Bharat Ratna Dr. B.R. Ambedkar-The man and His Vision
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TOPIC: General studies 1
- Modern Indian history from about the middle of the eighteenth century until the present significant events, personalities, issues.
- The Freedom Struggle – its various stages and important contributors or contributions from different parts of the country
64th Death Anniversary – 6th December – Mahaparinirvan Diwas
Screening of the film “Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar”: The biopic on Bharat Ratna Dr. Ambedkar is an elaborate and analytical film on the great jurist-economist and social reformer, especially on his relentless campaign against oppression of the downtrodden and the pivotal role Dr Ambedkar played in drafting and framing the Constitution of India.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956), popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar, was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables (Dalits), while also supporting the rights of women and labour.
He was independent India’s first law and justice minister, the principal architect of the Constitution of India, and a founding father of the Republic of India.
Birth Anniversary: 14th April
Known famously as: The Architect of Modern India
His autobiography: Waiting for a Visa
- Annihilation of Caste – It strongly criticised Hindu orthodox religious leaders and the caste system in general, and included “a rebuke of Gandhi” on the subject.
- Who Were the Shudras? – Ambedkar tried to explain the formation of untouchables. He saw Shudras and Ati Shudras who form the lowest caste in the ritual hierarchy of the caste system, as separate from Untouchables.
Constitution of Reserve Bank of India
Based on the ideas that Ambedkar presented to the Hilton Young Commission
Ambedkar was trained as an economist, and was a professional economist until 1921, when he became a political leader. He wrote three scholarly books on economics:
- Administration and Finance of the East India Company
- The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India
- The Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and Its Solution
Ambedkar and Untouchability
While practising law in the Bombay High Court, he tried to promote education to untouchables and uplift them. His first organised attempt was his establishment of the central institution Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha, intended to promote education and socio-economic improvement, as well as the welfare of “outcastes”, at the time referred to as depressed classes.
For the defence of Dalit rights, he started five periodicals –
- Mooknayak (the leader of the dumb, 1920)
- Bahishkrit Bharat (Ostracized India, 1924)
- Samta (Equality, 1928)
- Janata (The People, 1930)
- Prabuddha Bharat (Enlightened India, 1956)
Manusmriti Dahan Din: In a conference in late 1927, Ambedkar publicly condemned the classic Hindu text, the Manusmriti (Laws of Manu), for ideologically justifying caste discrimination and “untouchability”, and he ceremonially burned copies of the ancient text. On 25 December 1927, he led thousands of followers to burn copies of Manusmrti. Thus, annually 25 December is celebrated as Manusmriti Dahan Din (Manusmriti Burning Day) by Ambedkarites and Dalits.
Kalaram Temple movement: About 15,000 volunteers assembled at Kalaram Temple Satyagraha, making one of the greatest processions of Nashik. The procession was headed by a military band, a batch of scouts, women and men walked in discipline, order and determination to see the god for the first time. When they reached to gate, the gates were closed by Brahmin authorities.
Poona Pact: In 1932, British announced the formation of a separate electorate for “Depressed Classes” in the Communal Award.
- Gandhi fiercely opposed a separate electorate for untouchables, saying he feared that such an arrangement would divide the Hindu community. Gandhi protested by fasting while imprisoned in the Yerwada Central Jail of Poona. Following the fast, Congress politicians and activists such as Madan Mohan Malaviya and Palwankar Baloo organised joint meetings with Ambedkar and his supporters at Yerwada.
- On 25 September 1932, the agreement known as Poona Pact was signed between Ambedkar (on behalf of the depressed classes among Hindus) and Madan Mohan Malaviya (on behalf of the other Hindus). The agreement gave reserved seats for the depressed classes in the Provisional legislatures, within the general electorate.
- Due to the pact, the depressed class received 148 seats in the legislature, instead of the 71 as allocated in the Communal Award earlier proposed by British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald.
- The text uses the term “Depressed Classes” to denote Untouchables among Hindus who were later called Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under India Act 1935, and the later Indian Constitution of 1950. In the Poona Pact, a unified electorate was in principle formed, but primary and secondary elections allowed Untouchables in practice to choose their own candidates.
Views of Dr. Ambedkar regarding the Indian Constitution
Ambedkar warned –
- No democratic constitution can be modelled on the Hindu tradition of state and village panchayats.
- What is the village, Ambedkar asked, but a sink of localism, a den of ignorance, narrow-mindedness and communalism?
Sets Universal values –
- The Constitution is a normative document, but the values it espouses are universal and ‘thin’. They do not reflect the belief system of one section of the population even if it is in a majority. Nor do these values dismiss the value systems of minority groups.
