Bodhi Sattva’s Hindutva: Part 5
Understanding the intrinsic nature of Islamic politics was not a mere theoretical exercise. Dr.Ambedkar had learnt first hand and in bitterness how Islamic politics could use Dalit frustrations with Hindus, as a coin in the Chess board solely for its advantage. He knew how they could then throw them completely off in a heartless manner. He stated:
I would like to tell the Scheduled Castes who happen today to be impounded inside Pakistan to come over to India by such means as may be available to them. The second thing I want to say is that it would be fatal for the Scheduled Castes, whether in Pakistan or Hyderabad, to put their faith in Muslims or Muslim League. It has become a habit with the scheduled castes to look upon the Muslims as friends simply because they dislike Hindus. This is mistaken view. The Muslims wanted the support of the scheduled castes but they never gave their support to the scheduled castes. Mr. Jinnah was all the time playing a double game. He was very insistent that the scheduled castes were a separate entity when it suited him, but when it did not suit him, he insisted, with equal emphasis, that they were Hindus.[i]
He wanted the Schedules Castes trapped in Pakistan on the eve of Partition, to save their lives and come to India. He offered them a very practical advice, a method as intelligent as the escape of Shivaji from the prison of Aurangazeb:
As regards conversion to Islam, I ask all the scheduled castes not to succumb to it as an easy way to escape. I cannot say that they should die rather than be converted. What I say is that they must look upon it as a last resort forced upon them by violence. I say that they must not regard themselves as lost to the fold forever. Fortunately, for us we are not hampered by the rules of the Hindu Shastras. To all those who was forcibly converted I pledge my word that if they wish to come back I shall see that they are received back into the fold and treated as brethren in the same manner in which they were treated before the conversion.[ii]
When some misguided Dalits were lured into supporting Hyderabad Nizam’s plan for not merging with India, Dr.Ambedkar gravely warned them:
The Scheduled Castes of Hyderabad should under no circumstances side with the Nizam and the Ittehad-ul- Muslimeen. … No person from the Scheduled Castes should bring disgrace upon the community by siding with one who is an enemy of India.[iii]
During the partition migration, Hindu refugees from Pakistan were being incessantly attacked all along by Muslim mobs actively supported by Pakistani army. After repeated demands from Dr.Ambedkar to the government Mahar regiment was sent for the safety of Pakistani Hindu-Sikh refugees. The Regiment helped in the safe transfer of lakhs of refugees in the face of violent armed mobs.[iv]
Soon after the partition, Kashmir problem began. October 1947 saw Pakistani army backed raiders enter Kashmir. They started widespread looting and killing. Pandit Nehru was clueless as to what to do that he complained to the British Prime Minister out Pakistani aggression. In Kashmir issue the crucial role of Dr.Ambedkar, has not yet been fully appreciated by many. Dalit scholar and historian Dr.K.Jamanlaldas has made the crucial step in assessing his role. According to Dr.Jamanlaldas:
Military operations were under Major General Kalwant Singh. The Mahar Battalions were employed as advised by Dr. Ambedkar. Their stay was for 18 months. Their work was highly appreciated. They stopped the aggression and repealed the enemy with great valor. It was exclaimed that if they were allowed to fight fully, there would have been no POK…. The Times of India 26.10.52 praised the valor of Mahar battalion in the following terms: “In Kashmir War in December, 1947, a battalion of the Mahar Regiment earned undying fame by its bravery and devotion to duty. The part, which this battalion played in the battle of Jhangar, will be written in the golden letters in the history of Indian Army.[v]
Despite the advantage Indian army had on the ground, despite being cautioned by many seasoned Indian leaders, Nehru autocratically took the Kashmir matter to UN. Dr.Ambedkar was also critical about Indian government ready to give special rights to Kashmir. Dr.Jamanlaldas reveals:
…Dr. Ambedkar had clearly told Sk. Abdullah: “You wish India should protect your borders, she should build roads in your area, she should supply you food grains, and Kashmir should get equal status as India. But Government of India should have only limited powers and Indian people should have no rights in Kashmir. To give consent to this proposal, would be a treacherous thing against the interests of India and I, as the Law Minister of India, will never do it.” Then Sk. Abdullah went to Nehru, who directed him to Gopal Swami Ayyangar, who approached Sardar Patel asking him to do something as it was a matter of prestige of Nehru, who has promised Sk. Abdullah accordingly. Patel got it passed when Nehru was on foreign tour. On the day this article came up for discussion, Dr. Ambedkar did not reply to questions on it though he did participate on other articles. All arguments were done by Krishna Swami Ayyangar.[vi]
Later talking to the students of Lucknow University, Dr.Ambedkar said regarding Kashmir, “If we cannot save the whole of Kashmir at least let us save our kith and kin.”[vii] His ‘kith and kin’ were the Hindus of Jammu and Kashmir and the Buddhists of Ladakh. It was the same categorization Harbilas Sarda had made earlier. Veer Savarkar too had also dreamt of a pan-Hindu-Buddhist alliance to counter a possible pan-Islamic onslaught.[viii]
In 1948, Dr. Khare, whom Dr.Ambedkar had supported in 1938, was the Chief Minister of the state of Alwar. Dr.Khare was sacked by Nehru government, following the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. He was then the member of Constituent Assembly and he was made to submit that post also. When Dr.Ambedkar heard of these humiliations, he went to meet Dr.Khare in person to his house and consoled him. Dr.Ambedkar’s words reveal the respect and love he had for Dr.Khare: “Dr.Khare, hence forward, nobody will come to see you. You will feel very lonely. Whenever you feel, you can call on me for a chat. My house is open to you.”[ix] With Dr.Ambedkar’s emotional help, Dr.Khare overcame this tough period in his life. Later Dr.Khare left Congress and joined Hindu Maha Sabha.
