(Reprinted from a copy issued to the Press by Dr. Ambedkar found in Ambedkar papers received from the Bombay High Court by the Government of Maharashtra. Dr. Ambedkar was not allowed to present his statement in the LokSabha by the Speaker. He, therefore, quit the House and distributed the copies of statement to the members of Parliament and the Press – Ed.)
continuation from the previous issue….
The third matter which has given me cause, not merely for dissatisfaction but for actual anxiety and even worry, is the foreign policy of the country. Any one, who has followed the course of our foreign policy and along with it the attitude of other countries towards India, could not fail to realize the sudden change that has taken place in their attitude towards us. On 15th of August 1947 when we began our life as an independent country, there was no country which wished us ill. Every country in the world was our friend. Today, after four years, all our friends have deserted us. We have no friends left. We have alienated ourselves. We are pursuing a lonely furrow with no one even to second our resolutions in the U.N.O. When I think of our foreign policy, I am reminded of what Bismark and Bernard Shaw have said. Bismark has said that “politics is not a game of realizing the ideal. Politics is the game of the possible.” Bernard Shaw not very long ago said that good ideals are good but one must not forget that it is often dangerous ideals are good but one must not forget that it is often dangerous to be too good. Our foreign policy is in complete opposition to these words of wisdom uttered by two of the world’s greatest men.
How dangerous it has been to us this policy of doing the impossible and of being too good is illustrated by the great drain on our resources made by our military expenditure, by the difficulty of getting food for our starving millions and by difficulty of getting aid for the industrialization of our country.
Out of 350 crores of rupees of revenue we raise annually, we spend about Rs. 180 crores of rupees on the Army. It is a colossal expenditure which has hardly any parallel. This colossal expenditure is the direct result of our foreign policy. We have to foot the whole of our Bill for our defence ourselves because we have no friends on which we can depend for help in any emergency that may arise. I have been wondering whether this is the right sort of foreign Policy.
Our quarrel with Pakistan is a part of our foreign policy about which I feel deeply dissatisfied. There are two grounds which have disturbed our relations with Pakistan – one is Kashmir and the other is the condition of our people in East Bengal. I felt that we should be more deeply concerned with East Bengal where the condition of our people seems from all the newspapers intolerable than with Kashmir. Notwithstanding this we have been staking our all on the Kashmir issue. Even then I feel that we have been fighting on an unreal issue. The issue on which we are fighting most of the time is, who is in the right and who is in the wrong. The real issue to my mind is not who is in the right but what is right. Taking that to be the main question, my view has always been that the right solution is to partition Kashmir. Give the Hindu and Buddhist part to India and the Muslim part to Pakistan as we did in the case of India. We are really not concerned with the Muslim part of Kashmir. It is a matter between the Muslims of Kashmir and Pakistan. They may decide the issue as they like. Or if you like, divide it into three parts; the cease-fire zone, the Valley and the Jammu-Ladhak Region and have a plebiscite only in the Valley. What I am afraid of is that in the proposed plebiscite, which is to be an overall plebiscite, the Hindus and Buddhists of Kashmir are likely to be dragged into Pakistan against their wishes and we may have to face the same problems as we are facing today in East Bengal.
I will now refer to the Fourth matter which has a good deal to do with my resignation. The Cabinet has become a merely recording and registration office of decisions already at by Committees. As I have said, the Cabinet now works by Committees.
There is a Defence committee. There is a Foreign Committee. All important matters relating to Foreign affairs are dealt with by it. All matters relating to Defence are disposed of by the Defence Committee. The same members of the Cabinet are appointed by them. I am not a member of either of these Committees. They work behind an iron curtain. Others who are not members have only to take joint responsibility without any opportunity of taking part in the shaping of policy. This is an impossible position.
