(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.)
The House I am sure knows, unofficially if not officially, that I have ceased to be a Member of the Cabinet. I tendered my resignation on Thursday the 27th September to the Prime Minister and asked him to relieve me immediately. The Prime Minister was good enough to accept the same on the very next day. If I have continued to be a Minister after Friday the 28th, it is because the Prime Minister had requested me to continue till the end of the Session – a request to which I was, in obedience to constitutional convention, bound to assent.
Our Rules of Procedure permit a Minister who has resigned his office, to make a personal statement in explanation of his resignation. Many members of Cabinet have resigned during my tenure of office. There has been however no uniform practice in the matter of Ministers who have resigned making a statement. Some have gone without making a statement and others have gone after making a statement. For a few days I was hesitant what course to follow. After taking all circumstances into consideration I came to the conclusion that the making of a statement was not merely necessary, but it was a duty which a member who has resigned owes to the House.
The House has no opportunity to know how the Cabinet works from within, whether there is harmony or whether there is a conflict, for the simple reason that there is a joint responsibility under which a member who is in a minority is not entitled to disclose his differences. Consequently the House continues to think that there is no conflict among members of Cabinet even when as a matter of fact a conflict exists. It is, therefore, a duty of a retiring Minister to make a statement informing the House why he wants to go and why he is not able to continue to take further joint responsibility.
Secondly, if a Minister goes without making a statement, people may suspect that there is something wrong with the conduct of the Minister, either in his public capacity or in his private capacity. No Minister should, I think, leave room for such suspicion and the only safe out is a statement.
Thirdly we have our newspapers. They have their age-old bias in favour of some and against others. Their judgments are seldom based on merits. Wherever they find an empty space, they are prone to fill the vacuum by supplying grounds for resignation which are not the real grounds but which put those whom they favour in a better light and those not in their favour in a bad light. Some such thing I see has happened even in my case.
It is for these reasons that I decided to make a statement before going out.
It is now 4 years, 1 month and 26 days since I was called by the Prime Minister to accept the office of Law Minister in his Cabinet. The offer came as a great surprise to me. I was in the opposite camp and had already been condemned as unworthy of association when the interim Government was formed in August 1946. I was left to speculate as to what could have happened to bring about this change in the attitude of the Prime Minister. I had my doubts. I did not know how I could carry on with those who had never been my friends. I had doubts as to whether I could, as a Law Member, maintain the standard of legal knowledge and acumen which had been maintained by those who had preceded me as Law Ministers of the Government of India. But I kept my doubts at rest and accepted the offer of the Prime Minister on the ground that I should not deny my cooperation when it was asked for in the building up of our nation. The quality of my performances as a Member of the Cabinet and as Law Minister, I must leave it to others to judge.
I will now refer to matters which have led me to sever my connecting with my colleagues. The urge to go has been growing from long past due to variety of reasons.
I will first refer to matters purely of a personal character and which are the least of the grounds which have led me to tender my resignation. As a result of my being a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, I knew the Law Ministry to be administratively of no importance. It gave no opportunity for shaping the policy of the Government of India. We used to call it an empty soap box only good for old lawyers to play with. When the Prime Minister made me the offer, I told him that besides being a lawyer by my education and experience, I was competent to run any administrative Department and that in the old Viceroy’s Executive Council I held two administrative portfolios, that of Labour and C.P.W.D., where a great deal of planning projects were dealt with by me and would like to have some administrative portfolio. The Prime Minister agreed and said he would give me in addition to Law the Planning Department which, he said, he was intending to create. Unfortunately the Planning Department came very late in the day and when it did come I was left out. During my time, there have been many transfers of portfolios from one Minister to another. I thought I might be considered for any one of them. But I have always been left out of consideration. Many Ministers have been given two or three portfolios so that they have been overburdened. Others like me have been wanting more work. I have not even been considered for holding a portfolio temporarily when a Minister in charge has gone aboard for a few days. It is difficult to understand what is the principle underlying the distribution of Government work among Ministers which the Prime Minister follows. Is it capacity? Is it trust? Is it friendship? Is it pliability? I was not even appointed to be a member of main Committees of the Cabinet such as the Foreign Affairs Committee or the Defence Committee. When the Economic Affairs Committee was formed, I expected, in view of the fact that I was primarily a student of Economics and Finance, to be appointed to this Committee. But I was left out. I was appointed to it by the Cabinet, when the Prime Minister had gone to England. But when he Cabinet, he left me out. In a subsequent reconstruction my name was added to the Committee, but that was as a result of my protest.
