Gandhi - Ambedkar Correspondence

Discussion with B. R. Ambedkar September 22, 1932 AMBEDKAR: We must accept that in the country there are two groups belonging to two different ideologies and act accordingly, and I should get my compensation. I also want that a clear understanding should be arrived at which would recompense me in other respects also. The decision of the Government gives me seventy-one seats and I feel that is a just, reasonable and definite allocation. GANDHIJI: According to you. A. Over and above that I get the right to vote and contest elections in the general constituencies. I also have a franchise in the labourers’ constituencies. We do realize that you are of immense help to us. G. Not to you personally. A. But I have only one quarrel with you, that is, you work for the so-called national welfare and not for our interests alone. If you devoted yourself entirely to the welfare of the Depressed Classes, you would then become our hero. G. Very sweet of you to say so. A. I want political power for my community. That is indispensable for our survival. The basis of the agreement therefore should be: I should get what is due to me. I wish to tell the Hindus that I should be assured of my compensation. G. You have clarified your position very beautifully. However, I should like to ask you one question. You say that if there is any genuine party among the Depressed Classes it should be given sufficient scope to rise. Therefore their refusal to accept joint electorates without primary elections is quite reasonable. What I do not understand is why you have not said so far that there should be a separate election of this kind. I feel from whatever study I have made of the subject that if I accept the primary election, the letter of my vow is not violated. I therefore accept the Clause [of primary election] but I would most certainly have to scrutinize its wording. At the moment, I say only this, that the idea of separate primary

It does not give me sufficient place to turn in. When you use derogatory and angry words for me. I have thousands. There would be one election. But do not be false to Harijans. I have asked my son to convey my message to the Conference. for I do not have only one son. I will raze to the ground the fort of sanatanists with dynamite if all the untouchables are one and united. I want that the entire untouchable community should unitedly rebel against the sanatanists. However. I quarreled with my mother for treating the domestic sweeper as an untouchable.. I have said that they should not be tempted to forsake the interests of the Harijans in order to save my life. in the first political speech I . But I suspect something when you insist that the panel should consist only of three candidates. I am a lifelong democrat. I have to safeguard without any discrimination not the interest of one group alone but of the Depressed Class as a whole. What I say is that if the panel system is good for the Depressed Classes it should be good for the entire electorate. That can only happen when untouchables are treated on par with caste Hindus in every respect. thereby satisfying both the parties [among Harijans]. And as a new convert I feel more for the welfare of the community than those who are already there . The whole world will agree that I was the foremost among the democrats after my ashes are scattered in the air or. I tell myself that I deserved that. That day I saw God in the form of a Bhangi. He would not be my worthy son if he did not lay down his life for the honour of Hinduism. You are born an untouchable but I am an untouchable by adoption. The other would be by the joint electorate. Without eradicating untouchability root and branch the honour of Hinduism cannot be saved. I will not get angry even if you spit on my face. I know that you have drunk deep of the poisoned cup. You will of course say why I should worry about that. I make a claim. I learnt the lesson of democracy at the tender age of 12. You spoke the truth when you said that the welfare of untouchables is dearer to you than my own life. I do not say this out of pride but tell the truth with humility. I say that you may do whatever you like after my body falls. Now be honest and stick to it. after they are immersed in the Ganga.elections does not go against my vow. Not only he but many others also will lay down their lives. I do not like it from the beginning that the community should be divided into two groups. A person who is regarded as ‘unseeable’ today should also have the opportunity to become the Viceroy of India. That is why I am not at all angry with you. I am sure that if I die my son will definitely follow me. I had said. Moreover. I am scrutinizing the scheme to see how these people will be affected by it. you consider panel system for some seats only. I say this with God as witness. i. if that does not happen. At the moment I have before my eyes the dumb untouchables—unapproachables and unseeables—of South India. I want to serve the untouchables. You should not care for my life. of the primary nature by the Harijan voters only. All of you will either accept Christianity or Islam. My work will not die with me. which will seem astounding to you. In that. You should not worry about the number as long as the appointing power is in your hands.e.

