Indian Thinkers: Gandhi and Ambedkar

Mahatma Gandhi

Gandhi was an eminent freedom activist and an influential political leader who played a dominant role in India’s struggle for independence. Today, Gandhian values have special significance for national integration. Communal harmony has become essential for national integration and hence Gandhi gave it the highest priority.

Views of Gandhiji

  1. Harmony
    • By communal harmony, Gandhiji did not mean merely paying lip service to it. He meant it to be an unbreakable bond of unity. In the religious context, Gandhi emphasized that communal harmony must be based on equal respect for all religions.
    • Everyone, Gandhi said, must have the same regard for other faiths as one had for one’s own. Such respect would not only remove religious rifts but lead to a realization of the fact that religion was a stabilizing force, not a disturbing element. Gandhi’s basic axiom was that religion since the scriptures of all religions point only in one direction of goodwill, openness and understanding among humans.
  2. Views on Education
    • He regarded education as the light of life and the very source from which was created an awareness of oneness. Gandhi believed that the universality of ethics can best be realized through the universalisation of education and that such universalisation was the springboard for national integration. Harmony is not brought about overnight.
    • Gandhi advocated the process of patience, persuasion and perseverance for the attainment of peace and love for harmony and was firmly convinced of the worth of gentleness as a panacea for all evils. Communal harmony had the pride of place in Gandhi’s constructive program.
    • He taught us the dignity of labour as a levelling social factor that contributed to a national outlook in keeping with the vision of new India.
    • He always believed that a nation built on the ethical foundation of non-violence would be able to withstand attacks on its integrity from within and without.
  3. Humanisation of Education
    • Gandhi pleaded for the humanization of knowledge for immunization against the ideas of distrust among the communities of the nations and the nationalities of the world.
    • He wanted to take the country from areas of hostility into areas of harmony of faiths through tolerance so that we could work towards understanding each other.
    • His mass contact program was specifically aimed at generating a climate of confidence and competition and eliminating misgiving and misconceptions, conflicts and confrontation.
  4. Views on other issues
    • Gandhi held that bridging the gulf between the well-off and the rest was as essential for national integration as an inter-religious record.
    • He said that we must work for economic equality and social justice, which would remove the ills caused by distress and bitterness.
    • He stressed that the foundation of equality, the core of harmony will have to be laid here now and built up brick by brick through the ethical satisfaction of the masses. There is no denying the fact that Gandhi was deeply rooted in his cultural and religious traditions.
    • The phenomenal success Gandhi registered in faraway South Africa fighting for human rights and civil liberties and later the adoption of the Gandhian techniques by Nelson Mandela and the subsequent revelations made by the former South African president De Klerk that he was greatly influenced by Gandhi’s principles.
    • Gandhi successfully demonstrated to a world, weary with wars and continuing destruction that adherence to Truth and nonviolence is not meant for individual behaviour alone but can be applied in global affairs too.
  5. Seven social sins by Gandhi: Politics without principles; wealth without work; commerce without morality; education without character; pleasure without conscience; science without humanity and worship without sacrifice.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Dr B R Ambedkar, popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar, was one of the architects of the Indian Constitution. He was a well-known politician and an eminent jurist. Ambedkar’s efforts to eradicate social evils like untouchability and caste restrictions were remarkable.

The leader, throughout his life, fought for the rights of the Dalits and other socially backward classes. Ambedkar was appointed as the nation’s first Law Minister in the Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour in 1990. 

Ambedkar Views on Social Justice

  • It has been a sad historic fact of Indian society that lower castes have been exploited and dominated by the upper castes and for that reason, the lower castes have mostly also been the lower classes economically and vice versa. Until the British period there had never really been many revolts or movements on behalf of the lower castes and untouchables to seek social justice. But during the freedom movement, there were many leaders and movements throughout India.
  • The most prominent voice of and for the lower castes had emerged in the person of B.R. Ambedkar who hailed from the untouchable Mahar caste in what is today, Maharashtra. Even today Ambedkar is a hugely influential political symbol and legacy who is followed by many political forces throughout the length and breadth of India. 
  • Ambedkar’s aim was to get justice for the ‘last, the lost and the least’ and he emerged as a sort of revolutionary leader of India’s Hindu untouchable and other castes. His aim was to fight for their equality and seek improved living conditions for them and reach education among them and get adequate representation for them in elected bodies and in government services.
  • During the freedom struggle, Ambedkar’s emphasis on issues related to social justice forced the leaders of the national movement to take these up as part of the agenda associated with the main demand for unshackling the country from the chains of colonialism.
  • In his own personal life and career Ambedkar had to face caste discrimination and harassment of the most severe kind and was foiled in his career repeatedly. Even though he was highly educated and had advanced degrees from the world-famous Columbia University of New York and the University of London where he did his D.Sc., any job that he took up back home in India he could not continue because upper caste subordinates refused to work with him or otherwise frustrated him. For instance, when he took up employment in the government of the princely state of Baroda, his upper caste subordinates humiliated him and ultimately forced him to resign. Even at Bombay University, he was treated badly by upper-caste colleagues, and he was ultimately forced to resign. 1924 onwards Ambedkar was fully in a political movement and the national struggle.
  • Ambedkar in his work Who Were the Shudras? questioned the whole Hindu social order and tried to create a theory that the Shudras were not a separate varna or caste but were originally Kshatriyas who in a struggle with Brahmins were manipulated out of the Kshatriya caste by the Brahmins and were deprived of the sacred thread.
  • Therefore, they lost their social position due to this move of the Brahmins and became backward and degraded. Similarly, he attacked the Hindu theory on untouchables and used anthropometric and ethnographic evidence to try to prove that there had been no racial, ethnic or occupational basis for the origin of untouchables.
  • He proposed a hypothesis that the untouchables were originally disciples of Buddha and were Buddhists, but the Hindus led by the Brahmins to try to undermine Buddhist influence and stop its spread put the untouchables in a corner and started branding them untouchables.
  • He believed the root of the lack of social justice in India was the caste system that created the environment for the exploitation of man by man – of the shudras and untouchables by the Brahmins and other upper castes. He believed no democracy is possible in India without first establishing social justice by annihilation of caste. So, he took a position that was opposed to the position of both the Congress and Gandhiji who wanted political reform and independence from British colonial rule first and the socialists and Marxists who wanted economic equality established first.
  • He believed lack of social justice because of the caste system would never be dismantled by the upper castes because it served their interests and also by any system of Western-styled democracy because all institutions from the parliament to the judiciary would be dominated by the upper castes who would manipulate and control the system to make sure Shudras and untouchables don’t come up.
  • He also felt the economic exploitative basis of the caste system was so solidly to the benefit of upper castes they would never be willing to change the situation. That is the reason he wanted constitutional safeguards and direct representation from the lower castes and Dalits in all democratic institutions from the parliament to the judiciary.                         
  • His views on social justice are to be found in his books and speeches. His most important works are Annihilation of Caste (1936), Who Were the Shudras (1946) and The Untouchables (1948). Also his writings like What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables.
  • He put forward brilliant well-researched attacks on the exploitative Hindu caste system, particularly with respect to how untouchables were treated and fought all his life to secure legal and constitutional safeguards for their rights.
  • It is interesting although he had attacked Gandhi’s Congress Party’s views and attitudes on the caste system quite severely and in a scathing manner in his writings, Gandhiji suggested Ambedkar’s name to head the committee to draft the Constitution.
Online Counselling
Table of Contents
Today's Current Affairs
This is default text for notification bar