Baba Saheb Ambedkar was undoubtedly a great visionary and a nation builder. He deeply felt that India has an underlying organic unity which needs to be evolved into a vibrant democratic modern nation-state.  Dr.Ambedkar’s practical patriotism manifested itself in his actions, in a way decisive for the destiny of the nation he loved. Despite his harsh criticism of Hinduism, his love for those Hindus who wanted to reform Hinduism and infuse life into it was always openly manifest.  Dr.Ambedkar had even signed a telegraphic Memorandum sent to the Goa Government protesting against the arrests of the Hindu missionaries who had carried out reconversion movement in Goa.[1]

One of the harshest criticisms Dr.Ambedkar made on Mahatma Gandhi was on the occasion of latter’s action against Dr.Narayan Bhaskar Khare.

Dr.Khare was a Hindu nationalist and a strong social reformer. He was responsible for the legalization of Arya Samaj marriage which allowed widow remarriage as well as inter-caste marriage. In 1938 Dr Khare was the Prime Minister in the first every elected Congress Ministry in the Central Provinces. Due to some internal problems in the ministry he got rid of the old cabinet and formed a new cabinet in which he included Mr.Agnibhoj a well-qualified Dalit as a minister. This was opposed by Congress Working Committee as an act of indiscipline.    Dr.Ambedkar writes:

In explaining what was behind the charge of indiscipline in forming a new ministry, Dr. Khare openly said that according to Mr.Gandhi the act of indiscipline consisted in the inclusion of an Untouchable in the Ministry. Dr.Khare also said that Mr.Gandhi told him that it was wrong on his part to have raised such aspirations and ambitions in the Untouchables and it was such an act of bad judgment that he would never forgive him.[2]

When public meetings were organized to protest against the treatment meted out to Dr.Khare by Mahatma Gandhi, Dr.Ambedkar appeared on the dais along with Hindu Maha Sabha leader Dr.Moonje and Jamanlal Mehta.[3] Ever conscious of Hindu movements supporting Sanghatan – social solidarity, Dr.Ambedkar visited RSS camp in Pune in May 1939. He expressed his satisfaction: “I am surprised to find Swayamsevaks here moving about in absolute equality and brotherhood without even caring to know the castes of others.”[4]

Dr.Ambedkar was extremely worried about the increasing number of Muslims in Indian army. He was sure that partition would happen and Pakistan would become a reality. The weak position of Hindus in the British-Indian army would then become a serious factor. When the partition became an important issue Dr.Ambedkar wrote his famous ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’ in 1941. The book analyzed the problem from every point of view. Here Dr.Ambedkar made a strong and rational case for partition. Unrealistic dreams of Mahatma Gandhi and unyielding stand of Hindu Maha Sabha, both could not match the cold logic of facts marshaled by Dr.Ambedkar. February 1942, saw a three day lecture-cum-analysis of his book. Here Dr. Ambedkar explained his logic:

They cannot make history, those who forget history. To bring down the preponderance of the Muslims in the Indian army and to make India safe, it is wise to let out the hostile element. We will defend our land. Do not be under the false impression that Pakistan would be able to spread its Muslim empire over India. Hindus will make it lick the dust. I confess I have my quarrel with the caste Hindus over some points but I take a vow before you that I shall lay down my life in defense of our land.[5]

So as clouds of World War II started accumulating in the horizon of Europe, Dr.Ambedkar saw that as a good opportunity to get Dalits enrolled into British-Indian army.  He saw the governor of Bombay and asked him to remove the bar on Mahar recruitment in the army.

