AMBEDKARISM AND EMANCIPATION
The division of Indian people among castes makes Indian society unique in the entire world. This division has been changing its form for ages and is still intact. Crores of people have to face caste-based oppression, atrocities and humiliation in India even today. Along with the class division, the division of Indian society in tribals-non tribals, different nationalities and castes makes it an extremely complex society. As per a survey conducted in the beginning of the 1990s, the people of India are divided in 3539 castes (Suvira Jaiswal, Caste, p.15, Delhi, 2005). These divisions, particularly the caste-based division, make the path of the emancipation of Indian masses very challenging. The ruling classes have always used these divisions as a weapon to break the class unity of toiling masses, blunting their class consciousness and making them fight against each other and this process goes on till this day.
Apart from the class division, the division of Indian society in castes (also in nationalities, tribals-non tribals etc.) is an objective reality of today’s India by denying which no project of the emancipation of working classes can be prepared. The first step in changing this objective reality is to accept it.
Due to the capitalist development after independence, huge changes have taken place in the caste-structure of Indian society. Amongst the characteristics of the caste, the caste-based hierarchy and caste-based division of labour has been broken to a large extent. But the characteristic of endogamy remains intact even today on a large extent. But despite all these changes a large section of the Dalit population in India consists of rural and urban proletariat even today, which is facing caste-based oppression and humiliation apart from the worst category of economic-political exploitation and oppression. The end of this caste-based discrimination, oppression-humiliation is one of the most important questions of Indian’s future revolution.
The communist movement in India has been struggling with the question of the caste right from the beginning and it is struggling with it even today. Even while fighting against the caste-based repression-oppression on practical plane, the Communist Party suffered from class reductionism right from the time of national movement. It could not give full attention to the task of ending untouchability in India. But it was the mistake of Indian communists, not that of Marxist ideology. Marxism is fully capable of understanding caste and all other related phenomena. Today when the caste question is included as a burning question in the list of tasks of Indian revolution, along with understanding the shortcomings of communist movement in India, we will have to also understand the achievements and limitations of the social reform stream of Phule, Periyar and Ambedkar (particularly Ambedkar) during the freedom movement.
Any discussion on the Dalit question will be incomplete without Ambedkar. Ambedkar himself was born in a Dalit family. He himself faced the brunt of the caste-system. Throughout his life he was striving for material-cultural-political-social upliftment of the Dalit castes. Ambedkar’s role in raising awareness among the Dalit castes about human dignity and their rights remains undisputable. It was due to the struggles of the Dalit population against the hideous and inhuman institutions such as untouchability under Ambedkar’s leadership that the Dalit question was included in the list of tasks of freedom movement. The parties like Congress had to include the elimination of untouchability in its programme even though this party never took any sincere step in this direction. Owing to the social-reform movement under the leadership of Ambedkar, indeed there has been an improvement in the condition of a small section of Dalit population.
In retrospect even while accepting the historically progressive role of Ambedkar and the social-reform movement in his leadership in the context of caste, one cannot ignore his limitations.
Today almost all kinds of Ambedkarites present Ambedkar as a messiah of Dalits. They say that Ambedkarism remains the only theory for the emancipation of Dalits. Some say that Ambedkarism is necessary for ending caste and Marxism is necessary for ending class. But does Ambedkar suggest any practical and realistic path for the emancipation of Dalits from socio-political-economic exploitation-oppression of Dalits? Does Ambedkar present a scientific and historical analysis and solution to the Dalit question? Does Ambedkar’s thinking contain any comprehensive project for Dalit emancipation? Can the religious conversion ( which Ambedkar did in the last days of his life and asked his follower to do the same for freeing themselves from caste-based repression-oppression) be a solution to the caste problem? Was the criticism of Marxism with regard to the caste problem which was put forward by Ambedkar based on deep and serious study of Marxism? Several ‘Dalitist’ and “Marxists” intellectuals loudly advocate the amalgamation of Ambedkarism and Marxism. Is it possible to harmonise Marxism and Ambedkarism in any way? To know the answer of these questions we will have to examine Ambedkar’s world outlook, his politics, economics, sociology, his historical outlook and his criticisms of Marxism. The subject of this paper is the same. Surely this task involves a risk because it is difficult to tell Ambedkar’s stand on many questions. At one place he says one thing and at another he says exactly opposite thing. In a way Ambedkarism is a kind of ideological confusion only. Today in the left-wing movement there is a tendency of uncritical admiration of Ambedkar. Maybe they think that Dalits will be displeased with Ambedkar’s criticism. But this is nothing but political opportunism in the name of winning Dalit’s hearts. Dalit masses can be brought to the communist movement only by struggling against their ideological prejudices and not through appeasement.
A theory is relevant insofar as it acts as a guide to social action. If a theory does not act as a guide for our action, it is akin to a dead burden. When our point of departure is the emancipation of the crores of people who have to face social humiliation because of belonging to the so-called lower caste apart from economic-political exploitation and oppression, we must examine all such theories thread-bare which claim to be the guide to the emancipation of these exploited and oppressed people. We cannot take a single step towards Dalit-emancipation with an attitude of religiosity and veneration to a historic figure. The point here is not to raise a finger about the intentions of any historic figure, rather it is about the objective analysis of his ideas. Bhagat Singh had said, “A man who claims to be a realist has to challenge the whole of the ancient faith. If it does not stand the onslaught of reason it crumbles down. Then the first thing for him is to shatter the whole down and clear a space for the erection of a new philosophy.”
Every historic figure and movement has both positive and negative aspects. No one should be considered above criticism. We must adopt the same attitude towards Ambedkar as well. If we have to prepare a new project of Dalit-emancipation today, we will have to criticise whatever was wrong in Ambedkar’s thoughts and his practice.
1) Ambedkar’s World View
World view or philosophy is a guide to all the activities of a person. If we properly understand the world view of a leader or thinker, his economic, political, social etc. thoughts and activities could be easily understood.
Ambedkar had announced to give up Hindu religion in his article ‘Annihilation of Caste’ written in 1936. But he did not give it up for next 20 years and in 1956 at the age of 66 he gave up Hindu religion and adopted Buddhist religion. Throughout his life he had faith in religion, so for almost his entire life his world view remained idealist. In the last year of his life he reached Buddhism, so he traversed from idealism to primitive, crude and mechanical materialism which in no way helps us today to understand any natural or social phenomenon.
Religion happens to be a part of the ideology of the exploiting class because the ruling ideology is the ideology of ruling class. Therefore, in a class society even the toiling masses are the carrier of the ideology of ruling class. The religious prejudices and superstitions of the toiling masses (including the labourers belonging to Dalit castes) strengthen the rule of the exploiter ruling class. Hence the emancipation of the toiling masses include the emancipation from religion (end of religion), but Ambedkar used to think exactly the opposite. He says:
“Some People think that religion is not essential to Society. I do not hold these view, I consider the foundations of religion to be essential to life and practice of Society.” (See, Dhananjay Keer, ‘Ambedkar Life and Mission’, Popular Prakashan, Bombay, II Edition, 1961)
Ambedkar in his writings and speeches always used to stress upon the need for religion. In the Depressed Classes Youth Conference he said, “It pains me to see youth growing indifferent to religion. Religion is not an opium as it is held by some. What good things I have in me or whatever have been the benefits of my education to Society. I owe them to the religions feelings in me. I want religion, but I do not want hypocrisy in the name of religion.” (ibid, p. 304.)
He further says, “Religion in the sense of morality must, therefore, remain the governing principle in every society.” (Ambedkar, Buddha and Future of His Religion.)
Throughout his life Ambedkar was under the illusion that root of untouchability or casteism lies in the Hindu religion and that untouchability and casteism could be ended just by giving up religion. As we will see later, nothing of that sort happened. But despite having such thinking towards Hindu religion he was always wavering when it came to give it up. His talks about giving up Hindu religion began way back in 1929 when on 29 May, 1929 in the Jalgaon conference held in his leadership a proposal was passed asking the Dalit castes to adopt any religion other than Hinduism. In the Yeola Conference of October 1935 he announced, “I solemnly assure you that I will not die a Hindu (Keer, ibid, p. 252).” On 18 June 1936 Ambedkar met Dr. Munje, the leader of Hindu Mahasabha and on his advice he was ready to adopt Sikh religion. Toeing the line of fascist Munje he announced, “Sikhism is the best, If the depressed classes join Islam or Christianity, they not only go out of the Hindu religion, but they also go out of the Hindu Culture.” (Keer, ibid, p. 278.)
On 13–14 April 1936, Ambedkar addressed the Sikh Mission Conference in Amritsar in which he lauded the egalitarianism among Sikhs. But it was yet another illusion of Ambedkar. While Sikh religion rejects casteism and untouchability in principle, at the practical level the condition of Sikhs was not much better than Hindus.
After wandering for years in search of a “good religion”, ultimately his search ended up with Buddhism. On 14 October 1956, he announced his decision to adopt Buddhism. He chose Buddhist religion because according to him, Hindu religion suffered from four varnas whereas there is no place of four varnas in the Buddhist religion. Ambedkar says, “”Buddhism teaches social freedom, intellectual freedom, economic freedom, political freedom… equality not between man and man only but between man and woman,” (Ambedkar, Buddha and Future of His Religion).
