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He had a simple rule to end slavery: tell a slave he is a slave and he will revolt to end it
TSI | Issue Dated: April 22, 2007
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Ambedkar Chair, Social Justice

IIPA, New Delhi Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s birth on 14 April 1891 in the Mahar community and the inequality and injustice that he faced, were responsible for giving a purpose and mission to his life. Ambedkar was ranged against social injustice, and his lifelong commitment to free the depressed classes bore fruit in the penumbra of his life. Recounting his struggle for social justice, both in pre-Independent India and in the Constituent Assembly, is a rewarding exercise and a most timely tribute to his very inspiring memory. Ambedkar had taken a vow to expose and do away with the abominable conditions and inhuman injustice under which the class into which he was born had been groaning for centuries. He never failed in highlighting that a sense of helplessness made the Dalits live like slaves in Hindu society.

He believed in the maxim, “Tell the slave that he is a slave and he will revolt against his slavery”, and often quoted this to arouse consciousness amongst Dalits for securing human rights. One of the key elements of his writings was the attainment of social justice for the toiling masses and the establishment of a just society, which, for him, was essentially a casteless society. He not only mercilessly criticised the existing social order, but also came up with an alternative vision and model of social order based on justice, liberty, equality, fraternity and annihilation of caste. Ambedkar was convinced that a good social order or society has to go through two tests, namely ‘the test of justice’ and the ‘test of utility’. His incisive and trenchant analysis of the caste-ridden Hindu social order was based on these litmus tests. He rejected Hinduism and accepted the message of the Buddha.

He established the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha to promote the spread of education among the depressed classes by opening hostels, study circles and libraries. The Sabha also sought to improve the economic conditions of the depressed classes by opening agriculture and industrial schools; as well as to provide a platform to represent their grievances. He firmly believed in the efficacy of education as a panacea for social evils and injustice because the problem of social injustice in India is not merely economic but also cultural. Ambedkar told his fellow Dalits in no unclear terms –whoever has knowledge, wisdom and strength, is capable of tyrannising those who have none. Therefore, a particular code of conduct was assigned by those who had knowledge, wisdom and strength. The road to social justice, in Ambedkar’s opinion, was to be led by education. He was convinced that nothing could achieve a consciousness of selfrespect in Dalits better than the spread of higher education. This remains as true now, as it was during Ambedkar’s time.

Ambedkar made several attempts to achieve religious and social rights for Dalits, by using the Gandhian technique of satyagraha in his campaigns for drinking water from a public tank in Mahad (1927), entry to the Parvati temple at Poona (1929), and the Kala Ram temple at Nasik (1930-35). The failure of these movements demonstrated, according to Ambedkar, that Dalits were not really a part of Hindu society and would never be accepted as equals by caste Hindus within that framework.

Thus, from a position of questioning the brahmanical social order, Ambedkar moved towards its rejection: raising the issue of conversion by Dalits in 1935. At the Yeola Conference on 13 October 1935, in Nasik, Ambedkar declared that he would not die a Hindu. Thus, Ambedkar’s concept of political power was aimed at securing social justice for the deprived on more equitable and honourable terms. Moreover, his vision of social justice involves a normative element, as much as it aims at the desirability of goodness in social life, dignity of the individual, equal rights of man and woman, promotion of social progress and better standards of life with peace and security in all spheres of human life.

Ambedkar was a brilliant academician, an erudite scholar, a jurist of repute, a journalist and foremost, the emancipator and champion of the rights and liberties of the oppressed. Social justice was the mission of his life. His vision was to make Indian society just and egalitarian with liberty, fraternity and mobility ensured for all – a vision which remains to be realised. Ambedkar attained ‘Mahaparinirvan’ on 6 December 1956. Therefore, 14 April, Ambedkar Jayanti, is the right occasion to rededicate ourselves to his memory, mission and vision, and to ensure that his dreams for a caste-free India do not remain in the realm of the unfulfilled.
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017