think over it. (Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi-Vol. It is not a thing that can be put down in writing. In it I shall have to say a lot that will hurt the Muslims and I cannot say that publicly. A. R. Ambedkar October 17. Hence though I am a small man. which would inspire life into a person who is willingly courting death. we shall get nothing in England and everything will be upset. I have come here for this. . So I appeal to you not to haggle. Bring to me some nice present. If you elaborate your argument. We have to work any sort of constitution. However you will do that only if you are convinced that my co-operation has some value. 1932) [From Gujarati] Mahadevbhaini Diary. 1932 AMBEDKAR: I have not come to discuss untouchability but political matters. II. 1932 . 69-72 Discussion with B. G. GANDHIJI: That is true. I shall think over it. The point is that if you do not come. A. Please have a look at it and. Do not bring to me something. I suggest you go and write about it at length in the newspapers.made on coming to India that I would like to make a Bhangi the President of the Congress. p. which is so bad that I would not even like the look of it. even if you do I shall not be able to express an opinion—my mind does not work in that direction.15 NOVEMBER. I request you to come. taking it to be mine. People like Iqbal who are enemies of the country will come to the forefront. I cannot talk about it with you. Vol. But I shall write anonymously or have someone write in a different way. I want to request you to give up civil disobedience and to join the Round Table Conference. 57: 5 SEPTEMBER. I shall think over it.

We might feel that that would be a waste of money that there should be another way out for it. but the magistrate changed the charge of murder to one of grievous injury. G. Servants of India? A. I can perhaps stay there. I could have taken the case to Sessions and got him acquitted. A. My people have to put up with beatings and bitterness increases. and I shall keep it in mind and shall see what can be done. I have to stay at the National Hotel and have to spend Rs. A. G.G. You ought to know that my fast has not ended yet. If the caste Hindus had the strength they would have engaged untouchables as servants. . But only perhaps. I want to do away with all these hardships. I have to stay in the midst of the Mahars. I am at one with you. In my village. G. After the common dinner at Vile Parle. because we suffer thereby. A. they continue to suffer injustice and oppression. I understand your point of view. Give examples. Birla said that I should be taken on the Committee for the Abolition of Untouchability. You wish that temples should be erected or wells should be dug. it is still on. But of course you may do as you wish. If we are in a majority we can get the reforms that we wish brought about. In one case. The main thing still remains to be done. I must honestly say that I have no interest in the temples being thrown open. You will know if you ask Vaze. because what can I alone do? I would have to agree to the work of abolishing untouchability being done in accordance with your wishes. I am ready to give my life for it. G. I do not get any other place to live in Bombay except the Port Trust chawl. Once Vaze’s servant insulted me in his presence. In Poona. All the injustices you mention ought to end. common dinners and the like. But that has not been so. Yes. Now he will receive some punishment. all others stay with their friends. an untouchable was accused of having murdered a Maratha. You may not know what even I have to face. I declined to join. The untouchables do not get houses to live in. 7 and transport fare. It will be good if you write under your own name. To correct the agreement was a minor thing. the Maratha workers went on strike. Hence I do not feel interested in the thing. I only want that social and economic hardships should end.

I wish that you could appreciate my viewpoint. From a microfilm: S.. II. R. BAPU: No. Its fair point lies in admitting that this custom is immoral. There is no such admission in the second Bill. I hope you saw my reply. As a result of the second Bill. 1932) Letter to B. 1933 Discussing the propriety or otherwise of Ranga Iyer’s two Bills [Ambedkar] said: The oneparagraph Bill is a very simple one. If we can get both the Bills passed the trustees will not be able to put up any kind of . it is there in its preamble. I thank you for your letter of the 12th instant enclosing your statement.N.. Yours sincerely. pp. temple authorities are obliged to take steps under certain circumstances. I did not receive anything from the Associated Press. 14-2-1933 (Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi.. But the other lengthier Bill was brought forward because the first one could not be introduced in the Provincial Legislature. There is no contradiction in the two Bills. February 16. 57: 5 SEPTEMBER. I also think that the two Bills do not go together.. February 4. BAPU: The one-paragraph Bill is certainly superior to the other.(Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi-Vol. 1933 DEAR DR. Ambedkar. AMBEDKAR. R. Ambedkar. but I saw it in the daily Press. A. 144 6[From Gujarati]) Discussion with B. 1932 . But it is not clear..Mahadevbhaini Diary. In one Bill untouchability ceases to be a disability and the law refuses to accept the argument based on untouchability. Vol.15 NOVEMBER. 20265 Associated Press.