The Prime Minister, I am sure, will agree that I have never complained to him in this connection. I have never been a party to the game of power politics inside the Cabinet or the game of snatching portfolios which goes on when there is vacancy. I believe in service, service in the post which the Prime Minister, who as the head of the Cabinet, thought fit to assign to me. It would have, however, been quite inhuman for me not to have felt that a wrong was being done to me.
Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, gets administered the oath of office as Law Minister in the Union Cabinet by the President Dr.Rajendra Prasad with Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister in 1950
I will now refer to another matter that had made me dissatisfied with the Government. It relates to the treatment according to the Backward Classes and the Scheduled Castes. I was very sorry that the constitution did not embody any safeguards for the Backward Classes. It was left to be done by the Executive Government on the basis of the recommendation of a Commission to be appointed by the President. More than a year has elapsed since we passed the Constitution. But the Government has not even thought of appointing the Commission. The Year 1946 during which I was out of office, was a year of great anxiety to me and to the leading members of the Scheduled Castes. The British had resiled from the commitments they made in the matter of constitutional safeguards for the scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Castes had no knowing as to what the Constituent Assembly would do in that behalf. In this period of anxiety I had prepared a report* on the condition of the Scheduled Castes for submission to the United Nations. But I did not submit it. I felt that it would be better to wait until the Constituent Assembly and the future Parliament was given a chance to deal with the matter. The provisions made in the constitution for safeguarding the position of the Scheduled Castes were not to my satisfaction. However, I accepted them for what they were worth, hoping that the Government will show some determination to make them effective. What is the position of the Scheduled Castes to-day? So far as I see, it is the same as before. The same old tyranny, the same old oppression, the same old discrimination which existed before, exists now, and perhaps in a worst form. I can refer to hundreds of cases where people from the Scheduled Castes round about Delhi and adjoining places have come to me with their tales of woes against the Caste Hindus and against the Police who have refused to register their complaints and render them any help. I have been wondering whether there is any other parallel in the world to the condition of the Scheduled Castes in India. I cannot find any. And yet why is no relief granted to the Scheduled Castes? Compare the concern the Government shows over safeguarding the Muslims. The Prime Minister’s whole time and attention is devoted for the protection of the Muslims. I yield to none, not even to the Prime Minister, in my desire to give the Muslims of India the utmost protection wherever and whenever they stand in need of it. But what I want to know is, are the Muslims the only people who need protection? Are the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Indian Christians not in need of protection? What concern has he shown for these communities? So far as I know, none and yet these are the communities which need far more care and attention than the Muslims.
I could not contain within myself the indignation I have felt over the neglect of the Scheduled Castes by the Government and on one occasion I gave vent to my feelings at a public meeting of the Scheduled Castes. A question was asked, from the Hon’ble the Home Minister, whether my charge that the Scheduled Castes had not benefitted by the rule which guaranteed to them 12.5 per cent representation was true. In answer to the question the Hon’ble Home Minister was pleased to say that my charge was baseless. Subsequently for some reason – it may be for satisfying the qualms of his conscience – he, I am informed, sent round a circular to the various Departments of the Government of India asking them to report how many Scheduled Caste candidates had been recently recruited in Government service. I am informed that most Departments said in reply ‘NIL’ or nearly nil. If my information is correct, I need make no commentary on the answer given by the Hon’ble the Home Minister.
From my early childhood I have dedicated myself to the upliftment of the Scheduled Castes among whom I was born. It is not that there were no temptations in my way. If I had considered my own interests, I could have been anything I wanted to be and if I had joined the Congress I would have reached to the highest place in that organization. But as I said, I had dedicated myself to the upliftment of the Scheduled Castes and I have followed the adage which says that it is better to be narrow-minded if you wish to be enthusiastic about a cause which you wish to accomplish. You can therefore, well imagine what pain it has caused me to see that the cause of the Scheduled Castes has been relegated to the limbo of nothing.