Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Manusmriti Burning Day -Mahendra Jadhav

Manusmriti Burning Day
-Mahendra Jadhav

Today is Christmas, 25th of December. It is celebrated all over the Christian world as the birth of Jesus Christ. But for the whole world of Dalits, it is an important day as "Manu Smruti Dahan Din", as it was on this day in 1927 that Manusmruti was publicly burned by Dr. Ambedkar, during the "Maha-Sangharsha" of Mahad Satyagraha, and is an important mile stone in Dalit struggle against Brahmanism. Let us all remember this day with pride.

Manuvadis had arranged that Ambedkar does not get a ground for meeting, but a Muslim gentleman, Mr. Fattekhan, gave his private land. They had arranged that no supplies of food, water or anything else could be bought, so everything was brought from outside by our men. The volunteers had to take a vow of five items:

1. I do not believe on Chaturvarna based on birth.

2. I do not believe in caste distinctions.

3. I believe that untouchability is an anathema on Hinduism and I will honestly try my best to completely destroy it.

4. Considering that there is no inequality, I will not follow any restrictions about food and drink among at least all Hindus.

5. I believe that untouchables must have equal rights in temples, water sources, schools and other amenities.

Dr. Ambedkar came from Bombay by boat "Padmavati" via Dasgaon port, instead of Dharamtar, though it is longer distance, because in the event of boycott by bus owners, they could walk down five miles to Mahad.

Some people later tried to say that Dr. Ambedkar decided to burn Manusmruti at the eleventh hour, as he had to withdraw the programme of drinking water from Chavadar Tank under court orders and persuasion by the Collector. That is not true, because right in front of the pendal of the meeting a "vedi" was created beforehand to burn Manusmruti. Six people were labouring for two days to prepare it. A pit six inches deep and one and half foot square was dug in, and filled with sandle wood pieces. On its four corners, poles were erected, bearing banners on three sides. Banners said,
1. "Manusmruti chi dahan bhumi", i.e. Crematorium for Manusmruti.
2. Destroy Untouchability and
3. Bury the Brahmanism.

On 25th December, 1927, at 9 p.m., the book of Manusmruti was kept on this and burned at the hands of Bapusahib Sahastrabuddhe and another five six dalit sadhus.

In the pendal, there as only one photo, and that was of M. Gandhi, so it seems, dalit leaders including Dr. Ambedkar had yet to be disillusioned at Gandhi. At the meeting there was Babasahib's historical speech. The main points of speech:

We have to understand why we are prevented from drinking water from this tank. He explained Chaturvarna, and declared that our struggle is to destroy the fetters of Chaturvarna, this was the starting point of the struggle for equality. He compared that meeting with the meeting of 24th Jan. 1789, when Loui XVI of France had called a meeting of French people’s representatives. This meeting killed king and queen, harassed and massacred the upper classes, remaining were banished, property of the rich was confiscated, and it started a fifteen year long civil war. People have not grasped the importance of this Revolution. This Revolution was the beginning of the prosperity of not only France but whole of Europe and has revolutionized the whole World. He explained French Revolution in detail. He then explained that our aim is not only to remove untouchabilty but to destroy chaturvarna, as the root cause lies there. He explained how Patricians deceived Plebeians in the name of religion. The root of untouchabilty lies in prohibition of inter-caste marriages, that we have to break, he thundered. He appealed to higher varnas to let this "Social Revolution" take place peacefully, discard the sastras, and accept the principle of justice, and he assured them peace from our side. Four resolutions were passed and a Declaration of Equality was pronounced. After this, Manusmruti was burned as mentioned above.

There was a strong reaction in Brahmanical press. Babasahib was called "Bheemaasura" by one paper. Dr. Ambedkar justified the burning of Manusmruti in various articles. He ridiculed those people that they have not read the Manusmruti, and declared that we will never accept it. For those who say it is an outdated booklet so why give importance to it, he invited attention to atrocities on dalits and said, these are because Hindus are following this book. And further asked, if it is outdated, how it matters to you if somebody burns it. For those who enquire, what is achieved by dalits by burning it, he retorted, what M. Gandhi achieved by burning foreign clothes, what was achieved by burning "Dnyana-prakash" which published about marriage of Khan-Malini, what was achieved by those who burned Miss Mayo's book "Mother India" in New York, what was achieved by boycotting Simon Commission formed to frame political reforms? These were the forms of registering the protests, so was ours against Manusmruti.

He further declared, that if unfortunately, this burning of Manusmruti does not result in destruction of "Brahmanya", we will have to either burn the "brahmanya-grast" people (i.e. affected by brahmanism), or renounce Hinduism.

Let all of us pay tribute to this great day.
JayBhim! JayBhim !! JayBhim!!!

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Bhagwan Das: A Profile

Mr. Bhagwan Das was born in an Untouchable family at Jutogh Cantonment, Simla (Himachel Pradesh) India on 23 April 1927. He served in the Royal Indian Air Force during World War II and after demobilisation served in different capacities in various departments of Government of India at Saharanpur, Simla and Delhi. He did M.A. in History (Punjab University) and LL.B from Delhi University. He did research on the ‘Indianisation of the Audit Department from 1840-1915. He had been contributing articles and short stories to various papers and journals published in India.
His father Mr. Ram Ditta was fond of reading newspapers and a great admirer of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar. Inspired and encouraged by his father, Mr. Das worked with Mr. T. R. Baidwan of Simla who was the most prominent leader of the Untouchables in Simla Hills, and joined the Scheduled Castes Federation at the tender age of 16. Since then he had been actively associated with the Ambedkarin movement and had done a great deal to promote the ideas of Babasaheb Ambedkar and to unite and uplift the downtrodden not only of India but also of other countries of Asia. Mr. Das was associated with many organisations of lawyers, Buddhists, Scheduled Castes and Minorities in India. General Secretary, United Lawyers Association, Supreme Court, New Delhi; General Secretary. Bouddh Upasak Sangh, New Delhi; Founder Chairman, Ambedkar Mission Society, which has branches in many parts of the world; Revived Samata Sainik Dal (Vounteers for Equality) founded by Dr. Ambedkar in 1926-27; Regional Secretary (North). Indian Buddhist Council; Founder, Society for the Protection of Non-Smokers. Founder President of Society for Promoting Buddhist Knowledge; Edited Samata Sainik Sandesh (English) 1980-1990.
Mr. Das had been associated with the ‘Peace Movement’ since the end of World War II, in which he served on the Eastern Front with the R.A.F. under South East Asia Command. He was one of the founder members of the World Conference on Religion and Peace (India) and had participated in the Conferences held in Kyoto, Japan, 1970; Princeton USA (1979), Seoul, Korea (1986); Nairobi. Kenya (1984); Melbourne Australia (1989). He was appointed Director, Asian Centre for Human Rights (Asian Conference on Religion and Peace) in 1980 and continued to serve in this capacity till 2004 monitoring the news of violation of human rights in Asian countries and organising camps for training of human ‘ rights workers, speaking and writing for the cause.

Mr. Das was invited to deliver a lecture on ‘Discrimination by the Peace University, Tokyo (1980) and also addressed several meetings organised by the Burakumins
of Japan. Gave testimon before the United Nations in regard to the plight o Untouchables in South Asia, in the meeting of sub-committee on Human Rights held at Geneva, Switzerland in August 1983. He visited England in 1975. 1983, 1988, 1990 and 1991 in connection with lectures and seminars. He participated in the seminar held in ‘Hull University in 1990 as a representative of the Ambedkar Centenary Celebration Committee UK and also held a seminar on Human Rights in India at London University, School of Asian and Oriental Studies in February 1991.
He was invited to deliver Ambedkar Memorial Lectures in Milind Mahavidyalya, Aurangahad (1970), Marathwada University (1983); Nagpur University, PWS College, Nagpur; Ambedkar College, Chanderpur, Amrraoti University 1990.
Mr. Das also visited Nepal (1980 and 1990), Pakistan (1989), Thailand (1988), Singapore (1989) and Canada (1979) to study the problems f deprived and disadvantaged members of society, women and children. Delivered lectures in Wisconsin University (USA) 1979 and North- field College (USA) on Castes in contemporary India. He was invited to give lectures on Dr Ambedkar at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Moscow in June, 1990.

Mr. Das practiced law in the Supreme Court of India. With a view to improving the professional competence of and helping upcoming advocates belonging to Untouchable and indigenous groups he founded Ambedkar Mission Lawyers Association and Legal Aid Society in 1989. He was General Secretary of ‘Professions for People’, an organisation founded in Delhi to elevate professional standards.

Mr. Das was invited to preside at the Dalit and Buddhist Writers Conference held at Akola in 1989 and was closely associated with various organisations of Dalit Writers.
Mr. Das had written more than five hundred articles, papers for seminars, short stories for various newspapers and journals. His papers on ‘Revival of Buddhism’, ‘Some problems of minorities in India’, ‘Reservation in Public Services’ have been published in Social Action brought out by Indian Social Institute, New Delhi and Delhi University Buddhist Department. He wrote many papers on Reservation and Representative Bureaucracy, Discrimination against the Dalits in Public Services, Minorities, etc.
He was a member for the ‘Committee for evolving new strategies for the development of Scheduled Castes and Tribes - VIII Plan’ set up by the Government of India and also a member of Ambedkar Centenary Committee of the Government of India. Mr. Das had written many books in Urdu, English and Hindi on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Untouchables, Scavengers and Sweepers, Human Rights, Discrimination, etc. Prominent among them are Thus Spoke Ambedkar (Vol I to V, Ed); Ambedkar on Gandhi and Gandhism (Ed); Ambedkar Ek Parichey Ek Sandesh (Hindi); Main Bhangi hoon, the story of an Indian sweeper told in the first- person (this book has been translated into Punjabi, Kannada and Marathi and German), Valmiki aur Bhangi Jatian (Hindi); Valmiki (Hindi); Dhobi (Hindi). He translated into Urdu former President of the USA Lyndon Johnson’s ‘My. Hope for America’, Dr Ambedkar’s ‘Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah’in to Urdu besides editing Bhadant Anand Kaushalyayan’s Gita ki Buddhivadi Samiksha.
Other books in print were Reservation and Representative Bureaucracy in India; Untouchables in the Indian Army (Mahar, Mazhbi, Chuhra, Pariahs, Mangs, Dhanuks, Dusadhs, Chamars, Kolis, Bheels); Mandal Commission and the Future of Backward Classes; Twenty-Two Oaths of Buddhism and Conversion; Ravidassis and Balmikis of Northern India; Buddhism and Marxism; Ambedkar as a Religious Leader.

