Skip to main content

Time and again Gandhi sent away with rebuff those who reviled Ambedkar

Here is an interesting article published in “Harijan” (May 9, 1936), where Dr BR Ambedkar tells Gandhiji’s secretary Mahadev Desai the reasons why he could not reconcile himself to Hinduism. Dr Ambedkar had come to meet Gandhiji, who, said Mahadev Desai, would time and again send away with a rebuff those who came to him to revile Dr Ambedkar: 
***
Dr Ambedkar was here the other day to have an interview with Gandhiji. We have resolved, by mutual agreement, not to say anything about the interview, as it was purely private talk nd not meant for the press. But as every product has its by-products, I got an opportunity during this visit of his to come into close touch with Dr Ambedkar and to know some of the details of his life most intimately. The story that he told me would help us to understand him better. Time and again Gandhiji has sent away with a rebuff those who came to him to revile Dr Ambedkar. He has told them that what the Doctor had gone through should entitle him to be bitter and even more than bitter. Dr Ambedkar told me in brief why he could not be reconciled to Hinduism.
“I was born,” he said, “in a little village in Ratnagiri District and got what little education I could as a child in Dapoli. But you can imagine how much I could learn when I tell you that I had to sit with boys of my community outside the school-house. Depressed class boys of all standards had to be seated together, no one cared to tech them, the teacher would simply ask if we had read our lessons. My father moved me to Satara. I read in the Satara High School. Here I had to sit on a separate bench. Fain would I have studied Sanskrit, but the Sanskrit teacher would not have me. So I had to take up Persian. My father was a retired military pensioner, getting a pension of Rs.50. Thus he was much more respectable than many middle class Hindus, but I tell you we could not get the services of a barber. My sister used to shave five or six members of the family. The hard conditions in Satara compelled us to leave for Bombay where after admission to the Elphinstone College I was introduced to HH the Gaekwar who gave me a scholarship. After I took my BA degree I was asked to go to Baroda where I got a lieutenancy in a State regiment. I then managed to stay in the quarters where military men of my community lived.”
Then followed the story of his trip to America with HH Gaekwar’s scholarship, and his return to Baroda as PhD of the Columbia University.
“What do you think was the reception that awaited me? No rooms or house for me to live was available in the big city of Baroda. I wanted to be taken up as a professor so that I might get free quarters, but HH the Gaekwar preferred to have me in the Finance Department, as he said he wanted to turn my knowledge of finance to good account. I was left to find out a house for myself. I wandered up and down without avail, and at the end of my peregrinations halted at a Parsi Dharmashala where the care-taker agreed to take me if I would assume a false Parsi name. I did so, but soon the Parsis found me out and one day a crowd of them appeared with lathis and threatened to batter me to death if I did not leave the Dharmashala immediately. I begged of them to permit me to stay until evening. I went to Mr Samuel Joshi who had once invited me to stay with him, but found him when I actually went to seek shelter, quite inhospitable. The late Mr Kudalkar, the Librarian, was a great friend of mine. He agreed to take me, but also said my going to his place would mean a notice from all the servants of the household to leave. I saw that there was nothing for it but to go. I left Baroda, and wrote to H. H. narrating the tale of my woe. I was asked to go again to Baroda, paid Rs 6 per day for my 20 days stay in the State Guest House and returned without even having had an interview with HH.
“But you will say that’s all old. Let me tell you what happened only 15 days ago. I had occasion to go to Sopala where we had a conference. A taxi driver who had agreed to serve us and had accepted Rs 25 from us in advance walked away with the money and no tongawallas would agree to take us in. There was complete boycott of us. Do you think we can get barbers in Bombay? Simply because Hindu barbers would not shave our people. Muslim barbers dictate their terms. Is there any Hindu hotel in Bombay which would take us? But let that go. I tell you I wept bitter tears on the day I was hounded out from place to place in Baroda, and even the memory of my days in Baroda fill my eyes with tears. Let me, however, tell you that I cannot be too grateful to His Highness for what he has done for me.”
“We are deeply ashamed,” I said, “but do not you think the situation has changed? Do not you find numerous people to suffer with you today?” “I see no change. And what’s the good of telling me you are ready to suffer with us? If you have to suffer, it means we will have to continue to suffer still more.”
There is no arguing with Dr Ambedkar. When we recounted to him the innumerable ways in which a healthy change was noticeable in the attitude of the Hindu community, he said: “One swallow does not make a summer. You are highly optimistic. But you know the definition of an optimist? An optimist is one who takes the brightest view of other people’s sufferings!”
As I have said, there could not be any answer to this legitimately bitter feeling. The only answer can be more introspection, more self-purification. Bitterness can never be the answer for bitterness, nor anger for anger, especially when the bitterness and anger are more than justified. Let us put on the armour of all the love and sweetness we are capable of and leave the rest to God. He is our only fixed star in the midst of impenetrable darkness.

Comments

TRENDING

When phone tapping rumours were afloat in Gujarat among BJP leaders, IAS babus

Gordhan Zadaphia By Rajiv Shah While alerts were coming in over the last few days about a series of articles on how phones of “journalists, ministers, activists” may have been used to spy on them with the help of an Israeli project, Pegasus, finally, when I got up on Monday morning, I saw a Times of India story quoting (imagine!, we never used to do this, did just a followup in case we missed a story) the Wire, a top news portal on this providing some details, along with government reaction.

