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Vdya Bhushan Rawat

All of these articles by Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Ambedkar as a Human Rights Defender

Supreme Court issue notices

to Uttarakhand government and its officials for failure

to provide justice to Dalits in Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar

we hope the court will now put heavy penalty on those who misinterpret its judgment and deny justice to Dalits in India. If that is the state of affair related to a judgment of the Supreme Court, what will be happening to other cases which are pending in the lower courts? A majority of the people can not even come to the courts for they have no money and time for such a tedious and lengthy process.

Vidya Bhushan Rawat 

New Delhi:- The Supreme Court of India, issued show cause notices to the district and state officials of the Uttarkhand government as why no action should be taken against them for their failure to distribute the land declared ceiling surplus under the ceiling proceedings in the Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar district. In a Public Interest Litigation filed by Social Development Foundation, Delhi the Chief Justice of India Hon’ble Justice K.G. Balakrishanan and Justice Ravindran's bench heard the learned counsel Mr. K. Vijay Kumar and Mr. Jairaj's argument that the district authorities in Shaheed Udham Singh Nagar, violated the judgment of Supreme Court in 2004 when they distributed the ceiling surplus land to those people who have been declared encroachers by the Supreme Court. Social Development Foundation had approached the Uttarakhand government for redistribution of land to 150 Dalit families who have been fighting their battle of survival for the said land for the past 15 years. The counsel said that the manner in which the district official behaved in this entire case reflect the bureaucratic highhandedness of the situation and how the officials take easy shelter in the misinterpretation of law.

Social Development Foundation approached every possible institution to get the order implemented. It went to the Chief Minister of the State but of no avail. Finally, frustrated at government's efforts, SDF approached the Lokayukta where the case took about 2 years to settle. Every effort was made to pressurise the Lokaykta as well as the rural sc landless labourers. Arguments were made that the SCs do not live in village circle and have left their places ignoring the vital fact that those who live on subsistence can not wait for long to get justice and will definitely migrate. Finally, in December, the Lokayukta Justice S.M .Raza came out with a strong stricture against the state government and its officials on the issue. Justice Raza found that the officials and the political leaders were working against the interest of the landless agricultural labour. Since the land prices in the Tarai are so arising high and it is an area now completely in the hands of migrant Sikh community who has purchased every small piece of land in the Tarai region by hook or by crook, the state government and political leaders found it difficult to act against them. They used every opportunity to show themselves victim. The issues of the rights of Dalits were carefully thwarted by those claiming to a 'minority'. The Lokayukta asked the government to take action against the revenue secretary and district officials and found that the land in the name of ceiling redistribution given to the encroachers as clearly violation of the verdict of the Supreme Court in 2004. The government officials continued with their absolutely insane argument that they were free to redistribute the land to any one. Even during the hearing, I came across such bullying officials who had no shame in admitting. The government was hell bent on not to give the land to those people who filed petition against them. They tried to divide the Scheduled castes by putting a few people against 150 families who were fighting for their rights. About 500 acres of land was reserved for SIDCUL which is basically meant for industry. The Lokayukta found that rather than giving the land to the poor government is justifying land for the industries and that too which a fertile agricultural land was. He questioned the motives of the officials to not to give the land to the SC landless agricultural labourers.

Unfortunately, the government whether congress or BJP were not keen on following the Lokayukta recommendation. It is an issue which did not even come for discussion in the Assembly. Contrary to this the Uttarakhand home department wanted the Lokayukta to review his order which was not under his jurisdiction.

This case of Uttarakhand is a classic case for all land rights activists how the state behave and how they manipulate the judgment even when it favours the poor landless workers. For 15 years, we have fought this battle with one conviction that we have faith in the constitution of  India and its justice system. Our hopes have still not died as the Supreme Court issued notice to our petition where we have clearly asked for justice to these Dalits as well as what should be the penalty put on officers who violate the court order. What should be the compensation for delay in implementation of the law? Allahabad High Court had asked Rs 10, 00,000/- imposed on the company that violated ceiling law but Supreme Court set that aside in 2004, we hope the court will now put heavy penalty on those who misinterpret its judgment and deny justice to Dalits in India. If that is the state of affair related to a judgment of the Supreme Court, what will be happening to other cases which are pending in the lower courts? A majority of the people can not even come to the courts for they have no money and time for such a tedious and lengthy process.

