Life and Mission of Dr Ambedkar

Man of the Hour    

1. BRA now decided to practice law that would provide him with opportunities, means & leisure to devote himself to the aim of his life, the uplift of the Untouchables. With the help of Naval Bathena he started his life as a Barrister in June 1923. The thorns of untouchability, the color of his skin, the inexperienced legal mind & unhelpful surroundings in courts turned his path into an uphill task. But BRA knew that excellence in pursuit is achieved by laborious application.

BRA joined the Appellate side of the Bombay Bar as success in practice on the Original side depended more upon one’s influence with the solicitors than upon one’s ability. The Solicitors would not have anything to do with him on account of his untouchability and thus he had to be happy with whatever work came his way. Whats new, all famous legal luminaries had to start their early career cooling their heels.

By now outer influences and inner forces had brought about a visible change in the mental & moral outlook of the DC. The spread of education, development of communications, mode of traveling & spirit of nationalism had gradually begun to act as an effective correctness to the prejudicial ideas of untouchability. The rise of the textile industry during World War I helped the DC too since they had to work with other classes & stimulated them to better their own condition. On the top of it was the impetus to democratic ideals generated by the inevitable forces of World War I that gave an impetus to social reformation the world over.

About this time D Gholap, the first nominated member of the DC in the Bombay Legislative Council, moved a resolution in order to make primary education compulsory in order to bring it within the reach of the DC. But the most important resolution was one moved by S K Bole which the Bombay Legislative Council adopted on 4/8/1923. Moving the resolution he said that untouchability was a stigma on the good name of India: ‘It is in the interests of the country that the DC should be given better treatment. The Council recommends that that the Untouchable Classes be allowed to use all public watering places, wells & dharamshalas which are built & maintained out of public funds’. Bole’s work was widely appreciated by the DC of Bombay.

Another notable proclamation was made concerning the DC at the end of 1923. Stimulated by Gandhi’s support to the Indian Muslims on the issue of Khilafat, presiding at a meeting called to present an address to Gandhi at Madras, Yakub Hussein once openly enjoined upon the Muslims the duty of converting all the Untouchables of India to Islam.

2. 1924, Savarkar, Gandhi, BRA – this was one of most eventful years in Indian history. After undergoing a hellish life for 12 years in Andaman Savarkar was released & interned in Ratnagiri. Gandhi too was released on health grounds after suffering for nearly two years consequent to the debacle of his Khilafat-Swaraj Movement. Savarkar worked for the consolidation of Hindu society & for the upliftment of the DC. Gandhi too did the same. BRA prepared himself for the same. He convened a meeting in March 1924 to consider establishing a central institution for removing difficulties of the untouchables & placing their grievances before the Government. So in July was formed ‘Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha, activities confined to Bombay. Its aim was to promote the spread of education – culture among DC, advance & improve their economic condition, to represent their grievances.

Why was BRA chartering a different path? BRA was looking at social reforms in the sense of the reorganization & reconstruction of Hindu society on the basis of equality and not at issues like widow remarriage, education of women etc. Despite the good work by the Prarthana / Brahmo Samaj / princes none could stir in the heart of these suppressed people an emotion of confidence, hope & aspiration for their own salvation. Self-help is the best help. The conservative feeling in the country at this juncture was unmoved as a rock. Only the conscience of the more political minded Hindus was tweaked when they were reminded by the rival Muslim politicians that more than one-third of the Hindu population was not accepted by the Hindus as part & parcel of the community. That is why the Hindu Mahasabha & the Arya Samajists could not succeed much in their work of consolidation of Hindu society.

To be fair to the Hindu Mahasabha it must be said that they undertook a mission, which the conservative minds looked upon disfavor. Now when they were fighting foreign rule by raising the issue of social reform they ran the risk of alienating the conservative Hindu whose support they needed. But more than that the reason for their failure was that some of their first rate leaders were orthodox at heart, resolutions / intent were good but execution bad. Their apathy & indifference was so much that even Swami Shraddhananda had to resign from their camp. No wonder the Mahasabha was described by the World Press as reactionary instead of having great leaders like Shraddhananda & Savarkar. Congress leaders were concerned only with Muslim sentiments, did not care about the disabilities of the DC or note their conversion to Islam & Christianity. They did follow Gandhi’s movement for uplift of the Untouchables.