Mr. Das had toured almost the whole of India to study the problems of Hindu-Muslim riots, religious conflicts, atrocities committed on the Untouchables and tribal people, with the group ‘Threat to Diversity’, ‘Swaraj Mukti Morcha and as Chairman, Samata Sainik Dal.
We were expecting much more from Mr. Bhagwan Das but he suddenly departed from us on 8.11.2010. It was a great loss to the followers of Baba Saheb.I think to work on his guidelines for carrying forward the Ambedkarite movement will be a true tribute to him.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Dr. Ambedkar’s Strategies Against
Untouchability and the Caste System

Christophe Jaffrelot

Working Paper Series
Indian Institute of Dalit Studies
New Delhi


Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS) has been amongst the first research
organisations in India to focus exclusively on development concerns of
the marginalised groups and socially excluded communities. Over the last
six years, IIDS has carried-out several studies on different aspects of social
exclusion and discrimination of the historically marginalised social groups,
such as the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Religious Minorities
in India and other parts of the sub-continent. The Working Paper Series
disseminates empirical findings of the ongoing research and conceptual
development on issues pertaining to the forms and nature of social
exclusion and discrimination. Some of our papers critically examine inclusive
policies for the marginalised social groups in Indian society as well as in
other countries.
This working paper is based on the first Ambedkar Memorial Lecture
organized by Indian Institute of Dalit Studies (IIDS) in 2008 and delivered
by the well-known French Scholars of Indian studies, Professor Christophe
Jaffrelot. Professor Jaffrelot’s book on Dr. Ambedkar and Untouchability:
Analysing and Fighting Caste has been widely regarded as an important
contribution to Ambedkar Studies. Taking forward his work, Professor
Jaffrelot provides us in this paper an overview and understanding of the
different strategies that Dr. Ambedkar experimented with during public
life to work for uplift of ex-untouchable communities of India. Professor
Jaffrelot identifies four different strategies that Ambedkar used in his
struggle. First of all he tried to write an alternative history of the exuntouchables and gave them a new identity of being “sons of the soil”.
Second, he experimented with electoral politics to gain representation
for “his people”. Third he worked with those in power and tried to
articulate the voice of India’s Dalit masses. He worked both with colonial
rulers and with the Congress Party with a single minded purpose of
representing the Dalit case. The final strategy of Ambedkar discussed by
Professor Jaffrelot for Dalit liberation was conversion to Buddhism.
IIDS gratefully acknowledges Christian Aid (India) for funding our first
Ambedkar Memorial Lecture and publication of the Working Paper series.
We hope our Working Papers will be helpful to academics, students,
activists, civil society organisations and policymaking bodies.
Surinder S. Jodhka
Director, IIDS


1. Introduction 1
2. Identity Building: Untouchables As Sons of the Soil 2
3. Electoral Politics: From Separate Electorate
to Party-building 3
4. Working with the Rulers: From the British Raj
to the Congress Raj 6
5. Conversion, the Ultimate Strategy 11
6. Conclusion 16
Endnotes 17
References 22

Dr. Ambedkar’s Strategies Against
Untouchability and the Caste System
Christophe Jaffrelot

1. Introduction

Dr. Ambedkar analysed Hindu society before starting his struggle against
untouchability and the caste system. He was a scholar as much as a man of
action – in any case before becoming one. In his writings, Ambedkar tried hard
to show the mechanisms of the caste system and clarified the origin of
untouchability in order to support his fight for equality. For him, if the lower
castes were not in a position to overthrow their oppressors, it was because of
two reasons: they had partially internalised hierarchy; and because of the very
characteristics of caste-based inequality. The internalisation of hierarchy was
largely due to what M.N. Srinivas was to call the sanskritisation process that
Ambedkar, in fact, had identified more than 20 years before. As early as in
1916, Ambedkar presented his first research paper at Columbia University and
explained that the caste system could not have been imposed by the Brahmins
over society, but that it took shape when they were able to persuade other
groups that their values were universally superior and that they had to be
emulated by others, including endogamy, a marital rule which closed the system
upon itself1.
The kind of inequality inherent in the caste system is called “graded inequality”
by Ambedkar in a very perceptive way. In Untouchables or the Children of the
India’s Ghetto, he contrasts it with other varieties of inequality which were
not so difficult to abolish or correct2. In the Ancient Regime, the Third State
was able to raise itself against the aristocracy and the monarchy. In industrial
societies, the working class can raise itself against the bourgeoisie. The type
of inequality from which the caste ridden society suffers is of a different kind
because its logic divides the dominated groups and, therefore, prevents them
from overthrowing the oppressor. In a society of “graded inequality”, the
Bahujan Samaj is divided into the lower castes (Shudras) and the Dalits and
the Shudras and the Dalits themselves are divided into many jatis. One of the
main objectives of Dr. Ambedkar was first to unite the Dalits and, then, the
Bahujan Samaj and, second to endow them with a separate identity that would
offer them an alternative route out of sanskritisation. In order to achieve this
two-fold objective, he implemented five different strategies in the course of
his almost four-decade long public career.

2. Identity Building: Untouchables As Sons of the Soil

Ambedkar tried to endow the lower castes with a glorious history of sons of
the soil to help them acquire an alternative – not-caste based – identity, to
regain their self respect and overcome their divisions. In The Untouchables,
who were they and why they became Untouchables? (1948), Ambedkar refutes
Western authors explaining caste hierarchy by resorting to racial factors3. His
interpretation is strikingly complicated. He explains that all primitive societies
have been one day or the other conquered by invaders who raised themselves
above the native tribes. In breaking up, these tribes as a matter of rule give
birth to a peripheral group that he calls the Broken Men.
When the conquerors became stationary then, they resorted to the services of
these Broken Men to protect themselves from the attacks of the tribes which
remained nomadic. The Broken Men therefore found refuge, as guards of
villages, in the suburbs of the latter because it was more logical from a point
of view of topography and because the victorious tribes did not accept
foreigners, of a different blood, within their group. Ambedkar applied this
theory to India by presenting the Untouchables as the descendants of the Broken
Men (Dalit, in Marathi) and, therefore, the original inhabitants of India, before
the conquest of this country by the Aryan invaders4.
According to Ambedkar these Broken Men were the most constant followers of
Buddha soon after he began his teachings in the 6th century BC. And they
remained Buddhists when the rest of the society returned to the Hindu fold
under the pressure of Brahmins. Ambedkar drew two conclusions from it:
“It explains why the Untouchables regard the Brahmins as inauspicious, do not
employ them as their priests and do not even allow them to enter into their
quarters. It also explains why the Broken Men came to be regarded as
Untouchables. The Broken Men hated the Brahmins because the Brahmins were
the enemies of Buddhism and the Brahmins imposed untouchability upon the
Broken Men because they would not leave Buddhism5.”

3 Dr. Ambedkar’s Strategies Against Untouchability and the Caste System
Christophe Jaffrelot

Thus, Ambedkar did not contend himself with elaborating a theory of castes
which culminated in the idea of graded inequality; he also devised an untouchable
tradition susceptible to remedy the former. If they recognised themselves as
sons of the soils and Buddhists, the Untouchables could better surmount their
divisions into so many jatis and take a stand together as an ethnic group
against the system in its entirety. Omvedt underlines that by the end of his life
Ambedkar was working on a grand theory of the origin of the Untouchables and
the conflict between their civilisation and Hinduism. The notion of autochthony
played a key role in this theory. Ambedkar argued that if Hindu India had been
invaded by Muslims, Buddhist India had been subjugated by Brahmins outsiders
much before. Omvedt considers that there was ‘a racial ethnic element in all
of this, in which Ambedkar identifies his heroes to some extent with non-
Aryans, for instance, arguing that the Mauryan empire was that of the Nagas…’6
3. Electoral Politics: From Separate Electorate to Party-building
The young Ambedkar was consulted at the beginning of 1919 by the
Southborough committee, the body which had been entrusted with redefining
electoral franchise within the framework of the constitutional reform -that
was to be called “Montford”, after the names of Montagu and Chelmsford.
Unlike the other Dalit leaders who had been consulted, Ambedkar did not owe
this hearing to the fact of belonging to any association but because he was the
only Untouchable who held a graduate degree in the Bombay Province. In his
testimony, he explained that the real line of cleavage, among the Hindus, was
set not between the Brahmin and non-Brahmin but between the
“Touchables” and Untouchables. He thus rejected an electoral system which
would be based on territorial constituencies because the latter would then be
in a minority and therefore deprived of representation. As a remedy, he
recommended “either to reserve seats […] for those minorities that can not,
otherwise, secure personal representation or grant communal electorates”7.
The two options then seemed equally valid to him8.
Before the Simon Commission, in 1928, Ambedkar submitted a memorandum
on behalf of his association, the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha. He argued in
favour of the granting of universal franchise and a quota of seats for the
Untouchables rather than for separate electorates9. He explained, during his
speech before a delegation of the Simon Commission at Poona, that in case
universal suffrage was not being granted for the Dalits, then he would campaign
for separate electorates10. This stand suggests that he still nurtured great
hopes towards the upper castes and that he still had nationalist scruples which
prevented him from severing his links with social and political mainstream.
The report of the Simon Commission finally granted reserved seats to the
Depressed Classes, but candidates who would take part in them would have,
first of all, to get their competence endorsed by the governor of the province.
This profoundly annoyed Ambedkar. Anyway, this report remained a dead letter
since the main political force of the country – the Congress – had not been
involved in its making. To get out of this deadlock, a Conference was held in
London in 1930, and then a Second Round Table Conference in 1931. None of
them bore fruits.
The arbitration given by the British following the Second Round Table Conference
as regards the status of various communities in the Constitution to come,
called the Communal Award, was announced on August, 1932. This award
recognised the right of the Untouchables to have a separate electorate.
Henceforth they were given the right to vote at the same moment within the
framework of general constituencies and within 71 separate constituencies
which could only be filled up by Dalit candidates. Immediately, Gandhi, who
was then imprisoned at Poona for having revived the Civil Disobedience
Movement, went on fast. A few days later, he proposed Ambedkar that the
Untouchables should benefit from a number of reserved seats larger than the
one that would have come to them within the framework of the separate
electorate, in exchange for the renunciation by him of this system. Ambedkar
had to resign himself to this defeat. “The Poona Pact” finally established a
system of reserved seats, in which 148 seats (instead of 71 as put forward by
the Communal Award) were granted to the Untouchables in the Legislative
Council. But it excluded the principle of separate electorates: in 148
constituencies – those where the Untouchables were the most numerous - the
members of the Depressed Classes (the official phrase) would designate by
themselves the four Dalit Leaders who would be the candidates among whom
all the voters of the constituency, mixed of all castes, would then have to elect
their representative11. This scheme, as a matter of fact, ruined the hopes of
Dr. Ambedkar of constituting the Dalits into a political force before which
elected MPs and MLAs would have to be accountable.
Dr. Ambedkar, yet, continued to pursue an election-based strategy by creating
a political party, the Independent Labour Party, in 1936. The ILP, as its name
indicated, was not intended to be confined to the Untouchables. As party
president, Dr. Ambedkar tried to set up himself as a leader of the “labouring
masses”. This shift was largely due to his need for an electoral strategy. He
had become aware of the necessity of widening his social basis. Indeed, the
Untouchables appeared only as labourers in the program of the ILP, which pays
a lot of attention to economic questions and to a criticism of capitalism.
Ambedkar considered that the Indian labourers were victims, at the same
moment of Brahminism and capitalism (Brahmanshahi and Bhandwalshahi),
the two systems dominated by the same group12.
At the same time, Dr. Ambedkar did not believe in Marxism.Caste hierarchies
were the most important ones in his view and they had (almost) nothing to do
with the groups’ relationship to the means of production. The contradiction
between the philosophy projected by the ILP and the speeches of Dr. Ambedkar
justifying his rejection of Marxism is however obvious: on the one hand, he
claimed to represent the labourers in general; on the other, he denied a real
significance to class analysis and emphasized that caste remained the basic
unit of society.
This contradiction was evident from the results of the 1937 election: most of
the candidates of the ILP were Dalits, and among them, a large majority was
Mahar; on the list of candidates, there was only one Mang and the other non
Mahar was an Untouchable from Gujarat. The Chambhars, whose level of socioeconomic
development was superior to that of the Mangs, but also to that of
the Mahars were not at all represented in the ranks of the party. Dr. Ambedkar
resigned himself to his status of Dalit leader in 1942 when he founded the
Scheduled Castes Federation (Dalit Federation in Marathi). The Scheduled
Castes, in this perspective, had to be considered as a minority in the same
way as the Muslims and, as a consequence, had to get the benefit, not only of
a separate electorate, but also of separate territories.
Reacting to the Cripps proposals, the Executive Committee of the SCF declared
in September, 1944 in Madras that “the Scheduled Castes are a distinct and
separate element in the national life of India and that they are a religious
minority in a sense far more real than the Sikhs and Muslims can be and within
the meaning of the Cripps Proposals”13. Another resolution stipulated that no
Constitution would be acceptable to the Scheduled Castes if it did not have
their approval. Now, this proposition was conditional to the fulfillment of several
demands: a separate electorate, a guarantee of representation within the
executive power and a toll tax for their own villages14. The notion of Dalit
villages took shape around the same time. In 1944, Ambedkar confited to a
British officer – Beverley Nicholas:

