KShatriya would not join hands with vaishyas and vaishyas would not JOUj hands with shudras to fight for just social order. According to Am-ifr^1!t was the most unfortunate that religion was a rock on which *™Klus built their house in which there was division into touchables and H ^fir^5tnen division °f touchables into innumerable subcastes. _^_£jnered with Mahatma Gandhi who opposed untouchabihty without
2. ^SahebAmbedkar : Ibid, Vol. V, p. 92.
"obasaheb Ambedkar : Writings and Speeches, Vol. I, p. 63.
GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS
opposing chaturvarnya. According to Ambedkar, Gandhi accepted Chatur-varnyas as the ideal form of society without bothering to know the history of human relationship between the four varnas. The varnas never lived a social life of cooperation and were always animated by mutual animosity.
Origin of Shudras
By his close scrutiny of Hindu scriptures and evolution of Hindu society, Ambedkar discovered that Brahmins did everything to strengthen the caste system for their vested interest. They added new dimensions of perversion to the original division of Hindu society into classes. In Rigveda there is no mention of shudras. It mentions only three varnas as brahmins, kshatriyas and vaishyas. Satapatha Brahmana also does not mention shudra as a separate varna. Ambedkar tried to prove that shudras were one of the Aryan communities and formed a part of the Kshatriyas in the Indo-Aryan society. Brahma Purana mentions shudras as a tribe living above the Vindhyas. There were shudra kings who were invited to participate in the coronation of Yudhishtra. Ambedkar has referred to a story of the Chandogya Upanishad to show that shudras were entitled to the study of Vedas.1 However, there was a continuous feud between Shudra kings and Brahmins in which Brahmins were subjected to many indignities and tyranny. It was quite natural that Brahmins developed hatred towards shudras who were kshatriyas. They refused to perform upanayana of the shudras. Owing to denial of upanayana, shudras, who were kshatriyas, became socially discarded and fell below the rank of vaishyas and thus came to form the fourth varna.2
Chrnge in the Connotation of Shudra
Story of Shudra Janasruti taught Vedas by Raikva — Babasaheb Ambedkar : Writings and Speeches, Vol. VII, p. 108.
Babasaheb Ambedkar : Ibid, pp. 156-175.
Ibid, p. 176.
According to Ambedkar, first, there was change of connotation of the word shudra. It lost the name of the particular community or class. It became a general name for a low class people without civilisation, culture, respect and position. Secondly, the meaning of the word shudra further widened with the passage of time and innocent people were subjected to the strict code of Brahmins. The sanskaras recognised by the Aryan society were performed by the Brahmins. These were open to all Aryans and non-Aryans. Due to their hatred for Shudras, Brahmins refused to perform these rites for them. This was the beginning of their social segregation. As all social rights were linked with the performance of sanskaras, shudras were denied all rights in the society and were looked as inferior by three castes. There were penalties for Brahmins performing unauthorised upanayana. As a proof of it Ambedkar gave the instance of Shivaji's coronation ceremony.5 No Brahmin priest was ready to perform the coronation ceremony until Shivaji's Rajput connection was established.
Hindu civilisation produced three other classes besides shudras : The criminal tribes which number more than 20 millions, the Aborginal tribes (adivasis) with 15 millions and the untouchables not less than 50 millions. It is difficult to understand why Hindus produced these classes with crime as a profession, with stigma of living an uncivilised life forever, and with a life of outcaste and untouchable by others. According to Ambedkar it was class consciousness which brought great degradation to Hindu society. A class of outcastes and untouchables developed apart from four varnas. According to Ambedkar treating a sizable section of population as outcaste and untouchable was the great blot on Hindu society. Ambedkar took upon himself the task of fighting for their rights. Those who were called untouchables did not racially differ from the Aryans and Dravidians. The outcastes were given the conditions of life in which their thinking, habits and general conduct could not improve. They forfeited their civic rights and were forced to live a depressed Me. Restoration of civic rights to untouchables and giving them equal rights with others was the only way to bring about a social revolution in Hindu society. Ambedkar launched a powerful movement to bring such a revolution.
Atrocities upon Untouchables
Ambedkar said, "Hindu law declared that the untouchable was not a person, Hinduism refused to regard him as a human being fit for comradeship.1 Ambedkcr has narrated many instances when a suffering outcaste woman did not get help as she could not be touched, an untouchable boy lay outside a dharamshala as he could not be admitted in, an untouchable patient was not treated by a higher caste doctor. The society imposed restrictions even on their eating and wearing clean clothes. Pratap reported a case when they were forced to pay Rs. 200/- as fine for serving halwa to their marriage party in Jodhpur on February 26, 1928.
