Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is a historical personality, whose mere mentioning of the name evokes strong sentiments from people across the sociopolitical spectrum in modern Indian. Ambedkar has been glorified as a messianic character to whom a variety of accomplishments have been ascribed, viz., being the father of the Indian Constitution, a supporter of Indian freedom struggle from the British colonial rule, a proponent of social justice and equality, a champion of women empowerment, an advocate of the integration of Kashmir in the Indian union, and above all as being an Indian patriot who wanted a strong and united India.
However, Ambedkar was far from being the ideal hero he has been projected to be in the present times. Historical facts from primary sources allude to a different direction, which has however been sidelined to create an artificial make-believe tale of Ambedkar, thereby painting a perverted and negative impression of the Hindu society.
This series of articles aims to put out facts from primary historical sources to clarify this imaginary picture of Ambedkar which has been pushed down the throat of the Indian masses. The intention is to shed light on the actions and statements made by Ambedkar himself, which have been brushed aside from the public sphere, and to help people know the reality for what it is, instead of how it has been made out to be by the political establishment due to their vested interests. This first part of this series will focus on the role he played during the Indian freedom movement, being a loyal minister of the British government, and his contribution in widening and aggravating the fault lines within the Hindu society.
1. A Loyal Sepoy of the British
Throughout Ambedkar’s public life we will be hard-pressed to find even a single instance where he supported the freedom movement against the British. On the contrary, at every available opportunity, he was persuading the British to stay back in India and made every attempt possible to derail the freedom movement. For instance, it was Ambedkar’s firm opinion that “If India became independent, it would be one of the greatest disasters that could happen” (Fig. 1).
Ambedkar’s language was always framed in a way to be favorable to the continuation of British rule over India. While today he is considered as a nationalist unifying figure, he made every attempt possible to prove to the British that the supposed ‘Untouchables’ was the greatest allies of the British along with the other minorities (Fig. 2).
In addition to flaming caste-based hatred in the Hindu society, Ambedkar was also a sympathizer of the Muslim League. With British refusal to make any progress regarding India’s freedom, Congress ministers resigned in protest during November 1939. While Jinnah decided to celebrate the exit of Congress as a “Day of Deliverance”, Ambedkar declared he would join in for the celebration (Fig. 3). This strategic alignment of Ambedkar with the Muslims in opposing the Congress was always useful for the British to justify their colonial subjugation of India.
All the positions taken by Ambedkar were in line with the interests of the British. During 1939, when the second world war was about to break out, Congress was pushing for self-governance and this was putting the British in a tight position, which intended to gain assistance from India to fight a war. In such a critical stage as well, Ambedkar stood firmly with the British. On 7 October 1939, as the crisis was reaching its peak, in a discussion with the Secretary of State, Ambedkar resolutely declared that self-governance by Indians should be completely opposed (Fig. 4).
Through his efforts of supporting the British cause, Ambedkar was garnering appreciation from high-ranking British officials, which comes up time and again in their correspondences. As a result, they wanted to reward him with a position of influence in the government. Particularly, they wanted to give Ambedkar a position in the Viceroy’s council (Fig. 5).
Finally, Ambedkar’s efforts paid off when Ambedkar was inducted into the Viceroy’s Executive Council on 20 July 1942. And he made the most of his opportunity to be of best use to the British. However, Ambedkar was not just introduced into the Viceroy’s Council for rewarding him. It was part of a larger scheme to wrest the SCs from the Hindu society to make it easier for the missionaries to target them and convert them from their native religion (Fig. 6).
Ambedkar was a quintessential loyal minister for the British government. Soon after he joined the Viceroy’s Council, on 8 August 1942, the “Quit India” resolution was passed by the Congress which started widespread protests, demonstrations, and violence across the country. Ambedkar did everything in his hands to protect the British government from any criticism. While the brutal measures taken by the British government were raising questions in the Assembly, Ambedkar stood steadfastly behind the government. He plainly said that there could not be a better form of government for the Indians than what they had at that moment, which was the British government. Being the Labour Minister, Ambedkar was also involved in carrying out pro-government propaganda through radio broadcasting, slandering the freedom movement using pejorative words such as, “a fetish of nationalism” and “the worship of the ancient past” (Fig. 7).
To understand the extent of blatant whitewashing of facts and propagation of falsehood which Ambedkar was indulging in, we just need to look at some of the facts and figures on the brutalities and persecution which the Indians were subjected to by the British during the Quit India movement. Even going by the official statistics, around 10,000 – 25,000 people were shot dead by police or military firings (Fig. 8(a)), countless young men including college students were brutally flogged, and according to some reports in some cases whole villages were flogged to death (Fig. 8(b)).
