Life and Mission of Dr Ambedkar

The Real Path   

1.    In the early twenties Gandhi was not in favor of temple entry of the Untouchables as also inter dining. As a result of the Pact, caste Hindu leaders seemed to have taken heavily to the temple entry movement. During the days of Gandhi’s fast some temples were thrown open but these were old-dilapidated ones. The struggle for temple entry was launched by BRA at Nasik in March 1930 & at Guruvayyur by Kelappan in Nov 1931.

BRA now shifted changed the rudder of the ship from temple entry movement to Gaining political power. He said so in many speeches that he gave in Bombay after the Pact. ‘Friends BRA was a real smartie. Having made his point with the Congress on who was the true leader of the DC & temple entry he like a true general shifted gears at a pace which am sure his opponents hated but admired him for’. BRA left for England on 7/11/1932. At the time of his departure he said that the establishment of Provincial Autonomy without responsibility at the Centre would be unwise and that he disliked the Central responsibility for British India being made dependant upon an All India Federation. After crossing swords with India’s tallest leader BRA was in high spirits.

In his letters home he said that his frame of mind was quite suited to democracy but he was smothered by these crowdy, noisy and undemocratic displays of hero worship. He said that his heart craved for loneliness and a calm/quiet atmosphere but that was not destined to be.

2. Thinking about Hindu & Muslim - BRA used his time on the ship to read & write. Referring to Gandhi’s statements on the Harijan movement from Yerwada Jail he said there were signs that Gandhi was coming round to their views but he added that Gandhi’s mental frame had not reached a stage that welcomed or encouraged inter-marriage/dining. He wrote a letter to Thakkar, Gen Secretary of the Untouchability League quote ‘The touchables & Untouchables can be held together only by love. The salvation of the DC only when the caste Hindu is made to think and is forced to feel that he must alter his ways. I want a revolution in the mentality of the caste Hindus’. He thus asked the Anti-Untouchability League to launch a campaign all over India to secure to DC the enjoyment of their civic rights such as taking water from village wells, admission into village schools/chowki.

He advocated a crisis by direct action against the customary code of conduct of the caste Hindus. This will compel the caste Hindu to think, only then would he be more ready to change. The great defect in the policy of least resistance & silent infiltration of rational ideas lies in this that they do not produce a crisis. The direct action at Chowdar Tank at Mahad or the Kalaram Temple at Nasik have done in a few days what million days of preaching by reformers would never have done.

Muslim approach - On reaching London BRA found that the joint meeting of the 3rd RTC had begun on 17/11. This time the delegation was smaller and Congressmen were conscpiciousply absent. He was sorry to observe the Muslim delegates, even after securing almost all of their demands contained in the 14-point memorandum, were still not cooperating with the other Indian groups in the demand for responsible Govt at the Centre. He was more than convinced that the Muslims were acting as a separate bloc and that the Hindu delegates were divided among themselves, therefore powerless.

Another mark of the character of the Muslim mind he was surprised to note was that the Muslim leaders were not only self-centered but also narrow-minded & regressive in their social attitude. BRA drew the conclusion that it was unsafe to count on their support w.r.t. the demands of the DC. He hoped that the Indian Muslims took out of a leaf of the Turkey leader Kemal’s book, a leader whom he greatly respected but the Muslims did not.

3. Untouchability - The proceedings of the 3rd RTC was to supplement the work done by the earlier two by filling in some details, decide the composition of the Central Govt in the light of the reports of various committees. In the second week of December BRA wrote a letter home that nobody was interested in the proceedings of the RTC. The British were anxious about the settlement of their debts with U.S.A., were unmindful of the Conference. BRA said that details of the structure of Federation were placed before the Conference but no date of its inauguration was ever mentioned. BRA lamented that the Muslim & states indifference to the immediate grant of Indian demand for Responsible Govt at the Center and naturally divided men, he observed, would not be able to bring anything to India. The RTC ended its work on 24/12/1931 among intransigence of the Muslim delegates & their growing indifference to the goal of India.

