Mr. Mohandas Gandhi joined the Indian National Congress in 1919. He then conducted a four-pronged campaign for Indian independence from 1920 to 1942. The first pillar was non-cooperation to make government rule useless. Those Indians who did not go along with non-cooperation had to suffer social boycott. Members of Congress would not buy or fraternize with Indians not involved with the freedom struggle. There would be Civil Disobedience or protests to show the multitudes of people unsatisfied with His Majesty’s Rule to further the cause of freedom. The final weapon was the fast, welded by Mr. Gandhi himself. The fear of public backlash from the death of someone as revered as Mr. Gandhi was enough to push legislation through.
The freedom campaign was mostly taken up by Hindus. Muslims played a small role for a short time. Dalits, Indians without Caste, played little to no part. They knew if India did become independent upper castemen would control government with the lower caste serving as policemen. With a power structure of nothing but castemen, how would Dalits secure their rights? Dalits wanted safeguard for political representation and government employment guaranteed in the constitution.
The relationship between Dalits and the British began with the invasion of the East India Company. The company enlisted Dalits in the state of Maharashtra to take power away from the Hindus and install the first British stronghold. The resulting victory of the Dalits showed that divine fate did not determine their station. They can unify and overthrow their oppressors.
Dalits began to see themselves as a separate political and social entity. Hindus never questioned Dalits being a separate entity until political power was to be split between various factions in India. Now Congress is emphatic that Dalits are part of Hinduism, but in what way.
Ambedkar dissects the question of various levels. The first is in the territorial sense of those that occupy the area colloquially referred to as Hindustan. At that level, one could say Dalits are Hindus. However, at that level, Muslims and Sikhs could be considered Hindus. Both groups received accommodations for political representation in the constitution.
The next level one could answer the question is social. Do Dalits and Hindus interact enough on a social level to be considered one people? The answer is emphatical, no! Untouchability, by its very definition, precludes even contact. No reason to also ask about intermarriage, dining, or occupations. In no arena are Dalits socializing with Hindus.
The last level is as members of the religion of Hinduism. First, one must ask what Hinduism is. Ambedkar explains there is no unifying moral code or system of practice. What is commonly referred to as Hinduism is various cults with a similar origin. Many Dalits were members of these cults even though there were strong movements of conversion to Buddhism and Islam.
Even if Dalits occupy a cult of Rama, Krishna, Vishnu, or Shiva, they do not observe untouchability. There is also not enough interaction with mainstream Hindu cults to consider both cults brothers. Even if Dalits occupy the same cult as a Hindu, it would not mean they are in the same community. Indian Christians, Europeans, and Anglo-Indians hold the same religion, but they are not unified in a singular community.
Now that Dalits have established themselves as a separate community, why not grant Dalits constitution safeguards? Allowing the safeguards would build the trust and sense of brotherhood that Congress said was necessary. Indian independence would never stand without this sense of fellow feeling. What Dalits are asking for in political representation and government work is very reasonable. The alternative would be to ask for an independent country like many of the Muslims and Sikhs. If Congress does not want to grant Dalit accommodations, one must wonder if they ever intended to treat Dalits equally.
The adversity faced by Dalits is much more significant than just untouchability. They are fighting to overturn the belief built up over thousands of years. Because Dalits did not cause the belief in inferiority as ordained by a divine fate, no amount of self-improvement on the part of Dalits will rectify it. The Hindus must end discrimination. The question remains do Hindus as a collective understand the atrocities they have inflicted on Dalits and do they care to act to remedy the situation.