Polarisation of political discourse in our country is a big malaise . We want to make people as heroes to suite the compulsions of current day politics . As we search for heroes we eventually also end up making villains too . Gandhi and Ambedkar portray either as a hero or a villain based on the political spectrum that is handling the play in which the leaders are part of .
Gandhi is portrayed by the Left and Dalit politicians today as one who thwarted the Dalit emancipation and for sabotaging the Pune pact thereby preventing the political representation of the Dalits . They conveniently forget the fact that Gandhi was the first to bring the cause of social upliftment of Dalit as part of the national political discourse .
His efforts to ensure temple entry for Dalits , the welfare measures initiated by Gandhi under the Harijan Seva Sangh . The idea of Dalit constituency that Gandhian Congress achieved till today is a major milestone in the political representation of the depressed caste .
Today he is painted as a villain by Dalit leaders which is a great injustice meted out to him .
In case of Ambedkar , although his arguments against Gandhi may sound polemical , it should be taken in the context of the sufferings faced by the oppressed caste . He supported the British government because he was genuinely concerned about the plight of the Depressed caste , their future in an independent India .
He is being portrayed as villain by Hindutva politics crucially the book by Arun Shourie is a case in point to which I am referring . It was India’s great gift that a person scholarly as Ambedkar was there in time to lead the depressed class from the clutches of caste inequality .
Gandhi himself had said if there was one leader who had every moral right to take to violence it was Ambedkar but he was not a believer in the politics of violence .
Gandhi and Ambedkar radically altered and evolved each other over a period of thirty years . Ambedkar influenced Gandhi in understanding the perils of caste . In a matter of a decade Gandhi who had supported caste in his initial writings had completely transformed his opinion and wrote the article titled “Caste must go” . Ambedkar had once written in his essay about the need for intercaste marriage in his essay “Anihilation of caste” , Gandhi started promoting inter-caste marriages along the same time . Ambedkar similarly should have seen the meaning of Gandhi’s insistence on changing the mind of caste Hindus as a way to depressed caste emancipation .
Gandhi was constantly disturbed by Ambedkar’s allegations that Hinduism in itself supported the very idea of caste and untouchability . Gandhi finally was able to explain the fundamental difference between the importance of “shruthis” and ‘Smrithis” in Hinduism . Shruthis are the vedas and Upanishads which are the texts that are fundamental to Hinduisms . Smrithis are just texts which are allowed to change based on experience and reality , examples of Smrithis are Manu Smrithis and Naradha Smrithis etc . Thus constitution of India is just another Smrithi can be referred to as the Ambedkar smrithi . In the future if we feel that we need to modify the tenants of it we are free to modify it . Noted tamil writer Jeyamohan has written about it and many scholars like Nataraja Guru and Nithya Chaitanya Yathi have spoken about this crucial difference .
In our continuing struggle against social inequality we have things to learn crucially from both Gandhi and Ambedkar , pitching one against the other is just not going to help .
Note : D.R Nagaraj in his book The Flaming Feet managed to brilliantly reconcile Ambedkar and Gandhi .