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Ambedkar’s role in national politics

Introduction – It is unfortunate that present day politicians (neither the followers of Dada Sahib Ambedkar, nor his critics) have failed to understand him or teachings in right perspective. They ignore many historical facts/developments, happened in 20th century and the ground realities of 21st century’s modern India.. They interpret his teachings, the way that it suits/benefits them. 

Dr. Ambedkar as ‘The Father of the Indian Constitution’?

1990’s witnessed a wave of Ambedkarization or glorification of Ambedkar’s name to woo Dalit voters. Many politicians described Ambedkar as the Father or The maker of Indian Constitution.

Experts on Constitutional law have some reservations about such expressions. No doubt, the Drafting Committee of the  Constituent Assembly was headed by Dr. Ambedkar. But it was well-known then, that the real place of work of making the Indian Constitution was the Congress Working Committee, which took all the important decisions. There, the prominent role was played by leaders like Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad (Chair person of Constituent Assembly) or Constitutional jurists like Alladi Krishna Swami Ayyar, K.M. Munshi, G B Pant and others. It was frankly admitted by Mahavir Tyagi, one of the members of Drafting Committee and Dr. Ambedkar himself that their hands were tied and they were only carrying out the wishes of the majority.

Pr. K.V. Rao, an expert of Constitutional Law, said, No doubt, Ambedkar, a man of legal acumen, untiring industry, consummate skill and firmness, tempered with modernization, made substantial contribution to the framing of the Constitution…My reading of the Constitution makes me feel that it is inappropriate to call Dr. Ambedkar, the father of the Constitution. If any people are entitled to be called so, they are Nehru, Patel and Prasad , but I would like to call them the “Presiding Deities”, the sources of all the ideas of the Constitution, the real makers of the Constitution. I would like to attribute father-hood to them as well as to the members of the Drafting Committee in common, but I would not like to single out Dr. Ambedkar for this honour. Dr. Ambedkar, during his life-time, had recognition as an intellectual having his own philosophy and interpretations, but he lacked leadership qualities and mass appeal. 

About Constituent Assembly – Constituent Assembly was founded‎: ‎6 December 1946 under the Cabinet Mission Plan on 16 May 1946 to write the Constitution of India, which drafted the Constitution of India between the years 1946 to 1950.. Its first session was convened on 9 December, 1946.   

Members of the Constituent Assembly were elected by the provincial assemblies by a single, transferable-vote system of proportional representation.  National leaders took extra care To make it a wide representative body and elect as many as possible, well known, eminent political leaders, lawyers, academicians and other eminent persons  from all the sections of Indian society  –  be it Scheduled Castes, Parsis, Indian Christians, Anglo-Indians, Scheduled Tribes or women.   

Sachchidananda Sinha‎, ‎INC, was the Temporary Chairman‎ and Vice President‎: ‎Harendra Coomar Mookerjee of the Constituent Assembly of Independent India. On 11 December, Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected as the first permanent Chairman.  

A number of committees were created.  In July 1946, a committee consisting of Nehru as the Chairman and Asaf Ali, K.T. Shah, D.R. Gadgil, K.M. Munshi, Humayun Kabir, R. Santhanam and N. Gopalaswamy Ayyangar as members was constituted to prepare material and proposals for the constitution. Another committee was headed by B.N. Rao and the  draft Committee of  the constitution was headed by Dr B.R. Ambedkar The Constitution of India, became operative from 26 January, 1950

Famous Historian Bipin Chandra and intelligentsia of those days observed that in the making of Indian Constitution, Pt. Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Sardar Patel played a very important role. Pt. Nehru spelt out the philosophy and basic features of the consti­tution as “the first task of this Assembly is to free India through a constitution, to feed the starving people, and to clothe the naked masses, and to give every Indian the fullest opportunity to develop himself according to his capacity”. Sardar Patel played the decisive role in bringing in the representatives of the erstwhile princely states into the Constituent Assembly, and how to run smoothly the administration of the newly created nation – India. Rajendra Prasad was appreciated for his simplicity, impartiality and dignity as President of the Assembly as well as first President of Independent India. Maulana Azad brought his formidable scholarship and philo­sophical mind to bear on many issues of grave importance”. Therefore, not only Ambedkar, but all these leaders jointly, should be called “The Father of Indian Constitution” 

The basic structure of the Constitution was based on the Government of India Act of 1935. Many improvements into it were made by following the good features of other consti­tutions like from US constitution, Irish constitution, the time tested conventions of the British Parliament etc.

Ambedkar as a thinkerDada Sahib Ambedkar was a highly qualified person and a visionary thinker, whose thoughts about social justice, women’s empowerment, federalism and economy have been neither analyzed without bias nor understood correctly either by his followers or by the critics. He dreamt of inclusive society, where everybody could live peacefully and harmoniously.

“On 26th January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality, and in social and economic life we will have inequality. …. If our social and economic structure continues to deny the principle of one man one value how long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life?” …” We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy, which this assembly has so laboriously built up. ” How correct is it to call Ambedkar aviation of caste system?

Ambedkar’s followers – Ambedkar’s followers regard him as Doyen of Contemporary Dalit Politic and an undisputed leader of untouchables and backwards only. There has been a massive shift in favour of Dalits and backward communities during the second half of the 20th century. Now in the contemporary politics Dalits and OBCs have emerged as a powerful vote-bank and king-makers, whom every political party woos to win the elections.