Posted on www.ambedkartimes.com (April 20, 2008)



A two judges bench headed by Justice Ajit Parsayat has stayed the 27% quota meant for the Other Backward Communities in the higher education. The upper caste Hindus today celebrated Holy and Diwali. After the miserable failure and huge loss of advertisement by the favorite Indian cricket team virtually surrendered to Bangladesh and then to Srilanka, the reactions were similar to that happened to anti Mandal agitation in 1991. If our memories have not faded, we must revisit the events in Eden Gardens, Kolkata when the downtrodden Sri Lanka was inflicting a humiliating defeat and the Bhadralok crowd at Kolkata started throwing paper missiles, and stones at the Srilankan players. I am afraid, if this World Cup were being organized in India, the Indian people would not have allowed Bangladesh to win. That is upper caste nationalism in India. A nationalism, which does not recognize merit but purely create merit on the basis of one’s caste.

The defeat by the under estimated Bangladesh spelled a pall of gloom over the market which has been monopolized by the caste media which had lionized the team without realizing its real strength. India sunk into gloom (it was not a game but the nation was already declared world champions) and defeat clearly put the astrologers also to mat who were predicting super performance from the team. Nevertheless, despite this entire nonsensical attitude, the irrational astrology still is the best medicine that the caste Hindus takes. The doctors also have the same attitude as they have red tilak over their forehead and big temples outside the ICUs in Delhi. Nothing is irrational and unscientific as long as the Hindus believe in it. So Muslims become cruel for they slaughter animals but Hindus become ‘non violent’ when they slaughter goats, buffalos and pigs in the temples to please their Gods and Goddesses.

After days of gloom, the anchors at the TV studios are smiling for a ‘historic’ judgment of Supreme Court. Now, they can discuss things and bring the ‘cheerleaders’ to their studios suggesting that the ‘whole’ ‘nation’ is against reservation. A few doctors of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences or as I would like it call All India Institute of Manuwadi Studies have become ‘nation’ imagination. Based on their assumptions, the Supreme Court has stayed the order of the reservation for OBCs in the institutions of higher education, which were always meant for the Brahmins when Manu’s law first defined it. As India moved to secularism and democracy, Manu’s laws became politically though socially they remained as powerful as ever despite 9% growth rate. Understanding that power of democracy means power of number and not just democracy for the people but now it has become ‘of’ the people and ‘by’ the people. With the marginalized groups asserting their number power with more political aggressions, the upper castes were left with no options except to dilute the entire concept of social justice through the judicial process, which remain outside the purview of the quota. Moreover, through privatizing the various government owned corporations and services, the government has already nullified the concept of reservation.
Now, after the formation of Special Economic Zones, the government as well as the courts have hit on the backbones of our farmers. SEZ have been declared legalized while people have been uprooted from their nation. Land Reforms have been made redundant by the continuous protections by the courts. Today, the politicians use the courts for their own purposes. It is due to this ambiguity that the courts have now become the most powerful and uncontrolled institution of the country. A healthy democracy need independent judiciary and committed governance. Nodoubt, the political leadership during the past 20 years have reduced to nothing as more criminals taking lead but the power of the masses is relegated to ‘people’s representatives’. Still, even a bad democracy is better than an unaccountable government or military dictatorship. Ofcourse, this clearly means that it is the political class which will need to run the country and not the courts and the bureaucrats which is increasingly becoming the case in India.

Upper castes elite in Delhi often says that reservation is denying them basic human rights of equality and hence they are leaving for the United States. Let the courts ask them to stay in India if they studies in Indian schools. They cannot go abroad after getting the subsidized education at the premier Indian educational institutions. The youngsters do not know what is happening even outside their house. They would not even ask their parent as why the scavenger who clean their shit and toilet come from one particular community. This elite would not even know that in India there are places where people still clean shit and carry night soil. Yes, they are not interested to know about this.
Shockingly, the judgments in the past few years reflect of the growing trend to keep the middle classes happy. We have judges who speak for Hindutva terming it as a way of life. We have a former Supreme Court Judge who did not implicate a single politician in the anti Sikh riots in Delhi in 1984 and later became a Member of Parliament against all the ethics of impartiality of an institution. Right to Strike was also banned by the Kerala Highcourt, which was appreciated by the media and industries.

