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19 08 2012 Sunday LESSON 681 FREE ONLINE eNālāndā Research and Practice UNIVERSITY through OUTLOOK B+ve of Ambedkar the Awakened One With Awareness
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19  08  2012 Sunday LESSON 681 FREE ONLINE  eNālāndā Research and Practice UNIVERSITY

OUTLOOK B+ve  of Ambedkar the Awakened One With Awareness

Ambedkar at his Dhamma Deeksha, 1956


Lit-Again Paths

Ambedkar’s Buddhism is a radical, rational reading of the traditional for our times

Christopher Queen

Bhim Ambedkar met the Buddha for the first time at a party in Bombay.
As the only untouchable student at Elphinstone High School, Ambedkar
caused a stir when he passed his matriculation exam in 1907. A
graduation party was organised by Krishna Arjun ‘Dada’ Keluskar, author,
activist and principal of nearby Wilson High School. Keluskar had seen
Ambedkar reading alone in the Churni Road Garden and finally asked him
who he was. The boy, born of Mahar parents in an army camp, explained
that upper-caste students at Elphinstone bullied him and that he
retreated to the park with a book. The teacher recognised the boy’s
promise and began helping him with his studies.

At the party, Keluskar gave him a copy of his Life of the Buddha,
written in Marathi for the Baroda Sayajirao Oriental Series. Sayajirao
provided Ambedkar financial aid, employment and finally full support to
attend Columbia University, where Ambedkar earned his first doctorate
and discovered that a society could be organised around the notions of
liberty, equality and fraternity.

More than the influence of early mentors and institutions, it was the
life and teachings of the Buddha, first presented in Keluskar’s slim
volume, that made the most impact. After the party, he recalled years
later, “I…was greatly impressed and moved by it.” In the following
decades, as he launched the untouchable civil rights movement,
represented his community in the negotiations with the British and the
Congress, served as the first law minister and principal draftsman of
the Constitution, Ambedkar never forgot the vision of personal striving
and social transformation he first encountered in the person of the

Who was the Buddha that impressed Ambedkar so much? Ambedkar
reflected deeply on this, and declared in 1950 that Buddhism was the
only religion that could meet the requirements of the modern
world—wisdom, compassion, and social justice. And we know that in the
last, illness-ridden five years of his life, he devoted his remaining
energy to the study of Buddhism.

The fruit of Ambedkar’s final labours is The Buddha and His Dhamma,
a daring interpretation of traditional teachings. Venerated by
ex-untouchables and millions practising ‘Navayana’ Buddhism, it tells
the story of the earthly Buddha and summarises his teachings. This
manifesto brings out the social teachings that Ambedkar believed were
suppressed by misunderstanding and distortion. Gautama’s welcoming all
to his new religious community is there. But so is Ambedkar’s critique
of four famous items in the traditional presentation of Buddhism.

Ambedkar doubted that a 29-year-old prince would have abandoned his
duties after seeing a sick person, an old person, a corpse and a sadhu.
The Four Noble Truths “are a great stumbling block”, attributing all
human suffering to desire and craving. Are the poor to be blamed for
craving food? Traditional notions of karma and rebirth clearly pose a
contradiction of the core teaching of no-self (anatta) and another
justification for the caste system, in which low-birth results from bad
behaviour in a past life—again blaming victims of social exploitation.
Finally, should not the clergy serve society, or should they only study
and meditate? These questions “must be decided not so much in the
interest of doctrinal consistency but in the interest of the future of

Ambedkar’s Buddha is based on meticulous study of the Pali record as
well as scores of modern commentaries he collected. And this Buddha is a
path-giver (marga-data), not a rescuer (moksha-data); he is
all-compassionate (maha-karunika); and he is opposed to superstition and
speculation. He is awakened by definition—rational, practical, and
rooted in present realities. But he is also engaged—committed to social
change and justice, and, if necessary, non-violent social revolution.
This is the Buddha that has inspired a new generation of socially
engaged Buddhists across the world.

Was this the Buddha young Bhim met at his graduation party? Or has the Buddha of old found new voices in a dangerous new world?

(Christopher Queen teaches Buddhism and Social Change and World Religions at Harvard University.)

Amit Haralkar
Our icon Ambedkar’s death anniversary being observed

Alternative Media

Songsters From The Mudhouse

SC/ST bards, bhajan mandalis and pamphleteers, largely
from Maharashtra, have kept alive the image, the life story and the
genius of Ambedkar

Sharmila Rege

Bhima, your thought is like the shade of the peepal tree.

 —Wamandada Kardak (1922-2004)

In the last few years, every
December 6, TV channels have been covering the annual gathering of
thousands of followers of Dr B.R. Ambedkar at Chaitya Bhoomi in Mumbai.
The middle class deems these events irrational or emotional and
criticises them for causing traffic jams and littering—opinions that
strangely resonate among social scientists.  Most people do not reckon
that the prolonged Ganesh Chaturthi affairs are also a nuisance. Many
intellectuals, barring a few, see these gatherings of the Dalit public
as a process of the ‘deification’ of Ambedkar or the ‘manipulation’ of
the masses by the Dalit leadership. It is also common to see Ambedkar’s
‘rationality’ contrasted with the ‘irrationality’ of these gatherings,
suggesting that Dalits are not carrying forward Ambedkar’s true legacy.
In fact, much before Ambedkar belatedly emerged as a national icon in
the 1990s, much before the Bharat Ratna, and well before Mandal, it is
these annual gatherings that kept alive Ambedkar’s life story and work.
This was well before the emergence of Dalit literature and before the
writings and speeches of Ambedkar gained currency.

The key dates in the Ambedkarite calendar are: December 6 (Ambedkar’s
death anniversary), observed at Chaitya Bhoomi, Mumbai; October 14 (the
day he converted to Buddhism), observed in Nagpur; January 1 (the day
in 1818 when Peshwa Bajirao II, the Brahmin ruler of Pune, was defeated
by the British with support from Mahar soldiers), observed at Kranti
Stambh, Bhima-Koregaon; December 25 (the day Ambedkar and his follower
burnt a copy of Manusmriti), observed at Mahad; and, of course, April
14, Ambedkar’s birth anniversary.

Posters on sale. (Photograph by Amit Haralkar)



Shahirs used dominant idioms of the day, including Savarkar’s works, subverting them to highlight Dalit awakening.

annual gatherings spawn hundreds of stalls selling a wide range of
items: brassware from Moradabad, Jai Bhim caps, statues, posters,
calendars, prints of Ambedkar, statues of Buddha, lockets, watches,
ribbons and night lamps with images of Ambedkar. Many stalls sell the
Ambedkarite calendar/almanac published by Dalit political organisations
or publishing houses. These calendars are visually distinct, with covers
in different styles, establishing a historical legacy from Buddha,
Phule and Shahu Maharaj down to Ambedkar. Each of these calendars is a
documentation of history, marking each day as a day in the history of
Ambedkar’s life and struggles. At a time when the story of Ambedkar and
the Dalit movement were kept out of textbooks, these calendars played an
important role in cataloging and interpreting the history of Ambedkar’s

At these gatherings, two kinds of stalls—bookstalls and stalls put up
by gayan parties, or singing troupes, selling cassettes and now audio
CDs—predominate. Booklets and music have been the two media that have
carried forth the life and work of Ambedkar.

Following the Dalit Panthers movement of the 1970s and later, the
movement to rename Marathwada University as Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar
Marathwada University, several small publishers dedicated to producing
literature by and on Ambedkar emerged across Maharashtra. Many of these
booklets introduce readers to the Ambedkarite perspective on
contemporary issues. The books do not necessarily become individual
possessions but circulate among members of the extended family, local
Buddha Viharas and friends.

Ujwala Dheewar, a 21-year-old interviewed at Chaitya Bhoomi, says she gifts copies of Ambedkar’s The Buddha and His Dhamma
to friends to mark important occasions. She buys the book in bulk at
these gatherings. Anantrao Ahire, an 80-year-old who was at the Yeola
conference in 1935 when Ambedkar declared his decision to convert, says
that on Ambedkar’s death in 1956, he resolved to sell Ambedkar’s books
door-to-door for the rest of his life.

Sea change Celebration of Ambedkar’s conversion, at Deeksha Bhoomi, Nagpur

The gayan parties, which
constitute the second-largest number of stalls at these gatherings, may
be traced to the bhajan mandalis of the pre-Ambedkar era. Since the
Mahars had been traditionally associated with singing, there were
several mandalis which sang compositions in the Varkari tradition—the
bhakti cult of Vithoba of Pandharpur, about whom Namdeo, Dyaneshwar,
Chokhamel and Eknath have sung.  With the expanding reach of Ambedkar’s
message, there was a dramatic change in the bhajans and in women’s
compositions like the ovi (songs of the grinding stone) and palana
(songs of the cradle). They all adopted the political tones of
Ambedkar’s struggles and campaigns.

A well-known composer, Bhimrao Kardak, recalls the emergence of a new
form—the Ambedkari jalsa, which radically reorganised the structure of
tamasha by making room for verses and dialogue. The comedian of the
jalsa (a man dressed as a woman) would convey the message of Ambedkar
through comical dialogues, often using parody. For instance, criticism
of Gandhi’s idea of Harijan is presented in a verse from the jalsa
called A Dialogue between a Congress Devotee and an Untouchable:

All of us Mahars, Mangs, Bhangis and Chamaars—let’s condemn the name ‘Harijan’!
Hearing the name makes my mind sad!
‘Harijan’ is a stamp, a stigma, a sign of slavery,
And this dominating Congress government, it claims to run a democracy!

Ever since the 1930s, several generations of  shahirs (composers)
have dedicated a lifetime to spreading the ideas of Ambedkar. The first
generation of Ambedkari shahirs (1920-56), including Patit Pavandas,
Bhimrao Kardak, Keriji Ghegde, Arjun Hari Bhalerao, Keruba Gaikwad,
Keshav Sukha Aher, Ramchandra Sonavane and Amrutbhuwa Bavaskar among
others, composed jalsas to spread the message of Ambedkar’s social and
political campaigns among the Dalit masses. They used idioms that
challenged the dominant ideas of the day. For instance, presenting an
Ambedkarite challenge to V.D. Savarkar’s famous composition Tumhi Amhi Bandhu Bandhu (You and Us, We are All Brothers), Patit Pavandas subverts it with:

You are human beings,
We too are human beings,
We are Hindus,
You too are Hindus,
Yet when it comes to temples,
It’s always you above,
and we in our place.

The second generation of Ambedkari shahirs, composing after the
1950s, including Wamandada Kardak, Sridhar Ohol, Rajanand Gadpayle,
Deenbhandu Shegaonkar, Annabhau Sathe, Dalit Anand and Vithal Uma,
created new genres of Bhimgeet and Buddhageet, which underlined the
strong linkages between Ambedkar and the Dalit masses. The palana (songs
of the cradle) outlining the events in the life of Ambedkar became a
popular genre with women. The primary themes in these compositions is
Ambedkar’s message of adopting a modern, Buddhist way of life and
rejecting a life of indignity. Kardak, one of the best-known Bhim
shahirs,  who performed both in villages and in the working-class
quarters in the cities, urges people to:

Throw off the skin of Hindu dharma
Take on the blue shawl of Buddha’s equality,
Throw off the old worn-out cloth, woven with threads of hatred,
It’s so patched…
Why should anyone use it,
when it has no trace of humanism?

Kalapathaks and jalsas became central to the Buddhist conversion
movement as well as the land-grab movement led by the Ambedkarite leader
Dadasaheb Gaikwad in 1959 and 1964. The jalsa troupes began to close
down in the mid-1970s and a new generation of gayan parties or qawwal
parties emerged. These troupes travel throughout the year, extensively
from April 14 (Ambedkar’s birth anniversary) to the end of May (Buddha
Poornima) chiefly performing Geet Bhimayan, a dramatised and lyrical
performance of the story of Ambedkar. Buddha geets and Ambedkar geets
form the other popular aspects of the programme.