Also, followers do not accept honestly that Ambedkar’s belonging to Mahar community of Maharashtra, did not put obstacles in furthering his social status or educational or political career, before or after Independence.

Ambedkar’s childhood – Being a son of an army personnel, his childhood was safe and secure.  The Father and grandfather of Dr. Ambedkar, were the employees of the British Army working as SM Sahib, when he was a child. The position of SM sahib is very influential within a Unit of Indian Army. It had  ensured a good education and respectable social life for him within army campus.

Educational background – During his student life,  he received the best possible education available either in India or abroad. He got recognition of the powerful leader untouchable community during Imperial rule in India. After Independence, he was recognized as a national leader, influential orator and an expert in legal matters. He was selected as the Chairman of Drafting Committee of Constituent Assembly of Independent India.  He was nominated as the first Law Minister of Independent India.

Ambedkar’s student life

Ambedkar had passed his Matriculation examination from Bombay. He continued his further studies. He joined the Elphinstone High School and Elphinstone College for further education – one of the elite educational institutions of Maharashtra. With the help of a monthly scholarship given by Maharaja Gaekwad of Baroda, Bhimrao (‘Rao’ is added to names in Maharashtra as a sign of respect) passed his B.A. in 1912.

In 1912, he graduated in Political Science and Economics from Bombay University and got a job in Baroda. In 1913, Maharaja of Baroda awarded scholarship to Bhim Rao Ambedkar for further studies at the world-famous elite University of Columbia, New York. It was with a condition that he would serve Baroda state for ten years on finishing his studies. The freedom and equality he experienced in America made a very strong impression on Bhimrao. There he attained a degree in Master of Arts and a Doctorate in Philosophy from Columbia University in 1916 for his thesis “National Dividend for India: A Historical and Analytical Study.” The Maharaja of Baroda appointed Dr. Ambedkar as his political secretary.

Career-profile  of Dr. Ambedkar

In 1917 Bhimrao Ambedkar returned to Bombay. In 1918, he became a lecturer at Sydenham College in Bombay. There, he got the reputation as a brilliant teacher and scholar. With the help of Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur, he started a fortnightly newspaper, the “Mooknayak” (Dumb Hero) on January 31, 1920. That was the start of his political career.

In 1920, after accumulating sufficient funds, Ambedkar went back to London to complete his studies in Economics at LSE. He also enrolled to study as a Barrister at Gray’s Inn and became a barrister-at- law. In 1923, Bhimrao returned to India with a Doctorate in Economics from the LSE – he was perhaps the first Indian to have a Doctorate from this world-famous institution.

Ambedkar’s political career

Now Dr. Ambedkar was well equipped to be a leader of the Dalit community. After coming back to India, in July 1924, he founded the Bahishkrit Hitkaraini Sabha (Outcastes Welfare Association). The aim of the Sabha was to uplift the downtrodden socially and politically and bring them to the level of the others in the Indian society.

In 1930, when a Round Table Conference was held by the British Government in London to decide the future of India, Babasaheb represented the ‘untouchables’. He was very clear about the objective of his political career that Attempt to uplift my community rather than to win Swaraj for the nation is my goal.” As between the country and myself, the country will have precedence, as between the country and the depressed classes, the depressed classes will have precedence.”

Earlier, as a representative of depressed classes during Simon Commission’s debates, He said that  Depressed Classes of India would also join in the demand for replacing the British Government by a Government of the people and by the people. “Our wrongs have remained as open sores and have not been righted although 150 years of British rule have rolled away. Of what good is such a Government to anybody?” Gandhiji appreciated that.

But later on, he made the controversial decision to co-operate with the all-British Simon Commission. When Congress party decided to boycott the Commission and drafted its own version of a constitution for free India, he attended all the three Round Table Conferences in London and forcefully argued for the welfare of the “untouchables”. He said very clearly, I will leave no doubt in the minds of the people of this country that I have another loyalty, … .. the loyalty is to the community of the untouchables; in which I am born, to which I belong…. Whenever there is any conflict of interests between the country and the untouchables, so far as I am concerned, the untouchable interests will take precedence over the interests of the country. I am not going to support a tyranny of the majority, simply because it happens to speak in the name of the country

A separate electorate was announced for the depressed classes under Ramsay McDonald ‘Communal Award’. The famous Poona Pact replaced the separate electorate demand with special concessions like reserved seats in the regional legislative assemblies and Central Council of States.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar set up the “Independent Labor Party” in August 1936 to contest the elections in the Bombay province. He and many candidates of his party were elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly.

In 1937, a Bill was introduced to abolish the “khoti” system of land tenure in the Konkan region, the serfdom of agricultural tenants and the Mahar “watan” system of working for the Government as slaves. A clause of an agrarian bill referred to the depressed classes as “Harijans,” or people of God. Bhimrao was strongly opposed to this title for the untouchables. But the Indian National Congress succeeded in introducing the term Harijan. During the Second World War, Babasaheb was appointed Labour Minister by the Viceroy.

The All-India Scheduled Castes Federation was formed in 1942 to gather all ‘untouchables’ into a united political party.

Ambedkar after Independence

In 1947, Dr. Ambedkar was elected as a Member of the Constituent Assembly from Bengal. The Constituent Assembly made him chairman of the committee appointed to draft the constitution for the world’s largest democracy. He became the First Law Minister of Independent India in Nehru’s cabinet.