“In every village there is a tiny minority of Untouchables. I want to gather
those minorities together and make them into majorities. This means a
tremendous work of organisationn – transferring populations, building new
villages. But we can do it, if only we are allowed [by the British]15. »
The SCF lost heavily in the 1945-46 elections. The party gained only two seats
in the provincial assemblies, one in Bengal, the other one in the Central Provinces
and Berar. This setback was partly due to the voting system16. Another
explanation for the defeat of the SCF laid in the very small number of candidates
nominated by the party: the SCF could not field any in 129 out of the 151
reserved seats for Untouchables. This situation reflected the weakness of the
party’s organization. As Bandyopadhyay points out: “the Federation had no
organizational machinery »17. It had no network of party branches and only a
handful of cadres. In fact, the party’s activities relied on the shoulders of
In addition to the SCF’s lack of organization, its defeat was also due to the
remarkable popularity of the Congress, including among the Untouchables,
because of its dedication to the freedom movement. In contrast, Ambedkar
would be termed ‘un-patriotic’ because of his joining the Viceroy’s government.
The SCF won only two seats in the Lok Sabha, one in Hyderabad and the other
in the Bombay Presidency where Ambedkar was defeated and where the
performance of the party was very much lower than his expectation.
The political parties created by Ambedkar in the 1930s and 1940s oscillated
between a socialist-like program aiming to widen his caste base and an effort
to defend the interests of the Untouchables alone. None of these strategies
proved to be successful and the setbacks registered by the SCF led Dr. Ambedkar
to return to a non-caste based party-building exercise with the creation of the
Republican Party of India, which was to see the light after his demise – but
which was to meet the same electoral faith as his predecessors.
4. Working with the Rulers: From the British Raj to the Congress Raj
Dr. Ambedkar’s political action was not confined only to his efforts to develop
parties. He also tried hard to influence the governments in his personal capacity,
whether they were of the British or Congress, for better serving the cause of
the Untouchables. Under the British Raj, Ambedkar was prisoner for some
time of a dilemma: on the one hand, he rejected the movement for
independence given that it was dominated by a party, the Congress, which he
saw as the expression of the upper castes, whereas he found himself closer to
the British, with whom he shared egalitarian values and from whom he hoped
for a protection against the “caste Hindus”. On the other hand, he was an
Indian and could not resign himself to see his country dominated by a foreign
power, which, on the top of it, trampled the values of equality, freedom and
brotherhood that he cherished most. After years of hesitations, in the 1930s,
his hostility towards the Congress eventually overrode his nationalist feelings.
He then expected from his rapprochement with the British substantial gains
for the Untouchables.
He was named in July 1941 to the Defence Advisory Committee set up by the
Viceroy to involve the Indian leaders in the war effort and to give to this
forced participation of India in the conflict a greater legitimacy. One year
later, he entered the Executive Council of the Viceroy as Labour Member, an
office that he hoped to use for improving the condition of the Untouchables.
Indeed, he worked relentlessly to develop the social legislation. One of the
most significant bills that Ambedkar managed to have passed was the Indian
Trade Unions (Amendment) Bill, making compulsory the recognition of a trade
union in every enterprise provided it fulfilled certain conditions, particularly in
terms of representation.
In November, 1943, assessing his governmental actions during a meeting,
Ambedkar emphasized above all the fact that henceforth 8.33 percent of the
posts of the national administration were reserved for the Scheduled Castes,
as it was already the case previously in Madras Presidency, that places were
also reserved for them in the institutions of technical education in London,
that the quota in the Central Assembly had been increased by one seat and
that a seat was reserved for them in the Council of the State (the Upper House
of what was meant to be a Parliament)18.
The cooperation of Ambedkar with the British did not allow him to achieve his
objectives in terms of association of the Dalits to the negotiations preceding
independence – after the defeat of the SCF in the 1945-46 elections, Dr.
Ambedkar was not listened to any more. However, he obtained substantial
concessions for the Untouchables, in terms of representation in the
administration for instance. The fact that India was very fast moving from
1946 towards independence brought him, a pragmatist par excellence, however
to get closer to the Congress, the obvious candidate for power. Dr. Ambedkar’s
pragmatic approach to politics is not to be mistaken for a pure opportunism.
For he did not change allies because of the posts which one or the other could
offer to him, but according to what could best serve the cause of the
In August 1947, Nehru made Ambedkar, doubtless under Gandhi’s19 pressure,
his Law Minister in the first government of independent India. Ambedkar
accepted the invitation of the Prime Minister because, as he said later, “in the
first place the offer was not subject to any condition and secondly it was
easier to serve the interests of the Scheduled Castes from inside of the
government than from outside”20. As member of the Constituent Assembly, Dr.
Ambedkar did not have his say in a systematic manner, though. His disillusion
with his taking part in the Minorities committee headed by Sardar Patel is a
case in point. Ambedkar proposed to the committee that at least the candidate
of a minority should be declared elected only if a minimal proportion of the
members of his group (here he had in mind the Untouchables) voted for him,
but he was not followed by the sub-committee. Patel emphasised that such a
scheme would be as harmful as separate electorates21.
Dr. Ambedkar, however, was in a position to make a strong impact on the
making of the Constitution after he was appointed president of the “Drafting
Committee”. This Committee, while it was not responsible for drafting the
primary texts, had the essential function to get these into shape on the basis
of articles proposed by other, issue-based, Committees, before submitting
them to the Constituent Assembly. The Assembly made several readings and,
each time, Drafting Committee members – and most often its chairman, Dr.
Ambedkar – guided and channelised the discussion. In addition, he was one of
the few members of the Constituent Assembly who belonged, besides the
Drafting Committee, at the same time, to more than one of the 15 Committees
– including the “Minorities Committee” where safeguards for the Dalits were
discussed22. On this account he was able to follow closely all along the debates
on articles as important as those concerning the rights of the mi norities.Most
importantly, as president of the Drafting Committee, it was to him that were
sent the propositions of the various committees. Therefore, it was for him,
and the secretary of the committee, S.N. Mukherjee, to whom he would pay
later a warm homage, to reformulate the obscure articles –and most of them
needed some clarification work. These editorial tasks also rested largely on
his shoulders because of the chronic absenteeism from which the Drafting
Committee suffered.