I will now deal with a matter which has led me finally to come to the decision that I should resign. It is the treatment which was accorded to the Hindu Code. The Bill was introduced in the House on the April 1947. After a life of four years, it was killed and died unwept and unsung, after 4 clauses of it were passed. While it was before the House, it lived by fits and starts. For full one year the Government did not feel it necessary to refer it to a Select Committee. It was referred to the Select Committee on 9th April 1948. The Report was presented to the House on 12th August 1948. The motion for the consideration of the Report was made by me on 31st August 1948. It was merely for making the motion that the Bill was kept on the Agenda. The discussion of the motion was not allowed to take place until the February Session of the year 1949. Even then it was not allowed to have a continuous discussion. It was distributed over 10 months, 4 days in February, 1 day in March and 2 days in April 1949. After this, one day was given to the Bill in December 1949, namely the 19th December on which day the House adopted my motion that the Bill as reported by the Select Committee be taken into consideration. No time was given to the Bill in the year 1950. Next time the Bill came before the House was on 5th February 1951 when the clause by clause consideration of the Bill was taken. Only three days 5th, 6th and 7th of February were given to the Bill and left there a rot.
This being the last Session of the present Parliament, Cabinet had to consider whether the Hindu code Bill should be got through before this Parliament ended or whether it should be left over to the new Parliament. The Cabinet unanimously decided that it should be put through in this Parliament. So the Bill was put on the Agenda and was taken up on the 17th September 1951 for further clause by clause consideration. As the discussion was going on the Prime Minister put forth a new proposal, namely, that the Bill as a whole may not be got through within the time available and that it was desirable to get a part of it enacted into law rather than allow the whole of it to go to waste. It was a great wrentch to me. But I agreed, for, as the proverb says “it is better to save a part when the whole is likely to be lost”. The Prime Minister suggested that we should select the Marriage and Divorce part. The Bill in its truncated form went on. After two or three days of discussion of the Bill the Prime Minister came up with another proposal. This time his proposal was to drop the whole Bill even the Marriage and Divorce portion. This came to me as a great shock – a bolt from the blue. I was stunned and could not say anything. I am not prepared to accept that the dropping of this truncated Bill was due to want of time. I am sure that the truncated Bill was dropped because other and more powerful members of the Cabinet wanted precedence for their Bills. I am unable to understand how the Benaras and Aligarh University Bills, how the Press Bill could have been given precedence over the Hindu Code even in its attenuated form? It is not that there was no law on the Statute Book to govern the Aligarh University or the Benaras University. It is not that these Universities would have gone to wreck and ruins if the Bills had not been passed in this session. It is not that the Press Bill was urgent. There is already a law on the Statute Book and the Bill could have waited. I got the impression that the Prime Minister, although sincere, had not the earnestness and determination required to get the Hindu Code Bill through.
In regard to this Bill I have been made to go through the greatest mental torture. The aid of Party Machinery was denied to me. The Prime Minister gave freedom of Vote, an unusual thing in the history of the Party. I did not mind it. But I expected two things. I expected a party whip as to time limit on speeches and instruction to the Chief Whip to move closure when sufficient debate had taken place. A whip on time limit on speeches would have got the Bill through. When freedom of voting was given there could have been no objection to have given a whip for time limit on speeches. But Parliamentary Affairs, Who is also the Chief Whip of the Party in connection with the Hindu Code, to say the least, has been most extraordinary. He has been the deadliest opponent of the Code and has never been present to aid me by moving a closure motion. For days and hours filibustering has gone on a single clause. But the Chief Whip, whose duty it is to economise Government time and push on Government Business, has been systematically absent when the Hindu Code has been under consideration in the House. I have never seen a case of a Chief Whip so disloyal to the Prime Minister and a Prime Minister so loyal to a disloyal Whip. Notwithstanding this unconstitutional behaviour, the Chief Whip is really a darling of the Prime Minister. For notwithstanding his disloyalty he got a promotion in the Party organization. It is impossible to carry on in such circumstances.