In October 1948, Dr. Ambedkar submitted the Hindu Code Bill to the Constituent Assembly in an attempt to codify the Hindu law. The Bill caused great divisions even in the Congress party. Consideration for the bill was postponed to September 1951. When the Bill was taken up it was truncated. A dejected Ambedkar relinquished his position as Law Minister.

Anathema against Hinduism –  In 1935 at Yeola, for the first time Babasaheb advised his people to convert from Hinduism, because Hindu society treated them as ‘untouchables’.  He used to say, My self-respect can not assimilate Hinduism…The religion that does not recognize you as human beings…is not worthy to be called a religion.He said, “Hinduism has given us only insults, misery, and humiliation.”…“We have not been able to secure the barest of human rights… I am born a Hindu. I couldn’t help it, but I solemnly assure you that I will not die a Hindu.” About a month before his death (December 6, 1956), on 0ctober 14, 1956 he himself embraced Buddhism along with many of his followers.

Ambedkar and his beliefs – According to Ambedkar: –

  •  Reservation is not aimed at economic uplift or alleviation of poverty. But it is a provision made for the entry of certain castes, which have so far been outside the administration. Hence the need for their adequate representation in State Services. Adequacy should be judged not by their presence in the lower rung of the services, but their entry into the higher echelons, the corridor of power.
  •  Where a majority of population is denied its share in actual power, there exists no democracy.
  • Attempt to uplift my community rather than to win Swaraj for the nation is my goal.
  • I will leave no doubt in the minds of the people of this country that I have another loyalty, to which I am bound and which I can never for-sake. The loyalty is to the community of the untouchables; in which I am born, to which I belong and which I hope, I shall never desert. And I say this…. as strongly as I possibly can that whenever there is any conflict of interests between the country and the untouchables, so far as I am concerned, the untouchable interests will take precedence over the interests of the country. I am not going to support a tyranny of the majority, simply because it happens to speak in the name of the country…. As between the country and myself, the country will have precedence, as between the country and the depressed classes, the depressed classes will have precedence.
  • He regarded Hinduism and caste system as great obstacles to Hindu Unity
  • My self-respect can not assimilate Hinduism…The religion that does not recognize you as human beings…is not worthy to be called a religion.
  • In an ideal society, there should be many interests consciously communicated and shared.”.. “Democracy is not merely a form of Government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellow men.

Ambedkar and Reservation Policy – During Constituent Assembly Debates, Ambedkar advocated the policy of Reservation. But later on, as a socialist and humanist, who had the long-range interests of untouchables at heart, had developed doubts about advisability and efficacy of Reservation Policy. Chowdhary Charan Singh said,Ambedkar himself declared in a speech sometime before his death that the provision of Reservation in service should not extend beyond 1960/61.

Pr. Balraj Madhok had also pointed out that later in life, Ambedkar realized that SC and ST would not be able to stand on their own feet, so long as they depended on the crutches of Reservation.Reservation, Dr. Ambedkar said, Encouraged backwardness, inefficiency and lack of competitive merit among them barring a few stray cases. Therefore, when he launched the Republican Party of India, he incorporated this view in the Manifesto, according to which the party was committed itself to abolish all kinds of Reservations based on caste and birth.

During his last days, Ambedkar said, I have not been able to fulfil my mission. I wanted to do more for the SC people and to see them as governing class in my life. I could have succeeded, but my own people have deceived me. Whatever I have been able to do, is being enjoyed by the educated people and they are the worst fools. I now want to divert my attention to the uneducated masses, but life seems short. The second worry to my mind is that I wanted that somebody from the SC should come forward and take the responsibilities from me. There, however, seems none to shoulder such a heavy responsibility. All are selfish and quarrel themselves on petty matters.

Ambedkar and the wrath of intelligentsia – Ambedkar has earned the wrath of a section of intelligentsia and political leaders during pre-Independence period because: –

  • He, himself, was a beneficiary of social reform movement in Maharashtra led by nationalist leaders and reformers mostly belonging to caste Hindus. But in his speeches, he regarded caste Hindus as his enemy.
  • The intelligentsia regarded his move for separate electorates for untouchable as an act to split Hindu society permanently. It is alleged that he could not rise beyond his caste identity.
  • He was criticized for his association with Simon Commission proceedings, First Round Table Conference and Viceroy’s Executive Committee as member, with an intention to cooperate with British rulers, at the time, when national leaders were fighting British rulers for Independence;
  • His anguish against Hinduism and caste system and his act of burning Hindu-script, which he regarded as great obstacles to the Indian unity, annoyed many.
  • Many people did not like his confrontation with Gandhi. Ambedkar, like Jinnah was against Hindu majority rule, Congress Party and Gandhi. Both of them reacted against the above three in similar manner most of the times and preferred continuance of British rule.

Ambedkar and his followers of the day – The present day followers of Ambedkar do not seem to have understood Ambedkar in right perspective. He wanted to annihilate caste system not by revenge, hatred and violence, but by rethinking, reason and reformation. He, therefore, taught untouchables To organize, educate and agitate with an aim to finishing caste prejudices, the arrogance, and the Holier than thou’ attitude of Brahmins. He wanted his people to improve their condition by education, enlightenment and enterprise not by animosity, anger and abuse. It is quite understandable that he did not hate Brahmins as he was happily married to a Brahmin lady. He had a great respect for Justice Ranade.