Gandhi Ashram 'redevelopment': Whither well-known Gandhi experts, Gandhians?

Sudarshan Iyengar, Ramchandra Guha By Rajiv Shah Rehabilitating about 200 families, mostly Dalits, living in the Gandhi Ashram premises by offering them Rs 60 lakh in order to implement a Rs 1,200 crore project called Gandhi Ashram Memorial and Precinct Development Project reportedly to bring the Ashram into its "original shape" as Gandhi established appears to me strange, to say the least.

Gandhi Ashram eviction: Finally historian Guha speaks out; but ageing trustees are silent

By Rajiv Shah Finally, at least one expert, top historian Ramachandra Guha, has spoken out on eviction of 200 families living in the Gandhi Ashram premises. Last week, I received an email alert from a veteran academic, Ashoke Chatterjee, former director, National Institute of Design (NID), Ahmedabad, which happens to be one of the most prestigious academic institutes of India based, informing me about it. NID is one of the several top institutes founded when Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s Prime Minister.

Will Vaishnaw, close to Modi since Vajpayee days, ever be turnaround man for Railways?

By Rajiv Shah Ever since Ashwini Vaishnaw was appointed as railway minister, I was curious to know who he was and how did he come closer to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and, most important, when. Hence, I decided to talk with some Sachivalaya officials in Gujarat in order to find out if there was, if any, Gujarat (or Modi) connection.

Non-entity 6 yrs ago, Indian state turned Fr Stan into world class human rights defender

Jharkhand's Adivasi women  By Rajiv Shah A lot is being written on Father Stan Swamy, a Jesuit priest who is known more for his work for tribal rights in Jharkhand. His death at the age of 84, even when he was an under trial prisoner for his alleged involvement in the Bhima Koregaon violence three years go, has, not without reason, evoked sharp reaction, not just in India but across the world.

Home Ministry data vs Health Ministry data! Gujarat's poor sex ratio at birth data

Home minister Amit Shah, health minister Harsh Vardhan By Rajiv Shah Don’t India’s top ministries – of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) and of Home Affairs (MoHA) – tally data before releasing them? It would seem so… A few days back, I did a story in Counterview , based on an MoHA report, stating that Gujarat has the lowest sex rate at birth (SRB) at 901 girls as against 1000 births, followed by Assam (903), Madhya Pradesh (905) and Jammu & Kashmir (909), raising valid apprehensions that widescale female foeticide may be prevalent in India’s “model” State.

July 1: Observing communal harmony day in Ahmedabad, a highly segregated city

Activists at Vasant-Rajab memorial on July 1 By Rajiv Shah Celebrated as Communal Harmony Day in Ahmedabad, July 1, 2021 is remembered for the sacrifice of two friends, Vasant Rao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani, laid down their lives for the cause of communal harmony on the July 1, 1946 in the city. A memorial stands in their memory in Khandni Sheri, Jamalpur, Ahmedabad.

Periyar opposed imposition of alien culture on Dravidian people, but wasn't anti-Hindi

By  Vidya Bhushan Rawat* Thiru K Veeramani is the ideological disciple of EVR Periyar and one of the senior most leaders of the Dravidian movement at the moment. He started working under his mentor EVR Periyar at the age of 10 years when he delivered his first speech in Salem. Veeramani is President of Dravidar Kazhagam and editor of Modern Rationalist, a monthly journal devoted to Periyar’s ideas. That apart, he is editor of many other magazines and journals in Tamil. This interview was conducted by Vidya Bhushan Rawat at the Periyar Thidal on November 1st, 2019. These are some of the excerpts and the entire interview can be viewed at the youtube link being provided at the end of the article. Dravidian movement internationally Thiru Veeramani said that “It is high time that Periyar must be globalised now. He said that it was easier in relation to Dr Ambedkar since he has written in English and almost all the western audience read him through his work. But the southern part of India

Positive side of Vaishnaw? Ex-official insists: Give him loss making BSNL, Air India

By Rajiv Shah A senior chartered accountant, whom I have known intimately (I am not naming him, as I don’t have his permission), has forwarded me an Indian Express (IE) story (July 18), “Ashwini Vaishnaw: The man in the chair”, which, he says, “contradicts” the blog (July 17), "Will Vaishnaw, close to Modi since Vajpayee days, ever be turnaround man for Railways?" I had written a day earlier and forwarded it to many of my friends.

Gujarat cadre woman IAS official who objected to Modi remark on sleeveless blouse

By Rajiv Shah Two days back, a veteran journalist based in Patna, previously with the Times of India, Ahmedabad, phoned me up to inform me that he had a sad news: Swarnakanta Varma, a retired Gujarat cadre IAS bureaucrat, who was acting chief secretary on the dastardly Godhra train burning day, February 27, 2002, which triggered one of the worst ever communal riots in Gujarat, has passed away due to Covid. “I have been informed about this from a friend in Jaipur, where she breathed her last”, Law Kumar Mishra said.