The most common form of government is democracy. What does it mean? Usually, people believe democracy is a system of government or a government chosen by the people. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution and the first Law Minister of independent India, believed in democracy. But what was his idea of democracy? Did he believe democracy was only a form of government? If not, then what was his idea?
Babasaheb’s view of democracy was different. He did not consider democracy to be merely a form of government. He gave his view of democracy in many of his writings, like Riddles in Hinduism and Annihilation of Caste. According to Babasaheb, democracy is more than a form of government. He believed democracy was a way of life. The term way of life means habit (human activities) and the beliefs of society. Babasaheb indicates in his book, “Democracy is not merely a form of government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience.”  He took this idea from his professor, John Dewey. Babasaheb considered democracy more than a political machine. Because he knew that not only government but also social order, the education system, and the media can impact society. He believed democracy was about the exchange of opinions and the creation of new ideas for the betterment of society.
Principles of democracy
In the broadcast of All India Radio on October 3, 1954, Babasaheb said, “My Social Philosophy, may be said to be enshrined in three words: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Let no one, however, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French-Revolution. I have not. My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my Master, the Buddha.”  This indicates Babasaheb believed democracy was a way of life that recognized the principles of liberty, equality, and fraternity. That means democracy will only work when society balances the values of liberty, equality, and fellow feeling.
Babasaheb gave a speech on May 31, 1936, entitled ‘Mukti Kon Pathe’ (What Way Emancipation). In this speech, Babasaheb said, “The Untouchables are in more need of social liberty than that which is guaranteed by law. So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by law to you, is of no avail.”  This shows, according to Babasaheb, that social freedom is more important than freedom, which is given by law.
But he did not stop here. He further said, “Freedom of the mind is of prime importance. […] The freedom of mind is the real freedom. A person whose mind is not free, though not in chains, is a slave.”  Freedom of mind is an important principle of democracy. Because he, with awakened consciousness, realizes his rights and responsibilities. If people have freedom of mind, they can think about what is good for society.
The second word in Babasaheb’s philosophy is equality. We know that Babasaheb hated the class system and caste system. Because the system that divides people is based on inequality, if power goes into the hands of one class, then they can exploit the other class. Therefore, equality is a prominent principle of democracy.
Babasaheb calls it the root of democracy. Fraternity is the most important element in Babasaheb’s philosophy because it sustains liberty and equality. In Riddles in Hinduism, Babasaheb wrote, “Without fraternity liberty would destroy equality and equality would destroy liberty. If in Democracy liberty does not destroy equality and equality does not destroy liberty, it is because at the basis of both there is fraternity. Fraternity is therefore the root of democracy.”  If there is no fraternity in society, then how can equality and freedom exist? That is why Babasaheb said fraternity is the root of democracy.
This is Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s philosophy about democracy. According to Babasaheb, if society is not democratic, the government can never be democratic.
- Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings And Speeches Vol 1, page 57
- Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings And Speeches Vol 17, page 503
- Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings And Speeches Vol 17, page 127
- Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings And Speeches Vol 17, page 128
- Riddles in Hinduism, page 400
Samyak Samudre from Maharashtra is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree, interested in Philosophy, Sociology and Politics.