Dr. Ambedkar as a Humanist


Place of Dr. Ambedkar as a Humanist in the Historical Context.

Humans as the Homo sapience evolved on this planet about 150,000 years before present. Some of the oldest civilizations known in the history of humanity have been dated 10,000 years old. Human Being is a social animal. Social animal has a tendency to govern and to be governed by a set of rules framed by the society itself. There are two fundamental types of human nature. Creative and possessive. Creative humans use human intellect for creative endeavors which enriches human thought; knowledge and wealth thereby contribute to the development of human heritage for the posterity. Possessive people, on the other hand do not believe in the use of human intellect for creative purpose. Rather, they believe in appropriation, amassing and even usurpation of the products of the labor of the creative people. This type of people posses a strong urge to become the governing class by all means in order to achieve their aims. Lesser the degree of civilization in the society, greater is the probability of succeeding this type of people in becoming the governing class. However, in a more civilized society the creative people can offer resistance to possessive people and try to safeguard their interests. This is a continuous process in the human society. Karl Marx has scientifically analyzed this conflict by applying the principles of dialectical materialism to the sphere of social phenomenon and described it as the historical materialism. Slavery, apartheid, gender bias and caste system are the abominable creations of possessive peoples for the exploitation of creative people. These are man made evils created by man for the exploitation of man. Those, who have raised their voices against these evils and given a relentless fight against the prevailing social order of their times in order to free the creative peoples from the shackles imposed on them have become immortal personalities in the human history. Some of these great persons are better known as founders of religions. Gautam Buddha, Jesus Christ and Guru Nanak for example. Some have become famous as saints as Kabeerjee, Ravidasjee and Tukarama. Some have become source of inspiration and guidance to the underprivileged classes as Krantiba Jotiba Phoolay and Periyar Ramaswamy Naicker and some are revered even more than gods as Bharatratna Dr. Bhimrao Ramjee Ambedkar.

Gautam Buddha, Jesus Christ, Guru Nanak Kabeer, Ravidas, Tukarama, Krantiba Jotirao Phoolay, Periyar and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar they all belong to the great class of exalted Homo sapience called as Humanists.

Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was truly a multi-faceted personality. A veritable emancipator of Dalits, a great national leader and patriot, a great author, a great educationist, a great political philosopher, a great religious guide and above all a great humanist without any parallel among his contemporaries. All these facets of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar's personality had strong humanistic underpinnings. It is only regrettable that the press in the past as well as the contemporary has projected Ambedkar mainly as a great social rebel and a bitter critic of the Hindu religion. Critics of Dr. Ambedkar have ignored his basic humanistic instincts and strong humanitarian convictions behind his every act or speech through out his life. It is important to trace the origin and consolidation of his humanistic convictions.

Origins of Dr. Ambedkar's Humanistic Convictions.

Dr. Ambedkar's father, Subhedar Ramji was a known follower of the Kabeerpanth. Many of the Kabir's Dohas are the veritable gems of rationalism and the most daring expressions of the humanitarian beliefs. Dr. Ambedkar's mind was thus deeply imbued with Kabeer's philosophy in the childhood days. On passing his matriculation examination, he was felicitated by his teacher and was presented with a copy of a book on the life of Buddha. This gift must have made a profound impact on the mind of young Ambedkar. Dr. Ambedkar stayed in America, the land of liberty, for his higher studies. There he studied the western liberal thought and the humanitarian philosophy expounded by great thinkers such as Prof. John Dewey, who was also his teacher, John Stuart Mill, Edmund Burke, and Prof. Harold Laski to name a few. The impact of this original thinker on Dr. Ambedkar's mind is evident from the frequent quotations one comes across in his writings and speeches. The contrast between the social milieu which he lived in, and the liberal academic thought he studied could not have resulted in anything but making him an ardent humanist.

Proof of Dr. Ambedkar's Unflinching Humanistic Convictions.

Following events in the life of Dr. Ambedkar bears testimony to his humanitarian concerns and convictions.

Mahad Tank Satyagraha

Untouchables were barred however; the animals were allowed to use the water of the Chawdar tank in the Mahad town of Maharashtra. This glaring manifestation of inhuman attitude of the society was challenged by Dr. Ambedkar to usher a new era of social revolution. On 20th March 1927, 10,000 satygrahis assembled at Mahad under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar and marched to the Chawdar tank to assert their human right to drink the water from the public place. The procession was attacked by caste Hindus and many satyagrahis were injured by them. There were many ex-military persons among the satyagrahis who had shown their bravery during the World War I. They could have retaliated in a befitting manner. However Dr. Ambedkar appealed to his comrades not to indulge in violence. Only a person who is the humanist to his innermost core can show such steadfast faith in the non-violence in such situation.

The name of Mahad town is also permanently linked with human rights because one more reason. Dr. Ambedkar organized a conference of satyagrahis on the 25th December 1927 in which the Manusmriti was burned. Burning of the Manusmriti was a revolutionary step which sought to denounce the inhuman laws of scriptures and proclamation of right to equality and justice.

Pune Pact

In the field of politics also, Dr. Ambedkar remain firm with his convictions.

Signing the Pune pact is perhaps the ultimate testimony of Dr. Ambedkar's humanitarian credentials. He was fully aware of the reason for Gandhi's fast and also the consequence of signing the pact, yet only on the humanitarian ground to save the life of Gandhi he did it. The essence of his political philosophy, the trilogy of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity he had borrowed from Buddha's philosophy. His political aims and objectives as expressed in the manifesto of the independent labour party founded by him. Many of the current provisions for the welfare and protection of labor have their origin in the manifesto of the independent labour party.

Fundamental rights assured to all citizens of our country is a great leap towards establishing the basic human values in the society that was based on graded inequality. As the chairperson of the constitution drafting committee Dr. Ambedkar was instrumental in the incorporation of the principle of fundamental rights in the constitution.

Dr. Ambedkar was a firm believer in the parliamentary democracy. That is why when the fear of fascism represented by Hitler was looming large over the world,

he decided to co-operate with the British government in its fight against the fascism. Because as a humanist he could foresee the dangerous consequences of the victory of the fascism. Today some myopic people criticize Dr. Ambedkar for this. However, by criticizing Dr. Ambedkar on this score, they inadvertently expose their fascist leanings.

A few months before his Mahaparinirvana he embraced Buddhism. It was a great tribute of a great humanist to the greatest humanistic philosophy of Buddha. By initiating millions of his follower in to the Buddhist fold, he asserted his faith in the humanistic values preached by Buddha in alleviating the sufferings of his lot. He thus reached the pinnacle of the humanism by becoming a Bodhisattva.

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Published on: October 14, 2001
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