Ambedkar’s above conception about the Buddhist religion is far from the historical reality. We will discuss more on it when we will return to the analysis of Ambedkar’s world outlook. Any ways, this was Ambedkar’s philosophical journey. Despite myriad criticisms and reservations, he continued to have a belief in Hindu religion throughout his life and he remained a Buddhist only for last two months of his life (he died in December 1956). After his long religious “research”, his destination happened to be primitive Buddhism. Buddhism was a product of a time when the classless tribal society was fast coming into the grip of varna system (class division). Before the varna system the main characteristics of the tribal society were—common property, equal status, mutual co-operation, unity and a sense of security. These characteristics of the tribal society were being destroyed under the pressure of the socio-economic processes of the varna system. The varna system, being patronised by the kingdoms, was destroying the primitive morality and in its place a fertile ground was prepared for the hunger for private property, greed, hatred and self-centred lifestyle. The gap between rich and poor was continuously getting widened due to class division of society and a large section of population was forced to face sorrows and miseries. Buddha said that the reason for these sorrows was desire, possession, greed, craving and ego. But Buddha could not understand the material base of these evils. He could not understand that these evils have grown due to the class division of society and will end with the end of the class division. Buddha believed that the fire of desire, greed and hatred could be extinguished through individual good conduct and individual self-purification. Hence he proposed his Ashtang Marg (eight-fold path).
Buddha organised sangha (monastery) on the tribal model. Among the masses the attraction for the tribal society still existed. There was complete equality in these sanghas which were administered in collective and democratic manner. The Bhikshus (Buddhist monks) could be recruited from all the classes. Brahmins and Chandals all were equal in the Sanghas. The members of the Sanghas could not possess any private property. The Bhikshus used to get their food from people.
It was at this time that the ruling classes found in Buddhism an ideology through which the human conduct could be controlled and regulated through social and religious rules instead of violence and force. In order to rectify the the kind of anarchy which was spread due to the destruction of the traditional tribal culture owing to the increasing class division of society as an inevitable consequence of agriculture and trade, new social rules and a new kind of belief system was required. Buddhism fulfilled this necessity. Buddhism now rapidly started becoming the religion of the upper classes. The sanghas and Bhikshus started getting prosperous. It was during the lifetime of Buddha itself that Buddhism had lost its radical character and had drowned into the pit of degeneration. When the kings started granting money for building big Bauddh Vihar, when the kings and emperors began to subsidise them, when Buddhism became a public sector enterprise, Buddha chose the path of compromise. The Buddhist religion got degenerated when the dependence on people for feeding the Bhikshus gave way to dependence on kings. Buddha was co-opted by the system. The same happened with Ambedkar in the last years of his life. First time a tragedy and second time as a farce!
This is Ambedkar’s Buddhism. Ambedkar’s Buddhism is the Buddhism of Buddha, not of the post-Buddha Buddhist philosophers such as Dignag, Vasubandhu and Nagarjuna who tried to develop Buddhism and to eradicate the evils engendered in it. In fact it was during the life-time of Buddha itself that the beginning of the compromise of Buddhism with the ruling establishment was made. For example, an indebted farmer could not choose the path of asceticism, nor could women do it without the consent of their husband, soldiers too could not choose the path of asceticism without permission. If this Buddhism of Ambedkar is applied in today’s society, it would have dangerous consequences. In that event, the Dalits who are debtor of rich farmers will continue to face the slavery of the rich from generation to generation. All women would be left to the mercy of their husbands.
Ideas arise from the material conditions of their time and propose solution to the problems of their time. If the situation is changed then either the ideas develop themselves or else they become stale and become thing of the past. The socio-economic situation changes, new contradictions arise and in the new situation new philosophy is born for their resolution which surely learns from its heritage as well but does not expect from them the solutions of today’s problem.
Nowhere does Ambedkar clarify as to how can a philosophy born in the era of slavery solve the problems of a capitalist society (in Ambedkar’s time semi-feudal and colonial India and after independence an India moving towards capitalism). Nor do the current advocates of Ambedkar give any response to this question. Actually, Ambedkar always remained an idealist in understanding social phenomena. Even after adopting Buddhism, Ambedkar continued to believe religion to be necessary for society. The root of Ambedkar’s mistakes in the sphere of politics, economics, sociology and history-writing needs to be probed in his idealist world outlook.
2) Ambedkar’s Politics
There were three big names in the anti-caste and anti-untouchability movement in the country during the freedom movement—Jyotiba Phule, Ambedkar and Periyar (undoubtedly it was not the only such movement, during the same period a much more powerful communist movement also existed which, despite its ideological weaknesses, was fighting against caste and untouchability on much larger scale than the above movements and with greater success). Jyotiba Phule was Ambedkar’s predecessor while Periyar was his contemporary. All the three have different opinions on the question of origin of caste and its elimination but their approach towards the British imperialism which had enslaved India was similar.
The cracks had started surfacing in the caste-based rigid division of labour due to the beginning of the capitalist development in India which was a by-product of the reckless exploitation of natural resources and cheap labour by the British colonialism. Due to the growth of newer professions a section of Dalits also got the opportunity to adopt new professions by leaving their caste-based professions. In the education system started by the British, a small section of Dalit castes also got the opportunity of studying. It was because of such “reforms” by the British imperialism that the social reformers such as Phule, Ambedkar and Periyar used to have admiration for the British rule. Ambedkar says, “It was the destiny pre-ordained by the Hindu God. Until the advent of the British, the untouchables were content to remain untouchables. It was a destiny pre-ordained by the Hindu God and enforced by the Hindu state. As such there was no escape from it. Fortunately or unfortunately, the East India Company needed soldiers for their army in India and it could find none but the untouchables… It is with the help of an army composed of untouchables that the British conquered India…” Ambedkar says that the untochables also benefitted by the education provided by the Britishers. (Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, vol. IX, p. 189)” Even when Phule and Ambedkar at times used to criticise the British rule, these criticisms were sweet nothings. In practice they never took part in the freedom movement against the colonial rule. Phule while criticising the British raj remained confined to appeal to the goodwill of the Britishers. (Gail Omvedt, ‘Dalits and the Democratic Revolution,’ First Edition, 1994, p. 98). Ambedkar and his contemporary Periyar in fact took the side of Britishers in the freedom movement against the British imperialism. Periyar was an atheist. Apart from being anti-casteism and anti-Brahmanism he was also anti-north and anti-Hindi. Like Ambedkar and Phule he too failed to understand the contradictions of his time. He was a staunch opponent of the independence of India from the British. He used to believe that the freedom from the British will result into the return of Brahmanism.
Ambedkar glorifies the British at some place and at others he criticises it. While glorifying the British he says, “The depressed classes and the British are bound in a unique bond. The depressed classes welcomed the British as liberators from the centuries-old oppressions and atrocities by the orthodox Hindus. They fought agains the Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs and won this vast empire of India for the British, in which they adopted the role of guardians of the depressed classes.” (Ambedkar, Collected Works (Hindi), Vol. 5, p. 16, our translation.)
He takes a 180 degree turn from his above stand and while strongly criticising the British Raj he says, “In the first 25 uears of the Nineteenth century when the British rule became a reality, there were five famines here which claimed about 10 lakh lives. In the next 25 years there were two famines, and about four lakh people died. In the third 25 years there were six famines, and the death toll went up to 50 lakhs. And what do we see in the last 25 years of the century? Eighteen famines! And the number of people dying in these is approximately 1.5 to 2 crores. …Gentlemen, what is the reason for this! To say in clear words, this is the policy adopted by the British government which is aimed at obstructing the development of trade and industry in India…. This policy has turned India into a poor country. Who are the main victims of this poverty? The dalit peasants who are unable to feed themselves for months even now, they are the majority of victims…
“Before the Britishers came, your condition was very terrible due to untochability. Has the British government done anything to end this untouchability? Before the Britishers came, you could not take water from the village wells? Has the British government tried to give you this right? Before the Britishers came, you could not enter the temples. Can you do so today? Before the Britishers came, you were not given jobs in the police. Is the British government giving you the jobs now? Before the Britishers came, you did not have the permission to join the army. Do you now have this opportunity?… Gentlemen, you cannot answer yes for even one question. Those who have ruled this country for such a long time, there may be some good things. But one thing is sure that there has not been any fundamental change in your condition by this… (Ambedkar quoted in above book by Gail Omvedt, pp. 80-81).
In Ambedkar’s own words, in one century of the British rule several famines took place in India due to its policies which resulted into the loss of more than 20 million (poor) Indians, majority of whom were Dalits. Ambedkar also says that no fundamental change was brought about in the condition of untouchables in India after the coming of British. Despite all this he did not take part in the anti-British imperialism national movement, instead he continued to oppose it.
While describing the reason behind non-participation of the untouchables (Here he is speaking on behalf of all the untouchables, although he was not the only leader of the untouchables. At many places in the country the Dalits were fighting for the independence of the country along with the caste-oppression in the leadership of the communists) in the movement for independence of the country from British imperialism, Ambedkar says, “it is not because they are the tools of British Imperialism, but because they fear that Freedom of India will establish Hindu domination which is sure to close to them and forever all prospect of Life, Liberty and Pursuit of happiness…” (Dr. Baba Saheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, vol. IX, p. 189).
Ambedkar terms the struggle for independence of the country as “dishonest agitation” (ibid. p.178). While presenting a casteist analysis of the movement for independence of the country he says the struggle for independence is “mainly waged by Hindus” (Ambedkar, What the Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables) and that is why the Dalits must keep away from it.
At another place he says, “The depressed classes (read Ambedkar and the movement under his leadership — author) are not anxious, they are not clamourous, they have not started any movement for claiming that there shall be immediately transfer of power from British to the Indian People… their position to put it plainly, is that we are not anxious for transfer of political power…” (ibid, pp 63-67).
Ambedkar suffered from this illusion that after gaining independence from the British imperialism there will not be any improvement in the condition of Dalit, rather their condition would deteriorate. The condition of Dalits was slightly improved after the capture of India by the British, but the British had kept the caste-system as it is. Ambedkar mainly used to criticise the British rule again and again on this very point. And repeatedly appealed to the British to end the caste system here.