His followers appear not to have done justice with Ambedkar and used his name ruthlessly for their selfish motive and political ends. They idolized Ambedkar as Rescuer of Dalits. The trend in 90s of idolization of Ambedkar or attempts of Ambedkarisation of the nation exposed the intentions of his followers, especially when he himself considered idolization as an act leading to destruction. Today agitated the Dalit leaders are, but their agitation is far away from being a positive or constructive one. It has turned into a negative militancy against caste Hindu.

Conclusion – Ambedkar rose as the political icon. His life is a classic and most inspiring example of what a man can achieve through hard work, knowledge, and clear-cut priorities. He himself struggled and worked hard to achieve his objectives and success. He gave a required boost to Dalit movement to move forward at  right time. He played a significant role in national politics and as the Chairman of drafting Committee of Indian Constitution.

However, it is unfortunate that that his followers of present day have misunderstood Ambedkar. Ambedkarites seems to have been proved shallow in understanding his aim for social transformation with SC’s being the base and about the realities of the India of twenty-first century – a massive shift has already taken place in favor of Dalits allover India.


March 26, 2018 Posted by | General | | 1 Comment

Policy of ‘Divide and rule’ in India – Past and Present

‘Divide and rule policy” in India before and after the independence


The seeds of ‘Divide and rule were sown by British Imperial Rule, but blossomed in  full after India gained Independence in 1947. While laying down the foundation of some democratic institutions and policies, the Imperial rulers set the example of how policies of great scope can be used for serving the vested interests of ruling authorities.

Present day political leaders, political parties and pressure groups serving sectional interests learnt well from British rulers, how to play their cards well to enlarge their vote-banks, by using three powerful democratic weapons i.e. Electoral politics, Census operations, and Reservation Policy .The present day politicians have learnt very well from British rulers, how to use these systems for pacifying the masses and prolonging their hold on political authority longer. They are following the footsteps of their predecessor i.e. British Imperialist rulers and are creating their own separate empires.

Issue – Quite often it is alleged that Indian society is ‘highly stratified’ ‘disintegrated’ and ‘discriminatory’ society. How it had happened, is quite interesting to know.  It was not so all the time. Rift has been purposely created in the society of India for political purposes. Why, when, how and by whom rift has been created in Indian society and has pushed the nation on the verge of disintegration?

British domination in India – India had been a great centre of attraction for British Empire. Britain attained superpower status for most of the nineteenth century and some of the twentieth depended, when they virtually had control over India (from 1800 onwards until 1947, when India got its Independence). For British rulers, India symbolized Imperial grandeur.  Britain interest in India began around 1600, when its merchants entered into the territory of India for shipping Asian goods to Europe. Initially it was purely a commercial venture without using any force. Soon for safety purposes, they sought permission of the Mughal Emperor to build Forts and keep some soldiers in ports of Bombay, Calcutta and Madras for safety purposes. Later., they engaged those very small number of armed personnel in acts of conquests.

It is really amazing to see, how a few British merchants along with soldiers and gunners to protect them built such a big Empire and led to  the downfall of powerful Mughal Empire. They achieved conquests, one after another and then spread all-over the territory of India. Britain became a major political force not only from Himalayas to the sea in India, but also from Iran to Thailand as well.

Viceroy Lord Curzon had expressed it clearly in 1901, “As long as we rule India, we are the greatest power in the world. If we lose it we shall drop straightway to a third rate power”. Quite early, British realized that as long as they adroitly exploited the religious, linguistic and historical divisions that marked Indian society they were relatively safe.

British rulers were clear and firm about their aims and objectives. British Rulers inflamed the differences, that were already existent in the society because of the diverse backgrounds of its people. They established their Empire in India by playing off one part against the other.


Ideological attack

Initially in order to justify their domination over dark races of the globe and imperial rule in India, British propagated theories of racial the superiority of ‘White-race’. Afterwards, British rulers, missionaries, philosophers, writers and Historians like Mill, Wilson or Ward  vehemently denounced the culture, character and social structure of the native people. This mental doze had affected minds of many educated Indians so densely that they considered native practices indefensible.

The British launched an ideological attack on Brahmins in their effort to secure a reasonable combination of various races and castes in administration and other modern callings. On one hand, to counter Brahmins hold in education and other areas, they slighted the role of Brahmins as Indian intelligentsia and reformers and on the other, portrayed them as oppressors and exploiters of others, especially the poor and minorities. The rulers created venom in the hearts of Muslims and non-Brahmin castes and encouraged them to resist vociferously the dominance of Brahmins in modern callings.

Stages of British rule

British rulers knew well that they had established their Empire firmly in India by taking advantage of the diversities of Indian people and by playing them against one another – princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces.

  • Period of 1756-1858 was the period of conquest, annexation and consolidation.
  • From 1858 to1905, was the time of apparent association under British Government in India.
  • From 1905 to 1940, British rulers adopted the policy of “Divide and rule”.
  • After 1940, they decided to quit India.

Period of annexation (1756-1858)

Period of 1756-1858 – With the start of British rule over India, the old relation of conqueror and conquered prevalent in India since 10th century, came to an end. It was the period of conquest, annexation and consolidation for British. Initially, the East India Company of Britain conquered and established British Empire in India by taking advantage of the diversities of Indian people. The Government adopted “Laissez-faire” as the principle of governance. Hence, it did not indulge itself into any welfare or social service activity. The only objective was to rule the country to its own advantage.

