Day 76 – Q 1. What were the similarities and dissimilarities between the approach of Mahatma Gandhi and B R Ambedkar towards the upliftment of the so called lower castes?
1. What were the similarities and dissimilarities between the approach of Mahatma Gandhi and B R Ambedkar towards the upliftment of the so called lower castes?
Mahatma Gandhi and B R Ambedkar were two great socio-political reformers of their times who not only help in India’s freedom struggle but also put efforts to curb several social problems existing in the society, upliftment of lower castes being one among them.
- Both of them had realized the issues of lower castes and worked for the emancipation of the same.
- Both tried to challenge the existing systems, Gandhi did it on social and moral front whereas Ambedkar did it on political front.
- Temple entry- Ambedkar argues that those untouchables who were responsible for constructing and later protecting the Hindu temple have right to enter the temple. Gandhi, on the other hand, asserts that it is the moral duty of the high-caste Hindus to allow the untouchables to enter the Hindu temples.
- Untouchability- In Ambedkar’s view, the practice of untouchability was a necessary product of the caste system and asked for annihilation of caste, whereas Gandhi was unable to see any internal connection between untouchability and the caste system and defended the caste system on several grounds. Gandhi considered untouchability as a mixture of social and moral problems but Ambedkar saw it emanating from the ideological, economic and political factors.
- Poona Pact- Ambedkar insisted on a separate electorate for the untouchables and secured the Communal Award of 1931 which Gandhi opposed by fasting, resulting in a compromise between the two for an increase in the number of untouchable representatives.
- Approach- Gandhi sought to convince and convert the caste Hindus and mobilise their energies by means of moral and religious appeals. He encouraged them to undertake welfare activities among the untouchables in a spirit of remorse and guilt. Ambedkar emphasized on modern values like social justice, equality, self-respect, and dignity and a legal political approach for upliftment of untouchables.
- Villages- Gandhi preferred decentralization of power and self-sufficient villages to give equal voice to all, whereas Ambedkar called villages as a den of superstition and feared that empowering the villages would result in the already affluent upper class men wielding huge power. He preferred a top down approach with a strong center.
Ambedkar relied much on institutional mechanisms to protect and promote the interests of the untouchables, and did not fully appreciate the importance of changing the moral culture of the wider society. Gandhi created among caste Hindus a deep sense of shame and guilt and awakened them to the egalitarian strand within their religion. Despite their disagreements ‘human dignity’ was an important idea for them to deconstruct the inequality and ensure justice.