It was not in the interest of the British imperialism to end the divisions of Indian people along castes (similarly divisions along religion, region and nationalities). Such divisions among the Indian people were helpful to the British imperialism in maintaining their rule by dividing them. In the new land settlement introduced by Lord Cornwallis, the condition of the Dalits remained similar to the one during the system of rural brotherhoods. The British did not recruit Dalits in police and military as well. Only a separate Mahar regiment was created. Nowhere did they make any common regiment of the Dalit and other caste Indian soldiers.
In fact the British imperialism had made an alliance with feudalism in India to rule it. It kept the feudal production-relations here unchanged. In this system, a huge majority of Dalit population was agricultural labourer and landless poor farmer. A small population was the lowest-grade wage-slave in the cities which was engaged in their caste-based professions. So in the colonial India, to talk of Dalit-emancipation without breaking the dominant production relations prevalent at the time was like building a castle in the air and this was precisely what Ambedkar, Phule and Periyar did. They failed to trace the root of the caste-system. Owing to their idealist world outlook they continued to search for the root of the caste-system in the Brahmanic ideology. In fact it was Ambedkar wasted significant amount of time of his life in studying ancient religious texts in this futile search. He failed to identify the contradictions of his time and among them the principal one. It was this outlook which took him towards conciliation with the British imperialism. Ambedkar presented a caste analysis of his contemporary movements such as the national movement in the leadership of Congress and the Communist movement. He termed the movement in the leadership of Congress as upper-caste movement and kept himself away from it. Thus he left the battleground of the national movement open for the upper-castes and confined himself to the “movements” such as for the rights of Dalits to take water from the wells of village, entry of Dalits into the village temples and in begging piecemeal concessions from the British government for the Dalits.
The social reform movements which took place in Ambedkar’s leadership were so feeble and vigourless that they were utterly incapable of making a powerful dent to the caste-system. Most of the “movements” of temple entry for Dalits which took place in his leadership were unsuccessful. He succeeded only in a few cases (e.g. the Dalit “movement” for the right of the worship of Ganesha idol at a public place in Bombay in 1929).
The biggest movement which took place in Ambedkar’s leadership was the movement for taking the water by Dalits from the Chavdar pond situated in the Mahad town of Kolaba district of the then Bombay presidency in March 1927. About 10 thousand Dalits took part in this movement. Thousands of Dalits got assembled in the Mahad town under the leadership of Ambedkar, they marched till the Chavdar pond and drank water from there. After that when they were returning to their homes in small groups, the Hindu fundamentalists attacked them and beat them up severely. After that the Hindu fundamentalists purified the pond through religious rituals and recaptured it and prohibited the Dalits from taking water from there.
In December 1927 once again the movement for taking the water by the Dalits from the Chavdar pond was started in the leadership of Ambedkar. But the Hindu fundamentalists took a stay order from the court even before the movement had begun. Ambedkar’s agitation began on 25 December 1927 in Dasgaon which was five miles away from Mahad. As soon as Ambedkar arrived there, he was summoned by the District Magistrate (DM) and Ambedkar went to meet the DM. The DM “advised” Ambedkar not to take law in his hand and Ambedkar accepted his “advice”. Subsequently the DM himself reached the meeting spot and he threatened the Dalits of stringent punishment if they violated the law. After this, Ambedkar announced the withdrawal of the movement on 27 December so that the government does not get angry with the Dalits (for more details about this incident, see Dhananjay Keer’s ‘Ambedkar: Life and Mission’, Chapter VI, Declaration of Independence). So this was the fate of the biggest movement under the leadership of Ambedkar which is discussed widely.
Ambedkar used to justify his non-participation in the freedom struggle of the country by saying that “we cannot fight two enemies at once” (Gail Omvedt, ibid. p.15). Instead of targeting the root of the exploitation-oppression of Dalits in the colonial India he remained engaged in some minor anti-Brahmanic “movements”. Even for these reforms he was never ready to violate the law.
During the national movement there was yet another big force, the Communist Party of that time. It was the Communist Party alone which was leading the movement against the alliance of imperialism and feudalism. The solution to the caste question in India was inextricably linked with the emancipation of the toiling masses of India from the alliance between imperialism and feudalism. It is true that the Communist Party at that time suffered from the deviation of class-reductionism. But it does not mean that the Communist Party did not do anything for the resolution of the caste question as is been alleged by today’s Dalit intellectuals in the similar manner as Ambedkar used to condemn the Communist Party by terming it as ‘a bunch of Brahmin boys’ (Gail Omvedt, ibid. p. 183). Everywhere the communists fought against all kinds of socio-economic inequality, exploitation-oppression and injustice. The great Telengana peasant struggle which was fought in the leadership of the Communist Party also gave a powerful blow to the exploitation-oppression of women and Dalits by the feudal system. (for details, see P. Sundaraiyya’s ‘Telengana People’s struggle and its Lessons’).
But owing to its ideological weaknesses the Communist Party failed to take the leadership of the national movement in its hand. It was because of this reason the project of the emancipation of the toiling masses (including the resolution of the caste question) could not move forward.
Ambedkar condemned the communists not only by terming them as ‘a bunch of Brahmin Boys’, but also by condemning the violent means adopted by the communists. (See Bahishkrit Bharat, 31 May, 1929). Even on the issue of violence, Ambedkar’s stand was contradictory. At some places he is against the use of violence (above) by the exploited people for their emancipation and at other places he is seen as favouring it. He says, “Non-violence is the most proper law…. The man who comes to kill you, or to outrage the modesty of a woman, or sets fire to another’s house, or commit theft and is killed while struggling to escape, dies by his own sins as all aggressors and wicked men do… Truly speaking the law should be non-violence wherever possible, violence whenever necessary” (Dhananjay Keer, ibid).”
Even while Ambedkar’s thoughts on the question of violence were contradictory, in practice he always followed non-violence. None of “movements” in his leadership moved towards the path of clash with the state.
Violence has never been the first choice of the communists, rather it is the last resort. Communists prepare the toiling masses for revolutionary violence to counter the counter-revolutionary violence spread by the ruling classes because without it the movement of the exploited masses cannot move an inch ahead. It was because of this negative attitude towards violence or his attitude of being confined to the legal sphere only that none of the social reform “movements” in the leadership of Ambedkar could ever achieve the status which was achieved by the Telengana peasant struggle in the leadership of the communists which apart from making a deadly blow to the feudal production-relations also provided relief to the Dalits and women on large scale from all kinds of exploitation-oppression.
The Dalit movement in the leadership of Ambedkar remained engaged in the issues such as taking water from the wells and temple-entry. These issues were undoubtedly important for providing equal status to the Dalits, but even more important (the most important) issue was that of land-reforms or the distribution of the land which was occupied by the feudal lords among the poor and landless farmers which was a common demand of the rural poor belonging to all the castes. If the masses had been mobilised on this issue or the similar common issues of poor, even the internal contradictions within the toiling masses (such as the caste-based prejudices among the poor belonging to the upper-castes) could be resolved. In this way the ‘Brahmanic’ forces (the elites belonging to the upper-castes) could be isolated from the poor belonging to their own castes. But Ambedkar, instead of raising the most important issue of the emancipation of the Dalits, remained engaged in secondary issues only. And raising the issues in the wrong order by Ambedkar used to keep the upper-caste poor (owing to their caste-based prejudices) in opposition to the poor Dalits. Thus Ambedkar inadvertently used to strengthen ‘Brahmanism’ instead of weakening it.
When the Britishers were forming separate electorates for Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs as per their policy of ‘divide and rule’, Ambedkar falling into the trap of the Britishers raised the demand of separate electorate for Dalits. But later he took back this demand under pressure of Gandhi (the famous Poona Pact). Even this was a non-issue being raised by Ambedkar. It could have split the national movement and weakened it.
Ambedkar continued to act as a splitting force in the national freedom movement. He kept away the Dalits under his influence from the struggle for national independence. By terming the communists as ‘a bunch of Brahmin boys’, he kept the Dalits away from the real ideology for their emancipation.
Even in the workers’ struggle Ambedkar played the role of splitter, e.g. in the 1929 Bombay textile workers’ strike. The owners of the Bombay textile mills introduced a new machine on which a single worker could run three looms. As a result workers began to be retrenched. Against this retrenchment, one and half lakhs workers went on strike on the call of Girni Kamgar Mahamandal, a union under the communist leadership. On the appeal of Frederick Stonze, the manager of E.D. Sassoon Mill, Ambedkar asked the workers to go back to work. Due to Dalit workers going to work on the call of Ambedkar, the strike was broken. On April 26, 1929 when the textile workers of Bombay once again went on strike, Ambedkar again ran a strong campaign to break this strike.
One of the given reasons for Ambedkar’s opposition to these strikes is that the Dalit workers were not permitted to work in the high paying departments of textile mills such as the weaving department. And none of the unions was fighting against this discrimination. Besides, Ambedkar used to believe that communism and strikes are the two inseparable twins. He was of the belief that the strikes could be used for the fulfilment of political motives more than for the economic struggle of the workers and it leads to worsening the economic condition of the workers. (for more on this, see Dhananjay Keer’s ‘Ambedkar: Life and Mission,’ Chapter VII, VIII).
Here Ambedkar while showing his hatred for communism and his loyalty towards the owners, once again commits the mistake of making the secondary contradiction among the people as the principal one instead of taking the fight against the common enemy of the workers (both Dalits and non-Dalits) forward which is harmful for both the Dalit workers and non-Dalit workers and it is only the owners who benefit.