I can set right the thing. Unfortunately... We want our social status raised in the eyes of the savarna Hindus. .. There is another point of view also.obstacle. I don’t want to be crushed by your charity. However. I take it upon myself to have all the temples opened within one month if we could get both the Bills passed.. A.. BAPU: That is right.. and that alone is the solution of our problem. If it cannot be I should say goodbye to Hinduism. Of course I agree with you that it does not behove your dignity to approach the Hindus. . A.As far as we are concerned we have no immediate concern other than securing political power.. I take the position—you might remember since I made the speech at .. A.. I never wanted the depressed people to go on their knees to the savarna Hindus and ask them to get these Bills passed. I have shown you how my mind is working..Now the Government will have to issue orders against the sanatanists under Section 144 because they would be regarded as interfering with untouchables’ rights. A. We cannot ask the savarna Hindus to decide for themselves whether or not we are a part of them. BAPU: I have nothing to say if you have come with a final decision that you are not going to move your little finger to have this Bill passed. I want you now to emphatically proclaim your ideas in very clear words. which would rule out this feeling of lowliness. A.. which is in a position to mend or worsen the situation.. the solution of this problem is in the hands of a third power. in which case I am inclined to believe that it is not sufficient in the present awakened state of the depressed classes. BAPU: I told you that I could have nothing to say if you have already taken a decision. We have not made any decision. If I call myself a Hindu I am obliged to accept that by birth I belong to a low caste. BAPU: I am not asking you to do anything. Hence I think I must ask the Hindus to show me some sacred authority.. which would merely bring some relief. I am not going to be satisfied with measures. You ought to demonstrate your determination by getting these Bills passed. BAPU: However. The sanatanists would prefer the second Bill. The object of this effort could be that you want the depressed classes to be retained in the Hindu religion.. But speaking as a sincere sanatanist I would prefer the first Bill.

You will not be able to go ahead a single step unless you maintain your position absolutely correct. But I must say that you ought not to say that you are not a Hindu. I ask . A. He would not say what you attribute to him.the Round Table Conference—that we should atone for this. BAPU: You cannot escape the situation that you are Hindus in spite of your statement to the contrary. Flowers. which they owe whether the creditor keeps it or throws it into the gutter. Why do they object to it only in the case of temples? BAPU: We are well caught on this point. They ought to have the satisfaction that they have done their duty. After that I accept your point. I regard temple-entry as a spiritual matter through which everything else will bear fruit. It seems there has been some misunderstanding somewhere in the case of Malaviyaji. The Bill mentions temple-entry but it makes no mention of entry into the sanctum sanctorum. Many sanatanist Hindus say that they would admit Harijans in schools and public places but not in temples. But if the language of the Bill is not right it can be amended and we can say ‘entry for the purpose of puja’. A. When some savarna Hindus tell me that Harijans do not want to enter the temples I ask them to throw open the temple doors for the Harijans whether or not they wish to come in. They have no objection to the untouchables touching them on the railway and other public places. A. So we two agree on this point that there is no question of your imploring the savarna Hindus. We ask of you that our silence should not be misconstrued. A. sweets or any other offerings from Harijans will surely be accepted. BAPU: I go one step further. I have accepted only the political aspect of it. I take up the question of temple-entry first of all because these people want to cling to untouchability in the temples. BAPU: Temple-entry is meant for puja if anything. If you repudiate us and go away I would think that we only deserved it. The Hindu mind does not work in a rational way. or will they let him offer a tray containing oblations? Malaviyaji has already declared that question of offering puja does not arise. Will they let a member of the depressed community place flowers on the idol. They ought to discharge the debt. In accepting the Poona Pact you accept the position that you are Hindus.

7-2-1933 Letter to B. I thought that the issue raised by you was of such momentous importance that if I discussed it at all. And it is also very easy. Enclosure From a photostat: S.them to grant the Harijans equal status before God. 1933 DEAR DR. (Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. III. Ambedkar and Caste”. I hope you do not mind my having dealt with the matter publicly. 21074 (Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. 117-22 Vide “Dr. 1933. April 9. R. Yours sincerely.7 OCTOBER 193) Volume 63 Letter to B. In accordance with my promise I send you herewith my opinion on your proposal.APPENDIX X VOL. 61: 27 APRIL. Supposing we are lucky in the case of temple-entry. Vol. This is bound to follow it. AMBEDKAR. It will raise their status. Ambedkar. will they let us fetch water from the wells? BAPU: Sure. Ambedkar AS AT PATNA. I should do so publicly.N. A.9 MARCH 1933) [From Gujarati] Mahadevbhaini Diary. April 27.VOL. R. 59: 13 JANUARY 1933 . 1934 . pp.