If these figures sound disturbing enough, we are yet to consider the supposedly man-made famine crisis in India during the second world war, particularly in Bengal in the year 1943-44. According to the official Famine Inquiry Commission, presided over by Sir John Woodhead (The Famine Enquiry Commission, 1945, p. 1), during the Bengal Famine of 1943, “Between one to two million people died as a result of the famine and the outbreaks of epidemic diseases associated with it” (Fig. 9). And these numbers are limited to Bengal alone. If we consider the situation throughout the country, we can very well imagine the kind of calamitous and dreadful time it was for Indians. But here was Ambedkar during such tumultuous times of suffering, emphatically stating with utter confidence that the British government was the best form of government for the Indians, and even indulging in blatantly false propaganda to whitewash their dreadful crimes from the public eyes!
2. An Aggravator of The Fault Lines Within the Hindu Society
While today’s Hindutva leaders glorify Ambedkar as an ally and sympathizer of Hindus, Ambedkar’s attempts were constantly in the direction of permanently severing the Hindu society. During the Round Table Conference in 1931, Ambedkar was adamant in insisting that Scheduled Castes (SCs) were different from Hindus, and even went on to the extent that their interests were not just different but eternally opposed to that of the Hindus. Even after opposition from Gandhi and other Congress leaders, Ambedkar held on to his position that SCs should be given separate electorates (Fig. 10).
During the colonial times, it was a standard practice of the Europeans to cite incidents of atrocities or evil practices among a native population, to justify their colonial rule over them. In this regard, Ambedkar proved to be a useful asset for the British to perpetuate their control over Indians with the excuse that Indians were incapable of taking care of their own people. In his attempt to paint a perverse and horrific image of the Indians, particularly the Hindu society, Ambedkar even went to the extent of equating Hinduism to Nazism! (Fig. 11). In any sensible society, spreading such dangerous falsehoods and sowing seeds of hatred and enmity between communities would amount to incitement of violence in the society. But we live in a society that has been subjected to relentless propaganda on one side which has resulted in a total inversion of the truth.
It would be a shock for many people today if they were told that, Ambedkar was in fact against even the formation of a
Constituent Assembly. But this was the fact; in reality, Ambedkar wanted a constitutional lawyer from the UK or the USA to preside over a commission to make a constitution (Fig. 12). Moreover, according to Ambedkar the Commission’s role of this commission would be limited to suggesting modifications to the already Government of India Act of 1935, which was promulgated by the British. Essentially, Ambedkar preferred a continuation of the British system of governance instead of a constitution framed by fellow Indians.
Ambedkar was ever ready to produce atrocity literature against the Hindu society as per the requirements of the British whenever it was needed to discredit the Congress party and stop any progress towards independence. Around the brink of the beginning of the second world war (around October 1939), when Congress was pressurizing the British to yield for self-governance of India, Mohammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League raised concerns regarding issues of rights of minorities. Here again, Ambedkar was together with the Muslim League, in projecting the Hindu society in a negative light. Ambedkar says that he is ready to place multiple times greater number of cases of oppression than the Muslims could (Fig. 12). It is worth noting that, this strategy of using atrocity literature created through one-sided documentation of the incidents and repeating well-packaged lies, is used even today to malign the Hindu society and disregard its valid concerns.
Ambedkar not only gave all his efforts towards the continuation of the British rule of India, but he also had planned to restrict the newly formed independent government to make way for a backdoor neo-colonial intervention of India. He wanted the newly formed government to make a treaty with Great Britain to allow them to intervene in our internal affairs even after independence. Not only this, but he also had an even more disruptive agenda of creating autonomous tracts of territory for SCs all over the country (Fig. 14).
This was not a one-time proposal from Ambedkar. As late as 1946, Ambedkar continued to propagate his attempts to severe the Hindu society and the to be formed Indian state with separate electorates to SCs, separate settlements for the SCs, and so on, which would essentially mean the creation of sub-nations within a nation (Fig. 15). It would seem unbelievable today, but he had demanded “separate villages” for the SCs. Resolution No IV titled ‘Separate Settlements’, passed at the All India Scheduled Castes Conference in Nagpur in July 1942 (Writings and Speeches, Vol 9, p. 393), states: “The Constitution should provide for the transfer of the SCs from their present habitation and form separate SC villages away from and independent of Hindu villages”. It is noteworthy that the Constitution makers rejected this dangerous idea of separate electorates and saved the Hindu society from a potentially toxic and perilous idea. Also, Ambedkar’s idea is not much different from the demand for ‘Dalitstan’ or ‘Harijanistan’ by modern Ambedkarites.