Proud imprint

Ambedkar’s works on sale. (Photograph by Nirala Tripathi)

In the 1990s, audiotapes, locally
produced and inexpensive, expanded the reach of these songs. More people
felt encouraged to form gayan parties. This led to a revolution in
quantity and variety in music. More women singers and troupes became
prominent without eroding the popularity of live performances. The Poona
Pact is presented in the compositions as an intellectual akhada with
the two great men, Gandhi and Ambedkar, engaged in a cerebral wrestling
match. The compositions dwell upon the “unethical and morally incorrect”
behaviour of Gandhi in withdrawing from a signed agreement. The chorus
underlines the defeat of Gandhi (Gandhi harla) and his betrayal of the
excommunicated communities. The interesting and repeated theme in the
compositions on the Poona Pact is the request made by Kasturba Gandhi to
Ambedkar to grant jeevandan (boon of life) to Gandhi.

The educational background of the artistes ranges from as little as
Class IV to Class XII. There’s a predominant presence of women singers
in the new gayan parties, and some of them, like Satyabhama Kokate, are
illiterate, while others like Maina Kokate are educated up to Class VII.
Every party has four to ten members. Most of the members have to
struggle to make ends meet and look for supplementary sources of 
income. The promoter of ‘Asha Gaikwad & Party’, popularly known for
the audio cassette Amhi Bhimachya Nari (We, the Daughters of Ambedkar), was an agricultural labourer before she formed her own gayan party.



The chorus underlines the defeat of Gandhi, his betrayal of Dalits. Kasturba then seeks jeevandan for Gandhi.

pamphlets came into being much earlier, but what the 1990s brought
forth was a robust flowering of interest in Ambedkar’s writing and
struggles for the emancipation of women. Booklets on Ambedkar and
women’s liberation began circulating in the 1990s, enabled by the events
of the period, including the rise of autonomous Dalit women’s
organisations, the formation of national-level federations and forums of
Dalit women, and the subsequent revival of the women’s wings of Dalit
political parties. Many writers of these booklets are  concerned with
Ambedkar’s views on women’s liberation and delineate Ambedkar’s efforts
in drafting laws such as the Mines Maternity Benefit Act, when he was
the labour member in the Viceroy’s Executive Council (1942-46).

Some booklets highlight his recovery of the Buddha’s legacy of
feminism and see Ambedkar’s critique of Brahminical practices, including
sati, child marriage, and institutionalised prostitution, as one of the
early theoretical statements on violence against women in India.

Thus, when conclusions about the emotive iconisation of Ambedkar are
being drawn, the dynamic gatherings around the Ambedkar almanac tell
another story. The invaluable labour of “mudhouse cultural activists”
(as political theorist Gopal Guru calls them) has for long remained
unsung. The mudhouse print and music cultures and their popularity have
made an immense contribution to sustaining the memory of Ambedkar’s life
and works.

(The writer teaches sociology at the University of Pune and is author of the forthcoming Against the Madness of Manu: B.R. Ambedkar’s Writings on Brahminical Patriarchy.)

The Greatest Indian

  1. Dr B.R.Ambedkar

    Ranking By Popular votes

  2. B.R. Ambedkar 19,91,734

Artwork: Durgabai Vyam and Subhash Vyam/Bhimayana

The Greatest Indian

A Case For Bhim Rajya

So, finally, Ambedkar comes into his own in the national
consciousness. Now perhaps it’s time to embrace a legacy sidelined by
the dominant discourse.

“I told my father that I did not like any of the figures
in (the) Mahabharata. I said, ‘I do not like Bhishma and Drona, nor
Krishna. Bhishma and Drona were hypocrites. They said one thing and did
quite the opposite. Krishna believed in fraud. His life is nothing but a
series of frauds. Equal dislike I have for Rama. Examine his conduct in
the Surpanakha episode, in the Vali-Sugriva episode, and his beastly
behaviour towards Sita.’ My father was silent, and made no reply. He
knew that there was a revolt.”

—Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar
in the unpublished Preface dated April 6, 1956, to
The Buddha and His Dhamma

So how and why did Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, finally, top what we are
told is a comprehensive poll? What has changed since the ‘defeats’ of
1999 and 2002? Has India become more accepting of one of its
intellectual giants, who, in Marxist historian Perry Anderson’s recent
words, was “intellectually head and shoulders above” Nehru, Gandhi and
most Congress leaders? Sceptic that I am, this “victory” for Ambedkar is
most likely a result of the presence of a burgeoning internet-savvy,
mobile-wielding, dedicated Untouchable (SC/ST) middle class that is almost invisibly
making its presence felt. Still largely kept away from mainstream media,
the private sector and our universities—which have undisguised disdain
for Ambedkar’s greatest weapon, reservation—the SC/STs, in India and
abroad, have fashioned their own websites, mailing lists and blogs such
as Round Table Conference, SC & Adivasi Students’ Portal and
Savari, a YouTube channel called SC/ST Camera, besides scores of
Facebook groups. They no longer depend on corporate media that takes one
month to report, if at all, the 2006 murders and rapes of Khairlanji; a
media that found the lynching of five SC/STs in Lakshmipeta, Srikakulam
district, in June 2012 banal. It is on the worldwide web that new ways
of negotiating citizenship are being forged; it is from these new
banlieues that unyielding Eklavyas are waging war with the Bhishmas and
Dronas, gaining thumb-inch by thumb-inch. Some of these warriors had
expressed dismay and fatigue over a survey that wanted to select ‘The
Greatest Indian After Gandhi’. The caveat, which presumed Gandhi’s
victory should he have been included, rankled. It was fresh salt on an
old, unhealed wound.

All the same, the emergence of Ambedkar in this poll offers India an
opportunity to come to terms with the legacy of a man who has been
defeated and betrayed time and again by Indians. Many of these bitter
defeats have been swept under the thick, dirty carpet of nationalist

Let us begin at the end, with one of the worst humiliations in
Ambedkar’s life, less than three months before his death. On September
14, 1956, exactly a month before he embraced Buddhism with
half-a-million followers in Nagpur, he wrote a heart-breaking letter to
prime minister Nehru from his 26, Alipore Road, residence in Delhi.
Enclosing two copies of the comprehensive Table of Contents of his
mnemonic opus, The Buddha and His Dhamma, Ambedkar suppressed pride and sought Nehru’s help in the publication of a book he had worked on for five years:

“The cost of printing is very heavy and will come to about Rs 20,000.
This is beyond my capacity, and I am, therefore, canvassing help from
all quarters. I wonder if the Government of India could purchase 500
copies for distribution among the various libraries and among the many
scholars whom it is inviting during the course of this year for the
celebration of Buddha’s 2,500 years’ anniversary.”

High table Nehru,
Ambedkar at a dinner hosted by Sardar Patel in 1948 in honour of C.
Rajagopalachari becoming governor-general. (Photographs Courtesy:
Lokvangmay Grih)

Ambedkar had perhaps gotten used
to exclusion by then. The greatest exponent of Buddhism after Asoka had
ruthlessly been kept out of this Buddha Jayanti committee presided over
by S. Radhakrishnan, then vice-president and a man who embarrassingly
believed that Buddhism was an “offshoot of Hinduism”, and “only a
restatement of the thought of the Upanishads from a new standpoint”.
Worse, when Nehru replied to Ambedkar the next day, he said that the sum
set aside for publications related to Buddha Jayanti had been
exhausted, and that he should approach Radhakrishnan, chairman of the
commemorative committee. Nehru also offered some business advice,
gratuitously: “I might suggest that your books might be on sale in Delhi
and elsewhere at the time of Buddha Jayanti celebrations when many
people may come from abroad. It might find a good sale then.”
Radhakrishnan is said to have informed Ambedkar on phone about his
inability to help him.

Why the greatest Indian after Gandhi? The caveat, that Gandhi would have won, was somewhat irksome.
is the vinaya that the prime minister and vice-president of the day
extended to the former law minister and chairperson of the drafting
committee of the Constitution. It was suggested with impertinence that
Ambedkar could set up a stall, hawk copies and recover costs. When Karna
needed to attend to the wheel of his chariot, Krishna goaded Arjuna to
strike the fatal blow. But this time Karna managed to pull away from
what he called the “dung-heap of Hinduism”, away from holy books like
the Bhagavad Gita that offered an “unheard-of defence of murder”, to
steer the Wheel of Dhamma. The man who lamented the lack of ethics and
morals among Hindus and sought refuge in the “sacred morality” of
Buddhism did not live to see a printed version of The Buddha and His Dhamma.
The huge flock that walked away into Buddhism on October 14 that year
was, for the moment, denied the message their Shepherd wished to
bequeath to them.

The violence and injustice done to Ambedkar by India cannot be atoned
for by the same Radhakrishnan, now as president, inaugurating
Ambedkar’s statue in Parliament in 1967, by an afterthought Bharat
Ratna, by random political parties garnishing their garrulous posters
with his pictures, by the hypocrisy of textbook writers who admonish
Dalits for lacking a sense of humour. Only an earnest return to
Ambedkar, through a pursuit of his ideas of emancipatory justice in an
intrinsically unequal society, can help repair the damage.

Much like the religion he embraced had been vanquished from India for
close to 1,200 years until British archaeologists and Orientalists
literally excavated it, Ambedkar and his intellectual legacy have been
lying buried, sedimented beneath layers of indifference, hatred and
contempt. Nearly half of his writings were first published only after
the 1980s; some of his manuscripts are said to have been lost. His works
are still not available in mainstream bookstores. As Sharmila Rege (Songsters from the Mudhouse)
shows in her essay, his life, ideas and books have been kept alive
solely by Dalits in their segregated enclaves, in counter-public
spheres. The partial exhumation that has happened since the 1991
centenary year is largely of Ambedkar’s pratima (image), not his
pratibha (genius), to use political theorist Gopal Guru’s felicitous

The foundation for Ambedkar’s defeats was laid by the 1932 Poona
Pact. While Gandhi saw the double vote and separate electorates as
dividing Hindus, Ambedkar had no reason to see himself and fellow Dalits
as ‘Hindus’—a nebulous category that gained currency only in the
colonial and nationalist period, with one newspaper even unabashedly
flaunting this as its raison d’etre.

Subsequently, Ambedkar lost every poll of consequence he contested.
Contrary to popular belief that he was welcomed into the Constituent
Assembly to spearhead the making of the Constitution, every effort was
made to thwart him. Ambedkar had hoped that the Cabinet Mission Plan of
May 1946 would facilitate a tripartite agreement between Hindus
(Congress), Muslims (Muslim League) and the Scheduled Castes (Scheduled
Castes Federation or SCF). However, the crushing defeat of SCF
candidates in the March 1946 provincial assembly elections undermined
Ambedkar’s position. Such a loss was only to be expected in a post-Poona
Pact scenario where caste Hindus, who invariably outnumbered the Dalits
even in reserved constituencies, elected only obliging ‘harijans’, not
Dalits. In a first-past-the-post (FPTP) system, Ambedkar too lost.

May 8, 1950 Babasaheb being sworn in as independent India’s first law minister

When members were being elected to
the CA by provincial assemblies, Ambedkar stood little chance with SCF
members in the Bombay province unable to make up the numbers. Bombay
premier B.G. Kher, under instructions from Sardar Patel, ensured that
Ambedkar was not elected to the 296-member body. Says Ambedkar’s
biographer Dhananjay Keer, “The Congress elected its men. The majority
of them were elected not because they knew much about
constitution-making but because they had suffered imprisonment in the
patriotic struggle.”