3. Gandhi believed in the caste system & the four varnas. He wanted to raise the DC to the status of the fifth class, improve their lot but cared not to hurt the sentiments of his orthodox capitalist admirers who were the prop of his movement. His was more propaganda than effective change while Savarkar / BRA were social revolutionaries. Savarkar stand was nationalistic, realistic & revolutionary in outlook & action in as much at molding different castes into a casteless society in which all Hindus would be socially, economically & political equal. But as he was interned in Ratnagiri district the impact could not be seen outside that district.

BRA was one amongst the DC. He knew what it meant to be born & live the life of an untouchable. He gave vent to their passions, mind & stifled self. A man of great knowledge & boundless energy he was a man who regarded the woes & miseries of those classes as a personal humiliation, and thus had taken a vow to make self-respecting citizens out of those virtual slaves. He urged the Untouchables to fight for self-elevation. He cried out excerpts ‘You have been groaning from time immemorial & yet you are not ashamed to hug your helplessness as an inevitability’. The spate of his burning speeches began to have a telling effect upon their minds & to rouse them against their slavery.

BRA did not join the movement for the political independence of India. Those who were deprived of their political rights by foreign rulers were busy fighting them since they would rule India once the foreigners left. BRA’s aim was liberation of the DC for which he knew he would have to fight with caste Hindus & to deal with the British govt in respect of political rights. He however realized that hatred of British rule would be inviting double enmity of his people. So he thought it prudent to cooperate with the British so far as that cooperation would be able to secure rights for the DC.

4. With the birth of the Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha dawned a new age of self-respect. It started in 1925 a hostel at Sholpaur, a monthly magazine named Saraswati Vilas. The DC were now being attracted to BRA’s personality. He provided over the first conference of Untouchables at Malwan in Ratnagiri district in April 1925. But the most o/s event of the year was the satyagraha sponsored by Ramaswami Naicker, a non-Brahmin leader at Vaikam in the Travancore State for vindicating the rights of Untouchables to use a certain road to which they were forbidden entry. Another important incident took place when an untouchable by name Murgesan entered a Hindu temple in Madras despite a ban on Untouchables.

BRA was watching these events closely, his message of self-elevation was gathering force in its appeals. He was also gaining foothold as a lawyer. The spasms of social resolution were stirring the society. Inspite of the Bole resolution a number of Local Boards & Municipalities had not granted DC their civic rights. Bole moved another resolution on 5/8/1926 recommending to the govt not to give grant to those Municipalities etc which refused to give effect to the resolution passed by the Council three years ago.

5. BRA continued to live in these B.I.T Chawls; three storied buildings each containing about 80 one-room tenements, common baths. Men of authority came to see him at home. At times he was without his full dress when people came to see him without appointments. Although he was best qualified to fill the position of the Principal of Sydenham College he was not appointed inspite of the best efforts of Dr R P Paranjpye, then the Member for Education. He accepted a part time post of a lecturer in the Batliboy’s Accounting Training institute where he taught Mercantile Law.

It was during this time that his wife gave birth to a son Rajratna. Before that his wife gave birth to a daughter who passed away in infancy. However BRA lost Rajratna in July 1926. He was very grieved & depressed because of the death. He had acquired strength of mind, knowledge of all most all the scriptures. Like a yogin he was now spending his days in penance & austerities, immersed in silent contemplation. Men of DC came to him for help, legal advice, he fought their cases free, treated them with care & love. BRA was an expert at cooking.

The most important attribute of a great leader, next to spotless sincerity, is the possession of an ever flowing heard towards his men who are ready to do or die at his command.

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