Dr.Ambedkar’s efforts were actively supported by Veer Savarkar who announced that under the able guidance of Dr.Ambedkar Mahar brethren would become a martial community.[6] Savarkar-Ambedkar support for military recruitment, as against the pacifist stand of Congress, became crucial in changing the demographic profile of British-Indian army.  When in July 1941 Viceroy Amery announced his executive council, no member belonging to Depressed Classes and Sikhs were included in that. Veer Savarkar telegraphed Amery then the Secretary of State for India, that such non-inclusion of Depressed Classes was a breach of trust. He upheld Baba Saheb Ambedkar’s demand that members of Depressed Classes should be included in the Executive Council and went a step further. Veer Savarkar wired the Viceroy that Dr.Ambedkar should be included in the executive council.[7]

In 1942 Dr.Ambedkar’s Golden Jubilee was celebrated. The function was presided over by Dr.M.R.Jayakar who was a Hindu Maha Sabha leader. On this occasion, Veer Savarkar felicitated Dr.Ambedkar thus:

Ambedkar’s personality, erudition and capacity to lead and organize would have by themselves marked him out as an outstanding asset to our nation. But in addition to that the inestimable services he had rendered to our motherland in trying to stamp out untouchability and the results he has achieved in instilling a manly spirit of self-confidence in millions of Depressed classes constitute an abiding patriotic and humanitarian. The very fact of the birth of such a towering personality among the so-called untouchables could not but liberate their souls from self-depression and animate them to challenge the superiority claims of the so-called touchables.[8]

Authoritative biographer of Dr.Ambedkar, Dhananjay Keer considers Veer Savarkar’s felicitation as ‘the most important tribute full of appreciation’.[9]

Despite his aligning with Muslim League in certain unfortunate situations, mostly because of the thoughtless follies of Congress, Dr.Ambedkar was always distrustful of Islam as a religion and as a political force. After his announcement of conversion, when some Dalit youths expressed their decision to convert to Islam he discouraged them from conversion to Islam.[10]

His seminal work ‘Thoughts on Pakistan’, is a must read for every Indian who wants to understand the Islamist psyche and its play in Indian politics. More than to get a few potshots at Muslims, Hindu nationalists should read the book to understand Islamic politics in all its dimensions. In the book, Dr.Ambedkar repeatedly asserted that the Islamic politics is designed on Nazi way of politics:

The leaders of the Muslims League seem to have studied deeply Hitler’s bullying tactics against Czechoslovakia in the interest of the Studeten Germans and also learned the lessons which those tactics teach. See their threatening speeches in the Karachi of the League held in 1937.[11]

… [With] this new demand of 50 per cent, the Muslims are not only seeking to reduce the Hindu majority to a minority but they are also cutting into the political rights of the other minorities. The Muslims are now speaking the language of Hitler and claiming a place in the Sun which Hitler has been claiming for Germany. For their demand for 50 per cent, is nothing but a counterpart: of the German claims for Deuchland Ubcr Alles and LvbunsntU’m for themselves, irrespective of what happens to other minorities.[12]

Dr.Ambedkar supported the partition of the country. His reasoning for this was not because he was against Indian unity but he wanted India to be democratically free of a community hijacked into a hostile anti-Indian mindset.  In that context he differentiated between appeasement and settlement. He considers appeasement to be as much a social evil as casteism:

Appeasement means to offer to buy off the aggressor by conniving at or collaborating with him in the rape, murder and arson on innocent Hindus who happen for the moment to be the victims of his displeasure. On the other hand settlement means laying down the bounds which neither party to it can transgress. Appeasement sets no limits to the demands and aspirations of the aggressor. Settlement does….[The] policy of concession has increased their aggressiveness and what is worse the Muslims interpret these concessions as a sign of defeatism on the part of the Hindus and the absence of will to resist. This policy of appeasement will involve the Hindus in the same fearful situation in which the Allies found themselves as a result of the policy of appeasement which they adopted towards Hitler. This is another malaise, no less acute than the malaise of social stagnation.[13]

If he cautioned the caste-Hindu pseudo-secular Congress against appeasement policy and Hindu Maha Sabha against arrogant closure of their eyes to ground reality, he also had a warning for the Dalits. Repeatedly Dr. Ambedkar had cautioned Dalits against trusting Muslims.  It was a constant refrain throughout his life. He was totally convinced that non-Indic religions and ideologies cannot provide Dalits holistic emancipation. He further feared that they might imprison them into a worse form of slavery. In his letter from London, during his visit for Round Table Conference, he stated:

