LAW RESOURCE INDIA

Ambedkar’s way & Anna Hazare’s methods

Posted in JAN LOKPAL by NNLRJ INDIA on August 23, 2011
JAN LOKPAL BILL

JAN LOKPAL BILL

BY SUKHADEO THORAT IN THE HINDU

Following Dr. Ambedkar’s example, Team Anna should use constitutional methods and enhance people’s faith in them. Otherwise it will convey the message that only coercive and unconstitutional methods work.

A group of people, with placards showing Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, staged a demonstration in Delhi a few days ago against Anna Hazare‘s proposals on the Lokpal and the methods used by his team. More often than not, Dalits look with suspicion on any attempt to tamper with the Constitution. Team Anna has, however, suggested that its Lokpal bill would benefit Dalits more than anyone else. This led me to look at Dr. Ambedkar’s position as compared to the mode of agitation being deployed by Anna Hazare and his team.

In his last, visionary speech after the submission of the drafted Constitution on November 25, 1949, Dr. Ambedkar warned of three possible dangers to the new-born democracy. These related to social and economic inequalities, the use of unconstitutional methods, and hero-worship.

Dr. Ambedkar first pointed to the contradiction between equality in politics in the form of one-person-one-vote and the inequalities in social and economic life. He argued that for political democracy to succeed, it needed to be founded on the tissues and fibres of social and economic equality. He warned that we must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment, or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy. Although we in India are trying hard to reduce the vast inequalities that exist, the working of political democracy is already under heavy stress due to discontent in some parts of country.

Dr. Ambedkar’s second, and more important, warning in the present context related to the methods to achieve social and economic objectives. He urged the people to abandon bloody as well as coercive methods to bring about change. This means abandoning methods of civil disobedience, non-cooperation, coercive forms of satyagraha and fast. Referring to the use of these methods during the British period, Dr. Ambedkar observed: “When there was no way left for the constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods.” But using them since that period, in his view, was “nothing less than the Grammar of Anarchy.” He advocated that “the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us as a nation.”

Dr. Ambedkar’s third warning related to “hero worship.” He was immensely concerned over the political culture of “laying down the liberties at the feet of great men or to trust them with powers which enable them to subvert their institutions.” He believed that there is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. No man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of the people of India than in the case of any other country, for in India, bhakti, or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in politics, unequalled in magnitude to the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world, argued Dr. Ambedkar. He went on to add that bhakti or hero-worship in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul, but in politics, bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.

These views of Dr. Ambedkar also evolved through a much deeper commitment to constitutional methods and their use in the anti-untouchability movement during the 1920s and the 1930s. The 1920s and the 1930s saw a series of agitations led by Dr. Ambedkar to get public wells, tanks and Hindu temples opened to “untouchables.” In the present context, recalling two such incidents is very relevant, namely, the agitation for access to a water tank in Mahad, and for entry into the famous Kalaram temple in Nasik. In both cases, Dr. Ambedkar was up against violent high-caste Hindus, with the British sitting on the fence.

Dr. Ambedkar started the Mahad agitation in 1927, but the “untouchables” got access to the tank only in 1937 through a court order. The people of the high castes had managed a court order to ban the entry of “untouchables” into the tank on the grounds that it was a private tank. Dr. Ambedkar accepted the court order and discontinued a second march to the tank. But he fought through the courts and got justice in 1937, almost after 10 years. He did this using legal instruments and a peaceful mass movement, without the coercive means of fasts and hunger strikes.

Similarly, the agitation for entry into the Kalaram temple went on for four years, from 1930 to 1934. He discontinued the agitation in 1934 following opposition by priests, notwithstanding the support extended by Gandhiji. But he fought a legal battle, along with a peaceful agitation, for the next four years, and in 1939 ultimately secured entry to the temple for “untouchables.”

During the 1920s and the 1930s, Dr. Ambedkar combined mass mobilisation with legal methods in the anti-untouchability movement, but never allowed unconstitutional and coercive methods to take hold, despite instances of violent attack on “untouchables.” Once he came face to face with Gandhiji with the latter’s fast-unto-death and he had to compromise on the demand for a separate electorate with what is the present-day political reservation. Coercive means forced him to surrender the demand for a separate electorate, the consequences of which are visible today.

