This article is written by Anshika Gubrele, second-year BA LLB student at Bharati Vidyapeeth New Law College, Pune. In this article, she discusses the need to achieve social democracy in India according to Dr Ambedkar. Further, she has also briefly discussed his ideology Ambedkarism.
Dr B R Ambedkar- A major contributor to Indian Constitution
Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar also regarded as the Architect of Indian Constitution was a renowned social reformer, politician and jurist. He firmly believed that unless the moral values of the Constitution are preserved, the ostentatious words mentioned in it solely cannot help in the actual realisation of the values attached with it. Thus he laid great emphasis on Constitution morality. He also studied the constitutions of several countries and worked tirelessly.
The theory of democracy
Ambedkar’s major contribution to political thinking was to focus on the relevance of social democracy to political democracy. He believed that political progress would be impossible without a reformed and enlightened society. He also argued that only achieving political democracy is not sufficient but it should be taken a step ahead to the social level. Thus the achievement of social democracy is way more important.
According to him, “Most people do not realise that society can practice tyranny and oppression against any individual in a far greater degree than a government can. The means and scope that are open to society for oppression are more extensive than those open to the government, also they are far more effective.”
Ambedkar therefore fully agreed with the liberal reformers in their fight against the extremists. He was a firm believer in the principle that social reforms should precede political reforms. He contested the point of the extremists that the political powers were necessary to protect the rights of the people. He held that right must exist before the power is set up and it would be a serious error to reverse the order of precedence. Further, rights are protected not by the law but by the” social and moral conscience of society.”
What did Democracy mean to Ambedkar?
Ambedkar believed that democracy was inconsistent with the presence of suppressed classes in society. A strong opposition, equality before the law, administration, constitutional morality, a strong and active moral sense in society and the presence of public conscience were also essential prerequisites of democracy.
Further, there should be a real social democracy which is based on the 3 main principles that are- Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Ambedkar felt that there is a need for national solidarity. He also argued the fact that how can people divided into thousands of castes be a part of a single nation. Ambedkar saw that democracy and party are inseparable. There could be two parties to prevent the democratic government from becoming despotic.
The definition of democracy given by Walter Bagehot or Abraham Lincoln was not satisfactory to Ambedkar. Bagehot defines government as government by discussion whereas Lincoln defines government as of the people, by the people and for the people. By democracy, Ambedkar meant the way how basic social and economic changes are accepted by the people without any conflicts or revolts.
He believed that there is a need for reformation in society as he was very well aware of the inequalities and discrimination that were prevailing in the society. He wanted to wipe off those distinctions from the society as he knew that it is clearly a hindrance in achieving a real democratic state. Thus, he believed that with the achievement of political democracy, it is a must to achieve social democracy also.
What was a successful democracy according to Babasaheb Ambedkar?
Ambedkar while speaking in Poona emphasised that in a successful democracy there must be no distinction between classes. There must be no hierarchy such that one class is getting all the privileges, benefits but the other class, i.e. the oppressing class, is denied of all the privileges and opportunities. In fact, he believed that such inequalities should not exist as it is entirely an injustice to one section of society and such reasons often result in revolts and bloodshed in order to obtain power.
Another aspect of Baba Saheb Ambedkar was to ensure the establishment of laws and provisions for the lower classes in order to ensure equal treatment given to them in all fields. The laws must be based on the three basic principles as suggested by him that are- Equality, Liberty and Fraternity.
Only a dynamic society where changes taking place in one part are conveyed through various channels to the remaining segments, varied and free contacts with other modes of associations. He calls this fraternity, which is only another name of democracy. Therefore, he thought it necessary to annihilate the caste system in Hindu society. An attitudinal change, a revolution in the thinking of the Hindus is the precondition for any worthwhile change in the Hindu society.
First, it demanded that the majority rule must not perpetuate the present state of hereditary bondsmen on the Untouchables and there must be a collective movement for the abolition of untouchability. The majority government must create equality of citizenship while guaranteeing the fundamental rights through the Indian Constitution.
Secondly, it stipulated that the declaration of rights must be accompanied by the provision of remedies. They should not be mere pious pronouncements and lofty ideals but must become realities of everyday life. They must not be metaphysical abstractions or empty slogans. Thus any kind of infringement of the right of the people for the full enjoyment of any of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges of educational institutions, roads, paths, streets, tanks, wells etc., must be punished by imprisonment and fine. Moreover, there must not be any kind of social boycott of the depressed classes.
Elements of Successful Democracy
The existence of an opposition effective in nature is a must for a successful democracy. Democracy simply refers to veto power. After every five years those who are subjected to scrutiny by the people who will decide their continuance as the party in power. An effective opposition is a sine qua non for democracy.