The Judges went overboard in terming the quotas as vote bank politics. Question is why not vote bank politics after all what are politicians required to do? Yes, if they are working for their people than the best one is that who does not to take care of their constituencies? It is absurd as former Prime Minister V.P.Singh said about the court order. Parliament passed a bill unanimously and the court’s are terming it as vote bank politics. The Judges further said that politicians should not divide the country on the basis of caste and that in India it has become habitual for people to claim ‘backward’ status. One need to support V.P.Singh’s demand for a referendum and census based on caste.

It is tragic that the record of the courts related to social justice and social reform reflect poverty of ideas and lack of human rights understanding. It is also reflected that the courts are consciously giving judgments on the basis of media campaign. A media, which has been thoroughly unprofessional and highly prejudiced one. Justice Rajendra Sachar had long back stated in a public meeting that the court buckle under public pressure. Unfortunately, there is no backward movement in India, which can take on the upper caste thugs who are destroying India. Except for the forthright stand of DMK, PMK and other political groups representing the OBCs there is no one to raise their voice. They remain loyal shudras providing fodder to Hindutva to kill the Dalits in the villages. It is time for the OBCs to revolt against their self-serving leaders and get a new leadership which can give them new ideas and for whom OBC does not mean a family of their own but the entire community. We need a dynamic leadership which does not sale farmer’s land to corporate houses at the throwaway prices and have a clear vision to help and upgrade the communities. Alas, most of them have nothing except their caste. They remember their people only when they do nothing are defeated in the larger games of manipulation.

Where are the OBC students and their political leaders? Tamilnadu has taken the lead in this direction in a rare gesture of unanimity among the political class. But that unanimity is not visible in the North at the moment. In UP while every OBC caste is struggling to get an identity and a share in power but none of them is raging the issue of reservation in power. The reason behind this is the absence of the cultural movement among the OBCs. Unlike Tamilnadu where Periyar launched self respect movement for the OBCs and Dalits, north Indian OBCs still have not been able to divert their attention from the ritualistic Hindutva. The is public welfare as against the spirit of the people.

Politicians have a lot to learn from this. No need for taking shelter in Supreme Court for taking potshots at others to score political goals. Introspecting the mistakes will help them realize whether it would the executive or the Supreme Court to run the country as they are doing it today. Their lack of convictions and moral high ground have given ample ammunition to the courts which might be unhealthy for democracy in the longer term as every good measure might be treated as ‘vote bank’ politics which the politicians are no doubt involved in. Time for them to look beyond their personal interest and serve the people.




Mr N.G.Uke, a great Ambedkarite, a friend and guide died on November 4th, 2006 at his Vasant Kunj residence at the age of 82. Uke Saheb, as I would fondly call him was among the rare breed of Ambedkarite who saw Baba Saheb and was selected by him as a scholar though he had already got the same.

As an admirer of Mr Uke for his forthright views and because his open support for atheism, I knew NG Uke was a treasurer who had with him a number of incidents and things and that is why I kept on calling him for an interview. ‘ You are always welcome’, Uke Saheb told me. Last month on October 7 th, I was able to record a conversation with him to keep his memoirs. I know many such Ambedkarite who are treasure of great source are on the wane and I decided to interview them and record conversation to keep their memories safe.

I have rarely found person of strong secular commitment such as N G Uke. Even in his conversation, he hated words like ‘fortunate, unfortunate, Mahatma, noble soul, gods’ etc. He would say that by using these words we are ultimately trapped into the religious moulding justifying the oppression and exploitation.

Uke Saheb send reply to some of my questions on mails. A freewheeling interview with him was recorded which I would be able to produce after some time. As a tribute to Uke Saheb, I am sending this interview to our friends. He was the first person to use term ‘ Ambedkar Samaj’ and rather than saying ‘ I am a Buddhist’ which he was. Till his last, Uke Saheb remained a sharp mind, concerned about the condition of his community, which he always thought would lead India to 21 st Century.
I salute to his memory.
Excerpts of his conversation with me

V. B. Rawat

VB: Use Saheb, how did you come in touch with Dr Ambedkar.
NGU: My first meeting with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was in July 1942 at Nagpur
during the Depressed Classes Conferences held on 18,19,20 July 1942. During these conferences were attended by about 75,000 Scheduled Castes persons, including 25,000 women. The three Conferences were:
1. All India Depressed Classes Conference, 2. All India Depressed Classes Women’s Conference, 3. Samata Sainik Dal Conference.

