Dr Ambedkar’s Policy and Views
Dr. Ambedkar’s has popularly known as the pioneer who initiated the liberation movement of roughly 65 million untouchables of India, Let us discuss his views and policy one by one.
Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born on 14th April, 1891 in a small town at Mhow Cantt near Indore in Mahar caste, which is known as untouchable caste in Maharashtra. He died on 6th December, 1956. His name was Bhim Sakpal, during childhood. His father was Ramji Sakpal, who was the follower of Saint Kabir. Therefore, he never believed in caste. He adopted Buddha religion along with 5 lakh people in a historical congregation on 14th October, 1956 at Nagpur. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar popularly known as Dr. Babasaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, was a multifaceted personality, an intellectual, a revolutionary, a philosopher, a patriot, a scholar, a writer, and the constitution maker. He struggled against the untouchability and the caste system. He began to get a taste of the bitter reality of being born as untouchable. Every day he had to carry to the school, a piece of gunny bag to sit upon and teachers would not touch his notebooks, and if he felt thirsty in the school, he could quench his thirst only if someone agreed to pour water into his mouth. He has popularly known as the pioneer who initiated the liberation movement of roughly 65 million untouchables of India. Let us discuss his views and policy one by one.
Dalit Liberation: Subaltern Approach: Generally, the word Dalit includes those who are designated in administrative parlance as Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
However, in common political discourse, the term Dalit is so far mainly referred to Scheduled Castes. Dalit is a by-product of the Ambedkar movement and indicates a political and social awareness. Ambedkar adopted a different approach and philosophy for the emancipation of Scheduled Castes. He wanted to liberate the Dalits by building an egalitarian social order which he believed was not possible within the fold of Hinduism whose very structures were hierarchical which relegated the Dalits to the bottom. He asserted that the Dalits should come forward and assert for their own cause. He gave them a mantra educate, organize and agitate. With the advent of Ambedkar into the Indian political arena during 1920s, the issue of social reforms achieved a new dimension. He was of the opinion that until and unless the downtrodden themselves came forward to fight their battle, no one else could alleviate their grievances. No one else could know better than them about their own state of affairs.
Ambedkar impressed upon the people to understand their own affairs themselves. Self-awakening, he believed, could provide them necessary strength to fight against evils in society. “Ambedkar (started) exercising the spirit of despair from the minds of dumb millions who had been forced to live the lives of sub-human beings. An another aspect of Ambedkar’s subaltern approach for the emancipation of Dalits and their empowerment was his distinct formulation of Indian nationalism in opposition to the dominant discourse of Hindu nationalism as represented by Raja Rammohan Roy, B.G. Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Religion: A large part of Ambedkar’s writings had a direct bearing on Hinduism, most of which remained unpublished and in the initial draft form during his lifetime. In these studies, which he undertook mainly from the second half of the 1940s, Ambedkar argued that Buddhism, which attempted to found society on the basis of reason and morality, was a major revolution, both social and ideological, against the degeneration of the Aryan society. It condemned the varna system and gave hope to the poor, the exploited and the women. It rallied against sacrifices, priestcraft and superstition. The Buddhist Sangha became the platform for the movement towards empowering and ennobling the common man.
Caste: Ambedkar’s understanding of caste and the caste system underwent certain significant changes over the period of his writings. Initially, he had argued that the characteristic of caste was endogamy, superimposed by exogamy in a shared cultural ambience. He suggested that evils such as sati, child marriage and prohibition on widow remarriage were the outcome of caste. Further, if a caste closed its boundaries, other castes were also forced to follow the suit. The Brahmins closing themselves socially first gave rise to the system of castes. Ambedkar continued to emphasize the endogamous characteristic of caste but roped in other features such as the division of labour, absence of inter-dinning and the principle of birth, which he had earlier largely absorbed within endogamy.
Untouchability: Ambedkar’s engagement with untouchability, as a researcher, intellectual and activist, is much more nuanced, hesitant but intimate as compared to his viewpoint on caste, where he is prepared to offer stronger judgements and proffer solutions. However, with untouchability, there is often a failure of words. Grief is merged with anger. He often exclaims how an institution of this kind has been tolerated and even defended. He evinces deep suspicions about the bona fides of others in terms of their engagement with it. He distinguished the institution of untouchability from that of caste, though the former is reinforced by the latter, and Brahminism constituted the enemy of both.
