The first session of the Maharashtra Self-respect Conference was held under the auspices of the Samaj Samata Sangh. (Social Equality League), at Chitegain on Sunday the 26th May 1929. The President elect Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, M.A., Ph.D. Bar-at-law, with distinguished guests arrived at Khairwadi Station on Sunday morning. He was accorded a grand reception and was taken in a procession to the village where the Conference met. The Conference was attended by over five thousand people including ladies. Most of the gathering belonged to the depressed classes who have been roused of late out of their sense of degradation through the efforts of their redoubtable leader Dr. Ambedkar who hails from their class. The Conference began its proceedings at 1.30 p.m., in a specially erected pandal. Amongst those who attended and addressed the Conference were Prof. Sabnis of Nasik College, Mr. D.V. Naik, Editor, “Samata”,
M.B. Deshmukh, M.A., S.T.C., R.D. Kowli, B.A., D.V. Pradhan, S.S. Gupte, B.Sc. B.R. Kadrekar, B.V. Pradhan B.A, L.L.B., Mr. B.K. Gaikwad, N.T. Jadhav,
Mr. Bankhambe, a leading contractor of the Nasik District, T.B. Kale, Dani.
The whole of the proceedings was marked with great enthusiasm. Mr. Rokade, the Chairman of the Reception Committee could not make his speech owing to illness. Dr. Ambedkar after being proposed to the Chair spoke ex-tempore for over an hour. It was listened to with rapt attention. He referred in the beginning to the idea of superiority and inferiority that has taken deep root into the Hindu society, and which has killed Self-respect and sapped vitality, the two essential things for leading a life worth the name. This was particularly so in case of the depressed and backward classes. The very names of the members of these classes, he added, make a vile suggestion that they were a mean and contemptible sort of people. Particular classes have to use ornaments of particular metal, a practice sanctioned by religion and suggesting the idea of inequality. He quoted the examples where the depressed classes were compelled to use the ornaments of base metals even though they could afford those of gold or silver while in some cases they were subjected to brutalities simply for the disobedience of this so-called rule dictated by the Smritis of the type of Manu. Depressed classes particularly suffered from great disabilities and were treated worse than human beings. The British Government which as a matter of fact should not have recognized the scandalous system of caste in regard to services had to do it even against their declared policy owing to a strong public opinion in favour of this inhuman system. The depressed classes were kept out of public services and were deprived of their just and equitable claim with the result that they have to lead a most degrading and humiliating life. The only remedy to take out this great mass of humanity from the quagmire of slavery political, social and economical is imbibing the spirit of self-respect and asserting boldly one’s rights. He ridiculed the idea that status of equality could be achieved through mere education, a superstition that haunts many a brain. For, he said, that though education might do much to mitigate the hardships and sufferings of the downtrodden, yet it would not raise them in social scale by even a whit and would not solve the problem of their social slavery and economic serfdom. He pointed out his own case.
The only remedy to take out this great mass of humanity from the quagmire of slavery political, social and economical is imbibing the spirit of self-respect and asserting boldly one’s rights.
Though he had attained the highest academic qualification, with all humiliation he had to admit that he was no better than an ordinary “untouchable”. Their only remedy lay therefore in destroying the tyrannical system of castes and Varnashram which has wrought their downfall and destruction and has killed their self-respect.
At the conclusion of his speech, messages expressing success to the Conference were read. Notable among them was a letter and telegram from Mr. E.V. Ramasami, the renowned leader of the Self-respect movement in Southern India. The resolutions that were passed demanded the abolition of early marriages, caste system, priesthood and urged the legislator to bring a bill to proscribe religions, books like Manusmriti and Puranas, to stop all state grants to the temples, etc. and to utilize it in furtherance of education and uplift of the suppressed classes. The conference came a close at 9 p.m. The scout Troop which numbered 150 of the depressed classes kept most excellent order throughout the Conference.
Source: Revolt – 23rd June 1929