Dr. B.R. Ambedkar speaks on M.K. Gandhi (BBC Radio)
Ambedkar: I met Mr Gandhi first in 1929, through the intervention of friend of mine, common friend, who asked Mr Gandhi to see me. So Mr Gandhi wrote to me, that he would like to see me, so I went & saw him, that was just before going to roundtable conference. Then he came to the 2nd round table conference, didn’t come for the first Round Table conference, he was there for five-six months. There of course (Ambedkar) I met him also and faced him also in 2nd Round Table conference you see. Then Once thereafter, he also after the signing of Poona pact asked me to come and see him. So I went to see him, He was then in the jail. That’s all the time I have met Mr Gandhi, But I always say that as I met Mr Gandhi in the capacity of an opponent I have a feeling that I know him better than most other people, because he had opened his real fangs to me, I could see the inside of the man, you see while others who generally went there as devotees, saw nothing of him, except the external appearance, which he had put as Mahatma. But I saw him in his human capacity, the bare men in him, and so I say that I understand him better than most of the people who have associated themselves with him, you can say.
Interviewer: how would you sum up.
Ambedkar: Well, I must say at the outset that I feel quite surprised you see the interest the outside world western world particularly seems to be taking in Mr Gandhi. I can’t understand that so far as India is concerned, He was in my judgement, he was an episode in the history of India, never an epoch-maker. Gandhi has already vanished from the memory of ppl of this country, His memory is kept up because Congress party you see annually gives holiday, either on his birthday or some other day connected with some event in his life, has a celebration every year going on for 7 days in a week, naturally ppl memory is revived, but if this artificial respiration were not given, I think Gandhi would belong long forgotten.
Interviewer: You don’t feel that he fundamentally changed the aspect.
Ambedkar: Not at all, not at all, In fact, he was all the time double-dealing. He conducted two papers, one in English the Harijan, before that young India, and in Gujarat, he conducted another paper you see, which is called the Deen Bandhu, something like that. If you read these two papers you will see how Mr Gandhi was deceiving the people. In the English newspaper, he posed himself as an opponent of caste system, and of untouchability, and that he was the democrat. But if you read his Gujarati magazine you will see him more orthodox man, he has been supporting the caste system, the varanaashrama dharma, or all the orthodox dogmas which have kept India down all through ages. Infact someone ought to write Mr Gandhi biography by making a comparative study of the statements made by Mr Gandhi made in his Harijan and the statements made by Mr Gandhi in his Gujarati paper, there are seven volumes of it. The western world only reads the English paper, where Mr Gandhi in order to keep himself in the esteem of western ppl who believes in democracy was advocating democratic ideals. But you gotta see also what he actually talked to the people in his vernacular paper, no body seems to have made any reference. All the biographies that have been written of him you see are based on his Harijan and the young India not upon in Gujarati writings of Mr Gandhi.
Interviewer: Then what was his real intention as the god to schedule caste and the structure.
Ambedkar: Well, he only wanted, you see their are two thing about the schedule caste, we want untouchability to be abolished you see, but we also want you see that we must be given equal opportunity so that we may rise to the level of other classes, mere washing of untouchability is no concept at all. We have been carrying on with untouchability for last 2000yrs, nobody has bothered about it, you see nobody has bothered about it. Yes, their are some disabilities which are very harmful for example that people can’t take out water, people can’t have land to cultivate and earn their livelihood. But other things which are far more important namely they should have the same status in the country and they should have the opportunity to hold high offices so that not only their dignity will rise but also they will get what I call strategic positions from which they could they could protect their own people, Mr Gandhi was totally opposed, totally opposed.
Interviewer: he was content with things like temple entry.
Ambedkar: The temple entry, that was all things he wanted to do. Nobody cares about the Hindu temples now, the untouchables have become so conscious of the fact that temple going is of no consequence at all, he will live in untouchable quarters just the same, whether you went to the temple or you did not go to the temple. People this is for the instance people in advent time would not allow untouchables to travel by railway because of the pollution. Now they don’t mind because railways don’t make any separate arrangements. Because they travel together on the train it doesn’t follow you see that their life in the villages viz-a-viz the Hindus has been uninitiated(without knowledge) you see. Whenever the Hindus and the untouchables were allied set at railway train, you see they assume their old roles.
Interviewer: so you would say Gandhi was an orthodox Hindu
Ambedkar: Yes he was an absolutely orthodox Hindu. He was never a reformer, he has no dynamics in him, all this talks about untouchability was just for the purpose of making the untouchables drawn into the Congress, that was one thing. Secondly, he wanted the untouchables should not oppose his movement swaraj. I don’t think beyond that he has any real motive of uplift, he wasn’t like garrison(Oswald Garrison Villard) in the united states who fought for the negroes(Blacks).