Movement Against Hindu Social Order
The movement against the established Hindu social order and for the rights of untouchables was started in two stages, the first in the form of petitions and protests, and the second, in the form of direct action to use wells, schools, buses, railway etc. In March 1927, in the first conference of untouchables at Bombay, Ambedkar asked them to fight for their rights give up dirty habits and rise to manhood. Earlier Gandhiji had warned the Hindus that with the sin of untouchability Swaraj would not be achieved even in 100 years. This support strengthened the hands of Ambedkar.
1. Babasaheb Ambedkar : Writings and Speeches, Vol. V, p. 92.
Ambedkar believed that caste system and untouchability were parts of some social system founded on some principle. Without destroying
GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS
caste system untouchability could not be reviewed. Therefore, Ai stressed the necessity of rooting out ideas of highness or lown caste basis. He asked his followers to fight against their isolation life without fear. The leaders of the Satyashodak movement of M * gave full support to Ambedkar in his struggle for the rights of the de-classes. Through satyagraha he led his followers to assert their ri common drinking water and right of worship in temples. The Maha Satyagraha, the burning of Manu Smriti and the Kala Ram Satyagraha were some of the movements which attracted natio~ world attention towards humanitarian struggle of Ambedkar.
Demand of Safeguard
On August 8, 1930, as president of the first session of All Depressed Classes Association, Ambedkar demanded safeguards ft, downtrodden untouchables in the Constitution. He pleaded for then* resentation l2 official committees. As member of the State Corn-appointed by the Bombay Government in 1930 to find out educa social and economic condition of the depressed classes, Ambedkar t~ mended scholarships for students of depressed classes, their recrui in police and army and their greater involvement in social and ' activities.
Ambedkar was not impressed by the replacement of the word Ha for Untouchables by Gandhiji. He saw with suspicion the formatL. Harijan Sevak Sangh by Gandhiji for removal of untouchability as it entirely managed by caste Hindus and the Sangh worked as an of the Congress Party. Ambedkar maintained that its main aim v secure support of the depressed classes. Therefore, Ambedkar for Samata Sainik Dal (Social Equality Army).
As he earned distinction as an intellectual and a scholar,. secured for himself a social and political position of great resf Maharashtra and in India. He felt that concerted action to secure p< and economic rights for people ignored for centuries was necessary I give them a better future. He demanded a separate electorate and rese' vation of seats for the depressed classes in proportion to their populatk" In all deliberations on constitutional reforms from 1911 (the Montfo Reform) to the Cabinet Mission Scheme of 1946, Ambedkar took ad' part to assert social and political rights to all sections of the populatic As a member of the Bombay Provincial Committee to work with Simon Commission in 1927, Ambedkar pleaded that depressed cla&-^ be treated as a separate community and given separate electorate. M the Round Table conference in London in 1930 Ambedkar represent*" the depressed classes alongwith Rao Bahadur Srinivasan. He attacked the British Government for not initiating constitutional measures to i»& prove the lot of untouchables.
Dr. B. R. AMBEDKAR
flpftrt with Gandhiji
*!* In the second session of the Round Table Conference in March 1931, : " met with stiff opposition from Mahatma Gandhi on the question rights for depressed classes. Gandhiji said that he would resist rights of untouchables with his life. On May 23, 1932 at the i Untouchability League at Poona, Ambedkar said that he did want temples or wells or intercaste dinners but government service, clothing, education and other opportunities. He succeeded in securing ite electorate for the depressed classes through Communal Award However, when Gandhiji protested against the award and started unto death all the national leaders cooperated and persuaded Am-Wfctr to accept joint electorate with the Hindus to save the life of mMfmn On September 24,1932 Ambedkar signed the well-known Poona iWt on behalf of the depressed classes ensuring separate seats for them. XI* pact was later embodied in the Government of India Act 1935. lMstance from Caste Hindus
*fi Regarding depressed classes, Ambedkar pointed out that as this clas-^ftfeation of persons into castes is on the basis of social and economic moderations, it should have nothing to do with religion. Religious segrega-ufaofaparticular class has harmed Hindu community and forced millions p depressed class to convert to Christianity or Islam. In his attempt », reconstruct Hindu society free from caste system and untouchability ^■jbedkar met with stiff resistance from the Hindus. In April 1942, ht ••Biented, "when I started on my public career and long thereafter, 1 considered that for good or for evil we were part of the Hindu Society, yboiight for long that we could rid the Hindu society of its evils and get the depressed classes incorporated into it on terms of equality. That •otive inspired the Mahad Chander Tank Satyagraha and the Nasik Temple fBtey Satyagraha. With that object we burnt Mgnu Smriti and performed
athread ceremony. Experience has taught me better. I stand today uteh/ convinced that for the depressed classes there can be no equality •pong the Hindus.1
Member ofExecutive Council On July 2,1942, Dr. Ambedkar was included in the Executive Council *tne Viceroy. It was a rare recognition on official level. For the first !**wthe history of this century an untouchable got a place in the T^kcstgoverning body. He was nven the Labour portfolio. As labour . , rne worked hard to give workers their due rights, and to provide •0ciaJ security to the labour class. In securing reservation of seats for Members of the depressed classes and Ambedkar made use of his position JVjjkuig the standard of the life of labourers. He worked hard for **>bushing better relations between labour and management and thus *g[Jgdustrial peace through suitable law.
