Spell on Constituent Assembly
1. Dispute with Congress - On his arrival in Bombay BRA found the atmosphere to be tense with excitement, there were disturbances in the City between his adherents & caste Hindu Congressmen. BRA’s son printing press was burnt down. BRA denounced the 16/5/ plan as mischievous & threatened to resort to direct action if the wrong done to the Scheduled Castes was not rectified. Amidst this uncertainty was fulfilled one of BRA’s dreams, i.e. founding an ideal educational institution with modern scientific apparatus & good staff to promote higher education among the lower middle classes & scheduled castes. He founded the People’s Education Society, which started the college on 20/6/1946. The name of the college is Siddharth which is one the names of Lord Buddha.
On June 29, a caretaker Govt was announced. The Scheduled Caste (SC for short) leaders made a black flag demonstration in front of the Congress Pandal in Bombay & demanded a explanation from Congress leaders on their rights / representations in a free India. The fight was against the Congress, which had usurped their claim to speak, voice & represent the grievances of the Untouchables. Rajbhoj met Gandhi in Poona & told him that the Congress Harijan leaders were not reps of SC. The SC federation held at a Satyagraha in Poona, Kanpur, Lucknow. Talks between Congress leaders & BRA were inconclusive.
Just then Members were elected by the Provincial Legislatures to go to the Constituent Assembly, which was to meet in accordance wit the Mission Plan. Since BRA had no men in the Bombay Assembly to support his candidature his name was put through the Scheduled Castes representatives in the Bengal Assembly where with the backing of the Muslim League he was elected to the Constituent Assembly. (CA in short).
On Aug 24 the names of the Members of the interim Ministry were announced. Among with Nehru, Patel, Azad, Rajagopalachari & Sarat Chandra Bose appeared the name of Jagjivan Ram, who a leader of Untouchables from Bihar. The Muslim League did not cooperate; Muslim posts were filled by other Muslim leaders, one of whom was fatally stabbed by a fanatic. BRA was disappointed with the under representation of the SC. The SC federation started a satyagraha in Nagpur where over 800 people were arrested.
2. Depressed + Great Speech - BRA realized that protests had limited results so he went to London, declared that the Labor Party had let down the Untouchables & betrayed their cause. When asked about his reaction to the situation now that the Muslim League had joined the govt, BRA said it was a Govt of one country by two nations. He told the press that India was in the midst of a civil war. He thus suggested that the British govt enforce the 1935 Act & hand over to the Indian parties a United India after a period of ten years.
BRA was facing a political paralysis. His only point was that the SC should be given due representation in the Executives & Legislatures. He was depressed & in bad health. BRA met PM Attlee & Secretary of State of India, Churchill but there was lip sympathy, BRA was advised to adjust himself to the changed situation & to try his luck in the Constituent Assembly. He left London in an utterly depressing mood. On his return to Bombay he said that the Untouchables were ready for assimilation or absorption of their classes into Hindu society in the real & substantial sense of the term on the basis of inter marriage & inter dining. He said that their merger into Hindu society would become easier only when the Untouchables rose to the social status of caste Hindus.
At this juncture BRA’s book Who were the Shudras was published. It presents an impressive method of arranging a catalogue of facts and a brilliant illuminating exposition. It is the thesis of BRA that Shudras were Kshatriyas, they were Dasas & Dasyus. They belonged to the solar race, were degraded because of a conflict between the Brahmins & the Kshatriyas who degraded them to the fourth varna.
Although it was boycotted the Muslim League, the Constituent Assembly met on 9/1/21946 as scheduled. Nehru moved a resolution on the Declaration of Objectives in a magnificent speech. He declared India’s objective as an Independent Sovereign Republic. It was seconded by P Tandon. India’s legal luminary Dr M R Jaykar moved an amendment seeking the postponement of the resolution until the League & Indian States representatives came into the Assembly. He was heckled by the Congress groups and forced to sit down. And then the President of the Constituent Assembly unexpectedly called upon BRA to speak.
Great Speech - In a grave manner, with an unlimited command of language & supreme courage he began his speech. He said that he considered part one of Nehru’ resolution & the latter part which set out the objectives of the future constitution to be non controversial although that too was pedantic in that it enunciated only rights without prescribing remedies to the injured parties. Quote ‘I know’, he said, ‘today we are divided politically, socially & economically. We are in warring camps & I am probably one of the leaders of a warring camp. I am convinced that, with time & circumstances we shall in some form be a united people. I have no hesitation in saying that notwithstanding the agitation of the League for the partition of India, some day light will dawn upon the Muslim themselves, and they, too, will begin to think that a United India is better for everybody’.
BRA said he would not ask whether the House had the right to pass a resolution. It might be it had the right. ‘The question I am asking is’, he asserted with a glow in his eyes, ‘is it prudent for you to do it? Is it wise to do it? Power is one thing & wisdom / prudence quite a different thing’. He made a fervent appeal to the Congress leaders to bring about conciliation. In the end he referred to three ways by which the issue could be decided, the permanent surrender of one party to another, a negotiated peace or war. Quoting Burke’s famous passage in favor of reconciliation with America, BRA observed: ‘If anybody has it in his mind that this problem can be solved by war, or that the Muslims may be subjugated & made to surrender to a constitution that might be prepared without their knowledge & consent, this country would be involved in perpetually conquering them. It is easy to give power, but difficult to give wisdom. Let us carry all sections of the country with us and make them march on the road that is bound to lead to unity’.
So forceful was his plea that it produced an excellent impact on the Assembly. Congress members cheered BRA. It was a red-letter day in the amazing life of BRA. The sacrileger had become now a counsel; the scoffer had become a friend who cast a spell on the Congressmen. The consideration of the resolution was postponed to another session; it was now passed on 20/1/1947.
3. BRA thoughts - Meanwhile the British announced that it would by June 1948 handover the Govt of India to some form of Central Govt for British India or to the existing Provincial Govt in India. It called back Lord Wavell who used his eye to see things from the Muslim angle of vision. BRA realized that the time was ripe for him to put before the Constituent Assembly his constitutional views. He thus prepared a Memorandum in March 1947 in which he proposed that the SC should have separate electorates only in those constituencies in which seats were reserved for them & in others they were to vote jointly. The Memorandum was published under the title States & Minorities. It is a draft of the Constitution that he had prepared for the Indian Union.
The key points in it were – to BRA democracy was essentially a form of society. The slogan of a democratic society must be machinery, more machinery and more civilization inspite of its shortcomings. He opposed Gandhism that hated the machine. BRA hated the orthodox Marxist who quoted Marx & Engels on every occasion. He was a believer in State socialism. He wanted basic industries to be owned by the State. However he did not agree with the Socialists in entirety.
The nebulous British policy, the atrocities committed by the Muslims and the Congress leaders incapacity to rise to the occasion threw the Hindus on the defensive and now they thought it wise to demand a partition of Punjab & Bengal. On 29/4/1947, the Constituent Assembly declared, ‘Untouchability in any form is abolished & the imposition of any disability on that account shall be an offense’. Congratulations poured in from across the world. The whole foreign press rang with praise for Gandhi for this great achievement of India. Apparently it was the Congress Party that was declaring the abolition of untouchability, credit went to them. No foreign journal mentioned the names of BRA, Savarkar, Shraddhanand, Dayananda, and Phule with any grateful appreciation.