Ambedkar on Islam, Partition and Hindu Raj


Dr B R Ambedkar, Dalit icon and architect of Indian Constitution was a personality whose writings are used by all kinds of people to highlight their points. The  Marxist Left in India use them to fight Hindutva Right, the non Marxist Left and the centrist Congress use them to fight the Hindutva and the Communists, the Hindutva Right use it to attack Islam and the Dalits try to use them for their own survival.

So what did Ambedkar write about Islam ?

In his book Pakistan Or The Partition Of India, a collection of his writings and speeches,  published in 1940 Ambedkar wrote :

Hinduism is said to divide people and in contrast Islam is said to bind people together. This is only a half truth. For Islam divides as inexorably as it binds. Islam is a close corporation and the distinction that it makes between Muslims and non-Muslims is a very real, very positive and very alienating distinction. The brotherhood of Islam is not the universal brotherhood of man. It is brotherhood of Muslims for Muslims only. There is a fraternity, but its benefit is confined to those within that corporation. For those who are outside the corporation, there is nothing but contempt and enmity. The second defect of Islam is that it is a system of social self-government and is incompatible with local self-government, because the allegiance of a Muslim does not rest on his domicile in the country which is his but on the faith to which he belongs. To the Muslim ibi bene ibi patria is unthinkable. Wherever there is the rule of Islam, there is his own country. In other words, Islam can never allow a true Muslim to adopt India as his motherland and regard a Hindu as his kith and kin.

Here Ambedkar is rightly declaring  that for a true follower of Islam allegiance is only to faith and nothing else.

This part of writings of Ambedkar is very much propagated by Hindutva apologists. BJP trying hard to woo Dalits and to ensure Dalit political movement never take any help from Islamists use this to declare true Muslims can never be part of a secular movement.

At the same time Ambedkar writes that for many poor Muslims it is easier to find common ground with low caste Hindus that rich aristrocratic Muslims.

There are many lower orders in the Hindu society whose economic, political and social needs are the same as those of the majority of the Muslims, and they would be far more ready to make a common cause with the Muslims for achieving common ends than they would with the high caste of Hindus who have denied and deprived them of ordinary human rights for centuries. To pursue such a course cannot be called an adventure. The path along that line is a well trodden path. Is it not a fact that under the Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms in most Provinces, if not in all, the Muslims, the Non-Brahmins, and the Depressed Classes united together and worked the reforms as members of one team from 1920 to 1937? Herein lay the most fruitful method of achieving communal harmony among Hindus and Muslims, and of destroying the danger of a Hindu Raj.

Ambedkar was also very much worried about Hindu Raj in India. He wrote:

If [the] Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will, no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost. But is Pakistan the true remedy against it? What makes communal Raj possible is a marked disproportion in the relative strength of the various communities living in a country.

To prevent such a thing happening Ambedkar urges Muslim politicians to stop communal politics.

It is action and counter-action. One gives rise to the other. Not partition, but the abolition of the Muslim League and the formation of a mixed party of Hindus and Muslims is the only effective way of burying the ghost of Hindu Raj.

He concludes his book on partition of India in a very pragmatic and rational way.

Nobody will consent to the Muslim demand for Pakistan unless he is forced to do so. At the same time, it would be a folly not to face what is inevitable and face it with courage and common sense. Equally would it be a folly to lose the part one can retain in the vain attempt of preserving the whole.

These are the reasons why I hold that if the Musalman will not yield on the issue of Pakistan, then Pakistan must come. So far as I am concerned, the only important question is: Are the Musalmans determined to have Pakistan? Or is Pakistan a mere cry? Is it only a passing mood? Or does it represent their permanent aspiration? On this there may be difference of opinion. Once it becomes certain that the Muslims want Pakistan there can be no doubt that the wise course would be to concede the principle of it.

Portions of writings of Ambedkar could be used by different groups for their own political mileage. But when you look at his writings and opinions as a whole he emerges as a true liberal secular democrat.

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