During these Conferences we the Scheduled Castes student established All India Scheduled Castes Students Federation (SCSF). I was one of the Joint Secretaries of the SCSF. At that time I was studying in Inter Science at the College of Science Nagpur. We met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and sought his advice and guidance for working of our SCSF. He was very happy and we had a very useful discussion.
Since Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was being appointed as the Labour Member of the Executive Council of H.E. the Viceroy and the Governor General, he could not function as the full time President of the All India Depressed Classes Conferences. In his place Rao Bahadur N. Shivraj, MLA (Central) was appointed as the president of the Conference.

My second meeting with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was at his residence 22 Prithviraj road at Delhi. I had gone to Delhi for an interview before the selection board for the selection of scholars to be sent abroad for higher studies. I was selected by the board for higher studies in Engineering in London. Rai Saheb GT Meshram who was the Estate Officer Govt. of India took me to 22, Prithviraj road to meet Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. As soon as I was introduced to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, he immediately said “ Mr. Uke Congratulations since we have selected you for higher studies in UK, under the Scheduled Castes Students Scholarship. We had a selection in Simla”. I thanked Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar for my selection in the SC Scholarship. But I told Babasaheb that I have also been selected today by the Govt. of India under general scholarship for study in UK for Engineering. Babasaheb was very happy that I was selected in General Scholarship, thus saving one scholarship of Scheduled Caste.

My next meetings with Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar were in London 4 times, on 26 th Oct. 29th Oct. 2nd Nov. and 9th Nov.1946. During this period he had met important personalities from London including Clement Attlee Prime Minister of UK, and Mr. Winston Churchill. On 2 nd Nov. 1946 we invited him to visit our place at 4, Downside Crescent. He blessed us by visiting our place and sitting for a group photo which included number of SC Scholars including Mr. Khobragade studying for Bar.

The next time when I met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was when I was called from London to return to India, for selection for a post in Defence. The Public Service Commission selected me for this post. I met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar along with Raisaheb GT Meshram after my selection. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had a liking for me and suggested to Mr. Meshram that he should propose my marriage with his daughter Kamal. Meshram family and Babasaheb Ambedkar were very close to each other. Whenever Babasaheb used to go to Nagpur he used to stay with Meshram family. Kamal used to know Babasaheb from her childhood of about 6 years since 1935. Our marriage took place on May 8 th,1949 at 4 Lodhi Estate, the residence of Mr. Meshram. Our marriage certificate was signed by 3 Cabinet Ministers of Govt. of India, 1 Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar , 2. Dr. John Matthai, and 3. Dr. Kakasaheb Gadgil.

VB: What was your personality about ? Did you face discrimination during your childhood? How supportive were your parents.

NGU: You desired to know whether I was docile or strong person and whether I suffered from discrimination. In my childhood I was very strong. I normally used to score very high position in my class. The Brahmins did not like my status in the class and they closed the school after I passed class 3 of the primary school. For the 4th class I had to go to near by village about 2 miles from our village. I cleared class 4 th from that school with top record. I had told my father that he should help me financially up to 8th class including the middle school in English at Bramhpuri about 10 miles from my village. I passed the 8 th class with high % and was allotted Govt. Scholarship from 9th class onwards. I secured the high school admission in Patwardhan high school at Nagpur. My further studies were at the College of Science at Nagpur. Later I won the Govt. of India Scholarship for higher studies in London.

VB : What impression did you get from Baba Saheb. What do his followers need to do to take forward his mission?
NGU: When we met Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in London during 1946 he advised us that our people should be better than their best. Some of us definitely tried to come to the expectation of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar embraced Buddhism on 14th of October 1956 along with 5 lacks of people at Nagpur. His mission was to make whole of India as a Buddhist Country. How ever he expired within 53 days of his embracing Buddhism.
His followers were not of the required capacity for the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar with same vigor and achievements. They have been working in different groups and are not united.

Ambedkarites must join together under one platform. I had met Dalai Lama in Ashoka Hotel a few years ago and I had suggested to him that he should take up the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar of converting India into a Prabuddha Bharat. For my suggestion he became very happy and embraced me very warmly. In order to convert India into Prabuddha Bharat on the advice of Buddha and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, it is necessary to workout a rational program.
There are various factions in Buddhism. We must consolidate all the Buddhists of the world. For that matter we will have to spell out the Buddhism as has been prescribed by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.

VB: A number of people are redefining Ambedkar’s conversion. Some says that he wanted to embrace Islam while others suggest that he was in fact for Christianity. There is a Sikh angle also. To strengthen their point, they say that Ambedkar buckled under the pressure of the upper caste Hindu leadership? For me it is difficult to digest as Ambedkar remained a man of conviction and character all his life and it would have been difficult for him to accept anything as final word or Gods word. As a staunch Ambedkarite how do you respond to such questions?

