Do Depressed Classes desire Temple Entry ?

15 03 2008

N. B. :- Gandhi requested Dr. Ambedkar to lend his support to Dr. Subbarayan’s Temple entry Bill and that of Ranga Iyer-when both met on 4th Feb. 1934 at Yeravada Prison. Dr. Ambedkar declined in person, and later issued a statement on 14th Feb, 1933. He outlined the impracticability of the bill, crticised it for not making Untouchability illegal and outlined why he would not prefer just temple entry-this part is reproduced here.

The main question is : Do the Depressed Classes desire Temple Entry or do they not ? This main question is viewed by the Depressed Classes by two points of view. One is the materialistic point of view. Starting from it, the Depressed Classes think that the surest way of elevation lies in education, higher employment and better ways of earning a living. Once they become well placed in the scale of social life, they would become respectable the religious outlook of the orthodox towards them is sure to undergo change, and even if it didn’t happen, it can do no injury to their material interest. Proceeding on these lines the Depressed Classes say that they will not spend their resources on such an empty things as Temple Entry. There is another reason why they do not care to fight for it. Their argument is the argument of self-respect.

Not very long ago there used to be boards on club doors and other social resorts maintained by Europeans in India, which said “Dogs and Indians” are not allowed. The temples of Hindus carry similar boards today, the only difference is that the boards on the Hindu temples practically say : “All Hindus and all animals including gods are admitted, only Untouchables are not admitted”. The situation in both cases is of parity. But Hindus never begged for admission in those places form which the Europeans in their arrogance had excluded them. Why should an Untouchable beg for admission in a place from which he has been excluded by the the arrogance of the Hindus? This is the reason of the Depressed Class man who is interested in material welfare. He is prepared to say the Hindus, “to open or not to open your temples is a question for you to consider and not for me to agitate. If you think, it is bad manners not to respect the sacredness of human personality, open your temple and be a gentleman. If you rather be a Hindu than a gentleman, then shut the doors and damn yourself for I don’t care to come.”

I found it necessary to put the argument in this form, because I want to disabuse the minds of men like Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya of their belief that the Depressed Classes are looking forward for their patronage.

The second point of view is the spiritual one. As religiously minded people, do the Depressed Classes desire temple entry or do they not ? That is the question. From the spiritual point of view, they are not indifferent to temple entry as they would be, if the material point of view alone were to prevail. But their final answer must depend upon the reply which Mahatma Gandhi and the Hindus give to the questions namely : What is the drive behind this offer of temple entry ? Is temple entry to be the final goal of the advancement in the social status of the Depressed Classes in the Hindu fold ? Or is it only the first step and if it is the first step, what is the ultimate goal ? Temple entry as a final goal, the Depressed Classes can never support. Indeed they will not only reject it, but they would then regard themselves rejected by Hindu Society and free to find their own destiny elsewhere. On the other hand, if is only to be a first step they may be inclined to support it. The position would then be analogous to what is happening in India today. All Indians have claimed dominion status for India. The actual constitution will fall short of Dominion status and many Indians will accept it. Why ? The answer is that as the goal is defined, it does not matter much if it is to be reached by steps and not in one jump. But if the British had not accepted the goal of Dominion status, no one would have accepted the partial reforms which many are now willing to accept. In the same way, if Mahatma Gandhi and the reformers were to proclaim what the goal which they have set before themselves is for the advancement of the social status of the Depressed Classes in the Hindu fold, it would be easier for the Depressed Classes to define their attitude towards Temple entry. The goal of the Depressed Classes might as well be stated here for the information and consideration of all concerned. What the Depressed Classes want is a religion,, which will give them equality of social status. To prevent any misunderstanding,I would like to elaborate the point by drawing a distinction between social evils are which are the result of secular causes and social evils which are founded upon doctrine of religion. Social evils can have no justification whatsoever in a civilised society. But nothing can be more odious and vile than that admitted social evils should be sought to be justified on the ground of religion. The Depressed Classes may not be able to overthrow inequalities to which they are being subjected. But they have made up their mind not to tolerate a religion that will lend its support to the continuance of these inequalities.

