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Ambedkar vs Gandhi | Who was right about Casteism? | By Dhruv Rathee


Hello, friends! 


Babasaheb Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi. 2 of the great and famous freedom fighters of our country. But do you know? Both of them had many differences. 


They had many disagreements and debates over the issue of casteism. Who was right? and who was wrong? 


Popularly called Babasaheb Ambedkar. In this article I would like to present the ideologies and ideas of Babasaheb Ambedkar.


 Dr BR Ambedkar was born in the Mahar caste. Which is a Dalit caste. Since childhood, he had faced caste oppression. For instance, at his school, his brother and he were the only Dalit students. 


      

They were told to bring sacks from their house to sit on while at school. They weren't allowed to drink water from the same tap in the school. The school had a special water pot for them but they weren't even allowed to drink from it. 


The peon of the school would pour water out into their hands. And if the peon was absent, Bhim Rao and his brother had to remain thirsty throughout the day. 


Because of lack of funds, Dr Ambedkar's brother had to leave his study incomplete. But Dr Ambedkar studied hard and got a scholarship from the Maharaja of Baroda. And he went to Columbia University. 


After that, he did his doctorate from the London School of Economics. He studied economics and law. Even after getting an education of this level, he faced caste discrimination in every aspect of his life.


 So it isn't surprising that he despised discrimination and casteism. He hated them so much that not only did he criticize the Hindus, those who practised casteism, but he also openly criticised the Hindu religion.


 In many of his writings, Dr Ambedkar had asked hard questions not only on Hinduism but also on Islam. He studied Sanskrit. And labelled the Vedas "a worthless set of books." He believed that as long as there is a caste, there will be an outcast. Not only was he against casteism, he wanted a complete annihilation of the caste system. 


On the other hand, Mahatma Gandhi was a religious Hindu. Most of his principles and strategies were inspired by this religion. In fact, he considered the Gita to be his spiritual dictionary. And as a truly religious person,he respected all religions. And worked towards communal harmony. 


Quite obviously, a religious person would not question his own religion. This is why Gandhi Ji's initial views were very orthodox. He believed that caste was a fundamental part of Hinduism. And the system of four Varnas, he believed it to be natural and essential. 


And at the same time, they were of equal status. No Varna could be superior to the others. At the same time, he also believed that untouchability was not a part of Hinduism. He believed untouchability to be a sin for the Hindus. 


For this reason, in 1932 he founded the All India Anti Untouchability League. Which was later renamed Harijan Sevak Sangh. In 1934, in the Vaikom district of Kerala, he launched the Vaikom Satyagraha. Where the Dalits were being discriminated against. Influential social reformers like Periyar also participated in it. 


You can see clear differences between the ideologies of Dr Ambedkar and Gandhi Ji. Gandhi Ji's initial views can be considered quite problematic. He was very orthodox and conservative. To the extent that he didn't openly criticize Casteism. In the 1920s he publicly stated that he did not support intermarriage and inter-dining. 


Coincidently, Gandhi Ji's son Manilal fell in love with a Muslim girl Fatima. And Gandhi Ji was strictly against their marriage and did not let it happen. In 1927 again, his second son Devdas wanted to marry a girl named Lakshmi, and Gandhi Ji was against it too because she did not belong from the same caste. 


Gandhi Ji did not want to support marriage between a Baniya and a Brahmin. It would be a half-truth if I do not tell you the rest of the story. Because with time, Gandhi Ji's ideologies became more progressive. In 1932, he changed his opinion on inter-caste marriages. He acknowledged that he was wrong. 


He said that the restrictions on inter-caste marriages, were weakening the Hindu society. And so, the next year his son Devdas Could finally get married to Lakshmi. In 1946 the situation was that Gandhi Ji had said that he wouldn't let men and women marry in his Ashram unless one of them was a Harijan.


 He also said that if he could, he would persuade all girls to find Harijan husbands. On the other hand, in October 1935 in a conference, Dr Ambedkar had openly declared that he wants to leave Hinduism. Initially, his intention was to convert to Sikhism.


 But for some reasons,he did not go through with it. And later, he converted to Buddhism. Well friends, if you want to know more about Dr Ambedkar's ideologies, Then I would definitely recommend that you read books on Dr Ambedkar.


 If you can't read the books,you can listen to audiobooks. A brilliant platform to listen to audiobooks is KukuFM. KukuFM is an awesome audio learning platform, It has book summaries, biographies, and books as well. 


In audio format to listen to. Personally, I prefer this. Because it's easier to do while working. Whether you're cleaning your house or doing the dishes, you can listen to the audio. You don't have to fully concentrate. 


Overall, the largest disagreement between Dr Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi was about separate electorates. Separate electorates mean that there would be such constituencies in the country where only a person of a specific community can run in an election.


 And only the people of the specific community would be able to vote. Today, there are different constituencies. You vote in your constituency for your MP.(Member of Parliament) All the residents of the constituency can cast their vote if they're above the age of 18. 