NGU: It is wrong. He never wanted to become Muslim or Sikh or Christian. Neither did he want to remain as a Hindu. He wanted to become Buddhist and he had declared in 1935 that though he was a born a Hindu, which was not in, his hand but he would not die as a Hindu. When he was in his matriculation, he was given a book on Buddhism. Baba Saheb had been reading about Buddhism for a very long time. Nizam offered him a lot of money. Others also offered him but he was not worried about money. He was worried about India. To make India a Prabuddha Bharat, an enlightned India and no religion can do that. He believed in Buddha but never in those rituals. He redefined Buddhism. Scriptures and Gods cannot help India at all.

VB: Reservation issue has again rocked the country. While the current row has been actually against the OBC reservation in government services but it seems that in this entire scheme of things, it is the Dalits who have become target of the upper caste contempt. The Dalits are fighting the battle for OBCs while the latter are not visible anywhere, only to be found hitting at them in the villages. Now questions are being raised about creamy layer as well as different Dalit identities. As an Ambedkarite how to you resolve this crisis?

NGU: As per as the reservation for Scheduled Castes is concerned people refused to understand the Constitutional provisions regarding SCST reservation. The Constitution is very clear. Constitution provides for reservations for the Scheduled Castes. These reservations are Universal. However the Govt. have excluded a large number of Jobs from the reservations, which goes against the spirit of the Constitution.

There is also a view that a creamy layer from Scheduled Castes must be taken away from Scheduled Castes. This view is totally wrong The Creamy layer is the cream of the society. The Cream, which consists of the intellect of the Scheduled Castes are the people who guide and lead the Scheduled Castes. Nobody can deprive the Scheduled Castes of their intellectual leaders. All the rulers namely The President, The Prime Minister and the other leaders come from Creamy layer and govern. The Scheduled Castes cannot be divided as very rightly ruled by the Supreme Court.
As far as the reservations for Scheduled Castes are concerned no Non-SC is affected and they have nothing to do with reservations.

VB : You are a rare breed of Ambedkarite who are proclaimed atheists. Why?
NGU: Scheduled Castes cannot gain anything from Gods and their work. The only way out is to prove that our society, our system is better than theirs. We believe that superstitions, rituals ultimately exploit human being.
VB: What do you think of economic globalisation. I mean many new Dalit scholars have complimented capitalism and often condemn Marx and his vision. What is an Ambedkarite vision of India.
NGU: Privatisation is a threat to our soverignity. Land should be nationalized and redistributed among our people. Why should we allow the national resources to the private companies to suck our blood. Privatisation is nothing but taking away people’s resources and we must oppose it.

Once you privatize things, our people lose jobs in the government sector. Private companies are not going to follow that. The government must bring out a law to protect the interest of the Scheduled Castes.
Baba Saheb was a revolutionary and so was Marx though Baba Saheb differed with his violence theory yet in no way was Baba Saheb anti Marx. We may have differences with Marxist theoreticians in India yet Marx and his philosophy are for the benefits of the common man.

VB: What are the activities of Ambedkar Samaj. What does it aims at?
NGU: We have started Ambedkar Samaj to bring all Ambedkarites on one platform to fulfill the mission of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar not only to convert India as a Prabuddha Bharat but we have to transform the whole world as a Scientific Humanity without any differences. The Ambedkarites must lead to take the world forward as one humanity.
Thanks Mr. Balram Sampla, Dalit Solidarity Network for sending the valuable matter of Mr.V.B Rawat.