Period of “Apparent Association” (Between 1858 and 1905)

Between 1858 and 1905, the British adopted a policy of “Apparent Association”. In their heart, the rulers knew well that they had established their power by playing off one part against the other and intended to continue it in order to maintain it as long as possible. The purpose was to keep Indians busy with their internal problems and let them rule the country without any distraction. They were sure “…We must continue to do so. Do what you can, therefore, to prevent all having a common feeling”.

Period of divide and rule (From 1905 to 1940) –

By 1858, when British Empirical rule was established firmly in India, the rulers started playing Indians against one another – princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces. British rulers adopted the policy of “Divide and rule”. They played Indian people against one another – princes against people; Hindu against Muslims; caste against castes; and provinces against provinces.

After 1940 – During Second World War period, they decided to quit India. Even then, British rulers played their game and divided the country into two – India and Pakistan. Their exploitative policies had already drained much of India’s wealth. Now they left India bleeding. Partition of the country had made millions of Indians either dead or impoverished and homeless.

Three stages taken for creating split in Indian society

The British Government did the job of disintegrating the Indian society in 3 stages: –

Ø First they appeased the Hindus,

Ø Then was the turn of Muslims,

Ø Lastly they devoted their attention to backward castes.

First stage

Appeasement of Hindus

Initially, the British, who annexed authority from the Muslim rulers, looked favourably towards Hindu community. They encouraged Hindus/Brahmins to opt for modern education. Reasons being –

  • It became difficult for them to import enough Englishmen to man large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration.
  • British, who annexed authority from the Muslim rulers, looked favorably towards Hindu community.
  • Being natural learners and pursuers of knowledge, they were quick and far ahead of other communities in modern callings.
  • The appalling poverty of Brahmins, because of the gradual displacement from their source of income after the decline in the financial status of their patrons – Princes and Zamindars – compelled them to opt for modern education and make use of new type of employment opportunities.

Very soon they secured an important place in the modern society.

Brahmins real threat to British rule

The long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped Brahmins to secure an important place in the modern society. In 1900, Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noted Brahmins dominance in the Civil Service during 1869 to 1899. The rulers also noticed preponderance of Brahmins in other areas, too, and their growing influence and hold over Hindu Community. It appeared to British rulers as if this small community was governing the country.

British rulers noticed Brahmins preponderance everywhere including freedom movement. Preponderance of Brahmins at all levels of freedom movement alarmed the rulers.

Sir William Lee, an important official in the Government of Bombay and Government of India, noticed in 1900 that during 1869 to 1899, Brahmins had secured almost all the places in education and administration. In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English. In the words of an observer, If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.

Sir Richard Temple, the governor of Bombay said that ever since 1818, when British finally defeated the Peshwa in the third Anglo Maratha war, Brahmins were, “Inspired with a national sentiment and with an ambition bounded only with the Bonds of India itself.” Innumerable C.I.D. Reports of that period confirmed the active role played by Brahmins in National movement.

In 1879, the Collector of Tanjore wrote to James Courd, a Member of the Famine Commission, There was no class except Brahmins, which was so hostile to English. In the words of an observer, If any community could claim the British out of the country, it was the Brahmin community 70% of those, who were felled by British bullets, were Brahmins.

Rowlett Report (1880) also confirmed that the British regarded Brahmins as the main force behind all terrorist movements and agitation leading to violence in almost all the provinces. Overwhelming support of Brahmin lawyers to Congress Party and Mrs. Anne Besant’s Home Rule made the British to believe that Brahmin Community was a threat to imperial rule.

In Brahmin’s growing influence and their hold on the Hindu Community, the rulers saw a potential threat to their rule in India. They considered it necessary to counter the hold of Brahmins by raising a strong force against them.

Steps taken to counter Brahmin’s influence – British administrators including Temple thought it necessary to counter Brahmins influence. They advised the Government to stop dominance of one or few groups in administration and begin to rely on other groups or castes, in order to keep the balance of power. In 1881 the Government decided to raise a strong force – a reasonable combination of various races and castes – and counter Brahmins hold in education and administration.

Muslims and non-Brahmin castes were already resisting vociferously the dominance of Brahmins in these areas. They very carefully and effectively sidetracked the socially transformative movements of great scope, initiated by the intelligentsia of Indian Society.  On one hand, the British slighted the role of Brahmins as Indian intelligentsia and reformers, and on the other, portrayed them as oppressors and tyrants.

The British encouraged the formation of many caste groups to resist vociferously the dominance of Brahmins in modern callings. In whom they saw a potential threat to their rule in India. They allowed non-Brahmin castes and other communities to form political groups on the basis of caste and community. The movement against Brahmins forged ahead with ferocity in the Southern and Western parts of India. It remained mild in North India, where communalism had already disrupted the peace of the land.

In order to restrict Brahmin’s entry in Government jobs and make it available to non-Brahmins communities, British rulers started practice of “Preferences”. In the name of equality before law, rulers gave certain sections of society on the basis of caste and community financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level.

They made provision for giving financial help to the non-brahmins, Muslims and Anglo-Indians and fixed up a quota for them in government services. Thus they opened up the doors of new opportunities of advancement to other castes and communities. It served double purpose – one, for them, getting credit for amelioration and protection of downtrodden and two, keeping natives busy in their in-fights.

