Today is 25th December. This is a very important day for Dalits as “Manusmriti Dahan Diwas.” It is also celebrated as “Equality Day”. On this day in 1927, on the great struggle of “Mahad Talab”, Dr. Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar openly burnt Manusmriti. This was a very important event in the struggle of Dalits against Brahmanism. Hence it is remembered with pride.
To thwart Dr. Ambedkar’s program of burning Manu Smriti, the upper castes had decided that they should not get any place for this, but a Muslim named Fatte Khan had made available his personal land for this work. They had also banned the agitators from getting food and other essential items locally. Therefore, all the items had to be brought from outside. The volunteers participating in the movement had to take an oath on five things on this occasion:-
1. I do not believe in birth based Chaturvarna.
2. I do not believe in caste discrimination.
3. I believe that casteism is a stain on Hindu religion and I will try to end it.
4. Assuming that there is no high or low, at least I will not accept any restriction in eating and drinking among Hindus.
5. I believe that Dalits have equal rights in temples, ponds, and other facilities.
Dr. Ambedkar came by Padmavati boat from Dasgaon port because he was afraid that the buses might refuse to take him and he might be attacked on the way.
Some people later said that Dr. Ambedkar had taken the decision of burning Manusmriti at the very last moment because the program of drinking water from Mahad pond had to be cancelled due to the court order and the persuasion of the Collector. This is not correct because an altar for burning Manusmriti was already made in front of the meeting pandal. Six men were busy preparing it for two days. A pit which was 6 inches deep and one and a half feet square was dug in which sandalwood was kept. Four poles were set on its four sides on which three banners were hung on which it was written: –
1. Manusmriti burning site
2. Untouchability should be destroyed and
3. Bury Brahminism
On December 25, 1927, at 9 o’clock, Manusmriti was torn page by page and burnt by Dr. Ambedkar, Sahastrabuddhe and other 6 Dalit sadhus.
There was only a single photo of Gandhiji in the pandal. From this it appears that Dr. Ambedkar and the Dalit leaders had not yet become disillusioned with Gandhiji.
Baba Saheb’s historic speech was given in the meeting. The main points of that speech were as follows: –
“We must explain why we have been prevented from drinking water from this pond.” He explained Chaturvarna and declared that our struggle is to destroy Chaturvarna and this is the first step in our struggle for equality. He compared this meeting with that of January 24, 1789, when Louis XVI had called a meeting of the public representatives of France. In this meeting the king and queen were killed, upper class people were harassed and some were even killed. The rest fled and the property of the rich people was confiscated, starting a 15-yearlong civil war. People have not understood the importance of this revolution.“ He explained in detail about the French Revolution. “This revolution was not only the beginning of the prosperity of the people of France, it brought revolution in the whole of Europe and the world”.
After that he said that “our aim is not only to end untouchability but also to end Chaturvarna at its root.” He further said how the Patricians had fooled the Plebeians in the name of religion. He had challenged and said that the main reason for untouchability is the ban on inter-caste marriages which we must break.
He appealed to the upper castes to allow this “social revolution” to take place peacefully, to reject the scriptures and to accept the principle of justice. He assured them of complete calm from his side. Four resolutions were passed in the assembly and equality was declared. After this Manusmriti was burnt as mentioned above.
There was a strong reaction to this in the Brahminical media. One newspaper called him “Bhim Asur”. Dr. Ambedkar justified the burning of Manusmriti in many articles. He ridiculed those people and said “They have not read Manusmriti” and said that “we will never accept it.” Drawing the attention of those people towards the atrocities on Dalits, he said that those people are following Manu Smriti who say that it is not in practice, why do you give importance to it. He further asked, “If this If it has become ancient, then why do you have any objection to someone burning it?” Those who were saying that what would Dalits get by burning Manusmriti, on this he asked on the contrary, “What did Gandhi get by burning foreign clothes? What was gained by burning “Gyan Prakash” which had published about the marriage of Khan and Malini? What was achieved by burning Miss Mayo’s book “Mother India” in New York? What was achieved by boycotting the “Simon Commission” formed to implement political reforms? All these were ways of registering protest. Similarly, our action was also against Manusmriti.”
He further declared that “If unfortunately, Brahminism does not end by burning Manu Smriti, then we will have to either burn the people suffering from Brahmanism or leave Hinduism.” Ultimately Babasaheb had to abandon Hinduism and adopt the path of Buddhism. Manusmriti continues to be practiced in the same manner even today. At present, the terror of cultural fascism is being spread by the R.S.S. for the establishment of Hindu nation in the country. This poses a huge threat to the secular concept of the country. In such a situation, Dalits will have to celebrate Manusmriti Dahan Diwas until Chaturvarna ends.
S R Darapuri, National President, All India Peoples Front