Question: Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. B R Ambedkar, despite having divergent approaches and strategies, had a common goal of amelioration of the downtrodden. Elucidate.
Answer: Mahatma Gandhi and Ambedkar were two important personalities in modern political history of India. While Gandhi had been the torch bearer of India’s freedom struggle, Ambedkar’s contribution has been towards designing the modern constitutional machinery.
The common ground between the two great personalities has been their goal of upliftment of the downtrodden and socially backward sections, the Dalits.
Divergence in Gandhi’s and Ambedkar’s actions
- Mode of action
Gandhiji believed that upper class and Dalits must resolve their differences through peace process without any violence or fights. Ambedkar instead said that Dalits must use aggressive means to snatch their rights from what he termed as ‘oppression’ by upper castes.
- Political beliefs
Gandhi believed that all Indians, upper castes and lower castes, rich and poor, women and men, must come together as a single political force to fight the British by keeping aside their differences. Ambedkar was of the opinion that Dalits must side with the British as he felt that Dalit interests would be better secured under British rule rather than rule by upper castes of the Congress party.
Gandhi’s and Ambedkar’s actions for upliftment of downtrodden
- Political empowerment of Dalits
Both Gandhi and Ambedkar believed that for India to obtain freedom, it is necessary for the downtrodden sections to join the mainstream. This involved political empowerment of Dalits and backward classes.
Ambedkar established organisations such as Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha, Scheduled Caste federation etc to empower Dalits. Gandhi was in favour of bringing Dalits in political sphere by reserving them seats in the Congress party.
- Social reforms
Gandhi and Ambedkar worked towards reforming caste system by eradicating discriminatory practices. Ambedkar undertook the Mahad Satyagraha for making public places open for Dalits. Gandhi was equally active in this effort as he participated in Temple entry movement in Kerala to make temples accessible to Dalits.
- Spreading ideology of social justice
Gandhi and Ambedkar not just worked towards reactionary ideas but were also ready to bring changes in thinking process of society. They tried to influence social beliefs through their magazines like Harijan by Mahatma Gandhi and Mooknayak by Ambedkar. Gandhiji even coined the term Harijan instead of backward castes in order to instill self confidence in those sections.
Thus, the political journey of Gandhi and Ambedkar were in total contrast to each other. While Gandhi became the champion of masses, Ambedkar was restricted to fringes of Dalit politics. But in terms of social justice, efforts of both the leaders were significant.