If the Hindu religion is to be their religion, then it must become a religion of Social Equality. The mere amendment of Hindu religious code by the mere inclusion in it of a provision to permit temple entry for all, cannot make it a religion of equality of social status. All that it can do is to recognize as nationals not aliens, if I may use the common terms which have become so familiar in politics. But that cannot mean that they would thereby reach a position where they would be free and equal. , without being above and below any one else, for the simple reason that the Hindu religion does not recognise the principle of equality of social status : on the other hand it fosters inequality by insisting upon grading people as Brahmins, Kshatrias, Vaishyas and Shudras, which now stand toward one another in an ascending scale of hatred and descending scale of contempt. If the Hindu Religion is to be a religion of social equality then an amendment of its code to provide temple entry is not enough. What is required is to purge it of the doctrine of chaturvarna. That is the root cause of all inequality and also the parent of the Caste system and Untouchability, which are merely forms of inequality. Unless it is done not only will the Depressed Classes reject the temple entry, they will also reject the Hindu faith. Chaturvarna and the Caste system are incompatible with the self-respect of the Depressed Classes. So long as they stand to be its cardinal doctrine, the depressed classes must continue to be looked upon as low. The Depressed Classes can say that they are Hindus only the theory of Chaturvarna and Caste system is abandoned and expunged from the Hindu shastras. Do the Mahatma and the Hindu reformers accept this as their goal and will they show the courage to work for it ? I shall look forward to their pronouncements on this issue, before I decide upon my final attitude. But whether Mahatma Gandhi and the Hindus are prepared for this or not, let it be known once and for all that nothing short of this will satisfy the Depressed Classes and make them accept temple entry. To accept temple entry and be content with it, is to temporise with evil and barter away the sacredness of human personality that dwells in them.

There is, however, one more argument which Mahatma Gandhi and the reforming Hindu may advance against the position I have taken. They may say : “acceptance by the Depressed Classes of Temple entry now, will not prevent them from agitating hereafter for the abolition of Chaturvarna and Caste. If that is the view, I like to meet the argument right at this stage so as to clinch the issue and clear the road for future developments. My reply is that it is true that the my right to agitate for the abolition of Chaturvarna and Caste system will not be lost, if I accept Temple entry now. But the question is on what side will Mahatma Gandhi be when the question is put. If he will be in the camp of my opponents, I must tell him I cant be in in camp now. If he will be in my camp he ought to be in it now.

(Almost all the Depressed Classes leaders of Dr. Ambedkar’s persuasions, endorsed the view of their leader. Srinivasan, Permtai and Malik upheld views of their leader.

Gandhi issued a statement in reply in which he stated : “I am a Hindu, not merely because I am born in the Hindu fold, but I am one by conviction and choice. There is no superiority or inferiority in Hinduism of my conception. But when Dr. Ambedkar wants to fight Varnashram itself, I cannot be in his camp, because I believe Varnashram to be an integral part of Hinduism. )

SECTION- IV Kalaram Temple entry Satryagraha, Nasik and Temple entry movement, Volume-XVII. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writing and Speeches

