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Ambedkar and Gandhi – A rivalry of ideologies

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By Harshmeet Singh

It won’t be incorrect to say that no other political leader had so much impact on the text of the Indian Constitution as Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi. These two stalwarts championed the cause of the society in their very own ways. Despite working towards a common goal, Ambedkar and Gandhi were often at loggerheads with each other. Neither of them held back his criticism of other’s ideologies.

The animosity between the two great leaders was never a closed door affair. Ambedkar believed that Gandhi wasn’t sensitive enough to understand the real plight of the untouchables. For Gandhi, freedom struggle was a much more significant goal as compared to the interests of the untouchables.

The question of caste

While assuming the leadership of the lower castes in the country, Ambedkar strengthened his understanding of the caste system by critically analyzing the Hindu scriptures and their justification behind the caste system. While Ambedkar was against the entire caste system, Gandhi’s primary concern was the caste based discrimination which was rampant in the society. For Gandhi, removal of untouchability would bring an automatic end to the caste system. Therefore, Gandhi never launched any Satyagraha on the issues of caste or caste based inequality – a point which Ambedkar often used to criticize Gandhi. Though Gandhi made several appeals to the Hindus to put an end to untouchability, he didn’t favor a separate political identity for the untouchables which could be achieved through separate electorates for the depressed classes. Instead, Gandhi agreed for reservation of seats for the lower classes. An agreement for the same was signed between Gandhi and Ambedkar, which was termed as ‘Poona Pact’.

Ambedkar argued that values of apartheid are inbuilt in Hinduism. He said that discrimination against the lower class and women are critical parts of Brahmanism. (He said that there is nothing like Hinduism. Hindu was a term given by Muslims to those who lived by the river Indus. Hinduism is actually Brahmanism and is made to suit the needs of Brahmins.) Ambedkar, therefore, urged his followers to convert to Buddhism.

There are proofs to suggest that Gandhi believed that the varna system is for division of labor. Everyone should attend the duties of his varna, Gandhi suggested. While responding to Ambedkar’s arguments, Gandhi wrote an essay called ‘The Ideal Bhangi’, wherein he mentions that “Brahmin’s duty to look after the sanitation of the soul, the Bhangi’s that of the body of society. In my opinion, an ideal Bhangi should have a thorough knowledge of the principles of sanitation. He should know how a right kind of latrine is constructed and the correct way of cleaning it. My ideal Bhangi would know the quality of night soil and urine. He would keep a close watch on these and give a timely warning to the individual concerned.” 

For all their differences, Gandhi and Ambedkar also had a few meeting points, with the most important being their idea of an ideal society based on the values of fraternity and justice. A rivalry such as this where critique is answered with explanation is hard to find in today’s time. Though these two great leaders followed opposite ideologies, they certainly justified their stance with their emancipating acts.

The author is a Freelance writer. This article was written exclusively for NewsGram.

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As The Election Nears, India’s Opposition Promises Several Economic Steps

Modi said at the Delhi convention that the opposition was working on a "desperate alliance," while the BJP would give a "strong government."

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Rahul Gandhi, Election
Rahul Gandhi, president of India's main opposition Congress Party, speaks at a rally ahead of October's 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

India’s main opposition Congress Party will simplify the goods and services tax (GST) and make “rational economic decisions” to attract foreign investment if voted back to power in a general election due by May, leader Rahul Gandhi said Saturday.

Launched in 2017, the GST was initially hailed as Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s biggest economic reform as it replaced more than a dozen federal and state levies and unified Asia’s third-largest economy.

But its chaotic implementation and complexities — months after a shock ban by Modi on high-value bank currency aimed at unearthing untaxed wealth — badly hurt small businesses and led to millions of job losses in the cash-driven economy, presenting the biggest challenge to Modi’s re-election chances.

India,India, elections, BJP
India’s Congress party President Rahul Gandhi displays documents in New Delhi, India. VOA

 

Gandhi, scion of India’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, said during a visit to Dubai that foreign investment was at a multiyear low in India because of the “ill-advised and badly thought out economic moves” such as the currency ban and a “poorly designed GST.”

Quick growth promised

“We will take some rational economic decisions,” he told a press conference, which was broadcast live on Twitter. “We will restructure the GST and we will embrace investments from the Middle East and other parts of the world. We are the party of [India’s economic] liberalization; we are the party that gave the fastest economic growth in the first decade of the century, and will do that again.”

He said his main priority would be to create jobs, simplify the GST, rebuild confidence in institutions such as the Reserve Bank of India — whose governor resigned recently after a fight over autonomy with the government, and the Supreme Court.

Modi, election
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, center, is garlanded by BJP leaders on the first day of the two-day Bharatiya Janata Party national convention in New Delhi, Jan. 11, 2019. VOA

 

Four Supreme Court judges held a rare press conference early last year, saying that “unless this institution is preserved and it maintains its equanimity, democracy will not survive in this country.”

Modi told a BJP convention in New Delhi on Saturday that for Congress “every institution was wrong and only they were right.”

The Congress press conference was organized by the Indian Overseas Congress, which is present in about 35 countries, as Gandhi tries to reach out to rich Indians living abroad for funds and social media support for the party that has dominated the country’s politics for decades before being nearly decimated in the last general election in 2014 by Modi.

But back home, Gandhi received a jolt when bitter rivals, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), announced an election tie-up without Congress in Uttar Pradesh state, which sends the highest number of lawmakers to the lower house of parliament.

Narendra Modi, India, election
Elaborate preparations for PM’s election rally. VOA

“The BSP and SP have made a political decision,” Gandhi said. “It’s on us on how to strengthen the Congress Party in Uttar Pradesh and we will fight with our full capacity. Whether we do or their alliance does, the BJP is not winning there.”

Also Read:China, India Keen on Joint Ventures For e-vehicles

Modi said at the Delhi convention that the opposition was working on a “desperate alliance,” while the BJP would give a “strong government.”

The Hindu nationalist BJP lost power in three key states recently, forcing the government to announce a flurry of measures to woo small businesses and the less well-off since then. (VOA)