Ambedkar’s overall political conduct was full of legalism, vacillation, compromises and split-making activities. Therefore it is not at all surprising that in his last years Ambedkar was co-opted by the state. Though Ambedkar collaborated with the British rulers from the beginning. In 1926 Ambedkar was nominated in the Bombay assembly as a representative of Dalits. This nomination continued till 1934. Likewise, in 1942 (till 1946) Ambedkar occupied the post of Governor General’s administrator in the labour department.
When the British government decided to grant independence to India, it was announced in 1946 that India could make its own constitution and could prepare its draft.
The “election” to the ‘constituent assembly’ took place in July 1946. In all 246 members were “elected” from all the states. 96 of these members were not elected through any election process, rather they were nominated due to their feudal rights as representatives of feudal principalities. Other members too consisted of those having properties of various sorts, who belonged to upper castes and were highly educated.
Ambedkar too was one of its members. He succeeded in entering the constituent assembly with the support of the members of Muslim League in Bengal after his failure to get Congress support in his home state Bombay. Ambedkar had always been a critique of Congress. At one time he said, “Only a person with no self-respect can align with the Congress (Letters to Gaekwad’, p. 239).” But now Ambedkar took a 180 degree turn and he was ready to move along with Congress. After independence, due to partition Ambedkar’s membership to the constituent assembly was nullified because he was elected from Bengal. Congress immediately asked one of its members from Bombay to resign and got Ambedkar elected in his place.
In August 1947 he was made law minister in the newly formed cabinet. All his life Ambedkar had condemned the movement of Congress as an upper-caste movement, but now he became part of this upper caste movement. Ambedkar had called the collaboration with Congress as an act of a person lacking self-respect, but now he kept his own self-respect at bay and went along with Congress.
Ambedkar got one more post as a favour from Congress. On August 29, a seven member committee was formed to draft the constitution and Ambedkar was elected as the chairman of this committee. However this committee did not play any role in drafting of the constitution because it was prepared by the bureaucracy beforehand. The committee had just to have a look at it and give suggestions for some necessary amendments.
This constitution which was prepared by the representatives of the bourgeois class which had occupied power in India is in fact a document safeguarding the private (bourgeois) property. There are numerous draconian laws which are derived from this constitution in order to deal with any potential challenge to the system of property posed by the toiling masses. This constitution also contains the provision of imposing emergency by putting the entire “democracy” on hold. The Dalit intellectuals take enormous pride in the fact that it was Ambedkar who made the Indian constitution (even though it is not true because Ambedkar merely gave the final shape to an almost complete draft). They present this constitution as a great contribution of Ambedkar to India. Throughout the country wherever one gets to see Ambedkar’s statue, he is shown as holding the book of constitution. In fact the “Dalit” middle-class takes pride over something on which it needs to feel ashamed.
It will be relevant to refer to yet another incident here. When Ambedkar was enjoying the post of law minister, the army, which was sent by his government, was involved in bloodbath in Telengana killing the poor peasants, agricultural labourers (mostly belonging to Dalit castes) and women. It was raping the women. The Nehru-Patel (and Ambedkar) government sent army in September 1948 to Telengana to suppress the Telengana peasant uprising. The toiling masses (which included Dalits in large numbers) were creating new chapters of freedom from feudal exploitation-oppression while the Indian army was immersing it into rivers of blood. The horrific description of the barbaric atrocities which were committed by the Indian army against the rebel toiling masses of Telengana can be read in P. Sundaraiyya’s book. The atrocities being committed by the Indian army over the toiling masses of Telengana (which included Dalits as well) did not shake the conscience of Ambedkar. He did not raise any voice against this. This “messiah” of Dalits continued to enjoy the post of minister.
Ambedkar wanted labour department in Nehrus’s cabinet, but he was not given this post which led to his rift from Congress. On September 27, 1955, he resigned from the post of law minister. After this he gave a surprising statement that “I will be the first person to burn this (India’s) constitution.” ( Reference of Vijaybharti’s Telugu book, page 452, given in Ranganaykamma’s book ‘For the solution of the “Caste” question, Buddha is not enough, Ambedkar is not enough either, Marx is a must’. Despite the above statement of Ambedkar the Dalit middle class intellectuals continue to glorify him as an architect of India’s constitution.
Yet another remedy which Ambedkar had suggested for the emancipation of Dalits was reservation in the government jobs and educational institutions. Undoubtedly a section of Dalits benefitted from this reservation after independence. A section of Dalits got the opportunity to read and write. A small middle-class and the upper middle-class has also emerged due to reservation. Now it is this class, which would be hardly 10 percent of the Dalit population, which is enjoying all the benefits of reservation.
At the time of independence when the Dalits were given reservation, it was a bourgeois democratic demand. But now its character has changed. Now the ruling class of the country is using the issue of reservation to divide and to cause fight amongst the poor and unemployed. The unemployed belonging to the non-Dalit castes consider reservation to be the main reason of their unemployment and they go against it. They fail to see that the opportunity of employment itself is very limited in the current capitalist system, that unemployment in a capitalist system is a structural problem, the capitalist class uses the unemployed vis-a-vis the employed as a reserve army from time to time. On the other hand there are Dalit intellectuals who consider reservation to be the only way for the emancipation of Dalits. We believe that both these stands—for reservation and against reservation—are wrong. There is a third stand which is to mobilise the toiling masses against this capitalist system on the slogan of ‘education for all, employment for all’.
Indeed, there have been big changes in the caste-system in India after independence. The untouchability is almost over. The caste-based division of labour has been broken to a large extent. The Ambedkarites give the credit to Ambedkar for the improvement in the condition of Dalits. It is not fully correct, but only partially correct. The main reason for these changes is the capitalist development after independence which was possible due to the same freedom for which Ambedkar never fought but continued to oppose throughout his life.
3) Criticism of Marxism by Ambedkar
Ambedkar has made critical comments on Marxism and communism at many places in his writings and in his speeches. But it is in his essay ‘Buddha or Karl Marx’ (Collected works, vol. 7) that he has revealed his thoughts about Marxism in detail. In this essay the kind of understanding and the criticism of Marxism which he has presented is very cursory, superficial and weak. Reading this essay one gets the impression that he had not read even a single original work of Marxism.
He begins his essay with these words, “A comparison between Karl Marx and Buddha may be regarded as a joke. There need be no surprise in this.” (ibid. P. 343). To compare between Buddha and Karl Marx in itself is not a joke. If Ambedkar had taken up this task after correctly understanding both these theories, it would have been a learning for the reader as well as for Ambedkar himself. Further Ambedkar writes, “a comparison between the two is attractive and instructive.” (ibid.). It is a pity that both these things are missing in the comparison done by Ambedkar. Instead of being attractive, it is very boring and instead of being instructive it is full of inaccurate information. Further Ambedkar writes, “If the Marxists keep back their prejudices and study the Buddha and understand what he stood for I feel sure that they will change their attitude. It is of course too much to expect that having been determined to scoff at the Buddha they will remain to pray.” (ibid.). Here Ambedkar presumes that Marxists are prejudiced against Buddha and they scoff at him. Ambedkar does not inform us as to who were those Marxists nor does he give any reference of such writings. If for a moment we agree with Ambedkar that there are some Marxists who are prejudiced towards Buddha and scoff at him, what then is the fault of Marxism in this? It could be the fault of understanding of the Marxist. Marxism helps us to scientifically understand the rise, growth and decline of a philosophy (and the material basis for this). The Marxist philosophy is materialist and its method dialectical. This method teaches us to divide ‘everything into two’ and to separate the positive from negative. Marxists study Buddhism from this very method. They accept its positive elements and reject its negative elements. They do not at all scoff at Buddha and they certainly do not worship him either.
Further he explains the theories of Buddha and Karl Marx; rather he explains his own understanding about these theories. About the theories of Buddha he says that “I studied Tripitak” but he does not give us any clue as to which work of Marxism he studied. Informing about Marxism he says, “Karl Marx is no doubt the father of modern socialism or Communism but he was not interested merely in propounding the theory of Socialism. That had been done long before him by others. Marx was more interested in proving that his Socialism was scientific.” (‘Buddha and Marx’, ibid. P. 345). If before describing Marxism Ambedkar had bothered to study even little bit of Marxism, he would not have made such a ridiculous statement. He does not inform us who was the one who ‘propounded the theory of socialism’ ‘long before’ Karl Marx. Perhaps he is alluding to the utopian socialism of Sismondi, Charles Fourier, Robert Owen, which was born at a time when the proletarian class was in minority and was underdeveloped. Far from launching a crusade against the propounders of the utopian socialism or having dislike towards them, modern (scientific) socialism considers itself to be a successor of utopian socialism. In his book ‘Socialism, Utopian and Scientific’, Engels lavishly admires the utopian socialists and at the same time discusses the limitations of their theories as well. The ‘crusade’ of Marxism was against the followers of utopian socialists who were playing an entirely different role by forming various factions. Despite the development of the workers’ movement the supporters of utopian socialism and communism continued to have a negative attitude towards strikes, trade-unions and political struggles like earlier. They used to take the workers away from the class struggle and towards the arena of utopia and socialist schematicism (e.g. the idea of setting up communist colonies). Ambedkar did not understand the different material conditions behind the growth of utopian and scientific socialism, nor did he understand the basic difference between the two.
Further Ambedkar continues his explanation of “Marxism” and lists down the “principles of Marxism” and proceeds from one profanity to another. According to him, “Marx’s contention rested on the following theses: “the purpose of philosophy is to reconstruct the world and not to explain the origin of the universe.” (ibid).