On Gandhi and Jinnah

16 07 2007

I can give only my impressions of them, for what they are worth. The first thing that strikes me is that it would be difficult to find two persons who would rival them for their colossal egotism, to whom personal ascendancy is everything and the cause of the country a mere counter on the table. They have made Indian politics a matter of personal feud. Consequences have no terror for them ; indeed they do not occur to them until they happen. When they do happen they either forget the cause, or if they remember it, they overlook it with a complacency which saves them from any remorse. They choose to stand on a pedestal of splendid isolation. They wall themselves off from their equals. They prefer to open themselves to their inferiors. They are very unhappy at and impatient of criticism, but are very happy to be fawned upon by flunkeys. Both have developed a wonderful stagecraft and arrange things in such a way that they are always in the limelight wherever they go. Each of course claims to be supreme. If supremacy was their only claim, it would be a small wonder. In addition to supremacy each claims infallibility for himself. Pius IX during whose sacred regime as Pope the issue of infallibility was raging said— ” Before I was Pope I believed in Papal infallibility, now I feel it.” This is exactly the attitude of the two leaders whom Providence—may I say in his unguarded moments—has appointed to lead us.

SECTION VIII, Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah. Vol-I, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writing and Speeches

Disgusted with Hinduism ! why ?

14 07 2007

I like to assure the Mahatma that it is not the mere failure of the Hindus and Hinduism which has produced in me the feelings of disgust and contempt with which I am charged. I realize that the world is a very imperfect world and any one who wants to live in it must bear with its imperfections. But while I am. prepared to bear with the imperfections and shortcomings of the society in which I may be destined to labour, I feel I should not consent to live in a society which cherishes wrong ideals or a society which having right ideals will not consent to bring its social life in conformity with those ideals. If I am disgusted with Hindus and Hinduism it is because I am convinced that they cherish wrong ideals and live a wrong social life. My quarrel with Hindus and Hinduism is not over the imperfections of their social conduct. It is much more fundamental. It is over their ideals.

Appendix II A REPLY TO THE MAHATMA BY DR. B. R. AMBEDKAR. Annihilation of Caste. Vol-I, Dr. Ambedkar Writing and Speeches.

Judging a Religion

14 07 2007

That religion should be judged not by its worst specimens but by its best is true enough but does it dispose of the matter ? I say it does not. The question still remains—why the worst number so many and the best so few ? To my mind there are two conceivable answers to this question : ( 1 ) That the worst by reason of some original perversity of theirs are morally uneducable and are therefore incapable of making the remotest approach to the religious ideal. Or (2) That the religious ideal is a wholly wrong ideal which has given a wrong moral twist to the lives of the many and that the best have become best in spite of the wrong ideal—in fact by giving to the wrong twist a turn in the right direction. Of these two explanations I am not prepared to accept the first and I am sure that even the Mahatma will not insist upon the contrary. To my mind the second is the only logical and reasonable explanation unless the Mahatma has a third alternative to explain why the worst are so many and the best so few. If the second is the only explanation then obviously the argument of the Mahatma that a religion should be judged by its best followers carries us nowhere except to pity the lot of the many who have gone wrong because they have been made to worship wrong ideals.

N. B:- It is important here to state the question which M.K Gandhi had posed and to which this quotation is addressed. It is as follows,

” In his able address, the learned Doctor has over proved his case. Can a religion that was professed by Chaitanya, Jnyandeo, Tukaram, Tiruvailuvar, Rarnkrishna Paramahansa, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Maharshi Devendranath Tagore, Vivekanand and host of others who might be easily mentioned, so utterly devoid of merit as is made out in Dr. Ambedkar’s address ? A religion has to be judged not by it’s worst specimens but by the best it might have produced. For that and that alone can be used as the standard to aspire to, if not to improve upon. (Harijan, July 18, 1936)

Appendix I and II, Annihilation of Caste. Vol-I, Dr. Ambedkar Writing and Speeches


6 06 2007

Dr. Khare openly said that according to Mr. Gandhi the act of indiscipline consisted in the inclusion of an Untouchable in the Ministry. Dr. Khare also said that Mr. Gandhi told him that it was wrong on his part to have. raised such aspirations and ambitions in the Untouchables and it was such an act of bad judgement that he would never forgive him. This statement was repeatedly made by Dr. Khare from platforms. Mr. Gandhi has never contradicted it.

IX, CHAPTER 3 – A Mean Deal. What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to The Untouchables