Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
From the pages of Bahishkrit Bharat (Untouchable India)
[The following is from an editorial (translated from Marathi) written by Babasaheb Ambedkar for one of the issues of the newspaper Bahishkrit Bharat published on April 3, 1927! Translated by Dr. B.R. Kamble.]
We Are On the Scene Again
This writer had started a fortnightly newspaper called “Mook-Nayak” (leader of the dumb) on 31st January, 1920. There he had stated in the first issue itself that there is no more effective means than the newspaper to voice against the injustice done to the untouchables by the Caste Hindus and also to suggest the ways and means for their progress and total liberation from their slavery imposed on them by the high Caste Hindus from ages past. But when we throw our glance to the newspapers that are brought out in Bombay Presidency we are constrained to say that they do no other work than safeguarding the interest of their respective caste men only. They do not bother for the interests of other castes; not only this but even at times they go against the interests of others in their view points.
We would like to tell such newspapers that if any one caste remains backward or is kept backward its effect will definitely have to be endured by the rest of the castes. Society is like a boat; if a sailor, because of his mischief or to make fun of other sailors strikes a hole to the boat sooner or later he too has to sink along with others. Thus, it is doubtless that those who wish to harm other castes sooner or later they too will have to suffer its effects. Hence, we tell the newspapers who have their selfish motive that while harming others they will sow the seeds of harming themselves. Fortunately for us there are some newspapers which accept these viewpoints in their publications. The Papers like Din Mitra, Jagruti, Deccan Rayat, Vijayi Maratha, Dnyan Prakash, Indu Prakash, Subodh Patrika etc. often write about the problems of Untouchables. But it is also certain that these newspapers are born to devote themselves to the problems of Non-Brahmin castes whose number is very large and hence it is not possible for them to devote to the problems of the Untouchables who have enormous problems of their own. Under the circumstances, anybody can feel that to discuss the untouchables’ problems which are enormous there is a need of separate paper which will devote to the cause of these underdogs. This paper is born to meet this need. To discuss especially the problems of untouchables the papers like “Somavamshiya Mitra” “Hindu Nagarika”, “Vithal Vidhvamshak” were born and soon met their end. But here we end by assuring that if our subscribers encourage us by subscribing to the paper regularly the “Mook Nayak”, will not fail in showing our people the right path and their experience will show them that our assurance was not wrong.
But the writer who had given this assurance to the readers of “Mook Nayak” could not keep up his promise because of unavoidable circumstances in his life mission. After some experience of running the newspaper “Mook Nayak” its founder immediately realised that he must find out some profession which will keep him free for social service and at the same time earn his livelihood to keep him free from his economic problems. In pursuance of this view he had to go to England to complete his Barrister course (law course) which he had kept incomplete when he returned to India in his first phase of learning in America and in England. While returning to England he had handed over the charge of running “Mook Nayak” to an young man who had received training in running the newspaper. While handing that paper over to an young man it was hoped that when the present writer returns from England he will have an opportunity to see that the paper “Mook Nayak” has prospered. But his hope proved simply futile because he came to know just before he started returning from England that the paper “Mook Nayak” continues no more. It will be a futile exercise to ponder over the causes of the end of “Mook Nayak”. Here, we only think that it will not be out of place if we explain the old issues carrying them further in our new newspaper under a new name.
When the present writer had started the paper “Mook Nayak” some six years back the background was that the new reformed system of government was to be implemented in India. In the circumstances of new ensuing political reforms while explaining the need of the newspaper the present writers had stated that “If an observer looks to the Physical and social scene in India he will undoubtedly find out that India is a home of glaring inequality”.