Second stage

Appeasement of Muslims – First, the rulers drifted Muslims from Hindus in a very shrewd and planned manner. Muslims always had a grudge over the loss of their dominant position. They found themselves handicapped in competing with Hindus, especially Brahmins, in modern callings and opportunities. Also they developed a fear of being dominated by majority Hindu Community, if at any point of time India became Independent.

During 1850s, Mohammedan Anglo Oriental College was established at Aligarh. English Principals like Archibold, Theodore Beck or Morrison of this institution played an important role in keeping Muslims away from mainstream and inculcating in them a feeling of separation.

Seeds of communalism – Sir W.H. Gregory, while appreciating the Resolution of Government of India on Muslim education wrote to Dufferin in Feb. 1886, “I am confident, that it will bear good fruits, indeed, it seems to have done so already by the complete abstention of the Mohammedan from Brahmins and Baboo agitation. It will be a great matter to sweeten our relations with this portion of the Indian population, the bravest and at one time, the most dangerous.”

The seeds of communalism were sown during Lord Lytton’s Vice-royalty (1876-80). A deputation of Muslims led by His Highness Sir Agha Khan demanded on Oct. 1, 1896 separate electorate. . On Dec. 30, 1906 a separate party – Muslim League – was launched to pursue and safeguard Muslim interests.

Their demands of communal representation in the Imperial Legislative Council and District Boards, adequate share in the public service and local bodies, adequate safeguards for the protection and promotion of Muslim culture and weight to the Muslims to protect their legitimate interests were accepted through Minto-Morley Reforms known as Government of India Act of 1909. This Act devised a novel method to distribute and balance the power. It came as the first effective dose of communalization of Indian politics.

Third stage

Attention to backward castes

After gaining the loyalty of Muslims, during the second half of the nineteenth century, the British turned their attention to uplift non-Brahmin castes and to secure their confidence. On September 2, 1897, George Francis Hamilton, the then Secretary of State for India, wrote to Viceroy Curzon, “I think the real danger to our rule in India, not now but say 50 years hence, is the gradual adoption and extension of Western ideas of agitation and organization. If we could break the educated Hindu into two sections, holding widely different views, we should by such division, strengthen our position against the subtle and continuous attack, which the spread of education must make upon our system of Government.” The rulers succeeded in dividing educated Hindus of these two sections –Brahmins and Non Brahmins, holding widely different views. Such a division had strengthened immensely the position of rulers.

Even educated Hindus amongst non-Brahmins castes found it difficult to compete with Brahmins on equal footings. Rulers encouraged Non -Brahmins leaders to form their political pressure groups on the basis of castes and raise their voice against Brahmins.

In 1885 itself, Eutice J Kitts, a British ambassador in Azamgarh listed, for the first time, backward castes and tribes, from 1881 Census. The objective was to give them financial assistance and preferences in education and Government employment at local and provincial level. For the first, the government officially recognized caste as a base for the purposes of governance.

Initially special schools were opened for them. Special scholarship, loan, hostel facilities and concessions in school fees were provided to non Brahmins castes along with Muslims. In 1885, the education department proposed to reserve 50% of free scholarships for backwards and Muslims, as scholarships purely on merit grounds would perpetuate Brahmin’s monopoly. From this base, Reservation entered into education field, so that more non-Brahmins could qualify for the jobs.

Morley Minto Reform of 1909 gave the non-Brahmins a boost. They demanded with assertiveness Reservations for themselves in education and Government employment. In 1919, the British Government transferred to provincial Governments power over subjects like education, agriculture, veterinary service, roads and, buildings, social welfare etc. With all these powers, the British Government also passed on to the provinces, the responsibility to satisfy the conflicting claims for the Government jobs and other interests of major pressure groups, which had emerged in the Indian political scene.

Methods, British used to create split

The British Government in India very cleverly created a split in the society. The policies, which they adopted for fulfilling the objectives, were following:-

  • Introduction of Modern Education sytem,
  • Resevations in educational institutions and government jobs and
  • Start of Census Operations

All these measures served a double purpose – they got the credit for the amelioration and protection of the lowly. Also the distribution of power on communal basis kept balance of power and prolonged their rule in India by keeping the natives busy in their in-fights.Thus British Government very cleverly, created a split in Indian society.

Introduction of Modern Education sytem

The process of creating split started with the introduction of modern education system. Initially the British rulers excluded Indians from every honor, dignity or office, which lowest of Englishman could be given. But gradually it became difficult for the rulers to import enough Englishmen to man large and increasing number of subordinate or lower posts in administration. It compelled them to introduce modern education in India. However, they used even the education system shrewdly to meet their objectives effectively. It paved a way for imperial designs.

Intention of introducing modern education – The intention of introducing modern education was, as Lord Macaulay said, To form a class, who may be interpreters between us and millions of whom, we govern, a class of persons, Indian in blood and color, but English in taste, in opinion, in morals and in intellect”. It was mainly to get Indians, “Anglicized in terms of both cultural and intellectual attainment”.

Brahmins long tradition and undisputed role in the field of knowledge and learning, their intelligence, sincerity and hard work helped them not only to occupy almost all the lower levels posts in administration available to Indians, as desired by the rulers.

But it also offered to Indian intelligentsia, the key to the treasures of scientific and democratic thought of Modern West. It opened up the doors of knowledge and widened the mental horizons of Indian intelligentsia. In due course of time, it produced many National Leaders and Reformers.

