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Understanding Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on his 123rd birth anniversary
"To set up a law-book of the kind of Manu means to concede to a people the right henceforth to become masterly, to become perfect - to be ambitious for the highest art of living. To that end, the law must be made unconscious: this is the purpose of every holy lie." - Nietzsche

Ambedkar had been controversial since he became known in public. On the day of Ambedkar Jayanti, I would analyze two of his viewpoints given in a very long and important speech in Poona in 1943. I expect probable readers to know a bit about Ambedkar.

"Long before Nietzsche was born Manu had proclaimed the gospel which Nietzsche sought to preach. It is a religion which is not intended to establish liberty, equality and fraternity. It is a gospel which proclaims the worship of the superman - the Brahmin - by the rest of the Hindu Society. It propounds that the superman and his class alone are born to live and to rule. Others are born to serve them, and to nothing more. They have no life of their own to live and no right to develop their own personality. This has been the gospel of the Hindu Religion. Hindu philosophy, whether it is Vedanta, Sankhya, Nyaya, [or] Vaishashika, has moved in its own circle without in any way affecting the Hindu religion. It has never had the courage to challenge this gospel. That Hindu philosophy that everything is Brahman remained only a matter of intellect. It never became a social philosophy. The Hindu philosophers had both their philosophy and their Manu held apart in two hands, the right not knowing what the left had. The Hindu is never troubled by their inconsistency."

What a glib! Correct too from outcastes' perspectives in modern times. But not necessarily true from all perspectives. I am not quoting many offending but important remarks from the speech. I am not a person to defend Brahmins till the end, though I consider them to be a very positive people. But still I would make few remarks in their defense.

First of all, Brahmins did not have monopoly over all matters relating to religion. Consider Arjuna going to hell after his life on earth; the very same person whom Krishna preached Bhagavad Gita and therefore, a hot favorite of Brahmins. As per common Hindu belief even a single word or even curse uttered by Ishvara can relieve a believer-listener from the cycles of reincarnations and provide him and her salvation.

Krishna preached whole Gita and showed his magnanimous form to Arjuna still the latter went to hell. Why? The reason is that Brahmins might have tried to over-portray Kauravas as excessively bad people deprived of historicity and then Kshatriyas compelled Brahmins to change a bit of story. As per Hindu beliefs Arjuna should have spent his afterlife in heaven and not in hell. Please do not argue that there is a story or reason behind this.

In case of portrayal of Kali trampling on recumbent Shiva, Brahmins tried to contain their color consciousness and overbearing egos by choice. They also wrote hymns praising Kali to be revolutionary deity when in fact she is preserving one. Also, one needs to understand time properly. If it is feasible and then one extrapolates backward in time, one can see unbridgeable gaps between Brahmins and outcastes during ancient times. They are apparent even today.

Therefore, can one expect Brahmins to have written a cosmopolitan and egalitarian theory about social systems some five millennia back when differences were so huge and distributions so wide? The answer is plain no. No society anywhere in the world had espoused equality among born-different in ancient times: equality used to exist among comparable class. Democracy is a relatively newer phenomenon.

Also, one needs to understand that while it is true that Brahmins are the first caste but they have been the most dependent caste since their very inception. First caste does give incomparable social status but it neither gives them power nor does it give money. In modern times it is the Vish community which is the richest and with money one can buy all comforts and power. Therefore, Brahmins, in modern times at least, are not as privileged as others believe them to be.

Now the leader of the outcaste party; the BSP, Mayawati, had to have a very famous and interesting slogan like this not long time back: 'Tilak, Taraju, aur Talwar, maro inko jutte char' ; damn to all twice born. Here the definition of twice born is taken as per Manu: Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vishs; in ancient India all three castes used to have sacred thread ceremony.

However, I admit that twice born in modern vocabulary can be used exclusively for Brahmins. I do not think that one can conclude from the fiery speeches of Ms. Mayawati that India is excessively regulated in favor of upper caste Hindus or that rear castes are overtly suppressed in modern times. Sure, to be fair to Ms. Mayawati, she has moderated her criticism of upper caste Hindus in recent times.

Now I take the second and final quote from the same speech of Ambedkar in 1943. 

"If Mr. Gandhi is known as Mahatma, Mr. Jinnah must be known as Quaid-e-Azam. If Mr. Gandhi has the Congress, Mr. Jinnah must have the Muslim League. If the Congress has a working committee and the All-India Congress Committee, the Muslim League must have its working committee and its council. The session of the Congress must be followed by a session of the League. If the Congress issues a statement, the League must also follow suit. If the Congress passes a resolution of 17,000 words, the Muslim League's Resolution must exceed it by at least a thousand words. If the Congress President has a press conference, the Muslim League President must have his. If the Congress must address an appeal to the United Nations, the Muslim League must not allow itself to be outbidden."

Fine, Ambedkar wishes symmetry between the Congress Party and the Muslim League of time, wrong though from my point of view. Nevertheless in my opinion too creation of Pakistan was legitimate and has been beneficial to India. Or else united India would have faced long and continued civil strife in its many parts, post-independence. The then united independent British India would have surely and definitely Balkanized into multiple parts in post-conscious era after the dissolution of erstwhile Soviet Union. India then would have been smaller and bitter.

But did Ambedkar say so because of that or was he just criticizing Hindus in veiled form by supporting the demand about creation of Pakistan? This is a very bad way of looking into things. And frankly speaking, Muslims, when they were in power, had never given any relief to outcastes from the clutches of age-old caste system. Neither can Muslims and outcastes together forge an alliance based on ideology.

There are practical political reasons on ground for them to be together on the same boat in modern times. Mind you, Muslims, and they include those of India too, seek parity vis-?-vis White Christian world and therefore, they can never be sympathetic to the cause of outcastes. British, while they reformed India a bit, they left many aspects of social system untouched. Therefore, the outcastes need to be reasonable in their criticism of upper caste Hindus.

In my opinion the ancient time had been a bad time for rear castes and outcastes. This is indeed true. Things were very bad for both even at the time of independence. But Indian Constitution provides 22.5% reservation to SC and ST community and 27% to backward castes in Union government jobs. Things have changed significantly and rapidly in post-conscious period.

The discriminated community among Hindus cannot blame all their ills on forward community. The fact is that while Indian state has to be reasonable towards all discriminated and disfavoured sections of society, they have to be judicious and accountable towards upper caste people as well.

I do not think that discrimination exists to that extent in urban parts of India in modern times that upper caste be condemned and cursed. There is no point is using cuss words against the forward community. The point is in taking the maximum benefits from affirmative actions and subsidies and making oneself independent and forward looking.

I think despite of all that modern India is a relatively free and fair society when compared with the past and that people should have patience to see things getting changed favorably. Minimally, they should not fight over injustices of the past, if they are discontinued in modern times.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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