It has been said that the Bill had to be dropped because the opposition was strong. How strong was the opposition? This Bill has been discussed several times in the Party and was carried to division by the opponents. Every time the opponents were routed. The last time when the Bill was taken up in the Party Meeting, out of 120 only 20 were found to be against it. When the Bill was taken in the Party for discussion, 44 clauses were passed in about 3 ½ hours time. This shows how much opposition there was to the Bill within the Party. In the House itself there have been divisions on three clauses of the Bill – 2, 3 and 4. Every time there has been a overwhelming majority in favour even on clause 4 which is the soul of the Hindu Code.
I was therefore, quite unable to accept the Prime Minister’s decision to abandon the Bill on the ground of time. I have been obliged to give this elaborate explanation for my resignation because some people have suggested that I am going because of my illness. I wish to repudiate any such suggestion. I am the last man to abandon my duty because of illness.
It may be said that my resignation is out of time and that if I was dissatisfied with the Foreign Policy of the Government and the treatment accorded to Backward Classes and the Scheduled Castes I should have gone earlier. The charge may sound as true. But I had reasons which held me back. In the first place, most of the time I have been a member of the Cabinet, I have been busy with the framing of the Constitution. It absorbed all my attention till 26th January 1950 and thereafter I was concerned with the Peoples’ Representation Bill and the Delimitation Orders. I had hardly any time to attend to our Foreign Affairs. I did not think it right to go away leaving this work unfinished.
In the second place, I thought it necessary to stay on, for the sake of the Hindu Code. In the opinion of some it may be wrong for me to have held on for the sake of the Hindu Code. I took a different view. The Hindu Code was the greatest social reform measure ever undertaken by the Legislature in this country. No law passed by the Indian Legislature in the past or likely to be passed in the future can be compared to it in point of its significance.
To leave inequality between class and class, between sex and sex which is the soul of Hindu Society untouched and to go on passing legislation relating to economic problems is to make a farce of our Constitution and to build a palace on a dung heap. This is the significance I attached to the Hindu Code. It is for its sake that I stayed on notwithstanding my differences. So if I have committed a wrong it is in the hope of doing some good. Had I no ground for such a hope, for overcoming the obstructionist tactics of the opponents? I would like in this connection to refer only to three of the statements made by the Prime Minister on the floor of the House.
On 28th November 1949 the Prime Minister gave the following assurance. He said:
“What is more, the Government is committed to this thing (Hindu Code). It is going through with it”.
“Government would proceed with that. It is for this House to accept a measure, but if a Government takes an important measure and the House rejects it, the House rejects that Government and the Government goes and another Government comes in its place. It should be clearly understood that this is one of the important measures to which the Government attaches importance and on which it will stand or fall.”
Again on 19th December 1949, the Prime Minister said:
“I do not wish the House to think in the slightest degree that we consider that this Hindu Code Bill is not of importance, because we do attach the greatest importance to it, as I said, not because of any particular clause or anything, but because of the basic approach to this vast problem in problems, economic and social. We have achieved political freedom in this country, political independence. That is a stage in the journey, and there are other stages, economic, social and other and if society is to advance, there must be this integrated advance on all fronts.”
On 26th September 1951 the Prime Minister said:
“It is not necessary for me to assure the House of the desire of Government to proceed with this measure in so far was we can proceed with it within possibilities, and so far as we are concerned we consider this matter as adjourned till such time as the next opportunity – I hope it will be in this Parliament offers itself.
This was after the Prime Minister had announced the dropping of the Bill. Who could not have believed in these pronouncements of the Prime Minister? If I did not think that there could be a difference between the promises and performances of the Prime Minister the fault is certainly not mine. My exit from the Cabinet may not be a matter of much concern to anybody in this country. But I must be true to myself and that I can be only by going out. Before I do so I wish to thank my colleagues for the kindness and courtesy they have shown to me during my membership of the Cabinet. While I am not resigning my membership of Parliament I also wish to express my gratitude to Members of Parliament for having shown great tolerance towards me.