Team Anna should realise that the Indian Constitution provides ample opportunities for advocacy, through discussion and lobbying with parliamentary Standing Committees, Groups of Ministers, the Ministers concerned, the Prime Minister, courts, and above all through a peaceful agitation. With several political parties on their side, the possibility of reaching a middle ground is high. Experience with constitutional means shows that civil society activists, through their constant struggles, have persuaded the two successive United Progressive Alliance governments to acknowledge several basic rights and convert these into laws. The right to employment through the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), the right to information, rights under the Forest Act, the right to education, and now the right to food, are some of the revolutionary measures that civil society has been able to accomplish through constitutional methods. It is an opportunity for Team Anna to use constitutional methods and enhance the faith of people in these; otherwise Team Anna will convey the message that only coercive and unconstitutional methods work.

As Dr. Ambedkar observed, due to certain aspects of Indian culture our people are highly vulnerable to hero-worship. How a yoga teacher could convert yoga devotees into religious devotees and finally into political supporters within a few years’ time is a classic example of what hero-worship and bhakti can do. Another religious preacher has threatened that he would use his religious followers for political end which he thinks does not require discussion with them as they follow him in whatever he tells them to do.

Anna and his team should recognise that for a new democracy like ours, which is operating within the framework of undemocratic relations based on the caste system, constitutional methods and social morality need to be cultivated and promoted with a purpose. The Lokpal Bill is too important a piece of legislation to be passed under threat and unreasonable deadlines. All its aspects need to be discussed with extreme care and with consensus among all sections. Dalits have begun to express concern about its implications for them. In a society where the anti-caste spirit and prejudices are present in abundance, they feel that given its proposed wide-ranging powers, it may be misused.

The Commissioner for Scheduled Castes reported about 11,469 complaints by Dalit government employees during the period from 2004 to 2010 that were linked to caste prejudice. Several thousand more complaints under the provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, such as giving “false or frivolous information to any public servant and thereby cause such public servant to use his lawful power to the injury or annoyance of member of SC/ST” are waiting for justice. Therefore, Dalits have begun to seek safeguards against the complaints emanating from caste prejudices in the Lokpal Bill. I think the government has rightly brought the bill for an open discussion before the Standing Committee that comprises MPs from all parties, so that the Bill is discussed by all sections in a peaceful milieu and not under duress and force.

Anna Hazare knows that the road to social change is a difficult one. He helped Dalits in a number of ways, including by repaying loans taken by Dalits with contributions from villagers. Yet he could not bring about fraternity between them — Dalits continue to stay in segregated localities in his village. Corruption, like untouchability, is deeply embedded in the social fabric of our society. Therefore, besides legislation its eradication requires changes through education and moral regeneration.

(Sukhadeo Thorat is Professor of Economics, Centre for the Study of Regional Development, Jawaharlal Nehru University. E-mail: thoratsukhadeo@yahoo.co.in)

http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/article2384849.ece?homepage=true

9 Responses

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  1. Dr. s. C. Parakh. said, on August 23, 2011 at 10:17

    We in India have developed a unique skill of following what suits us and discarding what does not suit us. Do we follow Dr. Ambedkar in total. Did he mean reservations in eternity. This was a time bound provision which our politican have been extending time and again to further their own interests.

    Even now dalits are not treated equally in India is true. But now the cause is the threat that upper cast feels from dalits. Due to the reservations, deserving candidates of forward classes are denied opportunities.
    Comping to coercive methods of Anna Hazare, our politicians are not expected to draft a strong anto curruption bill. Because the curruption begins from politics. They will not bring a strong bill against them selves. It is surprising that inspite of so many scams having come to light, some people criticise men llike Anna Hazare and expect the politicians in paarlliament to pass a bill which will act against them selves and help commom man.

    What anna Hazare wants is that bill should cover those people also who harras the common man at panchayat, mandal and district level. Then only it will help the common man. There is nothing wrong in asking for such a bill.

  2. vijay said, on August 23, 2011 at 13:51

    Thanks Mr. Thorat for this thought provoking article.

    Anna team must read and follow the wisdom of Dr. Ambedkar.