At this juncture, Jogendra Nath Mandal (1904-1968), a man forgotten
today except in the Dalit circles of Bengal, came to Ambedkar’s rescue.
As the leader of SCF in Bengal, he had forged an alliance with the
Muslim League and commandeered the numbers to get Ambedkar elected to
the CA from the Bengal assembly. After Partition, Mandal became a member
and temporary chairman of Pakistan’s Constituent Assembly, and served
that country as its first minister of law and labour. That Pakistan’s
first law minister, like Ambedkar, was also Dalit is almost forgotten
today. Bengal’s Partition disabled Ambedkar’s membership of the CA.
However, now finding him indispensable, the Congress allowed for his
fresh election from Bombay following the resignation of M.R. Jayakar.

Contrary to popular belief that Ambedkar was welcomed into the Constituent Assembly, he was thwarted at every step.
1951, in the first-ever parliamentary elections, Ambedkar—having
resigned from Nehru’s cabinet as law minister, disgusted by the repeated
scuttling of the Hindu Code Bill—contested from Bombay City North, a
double-member constituency that was required to return both a general
and an SC candidate. Contesting the reserved seat, he lost to Congress
candidate Narayan Sadoba Kajrolkar by 14,374 votes. S.A. Dange, one of
the founders of the Communist Party of India, canvassed against
Ambedkar, accusing him of ‘separatist’ politics, saying he favoured not
just separate electorates for untouchables but also for the Muslims; and
that he suggested Kashmir could be divided. Arun Shourie was not the
first to hurl such abuse.

Ambedkar tried his luck again in a 1954 byelection from Bhandara, but
lost to unknown Congressman Bhaurao Borkar. The Congress merely wished
to prove that a ‘seventh standard pass’ could defeat Babasaheb. Dalits
and Adivasis may enjoy ‘reserved seats’ today in proportion to their
ratio in the population, but the FPTP method ensures that those elected
are inevitably pliable candidates propped up by parties with
majoritarian interests—the Kajrolkars and Borkars, Jagjivan Rams and
Bangaru Laxmans, Sushilkumar Shindes and Meira Kumars who would do their
masters’ bidding.

In such a hollowed-out democracy, liberal scholars comfortably
celebrate Ambedkar’s constitutionalism, steering clear of the radicalism
of works like States and Minorities (1945), which he proposed
as the ‘Constitution of the United States of India’ at a time when he
was not sure of a place in the CA. Besides its sharp, left-leaning
socialist tenor—“key industries shall be owned and run by the
State…insurance shall be a monopoly of the State…agriculture shall
be a State industry”—this document needs to be revisited for the
political solutions it offers to pre-empt the rise of a Narendra Modi,
the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, the stalemate in Kashmir and even the
Bodo-Muslim problem in Assam.

At the heart of Ambedkar’s idea of democracy was his passion to
preserve the rights of minorities, for he saw Indian society as a
conglomeration of minorities. He offered a formula that would thwart the
communal majority (“born, not made”) from claiming a political
majority. In the Central Assembly, the Hindus, who form 54 per cent of
the population, should get 40 per cent representation; Muslims with 28.5
per cent, 32 per cent; 14 per cent SCs, 20 per cent; 1.16 per cent
Indian Christians, 3 per cent etc. In Bombay, Hindus who form 76.42 of
the population would get 40 per cent representation; Muslims at 9.98 per
cent, 28 per cent; SCs at 9.64 per cent, 28 per cent.

Shared space At a Bombay function in 1951, Babasaheb seated S.K. Bole in his lap

In other words, minorities must
get representation positively disproportionate to their ratio in
population while for the majority community it is capped at 40 per cent.
Undergirding this mechanism—which would have surely prevented Partition
and allayed Jinnah’s justifiable fears of Muslims being overrun by
Hindus—is the belief that “majority rule is untenable in theory and
unjustifiable in practice. A majority community may be conceded a
relative majority of representation but it can never claim an absolute
majority”. Ambedkar prophesied that the rise of Hindutva was hardwired
into the machinery of FPTP parliamentary democracy.

In Gujarat today, where we have a mere 2.7 per cent legislators who
are Muslim against a population share of 9 per cent, Ambedkar’s worst
fears have been borne out with a communal majority posing as political
majority. Parliamentary democracy as it stands today in India offers no
relief to minorities; the minorities are “overwhelmed by the majority”;
in Ambedkarite terms this rule of a brute communal majority cannot be
termed democracy at all.

An earnest and sincere engagement with Ambedkar means we rethink the
way our society is organised; we must rethink caste and ask ourselves if
India is ready to do today what Ambedkar asked of it in 1936: “You must
not forget that if you wish to bring about a breach in the system then
you have got to apply the dynamite to the Vedas and the Shastras, which
deny any part to reason; to Vedas and Shastras, which deny any part to
morality. You must destroy the Religion of the Shrutis and the Smritis.
Nothing else will avail.”

The time has come to jettison Ramayana and embrace Bhimayana; the
time has come to reject Gandhi’s Ram Rajya and usher in what Ambedkar’s
forebear Jyotirao Phule called Bali Rajya. The time has come to dump the
Dronacharya and Arjuna awards that memorialise deceitful gurus and
their unscrupulous chelas. While ushering in Bhim Raj, we should be
prepared to reclaim Eklavya, Surpanakha, Karna and Shambuka. Ambedkar
felt a social revolution was not possible in India. On this one count,
we ought to prove him wrong.

Separate And Unequal

  • At Satara High School, is made to sit apart, denied water. Local
    barbers do not cut his hair; sister Manjula does. At Bombay’s
    Elphinstone High School, high-caste children rush to ‘save’ their tiffin
    boxes behind the blackboard when Bhim is asked to write on it.
  • After a BA from Bombay University in 1913, the Maharaja of
    Baroda, Sayajirao Gaekwad, sends Ambedkar to Columbia University on a
    scholarship of £11.5 per month for three years. “In Columbia,” he says,
    “I experienced social equality for the first time.”
  • On Mar 20, 1927, leads 3,000 Dalits in Mahad to draw water from
    the Chavdar Tank. Hindus attack. “Under Brahmin Peshwa rule,” he says,
    “I’d have been trampled by an elephant.”


Good Press, Bad Press

  • The Hindu in a Sep 26, 1936, editorial on the Poona
    Pact doesn’t mention Ambedkar’s name; it alludes to him as “those who do
    not look with favour on India’s aspirations”.
  • At the 5th conference of the UP SCF in Lucknow in Apr ’48,
    Ambedkar says, “What I want is power—political power for my people.” An
    editorial in The Leader retorts: “Dr Ambedkar has chosen precisely this moment to tell the Scheduled Castes, ‘a united nation is all rot’.”
  • Time on Mar 16, 1936: “Dr Ambedkar is probably the only
    man alive who ever walked out in a huff from a private audience with
    the Pope of Rome. His Holiness Pius XI, having heard from Dr Ambedkar
    about the miseries of Indian outcastes, replied: ‘My son, it may take
    three or four centuries to remedy these abuses, be patient’.”

(S. Anand is the publisher of Navayana and co-author of Bhimayana, a graphic biography of Ambedkar.)

Courtesy: Aparajita Ninan/Navayana
Liberty’s men Ambedkar amidst radical icons

Vision For A New India

The Other Father

In his intolerance of inequality and creation of a
rights-based constitution, Ambedkar’s vision for a modern India is still
our blueprint for the future

Bollimera, a SC/ST activist from Andhra Pradesh, who was a part of the
SC/ST Swadhikar rally in 2003 that traversed the entire nation with a
picture of Ambedkar on a vehicle, knew none of the languages of those
villages and towns where they organised rallies. Emotions would run high
at these meetings thronged by
SC/STs revering Ambedkar. The activists
were never short of donations and food, as well as diesel for their
onward journey.

Anand realised that an image of Ambedkar was the sole unifying factor
for all
SC/STs, transcending language barriers, from Calcutta to
Kanyakumari. Ambedkar has an everyday presence in the lives of the 160
SC/ST community. He gave millions of Untouchables an
identity of their own.

Bodhisattva Bharat Ratna Babasaheb B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956), as he
is known to his followers, is now regarded as a great Indian, a person
relevant for all times to come. This is not because his followers are
unwavering in their devotion, or that they happen to be numerically
higher than supporters of any other person (dead or living) in India;
and certainly not because he probably has the highest number of statues
erected for any man in history. It is because his following has
transcended generations. His relevance—political, social, ideological,
religious, economic—will persist as long as the clamour and struggle for
justice and equal rights exists.

In a speech on the birth centenary of social reformer M.G. Ranade in
1943, Ambedkar defined a great man: “Sincerity and intellect are enough
to mark out an individual as being eminent…. A great man must have
something more than what a merely eminent individual has. A great man
must be motivated by the dynamics of a social purpose and must act as
the scourge and the scavenger of society. These are the elements (that)
constitute his title deeds to respect and reverence.” Ambedkar himself
fits the definition quite perfectly.

The stage that catapulted Ambedkar to indisputable prominence was
Gandhi’s fast undo death, opposing the political safeguards that
Ambedkar secured for the Untouchables from the British in 1932. The
Poona Pact between Gandhi and Ambedkar on September 24, 1932, shaped our
electoral system and the electoral method by which reserved
constituencies were defined.

Ambedkar introduced reservation for untouchables in jobs, education
and scholarships through the Poona Pact. Initially unwilling, Gandhi
finally agreed to a representation of scheduled castes in legislative
bodies under it. But Gandhi skewed the electoral method, which made the
election of a reserved candidate dependent upon the dominant caste vote.
This rendered them subservient to the interests of dominant social
forces, defeating the very purpose for which such representation was

Gandhi and Ambedkar agreed on many things, only to differ on the
methodology. Gandhi’s assassination before the Constitution could be
finalised even gave an opportunity to Sardar Patel to move towards
abolishing political safeguards to Dalits and tribes, but which were
rescued due to Ambedkar’s persistence. They were first extended by Nehru
in 1961. The representative character of reserved candidates remained
the way Gandhi wanted them to be.

While Gandhi’s assassination restricted his historical contribution
to the achievement of Swaraj, it was Ambedkar’s idea of a new India that
made him establish a rights-based Constitution. Now these very
constitutional means are used to secure the same rights for all—food,
livelihood, education, political and social safeguards, thus revisiting
Ambedkar’s contribution to the body politic.

Poona Pact participants



SC/STs have tirelessly brought Ambedkar to the centrestage, arguing that he was a great nation-builder as well.

adult franchise was a right for which Ambedkar fought since 1928 before
the Simon Commission, which the Congress boycotted. This, at a time
when Europe was still considering female franchise and America the vote
for Blacks. He warned Constituent Assembly members that they shouldn’t,
in their eagerness to bring Indian states into the Union, compromise in
any manner on the basic principles of democracy. Ambedkar fought against
an emerging democracy of patronage to create a democracy of rights for a
new India.

Ambedkar’s vision of modern India tends to revisit us more often. His
1955 idea of linguistic states split Bihar and Madhya Pradesh into two,
which became a reality in 2000. He was for small states and wanted
Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra split into three. He looked at Bombay as a
city state and Hyderabad as the second capital of India for its
centrality. The idea of gender equality, which Ambedkar wanted to
achieve through the Hindu Code Bill by making women coparceners in 1951,
was realised in 2005. Ambedkar chose to resign from Nehru’s cabinet on
the issue of gender equality, while orthodox Hindu leaders derided him
as a Modern Manu, as he dared to dispute the laws of Manu.

Ambedkar’s vision remains unfulfilled. His body politic was to be a
“united states of India”—an indissoluble union. In his India there
wouldn’t be landlords, tenants and landless labourers; where all land
would be vested with the state and where all Dalits would be resettled
in other settlements, away from their oppressive villages. For him
agriculture would be considered a state industry, insurance a state
monopoly and every citizen would be entitled to a policy.