Ambedkar says the same thing in different words, “The function of philosophy is to reconstruct the world and not to waste its time in explaining the origin of the world.” But Marx does not say any such thing. What Ambedkar states is a distorted and wrong version of the eleventh thesis on Feuerbach written by Marx. Marx says, “the philosophers have only interpreted the world in different ways, the point, however, is to change it.” (Marx-Engels, ‘The German Ideology’, Progress Publishers, Moscow, page 617). It’s not that Ambedkar understood Marx’s dictum wrongly, he in fact did not understand it at all. Further Ambedkar says, “society is divided into two classes, owners and workers.” Even here Ambedkar is misinforming us. Marxism does not consider the capitalist system (or any other pre-capitalist system) as being divided into only two classes. Marxism tells us that owner and workers form the two main classes of capitalist society, but it does not deny the existence of other (middle) classes. Ambedkar informs us that Marx says, “the workers are exploited by the owners who misappropriate the surplus value, which is the result of the workers’ labour.” Here Ambedkar is partially correct that the owners exploit the workers, but Marxism does not talk of making good use or misuse of the surplus value. Marxism tells us that the only source of the capitalists’ money (profit) is the exploitation of the labour of workers (surplus value). Marxism does not say any such thing that if the owner class uses this surplus value benevolently then the workers’ exploitation is right and if it misuses it them it is wrong.
Further Ambedkar tells us that many of the things mentioned in the original corpus of Marxian creed have been disproved by history. He says that Marxism has been subjected to much criticism ever since it came into being. As a result of this criticism much of the ideological structure raised by Karl Marx has been demolished. There is hardly any doubt that Marx’s claim that his socialism was inevitable has been completely disproved. The dictatorship of the Proletariat was first established in 1917 in one country after a period of about seventy years (Ambedkar was not even aware as to when was ‘Capital’ published) after the publication of his Das Capital, the gospel of socialism. Even when the Communism—which is another name for the dictatorship of the Proletariat—came to Russia, it did not come as something inevitable without any kind of human effort. Height of ignorance! Ambedkar’s understanding of Marxism is highly immature. Even a normal student of Marxism could understand that this is totally absurd. Has Marx said anywhere that since socialism is inevitable, it would be established without any human effort? Marx repeatedly tells that socialism (dictatorship of proletariat) could be established only by overthrowing the capitalist system through the organised and conscious attempts (class struggle) of the proletarian class. Ambedkar says that ‘communism is the another name of the dictatorship of the proletariat.’ It is utterly childish! According to Marxism communism is the advance stage of socialism where class, class struggle and the state which happens to be the product of these contradictions will cease to exist.
So communism is not the other name of the dictatorship of the proletariat, rather both are opposite of each other.
After claiming that a large part of Marxism has been demolished, Ambedkar informs us that only following four items remain as a residue of Marxism:
(i) The function of philosophy is to reconstruct the world and not to waste its time in explaining the origin of the world.
(ii) That there is a conflict of interest between one class and another class.
(iii) That private ownership of property brings power to one class and sorrow to another through exploitation.
(iv) That it is necessary for the good of society that sorrow be removed by the abolition of private property. (Dr. Ambedkar, ‘Collected Works,’ Hindi edition, Vol. 7, p. 347)
After this Ambedkar goes on to compare Buddha and Karl Marx and he says that Buddha and Karl Marx have agreement on these four points and on the first point there is complete agreement between Buddha and Karl Marx. We have already seen that the first point which is discussed in Ambedkar’s explanation of Marxism (residual) is totally absurd. Marx did not say it at all. As regards the second point, Ambedkar says that as per Buddha “there is always strife going on between kings, between nobles, between Brahmins, between house holders, between mother and son, between son and father, between brother and sister, between sister and brother, between companion and companion . . .” (ibid. p. 347) In response to this argument made by Ambedkar, Rangnaykamma writes, “In view of Ambedkar, the Buddha’s observations amount to speaking of class struggle.
“Even those who not at all know anything about classes will not be in such a pathetic condition as this!
“When we speak of ‘classes’, we assume the existence of ‘owner-labourers’ relationship. We also assume existence of exploitation of labour. …
“Classes are based on exploitation of labour! Class struggle and different interests are based on classes.
“Based on these principles, we understand classes in any kind of society. …
“We will be able to understand classes, sections within the classes and the entire set of social relations only when we clearly know about the exploitation of labour.
Ambedkar’s claim that ‘the Buddha had already talked about the classes’ has nothing to do with classes. If we properly understand classes, we can understand the nature of conflicts which the Buddha observed.” (Ranganayakamma, Ibid., p. 309-310)
While explaining the third and fourth point Ambedkar tells as to how Buddha eliminated private property which happens to be the cause of all miseries, how the Buddhist monks could not keep any private property apart from eight personal items. This comparison of Ambedkar has nothing to do with the Marxist principles of elimination of property. As per the Marxist teaching first of all the proletarian class organises itself into the leadership of its revolutionary (communist) party and captures the state from the bourgeois class. Subsequently it undertakes the gradual socialisation of the means of production and other forms of property and its purpose is to continuously move towards a classless society. Marxism is concerned with the material and cultural prosperity of humanity.
Towards the end of his article, Ambedkar has compared the means adopted by Buddha and Marxism for achieving their aim (As per Ambedkar both have the same aim). Ambedkar says, “the means adopted by the Communists are equally clear, short and swift. They are (1) Violence and (2) Dictatorship of the Proletariat”(ibid). As regards violence, Ambedkar says, “violence cannot be totally abandoned. Buddha was against violence. But he was also in favour of justice and wherever force is required for justice he has permitted it” (ibid). But Ambedkar condemns the communists for violence because “The communists preach violence as an absolute principle” (ibid). But Ambedkar does not provide any reference to support his accusation. He presumes that when communists advocate violence, this violence is not for justice. If the working classes use violence in response to the violence imposed upon them by the exploiting classes for getting rid of exploitation-oppression, is it not for justice? If even this is not for justice then what is Ambedkar’s definition of justice? On this Ambedkar has maintained a studied silence.
Even on the question of dictatorship and democracy, Ambedkar is badly confused. He does not even understand that what he calls democracy is actually the dictatorship of class, one or another. In capitalist democracy it is the dictatorship of the bourgeois class. For the bourgeois class it is democracy and for the proletariat class it is dictatorship. The only “crime” the Marxists commit is that they call a spade a spade. The dictatorship of proletariat is the dictatorship for the bourgeois class and democracy for the proletarian and other toiling classes.
Overall it can be said that the Ambedkar’s interpretation and criticism of Marxism is extremely childish and ridiculous. It is a product of Ambedkar’s ignorance and lack of reading.
4) Ambedkar’s Economics
While writing and speaking on the economic questions Ambedkar comes to the fore as a bourgeois economist. On the question of the building thr Indian economy after independence there is no difference between the Nehru-Mahalnabis-Tata-Birla plan and the thoughts of Ambedkar. Ambedkar advocates a public sector capitalism which is also known as mixed economy. (To know in detail the thoughts of Ambedkar on this question, see Dr. Ambedkar, Complete Works vol. 2 ). After independence the capitalist class adopted the same path for the capitalist transformation of Indian economy. In fact this was the only alternative for the capitalist transformation of a semi-feudal economy which was available to the emaciated capitalist class which was born out of a colonial structure and which had come to power in the particular historical conditions prevailing at the time of independence. And the Indian capitalist class chose the same alternative. In this way the Indian capitalist class did not do a radical rupture from imperialism nor did it give a revolutionary blow to colonial-feudal socio-economic-political formations which it had inherited. The Indian capitalist class either ended these formations in a long historical process or adopted them after modifying a bit. This path of capitalist development has been extremely painful for the toiling masses of India. The outcome of the capitalist development of last 65 years is in front of everyone. Today we are living in a society which is much polarised than ever. The toiling masses (Dalits constitute a significant part of it) of India suffer from barbaric exploitation-oppression even today. This is the fate of the path suggested by Ambedkar for the emancipation of India.
In his above mentioned work, Ambedkar also gives a proposal before the capitalist class of nationalisation of agriculture. This Ambedkarite utopia of the nationalisation of agriculture was derived out of ignorance and the capitalist class of India never paid any attention to it. Actually even the industrial capitalist class wants the nationalisation of agriculture. It would end the absolute-rent received by the land-owners and the industrial capitalist class would get the cheap raw material from agriculture. But attacking one part of private property would raise the question mark over the whole system of private property. Therefore the bourgeois class will never take such a fatal step.
Ambedkar terms the totality of suggestions (nationalisation of agriculture, industry, insurance etc.) which he gave to the Indian capitalist class in his above work on the eve of independence as state socialism. What Ambedkar terms as state socialism is referred by Nehru as mix of “socialism” and capitalism (mix economy). In essence both are the same.
