Recently BBC released a part of the video of Babasaheb Ambedkar’s interview with BBC. You can find that video at the end of this post. Here I present the transcript of the interview of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar with BBC that took place in 1953. In the interview, Dr. Ambedkar discusses the issues of democracy and it’s future in India. [Voice of the video is not very clear so please excuse me if I have made any mistake while transcribing it and would love to improve it so if you find any mistake or have some suggestion please let me know in the comments section. Thank you!]
BBC – Dr. Ambedkar do you think that democracy is going to work in India?
Dr. Ambedkar – No, I would say in a formal sense if you want.
BBC – What do you mean?
Dr. Ambedkar – [inaudible]… some periodic elections, Prime Minister and so on and so on.
BBC – Are elections very important?
Dr. Ambedkar – No, elections are important if they produce really good men [? or did he say ‘means’ ?]
BBC – But elections are important because they give chance to change the government.
Dr. Ambedkar – Yes, but who has an idea that voting means the change of the government? Nobody has. People have no consciousness and our electoral system never allows to choose the candidate. Now, for example, Congress says vote for the Bullock, the question never comes who represents the Bullock. Nobody cares who is the candidate behind the Bullock election symbol. People will vote only for election symbol. People don’t know whether the election symbol Bullock is being represented by a Donkey or an educated person.
BBC – What do you mean by formal sense, in the fundamental sense that democracy wouldn’t work?
Dr. Ambedkar – We have a social structure which is totally incompatible with the parliamentary system.
BBC – Do you mean it is based on inequality?
Dr. Ambedkar – Yes, it is based on the inequality. Unless you get rid of the caste system, you can’t fix. It is a question of social structure and it should be outcaste (or did he say ‘outlawed’). I am quite prepared to say that it would take some time to fix the social structure if you want to fix in a peaceful way. But then somebody must be making the efforts to change the social structure.
BBC – But Prime Minister is giving many statements against the caste system in his speeches.
Dr. Ambedkar – These are endless speeches. [Inaudiable but sounds like he said here – When Carlyle was presented with volumes by Spencer, he said oh these English speaking are acting like Christians now.] We are fed up with the speeches now some concrete actions should be taken, such as some programs and schemes should be started so that some real work is done [to eradicate caste system].
BBC – Suppose if all this didn’t work, what alternative do you think?
Dr. Ambedkar – As an alternative, anything is possible, for example, communism.
BBC – Why do you think that democracy would not work for the nation? Wouldn’t living standard of people improve?
Dr. Ambedkar – Who really cares about the elections business? People want food, people want their materialistic needs to be satisfied. In America, there is a democracy and it works and I don’t think there would ever be communism in America. I have just arrived from that country. They had invited me to award me a degree. In America, every citizen’s voice is heard.
BBC – But this can start in India also.
Dr. Ambedkar – How? We don’t have much land, rainfall rate is much lower, our forests are is less. What can we do?
BBC – How do you think these problems can be tackled?
Dr. Ambedkar – I don’t think the present government will be able to tackle these problems. [inaudible]
BBC – So you mean the whole system will collapse?
Dr. Ambedkar – Yes, indeed, pretty soon probably. If the foundation of the building begins to collapse, it’s the lower strata that would be more damaged, that means my own people, untouchables.
BBC – Do you think communists would have any impact?
Dr. Ambedkar – No, they are not working. They have trust in me and I haven’t said anything till now. If they will ask then one day I will give the answer.
Transcribed by Pardeep