With a view to reviewing the political and social situation in the light of ten-year old relentness social struggle, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar decided to hold a Conference of the Depressed Classes at Yeola (District Nasik) Sunday, 13th October, 1935.
On Saturday, the 12th October 1935 when Dr. Ambedkar arrived at Nasik at 11 a.m. he was welcomed with great enthusiasm and brought him in the city in a big procession. He inaugurated library at Nasik City.
On this occasion he said.
“You believe in selfhelp. You must stand on your own feet and fight for your improvement. If any grave disaster occurs in my case, you should be able to continue the struggle after me.”
In Hiralal Lane of Ravivarpeth at 9 p.m. an intercaste dinner was arranged in which Shri Deshpande, the only Congressman participates.
On Sunday the 13th October 1935, Dr. Ambedkar went to Vinchur where he was welcomed. Similarly while going to Yeola, he was welcomed by the villagers on the way.
Yeola Municipality presented an Address in the morning to Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. While replying to the Address Dr. Ambedkar said.
“Now we come to the conclusion that there is no change in attitude of the touchables and they are not ready to behave with us, with affection despite of our continuous struggle. As such we have decided to remain separate from Hindus, to live with self-help and struggle to attain self-elevation.”
The Conference met at Yeola on October 13, 1935 at 10.00 p.m. and was attended by about 10,000 Untouchables of all shades of opinion including representatives from the Hyderabad State and the Central Provinces. Expressing his pleasure at the great response and interest evinced by the Depressed Classes in planning their future, Amritrao Rankhambe, Chairman of the Reception Committee, in his welcome speech said, “Degenerated Hinduism was rightly called Brahminism because it benefited only the Brahmin hierarchy as a class.
In a tremendously feeling speech lasting over an hour and a half, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar recounted the plight of the Depressed Classes in all spheres, economic, social, educational and political and pointed out the immense sacrifices made by them to secure the barest human rights as members of the same community under the aegis of Hinduism. He especially referred to the Kalaram Temple Entry Movement wherein inhuman treatment was meted out to them during the past five years, and told them how their struggle to secure elementary rights and equal status in the Hindu Society had come to naught. He said that it gave him a very painful realisation that the time and money spent on and efforts made to achieve those objectives had proved utterly fruitless.
He, therefore, expressed his opinion that the time for making a final decision to settle the matter had arrived. The disabilities they were labouring under and the indignities they had to put up with, he added, were the result of their being members of the Hindu Community. He inquired if it were not better for them to abjure that fold and embrace some other faith that would give them an equal status, a secure position and rightful treatment.
He, then, with a rise in his voice, exhorted them to sever their connections with Hinduism and seek solace and self-respect in another religion, but warned them to be very careful in chossing the new faith and to see that equality of treatment, status and opportunities was guaranteed to them unreservedly.
Referring to his own personal decision in the matter, Dr. Ambedkar said that unfortunately for him he was born a Hindu Untouchable. It was beyond his power to prevent that, but he declared that it was within his power to refuse to live under ignoble and humiliating conditions. “I solemnly assure you that I will not die a Hindu,” he thundered. In the end he asked his people to stop the Kalaram Temple Satyagraha as the past five years had demonstrated the futility of such agitation against the tyrannical caste Hindus, who had thwarted their attempts and showed impenitent hearts. He exhorted them to conduct themselves in such a way in future as would leave no doubt to the outside world of their decision to be and to remain a separate community outside the Hindu fold, carving out for themselves a future worthy of free citizens.
Accordingly, after a full discussion, the conference passed, in view of the callous and criminal indifference shown by the caste Hindus to their demand for social equality, a resolution instructing the Depressed Classes to stop the struggle which they had carried on for the past ten years for raising the Untouchables to a status equal with that of the caste Hindus and in the hope of consolidating and strengthening both sections into a great and powerful society. It further exhorted the Untouchables to stop frittering away their energies over fruitless attempts and to devote themselves to securing an honourable status, and an independent position on the basis of equality with the other societies in Hindustan.