Economy: Unlike in the domain of politics and religion, Ambedkar’s intervention in relation to economic thought and issues was intermittent though persistent over a long period. For his Master’s at Columbia University, Ambedkar wrote a lengthy dissertation, which he did not eventually submit. It was entitled as Ancient Indian Commerce and included three fascinating chapters, viz., “Commercial Relations of India with the Middle East’. It projected India as a land, which has deep and varied ties with other countries based on the nature of its economy. He portrayed very vividly the exploitative nature of the Company’s rule in India. In The Administration and Finance of East India Company, Ambedkar provided a lucid account of the organization of the East India Company, its sources of revenue and items of expenditure up to 1857.
Colonialism and Nationalism: Ambedkar’s critique of colonialism ranges across a whole spectrum from the economy to the nature of the colonial discourse. In terms of the later, Ambedkar demanded that the terms of the discourse be altered. He had no defence to offer in favour of colonialism but he did not want power to go to those who would not promote partisan ends in the name of the people. Ambedkar’s considered judgment was that colonialism benefited the untouchables least, except for the rule of law which it inaugurated, allowing some space for them. He insisted on a responsible and accountable government based upon adult franchise, and was one of the first top rung leaders in India to demand universal adult franchise early on in his submission before the Simon Commission, in the strongest possible terms.
However, Ambedkar remained wary of nationalism, particularly given the experience of the Second World War. He was primarily concerned with a regime of rights, based on justice and upholding democracy. In a way, he was forced to engage with nationalism seriously when the Muslim League made the demand for a separate Pakistan in 1940. He, however, felt that different nationalities had often remained within a single state and have negotiated terms of associated living. National self-determination is not something inevitable, but the pros and cons of whether nationalities decide to live together in a single state or wish to go their own ways, have to be assessed. He felt that under certain conditions it might be better to be separated than to live in a united state.
Constitutional Democracy: The major area of Ambedkar’s work was on constitutional democracy. He was adept at interpreting different constitutions of the world, particularly those that mattered insofar as they were committed to democracy, along with their constitutional developments. This becomes obvious if we note the references that he adduces to the different constitutions, in the debates of the Constituent Assembly. He was a key player in the constitutional developments of India from the mid-1920s and on certain issues such as Uniform Civil
Code he was to anticipate some of the major issues that have been the topics of debate in India. Ambedkar evolved certain basic principles of constitutionalism for a complex polity like India but argued that ultimately their resilience would depend on constitutional ethics. Ambedkar also dwelt on several substantive issues of law. In fact, we can understand the significance that law had in his scheme of things by recourse to his larger social and ideological understanding. He was deeply sensitive to the interface between the law on one hand, and customs and popular beliefs, on the other.
He felt that law was definitely influenced by customs and popular beliefs but stressed that customs may defend parochial interests, but may not uphold fairness, and may be based on their usefulness for the dominant classes. They may not be in tune with the demands of time or in consonance with morality and reason. Ambedkar also admitted the possibility of customs having the upper hand over law when they begin to defend vested interests, but that with its emphasis on freedom and democracy, law could be placed in the service of the common good. On the other hand, customs, while promoting healthy pluralism, may give rise to a highly inegalitarian order. At the same time, he defers to pluralism, if it can uphold rights.
Governance: One of the issues that Ambedkar paid close attention to was power and governance. He thought that governance must reflect sociological reality as closely as possible lest those wielding power to their advantage suppress the excluded groups. Ambedkar spent a great deal of his time and energy in advancing proposals for the purpose stressing the need to respect justice and equity. While he was opposed to overrepresentation to Muslims as expressed in the constitutional reforms of 1909, he did not accept that minority representation should be exactly in proportion to its population.
His commitment to democracy as the mode of governance was unwavering but he argued that democracy needed to become a way of life. He developed some interesting arguments on why parliamentary democracy was the most suitable form of government for India and advocated feasible modes of representation and franchise.
Privileging Buddhism: While Ambedkar acknowledged the possibility of diverse religious and moral standpoints that were reasonable he did not see them as equally predisposed towards freedom, equality and fraternity. Buddhism alone cherished such goals comprehensively and offered a complementarity to freedom, equality and fraternity. Thus Ambedkar realized that the right of the untouchables could only be safeguard by making constitutional provision. He was a scholar as much as a “man of action”. He gave an inspiring self-confidence to the Dalits, untouchables and women. He was in the favour of education and equal rights for everyone. He has been regarded as a ray of hope, for downtrodden in India. His vision of democracy and equality was closely related to good society, rationality and the scientific outlook. He held that the emancipation of Dalit in India was possible only through the three-pronged approached of education, agitation and organization. Thus Ambedkarism is the great relevance to Indian society to achieve social justice, removal of untouchability, in establishing equality and true democracy.
Dr Ambedkar’s Policy and Views