The nation owes it to the tenacity of SC/STs for relentlessly pushing
Ambedkar and his ideals to the centrestage, arguing that he was not
only a leader of Dalits, but a great nation-builder. Throughout their
fight against oppression and hatred over the decades, Dalits have
redistributed, reread, and reinterpreted Ambedkar’s books. Finally, we
have come to a stage where the nation has realised that its body politic
is in peril, and has silently admitted the point that democratic ideals
should have precedence over everything.

The relevance of Ambedkar to modern India is indisputable—where Gandhi’s role stopped, Ambedkar’s started.

(The author is an IAS officer and has a PhD in Electoral Systems and the Poona Pact of Gandhi-Ambedkar)

Vexed issue Ambedkar and Gandhi at the Second Round Table Conference, 1931

Ambedkar vs Gandhi

A Part That Parted

Gandhi and Ambedkar feuded over how they saw
untouchability, one as just a sin of Hinduism, the other as the denial
of rights to an oppressed people

Gail Omvedt

confrontation between Ambedkar and Gandhi was a historic one. It had
its beginnings in the Round Table Conferences of 1930-32. Ambedkar had
gone for the first, as the prime representative of Dalits, or
Untouchables. But when Gandhi finally decided to attend the second
conference, he argued fervently that he represented the Untouchables,
because they were an integral part of the Hindu fold—which he
represented. To Ambedkar, the Untouchables were not a part of the Hindus
but “a part apart” (a phrase he had once applied to himself), a
uniquely oppressed people. They could accept, even welcome, the coming
of independence and its inevitable domination by the Congress (i.e. by
caste Hindus), but they needed “safeguards”.

Ambedkar had originally felt that with universal suffrage, reserved
seats would be sufficient. But universal suffrage was not given, and the
issues at the conference revolved around separate electorates. Gandhi
was reconciled to giving this to Muslims; he had already accepted their
identity as a separate community. Not so for Dalits. When the Ramsay
MacDonald Award gave separate electorates to Dalits, he protested with a
fast unto death. And this brought him into direct confrontation with

For Ambedkar, the problem was simple. If Gandhi died, in villages
throughout India there would be pogroms against the Dalits. They would
be massacred. Ambedkar surrendered, and the Poona Pact formalised this
with reserved seats for Dalits—more than they would have had otherwise,
but in constituencies now controlled by caste Hindus.

Ambedkar wrote, many years later, in What Congress and Gandhi have Done to the Untouchables:
“There was nothing noble in the fast. It was a foul and filthy act. The
fast was not for the benefit of the Untouchables. It was against them
and was the worst form of coercion against a helpless people to give up
the constitutional safeguards (which had been awarded to them).” He felt
the whole system of reserved seats, then, was useless. For years
afterwards, the problem of political representation remained chronic.
Ambedkar continued to ask for separate electorates, but futilely. By the
end of his life, at the time of writing his Thoughts on Linguistic States
in 1953, he gave these up also and looked to something like
proportional representation. But the Poona Pact remained a symbol of
bitter defeat, and Gandhi from that time on was looked on as one of the
strongest enemies of the Untouchables by Ambedkar and his followers.



The SC/STs saw the Harijan Sevak Sangh “as a foreign body set up by the Hindus with some ulterior motive”.

the fast, Gandhi formed what he called the Harijan Sevak Sangh. Here
again, crucial differences arose. Ambedkar argued for a broad civil
rights organisation which would focus on gaining civic rights for
Dalits—entry into public places, use of public facilities, broad civil
liberties—and he wanted it under the control of the Dalits themselves.
Instead, Gandhi envisaged a paternalistic organisation, controlled by
caste Hindus working for the “uplift” of Untouchables. This flowed from
his basic theory, which saw untouchability as a sin of Hinduism—but not a
basic part of Hinduism, rather a flaw in it which could be removed;
upper-caste Hindus should atone for this, make recompense, and take
actions for the cleansing and uplift of the Dalits. This included
programmes of going to clean up slums, preaching anti-alcoholism and
vegetarianism and so forth. For Ambedkar, all of this was worse than
useless. He condemned the Harijan Sevak Sangh in strong language: “The
work of the Sangh is of the most inconsequential kind. It does not catch
anyone’s imagination. It neglects most urgent purposes for which the
Untouchables need help and assistance. The Sangh rigorously excludes the
Untouchables from its management. The Untouchables are no more than
beggars, mere recipients of charity.” He concluded that the Untouchables
see the Sangh “as a foreign body set up by the Hindus with some
ulterior motive…the whole object is to create a slave mentality among
the Untouchables towards their Hindu masters”. This, to Ambedkar, was
the major thrust of paternalism.

This debate on the Sangh had as its background a fundamental
difference in the very goals of Ambedkar and Gandhi. Ambedkar stood for
the annihilation of caste. He saw untouchability as a fundamental result
of it, and believed there could be no alleviation, no uplift, no relief
without the abolition of caste. Gandhi was not simply a devoted Hindu,
but also a fervent believer in his idealised version of “varnashrama
dharma”. He felt that what he considered to be the benign aspects of
caste—its encouragement of a certain solidarity—could be maintained
while removing hierarchy and the evil of untouchability. This was in
fact the essence of his reformism.

This was followed by a conflict between Ambedkar and Gandhi over
religion. Ambedkar had by now become thoroughly disillusioned with
Hinduism. He argued for conversion, and in 1936 made the historic
announcement at Yeola that “I was born a Hindu and have suffered the
consequences of untouchability. I will not die a Hindu”. Two days later,
Gandhi held a press conference, calling Ambedkar’s decision
“unbelievable. Religion is not like a house or cloak which can be
changed at will”. On August 22, 1936, he wrote in the Harijan
(the name given to his newspaper): “One may hope we have seen the last
of any bargaining between Dr Ambedkar and savarnas for the transfer to
another form of several million dumb Harijans as if they were chattel.”
This way of speaking became typical of him; he could not envisage the
anger and grief of the millions of Dalits who followed Ambedkar on this

Behind this were different views
of humanity. Gandhi did not see untouchables as individuals born into a
particular community but rather as somewhat unthinking members of an
existing Hindu community; Hinduism he saw as their “natural” religion,
their task was to reform it, they should not leave it. Ambedkar, in
contrast, put the individual and his/her development at the centre of
his vision, and believed this development was impossible without a new,
true religion. The confrontation was inevitable.

The feud between Gandhi and Ambedkar did not stop here. The final
difference was over India’s path of development itself. Gandhi believed,
and argued for, a village-centred model of development, one which would
forsake any hard path of industrialism but seek to achieve what he
called “Ram rajya”, an idealised, harmonised traditional village
community. Ambedkar, in contrast, wanted economic development and with
it industrialisation as the basic prerequisite for the abolition of
poverty. He insisted always that it should be worker-friendly, not
capitalistic, at times arguing for “state socialism” (though he later
accepted some forms of private ownership of industry). He remained,
basically, to the end of his life a democratic socialist. To him,
villages were far from being an ideal; rather they were “cesspools”, a
cauldron of backwardness, tradition and bondage. Untouchables had to
escape from the villages, and India also had to reject its village past.

In sum, there were important, irreconcilable differences between
Gandhi and Ambedkar. Two great personages of Indian history, posed
against one another, giving alternative models of humanity and society.
The debate goes on!

(Gail Omvedt is a veteran chronicler of the SC/ST movement.)

I renounce… Gandhi in 1941; Ambedkar in his Buddhist deeksha robes

Identity Politics

The Apostate Children Of God

Ambedkar knew that there would be outcasts as long as there are castes

The Laws of Manu
is one of the most exemplary texts of ideology in the entire history
of humanity. The first reason is that while its ideology encompasses
the entire universe, inclusive of its mythic origins, it focuses on everyday practices as the immediate materiality of ideology:
how (what, where, with whom, when…) we eat, defecate, have sex, walk,
enter a building, work, make war, etc. The second reason is that the
book stages a radical shift with regard to its starting point
(presupposition): the ancient code of Veda. What we find in Veda is the
brutal cosmology based on killing and eating: higher things kill and
eat/consume lower ones, stronger eat weaker, i.e., life is a zero-sum
game where one’s victory is another’s defeat. The “great chain of
being” appears here as founded in the “food chain,” the great chain of
eating: gods eat mortal humans, humans eat mammals, mammals eat lesser
animals who eat plants, plants “eat” water and earth… such is the
eternal cycle of being. So why does then Veda claim that at the top of
society are not warriors-kings stronger than all other humans, “eating”
them all, but the caste of priests? Here, the ideological ingenuity of
Veda enters the stage: the function of the priests is to prevent the
first, highest, level of cosmic eating: the eating of human mortals by
gods. How? By way of performing sacrificial rituals. Gods must be
appeased, their hunger for blood must be satisfied, and the trick of the
priests is to offer gods a substitute (symbolic) sacrifice: an animal
or other prescribed food instead of human life. The sacrifice is needed
not for any special favours from gods, but to make it sure that the
wheel of life goes on turning. Priests perform a function which
concerns the balance of the entire universe: if gods remain hungry, the
whole cycle of cosmic life is disturbed. From the very beginning, the
“holistic” notion of the great chain of Being—whose reality is the
brutal chain of stronger eating weaker—is thus based on deception: it
is not a “natural” chain, but a chain based on an exception (humans who
don’t want to be eaten), i.e., sacrifices are substitute insertions
aimed at restoring the complete life cycle.

This was the first contract between ideologists (priests) and those
in power (warriors-kings): the kings, who retain actual power (over life
and death of other people) will recognize the formal superiority of the
priests as the highest caste, and, in exchange for this appearance of
superiority, the priests will legitimize the power of the warriors-kings
as part of the natural cosmic order. Then, however, around the sixth
and fifth century BCE, something took place, a radical “revaluation of
all values” in the guise of the universalist backlash against this
cosmic food chain: the ascetic rejection of this entire infernal machine
of life reproducing itself through sacrifice and eating. The circle of
food chain is now perceived as the circle of eternal suffering, and the
only way to achieve piece is to exempt oneself from it. (With regard to
food, this, of course, means vegetarianism: not eating killed animals.)
From perpetuating time, we pass to the goal of entering the timeless
Void. With this reversal from the life-affirming stance to the
world-renunciation, comparable to the Christian reversal of the pagan
universe, the highest values are no longer strength and fertility, but
compassion, humility, and love. The very meaning of sacrifice changes
with this reversal: we no longer sacrifice so that the infernal
life-cycle goes on, but to get rid of the guilt for participating in
this cycle.

What are the socio-political consequences of this reversal? How can
we avoid the conclusion that the entire social hierarchy, grounded in
the “great food chain” of eaters and those being eaten, should be
suspended? It is here that the genius of The Laws of Manu shines: its basic ideological operation is to unite the hierarchy of castes and the ascetic world-renunciation
by way of making the purity itself the criterion of one’s place in the
caste hierarchy
. As Wendy Doniger says in her introduction to this text,

“Vegetarianism was put forward as the only way to liberate oneself
from the bonds of natural violence that adversely affected one’s karma.
A concomitant of this new dietary practice was a social hierarchy
governed to a large extent by the relative realization of the ideal of
non-violence. The rank order of the social classes did not change. But
the rationale for the ranking did.”

Vegetarian priests are at the top, as close as humanly possible to
purity; they are followed by the warriors-kings who reality by
dominating it and killing life — they are in a way the negative of the
priests, i.e., they entertain towards the wheel of Life the same
negative attitude like the priests, albeit in the
aggressive/intervening mode. Then come the producers who provide food
and other material conditions for life, and, finally, at the bottom,
the outcasts whose main task is to deal with all kinds of excrements,
the putrefying dead remainders of life (from cleaning the toilets to
butchering animals and disposing of human bodies).