whether it would benefit society or not would depend upon what attitude the educated individual took up towards society. 1934 In the afternoon Dr. If the Harijan population in Bengal is as was believed at the time of the Pact they have nothing to complain of. Ambedkar interviewed Gandhiji along with Dr. Ambedkar. D. He would like the Sangh to concentrate on the primary object of securing full civic rights for Harijans. 7949. education. It was not possible to reply earlier owing to incessant traveling. Pray excuse me for the delay in replying to your letter of 29-3-1934. Ambedkar for a criticism of the work of the Harijan Sevak Sangh. As regards cases of maltreatment of Harijans by villagers. such as those adduced by Dr. Yours sincerely. Birla Volume 64 Interview to B. but so far without success. Again. R. steps had actually been taken in numerous cases with more or less success. Gandhiji asked Dr. AMBEDKAR. Gandhiji said the Sangh was bound to deal with them. K. W. such as the right to draw water from public wells and to send children to public schools. The worthy Doctor suggested that the Sangh might economize on education and medical relief. Whilst I should fall in with your scheme if it was accepted by the provinces. I should think there would be no objection on your part to an amendment bringing the number to the figure required. I could not shoulder the burden of pressing the other provinces to reopen the Pact in respect of the number of seats allotted in their cases. Courtesy: G. But in future Gandhiji would be . GANDHI From a copy: C. If as a matter of fact it is much less than the figure on whose basis the number was fixed. without any discrimination being exercised against them. only benefited the individual. as these were attended to by Government and there was a risk of duplication of effort in these matters. in the first place. Solanki and other friends of his. I have been trying to do what I can to placate Bengal. M. In fact. June 16.DEAR DR. Ambedkar BOMBAY.

R. AMBEDKAR. But I told him that he should take your advice and be guided by you. Amritrao Khambe and Baburao Gaekwad. Volume 67 Letter to B. which is fatal for a man who is in perpetual fear of developing active T. Rajaram Bhole is with me just now. AMBEDKAR . He wants me to advise him as to the course he should take. Yours sincerely. please. Regard being had as to his precarious health. 1935 DEAR DR. In fact..B. But I would like you. V. As you may know. Courtesy: Pyarelal TELEGRAM TO B. He must then attend regular hours and be prepared to do best work. for my sake. to hasten your reply so as to enable me to tell Rajaram what to do. Naik. He tells me he has already written to you. As regards education. The other alternative is to take up a business line. but progress in that direction would be accelerated if he had the Doctor’s valued co-operation. as the right type of teachers was not readily available. to feed and clothe himself. I have advised that it would be better if he could reconcile himself to some Harijan service against. Ambedkar WARDHA. I know he will receive your reply in due course. I see difficulties in his taking it up. 29-6-1934 G. July 9.glad if the Doctor was good enough to send him full facts about every incident of that description.. In course of his tour of villages he had noticed that a change for the better was coming over them. From a copy: Pyarelal Papers. R. Harijan. Gandhiji did not think there was overlapping. the Sangh was unable to cope with the whole demand.

I would love to find a meeting ground between us on both the questions. 3-1-1945 Vide Appendix “A Resolution”. 10176.ANANDKUNJ. Meanwhile. but it was a question with me of religious and social reform. L. A. The Hindu-Muslim question is for me a lifelong question. before 9-8-1944. But I know to my cost that you and I hold different views on this very important question. And though it has attained a great political importance its religious and social value is for me much greater. that on broad politics of the country we see things from different angles. 1939 DOCTOR AMBEDKAR. And I know. Experience has taught me that it was only partly true. Untouchability I began to abhor when I was in my teens. I must reconcile myself to the present unfortunate difference. W. M. (Source: The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. Kalelkar Letter to B. RAJKOT. August 6. BOMBAY SO FAR AS I CAN SEE AT LEAST FOUR MEMBERS WILL FULLY REPRESENT DEPRESSED CLASS INTERESTS. too. 1944 Thank you for yours of July 31 received yesterday. April 14. Courtesy: D. I know your great ability and I would love to own you as a colleague and co-worker. NAMES BEING CHOSEN BY SARDAR. There was a time when I used to think that when that question was solved India’s political troubles would be over. R. But I must admit my failure to come nearer to you. Ambedkar SEVAGRAM. If you can show me a way to a common meeting ground between us I would like to see it. .Volume 84) The Bombay Chronicle. GANDHI From a copy: C. B.

