Ambedkar: Resurrection of Dalits

“One great point needs to be stressed about his social campaigning. He fought against caste all his life, but never against the people belonging to higher castes. He always used to say the fight is against Brahminism, not against Brahmins. This is so like the Gandhian doctrine- fight the evil, not the evil doer.” 
- Dinkar Sakrikar in ‘Dr. B. R. Ambedkar- the leader of social Regeneration’

Existence of injustice in one form or the other is universal in all human societies. Main cause of perpetuation of injustices in traditional societies has been the rigorously imposed supremacy of birth. Noted historian A. L. Basham has written in his book ‘The wonder that was India’ that among all ancient civilized societies Indian society was the most kind society towards its downtrodden. But gradually it went through such vicissitudes of circumstances that the division of society based on profession steadily turned into castes, i. e., division based on birth. And this created a hierarchy where every higher-echelon-caste enjoyed unbridled right to exploit the lower-echelon-caste. 

The ‘untouchables’ were at the lowest stratum of the society and, hence, bore the burden of atrocities and inhumanities perpetrated by all other castes. The shackles of caste were institutionalized and granted religious sanction. To break free from those shackles became a very risky and Herculean task for any individual, and to break those shackles of the society as a whole became nearly impossible.   Under those circumstances, leaving a few honorable exceptions, every member of the society took the safe and easy path of bowing before the established- although unjust- norms. The sufferers had themselves completely resigned to their fate and fallen in a state of uninterrupted stupor having no intervals. 

Only a few kind, wise and very courageous people dared to take stand against those norms. Among those who desired to break those shackles, some limited themselves to speaking only, some to speaking and writing, and some to intervening in individual cases. 

Babasaheb Ambedkar had himself faced those atrocities and he had such a vision and grit that he analyzed their causes coolly and rationally in historical perspective, wrote fearlessly against them, organized mass protests, and tried to resurrect Dalits from their eternal stupor. Babasaheb Ambedkar also made emancipation of Dalits the sole objective of his existence. He had categorically stated that if he had only one choice between independence and emancipation of Dalits, he would go for the latter.  Yet, he never exhorted his men to violence against the perpetrators of atrocities. Therefore, Babasaheb was rightly called the Savior of the depressed classes.
In the history of any nation great statesmen have always been few. Invariably they are the product of inherited intelligence, acquired strength of character and the prevailing family and social circumstances.  In his article titled ‘The Becoming of Dr. Ambedkar’ A. C. Pranjpe has painstakingly dwelt upon the factors which contributed to making a Dr. Ambedkar. He writes,

“The childhood of Dr. Ambedkar was characterized by the type of privations, frustrations, injustices, insults and humiliations to which his community was subjected.” Ambedkar was a diligent student who had voracious desire to read and further his studies. And luckily he met K. A. Keluskar, who not only guided him in his studies but also provided active help. Later, he introduced him to Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad of Baroda, who supported his foreign studies. “Both these acts of this elderly well-wisher proved to be accidents of phenomenal importance in the life history of Ambedkar and consequently to the history of India.” 

Ambedkar was a keen observer of societal behavior. His insight into Indian social system was widely acclaimed when as a student he read a paper titled “Castes in India, their mechanism, genesis and development”. Later, for him, caste annihilation was to become the only effective weapon of bringing equality in the society, and he wrote his famous treatise on ‘Annihilation of Caste
Ambedkar's success in ameliorating the condition of depressed classes resulted from the clarity of his thoughts on caste-system, unflinching determination to remove inequities of caste-system and his statesmanship in visualising a course of action, which was both pragmatic and effective. In the first Round Table Conference he elaborated that,

“We are often reminded that the problem of depressed classes is a social problem and that its solution lies elsewhere than in politics. We take strong exception to this view. We hold that the problem of depressed classes will never be solved unless they get political power in their own hands. If this is true, and I do not think that the contrary can be maintained, then the problem of depressed classes is, I submit, a political problem and must be treated as such.”
- Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches by Vasant 

Babasaheb was fully aware that the condition of depressed classes cannot be uplifted by merely getting right to draw water from village wells, right to enter temples and reservations in schools and jobs; but the real uplift will come when these classes are able to stand on their feet and individually as well as collectively compete with other classes in the society. Therefore he advised them,

“My final word of advice to you is educate, agitate and organize; have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I cannot see how we can lose the battle.”

Babasaheb was blessed with one eminent quality which all successful leaders must possess, i. e., fight the evil with determination and faith, keep gaining ground and fighting with greater vigor. Accordingly, his fight against inequities got stronger with time and experience: initially in his writings, speeches and demonstrations he emphasized on equal social and religious rights, then he emphasized more on political and economic rights, and in his last efforts to achieve the same in 1935, he exhorted his community to abandon Hinduism and seek self respect in some other religion. And ultimately he himself got converted to Buddhism.
During the same period of history as Babasaheb lived, there have been many other social reformers like Ramaswamy Naickar, Mahatama Phule,  Shahuji Maharaj, Savarkar, Mahatma Gandhi, etc., but none was so single mindedly devoted to the cause of resurrection of depressed classes; and none achieved so much success.
The society will ever remain indebted to him for his untiring and fruitful labors to resurrect the Dalits and make our society more just and humane.  


More by :  Mahesh Chandra Dewedy

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Views: 3494      Comments: 3

Comment Dr.AMBEDKAR (1891-1956)
B.A., M.A., M.Sc., D.Sc., Ph.D., L.L.D., D.Litt., Barrister-at-Law

B.A.(Bombay University) Bachelor of Arts,
MA.(Columbia university) Master Of Arts,
M.Sc.( London School of Economics) Master Of Science,
Ph.D. (Columbia University) Doctor of philosophy ,
D.Sc.( London School of Economics) Doctor of Science ,
L.L.D.(Columbia University) Doctor of Laws ,
D.Litt.( Osmania University) Doctor of Literature,
Barrister-at-Law (Gray's Inn, London) law qualification for a lawyer to practice law in royal court of England.

29-Mar-2013 07:47 AM

Comment Nicely stated.

I liked the exhortation words of Babasaheb "Educate, Agitate and Organize". Nothing gets done unless you address all these fronts.

What I find troubling about Babasaheb's so-called dalit followers and political leaders is the deliberate blurring of the fight against castism with that against other castes. They lack the discipline and foresight of Babasaheb. In their vigor and ignorance they cast shadows on Babasaheb’s vision.

Also, for a dalit the society has created economic and social injustice. While the battle has to be fought on both fronts simultaneously, the issues have to be understood well and solutions devised intelligently. The economic disadvantage faced by most dalits (not all) should be defined in economic terms independent of castes and solutions found in that manner. On the other hand social injustice against dalits is clearly a caste based problem and solutions have to be tailored in that light. Dalit leaders will make far more progress if they understood these issues and pushed for solutions with that rationality.

The problem with any political reform is that the politics takes precedence over the reform itself.

17-Apr-2012 03:09 AM

Comment Good ode to a great man.

BS Murthy
13-Apr-2012 03:30 AM

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