Since the two attitudes are ultimately incompatible, the task of
their unification is an impossible one and can be achieved only by a
complex panoply of tricks, displacements and compromises whose basic
formula is that of universality with exceptions: ‘in principle yes,
but…’ The Laws of Manu demonstrates a breath-taking ingenuity in
accomplishing this task, with examples often coming dangerously close to
the ridiculous. For example, priests should study the Veda, not trade;
in extremity, however, a priest can engage in trade, but he is not
allowed to trade in certain things like sesame seed; if he does it, he
can only do it in certain circumstances; finally, if he does it in the
wrong circumstances, he will be reborn as a worm in dogshit…

In other words, the great lesson of The Laws of Manu is that
the true regulating power of the law does not reside in its direct
prohibitions, in the division of our acts into permitted and prohibited,
but in regulating the very violations of prohibitions: the law
silently accepts that the basic prohibitions are violated (or even
discreetly solicits us to violate them), and then, once we find
ourselves in this position of guilt, it tells us how to reconcile the
violation with the law by way of violating the prohibition in a
regulated way…

British colonial administration of India elevated The Laws of Manu
into a privileged text to be used as a reference for establishing the
legal code which would render possible the most efficient domination of
India – up to a point, one can even say that The Laws of Manu only became the book of the Hindu
tradition retroactively, chosen to stand for the tradition by the
colonizers among a vast choice (the same as its obscene obverse,
“tantra,” which was also systematized into a coherent dark, violent and
dangerous cult by the British colonizers) – in all these cases, we are
dealing with what Eric Hobsbawm called “invented traditions.” What this
also implies is that the persistence of the phenomenon and social
practice of the Untouchables is not simply a remainder of tradition:
their number grew throughout the nineteenth century, with the spreading
of cities which lacked proper canalization, so that the outcasts were
needed to deal with dirt and excrements. At a more general level, one
should thus reject the idea that globalization threatens local
traditions, that it flattens differences: sometimes it threatens them,
more often it keeps them alive, or resuscitates them by way of adapting
them to new conditions – say, like the British and Spanish re-invented

With the formal prohibition of the discrimination of the
Untouchables, their exclusion changed status and became the obscene
supplement of the official/public order: publicly disavowed, it
continues its subterranean existence. However, this subterranean
existence is nonetheless formal (it concerns the subject’s symbolic
title/status), which is why it does not follow the same logic as the
well-known classic Marxist opposition of formal equality and actual
inequality in the capitalist system: here, it is the inequality (the
persistence of the hierarchic caste system) which is formal, while in
their actual economic and legal life, individuals are in a way equal (a
dalit today can also become rich, etc.). The status of the caste
hierarchy is here not the same as that of nobility in a bourgeois
society, which is effectively irrelevant, just a feature which may add
to the subject’s public glamour.

Exemplary is here the conflict between B.R. Ambedkar and Gandhi
during the 1930s: although Gandhi was the first Hindu politician to
advocate the full integration of the Untouchables, and called them “the
children of god,” he perceived their exclusion as the result of the
corruption of the original Hindu system. What Gandhi envisaged was
rather the (formally) non-hierarchical order of castes within which each
individual has his/her own allotted place: he emphasized the importance
of scavenging and celebrated the Untouchables for performing this
“sacred” mission. It is here that the Untouchables are exposed to the
greatest ideological temptation: in a way which prefigures today’s
“identity politics,” Gandhi is allowing them to “fall in love with
themselves” in their humiliating identity, to accept their degrading
work as a noble necessary social task, to perceive even the degrading
nature of their work as a sign of their sacrifice, of their readiness to
do the dirty job for society. Even his more “radical” injunction that
everyone, Brahmin included, should clean his or her own shit, obfuscates
the true issue, which is not that of our individual attitude, but of a
global social nature. (The same ideological trick is performed today by
injunctions which bombard us from all sides to recycle personal waste,
to put bottles, newspapers, etc., in the appropriate separate bins… in
this way, guilt and responsibility are personalized, it is not the
entire organization of economy which is to blame, but our subjective
attitude which should be changed.) The task is not to change our inner
selves, but to abolish Untouchability as such, i.e., not as an element
of the system, but the system itself which generates it. In contrast to
Gandhi, Ambedkar saw this clearly when he, as Christophe Jaffrelot says,
“underlined the futility of merely abolishing Untouchability: this evil
being the product of a social hierarchy of a particular kind, it was
the entire caste system that had to be eradicated: ‘There will be out
castes /Untouchables/ as long as there are castes.’ … Gandhi responded
that, on the contrary, here it was a question of the foundation of
Hinduism, a civilization which, in its original form, in fact ignored

In 1927, Ambedkar symbolically burnt a copy of the Manusmriti; Gandhi always held in his hand a copy of the Bhagvad Gita—a text that extolled the varna order in its originary four-fold form. Ambedkar mounted a severe critique of the Gita for being a counter-revolutionary defence of the caste
order. The Gandhi-Ambedkar difference here is insurmountable: it is the
difference between the “organic” solution (solving the problem by way of
returning to the purity of the original non-corrupted system) and the
truly radical solution (identifying the problem as the “symptom” of the
entire system, the symptom which can only be resolved by way of
abolishing the entire system). Ambedkar saw clearly how the structure of
four castes, or the varna system, does not unite four elements which
belong to the same order: while the first three castes (priests,
warrior-kings, merchants-producers) form a consistent All, an organic
triad, the Shudras (slaves) and Untouchables (outside the four-fold
system) are like Marx’s “Asiatic mode of production” the “part of no
part,” the inconsistent element which holds within the system the place
of what the system as such excludes — and as such, the Untouchables
stand for universality. Or, as Ambedkar’s put it in his ingenious
wordplay: “There will be outcasts as long as there are castes.” As long
as there are castes, there will be an excessive excremental zero-value
element which, while formally part of the system, has no proper place
within it. Gandhi obfuscates this paradox, as if harmonious structure is

Slavoj Žižek is the international director of the Birkbeck Institute
for the Humanities, University of London. His most recent book is Less than Nothing: Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. A shorter, edited version of this appears in print.

Beyond his light? Many believe Kanshi Ram and Mayawati have done more for the Entire People including  SC/STs/OBCs/Minorities through the policy of SARVAJAN HITHAY SARVAJAN SUKHAI

Tribhuvan Tiwari
Totem on a flag A BSP rally in New Delhi

Illustration by Sorit


An Untouched History

His stature as a social actor often obscures the value of his scholarship

When Gandhi and Ambedkar met in 1931, soon after the first session of
the Round Table Conference, they had a fierce disagreement about
Congress initiatives regarding untouchables. It is significant that
Gandhi thought Ambedkar was an intemperate Brahmin who took interest in
‘Harijan’ matters. This misassumption on Gandhi’s part provides a
historic clue about the incredibility of an untouchable’s entry into
national consciousness.

In the years to come, the Gandhi–Ambedkar stand-off became marked not
only in the political battleground but also in the way they viewed
history, politics and ethics. For Gandhi, politics was a means to escape
the violent traps of history and embrace a non-violent condition of
‘truth’. The mode for the attainment of such a truth formed the impetus
behind Gandhi’s experiments with ahimsa. Ambedkar was more
interested in the violence of history as a reliable source for
understanding the truth of politics. In contrast to the centrality of
‘self’ in Gandhi’s schema of politics, Ambedkar emphasised ‘caste’ as the cardinal category for understanding Hindu identity and Indian history.For Gandhi, if ‘truth’ was outside history, for Ambedkar that truth was untouchability.

Ambedkar conceded that deciphering “the origin of Untouchability is
not the same as writing history from texts” but a case of
“reconstructing history where there are no texts”. So he tried to
interpret what the texts “conceal or suggest”, risking uncertainties
about the ‘truth’. The risk allowed Ambedkar to traverse with acumen
between the textual and the social. For example, the Sanskrit word antya in
ancient Hindu law books, meaning ‘born last’, is associated by orthodox
Hindu scholarship with the untouchable who comes last in the order of
creation. But Ambedkar pointed out that in Vedic theory the last born is
a shudra. So if the untouchable is antya it would mean not
someone born at the end of creation, but at the end of the village. By
that interpretative masterstroke Ambedkar connected Hindu society’s
language of othering with its corresponding practice of ostracising untouchables.

The historian D.D Kosambi was optimistic that the “supposed
unshakeablity and inherent strength” of the caste system would “vanish
as soon as new forms of production come in”. Kosambi’s view that
passenger trains, factories and non-caste guilds among workers would
transform caste into class was echoed by other historians including
Irfan Habib, as well as by Nehru. There was a universalist assumption
regarding the progressive transformation of social relations, based on a
scientific vision of history. In contrast, Ambedkar’s speculative
history of caste today better explains the persistence of caste with the
advent of colonial modernity. While other prominent left historians
probed the issue of caste mainly through political economy, Ambedkar
read the caste system prominently as an entrenched norm of power
relations, both suggesting and hiding its exception: the barbaric
effacement of untouchables.

From the late nineteenth century phase of the nationalist movement, the Gita
became a source of intense debate about the relationship between
morality and politics. Tilak and Aurobindo, among others, upheld the
text’s moral sanction of bloodshed, while Gandhi claimed that once the
elevated ideal of detached action was followed, it was impossible to be
violent. But they were all in accord that the Gita presented a symbolic context for a human being’s duty-bound predicament and they found the text an ethic for individual action.

Ambedkar, on the other hand, stressed that the Gita was “concerned with the particular and not with the general”. He explained how its terminologies of karma and jnana were untranslatable into the generalised, modern notions of ‘action’ and ‘knowledge’. Ambedkar held the Gita to be “neither a book of religion nor a treatise of philosophy” but a text which defends certain religious dogmas, like the chaturvarnya, on “philosophic grounds”. In Hegel’s commentary on the Gita,
the philosopher observed that the “moral principles” and “rules of
conduct” in the text can “only be understood from the caste law”. Hegel
and Ambedkar found the Gita incapable of transcending its casteist context and becoming an individual ethic. Beyond the debate about whether the Gita
propagates violence or non-violence, Ambedkar alone took pains to
historicise the constitutive violence of the text’s casteist framework.

Ambedkar believed in the Buddhist doctrine which differentiates
between ‘the will to kill’ and ‘the need to kill’. He also believed in
‘absolute non-violence’, where he endorsed violence for just ends in the
fight against inequality and oppression. The distinction between ‘will’
and ‘need’ is a tricky one in the context of the justificatory
discourse of state (or any other) violence. But Ambedkar placed his
optimism in the institution of the state in order to overcome the
institution of caste. Gandhi’s political idea of non-violence, as a
“method of securing rights by personal suffering”, was on the other hand
an oppositional politics of counter-sovereignty against the state. But
while Ambedkar saw the possibility of the state reflecting an assertive
caste consciousness, Gandhi did not engage with the state’s class and
caste character.

Ambedkar had once made a distinction between the “learned”, limited
by class interests, and the “intellectual”, emancipated from class
considerations. Among the many learned Indian nationalists, Ambedkar was
a rare intellectual.

A slightly shorter, edited version of this appears in print. This article was edited online on August 11, 2012.

Illustration by Sorit
It’s Not Red Vs Blue
Ambedkar was more about class than caste, but the Left won’t see it that way

is a land of paradoxes. But no paradox may be as consequential as the
divergent histories of the Dalit and the Communist movements. Both were
born around the same time, spoke for or against the same issues, grew or
splintered similarly, and find themselves equally hopeless today. And
yet, they refuse to see eye to eye. A large part of the blame for
wallowing in this attitudinal abyss is attributed to Ambedkar, simply
because of his explicit critique of the Communists and Marxism. This is
simplistic, if not grossly wrong.

Ambedkar was not a Marxist. His intellectual upbringing had been
under the Fabian influence at Columbia University and the London School
of Economics. John Dewey, whom Ambedkar held in such high esteem as to
owe him his entire intellectual making, was an American Fabian. Fabians
wanted socialism, but not as Marx had proposed. Fabians believed
socialism could be brought about through evolution, not through
revolution. Despite these influences, Ambedkar, without agreeing with
Marx, took Marxism not only seriously, but also used it as the benchmark
to assess his decisions throughout his life.

