Life and Mission of Dr Ambedkar

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Verdict on Hinduism

1. Amritsar Conference - Since January 1936 BRA had been preparing an address to deliver at Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal at anti caste outfit at Lahore. On 15/3/1936 BRA was honored at the Bombay Theatre by the Chitta Ranjan Theatrical Co. Written by Appasaheb Tipnis it dealt with the problem of Untouchability during the reign of the Peshwas and their ill treatment then. There was a stir in the Punjab press over the Mandal’s decision to elect as its President BRA who was a declared hater of Hindu religion. Thus staunch leaders like Bhai Parmanand & Dr Narang had to disassociate themselves from the mandal. One Har Bhagwan met BRA in Bombay & took away portion of the presidential address that was ready. The next day BRA left for Amritsar to attend the Sikh Mission’s Conference. The conference attracted a huge number of Sikhs & DC from Punjab, Kerala & C.P. Speakers stressed the need for improving the plight of the DC by intensive missionary work. BRA expressed his approval of the principles of equality among the Sikhs and added that though he had decided to renounce Hinduism he had not decide which religion to adopt. Five DC leaders from Kerala, Thiyya community became Sikhs then. Since BRA refused to expunge from his printed address remarks related to the Vedas & Hindu scriptures the Jat Mandal refused to accept them as their President for the Conference.

Walchand Hirachand & Jamnalal Bajaj tried to convince BRA to join hands with Gandhi but BRA said it was not possible because they differed on many points. These rich men expressed surprise at the large crowds that greeted BRA and remarked that although they spent large monies on the Harijan cause they did not respond properly. BRA answered that it was the difference between a mother & a nurse. BRA published his undelivered address in the form of a booklet entitled Annihilation of Caste. It was logic on fire, piercing & fiery, provocative & explosive. It was to the minds of the caste Hindus leaders what silver nitrate is to gangrene.

2. Varna – according to this thesis, Hindu society was originally divided into four Varnas – classes. The varna was based on worth. But as time went on, the varnas came to be based on birth. In BRA’s view the caste system is a social division of the people belonging to the same race, is a division of labor & also a division of laborers compelling a man to engage himself in a calling which may not appeal to him. Reorganization of Hindu society based on Chaturvarnya is impossible & harmful because the Varna system has a tendency to degenerate into the caste system. It prohibits the Shudras from pursuing knowledge, engaging in economic enterprise and from bearing arms with the result that they could never revolt and became reconciled to their fate.

Caste has had, he continues, a bad effect on the ethics of the Hindus. It has restricted man’s loyalty to his caste, made virtue & morality caste ridden. What is more caste has made Shuddhi – reconversion impracticable because is incompatible with conversion, there being no place for a convert. Because there is caste, there is no Shuddhi, & so long as there is no Sanghatan, the Hindu will remain weak & meek. Although he admits that nowhere in human society one single whole & that group exists in all societies, he observes that groups in other societies are fundamentally different from caste groups in Hindu society in point of interplay, intercourse & inclusiveness. Each caste lives for itself, though Hindus have similar customs, beliefs they are not a society or a nation in the true sense of the term. Caste has demoralized & devitalized Hindu society.

The real remedy is intermarriage. Fusion of blood alone can create a feeling of being keith & kin. Hindus observe caste not because they are inhuman & wrong headed. They observe caste because they are deeply religious. They are not wrong in observing castes. What is wrong is their religion, which inculcates this notion of caste. The real enemy is the Shastras which them this religion of castes. Destroy the sacredness of the Shastras & Vedas. Make every man free from Shastras.

As a matter of course the Brahmans who form the intellectual class will not lead the movement to destroy their own prestige. So he suggests the destruction of the idea of hereditary priesthood. You thus kill this Brahminism and save Hinduism. He also insisted that Hindus should have one common religious book. BRA concludes that Hindus are the sick men of India and sounds a warning that ‘only when Hindu society becomes a casteless society that it can hope to have enough strength to defend itself’. The demand for this thesis on caste was so great that the English edition ran out within 2 months, it was translated into regional languages too.

BRA was not the only leader who preached annihilation of caste for the reorganization of Hindu society. Leaders like Swami Shraddhananda, Lajpat Rai, R C Dutt, Sri Aurobindo, Veer Savarkar amongst other condemned the caste system. In short caste is the bane of Hindus is the verdict given by India’s great & true historians. It seems that the remark of some critics that the Europeans pride themselves on racial feelings, the Muslim on religious feelings and Hindus on caste feelings is not far from the truth.

3. Reaffirming Support - BRA was not satisfied with the Untouchable Youth Conference at Poona. In order to truly assess the strength of his people for the conversion movement, he decided to hold a conference of the Mahar community on 30/31 May 1936 in Bombay. Present were a European missionary, a number of Sikh/Muslim leaders. Describing the numerous social & specific disabilities that the DC had to undergo because of being the Hindu fold, they had to go out to secure true freedom. He said that although it looked like a social problem it was essentially a class struggle. He told the gathering that they lacked three essential qualities for carrying out their struggle namely manpower, money & intellectual power & so long as they remained in the Hindu fold they would not be able to acquire those powers. On the spiritual aspect, he observed that the function of a true religion was the uplift of the individual. For that purpose it should teach virtues of fellow feeling, equality & liberty which Hinduism does not teach thus they must leave its fold.

BRA said that he did not believe in the honesty of Hindu social reformers who lived, married & died in their own caste. He declared that Gandhi had not the courage to take up the cudgels against the caste Hindus on behalf of the DC. Just as Swaraj is necessary for India so also change of religion is necessary for the Untouchables. Politically they would not suffer in any way by changing their religion, they would get the support of the community in which they merged into. Concluding his speech with a quote from the lips of the dying Buddha, he asked his people to seek refuge in reason. This made some believe that he was leaning towards Buddhism. He shrewdly avoided mentioning the name of the religion, which he had chosen.

