babasaheb ambedkar

Part-1 of a two-part article

Could there be a better occasion to remember Dr. B.R. Ambedkar than the 65th Anniversary of his NIRVANA?  This “Memorial Article” entitled “Remembering Ambedkar and Revisiting his thoughts is designed in Two Parts ie.  One Part,  to revisit his Thoughts incorporated in the historic Address delivered by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar,  on 25th November 1949 to the Constituent Assembly as a prelude to the Adoption of the Constitution of India by the Constituent Assembly on 26th November 1949,  and the Second Part,  Presenting the salient features of the historic “Memorandum on the safeguards for the Scheduled Castes submitted to the Constituent Assembly by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar,  on behalf of the All India Scheduled Castes Federation,  on 15th March 1947 under the popular title “States and Minorities”  with an additional Nomenclature – “Constitution of the United States of India”.  It is significant to note that this historic document is also popularly described as “Ambedkar’s Constitution”.  Amongst the Voluminous Writings and Speeches of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar contained in Twelve Volumes of his complete works,  there are special reasons for choosing the above two documents for “Remembering Ambedkar and Revisiting his Thoughts”.  They are as follows:

ONE,  After Narendra Modi assumed power as Prime Minister of India in 2014,  he declared that 26th November,  the day of adoption of the Constitution of India by the Constituent Assembly,  be observed as “Constitution Day”  and since then it is being celebrated as one of the national days,  and 26th November, 2021,  happens to be the 72nd Anniversary of the adoption of the Constitution of India,  even though it was promulgated on 26th January 1950,  which day is being celebrated as the “Republic Day”.  It is speculated in certain Scholarly Quarters that Prime Minister Modi,  got 26th November,  declared as “Constitution Day”,  on the one hand to appease Ambedkarites and on the other hand to appropriate this national icon.  Second,  Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given a call for celebration of the year 2021-22 as the “Diamond Jubilee Year of Indian Independence”.  This is said to have been done to take the credit for independence.  As these “dual celebrations”  are scheduled,  the Two historic documents referred to supra ie.  [1] The historic address of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar,  the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution of India,  delivered on 25th November 1949,  ie.  on the day prior to the adoption of the Constitution of India and [2] The historic document entitled “States and Minorities” also nomenclatured as “Constitution of the United States of India”,  assume a place of high significance.  Thus “Remembering Ambedkar  and Revisiting his Thoughts” assume special significance at this juncture.

PART-I

With the above “Prelude”  let me proceed to “Revisiting His Thoughts”,  as incorporated  in the historic Address delivered by him to the Constituent Assembly on 25th November 1949, before the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution of India.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is generally acclaimed as “the Architect of the Indian Constitution”.  To understand the relevance of this statement,  a perusal of the Preliminary Part of his Address to the Constituent Assembly referred to above,  becomes necessary as this and would throw better light on the above statement.  Dr. Ambedkar has stated as follows:

“………… I am sure the Drafting Committee feels happy to find this spontaneous recognition of its labour expressed in such generous terms.  As to the compliments that have been showered on me both by the members of the Assembly as well as by my colleagues of the Drafting Committee,  I feel so overwhelmed that I cannot find adequate words to express fully my gratitude to them.  I came into the Constituent Assembly with no greater aspiration than to safeguard the interests of the Scheduled Castes.  I had not the remotest idea that I would be called upon to undertake more responsible functions.  I was therefore greatly surprised when the Assembly elected me to the Drafting Committee.  I was more than surprised when the Drafting Committee elected me to be its Chairman.  There were in the Drafting Committee men bigger,  better and more competent than myself such as my friend Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar.  I am grateful to the Constituent Assembly and the Drafting Committee for having chosen me as their instrument and giving me this opportunity of serving the country”  (Cheers).

“The credit that is given to me does not really belong to me.  It belongs partly to Sir B.N. Rau,  the Constitutional Advisor to the Constituent Assembly  who prepared the rough draft of the Constitution for the consideration of the Drafting Committee.  A part of the credit must go to the members of the Drafting Committee  who,  as I have said have sat for 141 days and without whose ingenuity to devise new formulae and capacity to tolerate and to accommodate different points of view,  the task of framing the Constitution could not have come to so successful a conclusion.  Much greater share of the credit must go to Mr. S.N. Mukerjee,  the Chief Draftsman of the Constitution.  His ability to put the most intricate proposals in the simplest and clearest legal form can rarely be equalled,  nor his capacity for hard work.  He has been an acquisition to the Assembly.  Without his help,  this Assembly would have taken many more years to finalize the Constitution. …….”.