Ambedkar as a Human Rights Defender

Vidya Bhushan Rawat
Universal Declaration of Human Rights signed on December 10th, 1948 and a majority of nations including the so-called imperial power, newly independent states, every one, agreed to certain principals of human life which would be guiding principals for the 20 th century. But to say that human rights and struggle for human rights came into effect after Universal Declaration of Human Rights were signed, would be a negation of historical struggle for social reform and human rights right from Buddha to Thomas Paine to Jyotiba Phule, to Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar. The struggle for human dignity and human rights are as old as the exploitation of human beings who some of ancient people termed as 'lesser fortunate'. That clearly reflected a mindset, which justified everything in the name of religion, and customs hence exploited communities were termed as 'unfortunate'.
Ambedkar was not only the son of a down trodden but a son of modernity and globalisation. I mean, had he not been educated at Columbia and then in the London School of Economics, he might have accepted the same 'term' of being 'lesser fortunate' or being 'unfortunate'. Yet, education in United States and England showed him what exactly freedom was as he could mix with students of other countries and races. The feeling of humanness that he developed after facing torturous days of humiliation in India. came only after his stay in Europe and America. He did not confine to Indian social system but broaden his philosophy and ideas. Therefore Ambedkar is child of internationalism where scholarship is respected and acknowledged. While there is no need for me to explain Ambedkar's understanding of human rights and international law.
Having faced the discrimination on the basis of his birth and understanding fully well that varna system of caste is not merely the issue untouchability but much beyond that Ambedkar clearly suggested that if Hindu Society has to improve it must be formed on the basis of equality, fraternity and liberty.
It is the greatness of the man and quintessentially humanist attitude that Ambedkar wanted not only challenge the Vedas and other holy texts but also change them according to modernity. It is here that he was thoroughly disgusted with Gandhi who mentioned that any one who does not believe in Shastras can not be a Hindu and that Shastras can not be changed. For Ambedkar human dignity and humanity was much bigger issue than any religion.

‘We do not value Hinduism, we value human dignity.' [Gore 1993: 97]. We want equal rights in the society. We will achieve them as far as possible while remaining within the Hindu fold or if necessary by kicking away this worthless Hindu identity.'[Ibid. 91]      (Debrahmanising history pg.357

Ambedkar was a proponent of modernity and human right. Unlike Gandhi, he was a man of reason and good senses who was not prepared to submit to a tradition that defy human dignity and self respect. When Gandhi ask the Scavenger community to continue with their profession since it was based on their caste and that they would be serving it according to tradition, Ambedkar decried Gandhi.

If Gandhiism preached the rule of poverty for all and not merely for the Shudra, the worst that could be said about it is that it is a mistaken idea. But why preach it as good for one class only? Why appeal to the worst of human failings, namely pride and vanity in order to make him voluntarily accept what on a rational basis he would resent as a cruel discrimination against him. What is the use of telling the scavenger that even a Brahmin is prepared to do the scavenging when it is clear that according to the Hindu Shastras and Hindu notions, even if a Brahmin did scavenging, he would never be subject to the disabilities of one who is born a scavenger? For, in India, a man is not a scavenger because of his work. He is a scavenger because of his birth, irrespective of the question whether he does scavenging or not. If Gandhiism preached that scavenging is a noble
Profession, with the objective of inducing those who refuse to engage in it, one could understand it. But why appeal to scavengers pride and vanity in order to induce him and him only to keep on to scavenging by telling him that scavenging is a noble profession and that he need not be ashamed of it. To preach that poverty is good for Shudra and for none else, to preach that scavenging is good for the untouchables and for none else and to make them accept these onerous impositions as voluntary proposes of life, by appeal to their failings is an outrage and a cruel joke on the helpless classes which none but Mr Gandhi can perpetrate with equanimity and impunity.

Then came the historical occasion for Ambedkar to enter into a debate on the issue of caste and Varna with Gandhi on his writings in ' Harijan' Gandhi as usual considered himself an expert on every subject, from theology to spirituality. Unfortunately, his ridiculous religious beliefs that any one who did not believe in Varna or caste cannot be a true Hindu were stronger enough to compel Ambedkar think for alternative to Hinduism. None of the Gandhian questioned his fanciful ideas. In fact some of them went on to support Gandhi and chided others. Indian media is full of such jokers who have nothing to do with Gandhi and yet they are ready to exploit Gandhi and his upper caste Indian dream. Gandhi's retrogressive views on caste were well exposed in his debate on the issue with Ambedkar.

"If caste and Varna are convertible (interchangeable) terms and if Varna is an integral part of Shastras which define Hinduism. I do not know how a person who rejects caste i.e. Varna, can call himself a Hindu". 59. (Annihilation of caste by Dr B.R. Ambedkar)

For Ambedkar such orthodox views by a leader, who considered him not only awaking the political people of India but soul of India, came as a shock. His famous remark followed this: " Though I am born as a Hindu, I shall not die as a Hindu'. Ambedkar therefore considered emancipation of Dalits as more important to freedom of India, which he felt was a mere transfer of power to the upper caste Hindus which could be detrimental to the interest of Dalits in India.

Rights of Women

Ambedkar was a great votary of women's emancipation. He believed that the Varna system has not only subjugated Untouchables but also women.

