Gandhi and Ambedkar, In remembrance and on special occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti 2021 Date: Baba Saheb’s 130th birth anniversary on 14 April; significance of the dayAlso known as Bhim Jayanti, BR Ambedkar’s birth anniversary is also celebrated as Equality Day in India as a tribute to Baba Saheb and his ideals
Why did Bhimrao Ambedkar call Gandhi a freak! How was Gandhi and Ambedkar related? There have been long debates on this question and much has been said and heard. Baba Saheb Ambedkar himself had put Gandhi in the dock because when you are not ‘Bhangi’ then how can you talk to us?In response, Gandhi said this much that I have no control over this, but if the only basis for working for ‘Bhangis’ is that someone is ‘Bhangi’ from birth or not, then I would like my next birth to be ‘Bhangi’ Are in your house
In the year 1955, Dr. Ambedkar gave a long talk on his relations and differences with Mahatma Gandhi in an interview given to the BBC.
Question: Don’t you think they made the fundamental changes? Gandhi and Ambedkar
Ambedkar: No, never. Rather, he used to play a double role all the time. He took out two newspapers in front of young India. The first ‘Harijan’ in English, and in Gujarat, he took out another newspaper which you call ‘Deenbandhu’ or something of the same kind. Gandhi and Ambedkar.
If you read both these newspapers, you will find how Gandhi cheated people. In the English newspaper, he described himself as an opponent of caste system and untouchability and a democratic himself. But if you read Gujarati magazine then you will see him as a more conservative person.
He was a supporter of caste system, varnashram dharma or all orthodox principles, which have kept India down in all times. Actually, one should write a biography of Gandhi by comparing his statement given in ‘Harijan’ and his statement in Gujarati newspaper. Gujarati paper has seven sections. there we can not compare Gandhi and Ambedkar.
The Western world only reads English papers, where Gandhi was advocating democratic ideals to maintain himself in the honor of Westerners who believe in democracy. But you also have to see what he actually talked to people in his local paper.
No one seems to have made any reference to it. All his biographies have been written are based on his ‘Harijan’ and ‘Yuva Bharat’, and not on the basis of Gandhi’s Gujarati writings.
Ambedkar: I met Gandhi for the first time in 1929, through a friend, a common friend who asked Gandhi to meet me. Gandhi wrote to me that he wants to meet me. So I went to him and met him, it was just before I went to attend the Round Table Conference.
Then he came in the second round round table conference, did not come for the first round conference. During that time, he stayed there for five-six months. At the same time, I met him and also met him at the second round table conference. Even after signing the Poona agreement, he asked me to meet him. So I went to meet him.
He was in jail. This was the time when I met Gandhi. But I have always been saying that then I met Gandhi as a rival. I think I know him better than others, because he revealed his reality to me. I could look into that person’s heart.
As devotees usually do, nothing is seen when they approach him, except the outer covering, which he wore as a mahatma. But I saw him as a human being, I saw the naked man inside him, so I can say that people who were associated with him, I understand better than him.
In the first picture, Dr. Ambedkar and his family at his residence ‘Rajgriha’ in Mumbai. From left – his son Yashwant, Ambedkar, wife Ramabai Ambedkar, sister-in-law Lakshmi Bai, nephew Mukundrao and his beloved dog Toby. Ambedkar came to stay in ‘Rajgriha’ in February 1934. Photo courtesy: Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur and Lokvangmaya Publications.
Question: What would you briefly say about anything you saw? Gandhi and Ambedkar
Ambedkar: Well, initially I have to say that I am surprised when people from outside world and especially western world are interested in Gandhi. I do not understand It was an episode in the history of India, he was never an era-maker.
Gandhi has already disappeared from the minds of the people of this country. His memory comes for the same reason that the Congress party gives annual leave on his birthday or any other day connected with his life. Every year a festival is celebrated for seven days in a week. Naturally people’s memory is revived.
But I think if this artificial breath had not been given, people would have forgotten Gandhi much earlier. After the foundation stone of the college building in Aurangabad, Ambedkar took Dr. Rajendra Prasad to show him the caves of Verul. The photo is of a September 1951. Photo courtesy: Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur and Lokvangmaya Publications.
Ambedkar: Yes, he was a very conservative Hindu. He was never a reformer. He had no such thinking, he used to talk about untouchability only so that untouchables could be associated with Congress. This was one thing. Secondly, he wanted the untouchables not to oppose his concept of Swaraj.
I do not think that more than this he thought of the upliftment of the untouchables.
Photo Ambedkar gave his famous speech ‘Buddha and Karl Marx’ in the presence of Nepal King Mahendra and Mahasthavir Chandramani at the Fourth Council of ‘Buddhist Fraternal Association’ held on 20 November 1956 in Kathmandu, capital of Nepal. Photo courtesy: Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur and Lokvangmaya Publications.
