4th February in Dalit History – Dr. Ambedkar met Gandhi in Yervada Jail

04 Feb 1889: Phules adopted son, Dr.Yashwant was married to Radha the daughter of Sasane.

The Satyashodhak Samaj (The Truth-Seekerís Society) was established on 24 September 1873, and Savitribai was an extremely dedicated and passionate activist of the Samaj. The Samaj undertook the programme of arranging marriages without a priest, without dowry and at minimum costs. The first such marriage was arranged on 25 December 1873. Later, this movement spread across the newly emerging nation. The first report of the Samaj proudly notes that Savitribai was the inspiration behind this revolutionary initiative of a constructive revolt to reject 21 centuries old religious traditions. The marriage of Radha, daughter of Savitribaiís friend Bajubai Gyanoba Nimbankar and activist Sitram Jabaji Aalhat was the first‘Satyashodhaki’ marriage. Savitribai herself bore all the expenses on this historic occasion. This method of marriage, similar to a registered marriage, is still prevalent in many parts of India. These marriages were opposed by priests and ‘bhatjis’ (Brahmans) all over the country and they also went to court on this matter. Savitribai and Jotirao had to face severe difficulties but that did not deter them from their path. On 4 February 1889, at the age of 16, they also got their adopted son married in this manner. This was the first inter-caste marriage in modern India. The Satyashodhak marriage required the bridegroom to take an oath of giving education and equal rights to women. The ‘mangalashtake’ (the Mantras chanted at the time of the wedding) were to be sung by the bride and the bridegroom themselves, and these were in the form of pledges made by the bride and the groom to each other. Yeshwant was married to Radha (this is another Radha) alias Laxmi, daughter of Satyashodhak Samaj leader Gyanoba Krishnaji Sasane in this manner. To ensure that they got better acquainted with each other and with each other’s likes and dislikes, Savitribai had made Radha stay in the Phule household even before the marriage took place. She also made provisions for Radha’s education.[1] 

04 February 1933: Dr. Ambedkar met Gandhi in Yervada Jail[2].

Dr. Ambedkar was accompanied by S N Shivtarkar, Dolas, Upsaham, Kowly, Ghorpade and Keshavrao Jedhe. In a happy mood Gandhi got up and welcomed the visitors.

After a while, the conversation turned to the question of temple entry. Gandhi requested Dr. Ambedkar to lend this support to the Dr. Subbarayan’s Bill and that of Ranga Iyer.  Dr. Ambedkar flatly refused to have anything to do with Subbaraya’s Bill, since the Bill did not condemn untouchability as a sin. It only said that if a referendum favored the temple entry, temples should be thrown open to the Depressed Classes, but nothing of the right to worship the deity in the temples. He told Gandhi that the Depressed Classes did not want to be Shudras in the order of the caste system and added that he honestly could not call himself a Hindu. Why, he asked, he should be proud of the religion which condemned him to be a degraded position. If that system was to continue, he had no use of the benefits of the temple entry. Gandhi said that according to him, the caste system was not a bad system. He continued: “Let the touchable Hindus have an opportunity to expiate their sins and purify Hinduism. Do not be indifferent to this question. If the reformation takes place, the Untouchables would rise in society.” Dr. Ambedkar differed from Gandhi. He was convinced that if the Untouchables made progress in the economic, educational and political filed, temple entry would follow automatically.


Discussing the propriety of two Bills – Dr. Subbarayan’s Bill and Ranga Iyer’s Bill.

Dr. Ambedkar: The one-paragraph Bill (Dr. Subbarayan’s Bill) is a very simple one. It’s fair point lies in admitting that this custom is immoral. There is no such admission in the second Bill (Ranga Iyer’s).

M K Gandhi: No, it is there in its preamble.

Dr. Ambedkar: But it is not clear…. I also think that the two Bills do not go together…

M K Gandhi: The one-paragraph Bill is certainly superior to the other. But the other lengthier Bill was brought forward because the first one could not be introduced in the Provincial Legislature. There is no contradiction in the two Bills. In one Bill untouchability ceases to be a disability and the law refuses to accept the argument based on untouchability. As a result of the second Bill, temple authorities are obliged to take steps under certain circumstances. If we can get both the Bills passed the trustees will not be able to put up any kind of obstacle. I take it upon myself to have all the temples opened within one month if we could get both the Bills passed. The sanatanists would prefer the second Bill. But speaking as a sincere sanatanist I would prefer the first Bill.

Dr. Ambedkar: …Now the Government will have to issue orders against the sanatanists under Section 144 because they would be regarded as interfering with untouchables’ rights.

M K Gandhi: However, I want you now to emphatically proclaim your ideas in very clear words.