All those scholars like Max Muller, Bernard Shaw who sang the praises of Hinduism must have turned in their graves. Here was a volcanic attack by BRA on Hinduism. It was coarse & cutting, yet smashing & dissecting. The Conference declared by a resolution that they were prepared to change their religion en masse, as a preliminary step urged the Mahar community to put a stop to the observance of Hindu festivals & stop visiting Hindu places of worship. This declaration made the heads of other religions woo BRA namely the Muslims, Buddhists & Sikh.

4. Embrace Sikhism! MUST READ - Meantime BRA decided to embrace Sikhism. His friends felt that BRA must seek the support of Hindu Sabha leaders for this since they believed that Sikhism was not an alien religion. It was an offspring of Hinduism & thus Sikhs/Hindus intermarried and the Sikhs were allowed to be members of the Hindu Mahasabha. Accordingly BRA met Dr Moonje the spokesman of the Hindu Mahasabha. The purport of BRA’s views was reduced to a statement and given to Dr Moonje who approved it personally. Then he left Bombay to obtain the approval of Hindu leaders to the conversion of Untouchable Hindus to Sikhism. He sent the statement to various Hindu leaders like M R Jayakar, Rajah the Harijan leader with whom he made a pact in 1932. Rajah thought it was an excellent opportunity to dislodge BRA wrote to Gandhi, Malaviya etc and sought their advice in the matter.

Gandhi & co wrote to Rajah expressing their opposition to the move. While Moonje had written to Rajah in good faith Gandhi urged him to disclose the move publicly. Unable to get Moonje’s approval due to his traveling for the publication of correspondence between him & Rajah Gandhi asked Rajah to make all the correspondence public. Gandhi was not fair, he used the dissatisfied of Rajah as a tool to arouse Muslims, Christians & the Govt against BRA & to dislodge him.

In his proposal Dr Moonje said that the Hindu Mahasabha would not object to the conversion of the DC to Sikhism, not object to the inclusion of Neo-Sikhs in the list of Scheduled Castes for the enjoyment of benefits under the Poona Pact if BRA preferred Sikhism to Islam/Christianity, agreed to cooperate with the Hindus & Sikhs to counteract the Muslim movement for conversion of DC, to live within Hindu culture.

Why did BRA choose Sikhism- He favored it in the interests of the Hindus and said that is was the duty of the Hindus to help the Sikhs in removing the economic & political difficulties that would lie in the way of the neo-Sikhs? ‘The second question, is looking at these alternatives purely from the standpoint of the Hindus, which is best Islam, Christianity or Sikhism? Obviously Sikhism. If the DC embraces Islam or Christianity they not only go out of Hindu religion, but also go out of Hindu culture. On the other hand, if they become Sikhs they remain within Hindu culture. This is by no means a small advantage to the Hindus. Conversion to Islam or Christianity will denationalize the DC. If they go to Islam the number of Muslims would be doubled, and the danger of Muslim domination also becomes real. If they go over to Christianity it help strengthen the hold of Britain on the country’. Are these not the words of a noble, wise & true son of Bharat?

BRA said that it was not right for Rajah to publish the correspondence. As regards the views expressed by Gandhi & Malaviya, he said that had no right to complain as they had utterly failed to carry out the promises they had made at the time of the Poona Pact for the uplift of the DC. Concluding BRA said with a certain emotion, ‘The move for conversion to Sikhism has been approved by a number of prominent Hindus, including Shankaracharya Dr Kurtakoti. If I have gone to the length of considering it an alternative, it is because I felt a certain amount of responsibility for the fate of the Hindus’.

5. Why Sikhism - BRA the historian gave a rude shock to Hindu society, because he knew that conversions of Hindus had convulsed India. Six years after the agitation, Jinnah told Lord Fisher that 75% of the Indian Muslims were former Hindus. ‘Friends Jinnah was a Gujarati Muslim, Bhatia Rajput, think a 3rd or 4th generation convert’. What religious conversions, neglected by the Congress leaders, who prospered on Hindu support, has done to Travancore, Assam & Punjab can be seen from the following. Savarkar, Shivaji, Shraddhananda strove to reclaim the converted Hindus & stop increasing the anti-nationalists in India. In 1901 the proportion of Hindus per ten thousand was 5,578 that of Muslims was 2,689 and Christians 23. In 1941 Hindus were reduced to 4,129, Muslims rose to 3,373 and Christians to 35. ‘Friends thanks for Bangladeshi infiltration & missionary activity the Hindu number must be much lower now’.

The aim of Muslim leaders for conversions of Hindus had been handed over to them for generations, which is why they objected to Untouchables being recorded as Hindus in the Census. BRA’s Annihilation of Caste was still being discussed, attacked all over the country. Savarkar held the same views as BRA on the subject. But he objected to BRA’s remark that Hindu life had been a life of continuous defeats & pointed to some glorious chapters in its history. Gandhi & BRA disagreed on the merits & demerits of caste.

Inspite of the opposition sponsored by Gandhi & others BRA took one more step toward conversion to Sikhism. He deputed on 18/9/1936, a group of his followers to the Sikh Mission at Amritsar to study the Sikh religion. They were a group of 13 none of whom was a scholar or a first rate Ambedkarite. BRA wished them success but had not asked them to convert to Sikhism. In an excess of zeal those students went over to Sikhism & did what their leader did not mean. They were coldly received in Bombay and then sank into oblivion.