Here then is the stuff of epic drama.Which inter alia read: “. to form a separate party. there is a communal problem between the Hindus and the untouchables. was that his colleagues in the national movement either did not understand his concern with untouchability or even actively deplored it. he disputed the merits of such varied affiliations as the English language. nationalism. Exclusive extracts from the book released yesterday . The Congress wanted the British to transfer power to them. Perhaps the most telling difference was in the choice of political instrument. He fought with radical Muslims on the one side and with radical Hindus on the other. Ambedkar a steadfast constitutionalist. And with that other giant. Had he not made their cause their own from the time of his first ashram in South Africa? Ambedkar however made a clear distinction between freedom and power.. and in stages. Thus Stanley Reid... Gandhi was a rural romantic.. For Gandhi. In short. He does not care a jot whether we live or die. and for long afterwards. And Congressmen in general thought Harijan work came in the way of an all-out effort for national freedom. which is also awaiting solution. He argued with Nehru and other scientists on whether economic development in a free India should centre on the village or the factory. which has just been released. the writer's caste position generally determining who gets cast as hero. interesting and long-running of these debates was between Gandhi and Ambedkar. In truth both figures should be seen as heroes. and sometimes authoritarian. I am sure. Gandhi wished to save Hinduism by abolishing untouchability. It was thus that in his lifetime.A comparative study by Ramachandra Guha." The opposition that he faced from his fellow Hindus meant that Gandhi had perforce to move slowly. Priests and motley shankaracharyas thought he was going too fast in his challenge to caste . will become necessary if India’s political goal is to be achieved. He disagreed with Communists and the bhadralok on the efficacy and morality of violence as a political strategy. who wished to make the self-governing village the bedrock of free India.” Gandhi & Ambedkar . it examines and discusses all those who comprise the life of thinking Indians today. An all-round settlement between the Hindus and other minorities.and why did he not first take their permission? Communists wondered why he wanted everyone to clean their own latrines when he could be speaking of class struggle. albeit tragic ones.. Gandhi was a crypto-anarchist who favoured non-violent protest while being suspicious of the state. but added a cautionary caveat . and the spinning wheel. Rabindranath Tagore. both of whom sought to build a state on theological principles. the Congress represented all of India. but to obtain freedom the Dalits had to organise themselves as a separate bloc. But. He moved on to accepting inter-mingling and inter-dining (hence the . the argument between the Hindu who did most to reform caste and the exHindu who did most to do away with caste altogether. In some ways the most intense. whether we are bond or free. who as villain.' says noted historian and biographer RAMACHANDRA GUHA in the opening sentence of this publication. Ambedkar an admirer of city life and modern technology who dismissed the Indian village as a den of iniquity. Ambedkar came to represent a dangerously subversive threat to the authoritative. equation: Gandhi = Congress = Nation. a former editor of the Times of India quotes an Indian patriot who complained in the late thirties that "Gandhi is wrapped up in the Harijan movement. from Gandhi's point of view.. so as to more effectively articulate their interests in the crucible of electoral politics.. if you are anxious to solve the Hindu-untouchable problem as you are to solve the HinduMuslim problem.that inter-dining and inter-marriage were also bad. who worked within the state and sought solutions to social problems with the aid of the state.. He started by accepting that untouchability was bad.. whereas Ambedkar saw a solution for his people outside the fold of the dominant religion of the Indian people. A significant portion of the book expands on this salvo. All his life he fought in a friendly spirit with compatriots whose views on this or that topic diverged sharply from his.. 'Inside every thinking Indian there is a Gandhian and a Marxist struggling for supremacy. MAHATMA GANDHI was not so much the Father of the Nation as the mother of all debates regarding its future. The tragedy. the Dalits too. I shall be glad to formulate points on which a settlement is necessary. Recent accounts represent it as a fight between a hero and a villain.the Hindu-Muslim problem is not the only communal problem that has to be settled.

