“This Conference,” Babasaheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar continued, “has been called to inaugurate an era of equality in this land.” He then drew a parallel incident from the history of France when the French representatives had met at Versailles and issued a manifesto of human rights, preaching revolt against social, religious and political privileges and declaring that all men were born equal and died as equals. Ambedkar avowed that it was the ultimate aim of politics to maintain and protect those human rights and added: “Removal of untouchability and inter-caste dinners alone will not put an end to our ills. All departments of services such as courts, military, police and commerce, should be thrown open to us.” Concluding his speech, he said: “Hindu society should be reorganized on two main principle-equality and absence of casteism.”
The first resolution passed was the declaration of human rights. India was the most pitiable and eloquent example, declared the Conference, of how a nation’s fall was brought about by the prevalence of injustice, religious stupor, political backwardness and economic insufficiency. The Conference added that the way out of these evils was the adoption of the principle that all men were born equal and continued to be so till death. The Conference repudiated the authority of all the ancient and modern Hindu scriptures that teemed with the doctrines of social inequality, and reiterated its opposition to applying these scriptures to the present social order. The resolution was moved by Shivtarkar and was seconded By Bhaurao Gaikwad, N.T. Jadhav and Mrs. Gangubai Savant.
Then came the major and bitter attack on the Hindu reactionaries. The Conference declared that the Manusmriti which directed molten lead to be poured into the ears of such Shudras as would hear or read the Vedas, and which decried the Shudras, stunted their growth, impaired their self-respect, and perpetuated their social, economic, religious and political slavery, be publicly burnt. On this resolution fiery speeches were made by Shasrabudhe, Rajbhoj and Thorat. The Manusmriti, the most revered work of the caste Hindus, and the most hated work by the Depressed Classes, was thus ruthlessly condemned. The Manusmriti governs the law and life of the Hindus. Although complied over one thousand and five hundred years ago, and although times are changed, it is considered by the orthodox to be good, all-pervading and omniscient even to this day.
Yet those who ruthlessly applied the doctrines of the Manusmriti to the non-Brahmins and the Atishudras contravened all its laws themselves and still boasted of their superiority. The Brahmans are forbidden by the Manusmriti to trade in chemicals, liquids, coloured cloth, flowers, perfumery and arms. Yet no Brahmin loses his high and undefined prestige in society even if he runs cloth-shops, medical pharmacies, diaries, hostels, perfumery and cutlery shops. Even Tilak, who had sponsored a textile mill, never upheld the right of the non-Brahmins to Vedic forms of worship, or the study of the Vedas by the non-Brahmins!
Sahasrabudhe, the mover of the foregoing resolution on the Manusmriti, condemning the holy scripture outright, said that it was a symbol of inequality, cruelty and injustice from the point of view of the Depressed Classes. All the speakers spoke of it with exceptional bitterness and roundly denounced its precepts. Conference did not stop at verbal condemnation. At nine o’clock that night the Manusmriti was placed on a pyre, in a specially dug pit, in front of the pandal, and was ceremoniously burnt at the hands of untouchable hermits!
This explosive deed rocked all the charlatans, pundits, Acharyas and Shankaracharyas in India. And, for a while, it spread a nervous brain wave over such leaders as Bhaskarrao Jadhav, the bitterest enemy of Brahminism, who exclaimed that it was too outlandish an attack on the sacred Hindu scriptures which contained more good than evil.
One of the greatest iconoclasts for all times, Ambedkar was hammering out the false gods from their outworn sanctuaries. This act was one of the greatest sacrilegious blows ever since the days of Luther upon the egoistic bigots, custom-mongers and no-changers on earth. December 25, 1927, is, therefore a red letter day in the annals of India as it was on this day that Ambedkar burnt the old Smriti and demanded a new one in order to reshape the Hindu code governing the life of so vast a people. Mahad thus became the Wittenberg of India!
‘Dr. AMBEDKAR Life and Mission’
by Dhananjay Keer
What crime did I commit? Why should there be so much discussion regarding my caste? Nobody asks which caste did Rama, Lakshmana, Viswamitra, or even Ravana, belong to. Why singling out me?
I can think of only one reason. I made myself a slave of Rama. I carried out all his biddings. So, you people relegate me to the fourth or fifth varna. In your eyes anyone who works is a sudra, or even panchama. They say it is all as per manudharma. In that case let me set fire to it. You know I am good at setting fire, don’t you?
Can you understand how hurt I felt when the Chief Minister of UP, the yogi that he is, called me a dalit I, a dalit? Then a minister in his cabinet calls me a jat, a sudra. I was consoled for a moment, only a moment, mind you, until he clarified himself saying, a jat usually pokes his nose into other peoples’ affairs? (Of course it is a matter for jats to worry about). But I never poked by nose into other people’s affairs. I have always been doing what I was instructed to do.
The Dravidians considered me as one of them. But they did not like me because I sided with the invaders. What else could I have done? When my king Sugriva entered into a pact with an alien, for vanquishing his brother, I was bound by the pact, wasn’t I?
The writers of Dravidian parties have eulogised vali, a valiant hero. I read and reread all that and am moved. But I can’t speak out. I have been a traitor, out of loyalty for my own king, please understand.
Then there is an MLC who calls me a Muslim. Well, what is wrong in being a Muslim? Muslim is as much human as anyone else, is n’t he? Perhaps it might serve the cause of religious harmony if it is accepted that Rama, who is worshipped by these people as god, had a Muslim as his servant.
Let us go to a fundamental question. Am I an animal or human? The Jains say that my race had its own kingdom which had a monkey in its flag. How understanding they were.
Then there was this M.R. Radha, the actor, who staged Ramayana. He asserted that I was a human, only my flag had a monkey. How understanding he had been. They say he was Periyar’s follower that is why he was so understanding.
If being Periyar’s follower makes a person understanding and concerned, I wonder why I can’t become a Periyarist. I will join Ravana’s company. Ravana will most certainly understand and welcome me. He won’t ask for my caste.
– A. S. Mee