Dr. Ambedkar defended in the Constituent Assembly values and political models
with which he had become immersed since his youth during his studies in the
United States and England. This moved him closer to Nehru but brought him to
take contrary positions to Gandhi. Like Nehru, Ambedkar believed in
parliamentary democracy. He opposed moreover the criticisms of the left which
wanted to qualify the Indian Republic, from the very first article of the
Constitution, as “socialist”. According to him, this would have had the effect
“simply of destroying democracy”23, because it was for the government
designated by the people to choose the best form of social organization, as he
explained it on November 19, 194824. Another indication of his attachment to
the values of liberal democracy was found in his proposing an amendment in
favour of a strict separation of executive power and the judiciary25. Some
representatives opposed it in the name of the authority of the State, by arguing
that too strict a legal control would weaken it. Nehru took part in this debate
even though his responsibilities as Prime Minister did not let him much time,
because he wanted to support Dr. Ambedkar’s amendment26. It was adopted
and became article 50 of the Directive Principles. Dr. Ambedkar later defended
the setting up of a judicial system of British inspiration27. In his view, separationof powers would not, on any account, weaken the State.
Dr. Ambedkar was, on the contrary, a supporter of a strong Centre, on grounds
that too much federalism would hamper the uniform application of the
Constitution on the entire territory of India. He argued, for example, that the
article abolishing untouchability (see below) would not be evenly enforced if
the states enjoyed too large an autonomy28. This centralizing option offended
naturally the supporters of Gandhi, who had always appeared very concerned
about decentralizing power right up to the village level. In a sense, Ambedkar
took, at the Constituent Assembly, a posthumous revenge on the Mahatma
since he succeeded in pushing aside the propositions of the most radical
Gandhians, or at least weakened their influence regarding Panchayati Raj,
Cow protection, etc.
If none of the articles of this text abolished castes, the discriminations based
on religion, race, caste, sex and birth-place were declared illicit because of
the paramount importance of the right to equality, which was to become Article
15 in the 1950 Constitution. It prohibited also any limitation based on the
same criteria concerning access to shops, restaurants, hotels, public places
dedicated to leisure activities, wells, streets and other public places benefiting
from any financial support by the State. Above all, Article 17 abolished
untouchability. Hard labour and any other begar (forms of servitude often
hereditary of which the Dalits were the first victims) were declared illegal by
the Article 23.
However, Dr. Ambedkar failed to make a strong impact on one of his priority
areas that is personal laws a key domain for social reform. During the debates
in the Constituent Assembly, he had demonstrated his will to reform Indian
society by recommending the adoption of a Civil Code of western inspiration.
He had then opposed the delegates who wished to maintain personal laws,
especially Muslim representatives who appeared to be very concerned with the
fate of the Sharia. As a result, Dr. Ambedkar did not obtain anything more than
an article of the Directive Principles stipulating that: “The State shall endeavour
to secure for the citizens a uniform civil code throughout the territory of
After the promulgation of the Constitution, Dr. Ambedkar militated in favour
of the reform of the Hindu personal law. He wanted to implement in a revised
manner the Hindu Code Bill that the British had gradually evolved. After more
than one century of legislation – ranging from the Abolition of Sati (1829) to
the Hindu Women’s Right to Property Act (1937) – they had decided in the
1940s to consolidate in one code the reformed Hindu personal law. Among its
main provisions were the facts that daughters were given a share of the
inheritance along with sons after the demise of parents, the widows were
granted absolute estate, monogamy was a rule of law and divorce was allowed
under certain circumstances. The Code was introduced in the legislature in
April 1947 but the political circumstances – Independence and Partition – did
not allow this body to discuss the text. In 1948, Nehru entrusted the drafting
of the new code to a sub-committee of the Assembly and nominated Dr.
Ambedkar as its head29. The latter got written in it essential principles such as
equality between men and women on the question of property and adoption,
the granting of legal status to monogamous marriage only, the elimination of
‘caste bar in the civil marriage’30 and the necessity of justifying concretely a
petition for divorce – a procedure which too often until then was a case of a
repudiation of the wife by her husband31. This questioning of the customs
governing the private life of the Hindus aroused a profound emotion, not only
among the traditionalists of the Hindu Mahasabha, but also among leaders of
the Congress including Rajendra Prasad, who, after being president of the
Constituent Assembly had become the first President of the Indian Republic32.
Many other Congress bosses, including the party president, Pattabhi Sita
Ramayyan, opposed the bill, lest it could alienate the local notables –
conservative landholders in the largest part – before the general elections of
Jawaharlal Nehru was attached to this code in which he saw, quite as Dr.
Ambedkar, one of the corner stones of the modernisation of India. He even
announced that his government would resign if this bill was not passed33. Dr.
Ambedkar pressed him to submit it as quickly as possible to the Parliament.
The Prime Minister asked him for a little bit of patience and even split the
Code into four subsets for defusing the opposition before submitting it to the
Assembly on 17 September 1951. The debate which followed confirmed then
the hostility of the most traditionalist Congressmen. Finally, on September 25,
the portion of the Hindu Code Bill concerning marriage and divorce was deformed
by amendments and finally buried without Nehru uttering the least protest.
Considering that he had not been supported enough by the Prime Minister,
Ambedkar sent him his letter of resignation from his government on 27
The strategy of collaboration with the rulers had shown its limits, but it had
bore fruits. The modernisation of the Indian society that the Constitution was
supposed to permit could give hope to Dr. Ambedkar of the advent of a more
egalitarian society. But he left the government a bitter man – and he became
even more disillusioned with the political system after losing his seat in
Parliament in the 1951-52 elections. He then returned to a strategy he had
thought about before: conversion out of Hinduism.
5. Conversion, the Ultimate Strategy
The idea of converting to another religion in order to escape from the caste
system logically ensued from Ambedkar’s analysis of Hinduism, whose originality
and strength laid in its demonstration that in this civilisation social hierarchy
was consubstantial to religion. To leave it was thus the only means to attain
The first reference made by Ambedkar to a conversion of the Untouchables
dates back to 1927. During the Mahad Conference, he had indeed declared:
“We want equal rights in society. We will achieve them as far as possible while
remaining within the Hindu fold or, if necessary by kicking away this worthless
Hindu identity. And if it becomes necessary to give up Hinduism it would no
longer be necessary for us to bother about temples 35”. On 29 March 1927,
during the Jalgaon (Berar) Depressed Classes Conference, which he chaired, a
resolution was voted in this direction. Some days later, a dozen Mahars converted
to Islam to the great displeasure of the many orthodox Hindus who acted
immediately in a way that the Untouchables of the region had an access to two
new water wells36. The fear of en masse conversions of the Untouchables seemed
to open the possibility of an intense blackmail. Dr. Ambedkar saw however
conversion as a strategy only at the beginning of the 1930s.
Dr. Ambedkar announced his decision to leave Hinduism in 1935, during the
famous Yeola Conference: “The disabilities we have suffered, and the
indignities we had to put up with, were the result of our being the members of
the Hindu community. Will it not be better for us to leave that fold and embrace
a new faith that would give us equal status, a secure position and rightful
treatment? I advise you to severe your connection with Hinduism and to embrace
any other religion. But, in doing so, be careful in choosing the new faith and
see that equality of treatment, status and opportunities will be guaranteed to
you unreservedly. ( ...) Unfortunately for me I was born a Hindu Untouchable.
It was beyond my power to prevent that, but, I declare that it is within my
power to refuse to live under ignoble and humiliating conditions. I solemnly
assure you that I will not die a Hindu”37.
After comparing different religions and the willingness of their leaders in India
to welcome the Untouchables, Dr. Ambedkar announced his preference for
Sikhism in August 1936, because he thought “to have some responsibility as
for the future of the Hindu culture and civilisation38” and did not want to beak
with the majority community. In September 1936, he sent a delegation of 13
of his supporters to Amritsar to study the Sikh religion39. In November, he went
to England to sound out the British leaders about the guarantees which they
would be ready to grant in the new Constitution to the Untouchables who would
have converted to Sikhism40. The British authorities replied that these provisions
would apply only to the Sikhs of Punjab, which, in his views, was an irrelevant
proposition. At the beginning of 1937, negotiations continued between Dr.
Ambedkar and the Sikh leaders but meetings became less frequent and by the
end of the year Dr. Ambedkar ceased to mention the idea of conversion.
This turnabout cannot be explained only by the response of the British to his
demand of extension of the Sikh quota to the converts. Among the other factors
accounting for his decision were first the fact that Sikh Dalits had conveyed to
Dr. Ambedkar the atrocities they suffered at the hands of the Jats – which
undermine all hope of emancipation41and, second, the opposition to such
massive conversion among the Sikh political class: the Akalis – including Master
Tara Singh – feared that the leadership of the community would be taken over
or, at least, that their authority would be diluted42. The challenge that a mass
conversion would have represented for the upper caste Hindus also made Dr.
Ambedkar afraid of the retaliatory measures, some of which, as testified by
the threats of social boycott, had already materialised in 1935-36.
When Dr. Ambekar contemplated conversion once again, in the context of the
1950s that we had mentioned above, he chose Buddhism. The familiarity of
Ambedkar with Buddhism goes back up to his youth. In 1908 one of his teachers,
K.A. (alias Dada) Keluskar, impressed by his aptitude, had offered him on the
occasion of his success in the Matriculation examination, the biography of
Lord Buddha he had published 10 years before. This text exercised a profound
influence on his mind43, even though he never referred to it for years. In 1934,
he built at Dadar (Bombay) a house that he named as Rajgriha, the name of
the capital of ancient Buddhists kings of Bihar.
In 1935-36, during the first movement in favour of conversion, he did not
envisage leaving Hinduism for Buddhism. But his interest in this religion grew
in the mid-1940s, as he named his first college Siddharth, after the first name
of Buddha44. In 1948, he republished The Essence of Buddhism whose author,
Lakshman Narasu, as he emphasised it in the foreword, fought against castes
and against British authoritarianism. The same year, he published The
Untouchables, a work in which he presented Untouchables as the descendants
of the Buddhists who had been marginalised when the rest of society crossed
over to Hinduism. At the same time, his activities within the Constituent
Assembly prepared the ground for his conversion to Buddhism and the official
recognition of this religion. In May 1947, he opposed K.M Munshi’s amendment
which intended to forbid the conversion of minors, thus risking to hamper all
He also contributed to get Buddha Jayanti, the anniversary festival of Lord
Buddha, put in the calendar of official holidays. Lastly, he was involved in the
adoption of the multiple Buddhist symbols with which the Indian Republic
endowed itself between 1947 and 1950: the chakra (the wheel of Dharma) on
the Indian flag, the lions of Ashoka, the Buddhist emperor of ancient India as
the national emblem and the inscription of a Buddhist aphorism on the pediment
of Rashtrapati Bhavan, the residence of the President of the Republic46. In
1950, he went to Sri Lanka and began a compilation of Buddha’s writings and
called upon the Untouchables to convert to Buddhism47. He repeated this appeal
on his return, in the autumn of the same year48 and converted in October
1956, a few weeks before his death on 6 December 1956. Buddhism formed
the best possible choice for Dr. Ambedkar because it was an egalitarian religion
born in India – not the creation of outsiders49. The fact that Buddhism was
perceived by him as an alternative to the Hindu social hierarchy is clearly
reflected in the speech he made during the ceremony of his conversion in
Nagpur on 14 October 1956:
“By discarding my ancient religion which stood for inequality and oppression
today I am reborn. I have no faith in the philosophy of incarnation; and it is
wrong and mischievous to say that Buddha was an incarnation of Vishnu. I am
no more a devotee of any Hindu god or goddess. I will not perform Shraddha
(the Hindu funeral rite). I will strictly follow the eightfold path of Buddha.
Buddhism is a true religion and I will lead a life guided by the three principles
of knowledge, right path and compassion”50.
These words reflected the anti-Hindu social motives of Dr. Ambedkar’s
conversion. All the more so as they were followed by 22 oaths of which the first
six, the eighth and the nineteenth were directly pointed against Hinduism:
Box 1: 22 Oaths Taken by Dr. Ambedkar1. I shall not recognise Brahma,
Vishnu and Mahesh as gods, nor shall I worship them.2. I shall not recognise
Ram and Krishna as Gods, nor shall I worship them.3. I shall not recognise
Gauri and Ganapati as gods nor shall I worship them.4. I do not believe in the
theory of incarnation of god.5. I do not consider Buddha as the incarnation of
Vishnu. 6. I shall not perform Shraddha [a Hindu rite that one carries out for
the safety of the deceased] nor shall I give offerings’ to god.7. I shall not do
anything which is detrimental to Buddhism.8. I shall not perform any religious
rites through the agency of a Brahmin.9. I believe that all human beings are
equal.10. I shall endeavour to establish equality.11. I shall follow the eight fold
path of the Buddha.12. I observe the ten Paramitas (observances) of the Buddha
[the virtues in which a follower of the Buddha has to restrain himself].13. I
shall be compassionate to all living beings and I shall nurture them with care.14.
I shall not steal.15. I shall not lie.16. I shall not commit adultery.17. I shall not
drink liquor.18. I shall lead my life striving to cultivate a harmonious blend of
the three basic principles of Buddhism [Enlightenment, Precept and
Compassion].19. I thereby reject my old religion, Hinduism, which is detrimental
to the prosperity of human kind and which discriminates between man and
man and which treats me as inferior. 20. I fully believe that Buddhism is
Saddhamma.21. By my embracing Buddhism I am being reborn.22. I hereby
pledge to conduct myself hereafter in accordance with the teaching of the