Imperial designs for creating rift – In 1835 introduction of modern education and in 1844, announcement of making knowledge of English as compulsory for government employment paved way for imperial designs and created rift in the Indian society.

In the near absence of industrial, commercial or social service activity, the educated Indians depended entirely on Government jobs. This led to a keen competition between different sections of Indian society. British rulers took advantage of the diversities that already existed in India for centuries.

Welcomed by national leaders and intellectuals – The national leaders and intellectuals welcomed the introduction of modern education. They thought that understanding of Western literature and liberal, scientific, democratic and humanitarian thoughts of modern Western World would help to remedy many social, political and economic evils prevalent in the nation at that point of time. It would give some insight to the fragmented, poverty stricken, superstitious, weak, indifferent, backward and inward looking society of India. They took upon themselves the responsibility to build a modern, open, plural, culturally rich, prosperous and powerful India.

An Alarm bell for British rulers – Modern education not only produced persons to fill the lower levels of administration, as desired by the rulers. Along with them emerged, by second half of nineteenth century, many national leaders, intellectuals and reformers like Dadabhai Naoroji, Ferozeshah Mehta, Gokhale, Gandhi, Jinnah, Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Moti Lal Nehru, Jawahar Lal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Patel and many more. The rulers never wanted it.

Preponderance of Brahmins everywhere including freedom movement alarmed the British rulers.

Policy of Reservation

Another tool British used was the Policy of Reservation. In 1918, Mysore Government appointed Miller Committee to look into the question.i On its recommendation All communities, other than Brahmins, who were not adequately represented in the public Service were declared backwards. In 1921 preferential recruitment for backward communities was instituted formally for the first time in its colleges and state services.

In 1925, Government of Bombay provided Reservations to backward communities in its services. It included all except Brahmins, Marwaris, Prabhus, Banias and Christians.ii Madras started quota based communal representation in its Government services and educational institution in 1921.

The United Province had a practice of reserving, out of every four seats, 1 to Brahmin, 1 to Kayastha, 1 to Muslim and the last one to any section other than these three sections.

The concessions bestowed on the backward communities made them loyal to British rule. An excerpt from the Times Archives (Aug 1925) shows the upsurge of Non-Brahmins in Madras. Presiding over the fifth non-Brahmin Conference in Tanjore, Rao Bahadur O Thanikachalam Chetty of Madras, Warned the non-Brahmin public of the dangers ahead” and how in the name of Swaraj, deception was being practiced, lies were decimated with a view to creating prejudice against the Justice party-men and to secure transfer of power to Brahmins under the guise of supporting the Swarajis.

The speaker emphasized the need to counter-act Swarajis activity in view of the coming elections to Legislative Council. He said that their province had, hitherto, successfully resisted the seditious blandishments of the Swarajis and had earned the good name of having successfully worked for the transitional Constitution vouched safe to them by the “Government of India Act.

Census operations and Untouchability

Census operations were also used for the purpose of further splitting the Hindu community. It created political identities in India. Census operation, introduction of electoral politics and suggestion of the Census Commission for 1911 Census, to exclude untouchables, (comprising about 24% of Hindu population and 16% of the total population in 1908) from Hinduism, had made position of untouchables prominent in Indian political scene.

Around 1909, the lower strata of Hindu community were conceptualized under the name of “untouchables”. So far, untouchables had clubbed their political activities with backward classes led by the Justice Party and South Indian Liberation Federation, which were already agitating against Brahmin’s dominance in modern callings. The emergence of Dr. Ambedkar on the political scene provided with the required leadership and needed stimulus to untouchable movement during late twenties and early thirties. There is a section of people, which considers that Ambedkar was planted into Indian politics purposely by British rulers only.

Dr. Ambedkar, while representing untouchables in Simon Commission proceedings, demanded separate electorate, reserved seats for untouchables in legislative bodies, special educational concessions, and recruitment to Government posts on preferential basis, laws against discrimination and a special department to look after the welfare of untouchables. These demands were readily accepted through Communal Award of 1932.

Gandhiji along with other National leaders regarded it as the Unkindest cut of all, which would create a permanent split in Hindu Society, perpetuate casteism and make impossible the assimilation of untouchables in mainstream. Dr. Rajendra Prasad said, The principle of dividing population into communal groups, which had been adopted in the Minto Morely Reforms, had been considerably extended, even beyond what had been done by Montagu Chelmsford Reforms…. “The electorate in 1919 was broken up into ten parts, now it is fragmented into seventeen unequal bits… Giving separate representations to Schedule Castes further weakened Hindu community. Division on the basis of religion, occupation and service were made. The British introduced every possible cross-division.iii Lal Bahadur Shastri denounced the whole happenings As a shameless episode of the National History of the Country.

After Independence

The Constitution of India, through Articles 14, 15 and 16, guaranteed equality of opportunity to all citizens relating to advancement and employment or appointment to any office under the State. However it also allowed the Government to make special provisions in favour of any backward class of citizens.

Seeds sown by British flourished in full in Independent India

The present day politicians have followed their steps and created such an atmosphere that seeds sown by British may blossom in full. The Indian politicians have inherited from British rulers three powerful democratic weapons i.e. Electoral policy, Census operations, and Reservation Policy.

