Dr. Babasaheb Bhimji Rao Ambedkar has often been portrayed as unpatriotic, traitor and criticized for sabotaging Indian Freedom struggle. This biased outlook of the non-dalit people, especially the upper castes have found reflection in mainstream history books and narratives. Simply they hate Ambedkar because he was able to dent into their traditional privileges and succeeded giving Dalits some teethes in form of reservation in education and employment and political representation.
It is because of Ambedkar that India has been able to march forward amidst extreme yet conflicting diversities. It is because of him Hinduism still a majority religion. It is because of his progressive ideas that the western notions of equality and justice have gained some ground otherwise in an extreme unequal and unjust hierarchical social order.
When Ambedkar was tasked to frame constitution of free India by Gandhi and Nehru, he had a great opportunity to vent his frustration and anger against society by breaking India into warring provinces and states. Did he do that? No, he did not. In fact a segment of brain-dead upper castes were demanding to model India after United States. They had proposed to name India as United States of India. Had Ambedkar listened to them or had he had any malicious intent Indian would have now succumbed as a nation. India would have collapsed like erstwhile USSR or Yugoslavia.
The unique type of federalism that Ambedkar introduced in India is the main driving force behind India as a unified nation. The sweeping power to center in matter of defense, finance and national security has made India a center led federalism. There is no scope for a state or region to demand secession from the country. Because of this there is no secession of any state or region from India since independence despite occasional demands for separate country like Khalistan, Gorkhaland etc.
Ambedkar had deep knowledge about the extreme unequal Indian society and the systematic exploitation and oppression of Dalits through centuries. He himself has experienced the trauma of untouchability. He could easily have converted to a foreign religion like Islam and Christianity. In fact Muslim and Christian clerics tried their very best to convert him to their respective religion but Ambedkar refused fair and square. Instead he chose an indigenous religion, i.e, Buddhism to get converted into. He chose Buddhism because he loved the country and did not forget his indigenous root.
Now let’s pause and ask: “What would have happened had Ambedkar converted to Islam or Christianity?” Obviously, Dalits would have converted to any of thesee religions en masse. This move could have potentially helped many Dalits escaping the caste oppression and exploitation of Hindu social order as these religions don’t have hierarchical orders. Ambedkar was certainly not aware of it. He instead chose Buddhism, which has its root in Hinduism. He loved the country and the progressive ideas and elements in Indian culture.
Ambedkar’s disagreement with Gandhi and his opposition to Poona fast was rooted in his concern for future of Dalits in Independent India. He feared Dalits would be again subjected to the exploitative social order of the past, which the Mughals and British had weakened considerably during their rules. He was opposed to Gandhi who advocated a charity-based approach towards issues of Dalits. Gandhi had no concerns for Dalits. Whatever activism he had for Dalit issues was essentially to counter Ambedkar. Any person who had rudimentary knowledge of Indian history knows the fact.
The above discussion should make it clear that Ambedkar’s opposition and disagreement with Gandhi and other leaders should not be misconstrued as treachery or unpatriotic. At no point he opposed demand fro independence. Unlike many RSS leaders, he never sided with British. He was true patriot and it is reflected well in his deeds.
Author’s Note: On personal note I don’t agree with Babasaheb’s idea of converting to Buddhism. The best defense for Dalits would have been a resolute offence. Instead of remaining within Hindu fold and crying foul of discrimination and exploitation, it would have been better idea to reject the Hinduism and embrace a religion that treat them like human and ensures equality of members. It would have gone a long way removing the inferiority complex that Dalits were made to acquire right from their birth. The exposure to Islam or Christianity would have ensured for Dalits that the caste system/Hinduism is not all that about life and this world.