Life and Mission of Dr Ambedkar

A Modern Day Manu  

1. Independence - The new Viceroy Mountbatten studied the situation, went to London and returned to declare his Plan on 3/6/1947. There would be two Central govts, two Constituent Assemblies & plebiscites for Sylhet & North West Frontier Province (NWFP in short). Gandhi & Nehru threw their whole weight & forced the All India Congress Committee to accept division of the country. The truth seeker in Gandhi who had considered Pakistan a sin was dominated by the politician in him, the Socialists were neutral & the Hindu Sabhaites rattled in vain. At this juncture Travancore & Hyderabad declared that they would be independent when India became a Dominion on 15/8/1947. BRA advised them against the move.

In Delhi BRA riveted the attention of the Indian govt on the work of the boundary commission & said, ‘If my fears come true & the boundary drawn by the commission is not a natural one, it needs no prophet to say that its maintenance will cost the Govt of India very dearly & it will put the safety / security of the people of India in jeopardy. I hope that the defence department will bestir itself & do its duty before it is too late’. This shows the heart of a patriot and yet the author of the Thoughts on Pakistan had preached that geographical conditions were not decisive in modern world technique!

The British Parliament passed the Indian Independence Act on 15/7/1947. Because Bengal was partitioned many members lost their seats in the Constituent Assembly, BRA was one of them. He was now chosen by the Bombay Legislative Congress Party to fill the vacancy caused by Dr M R Jaykar. India’s first Cabinet was to be formed. BRA was asked by Nehru whether he would join as Minister for Law, promised that a later stage he would be given the portfolio of Planning or Development. The Congress now desired rapprochement with BRA, BRA too forgot the past bickering, BRA agreed.

On August 29 the Constituent Assembly appointed a Drafting Committee with N Madhav Rao, Syed M Saadulah, Sir Alladi K, T T Krishnamachari & two others as members with BRA as its Chairman. It was a great achievement. Inspite of being Law Minister BRA kept close contact with the developments of Siddharth College, in a speech there he impressed upon youths the need for cultivating the art of speaking. In the first week of October BRA told a meeting of SC youths that independence had come so suddenly that he did not have a clear line of action before them at the moment. He stressed need for keeping the SC Federation in tact.

2. Results of Partition - Meanwhile the consequences of partition gave terrible shocks to the whole nation. ‘The number of wounded & murdered is for a city like Delhi colossal’. BRA had proposed partition with transfer of populations of Hindus & Muslims from their respective zones to avoid civil war. Savarkar was prepared to face a civil war in order to preserve the unity of India but the Congress accepted partition plus massacres & with secular zest ridiculed the idea of transfer of population as they done with the idea of Pakistan till the dawn of Pakistan. Their policy worsened the plight of Hindus who were in the zone of Pakistan. Thus BRA’s prophecy & fears were borne out to a letter!

The Untouchables being Hindus had to share the same fate. Jogendranath Mandal, law & labor member of Pakistan, who had asked the SC in Pakistan to look upon Jinnah as their savior was now rudely shaken from his dream. BRA was terribly upset, he complained that SC were not being allowed to come to India and were being forcibly converted to Islam, this was the case in Hyderabad state too. BRA advised his people, ‘I would like to tell the SC who happen today to be impounded inside Pakistan to come to India by such means as may be available to them. Two is that it would be fatal for the SC to out their faith in Muslims or the Muslim League. It has become a habit with SC to look upon  Muslims as their friends simply because they dislike the Hindus. This is a mistaken view’. He warned the SC of Hyderabad not to side with the Nizam and bring disgrace upon the community by siding with one who was the enemy of India. The whole nationalist press rang with praise for BRA.

During the past two months the Congress ministry of Bombay passed the Temple Entry Bill as a result of which the famous temple of Vithoba at Pandarpur, Kalaram Temple at Nasik amongst others were thrown open to SC Hindus. It was no mean achievement. BRA was busy with drafting the Constitution. How he worked & why he was called the Chief Architect of the Constitution can be seen from T T krishnamachari’s speech excerpts, ‘The burden of drafting the Constitution fell on BRA and I have no doubt that we are grateful to him for having achieved this task in a manner that is commendable’.

The terrific shocks of Partition were coming one after another. People showed profound disbelief in Gandhism. The Congress leaders were also chilled in their beliefs. Tandon declared that the Gandhian doctrine of non-violence was responsible for the division of India. 24 hours before the dawn of freedom people had stoned Gandhi’s house in Calcutta. And Gandhi’s fast started on 3/1/1948 for the reinstatement of the Muslims in their houses in Delhi, restoration of some mosques, five other reasons & as a sequel the Govt of India was forced to pay Pakistan 55 crores rupees had been loudly decried.

Amidst this confusion Godse shot dead Gandhi. While the world was shocked BRA did not react. Hard facts mentioned above & the old bitterness had not cooled down. He did not utter publicly a syllable on his tragedy nor did he issue any statement. In end February 1948 BRA completed the Draft Constitution & submitted it to the President of the Constituent Assembly.