Material on Dr. BR. Ambedkar and the Movement of Untouchables, Vol. I, Oovt- of Maharashtra, Bombay, 1982.
GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS
Gandhi and Ambedkar Difference on Varna System
Both Gandhi and Ambedkar stood for equality, justice and freedom to all regardless of caste, creed and sex. Yet one finds serious differences on how such a social order could be established. Mahatma Gandhi's views about caste system written in Harijan were quite different from those of Ambedkar. Interpreting Hinduism Gandhiji said, "Caste has nothing to do with religion. It is a custom whose origin I do not know and do not need to know for the satisfaction of my spiritual hunger. But I do know that it is harmful to both spiritual and national growth. Varna and ashrama are institutions which have nothing to do with castes. The law of varna teaches us that we have each one of us earn our bread by following the ancestral calling. It defines not our rights but our duties... All are good, lawful and absolutely equal in status...It would be wrong and improper to judge the law of varna by its caricature in the lives of men who profess to belong to a varna, whilst they openly commit a breach of its only operative rule. Arrogation of a superior status by and of the varna over another is a denial of the law. There is nothing in the law of varna to warrant a belief in untouchability." Sensing Ambedkar's opposition to this interpretation of Hinduism Gandhiji further said, "In my opinion the profound mistake that Dr. Ambedkar has made in his address (undelivered speech of Dr. Ambedkar for the 1936 Annual Conference of the Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal of Lahore) is to pick out the texts of doubtful authenticity and value of state of degraded Hindus who are no fit specimens of the faith they so woefully misrepresent."1
Dr. Ambedkar totally disagreed with what Gandhiji wrote. In his long reply to Gandhiji, he answered all the points. He maintained that the caste system completely ruined the Hindu society. Reorganisation of Hindu society on the basis of varna system was not possible because it was very likely to degenerate into a caste system without proper legal control. Moreover, reorganisation of Hindus on the basis of four varnas could prove harmful as it would have degrading effect on the mass by denying them opportunity to acquire knowledge. Hindu society must be reorganised to recognise the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. Religious sanctions behind caste and varna had to be destroyed. Ambedkar said, "A society based on varna or caste is a society which is based on a wrong relationship. I had hoped that the Mahatma would attempt to demolish my argument but instead of doing that he has merely reiterated his belief in Chaturvarnya without disclosing the ground on which it is based."2
Differences on Movements
Mahatma Gandhi, Harijan, 15 August 1936, Quoted by Ambedkar— Writings and Speeches, Vol. I, p. 83.
Ibid., p. 89.
In September 1932, under the patronage of Gandhiji an All India Anti-untouchability League was formed which was later on renamed as
Dr. B. R. AMBEDKAR
Harijan Sevak Sangh. Due to its exclusion of leaders of depressed classes on the governing body and due to its programme. Ambedkar was not impressed by that movement of the Congress Party. His suggestion that the League should concentrate on economic, social and educational improvement of depressed classes was ignored. Gandhiji asked him for a message for weekly paper Harijan. In his message Ambedkar wrote, "I cannot give a message. The outcaste is a by-product of caste system. There will be outcastes as long as there are castes. And nothing can emancipate outcaste except the destruction of the caste system." Thinking on a different wavelength Gandhiji said, "Untouchability is the product not of the caste system, but of the distinction of high and low that has crept into Hinduism and is corroding it." While Gandhiji wanted Hindu society to put an end to untouchability and revert to the origin system of four varnas, Ambedkar had serious differences with Gandhiji on this matter. Sensing political objectives of the Harijan Sevak Sangh, Ambedkar severed his connection from it. He formed a parallel organisation as the Samata Sainik Dal (Social Equality Army).
Differences on Separate Electorate
Ambedkar had differences with Gandhiji on the question of separate electorate and reservation of seats for the depressed classes. He openly said that as there was no link between the Hindus and the depressed classes, they must be regarded as a distinct and independent community. With the Simon Commission appointed by the British Government in 1927 and with the First Session of the Round Table Conference at London in 1930 Ambedkar insisted that the depressed classes be given a separate electorate and reservation of seats in Central and Provincial Assemblies. In the Second Session of the Round Table Conference, Ambedkar stressed that power should be shared by all communities in their respective proportion. He shared views with other minorities like Muslims, Christians etc. for securing political rights for depressed classes.