5) Ambedkar’s Sociology
Undoubtedly Ambedkar continued to struggle against untouchability and caste-system throughout his life. But does Ambedkar suggest any path for the elimination of the caste-system? On the question of elimination of the caste-system in India he has expressed his ideas in detail in his essay ‘Annihilation of caste’ (Ambedkar, Complete Works, vol 1). His essay is actually a draft of a speech which he prepared for the annual conference of the ‘Jaat-Paat-Todak-Mandal’ of Lahore to be held in 1936. But because of the disagreement of the the inaugural committee with the content of his speech, Ambedkar could not deliver this speech. Dalit intellectual Anand Teltumbde while comparing this essay with the Communist Manifesto says, “What Communist Manifesto is to the capitalist world, ‘Annihilation of Caste’ is to the caste-India. (Quoted by Asit Das in ‘Marxism and the Caste Question: An extended Review of Com. Anuradha Ghandy’s “Caste Question in India”, sanhati.com)
The Communist Manifesto shows the path of the emancipation of workers all over the world from the capitalist exploitation-oppression. Can the same be said about Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’ that it also shows the path of emancipation of crores of Dalits from caste-based repression-oppression and humiliation? Any person suffering from caste-based repression-oppression would feel happy when he will read the title of this essay (Annihilation of Caste). But alas, the reader of this essay gets disappointed because Ambedkar concludes that the annihilation of caste is impossible. Ambedkar mentions two reasons for the annihilation of caste to be impossible. The first is that the Brahmins would not be ready for it and secondly none of the castes would like it to be changed. Ambedkar says, “Speaking for myself, I see the task to be well nigh impossible. Perhaps you would like to know why I think so. Out of the many reasons, which have led me to take this view, I will mention some, which I regard much important. One of these reasons is the attitude of hostility, which the Brahmins have shown towards this question. The Brahmins form the vanguard of the movement for political reform and in some cases also of economic reform. But they are not to be found even as camp followers in the army raised to break down the barricades of Caste. Is there any hope of the Brahmins ever taking up a lead in the future in this matter? I say no. You may ask why? You may argue that there is no reason why Brahmins should continue to shun social reform. You may argue that the Brahmins know that the bane of Hindu Society is Caste and as an enlightened class could not be expected to be indifferent to its consequences. You may argue that there are secular Brahmins and priestly Brahmins and if the latter do not take up the cudgels on behalf of those who want to break Caste, the former will. All this of course sounds very plausible. But in all this it is forgotten that the break up of the Caste system is bound to affect adversely the Brahmin Caste. Having regard to this, is it reasonable to expect that the Brahmins will ever consent to lead a movement the ultimate result of which is to destroy the power and prestige of the Brahmin Caste? Is it reasonable to expect the secular Brahmins to take part in a movement directed against the priestly Brahmins? In my judgment, it is useless to make a distinction between the secular Brahmins and priestly Brahmins. Both are kith and kin. They are two arms of the same body and one bound to fight for the existence of the other…
“Some of you will say that it is a matter of small concern whether the Brahmins come forward to lead the movement against Caste or whether they do not. To take this view is in my judgment to ignore the part played by the intellectual class in the community. Whether you accept the theory of the great man as the maker of history or whether you do not, this much you will have to concede that in every country the intellectual class is the most influential class, if not the governing class. The intellectual class is the class which can foresee, it is the class which can advise and give lead. In no country does the mass of the people live the life of intelligent thought and action. It is largely imitative and follows the intellectual class. There is no exaggeration in saying that the entire destiny of a country depends upon its intellectual class. If the intellectual class is honest, independent and disinterested it can be trusted to take the initiative and give a proper lead when a crisis arises. It is true that intellect by itself is no virtue. It is only a means and the use of means depends upon the ends which an intellectual person pursues. An intellectual man can be a good man but he can easily be a rogue. Similarly an intellectual class may be a band of high-souled persons, ready to help, ready to emancipate erring humanity or it may easily be a gang of crooks or a body of advocates of a narrow clique from which it draws its support. You may think it a pity that the intellectual class in India is simply another name for the Brahmin caste. You may regret that the two are one; that the existence of the intellectual class should be bound with one single caste, that this intellectual class should share the interest and the aspirations of that Brahmin caste, which has regarded itself the custodian of the interest of that caste, rather than of the interests of the country. All this may be very regrettable. But the fact remains, that the Brahmins form the intellectual class of the Hindus. It is not only an intellectual class but it is a class which is held in great reverence by the rest of the Hindus…
“When such an intellectual class, which holds the rest of the community in its grip, is opposed to the reform of Caste, the chances of success in a movement for the break-up of the Caste system appear to me very, very remote.” (Ambedkar, Complete Works, vol. 1)
Ambedkar describes the second reason for the ‘annihilation of caste’ to be impossible in the following words: “The second reason, why I say the task is impossible, will be clear if you will bear in mind that the Caste system has two aspects. In one of its aspects, it divides men into separate communities. In its second aspect, it places these communities in a graded order one above the other in social status. Each caste takes its pride and its consolation in the fact that in the scale of castes it is above some other caste. As an outward mark of this gradation, there is also a gradation of social and religious rights technically spoken of an Ashta-dhikaras and Sanskaras. The higher the grade of a caste, the greater the number of these rights and the lower the grade, the lesser their number. Now this gradation, this scaling of castes, makes it impossible to organise a common front against the Caste System. If a caste claims the right to inter-dine and inter-marry with another caste placed above it, it is frozen, instantly it is told by mischief-mongers, and there are many Brahmins amongst such mischief-mongers, that it will have to concede inter-dining and inter-marriage with castes below it! All are slaves of the Caste System. But all the slaves are not equal in status. To excite the proletariat to bring about an economic revolution, Karl Marx told them: “You have nothing to lose except your chains.” But the artful way in which the social and religious rights are distributed among the different castes whereby some have more and some have less, makes the slogan of Karl Marx quite useless to excite the Hindus against the Caste System. Castes form a graded system of sovereignties, high and low, which are jealous of their status and which know that if a general dissolution came, some of them stand to lose more of their prestige and power than others do. You cannot, therefore, have a general mobilisation of the Hindus, to use a military expression, for an attack on the Caste System.”
Those suffering from the curse of the caste-system do not need to get disheartened because like all other questions, even on this question, Ambedkar while refuting his own notions says exactly the opposite of what he said above. He says that the annihilation of caste is possible. The panacea which he invented for this was inter-caste marriage. Ambedkar writes, “I am convinced that the real remedy is inter-marriage. Fusion of blood can alone create the feeling of being kith and kin and unless this feeling of kinship, of being kindred, becomes paramount the separatist feeling—the feeling of being aliens—created by Caste will not vanish. Among the Hindus inter-marriage must necessarily be a factor of greater force in social life…”
But according to Ambedkar, the biggest roadblock in the path of inter-caste marriages is Hindu religion. He says, “You are right in holding that Caste will cease to be an operative force only when inter-dining and inter-marriage have become matters of common course. You have located the source of the disease. But is your prescription the right prescription for the disease? Ask yourselves this question; Why is it that a large majority of Hindus do not inter-dine and do not inter-marry ? Why is it that your cause is not popular? There can be only one answer to this question and it is that inter-dining and inter-marriage are repugnant to the beliefs and dogmas which the Hindus regard as sacred.” (ibid.).
Ambedkar says that in order to pave the path of inter-dinning and inter-caste marriages among people a struggle needs to be waged against the Hindu religion and the Shastras. “People are not wrong in observing Caste. In my view, what is wrong is their religion, which has inculcated this notion of Caste. If this is correct, then obviously the enemy, you must grapple with, is not the people who observe Caste, but the Shastras which teach them this religion of Caste. Criticising and ridiculing people for not inter-dining or inter-marrying or occasionally holding inter-caste dinners and celebrating inter-caste marriages, is a futile method of achieving the desired end. The real remedy is to destroy the belief in the sanctity of the Shastras. How do you expect to succeed, if you allow the Shastras to continue to mould the beliefs and opinions of the people?
“To agitate for and to organise inter-caste dinners and inter-caste marriages is like forced feeding brought about by artificial means. Make every man and woman free from the thraldom of the Shastras , cleanse their minds of the pernicious notions founded on the Shastras, and he or she will inter-dine and inter-marry, without your telling him or her to do so.”
But where is the magical wand through which the people’s belief in the Shastras could be destroyed and every man and woman could be freed from the shackles of Shastras? He does not reveal it.
But Ambedkar does not stop here. He tells yet another remedy for the annihilation of caste, “you will get an idea why I think that breaking-up of Caste amongst the Hindus is well-nigh impossible. At any rate, it would take ages before a breach is made. But whether the doing of the deed takes time or whether it can be done quickly, you must not forget that if you wish to bring about & breach in the system then you have got to apply the dynamite to the Vedas and the Shastras, which deny any part to reason, to Vedas and Shastras, which deny any part to morality. You must destroy the Religion of the Shrutis and the Smritis. Nothing else will avail. This is my considered view of the matter.” (ibid.)
Further Ambedkar says, “Some may not understand what I mean by destruction of Religion; some may find the idea revolting to them and some may find it revolutionary.” (ibid.)
Further Ambedkar takes yet another somersault, instead of destroying religion he now begins to talk of reform in religion. He says, “While I condemn a Religion of Rules, I must not be understood to hold the opinion that there is no necessity for a religion. On the contrary, I agree with Burke when he says that, “True religion is the foundation of society, the basis on which all true Civil Government rests, and both their sanction.” Consequently, when I urge that these ancient rules of life be annulled, I am anxious that its place shall be taken by a Religion of Principles, which alone can lay claim to being a true Religion. (ibid.)
After this Ambedkar provides a long list of reforms needed in Hindu religion.
So this is Ambedkar’s path of ‘Annihilation of Caste’ which is compared by Anand Teltumbde with the Communist Manifesto. And intellectuals like Asit Das owing to their defeatist mindset and due to the fear that the Dalit might be pissed off, avoid any kind of criticism of Ambedkar and nod in agreement with the “Dalit” intellectuals.
Talking in today’s context, the path of inter-caste marriages which was suggested by Ambedkar for the annihilation of Caste could be effective to a great extent in making a dent on the caste-system. But it would not be possible through any utopian reforms within the Hindu religion (as suggested by Ambedkar). There cannot be arranged inter-caste marriage. Only inter-caste love marriage is possible. For love, what one requires is time, education and culture. But even now about 90 percent of the Dalit population are wage-slaves which do not have time, nor do they have education and culture for love. A culture-less love cannot be a human love, it could only be animal love. For the spread of education and culture among the Dalits what is required is to improve their economic condition and for that the current capitalist production-relations will have to be changed. Ambedkar rightly said that for annihilating caste inter-dinning and inter-caste marriages should be promoted. But how will that be possible? In response to this question he has only created a utopia of reforms in Hindu religion.