Ambedkar practised class politics, albeit not in the Marxian sense.
He always used “class” even for describing the untouchables. In his very
first published essay, ‘Castes in India’, written when was 25, he
described caste as “enclosed class”. Without indulging in theorising,
this reflected an essential agreement with Lenin, who stressed that
class analysis must be done in “concrete conditions”, not in a vacuum.
Castes were the pervasive reality of India, and hence could not escape
class analysis. But the then Communists, claiming monopoly over Marx and
Lenin, used imported “moulds” and relegated castes to the
“superstructure”. In one stroke, they made a range of anti-caste
struggles a non-issue. They were only reflecting a brahminical obsession
with the “sanctity” of the Word, a la vedavakya. 

One instance of Communists ignoring the discrimination against Dalits
came from Bombay’s textile mills. When Ambedkar pointed out that Dalits
were not allowed to work in the better-paying weaving department, and
that other practices of untouchability were rampant in mills where the
Communists had their Girni Kamgar Union, they didn’t pay heed. Only when
he threatened to break their strike of 1928 did they reluctantly agree
to remedy the wrong.

In the wake of the 1937 elections to provincial assemblies, he
founded his first political party, the Independent Labour Party, in
August 1936, which he declared was a “working class” party. Its
manifesto had many pro-people promises, the word “caste” occurring only
once, in passing. Scholars like Christophe Jaffrelot have termed ILP the
first leftist party in India, the Communists until then being either
underground or under the umbrella of the Congress socialist bloc.

During the 1930s, he was at his radical best. He formed the Mumbai
Kamgar Sangh in 1935 which anticipated the merger of caste and class
that happened with ILP. Despite differences, he joined hands with the
Communists and led the massive strike against the Industrial Dispute Act
in 1938. The Cripps Report in 1942, which excluded the ILP on the plea
that it did not represent any community, impelled him to dissolve the
ILP and form the seemingly caste-based Scheduled Castes Federation
(SCF). However, his left leanings continued despite his being a member
of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. It culminated in his writing States and Minorities,
a blueprint for a socialist economy to be hardcoded into the
Constitution of India. The Communists, however, saw his movement as
dividing their proletariat. This is the attitude that precipitated in
Dange’s vile call to voters to waste their votes but not to cast it in
favour of Ambedkar in the 1952 elections. As a result, he was defeated.

His conversion to Buddhism is also read superficially as the
spiritual craving of a frustrated soul or further evidence of his
anti-Marxism. Although many scholars have refuted this misreading, it
needs to be said this was almost his last reference to Marx. In
comparing Buddhism with Marxism barely a fortnight before his death, he
validated his decision as conforming to Marxism, minus the violence and
dictatorship. Sadly, the folly of embracing Marx and jettisoning
Ambedkar still persists.

(The writer teaches at IIT Kharagpur.)

This piece was edited to fix typos on August 15, 2012.

Illustration by Sorit


The Third Day’s Dawn

The everness of Ambedkar’s appeal lends him a messianic quality. Immortality.

Harish Wankhede

relevance of any idea may be judged by its capacity to make an abiding
impact on society over time. Newly independent India had crafted its
values by branding Jawaharlal Nehru as the modernist visionary of the
future, and M.K. Gandhi as the moralist ideal. Babasaheb Ambedkar also
played a crucial role in this dynamic by proposing a corrective model of
liberal democracy which was different from the positivist tendencies of
the nationalist elite. In the first two decades after Independence,
Ambedkar was relegated to being an insignificant critical voice of the
socially downtrodden masses in opposition to the heightened populist
political appeals of so-called secular nationalism, citizenship and
modernization. However, Ambedkar has been resurrected at regular
intervals, and his ideas and legacy have repeatedly inspired the
disadvantaged groups to challenge the dominant modes of political

On his death-bed Ambedkar revitalized Buddhism and appealed to his
followers to leave the Hindu fold. This was not only a revenge on the
part of enlightened dalit groups against the irrational and exploitative
Brahmanic order, but this also simultaneously problematised the
ethical edifice of the modern Constitution—a document that aimed at
providing security and empowerment to the disprivileged sections, and
was ironically drafted by Ambedkar. At one stroke, Ambedkar
demonstrated the limitations of Gandhian Hindu benevolence and also
challenged the limitations of liberal democracy.

In the early 1970s, Ambedkar was resurrected again as a militant voice
of the radical Dalit Panthers Movement in the urban slums of
Maharashtra. The deployment of Ambedkar here was in contrast to his
familiar image as a passive constitutionalist or a saffron-clad
Boddhisatva. The Panthers reinvented him as the philosopher of the
socially wretched who provided rational wisdom to understand the roots
of their exploitation and promised a new world based on justice and
equality. Ambedkar’s ideas were presented as a corrective to the elitist
formulation of Marxist revolution; demands were made for the immediate
inclusion of social democracy in the language of the Left.

Bahujan Samaj Party’s founder Kanshi Ram’s imaginative conceptualization
of ‘bahujan’ must be seen another resurrection of Ambedkar’s
ideological imperatives for social revolution. Kanshi Ram propelled and
completed a journey Ambedkar had begun—in wresting political power in a
democratic system skewed against dalits. Along with the rise of the BSP
in the 1990s, the Ambedkarite logic of reservation and differentiated
citizenship was instrumentalised to defend the state’s policy of
extending the benefits of social justice to the Other Backward Classes
(OBCs). In this avatar, Ambedkar is seen as the harbinger of
anti-Brahmanic social alliance between the Dalits and the OBCs.

In more recent times, Ambedkar has provided the argumentative force for
defending the rights of socially deprived identities within the Muslims,
known as Pasmandas. Positive discrimination has come to be seen as a
means to come to terms with stratified hierarchies within Muslims. The
Sachar Commission partakes of this logic.

With the complete tilt of India’s economic policies towards market-based
neo-liberalism, Ambedkar appears as a hopeful voice of socialist
philanthropy. The failure of Leftist trade unions and other mass
organizations to protect the rights of the working classes, tribals and
city dwellers from the onslaught of capitalist manoeuvring has led them
to utilize Ambedkar’s arguments of social justice. More than the
socialist Nehru, Ambedkar is being seen as the politically valuable
voice to defend the constitutional directives for ensuring basic
entitlements of food, work and education to the worst off sections.

Despite the propaganda machinery of the DAVP (Department of Audio-Visual
Publicity of the I&B ministry) and myth-making in textbooks and
popular culture around the figure of Gandhi, his position in the last
few decades has been confined to the peripheries of our political
habitus. He has increasingly become a quasi-ethical voice of ecological
protectionism, anti-nuclear protests and conflict resolution through
nonviolent means. Gandhi is also identified with emotive middle class
concerns, distanced from the masses, mostly as a decorative icon to flag
‘non-political’ slogans. The NGOization of Gandhi by Baba Amte, Medha
Patkar and Anna Hazare has further arrested Gandhism’s political
capacities. Such movements and their leaders seem to occupy brief media
and societal attention, but they cannot match the emergence of massive
socio-political movements based on demands for social justice,
democratization of public institutions and pro-poor economic policies. 

In other words, what we have seen in the last two decades is the visible
mainstreaming of Ambedkar and the marginalization of Gandhi and Nehru
in the political sphere. From being once seen the exclusive voice of
ex-untouchable castes, Ambedkar has emerged as the messianic
spokesperson of a cross-section of deprived communities. Even when
certain movements do not explicitly acknowledge their debt to Ambedkar,
his ideas suffuse most struggles for emancipation and justice.

Ambedkar’s architectonic imagination has fashioned new communitarian
ethics that allows the downtrodden to demand a level playing field in
today’s increasingly skewed world. When the populist ideas of our
nationalist leaders have benefited hugely from state propaganda—a
top-down approach—Ambedkar’s ideas have been resurrected by protest
movements that rise from below.

Harish Wankhede teaches Political Science in Delhi University. An edited, shorter version of this appears in print.

+ve Awakened Ones with Awareness

 I’m surpised to see the name of Gautama Buddha missing from the list.
Perhaps he doesn’t qualify because he was born in Lumbini?
Arun Kumar
Lucknow, India

WHILE DECIDING GREATNESS-one of parameter which also needs to be
considered is ‘ enemies ability ‘ that great person encountered with, Dr
Amedkar fought with 5000 year old inhuman, unjustified but deep rooted
and enforced system called casteism , which was more powerful than
hitler, indira or crickets all fast baller together or non coperative
and corrupt system with which JRD , anna or naryan murthy fought while
trying to introduce values in society and business or suman kalynpur and
 vinod khanna or rajesh khanna with whom lata and amit compared and
ranadheer patwardhan
sangli, India

-ve people with traditional venomous Dominating  hatred and angry ones
who believe in First, Second, Third, Fourth rate souls and that the
untouchables have no soul and they could do any harm they wished to do
to them and to prevent them from acquiring the MASTER KEY as desired by
Dr.Ambedkar for the creation of PraBuddha Bharath through the policy of

Vinod Mehta

Email not available

samir sandilya
guwahati, India

Aditya Mookerjee
Belgaum, India

Adipur, India

Jagatheesan Chandrasekharan
Bangalore, India

selection (of nominees) speaks as much about ourselves…. We still
largely see through Nehru’s eyes. Dr Ambedkar stands very, very tall
(despite being ignored by the mainstream). He was not just a Dalit icon
but a scholar as well.” Yogendra Yadav, Scholar and academic


[[Buddhism does not believe in God, while hinduism is filled with
gods herogiri, Buddhism is based on equality, whereas hinduism is based
on inequality and discrimination…]]

If this is what idiots like you think is Hinduism, I’m 100% convinced
that my ancestors were absolutely right in witholding the knowledge of
scriptures from your ancestors.

Hyderabad, India

Bababasaheb was the greatest Indian and his
contribution to India’s unity, equality, liberty, fraternity is
considered to be of high value. Though in his time ridiculed,
suppressed, deginerated by the media, Congress and Caste hindu
mentality, it has taken long time for him to be recognised, his
contribution in the field of economics “Problem of Rupee” which helped
the royal commission to set up RBI, Hirakud dam project while incharge
of irrigation department, Proactive women laws in Hindu code bill is
forgotten, his entire contribution was n direct conflict with the caste
hindu supremacy which kept his contribution masked…

P.S Contradicting some of the comments below :

CHIRA -Bangalore” However, Ambedkar’s story must be seen in full light of British divide and rule Policy.” 

Please note that Freedom of India means freedom of all section of the
society, but the Caste hindu society wanted to get the freedom from
British, while they were not ready to provide freedom to the rest of the
lower caste society, so it was imperative that to escape from the caste
Hindu sickeness it was necessary to protect the rights of the dalits,
tribals and even bahujans who form 85% of Indian population after the
British left so that India becomes free and not just the so called upper
caste hindus who would take over as the oppressors of India. Please
read Gandhi’s Dominion Status demand where he wanted to remain a slave
of British but rule India or the Tilak’s statement where he was ready
for a British rule if the Brahmins are given powers…..its called
divide and rule and Babasaheb’s Ambedkar philosophy and work was lets
all leave freely,,,,,Dr. Ambedkar was the first man to ask the British
get out of India in 1932 sitting in London in their assembly, 10 year
prior to Gandhi’s Quit India movement.”

