Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was a very learned social crusader. Widely read in history, culture, religion, economy, law and jurisprudence; realised very early in his career that distortion of religion and misinterpretation of history and culture did more harm to Indian Social life than foreign invasions and domination for centuries.
The revolution and counter-revolution have been the continuous process in India. The distortion of history and misinterpretations of facts has not been restricted to ancient and Medieval History where only conjectural evidence are available, but efforts on part of quack-historian are on to deprecate the modern Indian History, where contrary tangible evidence are still available. Stated in words of Dr. Ambedkar- History has been made mythology to amuse women and children. Babasaheb Ambedkar himself is a victim of this sullen and sunken tactics.
A recent book, ‘India after Independence’ written by Bipin Chandra and published by Penguin has many such stories. The facts regarding the social movements, especially those attacking the Bramhanical social (dis) order have been ignored, distorted or tailored with any impunity. Scope of this article is however limited to the reproach of Dr. Ambedkar by the author.
It was the firm belief of Babasaheb Ambedkar that the social revolution in India is possible only by the annihilation of caste and discarding the social disorder based on mythical Brahmanical superiority. He believed that the caste system based on graded social hierarchy is the backbone of Hinduism. He therefore wanted to denounce the Hinduism. He made an in-depth study of different religions before making a decision to embrace the Buddhism. What could be a reason to choose Buddhism? As per Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar he had chosen Buddhism because it was Indian in origin and had flourished here. According to him Buddhism teaches Prajna (understanding as against superstition and supernaturalism) Karuna (pity) and Samata (equality). Besides, conversion to Buddhism has given the followers a sense of self-respect, self-reliance and dignity, which is in a way a great boon to society.
This historical transformation has been dubbed as a political stunt by Bramahanical Historians in past. Bipin Chandra has moved a step ahead. He discovers a new, hitherto unknown fact, “…by 1936, he (Babasaheb Ambedkar) argued that conversion to another religion was necessary and even chose Sikhism. But the conversion was deferred since the British Government would not promise that the benefits of reservation would be continued in the case of conversion.”(Page 445). Bipin Chandra further synthesizes a new fiction “In 1956, he reverted to his position of conversion being necessary and, with himself at the head, led half a million people (some say 6 million), mainly Mahars to become Buddhist. He could probably do this because reservations were not denied to Buddhist coverts as they were to SCs who converted to Christianity and Islam.” (Page 446). The basis of this eclectic story is best known to Bipin Chandra! The fact remains that the reservation facility was not available to Buddhist converts till the V. P. Singh government extended this facility vide ‘The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order (Amendment) Act 1990’. Perhaps Bipin Chandra is not aware that the reservation facility is available to Scheduled Tribes irrespective of their religion. Was it not easy for Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar to get the reservation facilities extended to Dalits, from the incumbent British Government, after getting converted to Christianity?
On May 30, 1935, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar had convened a two-day conference at Yevla (Nasik) to ponder over the declaration of conversion, which he had made. In his Speech he had stated, “Wherever you may go, your political rights and safeguards will accompany you. I have no doubt about it. If you become Muslims, you will get the political rights as Muslims. If you become Christians, you will get your political rights as Christians, if you become Sikhs, you will have your political safeguards as Sikhs, Political rights are based on population. The political safeguards of any society will increase with the increase of its population.” He even went to extent of advising his brethren that it was not proper to depend solely on political rights. Similarly in the concluding part of that speech he hinted his followers for embracing the Buddhism. Therefore Bipin Chandra’s claim that he chose Sikhism is based on wild speculations.
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar after the conversion had remarked, “Buddhism is a part and parcel of Bhartiya Culture. I have taken care that my conversion will not harm the tradition of the culture and history of this land.” Referring to offers from two other religions he said if he had been converted to that faith, “I am sure crores of rupees would have been showered at our feet, and I would have ruined this country within five years. But I do not desire that I may be recorded in History as an iconoclast.”