Communal Award and Poona Pact
Gandhiji bitterly opposed Ambedkar forming a pact with minority communities. He said he would not mind the untouchables converting to Christianity but he would not support separate political rights for them. Gandhiji resented the recognition given to the untouchables as a separate political entity through the Communal Award of 1932, giving representation of minorities and untouchables in the provincial legislatures. According to Gandhiji untouchability was a stigma on the Hindu religion and it must vanish. Separate electorate would make it a permanent feature giving rise to serious problem of human relationship. Untouchables would always be untouchables. As a protest to the Communal Award Gandhiji declared his fast unto death. This created a serious situation. Leaders of Congress persuaded Ambedkar to help save the life of Mahatma. Reservation of seats in the provincial and central assembly was agreed for 10 years. A pact was signed between the Congress Party and Ambedkar
GREAT POLITICAL THINKERS
representing depressed classes in September 1932, known as Poona Pact. It nullified the earlier Communal Award and was later on incorporated in the Govt, of India Act, 1935.
It must be pointed out that Ambedkar felt that the Poona Pact was against the interests of the depressed classes and he must insist on a separate electorate. The Harijan Sevak Sangh of Gandhiji refused to incorporate abolition of caste system in its programme. Gandhiji used satyagraha against Britishers but did not favour it for untouchables against the caste Hindus. He wanted to abolish untouchability but not at the cost of offending caste Hindus. He had his own reservations on the issue of rights of the depressed classes. But Ambedkar wanted reorganisation of the Hindu society with complete abolition of the caste system and untouchability, on the principle of freedom, equality and justice. An alternate to this was recognition of depressed classes as a separate community like Muslims with separate political rights.
On the basis of his extensive study and knowledge of the evolution of human society and social institutions, Ambedkar was convinced that democracy was the only form of government which ensured liberty and equality in the society. Addressing the First Session of the Round Table Conference in 1930, he said, "The bureaucratic form of government in India should be replaced by a government which will be the government of the people by the people and for the people."1 Believing that without self-government a country cannot make any progress, Ambedkar said, "We must have a government in which the men in power will give their undivided allegiance to the best interest of the country. We must have a government in which men in power, knowing where obedience will end auJ resistance will begin, will not be afraid to amend the social and economic code of life which the dictates of justice and expediency so urgently call for."2 Speaking on behalf of the depressed classes and denial of political rights to them, he emphatically said, "No share of political power can come to us so long as the British Government remains as it is. It is only in a Swaraj Constitution that we stand any chance of petting the political power in our own hands without which we cannot brinsj salvation to our people."3
Explaining his notion of a democratic society, Ambedkar said, "Democracy is more than a government. It is a form of the organisation of society. There are two essential conditions which characterise a democratically constituted society: (1) Absence of stratification of society
Babasaheb Ambedkar : Writings & Speeches. Vol. II, pp. 503-4.
Ibid., p. 505.
Ibid. Vol. IV. p. 28.
Dr. B. R. AMBEDKAR
into classes; (2) A social habit on the part of individuals and groups which are ready for continuous readjustment or recognition of reciprocity of interests."1 A really democratic government was not possible without form and structure of democratic society. If the social milieu is undemocratic the government is bound to be undemocratic. Cautioning the leaders of his time he said, "If the mental disposition of the individuals is not democratic then a democratic form of government may easily become a dangerous form of government."2 According to Ambedkar even a democratic government would not be able to do anything if Indian society remained divided into classes and sub-classes as each individual in such society would place class interest above everything and there would be no justice and fair play in the functioning of the government. Apart from being a government of the people and by the people, Democracy must also be a government for the people. It requires a democratic attitude of mind and proper socialisation. Ambedkar said, "Democracy is more than a social system. It is an attitude of mind, a philosophy of life."3
Need of Fraternity
Impressed by the French Revolution Ambedkar said that in democracy equality and liberty ensured by the Constitution could not be considered sufficient. Without fraternity equality destroys liberty and liberty destroys equality. Fraternity implies true religious spirit which is the basis of any democratic system. Ambedkar complained that in India people forgot the statements like All this is Brahma' (Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma). 'I am Brahma' (Aham Brahmasimi), That "Thou art" (Tattvamasi), Brah-manism and its belief in caste system, divides the society into classes and the very basis of democratic society destroyed. To reconstruct Indian polity on firm democratic principles people must recognise the importance of fraternity with equality and liberty. As we recognise that we are all parts of the same cosmic principle there will be no room for any theory of associated life except democracy. Democracy must be made obligatory for all.