In 1950 anti-Hindu pogroms broke out in East Pakistan against Hindus which were actually genocidal in nature. Against this background Nehru signed a pact with Liaquat Ali of East Pakistan which left Hindus of East Pakistan helpless. Indian government had totally washed off its hands from protecting their lives, honour and properties. Soon after the pact Dr.Shyama Prasad Mukherjee resigned from the Nehru cabinet. Dr.Ambedkar too was critical about the pact. He resigned from the Nehru cabinet on 27-Sep-1951. In his resignation statement he condemned the callousness shown by Nehru against the sufferings Hindus of East Pakistan were undergoing and the foolishness of the plebiscite Nehru had made in his own romanticism unconcerned about the plight of ‘our people’:
There are two grounds which have disturbed our relations with Pakistan – one is Kashmir and the other is the condition of our people in East Bengal. I felt that we should be more deeply concerned with East Bengal where the condition of our people seems from all the newspapers intolerable than with Kashmir. Notwithstanding this we have been staking our all on the Kashmir issue. … What I am afraid of is that in the proposed plebiscite, which is to be an overall plebiscite, the Hindus and Buddhists of Kashmir are likely to be dragged into Pakistan against their wishes and we may have to face same problems as we are facing today in East Bengal.[x]
In October 1951 Dr.Ambedkar attacked Congress for doing nothing for the Scheduled Castes and termed Nehru as being heartless towards Dalit communities while suffering from ‘Muslim mania’.[xi] In 1952 Dr.Ambedkar revealed how Congress behaved with respect to Dalit Hindus held captive in Pakistan:
Immediately after the Partition, Pakistan Government issued orders prohibiting the scheduled caste people, from leaving Pakistan for India. Pakistan did not bother so much if the Hindus left, but who would do the dirty work of the scavengers, sweepers, the Bhangis and other despised castes if the untouchables left Pakistan. I requested Pt. Nehru to take immediate action and strive for the removal of this ban on their migration. He did not do anything at all. He slept over the issue and did not even casually mention it during the course of various discussions with the Pakistanis. None of the Congress Harijans raised a finger at this persecution of their brethren in Pakistan.[xii]
Dr.Ambedkar was equally critical about the Marxists. He had an admiration for the analysis of Karl Marx regarding the capitalist system. But he considered Marx to have made a correct diagnosis of the disease but judged him of having provided a charlatan cure. As early as 1937, Dr.Ambedkar had declared that he was a confirmed enemy of the Communists, who exploited the labourers for their political ends.[xiii] Marxist theoretician Rahul Sankrityayan attacked Dr.Ambedkar in his book “From Volga to Ganga” terming his efforts as shallow and merely trying to create a Dalit capitalist class.[xiv]
In his seminal but incomplete work, “Buddha or Karl Marx” Dr.Ambedkar had made a comparison between Marxism and Buddhist Indic philosophy with Parliamentary democracy as an important factor of distinction:
The Bhikshu Sangh had the most democratic constitution. He was only one of the Bhikkus. At the most he was like a Prime Minister among members of the Cabinet. He was never a dictator. … What about the value of the means? Whose means are superior and lasting in the long run? Can the Communists say that in achieving their valuable end they have not destroyed other valuable ends? They have destroyed private property. Assuming that this is a valuable end can the Communists say that they have not destroyed other valuable end in the process of achieving it? How many people have they killed for achieving their end. Has human life no value? Could they not have taken property without taking the life of the owner?
