Muslim-dalit alliance: A betrayal of Ambedkar’s legacy

Many activists quote Dr B R Ambedkar who had said villages were cesspools of cruelty, caste prejudice and communalism and Dalits should move to cities to escape casteism. File photo. Wikimedia Commons

It couldn’t be more ironical that as the nation would be celebrating the 128th anniversary of  Dr BR Ambedkar on April 14 this year,  those who claim to have inherited his legacy are the ones who are betraying it.

The prime claimants of Ambedkar’s legacy are some regional outfits out of which Bahujan Samaj Party is the most prominent one and the Congress Party which won many polls projecting itself as the champion of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

In the run up to the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the BSP supremo Mayawati who has built her party along with the mentor Kanshi Ram exploiting the name of Ambedkar, has been desperately wooing the Muslim vote along with her alliance partner Samajwadi Party. Similar attempts have been made by Laloo yadav in Bihar too in the name of ‘social justice’ as he is trying to forge a Muslim-Yadav combination.

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However, a look at Ambedkar’s thoughts on Muslim politics and about Islam clearly shows that he was never in favour of dalits having a political alliance with Muslims.

Ambedkar categorically stated (Chapter X, ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’), “The Muslims think that the Hindus and Muslims must perpetually struggle; the Hindus to establish their dominance over the Muslims and the Muslims to establish their historical position as the ruling community—that in this struggle the strong will win, and to ensure strength they must suppress or put in cold storage everything which causes dissension in their ranks. If the Muslims in other countries have undertaken the task of reforming their society and the Muslims of India have refused to do so, it is because the former are free from communal and political clashes with rival communities, while the latter are not.”

Making a scathing attack on Muslim politicians, clerics and the lack of reforms within the religion, Ambedkar further adds, “With the Muslims, election is a mere matter of money and is very seldom a matter of social programme of general improvement. Muslim politics takes no note of purely secular categories of life, namely, the differences between rich and poor, capital and labour, landlord and tenant, priest and layman, reason and superstition. Muslim politics is essentially clerical and recognizes only one difference, namely, that existing between Hindus and Muslims. None of the secular categories of life have any place in the politics of the Muslim community and if they do find a place—and they must because they are irrepressible—they are subordinated to one and the only governing principle of the Muslim political universe, namely, religion.

The existence of these evils among the Muslims is distressing enough. But far more distressing is the fact that there is no organized movement of social reform among the Mussalmans of India on a scale sufficient to bring about their eradication. The Hindus have their social evils. But there is this relieving feature about them—namely, that some of them are conscious of their existence and a few of them are actively agitating for their removal. The Muslims, on the other hand, do not realize that they are evils and consequently do not agitate for their removal. Indeed, they oppose any change in their existing practices.”

In light of the above and many more statements and writings of Dr Ambedkar,  any leader or party trying to forge a dalit-Muslim combination  seems to be betraying Ambedkar’s legacy .

As far as the Congress Party is concerned, it first humiliated Dr Ambedkar and forced him to resign from the Congress and then it ensured his defeat in the 1952 General Elections from Bombay and again in the 1954 by-elections from Bhandara. Ambedkar’s resignation speech in Parliament showed how he felt  about the Congress sabotaging the interests of the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes in the country.

Ambedkar said in Parliament after tendering his resignation from the Nehru cabinet on September 27, 1951 (Ambedkar’s Writings, Vol. 14, Part Two, pages.1317-1327) , “…why is  no relief granted to the Scheduled Castes?  Compare the concern the Government shows over safeguarding the Muslims.  The Prime Minister’s whole time and attention is devoted for the protection of the Muslims. … what I want to know is, are the Muslims the only people who need protection?  Are the Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and the Indian Christians not in need of protection?  What concern has he shown for these communities?  So far as I know, none and yet these are the communities which need far more care and attention than the Muslims.”

He also shared the  humiliation he had to suffer while working with Nehru in his cabinet:

“…….in the old Viceroy’s Executive Council, I held two administrative portfolios, that of Labour and C.P.W.D., where a great deal of planning projects were dealt with by me and  would like to have some administrative portfolio.  The Prime Minister agreed and said he would give me in addition to Law the Planning Department which, he said, was intending to create.  Unfortunately the Planning Department came very late in the day and when it did come, I was left out.

During my time, there have been many transfers of portfolios from one Minister to another.  I thought I might be considered for any one of them.  But I have always been left out of consideration.

Many Ministers have been given two or three portfolios so that they have been overburdened.  Others like me have been wanting more work.  I have not even been considered for holding a portfolio temporarily when a Minister in charge has gone abroad for a few days.  It is difficult to understand what is the principle underlying the distribution of Government work among Ministers which the Prime Minister follows.

Is it capacity?  Is it trust?  Is it friendship?  Is it pliability?  I was not even appointed to be a member of the main Committees of the Cabinet such as Foreign Affairs Committee, or the Defence Committee.  When the Economics Affairs Committee was formed, I expected,  in view of the fact that I was primarily a student of Economics and Finance, to be appointed to this Committee.  But I was left out.  I was appointed to it by the Cabinet, when the  Prime Minister had gone to England.  But when he returned, in one of his many essays in the reconstruction of the cabinet, he left me out.  In a subsequent reconstruction my name was added to the Committee, but that was as a result of my protest.”

(The writer is CEO of Indraprastha Vishwa Samvad Kendra. The views expressed are personal)

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