Ambedkar, the Hindu antagonised by Manusmriti

Bindeshwar Pathak
April 19, 2001
The Kashmir Times

Dr B.R Ambedkar was born on April 14, 1891, of Mahar parents at Mahu in former Indore state. Although he was well-versed in the Vedas and Shastras, yet he turned against Hindu religion. His animosity sprang from the treatment meted out to untouchables in the Hindu society. He said: " The religion that does not recognize you as human beings, or gives you water to drink, or allows you to enter the temples is not worthy to be called a religion. The religion that does not teach its followers to show humanity in dealing with its coreligionists is nothing but a display of force. The religion that asks its adherents to suffer the touch of animals but not the touch of human beings is not religion but a mockery."

He told his followers: " Never regard yourselves as untouchables. Live a clean life. Dress yourselves like the touchables. Never mind if your dress is full of patehces, but see that it is clean. None can restrict your freedom in the choice of your garments andin the use of the metal for your ornaments. Attend more to the cultivation of the mind and the spirit of self-help. You must abolish your slavery yourselves. It is disgraceful to live at the cost of one's self-respect. Self-respect is a most vital factor in life. Without it man is mere cipher. It is out of hard and ceaseless struggles alone that one derives strength, confidence and recognition.

Dr. Ambedkar's life was an illustration of what he sought to impress upon his followers. Right from his childhood he was discriminated against at every stage because he was born in an untouchable family of Mahars. He was not allowed to sit with other students in classroom, nor permitted even to keep his tiffin box at the place where other students kept theirs. The Sanskrit teacher refused to keep him in his class for, he said, Sanskrit was meant for the upper caste students. In spite of all discriminations, he turned out to be a brilliant scholar and became the envy of even upper caste Hindus.

Of course, Dr Ambedkar was staunch critic of Manusmriti amd at some places his followers made a bonfire of this religious treatise. The root cause of his indignation was the caste starifications it laid down for Hindu society and the lowest place it accorded to untouchables. Dr Ambedkar could not accept that the sins committed by persons in their previous incarnation were responsible for their brith among the Scheduled Castes and therefore they had to suffer the treatmnet meted out to people at the lowest rungs of society. Preachings of Brahmins that the Scheduled Castes could not be equal to upper castes convinced Dr Ambedkar that the untouchables could not get justice in Hindu Society.

After his followers had made a bonfire of Manusmriti, Dr Ambedkar siad: " It is not that all the parts of the Manusmriti are condemable, that it does not contain good principles and that Manu himself was not a sociologist and was a mere fool. We made a bonafire of it because we view it as a symbol of injustice under which we have been crushed across the centureis. Because of Manu's teachings we have been ground down under despicable poverty. The counts in the indictment of the hereditary Hindu priest are numerous and appalling. He is a clog on the wheel of civilization. Man is born, becomes the father of a family and then in time dies. All along the priest shadows him like an evil genius."

Dr Ambedkar told his followrs that the sooner they stopped believing that their miseries were pre-ordained, the better. "The thought that your poverty is an inevitability, and is inborn and inseparable is entirely erroneous. Abandon the line of thought that you are slaves. The appearance of Tulsi leaves round your neck will not relieve you from the clutches of money-lenders. Because you sing songs of Rama you will not get concessions in rent from the landlords. You will not get salaries at the end of the month because you are making pilgrimages every year to holy places. If you want to change your lot, you have to get out of the shackles of Manusmriti and adopt a new religion which does not condemn you the moment you are born."

"I do not think it is possible to abolish inequality in Hindu society unless the existing foundation of the Smriti-religion is removed and a better one laid in its place. I, however, despair of the Hindu socieety being able to reconstruct itself on such a better foundation.Go anywhere, fight is in store for us. It is foolish to suppose that in the event of conversion to Islam everybody from amongst us would be a Nawab or would become the Pope if we went over to Christianity."

Dr Ambedkar is often criticised for not supporting Gandhi's "Quit India" call. The real cause of his lukewarm attitude to this movement was his disillusionment with the Congress leaders. In 1932, when Gandhi had gone on a fast unto death as a protest against the grant of separate electorates to the untouchables, Dr. Ambedkar gave up his demand and signed an agreement as a result of which the untouchables gave up the provision of separate electorates granted to them by the then British government and remained part of Hindu society. He was given assurance that the Congress would work for the removal of untouchability and Harijans would be accorded equal treatment. But the events that followed did not fulfil the promises made to Ambedkar in the presence of such great luminaries as Rabindra Nath Tagore.

The great messiah of the untouchables was forced to lead their processions for entry into the temples and for their right to draw water from village wells. When the processions were stoned by upper caste hoodlums, Ambedkar sought shelter in police stations.As leader of the Indian Labour Party, which he had formed to fight the 1937 elections, he was invited to become a member of the Viceroy's Executive Council. Many Congress leaders came to regard him as a thorn in their side.