Take dictatorship. The end of Dictatorship is to make the Revolution a permanent revolution. This is a valuable end. But can the Communists say that in achieving this end they have not destroyed other valuable ends? Dictatorship is often defined as absence of liberty or absence of Parliamentary Government. Both interpretations are not quite clear. There is no liberty even when there is Parliamentary Government. For law means want of liberty. The difference between Dictatorship and Parliamentary Govt. lies in this. In Parliamentary Government every citizen has a right to criticise the restraint on liberty imposed by the Government. In Parliamentary Government you have a duty and a right; the duty to obey the law and right to criticise it. In Dictatorship you have only duty to obey but no right to criticise it.
Humanity does not only want economic values, it also wants spiritual values to be retained. Permanent Dictatorship has paid no attention to spiritual values and does not seem to intend to. Carlyle called Political Economy a Pig Philosophy. Carlyle was of course wrong. For man needs material comforts” But the Communist Philosophy seems to be equally wrong for the aim of their philosophy seems to be to fatten the pigs as though men are no better than pigs. Man must grow materially as well as spiritually. Society has been aiming to lay a new foundation was summarised by the French Revolution in three words, Fraternity, Liberty and Equality. The French Revolution was welcomed because of this slogan. It failed to produce equality.
We welcome the Russian Revolution because it aims to produce equality. But it cannot be too much emphasised that in producing equality society cannot afford to sacrifice fraternity or liberty. Equality will be of no value without fraternity or liberty. It seems that the three can coexist only if one follows the way of the Buddha.[xv]
Regarding his seeming praise for Soviet Union, one should remember two things: Leftist elements in the nationalist Indian media were carrying out a pro-Soviet propaganda blitzkrieg at that time. Secondly, the original Russian revolution of Czar abdicating in favour of a democratic government had nothing to do with the October takeover of Russia by Bolsheviks under Lenin’s leadership and with German monetary support.
In 1949 as the head of the drafting committee of Indian Constitution Dr.Ambedkar had countered the attack of Communists:
The condemnation of the Constitution largely comes from two quarters, the Communist Party and the Socialist Party. Why do they condemn the Constitution? Is it because it is really a bad Constitution? I venture to say no’. The Communist Party want a Constitution based upon the principle of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. They condemn the Constitution because it is based upon parliamentary democracy. The Socialists want two things. The first thing they want is that if they come in power, the Constitution must give them the freedom to nationalize or socialize all private property without payment of compensation. The second thing that the Socialists want is that the Fundamental Rights mentioned in the Constitution must be absolute and without any limitations so that if their Party fails to come into power, they would have the unfettered freedom not merely to criticize, but also to overthrow the State.[xvi]
Then he went on to give a brilliant defense of Parliamentary democracy. Acknowledging that Parliament democracy is not the ‘the only ideal form of political democracy’, he saw the roots of present democratic system he was defending in the fertile soil of ancient Indian past. Here he makes a tantalizing suggestion that the Buddhist Sangha adapted and perhaps improved upon the democratic system of pre-Buddhist and hence Vedic India:
It is not that, India did not know what democracy is. There was a time when India was studded with republics, and even where there were monarchies, they were either elected or limited. They were never absolute. It is not that India did not know Parliaments or Parliamentary Procedure. A study of the Buddhist Bhikshu Sanghas discloses that not only there were Parliaments-for the Sanghas were nothing but Parliaments – but the Sanghas knew and observed all the rules of Parliamentary Procedure known to modern times. They had rules regarding seating arrangements, rules regarding Motions, Resolutions, Quorum, Whip, Counting of Votes, Voting by Ballot, Censure Motion, Regularization, Res Judicata, etc. Although these rules of Parliamentary Procedure were applied by the Buddha to the meetings of the Sanghas, he must have borrowed them from the rules of the Political Assemblies functioning in the country in his time. [xvii]
In other words Dr.Ambedkar was rejecting the Euro-centric Marxism for an Indic evolute of Parliamentary democracy. Here it is worthwhile to remember that elsewhere in his hard hitting ‘Riddles’ he had stated that Vedic ‘Brahmaism’ was the most suited spiritual philosophy for social democracy.[xviii] In dealing with Communist countries, Dr.Ambedkar proved prophetic. He stated with regard to USSR:
The Communist system is based on force. Supposing tomorrow the dictatorship in Russia fail and we see signs of its failure, what would happen? I really like to know what would happen to Communist system. As I see it there would be bloody warfare among the Russian people for appropriating the property of the state. That would be the consequence of it.[xix]