But in separate electorates, a specific...suppose Sikh or Muslim or Christian, candidate is running, then only the Sikh or Muslim or Christian people will be able to vote in their constituency. The others would not even be allowed to cast a vote. 


Should I tell you an interesting fact, friends? Under the British Raj, in 1909 the British Government in India, had given Muslims separate electorates in India. In 1919, the Christians, Anglo-Indians, Europeans and Sikhs were given separate electorates in India. 


Dr Ambedkar wanted separate electorates for the Dalits as well. But Gandhi Ji was absolutely against it. During 1931's Round Table Conference in London, Gandhi Ji went there and put his demands in front of the British government.


 He said that the untouchables were also Hindus. They should not be given minority status. At the same time, he also wanted that the separate electorates given to the Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and the others, should be removed. 


But on the other hand, Ambedkar wanted that the Dalits should also be declared minorities in India. They too should be given separate electorates. What do you think? Who's request would've been granted? 


The answer is very simple. Because the British government always used the policy of divide and rule. In 1932, the British Prime MinisterRamsay MacDonald, announced a Communal Award.


 Not only did he say that the separate electorates given to the minorities would remain,they wouldn't be discontinued, he also said that the Dalits would also be a separate minority category and the Dalits would also be given separate electorates. 


Gandhi Ji did not like it at all. Gandhi Ji believed that because of the separate electorates the country couldn't remain united. And he was willing to give up his life because of it. So Gandhi Ji started a fast. Fast unto death. 


Dr Ambedkar was very pressurized because of this. On one hand, he wanted to get his demands fulfilled And on the other hand, he knew that if Gandhi Ji was actually harmed the image of the Dalits would also suffer. 


Dr Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi then came to a historic agreement. Which is called the Poona Pact. You must've read about it in your school textbooks. Dr Ambedkar and Gandhi Ji compromised. Both of them came down a rung and decided on conducting Joint Electorates. 


What are joint electorates? 

They are, basically, such constituencies where the elected politician would belong from a specific minority community. But when it comes to voting, all the residents of that constituency would be able to vote. The right to vote wouldn't be given to only one community. 


Dr Ambedkar convinced Gandhi Ji of his demands. He was worried that in a joint electorate, the majority community  would place a puppet Dalit candidate to make them win. To avoid this problem, both Gandhi Ji and Dr Ambedkar said that they would conduct a pre-election where only the Dalits would vote and the Dalits would select 4 candidates. 


1 candidate among the 4 would be selected when all voters would vote. Additionally, for the original 71 reserved seats, Dr Ambedkar convinced Gandhi Ji to increase it to 148. 


Political agenda aside, talking about the social reforms, Dr Ambedkar contributed a lot to it. His strategy was very simple. Educate, Agitate and Organise. A major example of this is the 1927 Mahad Satyagraha. 


In Maharashtra, there is a municipality Mahad. He went there with many followers to drink water. Seems very simple but many upper-caste Hindus of the time were totally against it. The situation turned almost riotous and the police had to interfere. These upper-caste Hindus 'purified'  the water tank with things like milk and curd.


 On 25th December of the same year, Dr Ambedkar and many of his followers started a campaign to burn the Manusmriti. Manusmriti is an ancient Hindu text where the caste rules are written. The day they did that, is celebrated as Manusmriti Dahan Divas.


 Another famous movement was at Nashik's Kalaram Temple. The Dalits were forbidden to enter the temple. He started a procession march against it. He was also inspired by the ideas of the French Revolution. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Not only did he mention these in the Constitution but he also wrote them in the Preamble. And he mentioned these in the Mahad Satyagraha as well.


 We often take these ideas for granted. But let's not forget, friends, that these things it isn't so that every country had them in their constitution always. Take America for example, when their Constitution was written it did not have Equality. Neither did it have equal rights for the Blacks. Nor voting rights for women. 


It took America around 75 years to add in their Constitution that slavery should be abolished. Another huge achievement of Dr Ambedkar has been bringing in the Hindu Code Bill along with Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. This was a very progressive step for Hindu women which helps to protect them. 


Unfortunately, at that time, it couldn't be brought in for the other religions because of tense situations. But the Uniform Civil Code,that is much talked about, I hope it brings such progressive reforms for every religion. 


Today all of us could learn a lot from the ideas and ideologies of Dr Ambedkar. If we really want to pay tribute to him these principles of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity, should be implemented in the truest sense for all. Because all of us know that on the ground,we still can't see these today.


 All of us know that even today how prevalent casteism is. Peoples still shun inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. It is something that Gandhi Ji and Dr Ambedkar finally agreed on. That if we want to make the society united, if we want to make our country united, we need to promote inter-caste and inter-religious marriages. 


I hope you find this article informative. If you liked it, please share. Now write your opinion in the comments below. 


Thank you very much.

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