During the last days of his life Ambedkar told yet another path for the annihilation of caste. It was the path of religious conversion. But even on this Ambedkar does not have any clear cut view. Like all questions even on this question he says contradictory things.
He says, “”Can an untouchable after his conversion to Christianity take water from a public well? Are his children admitted to a public school? Can he enter a shop and buy things from inside? Will a barber shave him? Will a washerman wash his clothes? Can he travel in a bus? Will he be admitted in public offices without compunction? Will he be allowed to live in the touchable quarters of the village? Will the Hindus take water from him? Will they dine with him? Will not the Hindus take a bath if he touches him?” (Ambedkar quoted by Ranganayakamma, ‘For the solution of the “Caste” question, Buddha is not enough, Ambedkar is not enough either, Marx is a must’, p. 403.)
In response to these questions Ambedkar says: “I am sure the answer to every one of these questions must be in the negative. In other words conversion has not brought any change in the social status of the untouchable convert. To the general mass of Hindus the untouchable remains an untouchable even though he becomes a Christian (Ibid. p. 403).”
In 1956 when Ambedkar embraced Buddhist religion by giving up Hindu religion and asked other Dalits also to follow suit, he did not raise the same questions with regard to the Buddhist religion which he raised with regard to the Christian religion.
But, can the path of religious conversion being suggested by Ambedkar for the annihilation of caste help in annihilating the caste? Did the Dalits get emancipated from the caste-system after embracing the Buddhist religion? The answers to these questions are in the negative. The Dalits who embraced Buddhist religion by giving up Hinduism began to be called as neo-Buddhists. The term Neo-Buddhists became synonym of Dalit. Even among the Dalit Buddhists the caste-discrimination continued. Actually religious conversion is no solution to the caste question. If all the Dalits embrace Buddhist religion, the name of Dalit will become Buddhist. If people belonging to all the castes embrace Buddhism its fate will be similar to Sikh, Christianity and Islam. These religions do not believe in casteism but casteism continues to be followed by its followers. Only the name of caste has been changed. Among Sikhs, the Chamars became Ramdasiye Sikh, chuhde became mazhabi sikh and Jats became Jat Sikh. Even Islam has the similar situation. The followers of this religion are also divided in several castes such as Sheikhs, Ansari, Dhunia, Kabadi, Kasim, Hazzam etc.
Ambedkar either believes annihilation of caste to be impossible or contrary to his own belief when he gives suggestions for the annihilation of caste, they are all impractical and utopian.
6) Ambedkar’s History Writing
Whatever has been written by Ambedkar in the name of history is highly ludicrous. It is full of fairy tales. To know it the readers can see Ambedkar’s works such as ‘Castes in India: Their mechanism, genesis and development’, ‘The untouchables: who were they and how they became untouchables?’, ‘Revolution and Counter-Revolution’, ‘Buddha and his Dhamma’ etc. Rangnayakamna in her book ‘For the solution of ‘Caste’ question, Ambedkar is not enough, Buddha is also not enough, Marx is must’ has also staunchly criticised this so-called history writing of Ambedkar. The readers can refer to this as well.
A thorough criticism of Ambedkar’s highly ludicrous “history writing” would require a huge book. But it would be a worthless task. Therefore, we will limit ourselves to only two questions. One of the questions is, the origin of caste-system and the second is the origin of Buddhism, its role in relation to caste and its fall. Ambedkar’s writings on both these questions are fanciful. Today we have loads of scientific research on both these questions. After so much research on the caste question and Buddhism, no one apart from the blind followers of Ambedkar would agree with the fanciful writings of Ambedkar.
First let us take the question of the origin of the caste. On this Ambedkar writes, “It is my turn now, this evening, to entertain you, as best I can, with a paper on Castes in India: Their mechanism, genesis and development.”
“I need hardly remind you of the complexity of the subject I intend to handle. Subtler minds and abler pens than mine have been brought to the task of unravelling the mysteries of Caste; but unfortunately it still, remains in the domain of the “ unexplained “, not to say of the “ un-understood “ I am quite alive to the complex intricacies of a hoary institution like Caste, but I am net so pessimistic as to relegate it to the region of the unknowable, for I believe it can be known.” (‘Complete Works’, vol. 1)
Ambedkar quickly “solves” this complex subject. He says, “Having explained the mechanism of the creation and preservation of Caste in India, the further question as to its genesis naturally arises… As for myself I do not feel puzzled by the Origin of Caste in India for, as I have established before, endogamy is the only characteristic of Caste.” (ibid.)
But how did endogamy come into existence? In response to this question Ambedkar says that it was started by Brahmins. It means The Brahmins were present even before the beginning of endogamy. So the caste-system was not born due to endogamy. But Ambedkar does not bother to address these questions. For Ambedkar, caste-system is not an incomprehensible-unknowable mystery, but for the reader even after reading his entire article the origin of caste-system continues to be an incomprehensible and unknowable mystery. Ambedkar does not help even a bit towards solving the mystery.
The question of the origin of the caste-system remained an incomprehensible and unknowable mystery for Ambedkar (even if he claims contrary to it), but the Marxist historians such as D.D. Kosambi, R.S. Sharma, Suvira Jaiswal, Irfan Habib etc. have taken up the task of solving this mystery. These historians believe that the caste-system was a kind of division of labour. R.S. Sharma writes, “The caste-system began on the basis of division of labour.” Irfan Habib writes on this, “I believe that it will be useful to follow the perspective which was clearly and cogently practised by Kosambi. This perspective is the one developed by Karl Marx. Caste should be viewed primarily in its role in different social formations that have arisen in a chain of sequence. A social formation, in so far as it is based on the form of the ‘labour process’, arises after the producers in society are able to provide a ‘surplus’. It is vain to expect a social institution like caste to exist before this stage has arrived. Indeed, Dumont himself recognises this, for he admits that the emergence of castes presupposes division of labour which cannot be found in primitive societies.(‘Caste and Money in Indian History’) Further he writes, “this primitive division of labour in the form of caste-system has been adopted by all the subsequent social systems my moulding it as per their requirement. And today it exists as a capitalist caste-system. Being a relatively rigid form of division of labour, the caste system formed part of the relations of production.” (‘Caste and Money in Indian History’). Further he writes, “Being a relatively rigid form of division of labour, the caste system formed part of the relations of production.” (ibid.). D. D. Kosambi says, “Caste-system is a class-system of a primitive stage of production.” (‘Culure and Civilisation of Ancient India: an historical outline’).
Much like the origin of the caste-system Ambedkar could not understand at all the origin of Buddhist religion, its relation with the caste-system and the reasons for its fall. Ambedkar says that the Buddhist religion originated as a reaction of the degeneration of the Aryan civilisation. He does not discuss the material conditions behind the origin of the Buddhist religion at all. He says, “Buddhism was a revolution. It was as great a Revolution as the French Revolution. Though it began as a Religious revolution, it became more than Religious revolution. It became a Social and Political Revolution. To be able to realise how profound was the character of this Revolution, it is necessary to know the state of the society before the revolution began its course. To use the language of the French Revolution, it is necessary to have a picture of the ancient regime in India.
“To understand the great reform, which he brought about by his teaching, it is necessary to have some idea of the degraded condition of the Aryan civilisation at the time when Buddha started on the mission of his life.”
Ambedkar provides a long list of the evils which were introduced in the life of Aryans. While discussing the Buddhist religion with reference to caste, he says, “Thirdly Buddha denounced the caste system. The Caste System in its present form was not then existing. The bar against inter-dining and inter-marriage had not then become operative. Things were flexible and not rigid as they are now. But the principle of inequality which is the basis of the caste system had become well established and it was against this principle that Buddha carried on a determined and a bitter fight.
“In the matter of his opposition to Caste, Buddha practised what he preached. He did what the Aryan Society refused to do. In the Aryan Society the Shudra or low caste man could never become a Brahman. But Buddha not only preached against caste but admitted the Shudra and the low caste to the rank of a Bhikku who held the same rank in Buddhism as the Brahman did in Brahmanism.”
Ambedkar holds the Muslim invasions to be responsible for the fall of Buddhist religion, “The furious massacre perpetrated in many places by Musalman invaders were more efficacious than Orthodox Hindu persecutions, and had a great deal to do with the disapperance of Buddhism in several provinces (of India).”
But Marxist historians have different opinion on all these questions. D.N. Jha writes about the origin of the Buddhist religion, “The newly developed features of the social and economic life of the people did not fit in with the Vedic ritualism and animal sacrifices, which had become a source of the senseless decimation of cattle wealth, the main basis of the new plough agriculture. The conflict between the Vedic religious practices and the aspirations of the rising social groups led to the search for new religious and philosophical ideas which would fit with the basic changes in the material life of the people…
“Certain features are common to Jainism and Buddhism. First, the proponents of both sects had to put in considerable mental and physical efforts. This is proved by the extremely austere life of Mahavira and Gautama. Secondly, both religions denied the authority of the Vedas and opposed animal sacrifice, which brought them into conflict with the brahmanical orthodoxy. The technological change owing to the introduction of iron led to the increasing development of plough cultivation which was mainly dependent on animal husbandry. Viewed in this background the doctrine of non-injury to animals appears significant. The concept of ahimsa popularised for the first time helped agriculture which can support at least ten times as many people per square mile as a pastoral economy in the same region. But undue emphasis on nonviolence in Jainism stood in the way of its propagation among the agriculturists whose profession necessarily involved killing insects and pests…
“Compared to Jainism, Buddhism was moderate in its stress on the doctrine of ahimsa…
“Since Buddhism, unlike Jainism, showed a greater awareness of the contemporary needs of agriculture it was acceptable to the village folk.” (‘Ancient India’, D.N. Jha).
