Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s election speech at Ramdaspur, Jalandhar (formerly known as Jullundar) delivered on 27th October 1951 —
Dear brothers and sisters! I had an idea to tour the Punjab before but I could not come here and I have come to know that many people we collected in Jullundar and were disappointed to find that, I had not come here. I hope you will excuse me for this inconvenience caused to you all. My inability to come here, although caused much inconvenience to so many people but I was helpless and it was all due to the following reasons. Firstly, during my four years in the Congress Government, I had overburdened with official work and could not find time to come here. Secondaly, I was also not keeping good health during all these years and still I am not quite well. Thirdly, the Acchuts (untouchables) of the whole of India wish that I should tour the whole of India and speak to them. You can well understand that our country is such a big continent that it is not possible for a single man to tour the whole country even in two years. So I could not fulfill people’s desire and could not come here when they wanted me. Therefore I want that all our people should stand on their own legs and be united so that they may be able to weather away from the storm without my assistance and not to press upon me too much.
A man should leave politics after the age of 52 years, because even Government gives notice to a Government servant after the age of 55 that he is unfit for service now and he should retire. But the politicians of the present age start their politics after the age of 55 years so that they may be able to earn their livelihood; does not matter whether they are able to serve the country or not. They have only one point in mind and that is to get something out of it for their own self. I have no selfish motives. I am doing so far the sake of my community. I jumped into politics in 1920 and since then I have taken part in politics and upto this time. I have spent thirty long years of my life in serving my community. Although I want to leave politics but I have been compelled to remain in politics thinking the necessity of organizing my community. Out of these thirty years, eight years I was Member of the Government. I do not know if there is any politician who has been in politics continuously for such long time. I remained in the Government for eight years and had I wished I could have remained there forever. I am not proud of it but I know that with my qualifications at my back, nobody had the power to expel me if I simply wanted to remain there. But the cause of my community necessitated my resignation from the membership of the Congress Government. I may assure you that I have always the well-being of my community in mind, wherever I go.
When I came from England after getting my degree in Doctor of Philosophy, there was nobody in India with such qualifications. So when I reached Bombay and settled in the Mohalla from where I had gone, the Bombay Government after a great difficulty found my place, as nobody knew where I was residing – it was such an unpopular place – and approached me to accept the post of Professor of Political Economy. I refused the offer. If I had accepted that job, I would have been at least the Director of Public Instructions. I would have got three or four thousands of rupees per month. I refused the post because I had a great feeling for the service of my community which I could not have done remaining in that service. A Government servant, you know, cannot serve his community as he has to go according to the wishes of the Government and follow the policy of the Government.
After earning some money for two-three years, I again went to England for further studies and came back as a Barrister. When I returned to Bombay, I was again asked by Bombay Government to accept the post of a District Judge. I was offered Rs. 2000/- per month and promised that I will be a High Court Judge after some time. But I did not accept that also. My income although, from the other sources at that time was only Rs.200/-.
In 1942, I had to face two questions. One was to serve as a High Court Judge and the other was to join Government of India as a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. Had I joined the High Court, I would have received Rs. 5000/- per menses as pay and Rs. 1000/- as pension after retirement but I did not do that. I entered politics. I got birth in Achhut community and will die for my community and the cause of my community is supreme to me. I did not join any party or body. I remained independent while in the Congress Government, I remained true to my people. Many people thought that I had joined the Congress Party as I had accepted the Cabinet Ministership of the Congress Government. The critics pointed out that Dr. Ambedkar had joined Congress and why the Scheduled Castes people should continue to remain in the Scheduled Castes Federation. I explained about it at Lucknow that earth and stone are two different things and they can never mix together. Stone will remain the stone and the earth will remain the earth. I am like a rock(Stone) which does not melt but turns the course of rivers. Wherever, I may be, in whatever company I may find myself, I would never lose my separate identity. If anybody asks my co-operation I would gladly give it for a worthy cause. I co-operate with the Congress Government for four years with all my might, and with the sincerity in the service of my mother-land. But during all these years I did not allow myself, to merge into the Congress organization. I would gladly help and co-operate with those who are sweet-tongued but whose intention and action go against the interest of our people.
Now coming to the ensuing general elections I appeal to the Scheduled Castes people to treat the elections as a struggle for life and death and work in that spirit during the coming months. We must use all our strength to get our candidates elected. Man derives strength from the number of people behind him and from the wealth he possesses. We are a minority, we are not wealthy. Our population in an average village does not exceed 5 percent of the total population. We are helpless against the combined wealth and strength of the 95 percent of the population. The police who invariably belong to the high-caste Hindus never even pay heed to our genuine complaints; on the contrary, we are persecuted for lodging complaints. Owing to poverty we are unable to have the authorities on our side.
But we can have one power and that is the political power. This power we must win. Armed with this power, we can protect the interest of our people.
Are you assured of this power in the freedom, this country has gained? We were never against our country getting independence. But we wanted a straight answer to only one question. What will be our fate in Free India? I posed that question before Gandhiji (after other Congress leaders), only one question; that what will be the position of our people in Swaraj? Whether we will remain the same Bhangies and chamaras as we are today; whether our children will not be admitted to the Schools in the same way as it being done now, and our people will have to suffer as they are suffering now in the villages? What will happen to our people? At the Roundtable conference, this question was again raised whether we want Swaraj or not, I asked Gandhi who was the sponsor of this move, the same question that what will he do for the poor people if India got Swaraj?
