Dr. Ambedkar and Dalit Human Rights, Dr. Ambedkar’s Kala Nasik Mandir & Mahad Talab Morcha, Dr. S. L. Virdi Advocate.
The emergence of Ambedkar on the national political scene almost coincided with the emergence of Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi as the numero no leaders in the Congress Party, which was the forefront of the struggle for independence from the British. While Gandhi was more focused on the political freedom from the British, Ambedkar was keener on the “social freedom” of the Dalits and other lower caste from the clutches of Brahmanism as a precursor to the Britishers granting political freedom to the Indians. While Gandhi’s argument was that first to get freedom from the Britishers then the problem of caste will be solved.
Having returned from London Dr. Ambedkar was given a high post in Baroda. When he reached Baroda no one came to welcome him. Worse still, even the servants in the office would not hand over the files to him. No one in the office would give him water to drink. He could not get a house to live in. On account of his low caste, he was refused a place on rent. He asked the Maharaja and also the chief Minister but all in vain. Then Dr. Ambedkar adopted a Parsi name and rented a room in Parsi Guest House. When the Parsi learned about his caste they came armed with batons and attacked on Dr. Ambedkar. He tried his best to get a room, but could find no shelter. He had to resign the post and returned to Bombay.
The fire of wrath against the Brahminical system blazed in Ambedkar mind. He sit under a tree and pledged as under: “If I fail to do away with the abominable thralldom and inhuman injustice under which the Class, into which I was born, has been groaning, I will put an end to my life with a bullet.”
Dr. Ambedkar started his revolt against the Brahmanism by founded a bahiskrit Hitakarini Sabha in 1924 for the upliftment of Dalits (Shudra and Ati Shudra.) He started Marathi fortnightly the “Mook Nayak” which means the leader of the dumb. Through this paper he awakened the Dalit to fight for their rights. He burnt a copy of the Manu Simriti in 1927, the sacred code of the Hindus. He has done it to arise a feeling of self respect and self confidence among the dalits and to caution the Hindus that they must be prepared for equal civil rights to the dalits.
Dr. Ambedkar started direct action and launched marches to enter the Kala Ram Mandir in Nasik and drank water from the public tank at Mahad in Maharashtra. By this acts of the agitation, Dr. Ambedkar wanted to remove the mental dormancy of his people on an all India level. Dr. Ambedkar asked dalits to resist boldly all the acts of social tyranny. “Goats! Lions are not sacrificed. Strengthen the organisation of the depressed classes all over the country as it is the only way for salvation.” The Problem of Indian Dalit servile class was the lack of human personality, self respect, clothing, shelter and bread. At the time of Mahad agitation Dr. Ambedkar declared that they launched the Mahad Talab agitation not for mere water. We reached there to prove that they were also the human beings. They wanted to have a decent life.
Dr. Ambedkar exposed the congress and its ill designs. Gandhi’s argument was that once they get the freedom, the Indian can rectify their own social structure. But on the other hand Dr. Ambedkar had a first hand experience of the Brahminical mind set. He very well knew that once the upper caste Hindus laid their hands on the political power they would usurp all the powers and enslave the dalits. That is the reason Dr. Ambedkar opposed the demand of Swarajya from the British. Gandhi was more focused for the political freedom but Ambedkar was keener for the social freedom for the dalits. When the Simon Commission visited India in 1928 Dr. Ambedkar demanded separate electorate representation for the depressed classes. In the Round Table Conferences held in 1930, 31, 32. Dr. Ambedkar played a historical role both for the Independence of India and for the political rights for the Dalits.
Addressing the Round Table Conference under the chairmanship of British Premier Mac Donald in London on 12th November, 1930 Dr. Ambedkar said: “My poor Untouchable brothers live in a condition worse than slaves. Slaves were at least touched by their lords, but our very touch has been deemed a sin. Not even the British government has been able to do anything for us. Formerly, we could not take water from the village well; we cannot use it even today. Formerly, we could not enter the temples; even today we cannot do so. Formerly, we were not recruited into the police and military, even today we are not, one hundred and fifty year of British rule has done nothing to change our condition.” Dr. Ambedkar’s demand raised a hue and cry throughout the Country. Gandhi-Ambedkar controversy ensued. It was against the wishes of the Congress and Gandhi that Dr. Ambedkar was invited to the First Round Table Conference in London along with R. B. R. Srinivasan to represent the depressed classes, where in Congress liberals, the other Indian parties and the princes of the states had also participated. It was during the Round Table Conference, that the British and the world, had for the first time a chance to hear the horrible inhuman treatment being meted out to the people belonging to the Backward Class communities by their Hindu counterparts and the depth of the evils described by Ambedkar. No decision could be taken on the issue of right of the depressed classes in the sub-committee of the Round Table Conference. The matter was therefore, left to the Britishers to decide the issue and the Congress along with Gandhi promised to abide by such decision.
Dr. Ambedkar condemned Gandhi’s approach and attitude towards the Dalit problem and exhorted that the problem of the dalits, is a political problem and demanded reservation of seats in the legislature and the election for them should be through separate electorate. Dr. Ambedkar’s speech and his role in the 2nd Round Table Conference created tremendous effect and impact on the British Prime Minister and his colleagues. The result of his efforts and service there was the announcement of Communal Award, which provided the reservation of seats and separate electorate for dalits, Scheduled Castes in the future legislature. By this announcement of communal Award, upset and frustrated Gandhi undertook fast to death. His fast was resented by Dr. Ambedkar and the Scheduled Castes in India Dr. Ambedkar denounced Gandhi’s fast as opposed to the rights and interests of the dalits, Scheduled Castes. Dr. Ambedkar condemned Gandhi’s fast as malicious, misconceived and disastrous to the rights of the Depressed Classes. He, therefore, asked Gandhi, “Why did he not undertake such fast for the abolition of the untouchability? And against the practice of it by the caste Hindus? He questioned the propriety of his fast at this juncture when the dalits, Scheduled Castes were given the separate electorate by the British Government, while he had no grievance for separate electorate in favour of the Muslim and Sikhs? The depressed classes of India arose in one voice, supporting Dr. Ambedkar and condemning Gandhi’s stand against the separate electorate for dalits.1
The leaders of Congress and the leaders of Hindu Society like Pandit Madan Mohan Malvya who attended 1 Justice Dr. Kottapalli Punnayya, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Memorial Lecture, Page 9 The 2nd Round Table Conferece along with Gandhi held a conference under his Presidentship on 19th September 1932. They invited Dr. Ambedkar to speak. Dr. Ambedkar asked them to give alternative proposal, if they were interested to save Gandhi. He made it very clear that in the absence of alternative proposal from Gandhi I would not be party to any proposal that would be against the interest of my people.
The war waged by Dr. Ambedkar with Gandhi for separate Electro rare ended with Poona Pact was really a historical fight for securing constitutional rights to Scheduled castes. Through this fight, Dr. Ambedkar secured Constitutional recognition and an honorable place for the Scheduled Caste in the ensuring government of India Act of 1935 and in the country.