3. Independence on the Horizon and After: A Disgruntled and Ungrateful Man
Nevertheless, despite all his efforts to mollycoddle the British, Ambedkar never could gain acceptance from the pan-Indian SC community. This was proved conclusively in the provincial general assembly elections of 1946. In this election, Ambedkar’s Scheduled Castes Federation was dealt a devastating blow. Even in regions where his community, i.e., the Mahar community had a considerable population, his party was decisively defeated by the Congress (Fig. 16).
Since it was becoming clear that India’s freedom could not be stopped now, Ambedkar quickly started pleading with the British government to somehow give his party some positions of power in the newly formed interim government (Fig. 17). This behavior reveals Ambedkar’s tendency to go to any extent possible to curry favor with the colonialists to gain the seats of power.
But, in the end, it was the same Hindu leaders of the Congress party, whom Ambedkar had abused and dissed throughout his public life, who ensured a seat for him in the Constituent Assembly, with their rather misplaced sense of generosity. It was based on Sardar Patel’s phrase of, “forget and forgive”, that Ambedkar got a chance to continue in the Constituent Assembly and become the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution (Fig. 18).
Unfortunately, even after receiving such generosity and wholehearted acceptance from the Hindu leaders of the time, Ambedkar continued to spew venom against them. According to Ambedkar, fundamental rights were not needed during the British rule because, their administration was fair and just, and “there was a sense of security” among the people. But, with independence, it became necessary to include fundamental rights in the Constitution to allay the concerns of the minorities (Fig. 19). This small illustration itself shows his sophisticated usage of words to club the minorities and the SCs together and pitting them against the rest of the Hindu society, while carefully injecting a victim mentality in them, which continued even after the independence.
Ambedkar did not limit his argument of separate electorates and separate nationhood for SCs only; extending his logic, he in fact believed that, even Sikhs, Kashmiris, North Easterners, Muslims, Christians, etc., also deserved a right to self-determination. According to him, “India is not a nation and was never a nation” (Fig. 20). It is one of the paradoxes our times that a person who had such caustic views about the very existence of this nation is today celebrated as a freedom fighter, a historical figure worth emulating, and hailed as the principal architect of the Indian constitution.
Overall, Ambedkar remained a disgruntled, ungrateful man for the rest of his life, attributing all the failures he faced to inequality in the society and blaming others for discriminating and oppressing him while disregarding all the goodwill, respect, and magnanimity that were shown to him even by his political and ideological adversaries.
Throughout his public life, before the British left India, Ambedkar took positions that were perfectly aligned with the needs of the British Empire. All his attempts were either towards stopping or subverting the Indian freedom movement. Even in dire situations such as the brutal persecution of fellow Indians during the Quit India movement and the Bengal Famines, he stood with the British without any hesitation. His venomous views on Hinduism and his relentless attempts to fracture the Hindu society by flaming inter-caste hatred make him unworthy of the title of a national hero. Further, his quick overtures and adjustments to gain political power reveal some of the possible motivations for his actions. In summary, with the facts in hand, Ambedkar’s dangerous proposals such as arrangements for the convenient neo-colonial intervention of India, and the creation of separate settlements and electorates for the scheduled caste communities which could have led to sub-national and separatist tendencies, provides ample evidence to show that Ambedkar was quite the opposite of a national hero, and could be better described as a proponent of colonial subjugation and fragmentation of the Hindu society, and thereby India.
- Nicholas Mansergh, E. W. R. Lumby, Penderel Moon, The Transfer of power 1942-7, London: H.M.S.O., 1977.
- Arun Shourie, Worshipping False Gods; Ambedkar, and the facts which have been erased, Harper Collins, 1997.
- Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar; Writings and Speeches, Volume IX, Govt. of Maharashtra.
- Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar; Writings and Speeches, Volume X, Govt. of Maharashtra.
- Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar: Life and Mission, Popular Prakashan, 2005.
- Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India, The Signet Press, 1946.
- Sir John Woodhead, S. V. Ramamurty, M. A. Afzal Hussain, R. A. Gopalaswami, M. M. Junaid, The Famine Enquiry Commission – Final Report, Superintendent Government of India Press, 1945.
- Rajya Sabha Debates, https://rsdebate.nic.in/
- Dipak Basu, Victoria Miroshnik, India as an Organization: Volume One: A Strategic Risk Analysis of Ideals, Heritage and Vision, Springer, 2017.
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