“Dr. Ambedkar along with his lieutenants returned from Yeola and stayed at Nasik. During his stay, the Sweeper (Meghawal) community offered them tea and dinner party on 15 and 16 October 1935.
Dr. B. R. Ambedkar’s announcement to renounce Hindu religion and to embrace some other religion got wide publicity on a global scale. It was like tornado hurled at the impenient Hindu Society. It was a thunderbolt and gave a bolt inblue to the Hindus. This created an atmosphere of furore amongst various groups of Hindu fold. There were tremendous mixed reactions expressed by these groups which were as follow
“The ruthless and misanthropic Orthodox Hindus were unmoved by the decision of the Depressed Classes. Decrepit and decayed as they had grown, they had lost their thinking power and vision. The illiterate Non-Brahmins thought that the decision on religious matters was the concern of the Brahmins. Rejoiced at the Yeola decision., the Orthodox Hindus heaved a sigh of relief; and the Nasik Orthodox Hindus, who were harassed for the past five years by the decision of the Satyagraha, were exceedingly jubilant over the decision of the Depressed Classes to go out of Hindu fold. They applied now to the Collector for the removal of the ban on the Nasik chariot Untouchables. Enlightened and political-minded opinion in the country deplored the Untouchables’ decision.
A Sindhi Hindu wrote a letter in blood and threatened Dr. Ambedkar with death, if he renounced Hinduism.
Gandhiji’s reaction on Dr. Ambedkar’s Yeola Speech
Wardha, October 15, 1935
Interviewed by the Associated Press representative regarding Dr. Ambedkar’s Speech, Gandhiji said, “The speech attributed such a speech and the conference had adopted the resolution of complete severance from Hinduism and acceptance if any faith that would guarantee equality. I regard both as unfortunate events, contrary, Untouchability on its last legs.
I can understand the anger of a high-souled and highly educated person like Dr. Ambedkar over atrocities such as were committed in Kawitha and other villages.
But religion is not like house or cloak which can be changed at will. It is more an integral part of One’s self than of One’s body. Religion is the tie that binds one to one’s creator and whilst the body perishes as it has to religion persists even after death.
If Dr. Ambedkar has any faith God, I would urge him to assuage his wrath and reconsider his position and examine his ancestral religion on its own merits and not through the weakness of its unfaithful followers.
“Lastly, I am convinced, change of faith by him and those who passed the resolution would not serve the cause when they have at heart for millions of unsophisticated illiterate Harijans would not listen to him and them when they have disowned their ancestral faith, especially when it is remembered that their lives fort good or evil are intertwined with those of caste Hindus.”
Dr. Ambedkar’s views on Gandhiji’s reaction
Bombay, October 16, 1935
“What religion we shall belong to have is not decided; what ways and means we shall adopt, we have not thought out; but we have decided one thing, and that after due deliberations and with deep conviction, that Hindu religion is not good for us,” declared Dr. Ambedkar when shown by the Associated Press representative Gandhiji’s comment on his Nasik speech.
“Inequality” he said, “is the very basis of it, and its ethics is such that the Depressed Classes can never acquire their full manhood. Let none think I have done this in a huff or as a matter of wrath against the treatment meted out to the Depressed Classes at
Kavitha village or any other place. It is a deeply deliberated decision. I agree with Gandhiji that religion is necessary, but I do not agree that man should have his ancestral religion if he finds that, that religion is repugnant to his notions of the sort of religion he needs as a standard for the regulations of the sort of religion he needs as a standard for the regulation of his own conduct and as a source of inspiration for his advancement and well-being.”
Asked when he proposed to get himself converted and whether it would be an individual action or mass action Dr. Ambedkar said, “I have made up my mind to change my religion. I do not care if the masses do not come. It is for them to decide. If they feel it is not they will not follow my example. My own advice is that Gandhiji should allow the Depressed Classes to chalk out their own line of action. Kavitha does not represent an isolated but it is the very basis of the system found in the ancestral religion of the Hindus.
Courtesy : Dr.B.R.Ambedkar and is Egalitarian Revolution. Vol.17 (Part III) of Dr.Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches)