Mr. Gandhi and the Emancipation of the Untouchables
This treatise was used to express the oppression of Dalits, possible solution, and hurdles presented by the Indian National Congress to a foreign audience.
At the time the treatise was written the Indian constitution was being created. Ambedkar explains the conditions that will be met for the Dalit to accept the new structure. The first is the Dalit have to be recognized as a group outside of Hinduism. The second is the law needs to have provisions that address Dalit needs.
These provisions include
- Funding set aside specifically for Dalit education
- Guaranteed political representation for Dalits
- To ensure political representation Dalits will have a separate electorate
- Government jobs set aside for Dalits
One of the solutions Ambedkar presents is separate villages for Dalits. Traditionally, Dalits live on the outskirts of the city. The proximity to caste Hindus relegates Dalits to menial and unsanitary jobs. Because caste Hindu see Dalits as inferior, and Hindus control the economy, it is not realistic that a Dalit would get an opportunity to try new professions. New Dalit settlement will be created on government land and ruled by a commission. There will also be a set aside to fund the commission.
Gandhi opposed these provisions so vehemently he decided to fast till death. He proposed what he called the National Scheme as an alternative. The scheme consisted of:
- Government in which official were elected purely on territorial basis
- Executive drawn from majority party
- Administration run solely on efficiency
Gandhi also disparaged Ambedkar’s plan as the Communal Scheme. Insinuating it focused on the local level and separated India. Ambedkar rebutted by saying India is not united now or was it united in the past. A temporary period of separation will reduce economic and political disparity that can lead to a united India in the future.
Also, Ambedkar supported the idea Dalit representatives and a separate electorate are needed to address Dalit issues. To assume Dalit issues or minority issues can be addressed by someone from the majority elected by the majority is not founded in history. People have a natural tendency to work in their favor and the favor of those close to them. The idea a person can remove their identity and ego while in office is laughable. Also, a Dalit representative elected by the general electorate would be beholden to the majority, not his people. So India requires both Dalit representatives and a Dalit electorate. Dalit would vote in the general election and the separate election.
There would also be a set-aside for Dalits for government jobs. Dalits would be required to pass an entry exam to show they have a basic level of skill. The minimum testing requirement will ensure competent employees. Ambedkar explains it is not realistic that Dalits have the same education level as Caste Hindus. Because of bias, discrimination, and economic disparity Dalit have been kept out of higher education. These problems can only be remedied by Dalits having stable jobs and being involved in the implementation of government policy. Many assume that a Dalit set-aside would lead to incompetent or less competent employees. To think this one must believe that there are no qualified Dalits that just aren’t being given the opportunity.
Hindus that are against Ambedkar’s plan are not uninformed or unrealistically optimistic. These Hindus are knowingly working in their self-interest against Dalits. The Dalit plan would not leave Hindus without power or opportunity. The Hindu plan could prevent Dalit economic mobility. Ultimately, in Ambedkar’s plan, the winners win more than the losers lose.
The treatise warns Americans and other Westerners of Hindu motives for Independence. Hindus ultimately want to install Hindu rule to the exclusion of other groups. Hinduism does not include an inclination for social justice. Also, Castes are not the same as Western concepts of class. Class implies social mobility and the ability to develop individual talent. These concepts are not in Hinduism.
The demands of Dalits are not dissimilar to demands of Sikhs and Muslims. Unfortunately, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims conspired to get Caste removed from census questionnaire. The removal of Caste on government forms does nothing concrete to improve the life of Dalits. It buries their problems and state from public view.