When Hindus and Muslims fight among themselves, the Untouchables tend to incline towards Muslims. They feel, they would be benefitted if they develop friendship with Muslims. But Untouchables should keep in mind that it is not all that true as it appears and so they should be very careful. What I experienced at the time of Sarada Act about the Muslim policy, cannot called satisfactory. I got first severe jolt when I found that almost all the Muslims got ready to oppose the essential Act like Sarada Act along with the obsolete and puranic, fundamentalists and revivalist orthodox Hindus.[14]

Here it should be noted that the famous Sarada Act, hated by both Hindu orthodoxy and Islamic fundamentalists, was the result of the tireless work of Har Bilas Sarada who was a staunch Hindu nationalist. In his celebrated book ‘Hindu Superiority’, Hari Bilas Sarada wrote:

No religion in the world claims to be in complete harmony with the spirit of modern science except the Vedic religion. Buddhism, being only a modified form of Hinduism does not differ materially from the Vedic religion in its scientific aspects. … Even at the present moment more than half of the human race, are the express followers of the religions that emanated from India. If the population of the world be taken in round numbers at 1,000,000,000 we shall find from authentic records, that 53,000. 000 men profess Hinduism and Buddhism (the religions that originated in India), while only 47,000,000 men follow religions which are of non- Indian origin.[15]

It will be seen that Dr.Ambedkar had used the same grouping together of Buddhists and Hindus as one group.

The ironical tragedy of the fact, that an act of reform brought by a fierce Hindu nationalist was so hatefully resisted by Hindu orthodoxy, was not lost on Dr.Ambedkar. Whenever he wrote he always gave that space for those reformist Hindu nationalists – small was their tribe he knew. Perhaps one day they might capture the Hindu discourse now dominated by Hindu orthodoxy, he wished. But even that wish and knowledge cannot become factors to delay the charting of the liberation map of Dalits. The road map and destination should be within Indic Dharma – for this he took his at most care.

In his letter from London, Dr.Ambedkar also revealed a very strange fact. A special telegram from the Brahmin President of Varnashram Brahman Sangha was received by one of the Muslim delegates, Mr. Gazanavi. It was a message seeking Islamic cooperation with orthodox Hindus in opposing the Untouchables temple entry movement. The telegram suggested that, it would be dangerous to the religion of both Hindus as well as Muslims, if India became independent and laws seeking social reforms were enacted.[16]

Dr.Ambedkar in a hard-hitting chapter, supported with facts and figures states how social stagnation in Islamic society goes unperceived unlike the Hindu social stagnation and hence becomes doubly dangerous:

The publication of Mother India’ by Miss Mayo…created the unfortunate impression throughout the world that while the Hindus were groveling in the mud of these social evils and were conservative, the Muslims in India were free from them, and as compared to the Hindus were a progressive people. That, such an impression should prevail, is of course surprising to those who know the Muslim Society in India at close quarters. One may well ask if there is any social evil which is found among the Hindus and is not found among the Muslims?…Can the position of the Musalmans so far as child marriage is considered better than the position of Hindus ?…No words can adequately express the great and many evils of polygamy and concubinage and especially as a source of misery to a Muslim woman….Take the caste system. Islam speaks of brotherhood. Everybody infers that Islam must be free from slavery and caste. Regarding slavery nothing needs to be said. It stands abolished now by law But while it existed much of its support was derived from Islam and Islamic countries….There can thus be no manner of doubt that the Muslim Society in India is afflicted by the same social evils which afflict the Hindu Society. Indeed the Muslims have all the social evils of the Hindus and something more. That something more is the compulsory system of Purdah for Muslim women….Such seclusion cannot but have its deteriorating effects, upon the physical constitution of Muslim women. They are usually victims to anemia, tuberculosis and pyorrhea….Purdah deprives Muslim women of mental and moral nourishment. Being deprived of healthy social life, the process of moral degeneration must and does set in.[17]

