Reported by Chinmaya Dehury
Bhubaneswar, Jan 31:
Despite his serious differences with Dr BR Ambedkar on the question of Dalit emancipation, Mahatma Gandhi made an enormous contribution in awakening the conscience of upper caste people to oppression of Dalits, eminent historian Ramachandra Guha said here on Friday evening.
Ambedkar, who provided the alternative route to self-realisation that was so necessary for the Dalits, was a trenchant critic of Mahatma Gandhi from the Dalit point of view. In fact, the differences between the two were so serious that it led to the Poona pact between them on separate electorates for Dalits,” Guha said delivering the third Chittaranjan Das Memorial Lecture on ‘Gandhi, Ambedkar and the Emancipation of Dalits’ at the IDCOL auditorium here.
“Ambedkar was a consistent opponent of the Congress party from 1935 to 1947. He thought Congress was working for power and not for the emancipation of Dalits. He even formed a party and fought against the Congress under the Government of India Act 1935,” said Guha.
However, he was included in the Congress dominated Cabinet formed just before the Independence although there was no clear documentary proof on why he was included.
“What exists in archives suggests that Ambedkar was in the Cabinet because Gandhi pursued Nehru to put him there. Ambedkar demonised the Congress but Gandhi impressed on Nehru that freedom had come to the whole of India and so the Cabinet must include the best minds. So I would rather say that Nehru, Ambedkar and Gandhi are the three modern Indians who did the most to bring India in line with an egalitarian and humane society,” pointed out the historian and columnist.
Stating that both Gandhiji and Ambedkar wished to abolish untouchability, he said that both the leaders remain relevant in the present society since there is still discrimination against Dalits and women.
“As a historian, I would agree that Gandhi and Ambedkar are necessary. Gandhi is the reformer who undermined the caste system and Ambedkar who mobilized and organized Dalits. I can say that the fight against caste discrimination is still going on, though there has been some progress. Discrimination and oppression continue in many parts of India. So, these two leaders must continue to be the source of inspiration for India in the fight against this social scourge,” said Guha.