– son of a small time military officer
– hailed from untouchable Mahar caste
– Progressive Maharaja of Baroda paid the fees for his studies
– Practiced Law successfully at Bombay High Court
– remained active in social and political spheres as well
Ambedkar’s views on Caste
- The Hindus are divided, according to sacred tradition, into four castes; but according to custom, into five: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra and AtiShudra.
- These castes are of unequal rank and are ordered in a descending series of each lower than the one before it.
- These ranks are permanently fixed by rule.
- Each caste is assigned a boundary which must not be transgressed by it. There are prohibitionsagainst inter-marriage, inter-dining, inter-drinking and social intercourse.
To People who defend caste-system as a division of Labour
- Some people defend caste system on the ground that it is a system of division of labour, which is a necessary feature of every civilized society.
- Ambedkar, however, argues that caste system is not merely a division of labour, but a division of labourers.
- He says, in no civilized society division of labour is accompanied by division of labourers in water- tight compartments.
- He further argues that caste system is not only a division of labourers but also a hierarchy in which groups are graded one above the other. Individual sentiment and individual preference have no place in caste system.
- Furthermore, he argues that a civilized society develops a system of division of labour to attain maximum individual and social efficacy.
- This can be attained when individuals are free to choose their work according to their natural aptitude, competency and choice.
- This principle is violated under caste system, as in caste system, tasks, jobs and careers are allocated according to the social status of an individual’s parents and not on the natural and trained competencies and capabilities.
- This is also the reason for high unemployment as industry is never static, it undergoes rapid and abrupt changes.
- A rigid caste system, however, prevents an individual to adjust and evolve under such circumstances, leaving him unemployed or under-employed.
- He adds, there are so many occupations in India which are regarded as degraded and stigmatized by Hindus. These occupations provoke those who are engaged in them to aversion.
- Therefore, as an economic organization caste system is a harmful and inefficient system which involves subordination of man’s natural powers and inclinations (Students of Sociology may find that Ambedkar here comes close to Karl Marx’s concept of Alienation= where Marx criticizes capitalism as an economic system- its effects on an individual).
To those who defend caste system on the basis of preservation of purity of blood/race
To argue against the above given defence of caste system, Ambedkar puts forward the following points:
- Ethnologists agree that people of pure race exist nowhere in the world and that there is a mixture of all races in all parts of the world.
- D.R. Bhandarkar in his paper on Foreign Elements in the Hindu Population has stated that there is hardly a caste in India which no foreign strain in it.
- Caste system came into being long after the different race of India had comingled in blood and culture.
- He questions the racial affinity between a Punjabi Brahmin with a Madrasi Brahmin or Punjabi Shudra with a Bengali Shudra. He says a Punjabi Brahmin has more in common with a Punjab Chamar than a Madrasi Brahmin- both in genetics and in culture.
- If caste system was eugenic, it should have produced the human form of highest capabilities and potential. On the contrary, he says, the Hindus are a C people with weak physical capabilities and wanting in stamina, 9/10th of whom are declared unfit for military services.
According to Ambedkar, caste system is a social system which embodies the arrogance and selfishness of a perverse section of Hindus who were superior enough in social status to set it in fashion and who had authority to force it on their inferiors.
Caste System has disorganized and demoralized the Hindus
- Caste system prevents common activity and by preventing common activity it has prevented the Hindus from becoming a society with unifies life and a consciousness of its own beings.
- It produces hate and anti-social spirit among the castes.
- The anti-social spirit has even seeped into different sub-castes and poisoned their mutual relations. It has made the Hindus as an assortment of many warring groups each living for their selfish interests.
Therefore, it is required to abolish the caste system in order to build a unified nation and achieve real progress.
Solution to the problem
Ambedkar argued for annihilation of the framework which bounds the caste-bound Hindu society together. Ambedkar felt that the reformers before him did not go far enough. He argued in favour of social and economic equality in addition to religious equality (which remained the focus of previous reformers). He thought it was time for depressed classes to assume leadership of their struggle for equality.
- He advocated direct action for fulfillment of their rights- launching Satyagrahas for temple entry and drinking water from common wells. After seeing a determined opposition to this by the upper castes, he was convinced that meaningful change can only come through purposive state action.
- He argued, in front of the Simon Commission, that the depressed classes should be treated as a distinct, independent minority- separate from the Hindus. In 1932, the British government granted separate electorates for the depressed classes. To protest this, Gandhi went on to a fast unto death. To save his life, Ambedkar gave up separate electorates, under the Poona pact, in favour of joint electorates with greater seats.
Dr.B.R.Ambedkar gave three measure to annihilate Caste system;
- Removal of restrictions on inter-dining.
- Removal of restrictions on social- intercourse.
However, he warned by doing the above two the roots of untouchability would not be removed. This will only remove untouchability from the outside the home, but not at home. To do that, he suggested;
- Removal of restrictions on inter-marriage, so that all of Hindu society becomes one caste. Otherwise, according to him, untouchability cannot be removed, nor equality established.
He also argued that these tasks cannot be accomplished by the upper-castes as no one, of his own will, surrenders his power. He said Brahmins do not have the patriotism of Samurais of Japan, who gave their special privileges for the sake of national unity based on a new equality.
He argues that the task of removing untouchability must be carried out by the untouchables themselves. No one else will do it for them.
A social revolution is required to carry out this task, which will benefit not only the depresses classes but the nation as a whole.
Edited by: RiCh
Source: Ramchandra Guha’s works
Relevance-General Studies Mains Paper 1