Comment to KIRAN

“”"”"Now coming to the point of Buddhism vs “Hinduism”, it is a
widely acknolwedged fact in academic scholarship that Buddhism didn’t
germinate in a vacuum. It is an offshoot of prior beliefs and
traditions, though it enriched them by radical new ideas. Not only did
Buddhism follow de-facto all the god imagery from the earlier Vedic
religions, it is also rooted in the cosmological symbolism of the Meru
mountain -”"”"

My caste sick hindu brother, which academic fool told you that
Buddhism is an offshoot of hinduism, I think you read Buddhism from the
brahminical people who are always ready to fool masses………I will
tell you simple difference….Buddhism does not believe in God, while
hinduism is filled with gods herogiri, Buddhism is based on equality,
whereas hinduism is based on inequality and discrimination…Buddhism is
practical while hinduism is delusional ……and for your kind
information meaning of Hindu is “Thief” given by Mohamaddens, the real
religion name is brahminisim or Chaturvarna system of graded

Bengaluru, India

The cost of printing is very heavy and will
come to about Rs 20,000. This is beyond my capacity, and I am,
therefore, canvassing help from all quarters. I wonder if the Government
of India could purchase 500 copies for distribution among the various
libraries and among the many scholars whom it is inviting during the
course of this year for the celebration of Buddha’s 2,500 years’
anniversary.” >>>>

It is ironical that this is the precise method used by Sonia and clan
to make money  - they keep printing Nehru’s Discovery of India, other
coffeee table books with photos of Indira, Nehru, Rajiv etc and get all
govt run libraries, public sector company libraries etc to pay up which
in turn goes to the ‘family’ as royalty!

delhi, India

Sankar Ramamutry

“..all land would be vested with the state, agriculture would be
considered a state industry and insurance a state monopoly”. He was a
communist, plain and simple. ..”

Much to the contrary. Ambedkar was very farseeing. Land is quite
different from engines of production, and the rules of capitalism apply
differently to these assets.

It is only due to the utter failure of the state that real-estate
mafia has come to dictate the political terms in India. We have become a
joke, with complete lack of urban planning. Ambedkar rightfully foresaw
that proper urban planning with mechanised sanitation systems as the
only savior of the untouchable castes. Caste has to be eradicated and
there is no dignity in living in slums. The only way urban planning can
be accomplished is by the state reclaiming to the commons all land and
environmental assets. This is not communism, it is common sense.

Brilliant article. Very nicely written.
Reminds us aptly of the great contributions of Ambedkar to India,
without belittling the other great statesmen of the freedom struggle.

Truly, Ambedkar has to be remembered for his ideas. And these ideas
were very farseeing, and will continue to have relevance for many
decades. It is not just his immense contribution to social equality, but
as the author rightfully pointed out, his contributions are equally
relevant towards gender equality and to the preservation of ethnic
diversity in the Indian union.

grenoble, France

Very informative essay! One always knew
Ambedkar and Gandhi were opposed to each other on a variety of issues
concerning SC/STs. But a lot of us never knew the details. This essay is
an eye-opener for folks like me. 

Hyderabad, India

The distinctions between Gandhi and Ambedkar
are more clearly drawn here than I have seen before. The leaders of a
powerful majority may have the best of intentions, but the wearers know
where the shoes pinch.

Dallas, United States

I agree with Kiran. This is one of the most well researched and fascinating essays I have read on Outlook.

San Francisco, USA

 A fantastic essay. Very balanced and thought-provoking ! 

Kudos to the Outlook magazine and to the writer. 

grenoble, France

@ Santosh Gairola, Hsinchu >> Your
academic interest in Manusmriti, or in sloka’s of Gita (Karmanye
Vadhikarestu, Ma Faleshu Kadachana; meaning, ‘keep on working but don’t
expect anything in return’; cause the fruits of your labor belongs to
your master, the Brahmin) are one thing, but if are trying to find some
truth or moral in it, I must say you are on a wrong course, for both are
an act of fraud and deceit.

The hierarchical and repressive structure of Indian (Hindu) society
came into existence during the period of manusmriti about three thousand
years ago. The manusmriti set the tone of social discrimination based
on birth. This, in turn led to social exclusion, economic degradation
and political isolation of the Untouchables now popularly known as
Dalits. Dalits are the poor, neglected and downtrodden lot. Their social
disabilities were specific, severe and numerous. Their touch, shadow or
even voice was considered by the caste Hindus to be polluting. They
were forced to live in the outskirts of the villages towards which the
wind blew and dirt flowed. Their houses were dirty, dingy and unhygienic
where poverty and squalor loomed large. They were denied the use of
public wells. The doors of the Hindu temples were closed for them and
their children were not allowed into the schools attended by the
children of caste Hindu. Barbers and washermen refused their services to
them lest they lose their business from the upper castes. Public
services were closed to them. They followed menial hereditary
occupations such as those of street sweeping, manual scavenging,
shoemaking and carcasses removing.

Buddha sucessfully rebelled against above lies & deceit but
fearing losing their evil grip on the masses, the cunning Brahmins made
him an avatar of Vishnu, and slowly destroyed his ideals and teachings;
and similarly Gandhi and Nehru had  pacified the Ambedkar’s rebellion
over the rights of Dalit by false promises. 

I think you should take a week long pilgrimage to the Fo Kuang Shan
monastery at Kaohsiung to seek truth and peace through Vipassana.

Shyamal Barua
Kolkata, India

Sanjiv Bhandarkar,

[[Santosh Gairola@ Yawn!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!]]

Exactly what you’ve been doing while ranting at the “upper castes”.
Had you spent half the time in bending your back, your lot would have
been much better off.

Hyderabad, India

……”Mere pass AMBEDKAR hai!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Sanjiv Bhandarkar
Mumbai, India

Good article but without sense…… entire
article could be contradicted, Mr. Kulkarni the veda’s age of fooling
masses is gone, people are educated now with the help of Babasaheb and
teachings of Buddha.

Here’s your answer:

“”"”"”"”Question from Mr. Kulkarni=It is a glowing tribute to the
large-hearted and visionary leadership of Gandhiji that he prevailed
upon Nehru and other senior Congress leaders to give an important
responsibility to Ambedkar in drafting the Constitution and also to
include him in independent India’s first government as law minister.
This begets an important question for which Ambedkarites have no answer:
If India’s social and political system was so heartless, if it was
truly bent on excluding the depressed classes (Ambedkar’s term for what
has now come to be known as ‘Dalits’) from the power structure after the
British left, why would Gandhiji and Nehru give this opportunity and
honour to Ambedkar after the British actually left?”"”"”"”"”"”"”‘

Mr. Kulkarni’s the answer is below:.

Dr. Ambedkar’s inclusion into constituent assembly has always been
filled with fake love of Gandhi towards Dr. Ambedkar, the prejudice and
false propaganda of Brahminical speakers and politicians from the BJP
that Dr. Ambedkar was just a chairman and didn’t do anything in
constitution framing (without even having the basic knowledge of what a
chairperson does), even some great told historians like Ramachandra
Guha who wants to embrace Dr. Ambedkar but could not reject Gandhi
falsely believes that Gandhi was instrumental in giving Dr. Ambedkar a
place in Constituent assembly though Mr. Guha can only assume but never
prove with the common sense of events which led to the formation of
Constituent Assembly  ……….etc etc .

I have given facts collected from various writers on this
issue+personal research and on the basis of reasoning from the facts I
have provided the conclusion. “

As a consequence of the Cabinet Mission’s ill-fated attempt to broker a
deal between the Congress and Muslim League, elections were held in July
1946 to the provincial legislatures of British India. These
legislatures then elected 296 members to the Constituent Assembly
(allocated roughly in the ratio of one to one million). The remaining
seats in the Assembly were to be filled by representatives from princely

In this election Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar and his Schedule caste
Federation were jointly defeated by the Congress and Left. The Congress
in Bombay, headed by Prime Minister B.G. Kher and under instructions
from Sardar Patel, ensured that Dr. Ambedkar is not elected and be part
of the constitution framing team.
But the Namsudras of the Bengal realized this threat and our great
leader Mahapran Jogendra Nath Mandal (with the assistance of Mukund
Bihari Mallick) who was nominated from Jaisur and Kulna (undivided
Bengal) sacrificed his seat so that Dr. Ambedkar becomes part of the 296
member constituent Assembly.
Ambedkar was elected by the undivided Bengal legislature with five
transferable votes (a minimum of four was required). The Scheduled
Castes Federation did not have five members in the Bengal legislature.
Therefore, it has been said that the votes for Dr. Ambedkar came from
Anglo-Indian member, independent members who were SC/STs, and possibly
even the Muslim League.
Dr. Ambedkar was the sole Schedule caste representative in the Constituent Assembly of the Scheduled Castes Federation.
Dr. Ambedkar was forced to seek election from Bengal, a province he did
not have much connection with, because he lacked the requisite support
in his home province of Bombay. Throughout the 1940s, Babasaheb Ambedkar
and the Congress clashed bitterly over the issue of Scheduled Caste
rights and representation. Dr. Ambedkar was an un-yielding critic of the
party’s positions on many issues, which he believed were not in the
better interest to the Scheduled Castes & Tribes .

Despite this political enmity with the Congress, once in the
Constituent Assembly, Dr. Ambedkar worked closely with his Congress
colleagues in formulating and drafting our national charter. Most of the
congress nominated Constituent Assembly had limited idea about
constitution but were elected by congress only because they had been
with congress and had been imprisoned earlier.

Babasaheb’s professional approach, his excellent knowledge on the
constitution and his love towards the country to remain strong and
united impressed many even from the congress. This thaw between the
Congress and Babasaheb Ambedkar stood the latter in good stead.

But there was still resistance not overtly but inside the congress
circle which became visible during the partition of East Bengal.

According to the Partition policy any constituency which had more
than 50% population of Muslims in Pakistan/East Bengal provinces had to
be given to Pakistan/East Bengal. But the Constituency which Dr.
Ambedkar represented from undivided Bengal- Jaisur and Khulna had 48%
Muslim population and hindus/dalits mostly were 52% which according to
the Partition policy must be remained with present India. But Congress
played a card making sure Dr. Ambedkar represented Jaisur and Khulna go
to East Bengal which technically made Dr. Ambedkar to be part of
Pakistan constituent Assembly. Dr. Ambedkar said that his people are
mainly in India and what help will they get if he becomes part of
Pakistan Constituent Assembly, he resigns from the post of East Bengal.
Giving away Jaisur and Khulna to East Bengal, in return to it Congress
was adamant to get Muslim dominated Murshidabad which is currently in
the West Bengal State of India giving paltry reasons of prosperity and
ganges which otherwise also would have been possible with effective
irrigation plans.
Did we prosper taking Muslim dominated Murshidabad and giving away hindu dominated Jaisur&Khulna?
Murshidabad was once a prosperous silk center under the nawab rule and
capital of undivided Bengal in 18th century, but today this district
has the most number of poor people in entire India. Some 1.47% of
India’s rural poor live in Murshidabad district of West Bengal. About 3
million people–or 56% of the district’s rural population–are below the
so-called poverty line which is the highest in entire country. Whereas
Khulna which was given away to Bangaladesh is the 3rd largest District
in Bangaladesh and a big commercial hub for entire Bangladesh. A bad
deal to India.

Dr. Ambedkar visits British Prime minister and Opposition leader and
conveys the injustice done to him. The British government takes a
serious note on this issue as this was against the partition policy and
informs Nehru to let Jaisur and Khulna remain with India or take Dr.
Ambedkar into constituent assembly from other place within the
partitioned India else there could be delay to sort this issue. As this
issue was directly with flaunting the partition policy with Muslim
league-A strong political force, the congress realized that it would
definitely have bad effect on partition process which had already
started with bloodshed.
Congress had planned that Mr. Malavankar to preside over the Constituent
Assembly, as Malavankar was not in the Constituent Assembly; it made
Jurist Jayakar to resign from his constituency in Pune to replace
Malavankar to his position.