“The inequality in Hinduism” is incomparable and hateful. The inter-relation between the Hindu communities is definitely not befitting to the character of Hinduism. The communities that are incorporated in Hindu society are inspired by the social idea of high and low in their social status. Hindu society is a multi-storeyed building. However what is worth remembering regarding this building is that every storey is a closed compartment without any passage of entrance to other storeys in it. Since there is no passage for communication between the stories the man who is born in a lower storey must die there only, however worthy he might be, he has no entry in the upper storey and the man in upper storey however unworthy he might be no one will dare to pull him down to the lower storey. In short it can be said that the social status of man in Hindus society is not based on his merit or demerit. The man born in high caste is bound to remain high in his social status however demeritorious he might be and the man born in low caste is bound to remain low however meritorious he might be. Another reason is that since inter-dining and inter-caste marriage are prohibited by custom and social usage each caste has remained separated from other castes and it has prevented the castes from promoting oneness and the sense of brotherhood among them. Not only this but even their day to day dealings are not without restrictions. Dealing between castes is only from outside the threshold of their house and some castes are untouchables whose touch pollutes the upper castes. Because of the idea of pollution the untouchables rarely come in contact with the so called high caste people in Hindu society. The prohibition of inter-dining and inter-caste marriage has marred the growth of fellow feeling among the castes and the practice of touchability-untouchability has added strength to the caste practice further so much so that the untouchable castes though they are called Hindus have remained outside the mainstream of Hindu society and its framework. Under this system the Hindus can form themselves into three classes namely “the Brahmins, Non-Brahmins, and the Untouchables”. If we look at the effects of this social inequality it can be seen that it has affected each caste differently. The Brahmins, the highest caste among the Hindus, regard themselves as Bhudevas-Gods on earth. The Brahmins think that the existing social inequality is very much beneficial to them as it is enjoined by the Shastras that all other castes are born to serve them. Hence by extracting services from all other castes they are enjoying the fruits by their self-created rights. If they have done any work it is the work of writing the Dharma Shastras (religious literature). But these Dharma Shastras are full of inconsistencies, a mixture of high thinking and meanest possible social practices. These scripture writers while teaching in their writing that all movable and immovable things are the different forms of the God support the glaring inequality in their thought and practice. It is not a sign of their being in their senses. Right or wrong, unfortunately, these Shastras have tremendous impact on the minds of the masses. There is no denying the fact that these innocent Hindu masses are worshipping their enemies as their gods. We need not go too far to find out as to why the innocent masses have fettered themselves with the harmful religious idea. This happened so because that the Brahmins constantly preached to the people that the preservation of the religious knowledge and preaching that knowledge to the masses is the sole right of the Brahmins.
It is true that in the absence of power and for want of knowledge (education) the Non-Brahmins remained backward. But the ways and means of earning their living such as agriculture, trade and commerce and the involvement in the government services are open to them. But the social inequality that has imposed on untouchables the social disabilities are immense. In the combination of physical and mental weakness, poverty and ignorance the untouchable communities are drowned in deep sorrow. The deep rooted sense of slavery among them is retracing their steps backward. The knowledge (education) alone is the remedy over their mental weakness because of which they think that the condition in which they are placed for years together is their fate and there is no escape from this. The knowledge (education) is available on purchase but due to their grinding poverty the untouchables are unable to purchase it and if someone is able to purchase it, it is not easily available because due to the Caste Hindus’ practice of untouchability it is not that easy for the untouchables to seek entry into the schools. The untouchables have remained poor by and large because all professions of earning are not open to them. They are very rarely found in trade, commerce, and in government services. Such is their miserable plight. We do not know whether our people are aware that so long as there are people in Hindu society who think that there is nothing wrong in degrading some people as untouchables the progress of existing untouchable communities in India is not possible. Similarly the so called untouchables have also realised that the upper caste Hindu leaders have tried to create wrong impression of the position of the untouchables to the British Government, which depends upon the high caste Hindus for governance. In this country of caste distinctions and caste hatred the untouchables want their separate electorates to elect their own representatives to legislatures and the caste Hindus have opposed their demands and hence the untouchables have complained to the government against the Caste Hindus. In short the untouchables have understood the tactics of the caste Hindus who by acquiring political power from the British, wish to perpetuate their caste supremacy over the untouchables. This is the good sign of awakening among the untouchables.
These views were expressed before the Reform Act of 1919 was implemented. but now the Act of Reform has come into force. The power that was in the hands of the British Government has now fallen into the hands of upper caste Indians in some proportion. Without bothering for the representation of the untouchable communities the British Government has handed the power over to the Caste Hindus as the owner of the Cattle does in handing his cattle over to the butcher. The condition of the untouchables that was before six years has now deteriorated from bad to worst. Hence the right minded men among the untouchable communities will definitely admit that to stop the injustice being done to the untouchables and bring out their problems and their existing condition before the world there is no better remedy than the newspaper entirely wedded to their cause. Not only this but is is likely that there is going to be another Reform Act in 1930 and by that whatever power the British Government has retained now (Act of 1919) that may also fall into the hands of Indians. If this happens and if the untouchables do not get adequate representation for them they will see that their fate is doomed once and for all. Because the mental outlook of the upper Caste Hindus towards untouchables and their problems is not impartial, broad and pure. It is the considered opinion of this writer that if the untouchables are to avoid this coming tragedy then they must launch their movements and start their agitations right from now. May God bless us for our success!
Transcribed by Surekha Bedide.