no doubt forgotten to take into consideration the fact that in a sense slavery was an apprenticeship in a business, craft or art, albeit compulsory. Unmitigated slavery with nothing to compensate the loss of freedom is of course to be condemned. But to enslave a person and to train him is certainly better than a state of barbarity accompanied by freedom. Slavery did mean an exchange of semi-barbarism for civilisation, a vague enough gift but none the less real. The full opportunities for civilised life could only be fully used in freedom, no doubt, but slavery was an apprenticeship, or in the words of Prof. Myres “an initiation into a higher culture ".
This view of slavery is eminently a correct view. This training, this initiation of culture was undoubtedly a great benefit to the slave. Equally it involved considerable cost to the master to train his slave, to initiate him into culture. “There can have been little supply of slaves, educated or trained, before enslavement. The alternative was to train them when young slaves in domestic work or in skilled craft, as was indeed done to some extent before the Empire, by Cato, the Elder, for example. The training was done by his owner and his existing staff indeed the household of the rich contained special pedagogy for this purpose. Such training took many forms: industry, trade, arts and letter ".
The question is why was the slave initiated into the high culture and why did it not fall to the lot of the untouchable to be so initiated? The question is very pertinent and I have raised it because the answer to the question will further reinforce the conclusion that has been reached namely that untouchability is worse than slavery and that is because the slave had a personality and the untouchable has not.
The reason why the master took so much trouble to train the slave and to initiate him in the higher forms of labour and culture was undoubtedly the motive of gain. A skilled slave as an item was more valuable than an unskilled slave. If sold he would fetch better price, if hired out he would bring in more wages. It was therefore an Investment to the owner to train his slave. But this is not enough to account for the elevation of the slave and the degradation of the untouchable. Suppose Roman society had an objection to buy vegetables, milk, butter, water or wine from the hands of the slave? Suppose Roman society had an objection to allow slaves to touch them, to enter their houses, travel with them in cars, etc. would it have been possible for the master to train his slave, to raise him from semi-barbarism to a cultured state? Obviously not. It is because the slave was not held to be an untouchable that the master could train him and raise him. We again come back therefore, to the same conclusion-namely, that what has saved the slave is that his personality was recognised by society and what has ruined the untouchable is that Hindu society did not recognise his personality, treated him as unfit for human association and common dealing.
That the slave in Rome was no less of a man because he was a slave, that he was fit for human intercourse although he was in bondage is proved by the attitude that the Roman Religion had towards the slave. As has been observed—
"....... .Roman religion was never hostile to the slave. It did not close the temple doors against him; it did not banish him from its festivals. If slaves were excluded from certain ceremonies, the same may be said of free men and women-being excluded from the rites of Bono Dea, Vesta and Ceres, women Jrom those of Hercules at the Ara Maxima. In the days when the old Roman divinities counted for some-thing, the slave came to be informally included in the family, and could consider himself under the protection of the gods of the household. . .. . . .Augustus ordered that freed women should be eligible as priestesses of Vesta. The law insisted that a slave's grave should be regarded as sacred and for his soul Roman mythology provided no special heaven and no particular hell. Even Juvenal agrees that the slave, soul and body is made of the same stuff as his master. . . "

There was no stigma attached to his person. There was no gulf social or religious which separated the slave at any rate in Rome from the rest of the society. In outward appearance he did not differ from the free man ; neither colour nor clothing revealed his conditions; he witnessed the same games as the freemen, he shared in the life of the Municipal towns, and employed in state service, engaged himself in trade and commerce as all free men did. Often apparent equality in outward things counts far more to the individual than actual identity of rights before the law. Between the slave and the free, there seems often to have been little social barrier. Marriage between slave and freed slave was very common. The slave status carried no stigma on the man in the society. He was touchable and even respectable.

