Life and Mission of Dr Ambedkar

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Before the Bar of World Opinion 

1. Temple Entry Nasik - 1930 was a year of action & reaction. It was in this year that Gandhi inaugurated his great movement for the liberation of the country on 12/3/1930 & transformed the whole country into a theatre of passive resistance. Ten days before the Dandi March of Gandhi, BRA launched his temple entry movement at Nasik ie at the Kalaram Temple. A clarion call was issued to the DC to come to Nasik & assert their right of worshipping Shree Rama in the said temple. In response 15,000 volunteers came. On 2/3/1930 a conference was held there under the presidentship of BRA to consider the situation & adopt ways/means for launching the satyagraha. At  3 in the afternoon, the congregation divided itself into batches of four extending itself over a mile long procession, the biggest in the history of Nasik. As soon as the procession came to the eastern gate of the temple, the D Magistrate/other officials greeted them. Since all the temple gates were closed they proceeded to the Godavari Ghat.

It was decided to launch a non-violent struggle before the gates of the temple. The satyagraha continued for about a month. April 9 dawned, the day the chariot procession of the image of Rama. A compromise was patched up whereby the chariot would be drawn by the touchables & untouchables. On d day before BRA & his choicest gymnasts stood near the gate. But before they could touch the chariot, they were engaged in broils by the riotous elements of the caste Hindus, who ran away with the chariot. A daring Bhandari youth broke through the police cordon and in moment’s crowds of untouchables pursued the chariot amidst showers of stones. BRA though protected received minor injuries, there was fierce fighting between groups of Untouchables & caste Hindus all over the city.

This satyagraha provoked considerable ill feeling towards the DC, their children were thrown out of schools, maltreated etc. But so great was the resolve of the DC that the caste Hindus had to keep the famous temple closed for a whole year and agitation continued right up to the end of October 1935.

2. Attitude Brit govt - DC Nagpur Conference - At long last the Simon Commission came out with its report in May 1930. It deliberately ignored the Indian view, recommended a continuation of separate electorates for want of agreement between Indian political parties. It allocated 150 seats to the Hindus including the DC out of a total of 250, proposed DC joint electorates with reservation of seats but no DC candidate was allowed to stand for election unless his fitness was certified by the Governor of the Province opposed subsequently by BRA.

The first session of the DC Congress held at Nagpur on 8/8/1930 under the presidentship of BRA. He declared that it was possible for the people of India to become one united self-governing community. If Yugoslavia, Russia with all their differences in race, creed could function as self-governing communities why not India. But he affirmed that the diversity of conditions & peoples prevalent in India must be taken into account while framing the constitution for a self-governing India. BRA demanded adequate safeguards for the downtrodden untouchables in the Constitution & pleaded for direct representation in the Councils commensurate with the strength of the DC. He said ‘the ideal of Dominion Status seems to be superior, for it has in it the substance of independence without the attendant risks involved in complete independence’. He was opposed to Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience Movement because it was extremely inopportune.

Attitude towards British govt. Like Ranade, he regarded the advent of the British as providential, and responsible for the intellectual awakening & the concept of liberty, equality & fraternity. Yet he described the British govt as the costliest govt in the world and he asked his people whether there was parallel to the poverty of the Indian people in any part of the world. ‘In the first quarter of the 19th century when the British ruled India, there were five famines with an estimated loss of 10 lakh lives. During the second quarter there were six famines with a recorded loss of 50 lakh lives. And during the last quarter what do you find? 18 famines with an estimated mortality which reached an awful total between 150 to 260 lakhs’. The Brits were the cause of this chronic poverty.

He told his people ‘It is only in a Swaraj Constitution that you stand any chance of getting political power in your hands without which you cannot bring any salvation to our people’. BRA said that the Congress did not prescribe the removal of untouchability as a franchise for its membership nor did Gandhi set out on a crusade against untouchability. The safety of the DC lay in being independent of the Govt & the Congress. Although BRA insisted upon the necessity of securing political power he said their salvation lies in their social education.

This declaration of Political Independence was a definite departure from the old policy, a landmark in the history of the movement carried on by the Untouchables. Another memorable statement by BRA at this Congress was that he told his audience that he would not abjure Hindu religion whatever might be the hardships afflicted upon him by the caste Hindus. Seeing his criticism of the Govt some of the papers appreciated his change in attitude like the Kesari.

3. Departure for 1st Round Table Conference (RTC) – As declared the British convened the first RTC consisting of reps of India, British govt & political parties to frame the constitution for India. It consisted of 89 members, 53 representing various interests except the non-cooperating Congress and 20 of the Indian states. BRA’s invitation was epoch-making in the history of the Untouchables for it was at this conference that they were being vested along with other Indians with the right to be consulted in framing the constitution of India. Felicitated by his people he said on eve of departure, ‘I will demand what is right for my people, and I will certainly uphold the demand for Swaraj’. He also promised that he would meet the leaders of Germany, Russia, America and acquaint them with the problems of the suppressed Indians. Congress hated, abused & cursed those leaders who cooperated with the British.

Indeed the times were unfavorable to any leader who was opposed to the ways of the INC. The left wing of the Congress was impatient of the Liberal leaders who believed in maturity/patience. Patriotism was for some to be the exclusive domain of the Congress organization. BRA was criticized by Bose. It was typical of Congress leaders that they acted upon the principle of non-violence where the British & Muslims were concerned and behaved with hatred & violence where other parties were concerned.

On reaching BRA found the political climate sympathetic to the cause of DC, began to contact Britain’s important political bosses in connection with the problems of the DC. Yet he was keen to know about the Court judgment on the Chowdar Tank case, Mahad.

