Watching these two images together is like witnessing a paradox. How could the Father of a nation, who spent his life fighting for equality all over the world, an inspiration for numerous world leaders even today, be blamed for one of the biggest evils that resides in India?
Also, there is a huge number of people, that blames Ambedkar and know him as the man who brought the idea of reservations that still prevents deserving candidates to achieve their goals in every sphere of life. So how did this most sought after lawyer, who laid the foundation of independent India by drafting the constitution became the biggest villain of modern India?
To understand this, let me take you 70 years back. India was burning in the fire of struggle for complete independence and all efforts by the British government to negotiate were boycotted by the Congress and thus, by the masses.
It was shown black flags by all the political groups except the small group of Untouchables led by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the only Shudra by then who had managed to cross the barrier of primary education, earned a law degree and various doctorates from Columbia University and the London School of Economics. He was skeptical of the government that would form after independence and had understandably feared that the condition of untouchables might remain the same.
Amidst widespread protests and violent attacks on him, he also attended the first round table conference in London to express his concerns and became the biggest villain of the country.
This was the time when the first official meeting happened between the two pillars of Indian struggle at Gandhi’s ashram. There, they agreed to disagree on all the proposals. Ambedkar aggressively called Gandhi’s fight for equality as fake and Gandhi coldly refused Ambedkar’s demand of separate electorate for Harijans (for initial 10 years), though he had earlier agreed to give the same to Muslims, Christians and Sikhs. The meeting ended with the historical statement that Ambedkar gave. He concluded, “I have no homeland”.
It is difficult to fight for people who are against you. Still, Ambedkar continued to fight alone and attended the second round table conference (Gandhi also attended this) and convinced the British government that it is much more essential and logical to give separate electorate to Harijans than other minorities.
After this, Gandhi played gathered the masses by a simple but effective measure – he started his fast unto death.
Though Ambedkar was celebrating his win, he didn’t know when the whole nation (Hindus and Muslims were united for the first time in this measure) including his own wife turned against him because he was the reason that Mahatma Gandhi was dying. It is heartbreaking to spend a lifetime for others, achieve your goal, and see your own stakeholders so determined to shatter what you got for them. Finally, Ambedkar had to negotiate with Gandhi which gave birth to the Poona Pact. This is where Congress leaders suggested the alternative of Reservations in government schools, colleges and jobs and forced Ambedkar to accept it. Ambedkar, broken and deceived signed the pact and became the scapegoat for allegations from generations to come.
This is the story of a tussle that never ended. Gandhi was of the view that giving separate electorates would divide Hindus and it would be a disastrous measure when the whole country was united. He wanted to get independence first and then slowly eradicate all the evils including untouchability. Ambedkar on the other hand, had experienced the inhuman behavior by his fellow countrymen and wanted political power to get quick results.
We are often misunderstood by those for whom we are always ready to anything. They may or may not acknowledge it, but it is solely our decision to carry on the efforts or not. I recently did a stage play called “Gandhi vs Ambedkar” based on the above story (I played Ambedkar) which can be watched here.
The play is in Hindi so if you need any explanation in English, or any background if you are not aware with any of the above events, please do not hesitate to ask in comments. Also, I would love to know any views or additional information you have on this tussle.