Not once does he acknowledge that there was much truth to . He speaks on Gandhi only as "Gandhiji" and of the national movement only as the "National Movement". from Ambedkar's point of view. The editor of that series. but only the upper castes.national. and to arguing that all men and all varnas were equal. might with reason claim coauthorship of Shourie's book. equated patriotism with acquiescence to White domination. Indeed.movement for temple entry). also distrusted the Congress. The tragedy. Consider now some key facts erased or ignored by him.E. Sekhar Bandyopadhyay has written of the Namasudras in Bengal. in whose armies and factories low castes could find opportunities denied to them in the past. men of such stature as W. or that the Freedom Struggle promised unfreedom for some. to set up the man and his movement as the ideal. taken only in 1946. indicating that he has judged the case beforehand. Edgar Hoover. In a just world he would be granted a share of the royalties too. Ramaswami "Periyar". were not convinced that a future Congress government would be sympathetic to their interests. The opening up of the economy and the growth of the colonial cities also helped many untouchables escape the tyranny of the village. who like Ambedkar and his Mahars. the basic contradiction it sought to paper over. M. Shourie also seems unaware of work by worthy historians on low. Before Ambedkar. and generally preferred the British to either. Later. and more often withholding. was to challenge caste directly by accepting and sanctioning inter-marriage itself. And countless scholars have documented the rise of the Dravidian movement in South India. but also because he is woefully ill-informed. was that to fight for his people he had to make common cause with the British. Practised in the arts of over-kill and over-quote. Rau. Munshi and B. The leaders of these movements.caste movements in other parts of India. V. worked outside the Congress and often in opposition to it. above and beyond criticism. saying that the party did not even represent all Hindus. Much of the time. which was opposed to both. J. Arun Shourie has made much of this. Enough reason perhaps for Shourie to dismiss them all as anti. whose director. under their rule life for the lower castes was less unpleasant by far than it had been under the Peshwas. that took as its point of departure Brahmin domination of the Congress in Madras: the movement's founder. When the American colonists asked for independence from Britain. rejected the Congress and the Arya Samaj to form a new sect. He dismisses all that Ambedkar wrote about Hinduism "caricature" and "calumnies". partly because he had made up his mind in advance. Entire chapters are based entirely on one or other volume of the Transfer of Power. Reading Worshipping False Gods. Jotiba Phule. Time and again he equates Ambedkar with Jinnah as an "accomplice of Imperial politics". Shourie's attitude is comparable to that of White Americans who question the patriotism of those Blacks who dare speak out against racism. in his time a party dominated by Poona Brahmins. The opponents of the Congress are thus all suspect to him. In his book.B. nonetheless. Relevant here is a remark of the 18thCentury English writer Samuel Johnson. Du Bois and Paul Robeson were called all kind of names. of which "anti-American" was much the politest. The last and most farreaching step. whereas several other people. and the millions who followed them. the Federal Bureau of Investigation. simply because they dared point out that the National Movement was not always as national as it set out to be. Worshipping False Gods. certificates of patriotism. For to use the suffix and the capitals is to simultaneously elevate and intimidate. Adi-Dharm. another outstanding leader of the lower castes. Mark Juergensmeyer has documented the struggles of untouchables in Punjab. also fought bitterly with Gandhi. For asking Blacks to stand up for their rights. He is in the business of awarding. Shourie is a pamphleteer parading as a historian. the great Martin Luther King was persecuted by the most powerful of American agencies. Ambedkar then appended a devastating caveat. Shourie takes all of 600 pages to make two points: (i) that Ambedkar was a political opponent of both Gandhi and the Congress. But the Congress' claim to represent all of India was always under challenge. the collection of official papers put out some years ago by Her Majesty's Stationery Office. That Ambedkar preferred the British to the Congress is entirely defensible. The British might have been unwitting agents of change. E. one might likewise conclude that it has been mistakenly advertised as being the work of one hand. N. such as K. The Muslim League said it was a party of the Hindus. also contributed significantly to the wording of the document. Nicholas Mansergh. (ii) that Ambedkar cannot be called the "Father of the Constitution" as that implies sole authorship. Shourie would deny that these critics had any valid arguments whatsoever. Johnson said: "How is it that we hear the greatest yelps for liberty among the drivers of Negroes?" Untouchability was to the Indian freedom movement what slavery had been to the American struggle. Shourie writes as if there is a singular truth. The Communists said it was the party of landlords and capitalists. which under its remarkable leader Mangu Ram. with him as its repository and guarantor. He too preferred the British. But how did these men outside the Congress come to enjoy such a wide following? This is a question Shourie does not pause to answer.

