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Social and political Values and Systems in India.

Ambedkar, The Father of the Constitution of India?

Introduction – It is unfortunate that present day politicians (neither the followers, nor critics) have failed to understand Baba Sahib Ambedkar’s role in national politics, or his teachings in right perspective.   Politicians of the day ignore many historical facts/developments, happened during first half of the 20th century.  Political leaders of the day ignore the changes that has  happened socially, economically and politically in the position of Dalit community in recent past. They interpret Ambedkar’s teachings, the way that  suits/benefits them to show that only they are their true well-wishers. In the name of Ambedkar, they try to create Dalit vote-bank in their favour and grab political power. 

Dr Ambedkar as ‘The Father of the Indian Constitution’?  – All political parties put the name of Dr Ambedkar at the top, as the ‘Father of Indian Constitution’, thereby sending out a strong political message to Dalit voters that only they are the true followers of Dr Ambedkar and true well-wisher of Dalit community. 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.

Biggest brain behind the making of Indian Constitution – Some experts on Constitutional law and surviving knowledgeable senior citizens with wisdom, who knew the India of those days of olden days believe that that the biggest brain behind making the Constitution was that that of Mr BN Rau, who was appointed as the adviser to the Constituent Assembly. He was the expert, who did the most job and worked out the democratic framework of the Constitution. He singlehandedly prepared the initial draft by February 1948, to be debated, revised and finally adopted by the team on November 26, 1949. The Drafting Committee, under the chairmanship of Ambedkar, declared that the ‘Draft Constitution’ was being scrutinised thoroughly by adviser BN Rau for making it one of the world’s best Constitutions.

President of Constituent Assembly Rajendra Prasad, just before signing the Constitution on November 26, 1949, thanked Rau profusely for having “worked honorarily” assisting the assembly not only with his knowledge and erudition but enabling the other members to perform their duties with thorough prudence. Rau was not a member of the Constitutional Assembly but was the most important expert who did the primary thinking and writing. He has been religiously ignored by frontline politicians who never gave him his due space in history. Rau is the principal framer of the Indian Constitution; others only did the cosmetic jobs here and there. like they have forgotten VP Menon, Secretary of States, who drafted the ‘instrument of accession’ to force the 564 Princely States to merge with the Union of India, Rau is not remembered by the political bosses of today. Most of them do not even know who he is by name.

Besides, there is no doubt that drafting of the  Indian Constitution Constituent Assembly was done by Drafting Committee, 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 Dr Ambedkar himself  along with Mahavir Tyagi, one of the members of Drafting Committee 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.

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”.

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. The Constitution of India, became operative from 26 January, 1950. 

Members of the Constituent Assembly were elected by the provincial assemblies by a single, transferable-vote system of proportional representation.  Prominent National leaders like Nehru, Patel, Rajendra Prasad and Maulana took extra care to make it a wide representative body. The Assembly had included  as many as possible, well known, eminent political leaders, lawyers, academicians and other eminent/brilliant persons from nearly all walks of life including some of those, who opposed the Congress like Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee.

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.

Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly – Different Committees were formed on different issues within Constituent Assembly such as one to prepare material and proposals for the constitution under the chairmanship of Pt Nehru, another for the integration of all princely state under the chairmanship of Sardar Patel etc. The Drafting Committee of Constituent Assembly was headed by Dr Ambedkar. This core committee had seven experts. All were legal experts or administrative luminaries including Sir BN Rau,  KM Munshi, N Gopalaswamy Ayyangar, Alladi Krishnaswamy Ayyar, Syed Mohammad Saadullah, N Madhava Rau. Incidentally, the Congress had earlier opposed tooth and nail Ambedkar’s entry into the Constituent Assembly. In his letter of 30th June 1947, Dr Rajendra Prasad, President of the Constituent Assembly, had requested BG Kher, the then Prime Minister of Bombay, to elect Dr Ambedkar immediately.

Later on, the Congress party had to accept that drafting of Constitution required patience, negotiating skills and a flexibility to accommodate diverse opinions. Legislation and solidification of freedom would not be easy without the services of Dr Ambedkar.  Ambedkar was chosen as the head of Drafting Committee, because he had already been in various sub-committees like the Advisory Committee, Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee and Minorities Sub-Committee of the Constitutional Assembly. He submitted a memorandum with very valid suggestions to the Fundamental Rights Sub-Committee. This memorandum was later published for wider circulation under the title ‘States and minorities, their rights and how to secure them in the Constitution of free India’. 

 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 thinker Dada 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 analysed 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 |

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