Secondly, there must be equality in law and administration. There must not be a “spoils system” as is to be found in the USA. For efficient functioning of democracy, there is a need for a permanent civil service for implementing the policy of the government without fear or favour of the executive.
There must be a steady growth of constitutional convention and the people must be educated in the scrupulous observance of these conventions. The people should not allow their respect and loyalty to the leader to grow into blind faith of the Bhakti cult. Ambedkar cited the example of George Washington. When he was requested by the people to stand for the second time for the presidentship of America, Washington said,” My dear people, you have forgotten the purpose for which we made this constitution. We made this constitution because we did not want a hereditary monarch and we did not want a hereditary ruler or a dictator.”
In the name of democracy, there should be no unjust rule of one class party over the other though, the majority is in power, the minority should not feel that are being ruled upon and are subjected to unnecessary restrictions and obligations resulting to tyranny. Thus, there should be adequate scope for motions of censure or the adjournment motions of the minority to redress their grievances.
Ambedkar was in favour of Harold Laski’s statement on the moral order as a requirement of democracy and appreciated that. He said that without moral order it is hard to establish democracy as it requires a “public conscience”. According to Ambedkar, the public conscience means conscience which becomes agitated at every wrong, no matter who is the sufferer and it means that everybody whether he suffers that particular wrong or not, is prepared to join the aggrieved to secure justice. Thus he cautioned that with the making of the constitution the task of making a democratic society is not over. The task has only begun and the people have to make ceaseless efforts to accomplish it. “A political democracy without economic and social democracy is an invitation to trouble and danger.” Social democracy alone can assure the right to masses, equality and fraternity.
He argued that modern society, involving individual liberty and equality, was the basis of the ideal political society. In other words, individual as the basis of political representation cannot arise in a society where individualistic values do not prevail.
Therefore, the primordial group representation which was what communal representation amounted to, was inevitable in a society where the communal identity had been either totally eliminated or re-negotiated on an individualistic basis. While Gandhi’s opposition to communal representation was on the ground that it denied the collective identity of either of the nation or the Hindu religious community, Ambedkar’s justification was precise that both these collectivities do not exist and the problem with Indians was to create them against odds.
Ambedkarism: The ideology
Ambedkar’s ideological weapon is turned mainly towards this order as a prelude to the resurrection of the Dalits. His ideology mainly supports the lower castes and protests against their sufferings and the way that had been tortured calls for a total rejection of social and religious hegemony by the upper castes and of inequality in all forms. Thus his ideology criticises the system of hierarchy, the existence of two classes mainly the haves and have not as he believed that the absence of equality and superiority assigned to one class of people is just like the tyranny of one group in power over the other group which lacks the power.
Thus Ambedkarism as a philosophy is committed to all the total annihilation of the caste system and to bring equality in all fronts. But before going deeper into the ideology, it is necessary to review the background in which Ambedkar took up his life mission, to have a proper perspective in his life and philosophy.
The vision of Dr Ambedkar was to assigning equal status to all classes despite the hierarchical system that was followed at that time. There must be equal opportunities for them as well and must not be treated differently. The downgraded sections thus must be uplifted and must be provided with political power.” But the political power, unfortunately, could not be obtained because the ruling party (Congress) was itself inclined towards the upper castes or the Hindus. This Ambedkar characterises as “ full-blooded and blue-blooded Hindu body’.
The caste-based politics of Congress was very much visible during the freedom struggle. Almost everywhere the Congress leadership was in hands of upper caste social conservatives who were often not simply indifferent to Dalit demands but actively resisted them. Thus Dalit spokesmen were inclined to argue that British rule was preferable to Brahmin rule and so look for any means- a special representation, separate electorates, alliance with Muslims- that might prevent them from being swamped by caste Hindu nationalists.
The inability of Congress and the various socio-political organisations to bring about substantial improvement in the position of the depressed classes constituted a basic cause of the movement among the Dalit leaders to seek social and political uplifts as a separate entity.
Social democracy was the vision of Dr BR Ambedkar. He believed that without achieving social democracy there can be no real political democracy. This distinguished him from other political thinkers and freedom fighters who were struggling for the liberation of the country that means to get political freedom from the British rule.
As Indian society was already caught in the web of several social evils and atrocities against the lower class people, it was necessary to first eradicate the unjustified cruel practices against them and change people’s attitude towards them in order to achieve social justice in the country where everyone is treated equally without any superior or inferior status assigned to any person just on the basis of caste which is just an unnecessary discriminatory bifurcation among people.
Thus, social justice must be achieved on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity so that the moral values are upheld and the purity of Indian culture always remains preserved.