Whether we will be given safeguards as are proposed to be provided for Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Anglo-Indians. But when the Scheduled Castes people were given separate rights in 1932, Gandhi started fast unto death until this provision of separate electorates for the Scheduled Castes was repealed. At that time, an agreement was reached between us; but what is happening today isquite different to what was agreed to. He promised at that time that no candidates on Congress tickets will be put against those of the Scheduled Castes Federation. We want to send our people for the reserved seats but Congress Party is interfering with it. They are trying to put people for our reserved seats who are fools and have selfish motives, who will be ‘yes men’ of the Congress. When any Brahman or Baniya asks for the ticket of the Congress, he is asked one question. They want to know how many times he had gone to jail. I want to ask the Congress, why they do not ask the same question from Scheduled Castes people, who seek Congress ticket? And why only illiterate and unpopular people are selected by them?
There were 30 people in the Parliament. I ask them what have they done there ! They never asked any question, they never moved any resolution and they never submitted a bill for consideration before the Parliament. If anybody comes from outside and sees that 30 members of Parliament have not put up any grievance, he will think that our people are at right and do not require any special consideration. That is why we want to send our true representative who will put our grievances before the Assemblies secure redress.
From the very first election, we have been fighting against the Congress because it is unnecessarily interfering with our rights. Just see the leader of the Congress Party, Pandit Nehru. He has delivered two thousand speeches during the last 20 years, but he has never spoken about the welfare of the Scheduled Castes even once. From this you can judge what sympathy the Congress Party can have for our people when its leader is so much adamant. Pandit Nehru is always for the Muslims. I do not want that Muslims should be neglected; but I do not want that Muslims should not enjoy at the expense of the other communities who need more protection. I heard that some people went to Pandit Nehru and requested that something should be done for the Scheduled Castes. But Pandit Nehru told them that everything has been done for them and they do not require anything special now. At the time of Partition, when our people were asked by the Pakistan authorities to remain in Pakistan so that they may not have to do the menial duties themselves, I asked Pandit Nehru to do something for the evacuation of the poor Scheduled Castes. Pandit Nehru did not do anything. I sent two persons to Pakistan for the evacuation of our people and our Mahar Battalion was also sent there for protection to the poor Scheduled Castes. If Congress Leader has so much sympathy for our people, what Congress will do for us?
There are 21 seats reserved for Scheduled Castes in the Punjab Assembly out of 120 seats and three reserved in the Union Parliament. I want to ask one question from all those parties which want to put candidates of their choice to these reserved seats and to show sympathy with the Scheduled Castes why they put the candidates against the reserved seats only and why they do not put those candidates to general seats. If they are sincere, let them provide general seats for our people. All these parties want to take away from us what we have achieved after great hardship.
I want to tell you that without political power we cannot exist in this world. We have secured reservation of seats in the Provincial Assemblies and the Union Parliament but this is only for 10 years and nobody can say what will happen after 10 years. If our true representatives are not sent to Assemblies and Parliament, all our efforts will be in vain; but if they are sent, something will come out of it. Otherwise, we cannot have the voice in the Government and local bodies.
The map of politics has changed in India now. First Congress was fighting for Swaraj and that is why all the people joined it. And those who opposed the Congress were supposed to be anti-nationalist. But now the conditions have changed. See the Congress Pahalwans of Punjab. There was a time when Bhargava and Sachar were like brothers. They promised to be peaceful with each other. But now they are the worst enemies. The last date for the filing of papers is 5th November and to-day is 27th October, but the list of Congress candidates has not so far been sent from Punjab. Both of these people are anxious to become Prime Ministers. The same thing is happening in Bihar. I am surprised to see that Congress Party which was so powerful at the time of partition, has so weakened in such a short period. To-day the man who (has) Gandhi cap is not considered gentlemen. People say either ‘Congress man’ or gentleman’. Nobody can be both. Such is the position of Congress now. Congress has become old now and it is not able to fight with other and will die its natural death.
If you vote for the Scheduled Caste Federation then I assure you that our candidates will be successful in the general elections. There is no doubt about it, the only thing is that you should vote for true representatives. On the day of voting, all men and women should leave their business and go to polls.
The reservation of seats for the Scheduled Castes is for 10 years only. I wanted that this reservation should remain for such time as untouchability is there; but the Congress leader, late Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel opposed me. So the other persons who were there in the Committee also have to support Sardar because they belonged to his party. Therefore, we should try to send our true representatives to the Assemblies so that they may safeguard our rights and also try to secure this reservation after 10 years. The people who are trying to secure tickets from other parties forget that after 10 years, they will be nowhere. No other party will come to them to say that would stand on their tickets. To-day other parties are only anxious to secure our votes and capture our seats and not that they are sympathizing with us.
When the time came for the award of different symbols to different parties, our party, the Scheduled Castes Federation was also considered as an All India Party. Other parties gave their symbols as oxen, Horses, Donkeys, etc. but for your convenience, I made our symbol, the ‘Elephant’ so that people may not find difficulty in recognizing our party candidates. The elephant can be easily distinguished form other animals.
The time the cumulative voting system has been replaced with distributive system. Where there are reserved seats, the voters of that constituency can cast two votes, one to a candidate standing on reserved seat and the other to a candidate who is standing on general seat. We cannot cast two vote to one man. So we will have to make alliance with some party, whose voters will cast their second vote in our favour. The party whom we enter into agreement will be declared in a few days and you must vote for that party and in return that party will support our candidates. In this way, our candidates will be successful. Our voting strength is not so strong and moreover there are joint electorates which make our position more awkward. So we will have to make alliance with one party or the other.
At the end I want to inform you that there is only one party which can do something for the Scheduled Castes and that is the Scheduled Castes Federation. I have built the house for you and it is for up to you to maintain it in proper order. I have planted the tree, if you water it, you will enjoy the fruit and you will be able to enjoy its shade if not you will have to sit in the sun. Our community will be ruined. So every Scheduled Caste should come under the banner of the Scheduled Caste Federation and make it more powerful. Only if we unite, we can achieve something. United we stand and divided we fall.