“The task of the Drafting Committee would have been very difficult one if this Constituent Assembly had been merely a motley crowd …………  This possibility of chaos was reduced to nil by the existence of the Congress Party inside the Assembly which brought into its Proceedings a sense of order and discipline.  …….. The Congress Party is therefore,  entitled to all the credit for the smooth sailing of the Draft Constitution in the Assembly”.

[Page 936-938,  “The Framing of India’s Constitution – Select Documents” – Ed. By B. Shiva Rao,  Vol.4; Universal Law Publishing Co. Pvt Ltd., – Reprint 2004].

In the statements extracted from the historic Address of Dr. Ambedkar,  one can find a sizeable list of those who were all responsible in the framing of the Constitution India,  and this also shows the magnanimity of Dr. Ambedkar to acknowledge –  “………. The credit that is given to me does not really belong to me”  and goes on to name all the important Scholars  who have contributed to the framing of the Draft Constitution and also gives credit to the role played by the Congress Party in the passing of the Draft Constitution,  in the following terms:  “The Congress Party is therefore,  entitled to all the credit for the smooth sailing of the Draft Constitution in the Assembly”.

Based on Ambedkar’s own words,  the unassailable facts that come to light are that  Dr. Ambedkar does not claim the sole credit for the framing of the Constitution.

With these observations on the “re-reading of Ambedkar’s historic Address”,  I desire to proceed to present the views expressed by Dr. Ambedkar on “Constitutions”  in this Address.  The following extracts are not only of great significance but,  are also objective, Scientific and Prophetic.  These are as follows:

“As much defence as could  be offered to the Constitution  has been offered by my friends Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar and Mr. T.T. Krishnamacharya.  I shall not therefore enter into the merits of the Constitution.  Because I feel however good a Constitution may be,  it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it,  happen to be a bad lot.  However bad a Constitution may be,  it may turn out to be good  if those who are called to work it,  happen to be a good lot.  The working of a Constitution does not depend wholly upon the nature of the Constitution.  The Constitution can provide only the organs of State such as the Legislature,  the Executive and the Judiciary.  The factors on which the working of the organs of State depends on the people and the  Political Parties they will set up as the instruments to carryout their wishes and their politics.  Will they uphold Constitutional methods of achieving their purposes or will they prefer revolutionary methods of achieving them?  If they adopt the revolutionary methods,  however good the Constitution may be,  it requires no prophet to say that it will fail.  It is therefore,  futile to pass any judgment upon the Constitution without reference to the part which the people and their parties are likely to play”.  [ibid P. 939].

The above statement on “Constitutions”  need to be analysed in the context of the BJP led NDA Central Govt.,  under the stewardship of Prime Minister,  Narendra Modi.

The statement of Dr.Ambedkar cited supra can be analysed under the following heads:  [i] Nature of Constitutions and those work them  [ii]  The organs of the State and their working  [iii] If Revolutionary methods are adopted what would happen?  Let me elaborate:

[i] Nature of Constitutions and those work them  and [ii] The organs of the State and their working.

Dr. Ambedkar says:

“I feel however good a Constitution may be,  it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called upon to work it,  happen to be a bad lot”.  In India,  the working of the Constitution in the hands of the Ruling BJP headed N.D.A.,  after it came to power at the Centre in 2014,  and returned to power in 2019  with an absolute majority,  and the manner in which the Consitution of India and the organs of State have been worked by them,  provides an interesting case study.

During the last Seven and a half years of Prime Minister Modi’s rule,  the Federal Structure of the Constitution has been eroded.  The Introduction of CAA,  the imposition of demonetisation,  the introduction of GST.,  the imposition of Three Farm Laws are only a few instances of erosion of democratic norms.  All the three organs of the State,  the Legislature,  the Executive and the Judiciary,   stand eroded.  Farm Laws have been got passed without a debate in the Parliament,  and in the face of the prolonged historic and relentless protests,  literally unprecedented, for nearly a year,  revoking these three Farm Laws,  again without a debate,  in the Parliament is amply indicative of the dictatorial methods adopted by the BJP led NDA at the Centre under Prime Minister Modi’s stewardship.  While the Legislature has got eroded,  the Executive has got politicised.  Even the  “independence of the Judiciary”  is in jeopardy.  There are nearly 40 percent of vacancies of Judges in the High Courts,  leading to very high pendency of cases.   Does not the instance of the Judgment of the Apex Court in the Ayodhya case,  and the head of the Apex Court getting a placement in the Rajya Sabha,  after retirement,  indicative of the erosion of the independence of the Judiciary?  The cardinal Principles  of Socialism, Secularism,  and Democracy,  as incorporated in the Preamble of the Constitution of India, have been thwarted.  Public Sector Banks Privatised,  Govt. owned Air India handed over to one of the Monopoly Capitalists,  on a Silver Plate for a paulty Rs.18,000 Crore etc etc.  are instances of anti-socialist measures of the Ruling Central Govt. under BJP led NDA.  The earlier policy of “Public Sector shall occupy commanding heights of the Indian Economy”   has been replaced by the Policy of “Private Sector shall occupy commanding heights of the Indian Economy”.  Have not these economic policies led to “good bye to Socialism”?