Question: Then what was his real intention behind presenting Harijan as God in the caste structure?
Ambedkar: He only wanted this. There are two things about scheduled pets. We want to end untouchability. But at the same time we also want that we should be given equal opportunities so that we can reach the level of other classes. Absolutely washing away untouchability is not a concept.
We have been carrying untouchability for the last 2000 years. No one has bothered about it. Yes, there are some drawbacks which are very harmful. For example, people cannot take water, people cannot have land to cultivate and earn their livelihood. But there are other things more important than that, that is, their position in the country should be equal and they should also have opportunities to be highly placed, so that they not only increase their dignity, but they can protect their people by staying in strategic positions. Gandhi was completely against this idea, against him.
A cheerful moment for his reception organized by the Mumbai Pradesh Schedule Castes Federation and Samajwadi Party at Boribandar railway station. Rai Bahadur CK Bole did not have a place to sit, Ambedkar placed him in his lap. Mai Ambedkar with her. Photo courtesy: Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur and Lokvangmaya Publications.
Question: He (Gandhi) was satisfied with the issues like entering the temple. Gandhi and Ambedkar
Ambedkar: He wanted to give the right of entry into the temple. Nobody cares about Hindu temples anymore. The untouchables have understood well that there is no result of going to the temple.
They will remain untouchable, whether they go to the temple or not. For example, people do not allow the untouchables to travel on the railway.
Now they do not care, because the Railways is not going to make any separate arrangement for them. They travel together on the train. Whenever Hindus and untouchables travel on the train, they are in their old role.
Law Minister Dr. Ambedkar discussing the Hindu Code Bill in Parliament. Photo courtesy: Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur and Lokvangmaya Publications.
Question: So do you want to say that Gandhi was a conservative Hindu? Gandhi and Ambedkar
Question: Do you think political independence could have been achieved without Gandhi?
Ambedkar: Yes. I can definitely say that. It could happen slowly. But personally I think it would have been beneficial for the people if Swaraj h
ad come slowly in India. Every community or group of people prone to distortions would be able to strengthen themselves if the transfer of power from the British government was gradual.
Today everything has come like a flood. People were not ready for this. I often feel that the Labor Party is the best party in England.
Ambedkar’s Visit to Kanheri Caves in Mumbai. The picture is from 1952-53. Photo courtesy: Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur and Lokvangmaya Publications.
Question: Was Gandhi not patient, or in the Congress party? Gandhi and Ambedkar
Ambedkar: I don’t know why Attlee suddenly agreed to give freedom. This is a confidential subject, which I think Attlee will bring to the world someday in his biography. How did he reach that point? Nobody had thought of this sudden change. Nobody expected that.
I guess this from my assessment. I think the Labor Party made this decision for two reasons. The first is the National Army of Subhash Chandra Bose. The British, who are ruling this country, were confident that whatever happens to the country, and whatever the politicians may do, but their commitment to this soil will not change.
With this thought, he was running his administration. That thinking got a shock when they came to know that the soldiers were forming a party or battalion, which would overthrow the British. I think in such a situation the British came to the conclusion that if they were to rule India, then the only basis of this could be from the British Army.
Talk of 1857, when Indian soldiers revolted against the East India Company. He found that it would not be possible for the British to continue to provide such a European army in India, through which it could be ruled.
Secondly, which I think, although I do not have such proof, but I think that the British soldiers wanted to eliminate the army immediately, so that they could adopt the civilian profession. Do you know how much resentment was behind the gradual depletion of the army?
Because those who were not removed from the army, they used to think that those who have been expelled from the army, they are taking away their civilian occupation and how much injustice is being done to them. So it was not possible for him to have enough British army to rule India.
Thirdly, I think that apart from this he thought that he wanted only commerce from India and not a civil servant’s salary or army income. These were frivolous things. There was no harm in sacrificing them in the form of trade and commerce. India should be free or its status is an accepted domain or less.
But trade and commerce should remain. I am not sure about this, but I personally feel that this would have been the intention of the Labor Party.
Ambedkar in a court in Aurangabad. He was invited by the Aurangabad Bar Association. Photo date 28 July 1950. Photo courtesy: Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur and Lokvangmaya Publications.
Question: Poona talks about the agreement. You were involved in that agreement. Do you remember what you talked to Gandhi during that time?
Ambedkar: (softly) Yes … I knew it very well. The British government accepted my suggestion in the original proposal by McDonald. I had said that we want an equal elected representative, so that there would be a rift between the Hindus and the Scheduled Castes.
We feel that if you provide a common electoral representative, we will be absorbed and the nominees of the Scheduled Castes will in fact become the slaves of the Hindus and will not remain free. Now I told Ramsay McDonald that he wants to pursue this subject, give us separate electorate and separate votes in general elections.
So that Gandhi cannot say that we are different in the matter of elections. Earlier my thinking was that for the first five years we should be separate from Hindus, in which there is no behavior, no communication. It would be a social and spiritual step. What can you see in the cycle of participation in a common voter?
