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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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Interesting Life Facts About Dr BR Ambedkar

Dr BR Ambedkar came from a middle-class Dalit family and barely had money to make ends meet but still, he didn’t budge on his efforts against social injustices.

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Dr BR Ambedkar efforts to eradicate untouchability and the caste system were phenomenal. Wikimedia Commons
Dr BR Ambedkar efforts to eradicate untouchability and the caste system were phenomenal. Wikimedia Commons
  • Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar
  • Dr BR Ambedkar inspired the Modern Buddhist Movement in India
  • In 1924, Dr BR Ambedkar formed a community for removing difficulties of the untouchables and placing their grievances before government

“I do not want that our loyalty as Indians should be in the slightest way affected by any competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises out of our religion, out of our culture or out of our language. I want all people to be Indians first, Indian last, and nothing else but Indians.”

These were the words from one of the greatest social reformers of our nation and the most influential name who worked against social discrimination. Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar. He was an exceptional leader that modern India has ever seen. Dr BR Ambedkar had multi feathers like that of a jurist, politician and an economist in his hat.

Also Read: Savitribai Phule: The Pioneer Of The Women Education In India

Dr BR Ambedkar was independent India’s first Law Minister and known to be the author of India’s constitution. He used education as a means to rise above all odds and envisioned India to stand on the ladder of prosperity and development. He inspired the Modern Buddhist Movement in India and pioneered campaigns against social discrimination against Dalits, women and labour. He wanted India’s to be a real democratic country and even quoted:

“Democracy is not merely a form of government.It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards our fellow men.”

Dr BR Ambedkar was elected as the first Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly.
Dr BR Ambedkar was elected as the first Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly.

Dr BR Ambedkar was born in 1891 in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh and died due to severe diabetic neurosis on 6 December 1956 at his home in Delhi. After his demise, his political party was renamed as Republican Party of India in 1957 by his followers. This visionary’s birthday is celebrated as Ambedkar Jayanti in India, every year. He came from a middle-class Dalit family and barely had money to make ends meet but still, he didn’t budge on his efforts against social injustices.

Also Read: Swami Vivekananda’s Quotes That Will Inspire You To The Fullest

The legacy of one of India’s brilliant leader should be noted down well and hence; we have taken up few of the facts about his life and struggle, take a look:

  1. Dr BR Ambedkar ‘s real name was Ambavadekar but his teacher, Mahadev Ambedkar, who was very fond of him, changed his surname from ‘Ambavadekar’ to his own surname ‘Ambedkar’.
  2. Ambedkar was very much against the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gives a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He even offered his resignation for his condition of removing Article 370 from the constitution.
  3. In 1924, Dr BR Ambedkar formed a community for removing difficulties of the untouchables and placing their grievances before government. He named it ‘Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha’.
  4. In First Round Table Conference which was held in London on November 12, 1930, Dr BR Ambedkar and Rao Bahadur Srinivasan represented the depressed classes in the assembly.
  5. In 1936, Dr BR Ambedkar formed the Independent Labour Party and participated in the provincial elections of Bombay. In that election, he won 13 seats out of 15 seats reserved for scheduled castes. The Party was transformed by Ambedkar as the All India Scheduled Castes Federation in 1942.
  6. Dr BR Ambedkar was against the strikes and protest by civil servants. In his views, the strike was nothing more than a breach of contract of service.

    Dr BR Ambedkar strongly campaigned against Caste System in India. Wikipedia Commons
    Dr BR Ambedkar strongly campaigned against Caste System in India. Wikipedia Commons
  7. Dr BR Ambedkar was appointed the member of Executive Council of Viceroy as a Labour member in July 1942 and he resigned from this post in May 1946.
  8. In January 1920, Dr BR Ambedkar started a weekly paper called ‘Mooknayak‘(Leader of the Dumb). Through this, he wanted to spread the cause of depressed classes in India.
  9. Due to differences with Jawahar Lal Nehru on the Hindu Code Bill, Dr BR Ambedkar resigned from the Cabinet on September 1951.
  10. Dr BR Ambedkar was elected as the first Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly. He is also referred as the father of the Indian Constitution. However, K.V. Rao portrayed Ambedkar as the mother of the Indian Constitution because according to him, the vital decisions about the Constitution were taken by Nehru and Patel, and Ambedkar followed the same.
  11. In 1952, Dr BR Ambedkar was defeated in the election mainly due to his advocacy of partition of Kashmir. But later in March, he was elected as a member of Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.
  12. It was Dr BR Ambedkar, who changed the working hours in India from 14 to 8 hours.

Also Read: Jamini Roy: A True Rebel Artist

Dr BR Ambedkar efforts to eradicate untouchability and the caste system were phenomenal. Also Being a writer, he wrote many famous books including-The Untouchable: Who are They and Why They Have Become Untouchables, Buddha and His Dhamma, The Rise and Fall of Hindu Women and many more.