On Constitutional Morality –
- Dr. Ambedkar talked of constitutional morality.
- He said citizen will have deep respect or admiration for Constitution when they realize true intent of Constitution which helps them to possess freedom and rights. When they realize Constitution composes of thin conception of ‘good’ that can hold a plural and diverse people together.
Democracy is only a top-dressing for the Constitution of India
- For Ambedkar, democracy is only a top-dressing on an Indian soil which is essentially undemocratic.
- It is the institutionalisation of constitutional democracy that has changed the way Indians think of themselves in relation to each other, and in relation to the state. The Constitution has managed to inculcate democratic sensibilities and spark yearnings for more democracy, not less.
Concept of Federalism: His concept of federalism meant that the State was a federation in normalcy, but unitary in emergency.
Centre Was Made Strong:
- In the Draft Constitution Dr. Ambedkar offered more powers to the Centre and made it strong. Some members of the constituent assembly criticized him on the ground that since Dr. Ambedkar postulated – the rights and values of each individual and the development of each province and each– village, it was contradictory of his part to make the Centre strong.
- Justifying the provisions for a strong Central authority Dr. Ambedkar said that he made the Centre strong not only to ‘save minorities from the misrule of majority’ but also “for it is only the Centre which can work for a common end and for the general interests of the country as a whole.”
Equality of Opportunity:
- Of all the rights, Dr. Amebedkar observed “Equality of Opportunity” as the most important one.
- Regarding the constitutional remedies, he characterize Article 32 as the very soul of the Constitution and the very heart of it.
- To him, fundamental rights would mean establishment of equality and liberty in order to reform our social system, which is so full of inequalities discriminations, and other which conflict with our fundamental rights.
Directive Principles of State Policy:
- The Directive Principles of State Policy contained the positive obligations of the state towards its citizens.
- The Directives were meant to ensure social and economic democracy which was secured by the provisions of fundamental rights in a written Constitution.
- Dr. Ambedkar said: “What are called Directive Principles is simply another name for Instruments of instructions to the legislature and the executive…as to how they should exercise their power.”
Constitution, A Dynamic Document: The Constitution is a dynamic document it should grow with the growth of the nation and should suit the changing needs and circumstance. So Dr. Ambedkar urged the necessity of amendment.
Concept of Sovereignty and Suzerainty: Dr. Ambedkar’s concept of sovereignty and suzerainty and of the Indian States, i.e., integration of the native Indian Princely States which gave the shape to the rap of India as if is today, has indeed been prophetic.
National Integration: In the Draft Constitution Dr. Ambedkar prescribed single citizenship, a single judiciary and uniformity in fundamental Laws to integrate Indian society which was not only divided into caste and class, but also into regions, religions, languages, traditions and cultures. Therefore, a strong Centre was indispensable to maintain territorial integrity and administrative discipline.
Dr Ambedkar said – power is one thing, wisdom is quite another thing. When deciding the destiny of nations, dignities of people, dignities of leaders and dignities of parties ought to count for nothing. The dignity of the country should count for everything.
Note: Dr. Ambedkar Scheme for Social Integration through Inter-Caste Marriages (dalit)
- Encouraging the practice of inter-caste marriages – Indian society can only develop and progress if the curse of caste inequality is removed forever. The implementation of this program is a step towards achieving this goal.
- Assisting young couples with money – Couples who opt for inter-caste are generally shunned by their families due to the rigidity of the caste system in India. They often face hardships, but with this grant, these couples will no longer have to worry about facing financial adversity during the initial days.
- Funded by the central government – All operational activities and financial requirements of this welfare scheme will be met for the coffers of central government. Money will be sent to each start or UT for its implementation.
- Bringing equality among all castes – The main aim of this scheme is to give a level ground to all castes. With this, the central government will be able to bring about equality among all castes, thereby eliminating caste related prejudices.
Must Read: Dr. B. R. Ambedkar insights on Labour Rights
Connecting the Dots:
- What were the views of Dr. Ambedkar regarding the Indian Constitution? Did in his views the mere existence of a constitution guaranteed the freedoms envisaged by it? Discuss.
- During Constitutional debates, Dr B R Ambedkar advocated for reservation of socially and economically backward classes. Now, even after almost seven decades of independence, reservation still exists. Recently demands are being raised for reverse discrimination. What is reverse discrimination? What steps can be taken to check these demands?
- “In our country, democracy is not a natural sentiment that people are born with. It is an idea that has to be cultivated in an essentially unequal society.” This statement by Dr. B R Ambedkar resonates as much with the India of present as it did with India of 70 years back. Critically comment.
- What were the similarities and dissimilarities between the approach of Mahatma Gandhi and B R Ambedkar towards the upliftment of the so called lower castes?