Meanwhile the Zamorin, a Hindu king refused to throw open the Guruvayyur Temple to the Untouchables. Gandhi then suggested that if a referendum in the Ponnani Taluka decided by majority against the entry of Untouchables he would refrain from the proposed fast. The majority decides in favor of temple entry. Still the King did not yield. About the same time Ranga Iyer presented a bill in the Central Assembly called the Untouchability Abolition Bill. Similar bills were presented & a resolution moved by Bole in the Bombay Legislative Council in the same manner. After extending the time limit for the fast, Gandhi said that would commence the fast on 1/1/1933 but would wait the decision of the Governor General. But if Gandhi’s word was law, why there be so much fuss? So said the Ambedkarites.

BRA received a hero’s welcome. He felt that Gandhi should not stake his life on the question of temple entry. The day after his arrival he received a wire from Dr Ba Maw of Rangoon who wanted him to meet him at Delhi next week. They were eager to discuss Burma constitutional situation with you & other leaders. BRA could not attend, as he had to see Gandhi in Poona’s Yerwada Jail on 4/2/1933. Gandhi requested BRA to support Subbanarayan / Ranga Iyer’s bill but BRA refused since the Bill was based on the principle of majority & did not regard untouchability as a sin. It only said that if a referendum favored temple entry it should be thrown open to the untouchables but said nothing of their right to worship the deity in temples.

Gandhi said that according to him the caste system was not bad. ‘Let the touchable Hindus have an opportunity to expiate their sins & purify Hinduism’. BRA/Gandhi disagreed again. BRA was convinced that if the Untouchables made progress in the economic, educational & political fields, temple entry would follow automatically.

4. Temple Entry Bill - BRA continued with his arguments against the Iyer bill. He said that just as the Hindus do not beg admission into clubs & social resorts run by Europeans so also the Untouchables did not beg for admission into temples. He told the caste Hindu, ‘To open or not to open the temple is a question for you to consider, not for me to agitate. If you think it is bad manners not to respect the sacredness of the human personality, open your temples & be a gentleman. If you rather be a Hindu than a gentleman, then shut the doors & damn yourself. For I do not care to come. If Hindu religion is to be the religion of the Untouchables, it must become a religion of social equality. Temple entry is not enough. What is required is to purge it of the doctrine of Chaturvarnya. Unless this is done, the DC will reject not only temple entry but also the Hindu faith. Asking Gandhi, If I accept the principle of temple entry now and agitate for the abolition of Chaturvarnya & caste system on what side would Gandhi be. If he will be in the opposite camp, I cannot be in his camp now’. BRA received support from almost DC leaders.              

Gandhi replied, ‘I am a Hindu, not merely because I am born in the Hindu fold, but I am one by conviction & choice. There is no superiority or inferiority in the Hinduism of my conception. But when BRA wants to fight Varnashram itself, I cannot be in his camp, because I believe Varnashram to be an integral part of Hinduism’.

At the same time Savarkar invited BRA to open a temple built by Seth Bhagoji Keer in Ratnagiri. Appreciating Savarkar’s work BRA expressed regret for being unable to accept the invitation. Many were surprised that BRA  should have drifted to the extreme left when rightist leaders made a definite move towards him. It was true that instead of asking his men to co-operate with the caste Hindu reformers he now turned his eyes to political gains & power. But he did it with reason. Although his name appeared on the Central Board of the Anti-Untouchability League, renamed Harijan Sevak Sangh by Gandhi, he had not attended any of its meetings. He had severed his connection from the League when it made a complete departure from its original aims. Exclusion of DC leaders & workers from its executive gradually aroused the suspicion of its bona fides in the minds of the DC leaders. Many thought that the object of the League was to liquidate BRA’s leadership & not to facilitate his movement. Many of them were of the opinion that to Gandhi untouchability was a platform not a program! Hence this widening split.

Infuriated at the bitter statement of facts by BRA, the whole hierarchy of the national press relapsed into a campaign of hatred against BRA. Not to speak of the hardened sanatanists, even semi or sanatani social reformers opposed the temple entry bill of Ranga Iyer. Pandit M M Malaviya urged Gandhi that Iyer’s bill should be withdrawn, as he was opposed on principle even to an indirect interference by legislature in the management of temples. The British rulers on their part suspected foul play in the Gandhi-Rajaji move. They thought it was a move to arouse the DC against the British. Iyer introduced the bill on 24/3/1933 but with the connivance of the Congress members & lack of sympathy on the part of the Govt, the orthodox leaders smothered it by resorting to dilatory methods. The result was a few months later the Temple Entry Bill dropped dead.