Hundreds of thousands of Dalits – mostly Mahars – got converted along with Dr.
Ambedkar on 14 October 1956 in Nagpur. The anti-Hindu dimension of these
waves of mass conversions was reconfirmed, subsequently, by the elimination
of the Hindu deities from the untouchable localities of Maharashtra, sometimes
in a way of provoking the upper castes. The palanquin of the village goddess,
generally kept with the Mahars, was returned to the upper caste Hindus.
Similarly, the Untouchables rejected more and more obligations and functions
attached to their ritual status, which did not go without causing violent
The impact of conversion to Buddhism varies according to groups (even
individuals) and places. In Maharashtra, the conversion of the Mahars had
mixed consequences. Their break with Hinduism seemed quite relative and
the converts therefore did not get emancipated from caste hierarchy. Their
name changed. They now called themselves “bauddha” in Marathi, but this
move was only slowly and partially reflected in the emergence of a new collective
identity. E. Zelliot highlights that conversion freed the bauddha “from the
sense of being a polluting person”53, but this outcome remained abstract enough
because ”the mass of Buddhists in the slums of cities or the landless in the
rural area, live in much the same fashion as the desperately poor in any
culture”54. However, E. Zelliot admits that the glass is half full too:
“What has happened is that even in areas where observers report ‘no change
at all’, one finds that Buddhists no longer carry out what they feel are ritually
submissive, degrading, or impure duties; that some young people, far more
than in other Untouchable and backward communities, become educated; and
that Buddhists do not participate in the Hindu public practices so long denied
to them, not now out of a prohibition but out of a sense of separateness”55.
The outcome is particularly mixed because the conversion of 1956, and those
which followed, concerned almost exclusively the Mahars: if, in 1956, 55 per
cent of the Untouchables of Maharashtra were converted to Buddhism so that
the Buddhists crossed in numbers from 2,500 in 1951 to 2.5 millions in 1961 –
almost all the bauddha came from the Mahar milieu. The coincidence between
this new religious community and the frontiers of caste made it more difficult,
for the former, to become emancipated from the status of the latter. Above
all, this phenomenon complicated the emergence of an identity common to all
the Untouchables, transcending the cleavages of caste because of the reference
to Buddhism. The Chambhars not only did not convert to Buddhism but opposed
any project aiming to grant the benefits of the politics of positive discrimination
to “bauddhas”. Besides, a number of converted Mahars continued to observe
some Hindu customs, particularly when they were too poor to afford a break
with their original milieu56.

6. Conclusion

Dr Ambedkar has tried all kind of strategies during his life for eradicating
caste and, more especially, for emancipating the Dalit from this oppressive
social systems. In the political domain, he promoted separate electorate, party
building and public policies like reservations – and did not hesitate to collaborate
with the ruler of the time – be it the British or the Congress for having things
done. In the social domain, he militated in favour of reforms at the grass root
level – education being his first goal – and reforms by the state – as evident
from the Hindu code bill. None of his strategies really succeeded during his life
time: he could not have separate electorate introduced, he could not build a
Dalit or a labour party, he could not have the Hindu code bill passed – and he
became a bitter man.
As a result, conversion to Buddhism became the strategy of last resort. But it
was not an exit option: Dr Ambedkar did not take refuge in religion, but looked
equality and social reform in religion since Buddhism was likely to endow the
Dalits with a new identity and a sense of dignity. More than sixty years later,
his contribution to the making of modern India is possibly more substantial
than that of any other leader of his generation. He has not only prepared the
ground for a silent revolution, but has also played a key role in the drafting of
the Constitution of India which has set the terms for the development of the
world largest democracy.
Dr. Ambedkar’s Strategies Against Untouchability and the Caste System
Christophe Jaffrelot
1 B.R. Ambedkar, “Castes in India. Their Mechanism, Genesis and
Development”, Indian Antiquary, May 1917, vol. 61, reproduced in Dr
Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, vol. 1, Bombay, Government
of Maharashtra, 1979.
2 B.R. Ambedkar, “Untouchables or The Children of India’s Ghetto” in Dr
Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, vol.5, Bombay, Government
of Maharashtra, 1989, p. 101-102.
3 B.R. Ambedkar, “The Untouchables. Who were they and why they became
Untouchables?” in Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, vol. 7,
pp. 290-303.
4 The idea that the Untouchables were the first inhabitants of India had
been already spread by Gopalnak Vitthalnak Walangkar, a former Mahar
soldier who had been influenced by Jotirao Phule and who had founded,
in 1886, the first Mahar association, notably to get the British to make a
wider place for this caste in the army.
5 B.R. Ambedkar, “The Untouchables”, art. cit. , p. 317.
6 Ibid., p.134.
7 Ibid., p. 252.
8 This ambivalence explains that according to Keer, he considered both
options (Dr Ambedkar, op. cit.,p. 40) whereas for E. Zelliot, he prioritised
“a common electorate with reserved seats” ( “Learning the Use of Political
means”, art. cit. p. 41).
9 This attitude is all the more surprising, as at the same moment, 16 out of
18 Dalits organizations consulted by the Simon Commission in Bombay
Presidency had clearly expressed themselves in favour of separate
electorates. For instance, the common testimony of the Depressed India
Association and the Servants of Somavamshiya Society before the Simon
Commission stipulated: “experience has shown during the last two decades
that it has served as a powerful lever to raise our Muslim brethren who in
consequence are making rapid headway and coming into line with more
advanced sections.” (The Servants of Somavamshiya Society, Bombay, July
9, 1928, p. 2 in Private Papers of Ambedkar, reels 1/2).
Indian Institute of Dalit Studies
Volume III, Number 04
10 “Evidence of Dr Ambedkar before the Indian Statutory Commission one
23rd October 1928”, ibid. p.465. Ambedkar justified this demand of universal
suffrage for the underprivileged persons (who never could reach tax quota
for voting rights) because they were the first to need it to protect
themselves from the dominant castes (“ Report on the Constitution” op.
cit., p. 338). He added that in spite of their illiteracy, they are rather
intelligent for it (“ Evidence of Dr Ambedkar” op. cit., p. 473).
11 For the complete text of the pact, see R. Kumar, “Gandhi, Ambedkar and
the Poona Pact, 1932”, op. cit., p. 153-155.
12 J. Gokhale, From Concessions to Confrontation, op. cit., pp. 132-133.
13 “The political demands of the Scheduled Castes - Resolutions passed by
the Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Caste Federation”, App.
XI to B.R. Ambedkar, What Congress and Gandhi have done to the
untouchables, op. cit., p. 346-347.
14 Resolution 8 considered that “in the absence of an alternative system,
the Parliamentary system of Government may have to be accepted” but
the SCF demanded that Ministers representing the minorities should be
inducted in the government after being designated by the minority
communities themselves. Resolution 11 demanded that the Constitution
should establish a framework “for the transplantation of the Scheduled
Castes from their present habitations and form separate Scheduled Castes
villages away and independent of Hindu villages “ - a formula already used
by Ambedkar in 1942. (Ibid., p. 353).
15 Cited in B. Nicholas, “Below the Bottom Rung’ : a British Estimate of Dr.
Ambedkar, 1944”, in K.C. Yadav, From Periphery to Centre Stage, op. cit.,
p. 47.
16 The SCF had gained more votes than Congress in the Presidencies of
Madras and Bombay and in the Central Provinces, during the primaries
where only Untouchables voted. The situation in the United Provinces
was even more revealing of the distortions inherent in the electoral system.
In these provinces 20 seats were reserved for the Scheduled Castes,
including four urban seats. The SCF decided to contest only these four
seats. In the primaries, the party could get elected nine candidates as
against four on the Congress side – but in the second round, the latter
won all the seats thanks to the support of non Dalit voters. The most
dramatic result took place in Agra where the four SCF candidates had
polled 46.39% of the valid votes as against to 27.1% to the four Congress
Dr. Ambedkar’s Strategies Against Untouchability and the Caste System
Christophe Jaffrelot
16. This state of things could only strengthen Ambedkar’s stand in favour of a
separate electorate for the Untouchables.
17 S. Bandyopadhyay, ‘Transfer of power and the crisis of Dalit politics in
India, 1945-47’, Modern Indian Studies, 34(4), 2000, p. 913.
18 Lelah Dushkin, “ Special Treatment Policy “ in The Economic Weekly, vol.
XIII, n ° 43-46 and E. Zelliot, Dr Ambedkar, op. cit., p. 265. In 1946, the
quota of 8.33 % was increased to 12.5 % so as to be proportional to the
population of the Untouchables.
19 A veteran of the Constituent Assembly, R.M. Nalawade, emphasized that
Nehru and Patel were hardly favorable to the allocation of a ministerial
office to Ambedkar but that Gandhi imposed his name so as to associate
him with the work of national construction (S.M. Gaikwad, “Ambedkar
and Indian nationalism “, Economic and Political Weekly, in March 7, 1998,
p. 518). This hypothesis is accredited by a conversation of 1946 between
the Mahatma and two Protestants - Muriel Lester, an English Quaker, and
Miss Descher, an American missionary - during which he expressed the
wish that Ambedkar should become a part of the first government of
independent India. (M.S. Gore, The Social Context of an Ideology, op.
cit., p. 18).
20 Quoted in G. Austin, The Indian Constitution, op. cit., p. 19-20.
21 CAD, p. 415.
22 Ambedkar was a member of the two sub-committees of the Advisory
Committee (the one on fundamental rights, the other one on rights of
the minorities) and of the Union of the Powers Committee.
23 Ibid., p. 494
24 Ibid., p. 494.
25 Ibid., p. 582.
26 Ibid., p. 589.
27 Ibid., p. 952.
28 Ibid., p. 1139.
29 CAD, vol. 5, Speech of April 9, 1948.
30 M. Yasin, ‘Hindu Code Bill and Dr Ambedkar’, Towards Secular India, 2(1),
Jan-March 1996, p. 24.
Indian Institute of Dalit Studies
Volume III, Number 04
31 Reba Som, “Jawaharlal Nehru and the Hindu Code: A victory of Symbol
over Substance?” Modern Asian Studies 28 ( 1 ) , 1994, p. 171.
32 Quoted in D. Das (ed.), Sardar Patel Patel Correspondence, 1945-1950,
Ahmedabad, Navajiyan, 1947, vol. VI, p. 40a.
33 D. Keer, Dr. Ambedkar, op. cit., p. 426.
34 Ibid.,pp. 435-436.
35 Quoted in M.S. Gore, The Social Context of an Ideology, op. cit., p. 91.
36 D. Keer, Dr. Ambedkar, op. cit.,p. 130-132.
37 Bhagawan Das, Thus spoke Ambedkar, vol. 4, op.cit., p. 108.
38 Bhagwan Das, Thus spoke Ambedkar, op. cit., p. 307.
39 Exceeding their mission, they were converted before returning to Bombay
where Ambedkar received them without much warmth (D. Keer, Dr
Ambedkar, op. cit.,p. 284).
40 E. Zelliot, Dr Ambedkar, op. cit.,p. 225.
41 D.C. Ahir, Dr Ambedkar and Punjab, Delhi, B.R. Publishing, 1992, 12).
42 H. K. Puri, ‘Scheduled Castes in Sikh Community’, EPW, 28 June 2003, p.
43 On May 24, 1956, during a meeting organized in honour of the anniversary
of Buddha, he declared: “At the very young age of fourteen, Mr. Dadasaheb
Keluskar had in a meeting presented me with a biography of Bhagwan
Buddha. Since then my mind has always been under the influence of
Buddhism”. (Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, “ Buddhism and Hinduism are not
the same thing”, a talk given on May 24, 1956 (Marathi), Private Papers of
44 In 1951, he named the second college he created the “Milind College”,
after the name of the Greek king who had converted to Buddhism.
45 Constituent Assembly Debates, New Delhi, Lok Sabha Secretariat, 1989,
vol. 3, p. 501.
46 D. Keer, Dr Ambedkar, op. cit., p. 481.
These symbols received the general approval of secular personalities such
as Nehru because they allowed India to root the new Republic in a
nationalist past, being quite neutral on a religious plane, as distinct from
Dr. Ambedkar’s Strategies Against Untouchability and the Caste System
Christophe Jaffrelot
the most numerous and politically aware communities – the Hindus, Muslims,
Sikhs and Christians.
47 Interviews of May 5, 1950 and of May 25, 1950 in D. Keer, Dr Ambedkar, op.
cit., p. 421.
48 Ibid., p. 423-424.
49 For example, Hinduism took over Lord Buddha by making him Vishnu’s
seventh incarnation.
50 D. Keer, Dr Ambedkar, op. cit.,p. 500.
51 Cited in G.S. Lokhande, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, New Delhi, Intellectual
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52 E. Zelliot, From Untouchable to Dalit, op. cit.,p.138-9
53 E. Zelliot, From Untouchable to Dalit, op. cit., p. 219.
54 Ibid., p. 220.
55 Ibid.,
56 Ibid., p. 195.
Indian Institute of Dalit Studies
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Dr. Ambedkar’s Strategies Against Untouchability and the Caste System
Christophe Jaffrelot
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Paper on Society and History, No. 20, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library,
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Publishing House, pp. 255-6.
Nicholas, B. (2000), “Below the Bottom Rung: a British Estimate of Dr. Ambedkar,
1944”, in K.C. Yadav, From Periphery to Centre Stage, p. 47.
Puri, H. K. (2003), “Scheduled Castes in Sikh Community”, the Economic and
Political Weekly, 28 June 2003, p. 2698.
Som, R. (1994), “Jawaharlal Nehru and the Hindu Code: A Victory of Symbol
over Substance?” Modern Asian Studies 28 (1), p. 171.
Yasin, M. (1996) “Hindu Code Bill and Dr Ambedkar” in Towards Secular India,
2(1), Jan-March 1996, p. 24.
Zelliot, E. (2004), “Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Untouchable Movement”,
New Delhi: Blumoon Books p. 225.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Why Dalits have slammed Mayawati’s Sarvjan Rule? S.R.Darapuri