To overcome these difficulties, the separatism that you think about has increased over the centuries. It is foolish to think that if two people vote together at the polling stations their hearts will be changed. nothing of the sort. This is Gandhi’s madness. Anyway, this should be set aside.
In such a system, if you vote with the untouchables, then you allow them to represent their population of the same proportion, so that voting is emphasized and not representative. So that Gandhi and others cannot complain. Ramsay Macdonald accepted it. This was actually my suggestion. I wrote him a letter from Naples.
I wanted them to do the same, so that there was no problem. He did the same, gave us the right to vote in separate constituencies and general elections. But Gandhi did not want us to send our actual representatives. So they did not want to add a separate constituency to the agreement and went on hunger strike. Then it came over me.
The British Government said that if you do not want to accept the agreement, then we have no objection. But we wanted to end the compromise ourselves. We left the agreement. We gave up everything that was the best.
You should read Ramsay McDonald’s letter, which clearly states that we have not done anything like promoting separatism. Rather, we want to fill this gap by bringing both the groups on one platform through a common election. But Gandhi’s opposition was that we should not be represented freely.
So he openly protested that we should not get any representation. This was his stand in the Round Table Conference. He said that he only knows Hindu, Muslim and Sikh communities. Only these three communities should get political representation in the constitution.
But there is no place in the Constitution for Christians, Anglo-Indians, Scheduled Castes. According to them, these people should mix with the common people. I know that all his friends were calling this thinking foolish. His friends opposed him on this subject.
If special representation is given to Sikhs and Muslims, who are in a thousand times better position politically and economically, then how can Scheduled Castes and Christians be excluded? He used to say that you do not understand our problem. He used to say that.
His deep friend Alexandria had a big fight with him on this issue, as he told me. A French woman who was his follower, I forgot her name. He also fought fiercely with Gandhi, that we do not understand this thinking. Either you say that we will not give anything to anyone and there should be a normal process.
We can understand that you see a democratic process in it. But to say that giving representation to Muslims and Sikhs and not Scheduled Castes seems strange. He could not give any answer. No answer. We suggested this solution.
He too did not accept it initially, when he wrote in the letter; Ramsay McDonald said that the Scheduled Castes have nothing, no representation. Then his friends only said that they are doing more than necessary, and no one will support them in this.
Then Malaviya and others came to me and said, can you not help us in solving this problem? I said that I do not want to help you by sacrificing what we have got from British rule.
Ambedkar gave a speech in support of the Hindu Code Bill on 11 June 1950 in the ‘Vidyarthi Sansad’ of Siddharth College, Mumbai, in connection with the maturing of political knowledge of the students of his educational institution. Photo courtesy: Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur and Lokvangmaya Publications.
Question: And you held on to your idea. Gandhi and Ambedkar
Ambedkar: (Lightly) As I said I had suggested the second option. The alternative was that we were not ready to leave a separate electorate. But for this you were ready that you can change anything. Scheduled Caste candidates who stood for the last election were selected by the members of the Scheduled Castes in the first primary election.
They should choose four people. Then those four people should stand in the general election.
We must come to the best, so that we can give some confidence that you do not take back your candidate. In such a situation, we will be able to choose those people, who can become our voice in Parliament. Gandhi had to accept this proposal, so he did.
We benefited from this proposal in only one election, in the 1937 election. The federation won a majority in the election. Not a single Gandhi candidate won.
Election Manifesto of All India Dalit Federation, 1946. Photo courtesy: Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur and Lokvangmaya Publications.
Question: So did they negotiate heavily on their behalf? Gandhi and Ambedkar
Ambedkar: He absolutely weighed. I said nothing. I am ready to save your life, provided you do not become stubborn. But I am not going to save your life by messing with the lives of my people. You can see how hard I worked for this. I know this thing very well.
I am not going to sacrifice the interests of my people for your whims. This was just his craze. How can it be that the general election with which the situation is being talked about cannot change the situation?
Ambedkar and other members of the Union Cabinet along with Prime Minister Nehru at the banquet ceremony organized by Sardar Patel in June 1948 to commemorate Chakravarti C Rajagopalachari becoming the first Governor General of India. Photo courtesy: Deekshabhoomi, Nagpur and Lokvangmaya Publications.Question: So what did he say on this? Gandhi and Ambedkar
Ambedkar: Oh. He could not say anything. They had great fear about the Scheduled Castes… that they would become independent bodies like Sikhs and Muslims and Hindus would have to fight with these three communities. This was in his mind and he did not want to leave Hindus without friends.
Question: Hardly he … He acted like a politician completely. Gandhi and Ambedkar
Ambedkar: Like a politician. He was never a Mahatma. I refuse to call him Mahatma. I have never called him Mahatma in my life. He never deserved this position, even in moral terms.