4. The RTC evinced interest because never before had British & Indian statesmen, rulers of Indian states met to discuss the future system of the govt of India. Said Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, ‘India wants & is determined to achieve a status of equality – equality with all members of the British Commonwealth – an equality that will give it a govt that is responsible to popular voice’. The Maharaja of Bikaner declared that the Princes were prepared to federate of their own free will with self-governing Federal British India. This was a surprise to all but endorsed by the Nawab of Bhopal & Maharaja of Patiala. Muslim members welcomed an All India Federation but with great vigor pressed for a status of N.W.F.P. equal to other provincial units & creation of a separate Sind province.

At the outset BRA declared that he was placing the viewpoint of 20% of the total population of British India. He then asked for a govt elected of – for – by the people. He said that inspite of 150 years of British rule the condition of the DC had not improved as compared to pre-British days for e.g. ‘Before the British we could not draw water from the well, has the British secured us the right to the well. Before the British we were denied entry into the Police Force, does the govt admit us into the force now? Of what good is such a govt to anybody? It was a govt, which did realize that the capitalists were denying the workers a living wage & landlords were squeezing the masses dry, and yet it did not remove social evils that blighted the lives of the downtrodden classes for years’.

BRA upheld the demand for Dominion Status but expressed doubts whether the DC would be heir to it unless the political machinery for the new constitution was of a special make. The fearless tone & bold criticism in the speech had a wonderful effect upon the Conference. One man was esp. proud, Maharaja of Baroda, who had sponsored his education earlier, invited him to a special dinner in London. BRA won praise from all.

Muslim issue – liberal leaders like Sapru, Setalvad tried to reach an agreement with the Muslim delegates on the communal question. But talks broke down over the Muslim demand for the separation of Sind and their refusal to grant the same proportion of reserved seats to the Hindus & Sikhs in the Muslim majority provinces as they asked for themselves in other provinces.

After the general discussion the Conference appointed nine sub-committees, BRA found himself on most of these committees. BRA pleaded before the Defence committee that recruitment to the Army should be open to all Indians consistently. The most important work BRA did to achieve his goal was the preparation of the Declaration of Fundamental Rights safeguarding the cultural, religious and economic rights of the DC. He prepared it with great labor & submitted it to the Minorities Sub-Committee for being included in the future constitution of India. BRA dispatched copies of this declaration to his followers in India and asked them to hold meetings in support of the demand presented to the Minorities Sub-Committee.

One point not sufficiently known about the deliberations of the RTC was the compromise arrived at between Dr Moonje & BRA in regard to the rights of the DC. It was announced by them jointly that there was no cause for the DC’s to quarrel with caste Hindus. Muslims were not favoring the untouchables for they feared that caste Hindus & the untouchables would any day become a united force & oppose their demands jointly.

5. Results RTC - Such was the devotion of BRA to the cause of the DC problem that he availed every opportunity to meet/communicate with Members of the British parliament/foreign journals. The result was that the world came to know for the first time that the fate of the Untouchables in India was worse than that of the Negroes in America. BRA’s profound study, great industry & conquering intellect created a tremendous impression upon the delegates & British statesmen. He inspired awe & hatred.

During his visit he snatched some time to enter some second hand stalls to purchase rare books. Three boxes of books were sent to India thru V M Pawar. It was in London that BRA received the news of the victory of his people over the orthodox in the Mahad Tank case at the Mahad’s sub-judge’s Court and that of his nomination to the Bombay Legislative Council. Another thing that pleased him then was that as directed by him, his trusted lieutenants, Deorao Naik & Kadrekar started a new fortnightly paper called Janata.

After recording the reports of the various Sub-Committees, the RTC adjourned on 9/1/1931. It was followed by a debate on India in the House of Commons where one Issac Foot spoke about establishing safeguards for the DC’s. This was a tribute to BRA’s ceaseless work in London.

The most notable contribution of this session of the RTC to Indian political thought was the evolution of the conception of a united India. Another solid outcome was the definite emergence of the DC in the political picture of India and more important was the brilliant & moving exposition of their insufferable conditions by BRA before the bar of world opinion. Owing to disagreement amongst different communities on the question of seats and on the system of election whether joint / separate electorates with reserved seats should be employed, the Conference was adjourned. Without the Congress too no major decision concerning India could be taken.

6. BRA on his return said that grant of political power depended upon the solution of the minority problem and concluded by expressing his satisfaction that in the future constitution of India the place of the DC was secure & their disabilities would be non-existent. Meanwhile the political situation in India was changing. Within a week of the termination of the RTC, Gandhi after protracted negotiations with the Viceroy Irwin made a pact abandoning the Civil Disobedience Movement and promising to attend the second RTC.

It was decided by leaders of the DC to revive the agitation for temple entry at Nasik, which was suspended in 1930 on the assurance of Dr Moonje. BRA went to Nasik, made a great speech, aroused his people’s feelings, laid stress on discipline & non-violence. The procession of untouchables passed off except for some stones thrown by orthodox groups. A notable point, at its Karachi session, the Congress made a declaration that it would be strictly neutral in matters religious. A little before this session, Gandhi declared in Mumbai that we would fight for temple entry after freedom was won.

In April 1931 BRA convened a Leader’s Conference where prominent DC leaders from Bengal, C.P., Maharashtra & Madras came. BRA submitted a report on what he had done at the RTC. The Conference appealed to the Govt to nominate the reps of DC on the Federal Structure Committee, to grant adequate representation at the next RTC and demanded that reps of DC be provided with cabinet responsibilities in future cabinets of the Provinces. It expressed gratitude to people who fought for the DC cause at the RTC liked Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Issac Foot amongst others.

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