About the approach of Buddhist religion towards caste-system, Irfan Habib writes, “almost everyone seems agreed that in universalising the caste system within India, Brahmanas have played a key role, and that by integrating the caste doctrine into the dharma, Brahmanas made the caste system and Brahmanism inseparable. One result of these assumptions has been that the role of Buddhism in the process of caste formations has often escaped notice.
“To anyone who reads Kautilya’s Arthashastra with its heavy stress on the varna system and then turns to Asoka’s edicts, the contrast is a striking one. The word varna (or jati) never appears in Asoka’s texts; obedience to the varna rules does not form even implicitly a part of the dharma that Asoka propagated and whose principles he inscribed on rocks and pillars. In so far as Buddhism rejected the religious supremacy of the Brahmans, it necessarily questioned the legitimacy of the varna division inherited from the Vedas.
“And yet it may be asked whether Buddhism did not have its own contributions to make to the development of the caste system. The karma doctrine or the belief in the transmigration of souls which formed the bedrock of Buddhist philosophy, was an ideal rationalisation of the caste system, creating a belief in its equity even among those who were its greatest victims. In the Manusmriti (XI, 24-26) it already appears as a firm part of the caste doctrine.
“Second, there was the stress on ahimsa. Kosambi attributed the stress on avoidance of animal-killing in Buddhism to the irrationality of large-scale slaughter of livestock for sacrifice by Brahmanas, once settled agriculture had replaced pastoralism. Kosambi did not, of course, intend to disparage the sincerity of the Buddha’s disapproval of violence or cruelty (and, after all, Asoka condemned the massacres by his army in Kalinga). What he implied was that any criticism of the large-scale animal sacrifices would be popular among the ‘cattle-raising vaisya’. But I would like respectfully to suggest what seems to me to be a more plausible reason why ahimsa should have become a popular doctrine. It provided reason for the subjugation and humiliation of the food-gathering communities. The Asokan edicts contain injunctions against hunting and fishing, and the Buddhist texts look down on ‘animal-killing jatis’ as much as the brahmanical texts do.
“Indeed, here Buddhism also contributed to the ultimate denigration of the peasantry in the varna structure. R.S. Sharma of exposition of how the shudra and the vaisya varna came to be regarded as the category to which peasants must belong is practically definitive. In this denigration the ahimsa doctrine too was made to play a part. Manu (X, 84) condemns the use of the plough for the injury that its iron point causes to living creatures. This is echoed in later Buddhism; Itsing says that the Buddha forbade monks from engaging in cultivation because this involved ‘destroying lives by ploughing and watering field.’
“It would, therefore, be wrong to suppose that the caste ideology has been exclusively Brahmanical in its development.” (“Caste and Money in Indian History”).
The Buddhist religion could never become a challenge to the social system. In the Buddhist monasteries, there was no entry to the indebtors and slaves. (DN Jha, ibid.). So comparing it with the French Revolution (which ended Feudalism in Europe and heralded a new era in the history of mankind) is not at all apt.
As regards the fall of the Buddhist religion, this fall had begun in the lifetime of Buddha itself when it became the state-religion. We have already discussed this in this paper.
The reason for Ambedkar’s ignorance about history lies in his idealist world view which prevents him from going to the root of the historical events and the phenomena. It is because of this idealist world view that Ambedkar considers caste to be a superstructural question and does not see its root in the division of labour or the production relations (base). Hence he sees even the solution to this problem in the reform in the Hindu religion and freedom from Shastra.
7) On Advocating Unity Between Marxism and Ambedkarism
There are numerous shades of Dalit intellectuals. Some say that Marxist philosophy is economic deterministic. Some say that Marxism is not relevant in Indian context because Indian society is divided across caste lines. But at the same time there is yet another stream of “Dalit” intellectuals which considers Marxism as necessary for India but along with Ambedkarism. They say that in order to end the caste-based and class-based exploitation-oppression Marxism needs to be amalgamated with Ambedkarism.
The attempts of amalgamating Marxism and Ambedkarism are not new, such attempts have been made in the past as well. Sometime back Sharad Patil formed Satyashodhak Communist Party in Maharashtra which used to believ in Marxism-Phule-Ambedkarism as its guiding principle. Hindi writer Manager Pandey who is known as a Marxist critic also stresses on the unity between Marxism and Ambedkarism. Dalit writer Thomas Mathew also gives the same line. Another Dalit writer Anand Teltumbde says the same thing using different words. He says that prerequisite for bringing about any social change in India is a strong Dalit movement which while fighting the remnants of Brahmanism is capable of taking a class orientation and assimilating the toiling masses from all the other castes, and there should also be a strong communist movement which incorporates into its class struggle the agenda of the struggle against social and cultural discrimination. (See his article, Theorising the Dalit Movement: A Viewpoint)
But, is any such unity between Marxism and Ambedkarism at all possible? Those advocating unity between Marxism and Ambedkarism do not tell us concretely as what Marxism can take from Ambedkarism to enrich itself. A unity between Marxism and Ambedkarism would mean unity on philosophical plane; unity on political, economic and sociological plane. But in all these matters Marxism and Ambedkarism stand opposite to each other.
The philosophical base of Marxism is dialectical materialism, whereas Ambedkar remained a metaphysical idealist throughout his life. In the last days of his life, he reached to the primitive mechanical materialist Buddhism. This materialism was materialistic with regard to understanding the relation between man and nature while in relation to understanding the social relations it too was idealist only. And Ambedkar does not even take the primitive materialism of Buddha, he only takes individual conduct. As regards understanding the social relations, Ambedkar remained a metaphysical idealist throughout his life. Dialectical materialism serves the progressive classes, it is their intellectual and spiritual weapon. On the contrary metaphysical idealism serves the moribund exploiting classes.
Talking about politics, Marxism paves the way for the establishment of dictatorship of proletariat through class struggle. The dictatorship of proletariat would be merely a means for eradicating class differentiation from society, ending exploitation of a man by a man and for taking socialism to a classless society—communism. In the process of developing socialism to classless communism even the dictatorship of proletariat would become redundant and in a natural process it would end.
On the other hand, Ambedkar’s politics advocates for reconciliation with the exploiting classes. It gives the line of appeasing the wretched exploited toiling masses through the lollypop of some minor reforms within the the capitalist system based upon the foundation of exploitation and oppression by making the toiling masses a part of the system.
Marxist political economy exposes the capitalist exploitation. It tells us that the exploitation of labour is the only source for the profit of capitalist. For ending this exploitation it is necessary that the working class unites itself in the leadership of the Communist Party and overthrows the rule of the capitalists and establish its dictatorship. Only then it could socialise all the forms of property.
On the other hand Ambedkar’s economics is utopian. It favours public sector capitalism. It advocates for continuing the exploitation of the toiling masses by the capitalists.
Marxism teaches us that the social-cultural discrimination could be ended only when its material basis—production relations—is smashed. To preclude any confusion, we must clarify that Marxism does not teach that with the change in the production relations the socio-cultural discrimination would end on its own. For this perpetual cultural revolution would be required in the process of changing the production-relations (revolution) and even afterwards.
As regards Ambedkar, he does not have any programme of ending socio-cultural discrimination. On the question of annihilation of caste, be believes that it is impossible. Later on without giving any clarification he calls for religious conversion for the annihilation of caste which could not affect the caste-system even a bit.
It is not clear as to why the supporters of Ambedkar are insisting on the unity between Marxism and Ambedkarism when Ambedkar himself was dead against Marxism. Perhaps he did not show as much hatred towards Brahmanism as he showed against Marxism. After all it was Ambedkar who termed Marxism as ‘pig’s philosophy’ (‘Buddha or Karl Marx’).
Marxism is an ideology of the revolutionary working class while Ambedkarism happens to be a shade of bourgeois liberalism. Both these ideologies represent the interests of the classes which are antagonistic to each other. Any unity between both of them is impossible.
Ambedkar waged a relentless struggle against untouchability and caste-system which happens to be a curse of Indian society. Due to these struggles a new awareness for their rights was indeed generated among the masses suffering from caste-based repression-oppression for generations. But despite its noble purpose this stream of social-reform in the leadership of Ambedkar was bereft with any comprehensive project for the emancipation of Dalits. We do not see any path of Dalit emancipation in the overall philosophic, political, economic and social thoughts of Ambedkar.
We would like to end this paper with these words of Bhagat Singh, “Arise! So called untouchables, the real sustainers of life, awake!…
“waste no time and unite to stand on your own feet and challenge the existing order of society. Let it then be seen as to who dares to deny to you your due. Do not be at the mercy of others and have no illusions about them. Be on guard so as not to fall in the trap of officialdom, because far from being your ally it seeks to make you dance on its own tunes. The capitalist bureaucratic combine is, truly speaking responsible for your oppression and poverty. Hence always shun it. Be on guard about its tricks. This is then the way out. You are the real working class. Workers unite – you have nothing to lose but your chains. Arise and rebel against the existing order. Gradualism and reformism shall be of no avail to you. Start a revolution from a social agitation and gird up your loins for political economic revolution. You and you alone are the pillars of the nations and its core strength. Awake, O sleeping lions! Rebel, raise the banner of revolt.” (Bhagat Singh, The untouchable, published in ‘Kirti’ (Punjab) June 1929).
(Translated from Hindi: Anand Singh)