As stated earlier Dr.Ambedkar had seen how Hindu nationalists had actually fought against their own orthodoxy to remove their social evil. This is a feature conspicuous by its absence in Islamic society. Unlike the proponents of pseudo-rationalist movement in Tamil Nadu who irrationally eulogized Islam closing their eyes to the social evils of Islam and condemned all things Hindu, Dr.Ambedkar was well aware of this reality:

The Hindus have their social evils. But there is this relieving feature about them namely that some of them are conscious of their existence and a few of them are actively agitating for their removal. But the Muslims on the other hand do not realize that they are evil and consequently do not agitate for their removal. On the other hand they oppose any change in their existing practices.[18]

Here it should be pointed out that Dr.Ambedkar was aware of the limitations that Islamic factor was forcing upon Hindu reform movement. Dr.Ambedkar should have been aware of the different strands working inside Hindu Maha Sabha. For example Veer Savarkar had forcefully stated that caste shouldn’t grow and had condemned intra-caste marriages as the reason for India’s weakness. He had advocated inter-caste marriages as early as 1916. Writing from the cellular jail to his brother Veer Savarkar wrote:

For though I long to see the day, when inter –provincial marriages amongst the Hindus would throw down the artificial and harmful barriers of castes and creeds and the Great River of life – our Hindu Life would, having freed itself of all bogs and sands, flow in an ever fresh and mighty current- uninterrupted and uninterruptible –still the first and foremost thing to be effected. In that direction is to restore to love her sole privilege and right of presiding over the wedding rights….Centuries of child marriages and marriages by proxies! Centuries of love banished from its legitimate sphere of influence to attract and develop elements that tend to the betterment of body and mind and soul; and the inevitable result is a race puny, debilitated, all vigour and manhood sapped out of it. Thousand things have wrought this-and the marriage customs that prevail in us are one of the few important factors contributing to it. Authorities should come in to sanctify but not to silence love altogether.[19]

Veer Savarkar unveiled a radical programme against casteism by declaring that removal of seven cardinal sins from Hindu society. They were, ‘Ban on Vedic education’, ‘Ban on intercaste marriage’, ‘Ban on Interdining’, ‘Ban on certain professions to certain castes’, Untouchability, ‘Ban on sea voyage’ and ‘Ban on reconversion’.[20] Dr. Ambedkar had published the address of Dr. Jayakar, who was the President of Hindu Rashtriya Samajik Parishad, demanding intercaste marriages in his magazine Bahishkrit Bharat.[21]

However Dr.Ambedkar noted with increased frustration how the Hindu orthodoxy thwarted all the moves for radical reforms in Hindu nationalist movement. For example, in 1936, at the 17th convention of Hindu Mahasabha in 1936 Dr.Jayakar brought a resolution for inter-caste marriages and it was vetoed by Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya.[22] Even Veer Savarkar who forcefully advocated abolition of caste system lock stock and barrel could not have his way with the official stand of Hindu Maha Sabha lest it suffered a vertical split. Dr.Ambedkar caustically observed the dilemma of Hindu nationalists:

[Hindu Maha Sabha] is organized for the protection of Hindu rights against Muslim encroachment. … As a body organized to protect Hindu rights it is all the time engaged in keeping an eye on political movements on seats and posts. It cannot spare any thought for social reform. As a body keen on bringing about a common front of all Hindus it cannot afford to create dissensions among its elements as would be the case if it undertook to bring about social reforms. For the sake of the consolidation of the Hindu rank and file the Hindu Maha Sabha is ready to suffer all social evils to remain as they are.[23]

Dr.Ambedkar believed that freeing Hindus of their anxiety over Islamic threat and making them really free could catalyze social emancipation process in Hindus. It is in this context that one has to understand his happiness over partition:

I advocated partition because I felt that it was only by partition that Hindus would not only be independent but free. If India and Pakistan had remained united in one State Hindus though independent would have been at the mercy of the Muslims. A merely independent India would not have been a free India from the point of view of the Hindus.[24]