But Dr. Ambedkar said: "Many Hindus regard me as their enemy. But I have personal friends amongst even the Brahmin community. Situated as I am it has fallen to my lot to lash the anti-social actions of the Brahmins who treat my people worse than dogs and impede their progress. I hate injustice, pompousness and humbug and my hatred embraces all those who are guilty of them. I want to tell my critics that I regard my feelings of hatred as a real force. They are the reflex of the love I bear for the causes I believe in and I am in no way ashamed of them."

The Kashmir Times
April 19, 2001

The SanghParivar, which is in power at the centre and have ruled and still rule a few states, all by themselves or in alliance with like-minded parties, have always dreamt of converting Bharat into a real Hindusthan, where Hindutva would flourish and Hindus would rule and their honour and interests would be protected. This message has been repeatedly conveyed in no uncertain terms by their ideologues, like M.S. Golwalkar, Balraj Madhok, and Deen Dayal Upadhyay. Very recently, L.K. Advani too has again reaffirmed his earlier assertion that Hindutva is synonymous with Bharatiyatva, i.e. Indian nationalism.

So, now with that Parivar in power, it is quite natural to expect that the interests and honour even of the weak exploited among the Hindus will be better protected than before. Yet, unfortunately, reports trickling in from different parts of the country only confirm that the traditionally despised and down-trodden among them still continue to remain the 'wretched of the earth'. Whether it is Nathdwara in Rajasthan, or Pani and Sarsena of Nalanda district in Bihar, or Semara in Sagar district in M.P., or the temple of Mantralaya in Karnataka, the Dalits are nowhere allowed to enter the local temples, even if one of them is a village sarpanch. Whenever anyone of them had been found to have entered the sacred precincts stealthily he or she was brutally beaten-up and sometimes even tonsured and taken round the village on donkey back with their faces blackened. At the temple of Mantralaya even the highly-respected Infosys chief Narayan Murthy was asked to show his sacred thread to prove that he is a Brahmin.

We all know What happens to a Dalit, especially in the conservative cow-belt of India, when one of them dares to draw water from wells reserved for the upper castes, or to marry one of them, or even to throw coloured water on any of them during the Holi, although the upper castes often force the women folk of the lower castes to join them in Holi revelries.

One expects the different sword-hands of Hindutva -- the RSS, the VHP, the Bajrang Dal, and the Shiv Sena-- to raise their voice, if not their lathis, to punish even a single look cast at any Hindu with insult. But, alas, their roles have remained different. Reports streaming in from quake-shaken Gujarat reveal that, instead of protecting the legitimate needs and rights of the poor hard-hit Dalits, the local units of the RSS and their kindred organisations have remained busy high-jacking relief items away from them to clusters of upper castes and have often prevented various NGOs from bringing in relief material and working among the Dalits.

In some villages of Cutch the saffronites have tried to physically prevent relief material and workers from reaching the Dalit localities and have often man-handled the latter. NGOs, like the Gantar, Janpath, and Jan Jagaran Manch, have already made complaints with the district authorities and the C.M. against the criminal interferences by the various units of the saffron brigade. So, here is an apparent enigma of Hindu militants turning against Hindus themselves. They not only deny the Dalits their due, but often snatched what was meant for them and other victims for their own party men or patrons in business, and relief material meant for the former have been sold with profit in different parts of India, including Jammu and Udhampur.

However, on a close look one finds little that is surprising in the conduct of the Hindu militants or of the Hindutvavadis in power. It was in 1924 that Veer Savarkar first gave a call for Hindutva through his book with that title, and the very following year the RSS was established at Nagpur. There were no communal clashes in those years, nor was Maharashtra ever seriously affected by the so-called Muslim tyranny or even domination. Yet, the RSS came into existence in Maharashtra and not in Bengal or the Punjab with high Muslim populations. The reason is that Hindu militancy owed little to any threat from Muslims. Its roots were and are in the challenge from below, the Dalits, and it was in Maharashtra, more than any where else in India, that the Dalits, thanks to some mediaeval preachers and modern reformers, like Jyotibha Phule and Pandita Ramabai, had first become organised and assertive enough to threaten the privileged position of the upper castes.

So, what in the name of Hindu unity and strength, these militant bodies have so far sought to achieve is the strengthening of the existing power structure of the Hindu society. No wonder, these militant bodies have always been mostly manned and almost invariably led by members of the upper castes, who are overtly proud of an idealised past and all our so-called traditional values. Naturally, equality of all, even of all Hindus, and concepts like the inherent dignity of man are anathema to them, and the traditionally oppressed can expect nothing but continued oppression at their hands. Emphasis on unity is always for stability and status-quo and against social mobility and change.

Referred by:Balram Sampla
Published on: April 23, 2001
Send e-mail to with questions or comments about this web site.
No Copyright: dalit e-forum