Why Dalits have slammed Mayawati’s Sarvjan Rule?

Recently on the declaration of the results of Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) Assembly Election 2012 Mayawati claimed that although her party Bahujan samaj Party (BSP) has lost the election but her Dalit vote bank is in tact. But if we analyze the election results her claim is found to be false and misleading.
Let us first of all look at the total population of Dalits in U.P. and the votes secured by Mayawati . Dalit population in U.P. is about 21% of the total population and they are divided into 66 sub castes. Out of these sub castes Chamar/Jatavs – 56.3%, Pasis- 15.9% Dhobi, Kori, and Balmiki- 15.3% , Gond, Dhanuk and Khatik- 5%, 9 sub- castes e.g. Rawat, Bahelia, Kharwar and Kol- 4.5% and remaining 49 sub castes are about 3% in number.
Chamar/Jatavs are dominant in Azamgarh, Agra, Bijnor, Saharanpur, Gorakhpur and Muradabad districts. Pasis dominate in Sitapur, Rai Bareilly, Hardoi, and Allahabad districts. The remaining groups like Dhobi, Kori, and Balmiki are in good number in Bareilly, Sultanpur, Partapgarh, Behraich, Akbarpur and Faizabad districts.
Based on the population figures of Dalits in above districts it will be appropriate to analyze the number of reserved seats won by BSP. If we look at the results of 2007 Assembly Election it is seen that BSP had won 62 out of 89 reserved seats whereas Samajvadi Party (SP) - 13. Congress- 5 and BJP – 7 seats. In this election BSP had secured about 30% votes. During 2009 Lok Sabha election out of 17 reserved seats BSP had won 2, SP- 10 and Congresss-2. In this election BSP’s vote share had declined to 27% thereby showing a fall of 3% over 2007 election vote share. The main reason for this downfall in vote share was caused by the dislike of Mayawati’s Sarvjan formula by Dalits. It was a warning signal for Mayawati but she did not heed it.
Now if we look at the results of 2012 Assembly Elections the main reason for the fall of Mayawati appears to be the decline of her Dalit vote share in addition to the loss of Muslim, Most Backward Classes and general category votes. This time out of 85 reserved seats Mayawati could win 15 seats only whereas SP has grabbed as many as 55 seats. Among these 85 reserved seats winners 35 are Chamar/Jatavs and 25 Pasis. Out of these 21 Pasis belong to SP and only 2 belong to BSP. Among 15 reserved seats won by Mayawati 13 are Chamar/Jatvas and only 2 are Pasis. From the analysis of reserved seats it transpires that the factor responsible for Mayawati’s defeat is fall in dalit votes in reserved constituencies. The failure at general constituencies is also due to decline in dalit votes. This time Mayawati could garaner 26% vote share which was 4% less than 2007 vote share.
If we analyse the reserved seats won by BSP it transpires that she has got these seats mostly in western U.P. where her own sub caste Jatav is in majority. She won 7 reserved seats in western U. P. and only 8 from rest of U.P. Mayawati could win very few seats in Pasi and Kori dominated districts. In eastern, central and southern (Bundelkhand) U.P. where Chamar sub- caste dominates Mayawati’s share in seats has been very limited. From this election result it has become clear that whereas on the one side Mayawati’s Pasi, Kori, Dhobi, Khatik and Balmiki vote has shifted away, on the other side out of Chamar/Jatav vote bank which comprises of 70% Chamar and 30% Jatavs, the Chamar votes have also moved away from her. That is why Mayawati could win seats mostly in western U.P which is dominated by Jatavs, her own sub- caste.
The main factors responsible for decline in Mayawati’s Dalit vote bank are her corruption, misgovernance, lack of development, neglect of Dalit atrocities and her autocraticstance. Most of dalits have also not relished Mayawati’s excessive idolization by ignoring Dalit issues. In an attempt to keep her Sarvjan voters in good humour by neglecting dalit atrocities, Mayawati made the Dalits suffer doubly. In order to keep Dalit atrocity crime figures low, under the pretext of misuse of this Act (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989) she diluted it in writing in 2001 and later on through oral hints. This took a heavy toll of Dalits. The result was that neither the culprits were punished due to non registration of cases nor Dalits could get monetary compensation admissible under the rules of this Act.
A notion developed among dalits that all the benefits of her government have been grabbed by Chamar and Jatav community which is though not wholly true. This notion made the non Chamar/Jatav sub -castes to move away from BSP. Now if we look at the reality of this notion it comes out that only those Dalits have benefited from BSP rule who were a party to the personal corruption of Mayawati. It is seen that during her regime those Dalits were also persecuted who had not voted for BSP. Their atrocity cases were not registered at police stations. There is a general allegation that Mayawati has created a corrupt, lumpen and exploiter cadre who did not spare even the dalits. This very class is very vocal in justifying Mayawati’s corruption, opportunism and anti- dalit acts. Corruption of dalit cadre is the biggest disservice of Mayawati to the dalit movement.
An other factor responsible for Mayawati’s defeat is that she has been often boasting that her vote bank is transferable. With this confidence she has been selling Assembly and Lok Sabha election tickets to the highest bidder. As a result many dalit oppressors, mafias, criminals and moneyed persons were able to get BSP tickets and Mayawati ordered the Dalits to vote for them. But this time Dalits refused to obey Mayawati’s dictates and did not vote for BSP candidates. Secondly these MLAs and ministers of Mayawati did not do any thing for dalits and were involved in corruption and anti-dalit activities. Many of her MLAs and ministers were involved in rape, murder and corruption cases. Dalts were angry with BSP MLAs as they did not do any thing for dalits and hence this time they were determined to defeat them. Thirdly Mayawati centralized every thing in her hands and her MLAs became helpless creatures and were not in a position to do any thing. This also resulted in their defeat.
Mayawati’s opportunist and corrupt politics has resulted in blurring the vision of Dalits who are now unable to make a difference between their friends and foes. The fight against the so called Manuvaad (Brahmanism) and casteism has been weakened because BSP phenomenon has given birth to a corrupt and lumpen class who use caste label for personal gain only. They have no concern with Dalit issues. According to one analysis U.P. dalits are far behind the Dalits of all other states on development parameters. Only Bihar, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh Dalits are a bit backward than U.P. Dalits. About 60% of U.P. Dalits are below poverty line (BPL) and 60% of Dalit women suffer from malnutrition. According to a recent survey by CRY 70% of dalit children suffer from malnutrition. A majority of U.P. Dalits are agriculture labourers and they face unemployment and lack of means of production. In order to keep her Sarvjan partners in good humour Mayawati did not carry forward land reforms which would have been the best means of Dalit empowerment. Due to all pervadive corruption all the welfare schemes like MNREGA, Anganvadi scheme , Indira Avaas Yojna, various pension schemes for widows, old and Disabled persons fell victim to corruption and dalits along with others were deprived of their benefits.
Mayawati detached herself from the public and the people had no opportunity to tell their vows to her. On account of these reasons Dalits rejected Mayawati as is reflected in election results.
Some people, taking Mayawati as a sole representative of Dalit politics and Dalit movement, raise a question about the future of Dalit Politics and Dalit Movement. In this connection it should be clarified that Mayawati does not represent the whole Dalit Politics and Dalit Movement. Mayawati is just one Dalit politician whose influence is limitd to U.P. only. She does not have any significant following in other parts of the country. There various dalit outfits are carrying on political activity in their own way. Punjab has got the highest percentage of Dalit population but BSP has no place there.
As regards Dalit movement it has got social and religious facets. Mayawati has got no role in it. Conversion to Buddhism as initiated by Dr. Ambedkar is being carried out by Dalits themselves. Mayawati has got no role there. Dalits and some Buddhist organizations are carrying on this activity on their own. Mayawati herself is not a Buddhist. Even her mentor Kanshi Ram did not believe in the efficacy of religious conversion in Dalit emancipation. No doubt Mayawati has tried to allure the Dalits by constructing one Buddha Vihar in Lucknow. She has been using the Buddhist religious symbols for political purpose. Actually Mayawati and Kanshi Ram believed in using caste identity for political mobilization. They did not believe in breaking the caste. Dr. Ambedkar had said that establishment of a casteless and classless society is our national motto. But Kanshi Ram and Mayawati did not believe in it. Actually they stand for using caste against caste in politics and thereby perpetuating it.
From the above brief analysis it is clear that Mayawti’s claim of her Dalit vote bank remaining in tact is false and misleading. Perhaps Mayawati is still suffering from the illusion that her dalit vote bank is in tact. Mayawati seems to be following the Congress policy of claiming the Dalits and Muslims as her committed vote bank. Congress blackmailed the Muslims by giving out that only Congress can save them from the tyranny of Hindu majority and they should never think of moving away from it. Similarly Mayawati has been blackmailing the Dalits so that they don’t move away from her and other parties also should not try to allure them. She has cleverly distanced the Dalits from mainstream political parties and declared them to be fully committed to her. But now Dalits have freed themselves from Mayawati’s spell. It is now expected that Dalits will take a lesson from BSP experiment in U.P. and opt for a radical, Ambekarite, issue based political alternative and will move out of casteist, opportunistic and unprincipled politics. Only this approach can lead to their political, social and religious emancipation and empowerment.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Legacy of Dr. BR Ambedkar stands
irreconcilably opposed to Hindutva

