The main problems which those desirous of establishing democracy in India must face, are:- (1) the position of the governing class of India, (2) the aims and objects of the governing class towards the servile classes, (3) the raison d’etre of the demands of the servile classes for constitutional safeguards and (4) the relation of the governing class to the Congress.
Regarding the first point the argument is that the position of the governing class in India is quite different from the position of the governing classes in other countries of the world. It is not easy to understand this difference, nor is it easy to state it in expressive terms. Perhaps the illustration of a bar and a hyphen may help to give a clear idea of what the difference is. Nobody can mistake the difference between a hyphen and a bar. A bar divides but does not link. A hyphen does both. It divides but it also links. In India the governing classes and the servile classes are divided by a bar. In other countries there exists between them only a hyphen. The resultant difference is a very crucial one. In other countries, there is a continuous replenishment of the governing class by the incorporation of others who do not belong to it but who have reached the same elevation as the governing class. In India, the governing class is a close corporation in which nobody, not born in it, is admitted. In other countries where the governing class is not a close preserve, where there is social endosmosis between it and the rest, there is a mental assimilation and accommodation which makes the governing class less antagonistic in its composition and less antagonistic to the servile classes in its social philosophy. In other words, the governing class in countries outside India is not anti-social. It is only non-social. In India where the governing class is a close corporation, tradition, social philosophy and social outlook which are antagonistic to the servile classes remain unbroken in their depth and their tenor and the distinction between masters and slaves, between the privileged and the unprivileged continues for ever hard in substance and fast in colour. In other words the governing class in India is not merely non-social. It is positively anti-social.
As to the demand for reservations by the servile classes the reason behind it is to put a limit on the power of the governing classes to have control over the instrumentalities of government. The governing classes are bent on giving the reservations a bad name in order to be able to hang those who are insisting upon them. The real fact is that the reservations are only another name for what the Americans call checks and balances which every constitution must have, if democracy is not to be overwhelmed by the enemies of democracy. That the reservations demanded by the servile classes are different in form from the American sort of checks and balances does not alter their character. The forms of checks and balances must be determined by two considerations. The first is the necessity of establishing a correlation between the political constitution and social institutions of the country if democracy is to be real. As the social institutions of countries differ in their form the checks and balances in its political constitutions must also differ. For instance, where a country is ridden by the caste system the checks and balances will have to be of a different sort from what they need be in a country pervaded by a spirit of social democracy. The second is the necessity of providing a firm flooring to the servile classes against the possibility of their being pressed down by the governing classes by reason of their superior power. In some countries adult suffrage may be quite enough for the servile classes to hold their own against the governing classes. In India unlike other countries the governing class is so omnipotent and omnipresent that other remedies besides adult suffrage will be necessary to give adequate power to the servile classes to protect themselves against exploitation by the governing classes. Looked at in the light of these observations, the reservations demanded by the servile classes, though different in form from the checks and balances embodied in the American Constitution, are fundamentally checks and balances, and must be considered as such by the foreigner before he forms an adverse opinion against them.
The facts bearing on the last point namely the relation of the Congress to the governing classes have also been fully set out. From these facts the foreigner should be able to see how intimate is the connection between the two. The same facts will explain why the governing class in India has placed itself in the vanguard of the Congress movement and why it strives to bring everybody within the Congress fold. To put it briefly the governing class is aware that a political campaign based on class ideology and class conflicts will toll its death knell. It knows that the most effective way of side-tracking the servile classes and fooling them is to play upon the sentiment of nationalism and national unity. It clings to the Congress because it realizes that the Congress platform is the only platform that can most effectively safeguard the interest of the governing class. For if there is any platform from which all talk of conflict between rich and poor, Brahmin and non-Brahmin, landlord and tenant, creditor and debtor, which does not suit the governing class, can be effectually banned, it is the Congress platform which is not only bound to preach nationalism and national unity, – this is what the governing class wants, as it is on this that its safety entirely depends – but which prohibits any other ideology inconsistent with nationalism being preached from its platform.
If the foreigner bears in mind these points he will realise why the servile classes of India are not attracted by the Congress brand of Swaraj. What good can the Congress brand of Swaraj bring to them? They know that under the Congress brand of Swaraj the prospect for them is really very bleak. The Congress brand of Swaraj will either be materialization of what is called Gandhism or it will be what the governing class would want to make of it. If it is the former it will mean the spread of charkha, village industries, the observance of caste, Bramhcharya (continence), reverence for the cow and things of that sort. If it is left to governing classes to make what it likes of Swaraj the principal item in it will be the suppression of the servile classes by withdrawing the facilities given by the British Government in the matter of education and entry in public services.
As to the demand for reservations by the servile classes the reason behind it is to put a limit on the power of the governing classes to have control over the instrumentalities of government. The governing classes are bent on giving the reservations a bad name in order to be able to hang those who are insisting upon them.
Some people hope that under Swaraj there will be a reform of tenancy laws, factory legislation, compulsory primary education, prohibition and construction of roads and canals, improvement of currency, regulation of weights and measures, dispensaries and introduction of other measures for the servile classes. I am not quite sure that these hopes are well-founded. Most people forget that what leads the Congress to-day to mouth such a programme is the desire to show that the Congress is better than the British bureaucracy. But once the bureaucracy is liquidated, will there be the same incentive to better the lot of the masses? That is the question. Firstly, I entertain very grave doubts as to how far this will materialize. Secondly, there is nothing very great in it. In the world of to-day, no governing class can omit to undertake reforms, which are necessary to maintain society in a civilized state. Apart from this, is social amelioration the be-all and end-all of Swaraj? Knowing the servile classes as I do that is certainly not the fault of the servile classes. They certainly do not intend to follow the teaching that ‘the meek shall eat and be satisfied.’ The want and poverty which has been their lot for centuries is nothing to them as compared to the insult and indignity which they have to bear as a result of the vicious social order. Not bread but honour, is what they want. That can happen only when the governing classes disappear and cease to have control over their destiny. The question for the servile classes is not whether this reform or that reform will be undertaken. The question is: Will the governing classes in India having captured the machinery of the State, undertake a programme for the reform of the social order whereby the governing class will be liquidated, as distinguished from a programme of social amelioration? The answer to this depends upon whether the future constitution of India will be with safeguards or without safeguards for the protection of the servile classes. If it will have safeguards it will be possible for the servile classes to liquidate the governing classes in course of time. If the constitution is without safeguards the governing class will continue to maintain its dominance over the servile classes. This being the issue, the foreigner should note that the much-advertised representative character of the Congress is absolutely irrelevant. The Congress may be a representative body and the Congress may be the body which is engaged in what is called the Fight for Freedom; but these things have nothing to do with the decision of the issue. A true lover of democracy before he befriends the Congress will demand that it should produce its blue print of the constitution and be satisfied that its constitution does contain unequivocal and positive provisions for the safety, security for the life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for the servile classes.
Source: Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches, Volume – IX,
published by The Education Department, Government of Maharashtra, 1990