Ambedkar begins the treatise by justifying the need for a mass conversion of Dalit. Most Dalits have determined Hinduism will never be conducive to Dalit uplift. Ambedkar then purposes a reasoned and logical evaluation of all religions to see which religion will suit the Dalit’s unique needs.
Many critics would characterize this type of evaluation as artificial and solely politically motivated. Ambedkar retorts the criticism by showing that most Christian conversion in the middle ages came after the king of a country was converted. The subjects would convert in mass to follow the king. If the subjects did not, they would be politically isolated.
Religion is by its nature communal. It projects the essential values of a community on to the universe. The purpose is to unite a community of people beyond extended family bonds. In primitive society, extended family bonds determined those that hold your life sacred and those that do not. Religion binds people beyond the family and creates a means of social control. Law and police can’t contain a society if the people don’t fundamentally respect life and property.
The concerns that a new Dalit religion needs to address are the Dalit’s social isolation and the resulting inferiority complex. To end the social isolation Dalit must move to a group that does not recognize caste. Hinduism will never serve this purpose because caste is a fundamental part of the Hindu religion. Ambedkar even goes further saying that a Dalit that accepts Hinduism accepts her oppression. Also, there is no altruistic center in Hinduism. All forms of behavior can be accommodated under certain pretenses.
A brief history of Christianity in India is given before arguments for and against it are presented. The first missionaries came to India from the Syrian church 800 years prior. They were followed 400 years later by European Christians. Many denominations of the church have created extensive charity networks in India. The goal of the charity networks is to build an audience to listen to gospel. However, there has been no effort to make the society of India more equitable, thus relieving the need for charity.
There were three main impediments to the spread of Christianity in India. One, early European Christians that settled in India were unruly sailors. Two, infighting between various denominations of the Christian church distracted from evangelizing. Three, the church adopted a failed strategy of concentrating on Brahmin converts assuming lower castes would automatically follow. The loss of privilege disincentivized Brahmin conversion. At the time of publication, there were only 6 million Christians in the subcontinent housing 358 million people. Most of the Christians were Dalit and most incorporated Christianity in their Hinduism instead of making a full conversion.
Christianity could not fundamentally challenge Dalit’s social isolation. Christianity itself was a composite community of different denominations. Also, the church kept the caste system going in its India churches. Different castes have different churches. There was no effort to change because a version of caste is practiced elsewhere in Christendom. In America and the Caribbean, blacks are separated from whites. In Europe, people of high class are separated from people of low class.
Christian believe the fall of Adam caused inequality. Therefore nothing can be fundamentally done to make life more equitable. The belief in predetermined inequality due to “The Fall” is no better than believing the cause of inequality is past karma. They also assert once a person accepts the religion they will be forgiven of all sin. The belief in absolute forgiveness also disincentivizes the need for social reform. Dalit can’t join a religion that does not facilitate their active striving for social justice.
Gandhi was briefly discussed in the treatise. Ambedkar shows that he vehemently fights against the conversion of Dalit to Christianity, but will not do the same to stop Dalit conversion to Islam. The discrepancy in Gandhi reaction was political according to Ambedkar.
Gandhi is quoted in this essay as saying ”They (Dali) can no more distinguish between the relative merits… than can a cow. (Dalit) have no mind, no intelligence, no sense of the difference between G-d and no G-d”. This statement shows Gandhi’s feelings for Dalits and his belief in Brahmin superiority.
The full essay can be read HERE