Enough has been said to show that untouchability is worse than slavery. The only thing that is comparable to it is the case of the Jews in the middle ages. The servility of the Jews does resemble to some extent the condition of the untouchables. But there is this to be said about it. Firstly the discrimination made against the Jews was made upon a basis which is perfectly understandable though not justifiable. It was based upon the Jews obstinacy in the matter of religion. He refused to accept the religion of the gentiles and it is his obstinacy which brought about those penalties. The moment he gave up his obstinacy he was free from his disabilities. This is not the case with the untouchable. His disabilities are not due to the fact that he is a protestant or nonconformist. The second thing to be said about these disabilities of the Jews is that the Jews preferred them to being completely assimilated and lost in the Gentiles. This may appear strange but there are facts to prove it. In this connection reference may be made to two instances recorded in history which typify the attitude of the Jews. The first instance relates to the Napoleonic regime. After the National Assembly of France had agreed to the declaration of the Rights of Man to the Jews, the Jewish question was again reopened by the guild merchants and religious reactionaries of Alsace. Napoleon resolved to submit the question to the consideration of the Jews themselves.
“He convened an Assembly of Jewish Notables of France, Germany and Italy in order to ascertain whether the principles of Judaism were compatible with the requirements of citizenship as he wished to fuse the Jewish element with the dominant population. The Assembly, consisting of I II deputies, met in the Town Hall of Paris on 25th July, 1806, and was required to frame replies to twelve questions relating mainly to the possibility of Jewish patriotism, the permissibility of intermarriage between Jew and non-Jew, and the legality of usury. So pleased was Napoleon with the pronouncements of the Assembly that he summoned a Sanhedrin after the model of the ancient council of Jerusalem to convert them into the decrees of a legislative body. The Sanhedrin, comprising 71 deputies from France, Germany, Holland and Italy, met under the presidency of Rabbi Sinzheim of Strassburg on 9th February 1807, and adopted a sort of charter which exhorted the Jews to look upon France as their father land, to regard its citizens as their brethren, and to speak its language, and which also pressed toleration of marriages between Jews and Christians while declaring that they could not be sanctioned by the synagogue ". It will be noted the Jews refused to sanction intermarriages between Jews and non-Jews. They only agreed to tolerate them. The second instance related to what happened when the Batavian Republic was established in 1795. The more energetic members of the Jewish community pressed for the removal of many disabilities under which they laboured. " But the demand for the full rights of citizenship made by the progressive Jews was at first, strangely enough, opposed by the leaders of the Amsterdam community, who feared that civil equality would militate against the conservation of Judaism and declared that their co-religionists renounced their rights of citizenship in obedience to the dictates of their faith. This shows that the Jews preferred to live as strangers rather than as members of the community. It is as an 'eternal people' that they were singled out and punished. But that is not the case with the untouchables. They too are in a different sense an " eternal people " who are separate from the rest. But this separateness is not the result of their wish. They are punished not because they do not want to mix. They are punished because they want to.
Untouchability is worse than slavery because slave has personality in the Society while the untouchable has no personality has been made abundantly clear. But this is not the only ground why untouchability is worse than slavery. There are others which are not obvious but which are real none-the-less.
Of these the least obvious may be mentioned as the first. Slavery, if it took away the freedom of the slave, it imposed upon the master the duty to maintain the slave in life and body. The slave was relieved of all responsibility in respect of his food, his clothes and his shelter. All this the master was bound to provide. This was of course no burden because the slave earned more than his keep. But a security for board and lodging is not always possible for every freeman as all wage earners now know to their cost. Work is not always available even to those who are ready to toil but a workman cannot escape the rule according to which he gets no bread if he finds no work. This rule, no work no bread, the ebbs and tides of business, the booms and depression are vicissitudes through which all free wage earners have to go. But they do not affect the slave who is free from them. He gets his bread-perhaps the same bread, but bread-whether it is boom or whether it is depression. Untouchability is worse than slavery because it carries no such security as to livelihood as the latter does. No one is responsible for the feeding, housing and clothing of the untouchable. From this point of view untouchability is not only worse than slavery but is positively cruel as compared to slavery. In slavery the master has the obligation to find work for the slave. In a system of free labour workers have to compete with workers for obtaining work. In this scramble for work what chances has the untouchable for a fair deal ? To put it shortly in this competition with the scales always weighing against him by reason of his social stigma he is the last to be employed and the first to be fired. Untouchability is cruelty as compared to slavery because it throws upon the untouchables the responsibility for maintaining without any way of earning his living. From another aspect also untouchability is worse than slavery. The slave was property and that gave the slave an advantage over a free man. Being valuable, the master out of sheer self "interest, took great care of the health and well being of the slave. In Rome the slaves were never employed on marshy and malarial land. On such a land only freemen were employed. Cato advises Roman farmers never to employ slaves on marshy and malarial land. This seems stranger. But a little examination will show that this was quite natural. Slave was valuable property and as such a prudent man who knows his interest must not expose him to the ravages of malaria. The same care need not be taken in the case of free man because he is not valuable property. This consideration resulted to the great benefit of the slave. He was cared for as no one was. This consideration is completely absent in the case of the untouchable. He is neglected and left to starve and die.
The second or rather the third difference between untouchability and slavery is that slavery was never obligatory. But untouchability is obliged. A person is " permitted " to hold another as his slave. There is no compulsion on him if he does not want to. A Hindu on the other hand is “enjoined “to hold another as untouchable. There is compulsion on the Hindu which he cannot escape whatever his personal wishes in the matter may be.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Ronki Ram (Dr.), Department of Political Science, Panjab University, Chandigarh.

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 Gadar 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.


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.

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.