Communalism is the running thread of the Political Philosophy of the Ruling Centre marked by measures like CAA,  Anti-Conversion Laws,  Cow Policy etc. are only examples.  Do they not lead to a “good bye to Secularism”?

What about Democracy?  Recently two Global Studies by International Research Institutes expose the nature of Democracy in India,  under Prime Minister Modi’s Rule.  “PEW” Research Institute in a recent study of the working of Indian Democracy under Prime Minister Modi’s rule,  has concluded that “Indian Democracy is in reality an Electoral Autocracy”.

Another study by International Institute for Democracy jointly conducted in collaboration with Electoral Assistance,  Published as recently as 22nd November 2021 has come to the conclusion that 20 Nations of the world,  which are Democracies in  name, have been drifting into Authoritarianism and of the 20 Nations,  in the leading positions are Brazil,  India and America.

On the basis of the above researches,  “Can it not be stated that India,   wearing the mask of Democracy,  in reality is turning into an Anthoritarian State?

The analysis presented above is only the tip of an ice-berg!  Does this not establish the prophecy of Ambedkar,  that even a good Constitution can turn out to be bad,  in the hands of a bad lot?

Coming to the third Part of his views on Constitutions:  “If revolutionary methods are adopted,  what would happen?”  Let us peruse through  the statement of Dr. Ambedkar,  in this regard:

“The factors on which the working of the organs of the state depends on the People and the Political Parties they will setup  as the instruments to carryout their wishes and their politics.  While they uphold Constitutional methods of  achieving their purposes or will they prefer revolutionary methods of achieving them?  If they adopt the  revolutionary methods,  however good the Constitution may be it requires no prophet to say that it will fail”.

The above analysis of Dr. Ambedkar makes it amply clear that if People and the Parties chose revolutionary methods to achieve their purposes,  it needs no Prophet to say that the Constitution will fail.  The Question that has arisen now in India is,  after completing Seventy Four Years of Independence,  and being in the Phase of Celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Indian Independence,  what is the state of affairs prevailing?  On the one hand,  even as India is facing the crisis of the Pandemic Covid-19,  in the last one year and nine months,  while the hundred top Billionaires of India have enriched themselves, the top-most Billionaire,  Mukesh Ambani,  almost doubles his wealth to become the 11th richest Billionaire of the world, and another Billionaire,  Gautam Adani,  gets  wealth enriched five times to become the Second richest Billionaire of India;  at the other end,  the recent Report of the World Hunger Index,  places India at the 101st place among the 116 nations of the world,  while the neighbouring Nations like Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh are far ahead of India in resolving the problem of hunger in their countries!  So we have in this country,  two extremes;  India of the Rich,  growing richer and richer even during periods of Crisis like the Pandemic,  while Bharath of the Poor, is  languishing  under Hunger and Poverty!  Our achievement in the last 74 years of post-Independence is,  India is at the top of the world with India recording highest malnutrition among children below five years of age,  and the women recording 50% of them in Indian below the global standard of Body Mass Index.  This is the paradox and the tragedy.  Recently the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India chastised the Central Government for not taking steps to commence community kitchens in all the States of India,  in order to eradicate the hunger of the People.  Who is sure, as to when the frustrated,  the exploited and the discriminated and deprived masses of the People will opt revolutionary methods to achieve their  purposes?   As Dr. Ambedkar has said,  it requires no prophet to say,  that under such conditionalities,  Constitution fails?  This is a million-dollar question!

In this historic Address Dr. Ambedkar also makes the following statement:  “…… I donot say that the Principle of Parliamentary Democracy is the only ideal form of political democracy. ……..  What I do say is that the Principles embodied in the Constitution are the views of the present generation,  or if you think this to be an overstatement.  I say they are the views of the members of the Constituent Assembly.  Why blame the Drafting Committee for embodying them in the Constitution?  I say,  why blame the Constituent Assembly? ……….”  [ibid P.939-40].

Let us mark this warning given by Dr. Ambedkar in this historic Address: “……… But it is quite possible in a country like India – where democracy from its long disuse must be regarded as something quite new – there is danger of giving place to dictatorship.  It is quite possible for this new born democracy to retain its form but give place to dictatorship in fact.  If there is a landslide,  the danger of the second possibility becoming actuality is much greater”. [ibid P.943].