Apart from the social life of Islam, Dr.Ambedkar also made a clinical assessment of Islamic politics. No Hindu nationalist leader, not even intellectuals like Veer Savarkar, ever attempted to understand the basic nature of Islamic politics as Dr.Ambedkar:

Muslim politics takes no note of purely secular categories of life, namely, the differences between rich and poor, capital and labour, landlord and tenant, priest and laymen, reason and superstition. Muslim politics is essentially clerical and recognizes only one difference namely, that existing between Hindus and Muslims. None of the secular categories of life have any place in the politics of the Muslim community and if they do find a place and they must because they arc irrepressible they are subordinated to one and the only governing principle of the Muslim political universe, namely, religion.[25]

Dr.Ambedkar explains how this operates in real political realm. Here we have an explanation that is radically different from the usual pseudo-secular negations given to Islamist savagery on Hindus like Moplah riots where Hindu-secular categories used perversely by Marxist scholars to white-wash Islamic atrocities:

Muslim politicians do not recognize secular categories of life as the basis of their politics because to them it means the weakening of the community in its fight against the Hindus. The poor Muslims will not join the poor Hindus to get justice from the rich. Muslim tenants will not join Hindu tenants to prevent the tyranny of the land-lords. Muslim labourers will not join Hindu labourers in the fight of labour against capital. Why? The answer is simple. The poor Muslim sees that if he joins in the fight of the poor against the rich he may be fighting against a rich Muslim. The Muslim tenant feels that if he joins in the campaign against the land-lord he may have to fight against a Muslim land-lord. A Muslim labourer feels that if he joins in the onslaught of labour against capital he will be injuring a Muslim mill-owner. He is conscious that any injury to a rich Muslim, to Muslim landlord or to a Muslim mill owner is a disservice to the Muslim Community for it weakens the Community in its struggle against the Hindu Community.[26]

[1] Dhananjay Kheer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Popular Prakashan, 1990, p. 264

[2] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables, Gautam Books,  1945: 2009, p.96

[3] Dhananjay Kheer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Popular Prakashan, 1990, p. 311

[4] M.G.Chitkara, Dr.Ambedkar and Social Justice, APH Publishing, 2002, p.234

[5] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol-17, Part- 3 Education Dept., Govt. of Maharashtra, p.233

[6] Dhananjay Kheer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Popular Prakashan, 1990, p. 338

[7] Ibid, p.339

[8] Ibid, p. 344 & p.346

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., p. 252

[11] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Thoughts on Pakistan, Thacker & Co, 1941, p.111

[12] Ibid., p.262

[13] Ibid., p.268

[14] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Letter published in Janata dated 24-Dec-1932

[15] Harbilas Sarada, Hindu superiority: an attempt to determine the position of the Hindu race in the scale of nations, Rajputana Printing Works, Ajmer, 1906, p.439

[16] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Letter published in Janata dated 24-Dec-1932

[17] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Thoughts on Pakistan, Thacker & Co, 1941, pp.221-7

[18] Ibid., p.232

[19] Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Letter from Cellular Jail dated 6-7-1916

[20] Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, The Spirit of Hindutva, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, Vol.3, p. 81

[21] A.K.Vakil, Gandhi-Ambedkar Dispute, Ashish Publishing House, 1991 , p.48

[22] K.N.Kadam, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the significance of his movement: a chronology, Popular Prakashan, 1991, p.110

[23] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Thoughts on Pakistan, Thacker & Co, 1941,p.235

[24] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Thoughts on linguistic states, Anand Sahitya Sadan, 1955:1989, p.16

[25] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Thoughts on Pakistan, Thacker & Co, 1941, , p.229

[26] Ibid., p.232

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Aravindan Neelakandan

Co-author of acclaimed book "Breaking India", Aravindan Neelakandan has worked for the past decade with an NGO in Tamil Nadu serving marginalized rural communities in sustainable agriculture. He is also a popular science writer in Tamil and is part of the editorial team of highly popular Tamil web portal

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