But the Congress had realized the British serious concern over the
injustice done to Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar from Jaisur and Khulna seat and
concern over issues of partition with the Muslim counterparts.
Congress also had a major concern of separate representation of Schedule
caste/Tribe within India in the line before Poona Pact. Congress knew
it would cope badly with the Pakistan partition and was not ready for
any issues with the Schedule caste/Tribe. Dr. Ambedkar was a very strong
critique whom they had to face. Amicable solution was to keep Dr.
Ambedkar at-least in some decision process.

Within the Congress there were some members who had worked with Dr.
Ambedkar in constituent assembly during the 1946 tenure and appreciated
his professional approach, rapport and stupendous knowledge on
constitution and were compatible to work with him for the framing of the

When Congress was looking at other countries constitutional experts:
Dr. Ambedkar’s writings “States and Minorities”What are Their Rights and
How to Secure them in the Constitution of Free India Framed as the
‘Constitution of the United States of India’”, which he wanted to
provide to Constitution assembly came as a form of book before he
presented it to the constitution assembly and was available with all the
congress members who appreciated his work and had realized his
excellent knowledge… This book is the foundation of our constitution

To that end, on June 30, 1947 understanding the exigency and in-fact
the need of Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar and his high benefits of being part
of the constituent assembly & without his excellent knowledge there
is no go as India would become Independent soon but not republic,
Rajendra Prasad wrote to B.G. Kher, the prime minister of Bombay,
directing him to have Dr.Ambedkar elected to the Assembly on a Congress
Prasad explained that it was important to ensure that Ambedkar continued
in the Assembly due to his excellent knowledge in constitution:
Apart from any other consideration we have found Dr. Ambedkar’s work
both in the Constituent Assembly and the various committees to which he
was appointed to he of such an order as to require that we should not he
deprived of his services. As you know, he was elected from Bengal and
after the division of the Province he has ceased to be a member of the
Constituent Assembly. I am anxious that he should attend the next
session of the Constituent Assembly commencing from the 14th July and it
is therefore necessary that he should be elected immediately.
-Rajendra Prasad
8. Besides Prasad, Sardar Patel who restricted Babasaheb’s entry in
1946 was also closely involved in the effort to ensure that Babasaheb
Ambedkar remained in the Assembly. On the same day as Prasad wrote to
Kher, Patel spoke to the Bombay Premier, who was not the greatest fan of
Babasaheb Ambedkar, and urged Kher to take prompt action to ensure
Ambedkar’s election to the Assembly. The next day, Patel tried to pacify
Mavlankar by explaining that Dr. Ambedkar’s election required “earlier
action” since there was only one vacancy available. Patel told Mavlankar
that “all people here feel that [Ambedkar’s] attitude has changed and
he has been a useful Member in the Committee.” He advised Mavlankar that
“there [was] no hurry” about his election and promised that the
Congress would arrange for his election through another vacancy that
would occur after a short time. Patel reiterated this position in a
letter on 3 July 1947 to Mavlankar in which he noted that “everybody
wants [Ambedkar] now.” The rapprochement between the Congress and
Ambedkar was complete when Ambedkar returned to the Assembly on July
1947 greeted by loud cheers.
9. But the idea that it was not Gandhi who was instrumental in ensuring
Ambedkar’s entry into the Cabinet is not universally shared.
Mountbatten who gave Nehru plenty of unsolicited advice about whom to
include and exclude seemed pleasantly surprised at Dr.Ambedkar’s
inclusion. But he does not reveal how Dr. Ambedkar was allowed for a
cabinet position(Which was quiet obvious as the British had shown
concern of partition policy violation in Jaisur and Khulna- issue and
didn’t expect his inclusion without strong resistance from the congress
which now had seen so much benefit in the constitution knowledge of
Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar).
10. Valerian Rodriguez in his very useful compilation of Ambedkar’s
writings argues that purported intervention of Gandhi on Ambedkar’s
behalf is yet to be fully corroborated. And an early Ambedkar
biographer, Dhananjay Keer believes that Ambedkar was included in the
cabinet through the collective efforts of Sardar Patel, S. K. Patil,
Acharya Donde, and Nehru. Gandhi only granted formal approval for this
plan when it was presented to him by Nehru. That formal approval was not
based on love but based on thorough analysis of how much juice we could
take out of Sugarcane and then throw it like they did in 1952 and 1954
Lok Sabha Election.
11. On 29 th August 1947, a committee was constituted to frame the
Constitution of India. Ambedkar was chosen as its Chairman. Shri T. T.
Krishnamachari, a member of the committee, himself has said:

“Though a committee of seven members was formed, one of then resigned.
Another was nominated in his place. Another member died. No one took his
place. One of the members was very busy with government work. Owing to
ill health two other members were far away from Delhi. As a result, Dr.
Ambedkar alone had to carry the entire burden of preparing the draft of
the Constitution. The work he has done is admirable”.

As the Minister for Law, Dr. Ambedkar placed the draft Constitution before the Constituent Assembly on 4th November 1948.

12. Gandhi and Dr. Ambedkar never shared the same political or social
philosophy and there was no so popularized love of Gandhi/Congress
towards Dr. Ambedkar as its evident that Post constitution framing:

In 1952 Dr. Ambedkar competed for the North Mumbai Lok Sabha seat and
was defeated by his former personal aide N.S Kajolkar. Congress gave
the reason that Dr. Ambedkar was with Social party and they betrayed him
as an excuse but the fact is Dr. Ambedkar had just resigned due to
Hindu code bill issue before participating in the 1952 Lok Sabha
election from North Mumbai. Fact is Congress played the subcaste
politics against Babasaheb nominating his former aide N.S Kajrolkar
against him and restricted him into the parliament.
13. It didn’t end there as Dr. Ambedkar was subsequently elected to the
Rajya Sabha without full Congress Support and was again defeated in 1954
by Congress in Bhandara by-election.

Major points contradicting the so called love of Congress and Gandhi to Dr. Ambedkar

What was Gandhi doing when:

In 1946 Congress restricts Dr.Ambedkar’s entry into constituent
Assembly. If Gandhi had plans for Dr. Ambedkar in framing the
constitution they wouldn’t have defeated him so cheaply. Constitution
framing is no child’s play and Congress/Gandhi were quiet intelligent to
know that a strong person should be in place for this responsible
position and 1946 constituent Assembly was formed for that
purpose,,,,,,,,, why did Congress/Gandhi restrict Babasaheb then in
When Dr. Ambedkar did enter Constituent Assembly with the help of
Mahpran Jogindarnath Mandal and our Bengali Namasudras, Gandhi/congress
played a card to restrict Dr. Ambedkar’s further membership in the
constituent assembly post independence by giving away Babasaheb’s
represented Jaisur and Khulna against the partition policy to east
Bengal and taking Murshidabad which today is the most poorest district
in entire India. Was Gandhi ready to give away Jaisur-Kulna a commercial
hub today in Bangladesh from India just to make sure Babasaheb does not
enter constituent assembly? Was country more important or the personal
prejudice to devoid dalit representation as did earlier in Poona Pact
Lacs of Namsudra massacre post independence by the communist rule could
have been better avoided by taking in those places which had more than
50% hindu population like Babasaheb represented Jaisur-Kulna by legally
abiding to partition policy.

Congress wouldn’t have had plans to nominate Malavankar to preside
constituent assembly by making Jurist Jayakar resign from Pune
constituency even as late as June 1947 just 2 months before freedom …
The Congress/Gandhi’s Constitution Chairman was Malavankar or someone
else from the Congress Lobby or Foreign constitutional experts, as its
clear that Dr. Ambedkar was not even the last recommended person by
Congress/Gandhi for this post till as late as June 1947?


Congress was looking at other countries for the constitution framing
and their uppercaste chamcha’s wanted to continue their manu
constitution and their man to head constituent assembly was not Dr.
Ambedkar. Just because Dr. Ambedkar gave an excellent constitution and
to please SC/ST’s Gandhi was made the messiah as usual. Politics or bad
Dr. Ambedkar’s entry was mainly due to his professional approach, his
rapport with even those who hated him and his excellent knowledge of
constitution/his great work in “States and Minorities” which is a part
foundation of our constitution today and his love for the country to
remain strong and united.
Congress showed its true love in the 1952 and 1954 Lok Sabha election by
playing subcaste politics and defeating Dr. Ambedkar, if congress had
love why did it turn against him?- because they never loved him but just
utilized his excellent knowledge to build constitution. He was not even
given Bharat Ratna till 1990.
If there is any person who did help Babasaheb then it was only Mahapran
Jogendra Nath Mandal and the Namsudra’s of Bengal who sacrificed
Jaisur-Khulna seat to make sure Babasaheb enter constituent assembly.
This sacrifice was used with an excuse of migrants to massacre lacs of
Namsudras post Independence by the brahminical and communist
order.…..Our utmost gratitude should be towards this great leader who is
forgotten in the pages of History.

Critiques are open to challenge me………………

Mr. Kulkarni, Prejudice masks the reality, so leave it and face the reality. …

Bengaluru, India

Nehru was an inept womanizing British
sycophant….what makes Saba Naqvi spend so much time on this creature
called Nehru. If Nehru had anything big, it was his ego and hatred for
competition. Nehru did not give us the dynasty, the dynasty grabbed
India like a vice even before Nehru. Motilal started it all….

Nehru’s biggest legacy is the licking brown man mentality. What a
waste to think about this scum….in the future history books will be
rewritten and his sexual escapades with Mountbattens wife and other will
come out.

Somshankar Bose
Madison, United States

A Left which doesn’t find Ambedkar pivotal for transformative politics cannot be a Left at all.

Ambedkar concludes Buddha or Karl Marx this way: “What remains of the
Karl Marx is a residue of fire, small but still very important. The
residue in my view consists of four items:

(i) The function of philosophy is to reconstruct the world and not to
waste its time in explaining the origin of the world. (ii) That there
is a conflict of interest between class and class. (iii) That private
ownership of property brings power to one class and sorrow to another
through exploitation.

(iv) That it is necessary for the good of society that the sorrow be removed by the abolition of private property.”

And more interestingly, what comes before this is a strong and
incisive critique of marxist historicism based on a vulgur economic
determinism; a critique that is very much part of marxist tradition
itself. Ambedkar writes: “Nobody now I accepts the economic
interpretation of history as the only explanation of history. Nobody
accepts that the proletariat has been progressively pauperised.”

One might say that Ambedkar is the real Left in India and perhaps a
failure to recognize this has been the reason for the divergent
histories of SC/ST and Communist movements.

Hyderabad, India

just shut up >>>> wayne alfred
delhi, India

Pune, India

-ve people with traditional venomous Dominating  hatred and angry ones who believe in First, Second, Third, Fourth rate souls and that the untouchables have no soul, so that they could do any harm they wished to do to them, But the Buddha did not believe in any soul. He said all are equal. To prevent them from acquiring the MASTER KEY as desired by Dr.Ambedkar for the creation of PraBuddha Bharath through the policy of SARVAJAN HITHAY  SARVAJAN SUKHAY by the Bahujan Samaj Party, HERE WE HAVE VIEWS PAPERS NOT NEWS PAPERS AND THE MEDIAS ARE JUST IDEAS OF THE TRADITIONAL, VENOMOUS, DOMINATING, HATRED AND ANGRY LEADERS OF THE CASTE RIDDEN SOCIETY.

Vinod Mehta

Ramachandra Guha,  Historian

Jaitley, Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha

Inder Malhotra, Veteran journalist

N. Ram, Veteran journalist

Swapan Dasgupta, Journalist and commentator

R V Subramanian
Gurgaon, India

Bangalore, India
Chennai, India

Santosh Gairola
Hsinchu, Taiwan

Bangalore, India

Raveesh Varma
Grand Rapids, MI, USA

wayne alfred
delhi, India

Sankar Ramamurthy
Delhi, India

Sudheendra Kulkarni

Saba Naqvi

Visakhapatnam, India


Panini Anand

pattambi, India

Lucknow, India

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