Of the same fast other historians have written. Ambedkar is a figure who commands great respect from one end of the social spectrum. is haunted by a vague sense that he has betrayed either his former ideals or the ideals of bourgeois society . For Shourie." he remarked.are high-caste Hindus. Addressing a bunch of Karachi students in June 1934. He insists that the world should recognise his uneasy conscience as the clearest conscience of all. when he is in India. dressed in garish blue. he told them that "the magnitude of (Dr. on the communist turned anti-communist. was of course made with much vigour and malice during the national movement as well. all the honours that he has received. But he does not want to stay there. or to camouflage it by a show of extraordinary certitude and frantic aggressiveness. the scholar. but now the colours are differently distributed . Ambedkar is worshipped in hamlets all across the land." . this aesthetic distaste seems rather pointless. reflected this Hindu.the criticisms.. There is not one admission here of the horrendous and continuing sufferings of Dalit as the hands of caste Hindus that might explain and justify Ambedkar's rhetoric and political choices. dead or alive." Gandhi's latter-day admirers might question Ambedkar's patriotism and probity. He is also in a position to settle down in Europe if he so desires. the disregard of truth. the only category of Indians he has not attacked . This line. "I would have been as angry. he said he found "nothing unnatural" in Ambedkar's hostility to the Congress and its supporters." "Had I been in his place. still to suffer many insults to which untouchables are exposed. But he is also. the author complains that Ambedkar's "statues. To see Shourie's career in its totality is to recall these words of Issac Deutscher. Truth be told. chiefly for his decision to carve out a political career independent of and sometimes in opposition to Gandhi's Congress. Where Gandhi is forgotten in his native Gujarat and Nehru vilified in his native Kashmir. that for Ambedkar to stand up to the uncrowned king and anointed Mahatma of the Indian people required extraordinary courage and will-power.. I think. challenge or argue with Gandhi. He is only concerned about the welfare of the Harijians." Not many heeded the warning.. He is an inverted Stalinist. in my view more plausibly. Somewhere in the middle of Worshipping False Gods. The remarkable thing is that 50 years after independence. In March 1936 he said that if Ambedkar and his followers were to embrace another religion. For the background to the statues and the reverence they command lies in the continuing social practices of the religion to which Shourie and I belong. "but in spite of all his culture. For Dalits everywhere he is the symbol of their struggle. He even insinuates that Ambedkar "pushed Gandhi to the edge of death" by not interfering with the Mahatma's decision to fast in captivity. this bilious polemicist and baiter of the minorities was once an anti-religious leftist who excoriated Hinduism." Writing to an English friend two years later. Gandhi said he had "the highest regard for Dr. at a political rally in Lucknow the Samajvadi Party's Beni Prasad Verma likewise dismissed Ambedkar as one who "did nothing else except create trouble for Gandhiji". and show opposition and bitterness. he has. the fact that Ambedkar disagreed long and often with Gandhi is proof enough that he was anti-national.justification. Shourie's attacks on Dalits and their hero follow in quick succession the books he has published attacking Communists. The ex. If caste lives. Ambedkar. theoretician and activist whose own life represented a stirring triumph over the barriers of caste." However. the only politician... That he does not break our heads is an act of self." To Gandhi. R. among some non-Dalits." In June 1936 Gandhi pointed out once again that Dr. Ambedkar. He has every right to be bitter. and the intense hatred with which Stalinism has imbued him. He brings to his job the lack of scruple. but the Mahatma had no such suspicions himself. Ambedkar's protest held out a lesson to the upper castes. He leads a simple life. Oddly enough. He remains sectarian. Gandhi thought so too. Ambedkar's) sacrifice is great.and going by his present political persuasion will not attack . so will the memory of the man who fought to annihilate it.self. the very week his book was published. Speaking at a meeting in Oxford in October 1931. that Ambedkar had no business to criticise. "He has not only witnessed the inhuman wrongs done to the social pariahs of Hinduism".have been put up in city after city.. however. That is of course the burden of Shourie's critique but curiously. the narrow-mindedness. He is absorbed in his own work. Ambedkar "has had to suffer humiliations and insults which should make any one of us bitter and resentful. He continues to see the world in black and white. What wonder that Harijan brethren feel suspicious. who has a truly pan-Indian appeal is B. He then tries to suppress the guilt and uncertainty. Christians and Muslims. an object of great resentment.communist . holding a copy of the Constitution . He may no longer be concerned with any cause except one . for towards the end of his life Gandhi spoke with some bitterness about the indifference to Harijan work among his fellow Hindus: "The tragedy is that those who should have especially devoted themselves to the work of (caste) reform did not put their hearts into it. that by threatening to die Gandhi blackmailed Ambedkar into signing a pact with him. He is capable of earning one to two thousand rupees a month.restraint on his part. "We deserve such treatment and our task (now) is to wake up to the situation and purify ourselves.