Interviewer: Nowcasting your mind back to the Poona pact, you were out there, can you remember little of them what Gandhi said to you, what you said to him
Ambedkar : (In lighter vein) yeah Ok ok, I know it very well, I know it very well. You see the British govt had in the original award, which Macdonald had given, you see had accepted my suggestion. I said look here the hindus want you see that their should be common electorate so that their will be separatist feeling of between the scheduled caste and the Hindus. We think that if you had common electorate we would be submerged you see and the nominees of the scheduled castes who would be elected would be really slaves of the hindus, not independent people. Now I told Mr Ramsay Macdonald this is short of the theme you see that he might do, give us separate electorate you see and also give us separate vote in general elections you see. So that Gandhi can’t say that we are separated in point of election. First of all my contention was these, that for five years we live separately from the Hindus with no kind of intercourse, intercommunication you see of social, spiritual sort you see. What can one days of cycle of participation you see in a common electorate do? to remove these hardened crusts you see of separatism which has grown for centuries, it is a foolish thing to think that if two people vote together you see in a common poll booth together that their hearts are going to change. It is nothing of that kind. Mr Gandhi has got his madness in him. Well, let this be set aside. You see by this kind of system give untouchables to vote, you see and give them a population representation of ratio, so that the weightage would be in turns of votes and not in turns of representative. So that the Gandhi and other may not complain. You see that Ramsay Macdonald accepted. You see the award was really was my suggestion, I wrote him letters to him from the Naples. you see this is what I would like him to do. You see so that there may be no problem. This is exactly what he did, gave us separate electorate and also a vote in general election. But Gandhi didn’t want that we should send our true representative you see, therefore he didn’t want the separate electorate part of the award and went on fast you see went on fast. Then it all came to me, you can said well, the British govt said if he agrees you see to abandon the award then we have no objection you see. But we can abandon the award ourselves, we have given the award, we have taken all things in consideration, we think this is the best. You ought to read the Ramsay Macdonald letter it’s very clear statement that we haven’t done anything to aggravate the separation in fact we are trying to bridge it up, by trying to bring the two section together in a common electoral roll. But Gandhi object was that we should not get free independent representative, therefore he insists in the first place he said no representation ought to be given to us. That is how he came in the round table conferences. He said that I only recognize only three communities namely Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs you see. These are only three communities that will have a political representation in the constitution. But the Christians, or Anglo-Indians, the scheduled castes will have no place in the constitution, they must merge themselves in the general community that was the stand that he has taken. But all his friends I know were asking to him how foolish was his attitude, you see his own friends had a quarrel with him on this subject. That if you are prepared to give special representation to the Sikhs and special representation to the Musalmans who are thousand times superior in strength and political and economical stamina. How can you deny it you see to the scheduled caste and the Christians? He all used to say that you don’t understand our problem, that all he was saying. Alexandria even who was great friends of his had a serious quarrel with him as he told me. That French woman who was his disciple I forget his name now you see. she also had a great quarrel with him, that we don’t understand this attitude, either you say that we wont give anything to anybody, let their be just a common roll, that we can understand that, that is the democratic thing you see. But then to go on saying that you will give it to musalmans and you give it to the Sikhs but not the scheduled caste seems absurd. He could not give no answer, he could not give no answer. We suggested this method. He also didn’t, in the first beginning, in the beginning when he wrote a letter, Ramsay Macdonald said he said that Scheduled Caste should have nothing, no representation you see. Then his own friends said to him, this is asking for too much you see that nobody would support you in this matter. Then malviya and others came to me said well could you not help us solve this problem. I said well that I do not want to solve this problem by sacrificing what we have been able to get from the British Premier.
Interviewer: So you went through.
Ambedkar: (In lighter vein) as I said I had suggested an alternate formula, that formula was that I’m not prepared to give up the separate electorate, But I’m prepared you see to modify anything. You see in this way namely the candidates who would stand in the final election on behalf of scheduled castes should be first elected by the Scheduled Caste themselves, for the primary election, and they should elect four people, then the four then should stand in the general election you see, then let the best one come you see, so that we give some assurance, that you don’t put up your own nominees. You see then we will do get the people who will express our voice in the parliament, that Mr Gandhi had to accept, So he had to accepted that. Of course, we had the benefit of it only in one election that is 1937 polls you see. There you will see the federation swept the polls, Gandhi was not able to get a single candidate of his party to get elect.
Interviewer: Then did he bargain very hard in the end of his part.
Ambedkar: Oh of course He bargained, bargained, I said nothing to him, I’m prepared to save your life, provided you don’t make hard turn. You see I’m not going to save your life at the cost of lives of my people. You see this is to my, this is how much I laboured you see in all this, I know this very well. I’m not going to sacrifice this on whim, sacrifice our people interests on just for the sake satisfy you. It was just his whim you see. How come one-day common election alters the situation, simply can’t alter the situation.
Interviewer: So rarely he was hit as …, he has worked entirely as politicians.
Ambedkar: As a politician, He was never a Mahatma. I refused to call him Mahatma. You see, I never in my life called him Mahatma, he didn’t deserve that title, not even from the point of his morality you see.
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