Dr.Ambedkar was emphatic that India should approach them through the prism of civilizational philosophy India upholds as a nation namely social freedom as against empty pipe dreams of socialist fellowship. He warned Nehru regarding his romantic overtures to China, allowing Lhasa to be taken over by Mao’s China. The warning he made regarding Chinese aggression turned chillingly prophetic:
The Prime Minister has practically helped the Chinese to bring their border down to the Indian border. Looking at all these it seems to me that it would be an act of levity not to believe that India, if it is not exposed to aggression right now, is exposed to aggression and that aggression might well be committed by people who always are in the habit of committing aggression.[xx]
He also considered Nehruvian Panchsheel a wrong policy, particularly when applied to Communists:
The Prime Minister has been depending upon what may be called the Panchsheel taken by Mr. Mao and recorded in the Tibet Treaty of non-aggression. Well, I am somewhat surprised that the Prime Minister should take this Panchsheel seriously. The Panchsheel, as you, Sir know it well, is the essential part of the Buddhist religion, and if Mr. Mao had any faith in the Panchsheel, he certainly would treat the Buddhists in his own country in a very different way. There is no room for Panchsheel in politics and secondly not in the politics of a communist country.[xxi]
Communist states have no fixed morality according to Dr.Ambedkar. “Their morality is always in a flux; there is no morality.”, he said. So nations with such a philosophy cannot be trusted with principles like Panchsheel. Dr.Ambedkar wanted India as a democratic state to join SEATO (South-East Asian Treaty Organization) rather than join the Soviet bloc. Dr. Ambedkar warned Nehru of ‘Communist giant’ and considered Nehru’s opposition to SEATO as resulting from ‘some estrangement’ Nehru had with United States.[xxii] Dr.Ambedkar was also worried about the takeover of Buddhist countries of South East Asia by Communism. Here Dr.Ambedkar presented the social gospel of Buddhism as an alternative to Marxist model of Communism which lacks freedom and is built on dictatorship.[xxiii]
Baba Saheb Ambedkar was also very conscious of the power of national symbols. Even as a boy, he had great love for Sanskrit. He considered Sanskrit to be “the golden treasure house of epics, the cradle of grammar, politics and philosophy and the home of logic, dramas and criticism”.[xxiv] His sincere love for Sanskrit as the civilizational language of India did not prevent the casteism of Hindu orthodoxy from brutally denying him access to learning Sanskrit. Yet he adored the language and wanted it to be the national language of India. At the executive committee of All India Scheduled Caste Federation, conveyed on 10th September 1949, Dr.Ambedkar announced his personal preference for Sanskrit as the national language of the union.[xxv]
During the discussion of the draft of the constitution, Prof.K.T.Shah, suggested that the words ‘Secular, Federal Socialist’ be included in the preamble of the constitution, Dr.Ambedkar rejected the amendment. He stated:
I regret that I cannot accept the amendment of Prof. K. T. Shah. … [The Constitution] is not a mechanism whereby particular members or particular parties are installed in office. What should be the policy of the State, how the Society should be organised in its social and economic side are matters which must be decided by the people themselves according to time and circumstances. It cannot be laid down in the Constitution itself, because that is destroying democracy altogether.
If you state in the Constitution that the social organisation of the State shall take a particular form, you are, in my judgment, taking away the liberty of the people to decide what should be the social organisation in which they wish to live. It is perfectly possible today, for the majority people to hold that the socialist organisation of society is better than the capitalist organisation of society. But it would be perfectly possible for thinking people to devise some other form of social organisation which might be better than the socialist organisation of today or of tomorrow. I do not see therefore why the Constitution should tie down the people to live in a particular form and not leave it to the people themselves to decide it for themselves.[xxvi]
Twenty years after Dr.Ambedkar’s demise the words ‘secular socialist’ would be sneaked in by pseudo-secular politicians, through 42nd amendment, when India moved very close to Fascism – in 1976 during those days of darkness at noon, Emergency. During the Hindu Code Bill controversy even as Shyama Prasad Mukherjee of Hindu Maha Sabha opposed it, Veer Savarkar stated that if the government was convinced that the Hindu code bill was a good thing that really helped the society then irrespective of opposition and electroal ambitions it should pass the bill.[xxvii]
Dr.Ambedkar had written pages upon pages about how beef-eating was used by upper castes to perpetuate untouchability. Nevertheless he had respect for the cow veneration of Hindus. He explained rationally how cow veneration makes sense in an agricultural civilization like India:
The love of the ancient Hindoo and for that matter of the modem for agriculture transcends that of the ancient Greek and is just manifested in the worship of the cow. The Hindoo devotion to the Cow has been an enigma to most of the foreigners and above all has been an efficient lore in the hands of those half-baked theological failures, who go to India to conduct their missionary propaganda for blackmailing the Hindoo. The origin of cow worship is as much economic as that Roman practice of not offering wine to the Gods from unpruned vines.
