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Special Content

Volume 2, 2017

Dr. Ambedkar's Intellectual Honesty

Dr Udit Raj

There is a general perception that truth often gets tormented but never gets defeated and at the end it always wins. In the case of Dr. B R Ambedkar, this proposition is yet to be testified. Besides everything, he was intellectually honest and always vocal about right and wrong, despite its repercussions; he had always been upfront about fighting for women's liberation, annihilation of caste and breaking superstitions. Even while converting to Buddhism, he spoke only about human welfare and engaging in the affairs of religion at such a large scale, it is next to impossible to remain committed towards the cause of humanity and not to plunge into epistemological and metaphysical debates. Intellectual honesty, many times, is a barrier in reaching the destination. Therefore, there is a famous saying that behind every great fortune, there is a great crime. I think Honorie - de Balzac was not out of place in saying so.
Dr. Ambedkar did not care about the establishment when he had a tryst with the truth. Standing for the right to equal property of daughters was not at all easy in the 50's. It was quite obvious that the masses would be against whoever spoke about equal rights in property. Dr. Ambedkar introduced the Hindu Code Bill in Parliament after consulting Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. The Hindu Code Bill embodied the provision of equal share in ancestral property for sons and daughters. There were lots of criticism in the country regarding this Bill, due to which the Congress party had to step back from this move despite having a huge majority in Parliament and the Bill was defeated.
Similarly, when Sheikh Abdullah and other like minded people approached Nehru to include a special provision for Jammu and Kashmir in the Constitution, he agreed, but suggested that he should meet Dr. B R Ambedkar for agreement. When Sheikh Abdullah met Dr. Ambedkar, he bluntly replied that if Jammu and Kashmir as a border state should get special provisions, then even Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Rajasthan, Bengal and provinces of the North East which are also border-states should also get similar special provisions. Article 370 was still framed, but not by Dr. Ambedkar. Dr. Ambedkar wrote most of the provisions of the Constitution, but he was not allowed to write Article 370 nor did he support it.
Dr. Ambedkar stood for annihilation of caste; are his followers doing so? Rather, there is activism for further consolidation of caste identity. By creating caste identities, it is much easier to have a personal gain and bargaining power with institutions and the Government. Somehow, the truth that he wanted to prevail has not found its place.
On 12th December 1935, Babasaheb received a letter from the Jaat Todak Mandal in Lahore inviting him to be their President. He thought that it was an association of upper caste Hindus whose only idea was to only reform the caste system. At first, Dr. Ambedkar refused to accept the invitation but later on, when persuaded, he gave his consent. The association was supposed to meet during Easter but it was postponed till May 1936. After that, there was huge resentment in Lahore for inviting Dr. Ambedkar and Bhai Parmanand, ex- president Hindu Mahasabha, Mahatma Hansraj, Ministers of local property ownership Dr. Gokulchand Narang and Raja Rajendranath MNC,  sidelined the Mandal secretary Santram from the organization. The leaders of the Mandal wanted to get a written draft of Dr. Ambedkar's speech in advance; there was constant pressure on Dr. Ambedkar to get his essay titled "Annihilation of Caste" vetted in Lahore before the conference, but he remained firm. To see his essay Har Bhagwan of Mandal was sent to Mumbai to know the contents; after reading it, he became restless and suggested to Dr. Ambedkar to change the essay and make it brief but Dr. Ambedkar didn't bend; as a result, the conference was called off.
One should be aware that during that period, Lahore was the centre of North West India, and if Dr. Ambedkar agreed to the suggestions of the Mandal, a large number of upper caste Hindus would have accepted his leadership. He did not fall prey to this temptation and later on, his essay "Annihilation of caste" was published in Mumbai and also translated into many languages.
His truth has not become empirical till date. Maintaining intellectual honesty is putting oneself at risk and a high price might have to be paid for it. There is no certainty that Dr. Ambedkar's truth is being incorporated, practiced or even debated. Normally people are against change, and not necessarily truth always prevails. There have been some statesmen like Kabir who spoke the truth but they remain confined to books and talks; very few are practically followed.
This truth kept haunting Dr. Ambedkar and is still not understood and imbibed by the people, not even by the downtrodden. Had the downtrodden stood by his path of truth, they would have at least achieved partial success, if not a complete victory. It is not at all necessary that what has not been done till now cannot be done tomorrow. The day is eagerly awaited when a casteless society can be established and India joins the ranks of developed countries.
(The author is a Member of Parliament in the Lok Sabha.) Views expressed are personal.
 Image: Courtesy Google