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English - Opinions - February 28, 2022

Dr Ambedkar’s Analysis of the Muslims in India

This is Part II of my take on the use of Dr Ambedkar’s writing to mislabel him as an Islamophobe by dominant caste Hindus from left or right and, sadly, sometimes Muslims also.  As mentioned before, both this and the previous part are inseparable and must be read with each other.

Follow this link to read the first part of the article On attempts to label Dr Ambedkar as an Islamophobe

To be honest, even I was shocked when I was first shown a selectively quoted part from Dr Ambedkar’s Pakistan or Partition of India.  However, sanity prevailed, and I decided to probe further because of my previous experience.  I come from a Savarna background.  While reading Annihilation of Castes, there is a point where Dr Ambedkar insists that 

it must be recognized that the Hindus observe Caste not because they are inhuman or wrong-headed. They observe Caste because they are deeply religious. People are not wrong in observing Caste. In my view, what is wrong is their religion, which has inculcated this notion of caste. If this is correct, then obviously the enemy you must grapple with is not the people who observe Caste, but the shastras which teach them this religion of caste.

This is the magnanimity of a person who still believes in the humanity of the people who hated him and his people from their guts. Dr Ambedkar’s approach has always been to understand the driving forces behind injustices to resolve them.  Having experienced this, I read the Pakistan and Partition of India, especially the section where he is genuinely concerned about and analyzes the social and political stagnation of the Muslim community in India. 

As diverse and as unjust a place as Indian society is, it is not hard to imagine that the 10 crores strong Muslim community too suffered from social evils.  What were these evils and how should we have removed them?  Who better to offer advice than Dr Ambedkar?  His analysis on the Hindu community squarely blamed the religion of Hinduism.  His analysis of the Muslim community in India, as we shall see, is much different

Analysis on Social and Political Stagnation

The chapter on social stagnation is important, and we must face it without letting our fragilities take the best of us. Babasaheb is seriously interested in removing social evils as the top priority and is prodding us to work on them by finding a way out of our insecurities. It is in this section meant for introspection the casteists and bigots find their favourite quotes. 

Dr Ambedkar not only points out the problems with social stagnation, but he also makes it a point to root cause it. He explains that the social reforms have stopped due to an exceptional condition. Adding that such has not been an issue for Muslims elsewhere.

It seems to me that the reason for the absence of the spirit of change in the Indian Musalman is to be sought in the peculiar position he occupies in India. He is placed in a social environment which is predominantly Hindu. 

As a protection against this gradual weaning away, he is led to insist on preserving everything that is Islamic without caring to examine whether it is helpful or harmful to his society.

..

He feels that he will be suppressed and that political suppression will make the Muslims a depressed class. It is this consciousness that he has to save himself from being submerged by the Hindus socially and politically, which to my mind is the primary cause why the Indian Muslims as compared with their fellows outside are backward in the matter of social reform. Their energies are directed to maintaining a constant struggle against the Hindus for seats and posts, in which there is no time, no thought and no room for questions relating to social reform. And if there is any, it is all overweighed and suppressed by the desire, generated by pressure of communal tension, to close the ranks and offer a united front to the menace of the Hindus and Hinduism by maintaining their socio-religious unity at any cost.

….

If the Muslims in other countries have undertaken the task of reforming their society and the Muslims of India have refused to do so, it is because the former are free from communal and political clashes with rival communities, while the latter are not.

His parting observation in this section is 

Hindus and the Muslims [ruling classes] regard each other as a menace. The second is that to meet this menace, both have suspended the cause of removing the social evils with which they are infested. Is this a desirable state of things? If it is not, how can it be ended?”

Dr Ambedkar Thoughts on Hindu-Muslim Conflict

The air is filled with the din and noise of the Hindu-Moslem conflict.

But this struggle is a struggle for establishing an empire.

Those Hindus and Musalmans who are now fighting have the same policy[of establishing the aristocracy of the governing class.] in Indian politics. They want to establish their classes from them as the governing body. The masses whether of the Hindus or of the Musalmans are merely used for establishing the ascendency of the classes. This struggle that is going on is really a struggle of the classes. It is not a struggle of the masses.

-Dr. Ambedkar in “Untouchables or The Children of India’s Ghetto”

His View on Islam (Very different from his verdict on Hinduism)

“Although Islam is the one religion which can transcend race and colour and unite diverse people into a compact brotherhood, yet Islam in India has not succeeded in uprooting caste from among the Indian Musalmans. Caste feeling among the Musalmans is not so virulent as it is among the Hindus. But the fact is that it exists. That this caste feeling among the Musalmans leads to social gradation, a feature of the Muslim Community in India, has been noticed by all those who have had an occasion to study the subject.”

-Dr Ambedkar in “Untouchables or The Children of India’s Ghetto”

Conclusion to Part I and Part II

As it can be understood from the previous section, Dr Ambedkar’s analysis of the Muslim community in India is something to be reckoned with.  Whether you agree or disagree with his analysis, anyone genuinely working on social or political strengthening of the Muslim community in India must not ignore it.

It is time we stop judging one of the greatest humanitarians by fringe quotes and focus on trying to develop an understanding of his analysis. That will be our way out of the mess we find ourselves in today!

Follow this link to read the first part of the article On attempts to label Dr Ambedkar as an Islamophobe

Author Prashant Nema is a writer and an Anti-Caste Activist.

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