  3. kukkumol said, on August 28, 2011 at 11:45

    This is one of the happiest days of my life because today is the day when Anna Hazare has rubbed the nose of Manmohan Singh Primeminister into the ground.He has proved that he is even more powerful than the primeminister.He has humiliated the mighty UPA government and the Congress party which had become extremely arrogant and overconfident that it was imperative that they be brought down to earth and Anna did exactly that.The Congress party which is a party of traitors,pimps,prostitutes,Dalals,sycophants and which considers the Gandhi family God was taught a lesson it will never ever forget.
    In this hour of truimph for the Indian AAM ADMI it will only be appropriate to pinpoint the sins of the Congress party since independence.Poverty,unemployment,corruption,scams,infiltration by illegal Bangladeshi and Pakistani Muslim immigrants,terrorism Indians have had to suffer it all.This is not to say that the other political parties are innocent.But since the Congress party was in power for 55 out of the 64 years since independence,it is only correct that the Congress should take the blame for all the ills plaguing India today.
    Right from the time of the traitor Chacha 420 Nehru the Congress party has been fooling and looting Indians.Nehru,Indira Gandhi,Rajiv Gandhi,Narsimha Rao,Manmohan Singh all have been responsible for the various problems affecting the Indian common man.
    However what has upset the more than 1 billion Insdians is the daily corruption which affects the common man for which the Congress party is fully responsible.
    I appeal to Anna to carry this fight even further and ensure that the fact that all these central ministers including Primeminister are made aware of the fact that they are our bloody servants and not our masters.

  4. arpit said, on September 2, 2011 at 20:32

    a worth full article written by SUKHADEO THORAT

  5. citizen said, on September 15, 2011 at 19:45

    Reading the above few comments I am but saddened at how the media and few intellectuals manipulates the general people and their thought patterns. We are made to think what they want us to think.however in the undercover much more complex politics keep grooming.People now hate the government and the bureaucrates but they do not know that how well these people have steered the country in tough times.If you are an Indian with a job during the inflation time then its only because of the shrewd work of the government.
    My dear country men please try to visualise beyond things that just seem so apparant. Try to understand the under politics of everything thats goes on.realise which is the the real truth. Anna is just a puppet to draw public support. I request you all to read the smart comments of Arundhati Roy. she has meticulously pointed out what this whole drama is all about.
    Lastly in a nutshell all I need to say is that please do not support any such movement.do not support Anna Hazard. Keep off from getting used by people. May God help your all realise what the truth actually is.

  6. Harmesh Manav Advocate said, on September 15, 2011 at 21:31

    Mr. Throat, hurled out half truth about Dr.Ambedkar views about agitation. Dr.Ambedkar said, ” The caste Hindus will not cease to observe Casteism unless and until they are realized that doing this is not less than a burning coal on tongue.”

  7. BlackFire said, on September 15, 2011 at 21:47

    Thank you for linking my article “Jan Lokpal Bill: A Dalit’s Viewpoint” but I think you gave the wrong link. Here it is the correct link http://drambedkarbooks.wordpress.com/2011/08/22/jan-lokpal-bill-a-dalit%E2%80%99s-viewpoint/

  8. Dr. s. C. Parakh. said, on September 17, 2011 at 21:35

    Why should you criticise a man who wants to fight curruption? Anna is doing good work. May God give long life and currage to fight against curruption.

    -Dr. S. C. Parakh.

  9. B M Patel said, on September 23, 2011 at 10:32

    In nutshell,I may say that 64 yrs have passed,curruption,ineqalities and komvad are in full swing despite running parliament in constitutional ways due to because the M.P. is loyal to its party and not to the public.All the political parties have totally failed and commen people have lost their faith from these parties.Shri Anna is right in his way to teach a lesseon to all the M.Ps,not to abandan the Constitution to which they are responsibe.Shri Anna is also right to change the election rules to the effect to RIGHT TO RECALL and RIGHT TO REJECT so that mischivious MP could be control by the public.Looking to the life and mission of Shri Anna,he is pure and firm to take his mission CURRUPTIONFREE INDIA to its ultimate goal.Shri Anna is not GOD and may be not acceptable to all.


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