3. Marriage + Constitution - After completing the drafting work BRA came to Bombay for treatment. He felt the need for a companion who would take care of him in his old age. In the hospital he met Dr Savita Kabir. Although he had resolved not to marry he now wanted an educated lady who knew cooking & was a medical practioner. As it was not possible to find such a lady among the SC he chose a Saraswat Brahmin lady. He married her on 15/4/1948.

In a speech in April 1948 he said that political power was the key to social progress & the SC could achieve their salvation if they captured power by organizing themselves into a third party & held the balance of power between the Congress & Socialists. He said that he had joined the Congress govt but not the Congress. He asked his followers to keep the SC organization in tact, as the Congress would be ruined in a couple of years.

In a Memorandum submitted to the Linguistic Commission on 14/10/1948 he said, ‘A linguistic province produces what democracy needs, namely social homogeneity, & makes democracy work better than it would in a mixed province. There is no danger in creating linguistic provinces but danger lies in creating such provinces with the language of each province as its official language’. The latter would lead to creation of provincial nationalities. That would lead to the break up of India, it might end becoming Europe. BRA had presented an irrefutable case for a single official language for the Centre & States in the Constituent Assembly but none listened. He visualized a unitary Maharashtra province, said that Maharashtra & Bombay were interdependent.

BRA’s great book, Untouchables was published. He said that Untouchables were broken men since those poor men could not give up beef eating & Buddhism they were treated as untouchables. He traces the origin of untouchability to 400 AD & said that is born out of the struggle for supremacy between Buddhism & Brahmanism. This book showed that BRA had the power of language & strength of thought and wielded a powerful pen. His writings had a peculiar fragrance of simplicity & directness.

The Draft Constitution was before the public for six months. As the last day dawned BRA introduced it on 4/11/1948 to the Constituent Assembly. In a grand, lucid & elaborate speech he brought out its salient features, the whole Assembly listening to him as one man. Replying then to the charges that there was nothing new in the Constitution, he said, ‘More than a 100 years have rolled since the first constitution was drafted. Fundamentals of constitutions across the world are similar. That the constitution has produced a good part of the provisions of the Govt of India Act of 1935, I make no apologies. There is nothing to be ashamed of in borrowing. It involves no plagiarism’.

4. BRA praised - The whole Assembly paid tributes to BRA. On 12/11/1948 Article 11 was adopted declaring the abolition of Untouchability amidst great acclamation. BRA urged his people that progress of the community would depend on how they advanced in education. A battle royal was fought on the question of the national language, and Hindi with the Nagari script was declared to be the national language of India by a majority of one vote only. As Chairman of the Drafting Committee BRA had to explain in the Assembly many knotty points & niceties of law. He described Article 32 which defines the powers of Parliament & Supreme Court in respect of fundamental rights, as the very soul of the Constitution and the very heart of it. BRA worked hard inspite of ill health.

Not all members were pleased with the form of the Constitution. A member said that it had reduced the Provinces to the status of municipalities. Another felt that it had discarded the idea of decentralization propagated by Gandhi. Another thought that it had not provided for the ban on cow slaughter.

Amidst loud applause he rose on 25/11/1949 to reply to the debate on the third reading of the Constitution. Looking to the future of the country he observed, ‘What perturbs me is the fact that India has lost her independence by the infidelity & treachery of her own people. In the invasion of Sind by M Kasim, the military commanders of King Dahir accepted bribes & refused to fight on the side of their king. It was Jaichand who invited M Ghori to invade India & fight Prithiviraj Chauhan & promised him the help of himself / Solanki kings. When Shivaji was fighting the Mughals, the other Maratha noblemen & Rajput kings were fighting battles on the side of the Mughal emperors. When the British were fighting the Sikh rulers, their principal commandment sat silent & did not help save the Sikh kingdom. In 1857 when a large part of India had declared a war of independence against the British, the Sikhs stood & watched as silent spectators. Will history repeat itself?’

He then turned to the ways of maintaining democracy. He said that the first thing to do was to hold fast to the constitutional methods of achieving their social & economic objectives & abandon the methods of civil disobedience, non cooperation & satyagraha, for those methods were nothing but the grammar of anarchy. Another danger he felt arose from hero worship. The third things people must do to safeguard Indian democracy was that they must not be content with pure political democracy & they must make it a social & economic democracy. In the end he appealed to the Indians to be a nation in the social & psychological sense of the word by discarding castes which brought about separation in social life & created jealousy and antipathy between caste & caste. The House listened to his forty-minute speech spellbound, punctuating it with cheers. Newspapers published his speech with great joy & pride.

On 26/11/1949 the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution. In his concluding speech Dr Rajendra Prasad as President of the Assembly said, ‘Sitting in the chair & watching the proceedings from day to day I have realized that nobody else could have with what zeal & devotion the Members of the Drafting Committee & esp its Chairman have worked. He has not only justified his selection but added luster to the work he has done’.

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