Despite these facts, it is not known from where Bipin Chandra has gathered material to deliberately deprecate Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar. The queasiness by the author does not stop here. He further observes, “Buddhist converts in the villages have not given up their old Hindu gods and goddesses, but have only added photographs of Ambedkar and Buddha, in that order, to the pantheon…. we find that Dalits feel equality with caste Hindus only when they are able to practice that same religious rites and customs which the upper castes had denied to them. Gandhiji’s understanding and strategy of struggle against the Dalit problem, which emphasized gaining temple entry, stand validated. The fate of converts to Christianity, who continue to have separate Dalit churches, or of promotions within Church hierarchy, denial of the right to perform ceremonies, refusal by priests to accept water from their hands, etc., also proves that conversion has only transformed the problem of caste-based discrimination from Hinduism to Christianity. The same is true of Muslims, ..” (page 447)
A fantastic logic indeed! It is true that the reason should be logical but the logic itself cannot be a reason. Bipin Chandra is trying his best to defend the Brahmanism by making such observations against other religions. Further, he fails to understand the difference between the cosmetic methods of Gandhiji and radical surgery recommended by Ambedkar. Gandhiji showed a merciful attitude towards Dalits. He wanted to retain the caste system with caste-based occupations. On the other hand, Babasaheb Ambedkar stood for the annihilation of caste itself by inter-caste marriages. What Gandhi wanted to achieve by asking the untouchables to bow before Brahminical Gods and Brahmin priests? His temple entry for the untouchables was too a matter of benevolence upon Dalits and not a matter of right.
It is true that the caste system has penetrated into other religions too. However, it is the Hinduism and high caste Hindus which are responsible for spreading that poison, and not the Christianity or Islam. Unlike Hinduism, equality is the basic tenet of Christianity or Islam. The caste system is not the Chief characteristic of their body social. The Indian Christians and Muslims have begun to seriously examine the influence of caste in the Church and Mosque. The All India Christian Council (AICC) is making appeals to Churches to promote Dalits in all spheres of spiritual life. Any such appeal from any Hindu organisation; for let apart making an untouchable priest of the small temple (let apart Shankaracharya) would go against the basic tenets of the Brahmanic religion. Instead of making polemic arguments why Bipin Chandra doesn’t admit that the conversion has brought a distinct improvement in the life of converts?
The worship of Hindu Gods by neo-Buddhist is a partial truth. Bipin Chandra conveniently forgets that not even 50 years have elapsed since the conversion. The impact of Hinduism will diminish in due course. The religious conversions to Islam and Christianity are quite old, even then the ruminants of Hindu and Tribal practices continue in the converts despite the best efforts made by religious functionaries to eradicate those. Let apart the Muslims, Christians or Buddhist, the photos of Laxmi are seen in the Jewellery shop run by many Jains. On the contrary the process of, what Anthropologists call, ‘De-sanskritisation’ has accelerated in the neo-Buddhist. They are not only giving up the Hindu way of life but the new generation is keen that the names of children, dwellings, organizations etc. should be distinct from Hinduism. A silent revolution is going on. It shall be pertinent to mention few lines from the speech made by Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar next day after the conversion, “When Christianity entered Europe, the situation around Rome and adjoining countries was deplorable. People were not even getting two square meals. That time hotchpotch used to be distributed amongst the poor. who became the followers of Christ then? Poor and sufferers. Entire poor and lower strata of people in Europe have become Christian. ‘This Christian religion belongs to beggars’ so said Gibbon. Gibbon is not alive today to answer, how Christianity in Europe became the religion of all.” Alas, Bipin Chandra won’t be alive to see the day when truly Buddhistised people destroy the shackles of Brahmanism.
It appears that Bipin Chandra is scared about the future of Brahmanism. His book is full of manipulation of facts to denounce the anti-Brahmin movements and leaders. For instance, to malign the image of Dr. Ambedkar he makes a false observation- ‘His loyalty won him the seat in Viceroy’s Council.’ (page 445) Does Bipin Chandra wants to suggest that all the 14 (out of 19) Indian Members of Viceroy’s Council were appointed due to their loyalty, or would he like to say that all the elections which Congress fought during pre-Independence period were due to their loyalty to British Crown? Would Bipin Chandra like to call the some of late ninetieth century moderates traitors, as they had expressed symbolic loyalty to British Crown?
Writing history is not predicting the future like an astrologer; it should be based upon the unbiased study of available facts. Bipin Chandra defiantly knows this. Even then he has tried to remould the past. Is it with purpose, intent and motive to uphold the Brahmanism?
Author – Satish Kumar Gajbhiye
This article aims at refuting certain observations against Dr. B. R. Babasaheb Ambedkar made by Bipin Chandra in his book, ‘India after Independence’.
The sources of this article:
1. India after Independence by Bipin Chandra, Penguin Publications.
2. Lokrajya, Dr. Ambedkar special issue by Govt. of Maharashtra.
3. Dr. Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, published by Gov. of Maharashtra.
4. History of Conversion by W. Godbole.
5. Modern Indian Thought by D. R. Bali- Sterling Publications.
6. Clippings from ‘The Hindu’.