The cow and for that matter all draft animals, is the soul of the farmers. The cow gives birth to oxen which are absolutely necessary to the cultivation of the farm. If we kill the cow for meat, we jeopardize our agricultural prosperity. With full foresight, the ancient Hindoos tabooed cow-flesh and thus prevented cow killing. But man hardly pays any attention to dry rulings. It must have religious sanction; hence the grotesque mythology around the cow in old Hindoo religious literature.[xxviii]
This scientific sociological understanding of Hindu cow veneration never left Dr.Ambedkar. At the same time the casteist abuse of beef-eating practicies against his people by Hindu orthodoxy also weighed heavily on him. Dr.Ambedkar made protection of cow and her progeny part of the directiive principles of the Constitution. Directive principles are not enforced by courts. In a functioning democracy, they demand a societal inner change for them to be implemented in the society through governmental will. The distance of deviation from the Directive Principles and a polity is a meaure of the quantum of future well being of the society which has been sacrificed at the altar of short term political gains. Directive Principles of Indian Constitution says:
The State shall endeavor to organize agriculture and animal husbandry on modern and scientific lines and shall in particular take steps for preserving and improving the breed and prohibiting the slaughter of cows, calves and other milch and draught cattle.
Dr.Ambedkar also assured Hindu Maha Sabha members that he would support their agitation for making saffron flag the national flag of India if they would start a movement demanding the same.[xxix] However the political currents moved in other directions and Hindu Maha Sabha never mobilized such a movement.
[i] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol- 17, Part 1, Education Dept., Govt. of Maharashtra,p.367
[ii] Ibid., p.368
[iv]V. K. Shrivastava, Infantry, a Glint of the Bayonet, Army Directorate General of Infantry, 2000, p.144
[v] Dr.K.Jamanlaldas, Kashmir Problem From Ambedkarite Perspective, http://www.ambedkar.org/jamanadas/KashmirProblem1.htm
[vii] Dhananjay Kheer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Popular Prakashan, 1990, p. 438
[viii] Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, ‘Front of a Hindu-Buddhistic alliance from Jammu to Kashmir’, Speech on 25-April-1941
[ix] Vasant Moon, Dr.Baba Saheb Ambedkar, National Book Trust, India, 1991:2002, p.185
[x] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol- 14, Part 2, Education Dept., Govt. of Maharashtra, pp.1317-1327
[xi] Dhananjay Kheer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Popular Prakashan, 1990, p. 438
[xii]Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Thus Spoke Ambedkar, Selected Speeches, Vol.II, 1969, Bhim Patrika Publications, Jalandhar, pp.31-42
[xiii] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol- 17, Part 3, Education Dept., Govt. of Maharashtra, p.163
[xiv] Rahul Sankrityayan, From Volga to Ganges, (Tamil), Tamil Pushtakalaya, 1948 p.529
[xv] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol-3, Education Dept., Govt. of Maharashtra, pp.452- 462
[xvi] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, 25th November, 1949: http://parliamentofindia.nic.in/ls/debates/vol11p11.htm
[xviii] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol-4, Education Dept., Govt. of Maharashtra,p.286
[xix] Dhananjay Kheer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Popular Prakashan, 1990, p.508
[xx] Ibid., pp. 455-6
[xxi] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol-15, Education Dept., Govt. of Maharashtra, p.882
[xxii] Dr.Ambedkar warns Nehru of ‘Communist giant’, The Canberra Times, 28 August 1954
[xxiii] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Talk on BBC, London, 12 May 1956
[xxiv] Dhananjay Kheer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Popular Prakashan, 1990, p.19
[xxv] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar interview in The Sunday Hindustan Standard dated 11-Sep-1949
[xxvi] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Constituent Assembly of India Debate dated 15-Nov-1948
[xxvii] Dhananjay Kheer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Popular Prakashan, 1990, p.426
[xxviii] Dr.Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol-12, Education Dept., Govt. of Maharashtra, p.7
[xxix] Vasant Moon, Dr.Baba Saheb Ambedkar, National Book Trust, India, 1991:2002, p.183