Whereas in their lifetime Gandhi and Ambedkar were political rivals. The Dalit politician Mayawati has. For the scriptwriter and the mythmaker there can only be one hero. Once a visiting professor at Stanford University. he is now a full. K. Kelappan Nair. By the same token. 450. Dalits today feel he was much too slow. Ramachandra Guha is a historian.respecting a man to settle for the role of Hanuman or Sugreeva. An Anthropologist Among The Marxists And Other Essays. going by other evidence. Nagaraj once noted that in the narratives of Indian nationalism the "heroic stature of the caste-Hindu reformer". Mahatmaji did not quake before the Churchills of England. But the historian is bound by no such constraint. Ambedkar's charges. Rajaji told the high castes that it would certainly help us in the fight for Swaraj if we open the doors of the temple (to Harijans). New Delhi. Rajagopalachari. But as repressing the nation he had to plead guilty to Dr. decades after their death. Likewise. Gandhi. Ambedkar and Gandhi will do nicely for a start. now. In a speech at Guruvayoor on December 20. Unhappily. Permanent Black 2001. R.time writer based in Bangalore. intelligent and self. A curious thing or. He is the editor of the forthcoming Picador Book of Cricket . His books include The Unquiet Woods and Environmentalism: A Global History. on reflection. Rs. Ambedkar was too proud.a judgment as unfair as Shourie's on Ambedkar. Dalit hagiographers and pamphleteers generally seek to elevate Ambedkar by diminishing Gandhi. It should. The 100 volumes of that set rest lightly on my shelves as.The words quoted in the preceding paragraphs have been taken from that reliable and easily accessible source: the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi. Oslo University and the University of California at Berkeley. and for the most part unwritten. "further dwarfed the Harijan personality" of Ambedkar. 1932. Perhaps the most perverse aspect of an altogether perverse book is that Shourie does not once tell us what Gandhi said or wrote about his great adversary. the suvarna Hindus who agreed with the Shankaracharyas that the Gandhians were dangerous revolutionaries who had to be kept out at the gate. The history of Dalit emancipation is unfinished. and will. In the Ramayana there is only one hero but. it should be possible to see their contributions as complementing one another's. the case that Ambedkar was an anti-national careerist would be blown sky. One of the many causes that keeps Swaraj away from us is that we are divided among ourselves. Ramachandra Guha. Ambedkar's darts were the worst. the managers of temples across the land could count upon the support of many among their clientele. One of the few Gandhians who understood the cogency of the Dalit critique of the Congress was C. The campaign was led by that doughty fighter for the rights of the dispossessed. As it was. In the second half of 1932. spoken of the Mahatma as a shallow paternalist who sought only to smooth the path for more effective long-term domination by the suvarna. But Dr. more than once. a not-so-curious thing: for if that scholarly courtesy was restored to. in his book Why I am Not a Hindu Kancha Illiah writes of Gandhi as wanting to "build a modern consent system for the continued maintenance of brahminical hegemony" . as Nagaraj points out.high. Mahatmaji received many wounds in London (during the Second Round Table Conference of 1931). while upper-caste Hindus thought that Gandhi moved too fast. The Kannada critic D. they rest on the shelves of the man who compiled Worshipping False Gods. biographer and cricket writer. find space for many heroes. Rajaji became involved in the campaign to allow the so-called untouchables to enter the Guruvayoor temple in Kerala.

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