By B.Sivaraman

25 September, 2003

"Inequality is the soul of Hinduism," wrote Ambedkar. He characterized the oppressive caste system as the tyranny of Hinduism. After spending a lifetime in a crusade against the oppressive Hinduism, Ambedkar finally renounced Hinduism, and converted to Buddhism and exhorted his followers to do the same. It is an irony that BJP and other Sangh Parivar outfits are trying to appropriate such a historic personality as Dr. BR Ambedkar.

They have started unveiling Ambedkar photos and statues. Some Sangh ideologues have torn some quotations of BR Ambedkar on Islamic invasions out of context and misinterpreted them to fit Ambedkar in their own anti-Islamic framework. Vinay Katiyar took out an Ambedkar Yatra in UP. Mayawati unveiled a statue of Ambedkar's wife even though her party, the BSP, shamelessly betrayed the Ambedkar tradition by aligning with his arch ideological-political foes, the Hindutva brigade, in a coalition for the sake of power.

To attract dalits to its fold, the BJP made Bangaru Laxman its ornamental chief but he had to ignominiously bow down from office for accepting Tehelka cash bundles. But before his resignation he made a speech in the Nagpur session of the BJP National Council almost equating Ambedkar with Hedgewar. In fact, the actual history convincingly refutes the dirty tricks of the Sangh Parivar.

During the freedom movement, because of the failures and neglect of the Congress a few political streams arose independent of it. Because of the Congress neglect of Muslims and the influence of Hindu conservatism and Hindu dominance in Congress leadership, Muslims rallied independently under the Muslim League. For similar reasons, Sikhs also rallied under the Akali Dal. Brahminical upper caste forces dominated the Congress leadership and the party turned a blind eye to the aspirations of nationalities. In Tamil Nadu, Periyar EV Ramasamy fought against this, first through the anti-Brahmin movement and then went on to represent the nationality aspirations of Tamils.

It was Ambedkar who squarely put social reform on the agenda during the freedom struggle and launched a simultaneous movement against untouchability and the caste order that were the hallmarks of Hinduism, and championed the interests of dalits. In this he was far to the left of Gandhi. On the other hand, far to the right of Gandhian leadership there was first Hindu Mahasabha and later RSS streams, which often collaborated with the British and considered, with open hostility, even Gandhi too liberal. This hostility finally culminated in the assassination of Gandhi by an RSS man Nathuram Godse. Ambedkar was lifelong at loggerheads with the Hindu fundamentalists. Even in his Thoughts on Pakistan,(on which Katiyar's portrayal of him as an anti-Muslim Hindutva figure rests), he ruthlessly critiques the Hindu Mahasabha and Savarkar. He writes: "The Hindu nationalist who hopes that Britain will coerce the Muslims into abandoning Pakistan, forgets that the right of nationalism to freedom from an aggressive foreign imperialism and the right of a minority to freedom from an aggressive majority's nationalism are not two different things, nor does the former stand on a more sacred footing than the latter."(p.10-11) This clearly illustrates his criticism of aggressive mjorotarian nationalism. He furthercriticizes Savarkar, commenting that "strange as it may seem, Mr. Savarkar and Mr. Jinnah instead of being opposed to each other on the two nations issue, are in complete agreement about it". But Ambedkar exposes Savarkar's authoritarian intent: " Mr. Savarkar wants the Hindu nation to be the dominant nation and the Muslim nation to be the subservient nation under it."

Such being the historical evolution of different political streams in India, it is clear that the legacy of Ambedkar and Hindu fundamentalism are irreconcilably hostile to each other. Hindutva forces today are trying to delink Ambedkar from his entire legacy, cover up their hostility towards him and try to appropriate him for electoral use.

The fundamental hostility of the Sangh Parivar against Ambedkar was clearly brought to the fore by the vile campaign unleashed against him by RSS ideologue and presently a BJP minister in Vajpayee's cabinet Arun Shourie through his book Worshipping False Gods. Shiv Sainiks, the soul mates of Hindutva forces, also launched a struggle against Ambedkar's book The Riddles of Hindusim. This is the actual record of Hindutava forces vis-à-vis the heritage of Ambedkar, which they are trying to hide now in order to appropriate his glorious image for their own vested interests.

Ambedkar was the architect of the constitution of India. Sangh Parivar is even opposed to the marginal secular and liberal features of this Constitution and that is why they have formed a committee to tinker with it.
While Ambedkar had total enmity towards Hindu Mahasabha and RSS and other Hindu fundamentalists, he was generally pro-left and, befitting a true democrat in a semi-feudal society, he had a positive attitude towards Marxism though it was unfortunate that the communists in those days failed in their united front tactics and failed to develop a proper relationship with Ambedkar. This was part of their general weakness and shortcomings in India.

The contrast between Ambedkar and Savarkar

Savarkar's strategy of dissolving more than 3,000 castes into one pan-Hindu identity involves pan-Hindu temples, pan-Hindu dinners, inter-caste marriages, anti-untouchability programmes and the removal of injunctions on caste-ridden vocations and sea-voyage. Thus, Savarkar seems to have admonished Hindus to break off the seven shackles that according to him hindered the progress of the Hindu society. Did this programme really denounce Hinduism? The answer to this question has to be in the negative because the anti-caste programme particularly relating to injunctions against inter-caste marriage and advocating vedic rights for the shudras and ati-shudras given by Savarkar did not have vigour and genuine thrust to attack the Hindu shastras and caste system.

Savarkar's contention regarding inter-caste marriages looked to be so casual that he offered only a qualified support to such marriages, thus replacing the need for creating any conscious motivation necessary for the radicalmobilisation of the people towards reaching the desired end. Similarly, Savarkar's attempt to grant the study of vedas and vedic rituals to non-Brahmins though apparently liberal may effectively lead to the Brahminisation of the non-Brahmin castes thus according legitimacy to Hindu shastras.

On the contrary, Ambedkar considers inter-caste marriages as the effective means for abolishing caste system. But Ambedkar is also aware that inter-caste dining or even inter-caste marriages are not enough to eliminate casteism. He was of the opinion that for realising the desired goal of casteless society through inter-caste marriages it is necessary to destroy the belief in the sanctity of Hindu shastras. And for destroying this belief, Ambedkar suggests that people should not only discard the shastras, but they should deny their authority as Buddha and Nanak did. Thus; it can be argued here that socially radical Ambedkar was very unlikely to be attracted by Savarkar whose proposal, according to one of the sincere Savarkarites, contained reformative zeal aimed at revival of Hinduism rather than its denunciation.
(From Appropriating Ambedkar by Gopal Guru,
Economic and Political Weekly, July 6-13, 1991)

Ambedkar was never a Marxist. He could not carry forward his struggle for thoroughgoing abolition of semi-feudalism and against imperialism through a democratic revolution like Mao did in China. He focused mainly on the petty bourgeois and bourgeois intelligentsia from the oppressed communities and worked largely within the system representing their interests in the form of reservation etc. Nevertheless, despite this limitation, he remained an outstanding bourgeois revolutionary democrat who was head and shoulders above many in the Congress leadership and was clearly far more radical than Gandhi.

In the course of his differences against the Congress, he never made any concession to the Hindu Right and always remained hostile to them.
Against Brahminical Hinduism During his boyhood Ambedkar had to suffer lots of personal humiliation due to untouchability. In Chowder Tank satyagraha led by Ambedkar in 1927, the upper caste Hindus attacked him and physically injured him. During the freedom movement Ambedkar emerged as the tallest leader of social reform in India.

