An icon of social democracy

Dr B.R.Ambedkar is known as the greatest reformer of the Hindu society. It was difficult almost impossible to break the centuries old barriers of casteism erected by Manusmriti in Hindu society. But Ambedkar by dint of his sheer intelect and hard work was able to do so   by struggling for a couple of years and finally declaring untouchability as an offence and keeping the provision of reservation for dalits in Government services in the constitution of India  . In the prevailing conditions of the caste ridden society when it was a hill task job for a dalit to have education even up to primary level, he was able to obtain the highest degrees of that time. He was pained to see the exploitation of downtrodden in the brahmnical dominated society in Hindus. He once wrote” Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horror for the untouchables. The iron law of castes, the heartless law of Karma and the senseless law of status by birth pronounced by Vedas, Smritis and Shastras as sacred are in reality the permanent tools of torture against the untouchables”.
Ambedkar’s family followed the teachings of Kabir who was a great saint and social reformer .This background greatly influenced the philosophy and deeds of Dr. Ambedkar.
He was determined to change the social structure of the society. Dr Ambedkar who was born in a family of untouchables had himself faced humiliation and discrimination a number of times in the hands of the so called upper caste people. While travelling on a bullock cart of a touchable Hindu he was thrown out of the cart the moment the cart man came to know that he was untouchable. He was made to sit separately from other upper class students in the class. For drinking water from the school well he had to ask the peon who threw water in his hands from a distance and when there was no peon no water for him.When after studying in America he returned to India to serve the Maharaja of Baroda as per the conditions of Scholarship he got from him, he had to face severe humiliation. He could not get a room on rent. He stayed in a hotel and when the people came to know that he was an untouchable he was thrown out of the hotel. But these atrocities did not cow him down, rather gave him inner strength and bestowed strong will power to fight against these atrocities. He was fully convinced that only the education can narrow the gap between the touchable and untouchables. Hence he laid utmost stress on the promotion and expansion of education. On education he once said that “the education that makes us neither competent nor teaches us the lessons of equality and morality is no more education”. It is education that breeds in us the noble sentiments of unity, fraternity and patriotism. He had a deep passion for books. He had more than fifty thousand books in his personal library and it was the largest library in Asia owned by an individual. On religion he said that it preaches equality, fraternity and passion for humanity. Commenting on the caste ridden Hindu religion he said that a religion where the touch of animals is permitted but the touch of human beings is prohibited is not a religion but a mockery of the religion. A religion in which man’s human behaviour with man is prohibited is not religion but display of force. It is not that he was an atheist. He once said ” It pains me to see youth growing indifferent to religion. What nobility I have in me, I owe it to religious feelings in me”.
The Varna system according to him is the root cause of all untouchability and is the parent of caste system and inequality. He therefore wanted to purge Hinduism of the doctrine of Varna and make it a religion of all people. He was of the opinion that the exploitation and the miseries of the downtrodden can be addressed by giving them representation in the legislature. For this he demanded separate electorate for the scheduled castes.  He fought tooth and nail to achieve his goal. He attended three round table conferences as a representative of the depressed classes. At last the British Government on 14th August 1932 announced that the depressed classes shall have a number of special seats assigned to them for a period of twenty years. Only depressed classes people would vote for these seats, though they were also entitled to vote for the general seats. Gandhi rejected this award as he thought that it will divide Hindu society and he resorted to Satyagraha. He was of the view that the whole question of untouchability and untouchables was a religious and moral one and had to be kept out of the politics. He argued that it can be done by the repentance and self purification of the upper caste people for their unjust and unequal treatment of the untouchables. But in the prevailing rigid caste system it could only be imagined. An alternative accord  was signed between Mahtma Gandhi and Ambedkar on 24 September 1932 at Poona which was known as Poona Pact according to which some seats in the local assemblies were reserved for scheduled castes. He was inducted as a member in the Bombay Legislative Council. The Council passed a resolution to keep public places open to all including the untouchables but they were so demoralised that they could not assert themselves. He also advised the downtrodden to have courage to fight for their legitimate rights. He said “Only the goats are sacrificed for religious ceremonies and not the lions.” He believed in the philosophy of Lord Krishna that people should fight with their own people if they deprive them of their rights. He was also a votary of women rights. He said that Manusmriti has also graded the women at the lowest level in the socio-religious, economic and cultural status.
After the independence of India, he was nominated as the chairman of the constitution drafting committee. After studying the various constitutions of the world he gave India the present constitution which is considered as one of the best democratic constitutions in the world. By incorporating the provision of equality before law irrespective of caste, creed and religion he legally uprooted the untouchability from the society and the same was made a punishable offence. The depressed people got the legal right to worship in the religious places and to use the public utilities. With the provision of reservation in the legislature, Government jobs and educational institutions, he changed the destiny of the people discarded for centuries. He was also of the firm opinion that the political democracy cannot survive long without the social democracy. He remained a believer of Budhism and he officially embraced this religion on 14th October 1956 only a few days before his death on 6th December 1956. He was decorated with the highest civilian award Bharat Ratna in 1991. He was one of the stalwarts of modern India who changed the social structure of the Hindu society in a short span which was prevalent as an evil for the centuries together. He shall be remembered  as the great social reformer of India, the father of Indian constitution, a great educationist, a great jurist, an outstanding economist, a patriot and above all a Massiah of depressed classes.


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