5. Speeches - After issuing his statement on the Temple Entry Bill, BRA carried on propaganda against the spiritualistic fads & superstitions of his people. He impressed upon them that bread was better than the worship of God. At a meeting at Kasara he said excerpts’ The Chaturvarnya must be rooted out. Do not allow disunion to grip you. Do not forget that your fight at Nasik & Mahad won you what political status you are going to get’. At Mazgaon, Bombay he said excerpts, ‘The Untouchables are now convinced that the demand for Swaraj & the cause of the Hindus will suffer for want of support of the DC. What the Hindus do for you is not by way of charity or mercy. They do it for their own welfare as well. Our cause has gained recognition because of our ceaseless struggle. Give up eating carrion. Some of you nurse the wrong notion that you will not rise in the world. But remember the age of helplessness is ended. A new epoch has set in. All things are now possible because of your being able to participate in the politics of this country’.

BRA made many similar speeches. ‘Friends clearly BRA liked to be in a perpetual attack mode. He increased the scope of his attack starting with condition of the untouchables, temple entry, Gandhi not being the sole representative of the DC, getting rid of Hindu society of chaturvarnya, superstitions. To my mind he felt strongly for the DC but at the same time the politician in him realized that he had created a space for himself and there was no way he was going to give it to Gandhi or anyone else.’

6. Constitution committee - Towards the middle of March 1933, came the announcement of the British Govt in the form of a White Paper containing proposals for Indian Constitutional Reforms. It’s contents were denounced by Jinnah, Bose, Dr Moonje. The names of delegates to the Joint Committee were announced, representatives were 17 from British India, 7 from Indian states and 32 from both the houses of Parliament. BRA was there too. Although he grew in fame, name, all India status, ranked among men of higher academic attainments the semi-reformers of India would not do him honor as they did not shed their caste prejudice.

In the meantime BRA decided to sound Gandhi again on the question of the panel & primary elections of the DC candidates in the light of the coming constitution of India. BRA met Gandhi & told him that candidates from the DC who would contest the general election should have secured atleast 25 % of the votes of the DC in the primary election. Gandhi said he would give consideration to it, diverted the conversation to the question of untouchability and said the sanatists were decrying him as a devil. Gandhi said that even BRA was not pleased with his work. Gandhi wishes BRA bonvoyage & meeting ended.

On reaching London he heard about Gandhi’s fast & asked for details. During these days the leader & organizer in BRA always remained in close touch with his lieutenants, sharing their joys/sorrows & acting as their guide/advisor in times of need. He tried to help his benefactor Keluskar an old man now. He encouraged Kadrkear who edited his weekly Janata. About this time there was a rumor that BRA was to go to Islam. BRA wrote to Savadkar from London that he was determined to leave the fold of Hinduism & embrace another religion but he would never embrace Islam and that at this juncture he was inclined to Buddhism. He said this in 1933 23 years before he became a follower of Buddha.

The Indian delegates to the Joint Committee met to appoint a committee to expose the shortcoming in the White Paper. At this meeting BRA asked for separate electorates saying he was fed up with the attitude of the caste Hindus. By this time the agitation against the Poona Pact reached white heat. Almost all Hindu leaders who had ratified it now turned out to be its opponents.

When the Joint Committee reopened its session on 3/10/1933 Churchill was cross-examined. BRA crossed swords with him when he quoted a speech, which the latter had made in Parliament, and asking him questions thereon, he floored Churchill. The Joint Committee completed its work in November 1933. While most members returned to India BRA was busy collecting data for a book on the Indian Army, which has not seen the light of the day. The Chamars a small minority in Maharashtra accused BRA for partiality towards the Mahars. BRA wrote back that he was sick of these small minds & said that this controversy would go on as long as caste remained.

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