Are not these words of Dr. Ambedkar Prophetic?  When Researchers of international repute have come to the conclusion,  after studying “Democracy in action in India”,  under Prime Minister Modi,  that “India is an Electoral Autocracy” and also stating “Democracy in India is turning into Authoritarianism, do they not evidence that Dr. Ambedkar’s Prophesy has come true?

It is also important to mark the following extract from the concluding part of Dr. Ambedkar’s  historic Address dated 25th November 1949. This reads as follows:  “…………  They are getting tired of Government by the People.  They are prepared to have Government for the People and are indifferent whether it is Government of the People and by the People.  If we wish to preserve the Constitution in which we have sought to enshrine the Principle of Government of the People,  for the People and by the People,   let us resolve not to be tardy in the recognition of the evils that lies across our path and which induce people to prefer Government for the People to Government by the People,  nor to be weak in our initiative to remove them.  That is the only way to serve the Country I know of no better”.

The above concluding statement of Dr. Ambedkar assumes a place of very high significance,  and re-reading it after 72 Years of Post-independence, leaves us with the question,  “when have the ruling classes in India run the Government for the People?”  Particularly when we study the working of the Government led by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi,  we find it to be the Government of the Billionaires,  by the Billionaires and for the Billionaires,  and not for the real suffering Billions of the Poor and Oppressed People,  but far away from these real People.  Recent electoral  Studies have revealed that the elected Legislatures compose of more than 80% of Crorepathies,  around 35 to 40 percent of persons with criminal cases or criminal autecedents and around 25 Percent of Persons who have Heriditary Origins.  If so,  who are the rulers of the Country?  Perhaps,   recasting of the definition of Democracy in India becomes inevitable and this definition could be recast as “Government of the Crorepathies-Persons with Criminal antecedents – Persons who are drawn from hereditary families,  by these persons and for these persons.  The concept finally emphasised by Dr. Ambedkar in his historic Address,  Government for the People (the real People who belong to the oppressed – suppressed and exploited classes etc) has become only a distant dream.

To conclude this Part of the “Memorial Article”,  I desire to quote a very important statement made by Dr. Ambedkar, in the Rajya Sabha.  This statement reads as follows:

Ambedkar  said,  “I was a hack”

In the course of a debate in Rajya Sabha on September 2, 1953, Ambedkar said :  “People always keep saying to me: ‘Oh, you are the maker of the Constitution’. “My answer is, I was a hack. What I was asked to do, I did much against my will.” (Oxford Dictionary says ‘hack’ is ‘a person hired to do dull routine work.’)

Then a Member from Rajasthan said: “But you defended it.” Ambedkar shot back: “We lawyers defend many things.” The then Home Minister Katju said “Ambedkar was responsible for drafting the Constitution”.  And Ambedkar said: “you want to accuse me of your blemishes?” Then he later added: “ Sir, my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody.”

Does this statement need any explanation?

About the author

Dr KS Sharma (born 1934),  Retired Professor and Principal of JSS Sakri  Law College based at Hubli, Karnataka, and a doctorate in political science, has been a leader of working class for over 50 years now, focused on unorganized labor, and as Founder-President of Karnataka State Govt. Dailywage Employees Federation, successfully organized one lakh dailywagers of Govt of Karnataka who got regularized after 30 years of struggle that included street battles and legal battles going upto Supreme Court.

He is a great teacher, poet, writer, dramatist, literary critic, columnist, publisher, orator, and an activist-social scientist who was a President of ISSA, Indian Social Science Academy, for some time. Post-retirement, he did his doctorate on Indian State : From Marxian Perspective.

He is the Founder President of a group of Institutions including an ITI, Institute of Naturopathy and Yoga, Dr. Da Ra Bendre (Jnana Peeth Awardee) Research Institute ( which edited and published about 150 books by Bendre), Indian Institute of Marxist Theory and Practice, FMRRC- Fluorosis Mitigation Research and Resource Centre all located in Vishwa Shrama Chetana campus, Hubli.

He may be contacted at:  kssharmaji@rediffmail.com

***

His earlier contributions on Dr. BR Ambedkar published in countercurrents.org are mentioned below:

Ambedkar And Parliamentary Democracy, 14 April, 2016.
https://countercurrents.org/sharma140416.htm

The Forgotten Message Of Ambedkar To The Working Class, 30 April, 2016.

https://www.countercurrents.org/sharma300416.htm

Re-Reading Dr BR Ambedkar’s Earliest Paper On Caste 100 Years Later, 04 June, 2016

https://countercurrents.org/sharma040616.htm


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One Comment

  1. S. N. Murthy Ch says:

    Thanks to the author for bringing out several important yet not much known views and statements of Dr.B.R.Ambedkar which are useful to understand the realities in regard to Indian Constitution.