It would however be a mistake to suppose that only the wrongs of men are a religion to him. For the Brahmin has given his support to the worst wrongs that women have suffered from in any part of the world. Widows were burnt alive as suttees. Widows were never allowed to remarry. The record of Brahmins as law givers for the Shudras, for the untouchables and for the women is blackest as compared with the record of the intellectual classes in other parts of the world. For, no intellectual class has prostituted its intelligence to invent a philosophy to keep his uneducated countrymen in a perpetual state of ignorance and poverty as the Brahmins have done in India.

(Baba Sahib Ambedkar's Writings and Speeches: Volume-9 page 215-216

There can be no doubt that there has been an utter down fall in position of women in India from what it was once was. One cannot say much about the part they played in ancient time in the state craft. But there is no doubt they did occupy a very high position in the intellectual and social life of the country.

He questioned Manu and Manu Samiti and felt it was solely responsible for the down and fall of Hindu woman.

' It is the nature of women to seduce man in this world. For that reason the wise are never unguarded in the company of females.

In fact Ambedkar resigned from Nehru's cabinet after the Hindu Code Bill could not be passed as visualized. His fight for the right of the women for divorce was opposed fiercely in the Parliament by not only the right wing Hindus like Shyama Prasad Mukharje but also like Dr Rajendra Prasad and K D Malviya. He was thoroughly dejected because of Nehru's failure to get the bill passed.

Campaign for Civil Rights

In November 1932 Ambedkar wrote to A.V. Thakkar, known as Thakkar Bappa, General Secretary of anti untouchability League. Ambedkar and Thakkar Bapa did not go together. Even when Thakkar Bapa asked for the opinion of Dr Ambedkar on various matters yet the following advice given by Dr Ambedkar was not even acknowledged. I am quoting this important letter of Ambedkar and Thakkar Bapa to give you a direct understanding of how Ambedkar was a true champion of human rights and he took the battle of Dalits and untouchability from the perspective of human rights.

' I think the first thing that the league should undertake is a campaign all over India to secure the depressed classes the enjoyment of their civic rights such as taking water from the village wells, entry in the village schools, admission to village chawdi, use of public conveyance etc. Such programmes if carried into the villages will bring about the necessary social revolution in the Hindu society, without which it will not be possible for the depressed classes to get equal social status.'

The salvation of the depressed classes will come only when the caste Hindu is made to think and is forced to feel that he must alter his ways. For that you must create a crisis by direct action against his customary code of conduct. The crisis will compel him to think and once he begins to think he will be more ready to change than he is otherwise likely to be. The great defect in the policy of the least resistance and silent infiltration of rational ideas lies in this that they do not compel thought, for they do not produce crisis. The direct action in respect of Chawdar Tank in Mahad, the Kalaram temple in Nasik and the Gurwayur temple in Malawar have done in a few days what million days of preaching by reformers would never have done.

Equality of Opportunity

Much of the misery and poverty of the depressed classes is due to the absence of equality of opportunity, which in its turn is due to untouchability.

Much can be done by the private firms, and companies managed by the Hindus by extending their patronage to the depressed classes and by employing them in their offices in various grades and occupations suited to the capacities of the applicants.

Social Intercourse

The best way of achieving it is to establish closer contact between the two. Only a common cycle of participation can help people to overcome the strangeness of feeling which one has, when brought into contact with the other. Nothing can do this more effectively in my opinion than the admission of the depressed classes to the houses of the caste Hindus as guests or servants. The live contact thus established will familiarize both to a common and associated life and will pave the way for that unity which we all are striving after. (78-83)

He was very forthright and was never prejudiced and hence when Savarkar wanted to discuss the issue of removal of untouchability he wrote to him (Letter to V D Savarkar on 18.2.1933)

' If the untouchables are to be a part and parcel of the Hindu society, then it is not enough to remove untouchability, for that purpose you must destroy the Chaturvarna.

In a letter to Laxmi Kabir on Gandhi's death February 8th, 1948

' Great men are of great service to their country but they are also at certain times a great hindrance to the progress of their country.