Earlier British rulers used them for economic exploitation and perpetuation of their rule as long as possible. Now Indian politicians are using it in similar way for their own advantage. Present trend of giving continued importance to diversities especially of caste, community, region, language by most of the political parties and shrewd politicians for electoral purposes is at its peak. Instead of the feeling of fraternity amongst Indians, “feeling of ‘others” or “we” and “them” has become more prominent than.

Whether amongst youth or grown ups, the casteist, religious and ideological intolerance has generated communal violence and caste animosities everywhere in the country.

Political instability

The public mandate got fractured on caste and communal lines. At present, it has become almost impossible to ensure a stable Government. Political insecurity has engulfed the whole nation into caste politics. It has given birth to worst form of caste and communal divide. Caste frenzy overtook country’s two most populous provinces of UP and Bihar.

The result is hung parliaments, insecure politicians, scant respect for democratic norms and conduct. Unholy pre or post poll alliances are made. There are manipulations to get hold on power. All political parties try to extract political mileage out of Paternalistic policies.

Politicians are adopting gimmicks of secularism, socialism, equity and social justice. They evade real issues and shirk responsibility. Political party in power finds itself handicapped and lack courage to take hard decisions. The sole aim of politicians, especially of newly emerging groups, have no other program except the one to capture political power by hook or crook and retain it as long as possible.

Criminalization of politics and corruption

Along with caste politics prospered criminalization of politics and corruption ridden leadership scenario in the country with large number of scams and scandals. Power-centric politicians do not care for any principle or ideology; neither do they care for honesty or welfare of people. For power, they do not even mind using foul means or hesitate in taking help of criminals. Many history-sheetors are, at present, in politics.

There is a blatant use of money and muscle power in elections. Politicians try various permutations and combinations to increase their vote Banks. Poor public is a silent spectator, while political atmosphere is surcharged with manipulation, casteism, nepotism and criminalisation.

Paternalistic policies

Paternalistic policies and social justice has elated the backwards and Dalits. The nation is now divided into numerous political camps – pro-Hindu camp, anti-Hindu camp, secular camp, and caste camps into forward, backward and Dalit camp. There are regional camps too, playing up federal card to woe the electorate. The situation is leading to fundamentalist and separatist attitudes, conflict, instability, in-decisiveness, and rigid and irrational attitude.

Inter and Intra-Caste rivalries

For political advantages, different caste, sub-castes and sub-sub-castes have come together, bearing the same caste tag. But they do not forget their separate identities. The political tags/identities as caste Hindus, backwards, SCs, STs and minorities for Reservations and other preferential measures has increased the in-fights between these categories and created social disorder, making the task of governance difficult.

The unity of various castes under the label of Dalits”, “Scheduled castes”, or OBC is an illusion created by vested interests. It does not make them a homogenous class. In the opinion of MSS Pandian, an academic with Madras Institute of Development Studies, the current inter caste rivalries are part of a series of periodic revolt, whose prime object is self assertion.

Dalit militancy is increasing with the rise of new militant outfits like BSP, Devendrakula Vellalar Federation, Thyagi Immanual Paravai, Dalit Panthers of India etc. The striking feature of New Dalit militancy is their utter disregard for the present set up and their attempt to capture political power. Dalit leaders are pursuing Dalit empowerment with vengeance.

Winding up

Way back on December 9, 1946, Mr. V.N. Narayan had said, At best of times, India is ungovernable country of diversities, conflicts and problems.v Mr. Nani Palkiwala expressed the same feeling after 50 years of self-rule, which gave to India empty coffers, unfulfilled promises, political instability, fractured society and perpetual divide among different groups along caste and community lines. He said, Our legal systems have made life too easy for criminals and too difficult for law abiding A touch here, a push there may adversely affect the unity of India. Governance of a pluralistic society, like India, is a sensitive and challenging exercise. And now, the present day political leaders learning well, how to divide the mandate and perpetuate their rule as long as possible have pushed India to a stage, when “In Indian criminal justice system, major crimes are likely to remain unreported; if reported, frequently not registered; if registered, the true perpetrator not found; if found, not prosecuted; if prosecuted, not charged; if charged, usually not convicted; if convicted, frequently not adequately punished. At each crucial stage, the system has enough loopholes and inefficiencies to allow the guilty to walk away with impunity.”

Way out

  • There has been a fast decline in the observance of morality. In the absence of ideology, pursuit of material success has made the so-called representatives of the people selfish and intolerant. They have drifted almost rudderless without sense of direction. The recent political developments have given a rise to mutual strife within the society.
  • Lust for political power and wealth should be replaced by sense of service. Instead of concentrating on populist measures, political leaders should give priority to real issues. The administration would become more sensitive and responsive to the needs of the disadvantaged people. Basic ameneties like drinking water, house, food etc. should be proveded effectively and efficiently.
  • In electoral reforms should be made in such a way that instead of power seekers, talented, professional and specialized persons could find place in the system. Men of character, learning and scholarship should be elected as representatives of the people and be given the respect, they deserve from society. Entrusting power in weak or greedy hands without making them strong enough to hold it judiciously could not empower them.
  • Liberalization and globalization has opened up a new vista for everybody. To channelise creativity and energies of modern youth and to keep them happy and satisfied, a sound system of education and training is required urgently.
  • To prevent unhealthy competition in the society discriminatory statutes, policies and practices should be stopped. Instead of for promoting sectional interests, stringent punishment should be given to exploiters, oppressors and those persons who are indulged in corrupt practices.

March 21, 2018 Posted by | Social and political values and systems | , , | Leave a comment


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