Ambedkar asserted: "I was born a Hindu, but never will die a Hindu. What is required is to get rid of the doctrine of 'Chatuvarna'. That is the root cause of all inequality and is also the parent of the case system and untouchability, which are merely other forms of inequality". It is relevant to note here that while both Hedgewar and Golwalkar upheld Manu and thus rationalised the caste system inherent to the Hindu religion, Ambedkar even burnt copies of Manusmruti through a campaign. On December 25, 1927 Ambedkar observed a "Manu Smruti Dahan Din", and publicly burnt Manusmruti. The struggle was known as the "Maha-Sangharsha" of Mahad Satyagraha, and it is an important milestone in dalit struggle against Brahmanism and Brahminical Hinduism. Manuvadis had comspired so that Ambedkar did not get a ground for the meeting, but a Muslim gentleman, Mr. Fattekhan, gave his private land to observe this protest. There was a strong reaction in the Brahmanical press, Babasahib was called"Bheemaasura" by one paper. Dr. Ambedkar justified the burning of Manusmruti in various articles.

Ambedkar made a scathing attack on Hinduism: "I tell you, religion is for man and not man for religion. If you want to organise, consolidate and be successful in this world, change this religion. The religion that does not recognise you as a human being, or give you water to drink, or allow you to enter temples is not worthy to be called a religion. The religion that forbids you to receive education and comes in the way of your material advancement is not worthy of the appellation 'religion'. The religion that does not teach its followers to show humanity in dealing with its co-religionists is nothing but a display of a force. The religion that teaches its followers to suffer the touch of animals but not the touch of human beings is not a religion but a mockery. The religion that compels the ignorant to be ignorant and the poor to be poor is not a religion but a visitation!"

He added this on the upper castes: "It is your claim to equality which hurts them. They want to maintain the status quo. If you continue to accept your lowly status ungrudgingly, continue to remain dirty, filthy, backward, ignorant, poor and disunited, they will allow you to live in peace. The moment you start to raise your level, the conflict starts. Untouchability is not a transitory or temporary feature; it is eternal, it is lasting. Frankly it can be said that the struggle between the Hindus and the Untouchables is a never-ending conflict. It is eternal because the religion which assigns you the lowest status in society is itself divine and eternal according to the belief of the so-called high caste Hindus. No change warranted by change of time and circumstances is possible." Such being the views of Ambedkar, those who offer political patronage to outfits like Ranvir Sena can have no claim over Ambedkar.
The ideologues of Hindutva are trying to rationalise caste system saying that it is a division of labour. Ambedkar refuted this saying, "Caste System is not merely a division of labour. It is also a division of labourers. It is an hierarchy in which the divisions of labourers are graded one above the other." While the Hindutva brigade is known for defending Manu and the caste system, Ambedkar made a trenchant criticism of the caste system associated with Hinduism: "There cannot be a more degrading system of social organisation than the Chaturvarna. It is the system which deadens, paralyses and cripples the people from helpful activity." He further added, "Caste in the hands of the orthodox has been a powerful weapon for persecuting the reforms and for killing all reform." Relating the inseparable relation between caste system and Hinduism, Ambedkar wrote, "Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors. The sanctity and infallibility of the Vedas, Smritis and Shastras, the iron law of
caste, the heartless law of karma and the senseless law of status by birth are to the untouchables veritable instruments of torture which Hinduism has forged against untouchables."

In Buddha and His Dhamma, Ambedkar has enumerated the evils of Hinduism in the following manner: 1) It has deprived moral life of freedom; 2) It has only emphasized conformity to commands; and 3) The laws are unjust because they are not the same for one class as of another. Besides, the code is treated as final. According to Ambedkar, "what is called religion by Hindus is nothing but a multitude of commands and prohibitions." The Sangh Parivar is out to make this code the official code in India under their scheme of authoritarian Hindu rashtra.

Sensing the alienation of dalits, many people, from Savarkar to Gandhi, made token gestures against casteism. The RSS was also forced to come out with some tokenist pronouncements. But Ambedkar put things in the right perspective by saying, "Caste cannot be abolished by inter-caste dinners or stray instances of inter caste marriages. Caste is a state of mind. It is a disease of mind. The teachings of the Hindu religion are the root cause of this disease. We practice casteism and we observe untouchability because we are enjoined to do so by the Hindu religion. A bitter thing cannot be made sweet. The taste of anything can be changed. But poison cannot be changed into nectar."

Ambedkar even made a sarcastic comment against Gandhi: "There have been many mahatmas in India whose sole object was to remove untouchability and to elevate and absorb the depressed classes, but everyone has failed in their mission. Mahatmas have come, mahatmas have gone but the untouchables have remained as untouchables." Ambedkar told dalits that, "You must abolish your slavery yourselves. Do not depend for its abolition upon god or a superman. Remember that it is not enough that a people are numerically in the majority. They must be always watchful, strong and self-respecting to attain and maintain success. We must shape our course ourselves and by ourselves." He further stressed that, "What you have lost others have gained. Your humiliations are a matter of pride with others. You are made to suffer wants, privations and humiliations not because it was pre-ordained by the sins committed in your previous birth, but because of the overpowering tyranny and treachery of those who are
above you. You have no lands because others have usurped them; you have no posts because others have monopolised them. Do not believe in fate; believe in your strength."

It may be recalled that Advani recently raised a controversy over a Buddhist symbol like Ashoka chakra figuring in the national flag and a Buddhist symbol being the national emblem. Regarding their origin Ambedkar explained, "Even though Buddhism is almost extinct in India, yet it has given birth to a culture, which is far better and richer than the Brahminic culture. When the question of the national flag and the national emblem was being considered by the Constituent Assembly we could not find any suitable symbol from the Brahminic culture. Ultimately, the Buddhist culture came to our rescue and we accepted the Wheel of Law (Dhamma-Chakra) as the national symbol." No wonder, a Brahminical high-priest of Hindutva like Advani wanted to do away with these symbols introduced by Ambedkar and his colleagues.

In his slanderous campaign against Ambedkar, the RSS ideologue Arun Shourie questioned the patriotism of Ambedkar. Ambedkar, however, defined patriotism thus, "I do not want that our loyalty as Indians should be in the slightest way affected by any competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises out of our religion, out of our culture or out of our language. I want all people to be Indians first, Indian last and nothing else but Indians." And despite all his differences with the Congress, Ambedkar remained a staunch nationalist.
For Ambedkar, the conception of a secular state is derived from the liberal democratic tradition of the West.

In contrast to the Gandhian misinterpretation of secularism as 'sarva dharma samabhava', Ambedkar said, "No institution, which is maintained wholly out of state funds, shall be used for the purpose of religious instruction irrespective of the question whether the religious instruction is given by the state or by any other body". He further explained the corruption of the concept of secularism in India, "This country has seen the conflict between ecclesiastical law and secular law long before Europeans sought to challenge the authority of the Pope. Kautilya's Arthshastra lays down the foundation of secular law. In India unfortunately ecclesiastical law triumphed over secular law. In my opinion this was the one of the greatest disasters in the country."

Ambedkar effectively punctured the false supremacy of the narrow Brahminical elite: "In every country the intellectual class is the most influential class. This is the class which can foresee, advise and lead. In no country does the mass of the people live the life for intelligent thought and action. It is largely imitative and follows the intellectual class. There is no exaggeration in saying that the entire destination of the country depends upon its intellectual class. If the intellectual class is honest and independent, it can be trusted to take the initiative and give a proper lead when a crisis arises. It is true that the intellect by itself is no virtue. It is only a means and the use of a means depends upon the ends which an intellectual person pursues. An intellectual man can be a good man but he may easily be a rogue. Similarly an intellectual class may be a band of high-souled persons, ready to help, ready to emancipate erring humanity or it may easily be a gang of crooksor a body of advocates of narrow clique from which it draws its support."

Though changing one's religion through conversion is not going to abolish the semi-feudal inequalities, Ambedkar's decision to convert to Buddhism in the evening of his life - just a couple of months before his demise on 16 December 1956 - only underlined his disgust and bitterness with the highly iniquitous Hinduism. About 2 lakh dalits converted to Buddhism along with him in October 1956. Since then neo-Buddhism has remained a trend. This clearly rattled the Hindutva bosses who are clamouring for anti-conversion legislation in every state.

A thorough democrat

Though Ambedkar headed the committee that crafted the Constitution of the democratic republic of India, he was never fully satisfied with the democracy which came to be established in India. In his opinion, "A democratic form of government presupposes a democratic form of a society. The formal framework of democracy is of no value and would indeed be a misfit if there was no social democracy. It may not be necessary for a democratic society to be marked by unity, by community of purpose, by loyalty to public ends and by mutuality of sympathy. But it does unmistakably involve two things. The first is an attitude of mind, and attitude of respect and equality towards their fellows. The second is a social organisation free from rigid social barriers. Democracy is incompatible and inconsistent with isolation and exclusiveness resulting in the distinction between the privileged and the unprivileged." "Democracy is not a form of government, but a form of social organisation", he asserted.

He further elaborated, "What we must do is not to content ourselves with mere political democracy. We must make our political democracy a social democracy as well. Political democracy cannot last unless there is at the base of it, a social democracy."

Ambedkar underlined the limitations of formal law and Constitution: "The prevalent view is that once the rights are enacted in law then they are safeguarded. This again is an unwarranted assumption. As experience proves, rights are protected not by law but by social and moral conscience of the society. If social conscience is such that it is prepared to recognise the rights which law proposes to enact, rights will be safe and secure. But if the fundamental rights are opposed by the community, no law, no parliament, no judiciary can guarantee them in the real sense of the world. What is the use of fundamental rights to the untouchables in India?" "If I find the constitution being misused, I shall be the first to burn it," he declared.

Ambedkar also had certain premonitions about the rise of authoritarian forces in India which is coming true before our eyes: "On the 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognising the principle of one-man-one-vote and one-vote-one-value. In our social and economic life, we shall by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one-man-one-value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril". The Sangh Parivar outfits rally tribals and dalits only to use them to attack Christian missionaries as witnessed in Orissa or to launch pogroms against Muslims as seen in Gujarat, and thereby endanger democracy. To
frustrate the designs of the Sangh Parivar it is necessary that today communists and genuine Ambedkarites should come together to defend democracy from communal fascists, a democracy to establish which Ambedkar fought so hard.
In his last days, Ambedkar raised a note of warning: "The point is that India once lost the independence she had. Will she lose it a second time? It is this thought which makes me most anxious for the future. What perturbs me greatly is the fact that not only India has once before lost her independence, but she lost it by treachery of some of her own people...Will history repeat itself? It is this thought which fills me with anxiety. . Will Indians place the country above their creed or creed above their country? I do not know, But this much is certain that if the parties place creed above country, our independence will be put in jeopardy a second time and probably be lost forever. This eventuality we all must resolutely guard against. We must be determined to defend our independence with the last drop of our blood!" The rise of Hindutva forces who totally cringe before the US imperialism but at the same time are bent upon establishing a fascistic Hindu rashtra has proved how correct this warning was. As Ambedkar called upon us, we must defend this freedom and democracy with the last drop of our blood.