Mr Gandhi had become a positive danger to this country. He had choked all free thought. He was holding together the congress, which is a combination of all the bad and self seeking elements in the society who agreed on no social or moral principals governing the life of the society except the one of praising and flattering of Mr. Gandhi. The death of Gandhi he said ', will release people from bondage to a superman, it will make them think for themselves and it will compel them to stand on their own merits.
(Page 205)

Political, Economic Social Rights invisible

On the social plane we have in India a society based on the principal of graded inequality which means elevation for some and degradation for others. On the economic plane we have a society in which there are some who have immense wealth as against many who live in abject poverty. On the 26 th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In Politics we will have equality ' one man one vote and one vote one value, and in social and economic life we will have inequality. We must remove these contradictions at the earliest possible moment or else who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which this assembly has so laboriously built.

'If there is any cause of freedom in this Indian turmoil for independence, it is the cause of the untouchables. The cause of Hindus and the cause of Musalman is not the cause of freedom. Theirs is a struggle for power as distinguished from freedom. Consequently, it has always been a matter of surprise to me, that no party, no organisation devoted to the freedom has so far interested itself in the untouchables.'
(From Emancipation of Dalits by Dr Baba Sahib Ambedkar).61

Right to Self Determination : Ambedkar talked of self determination in the form of separate electorate. That is why when Ambedkar pressed for the separate electorate demand for Dalits, Gandhi opposed it tooth and nail. It was the same Gandhi who had nothing against Muslim demand for a separate electorate. When the Poona pact was awarded in 1932, Gandhi could not tolerate his defeat at the hands of an articulate Dalit leader. As soon as he came back to India, Gandhi decided to fast unto death against such an award that would have brought a lot of changes in the quality of Dalit leadership in India. For Dalits would not have depended on the upper caste Hindus to get elected. Ambedkar succumbed to the blackmailing tactics of Gandhi and commented ' Mahatmas have come, Mahatmas have gone but the lot of Dalits remain the same'. Ambedkar feared that death of Gandhi would spark backlash against Dalits in the villages where the upper caste tyranny was still prevalent. He entered into a deal with Gandhi and signed Poona Pact, which allowed reservation of seats for Dalits in Parliament and state assemblies. Gandhi saved his upper caste interest and made Dalit leadership dependent on upper castes votes. Ambedkar himself became a victim of this and could not win Lok Sabha election from the state of Maharashtra as all the upper castes joined hand against him.

Right to choose your faith

Ambedkar redefined history and linked the Dalits with Buddha. His efforts to reform Varna religion failed and he embarked on rational path of Buddhism. In fact, he mentioned very clearly that ", Unfortunately, I was born a Hindu. It was beyond my power to prevent that, I solemnly assure you that I will not die a Hindu."

Justifying his viewpoint on Conversion, Dr Ambedkar said,' there are two aspect of conversion as well as religious, material as well as spiritual. Whatever may be the aspect or line of thinking it is necessary to understand the beginning, the nature of untouchability and how it is practiced? Without, this understanding, you will not be able to realise the real meaning underlying my declaration of conversion. In order to have a clear understanding of Untouchability and its practices in real life, I want you to recall the stories of the atrocities perpetrated against you. But very few of you might have realised as to why this happened.. This is the root of their tyranny. To me it is very necessary, that we understand it. This is not a feud between two rival men. The problem of untouchability is a matter of class struggle. It is a struggle between caste Hindus and untouchables. It is not a matter of doing injustice against one man. This is matter of injustice being done by one class against other. This struggle starts as soon as you start claiming equal treatment with others…
Dr Ambedkar said that there is no place for individual's identity in so-called Hindu dharma as it does not appeal to my self respect and self conscience” I tell you very specifically, religion is for men and not Man for religion. To get human treatment gets converted. Convert for getting organised. Convert for becoming strong. Convert for securing equality. Convert for getting liberty. Convert so that your domestic life may be happy."

He told the people from his experiences ", three factors are required for the upliftment of an individual. They are: Sympathy, equality and liberty. Can you say by experience that any of these factors exists in Hinduism?"

Conclusion: Ambedkar championed the cause of the down trodden. But to confine him to mere as a leader of Dalits will do him great injustice. He was the most accomplished political leader and philosopher among his contemporaries. He was much ahead of his time which is reflected when he was drafting the Hindu Code Bill. It was a bill which gave Indian woman a right which they never imagined. Unlike other political leaders including some of the Dalits who could not challenge the religion and text books, for Ambedkar human dignity was bigger than any religion and religious text book. The famous Satyagraha for the rights of the dalits to fetch water in Mahad is well known to be mentioned here. No human rights discourse in India could be complete with out detailed discussion on the outstanding work of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar.

Posted on www.ambedkartimes.com (December 06, 2007)

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