Dr. Ambedkar: …As far as we are concerned we have no immediate concern other thansecuring political power… and that alone is the solution of our problem… We want our social status raised in the eyes of the savarna Hindus. There is another point of view also. The object of this effort could be that you want the depressed classes to be retained in the Hindu religion, in which case I am inclined to believe that it is not sufficient in the present awakened state of the depressed classes… If I call myself a Hindu I am obliged to accept that by birth I belong to a low caste. Hence I think I must ask the Hindus to show me some sacred authority, which would rule out this feeling of lowliness. If it cannot be I should say goodbye to Hinduism… I am not going to be satisfied with measures, which would merely bring some relief… I don’t want to be crushed by your charity.

M K Gandhi: I have nothing to say if you have come with a final decision that you are not going to move your little finger to have this Bill passed.

Dr. Ambedkar: We have not made any decision. However, I have shown you how my mind is working.

M K Gandhi: I told you that I could have nothing to say if you have already taken a decision.

Dr. Ambedkar: We cannot ask the savarna Hindus to decide for themselves whether or not we are a part of them. You ought to demonstrate your determination by getting these Bills passed.

M K Gandhi: I am not asking you to do anything. I never wanted the depressed people to go on their knees to the savarna Hindus and ask them to get these Bills passed. Unfortunately, the solution of this problem is in the hands of a third power, which is in a position to mend or worsen the situation.

Dr. Ambedkar: I can set right the thing.

M K Gandhi: That is right. Of course I agree with you that it does not behove your dignity to approach the Hindus. I take the position—you might remember since I made the speech at the Round Table Conference—that we should atone for this. If you repudiate us and go away I would think that we only deserved it.

Dr. Ambedkar: The Bill mentions temple-entry but it makes no mention of entry into the sanctum sanctorum. Will they let a member of the depressed community place flowers on the idol, or will they let him offer a tray containing oblations? Malaviyaji has already declared that question of offering puja does not arise.

M K Gandhi: Temple-entry is meant for puja if anything. But if the language of the Bill is not right it can be amended and we can say ‘entry for the purpose of puja’. It seems there has been some misunderstanding somewhere in the case of Malaviyaji. He would not say what you attribute to him. Flowers, sweets or any other offerings from Harijans will surely be accepted. So we two agree on this point that there is no question of your imploring the savarna Hindus. When some savarna Hindus tell me that Harijans do not want to enter the temples I ask them to throw open the temple doors for the Harijans whether or not they wish to come in. They ought to have the satisfaction that they have done their duty. They ought to discharge the debt, which they owe whether the creditor keeps it or throws it into the gutter. But I must say that you ought not to say that you are not a Hindu. In accepting the Poona Pact you accept the position that you are Hindus.

Dr. Ambedkar: I have accepted only the political aspect of it.

M K Gandhi: You cannot escape the situation that you are Hindus in spite of your statement to the contrary.

Dr. Ambedkar: We ask of you that our silence should not be misconstrued. After that I accept your point.

M K Gandhi: I go one step further. You will not be able to go ahead a single step unless you maintain your position absolutely correct. I regard temple-entry as a spiritual matter through which everything else will bear fruit.

Dr. Ambedkar: The Hindu mind does not work in a rational way. They have no objection to the untouchables touching them on the railway and other public places. Why do they object to it only in the case of temples?

M K Gandhi: We are well caught on this point. I take up the question of temple-entry first of all because these people want to cling to untouchability in the temples. Many sanatanist Hindus say that they would admit Harijans in schools and public places but not in temples. I ask them to grant the Harijans equal status before God. It will raise their status.

Dr. Ambedkar: Supposing we are lucky in the case of temple-entry, will they let us fetch water from the wells?

M K Gandhi: Sure. This is bound to follow it. And it is also very easy.

04 February 1956: “Janata” was renamed as “Pradbuddha Bharat

In 1930, Dr. Ambedkar started a journal named, “Janata (The People)”. This magazine lived for 26 years. After that the magazine’s name was changed to “Prabuddha Bharat (Enlightened India)” on 04 February 1956. The names of the magazine which Dr. Ambedkar published had the reflection and the emphasis of the direction of his movement at a particular time. He changed the name of Janata to Prabuddha Bharat when he was in the process of launching the massive historic conversion to Buddhism.

[1] Dr. T Sundararaman, Savitribai Phule First Memorial Lecture series, book, 2008, NCERT, pg 20-21

[2] The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi– Appendix X Volume  59: 13 January 1933 – 9 March 1933; From Gujarati: Mahadevbhaini Diary, Vol. III, pp. 117-122


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Filed under Dalit-Bahujans, Dr B R Ambedkar, Today in Dalit History, Today in History

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