If alive today, Dr Ambedkar would have been speaking for the rights of the people in Kashmir

Quotes and misquotes related to Dr Baba Saheb Ambedkar have become a part of the political discourse, particularly since the abrogation of Article 370 (which is technically not correct, as the article has not yet been abrogated; the special status has been abrogated using the same article). Many people are quoting Baba Saheb on Kashmir as if he and Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the leader of the Jan Sangh, were on the same ideological wave length. Baba Saheb Ambedkar wrote extensively on issues concerning us, and his two works, Thought on Pakistan and Pakistan or Partition of India, show him as a great statesman, rising above the narrow confines of nationality and religion, while dealing with the issue of Hindus and Muslims in a very balanced way. These two books are often used by ‘experts’ for selective quoting of Baba Saheb. The Sangh Parivar quotes him copiously on his views on Muslims and Islam, while the others quote him when he speaks about Hindutva or Hinduism.


In this note, I wish to clarify that I don’t want to quote him here again, but certain facts about Dr Ambedkar must be kept in mind. First and foremost was his concern for the interest and welfare of the Dalit community and ensuring its fair representation everywhere. In fact, we always discuss the sub continental history from the Hindu-Muslim binary – basically, Hindu upper castes and Muslim upper castes or landed peasantry. Why shouldn’t the others issues be discussed? So Dr Ambedkar’s concern, during that time, were the Dalits and ensuring their human rights, and he articulated them at every opportunity. That made him put forth the case of a strong centre, because he felt that if the laws have to be implemented, it is essential that centre plays the lead as a guiding force,since states might have their prejudices.

I am not going to quote what Dr Ambedkar said about Kashmir, because the portions being quoted from two important worksmight be his own concern. We may agree or disagreewith them. However, my point is not with what he said, but what he would have said today.

Now, I want people to think for a moment. Leave aside all ideological prejudices and think about Dr Ambedkar and who he was. Atleast,people like me would always say that he was the greatest dissenter of independent India, a leader and a statesman, a human rights icon for all of us. So, what would have Dr Ambedkar said today on Kashmir? Would he have supported the suspension of people’s political rights? Would he have supported the arrest of political leaders? Would he have supported the curtailment of dissenting voices, which are nothing compared to what he has written and spoken, which can still send shivers down the spine of the brahmanical elite and yet they are forced to chant his bhajans, though they may not like his ideological dissent.

It is sad that many people are suggesting today that Dr Ambedkar did not want Article 370 or the autonomy of Kashmir. The question is not what happened in the Constitution Assembly debates. Dr Ambedkarwas worried about the condition of the untouchables in Pakistan, particularly in East Pakistan or present day Bangladesh, where the Muslim fundamentalists and the Pakistani Army, at that time,were torturingthe non-Muslims and forcing Hindus, Christians and Dalits to embrace Islam. There was a lot of pressure on the government and Ambedkar wanted the central government to look into it. I am not exaggerating thefacts, but this is the reason why Jogendra Nath Mandal, the first law minister of Pakistan and the Chairman of the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan, had to relinquish his post and his Pakistani citizenship and come to India.

In Kashmir, what is at stake is a valid assurance given by the Government of India to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Article 370 is a strong pillar of that. My simple point is whether Dr Ambedkar, today, would have endorsed the way things were done. I can say – never. Talking about Kashmir, he always said that it has three parts –the Kashmir valley- where the Muslims dominate, Jammu – which is Hindu dominated and Ladakh, which is mainly Buddhist. He was pragmatic enough about these things that, at the end of the day, no domain wants to work under any one. He never wanted a war, hence he wanted to resolve the Kashmir issue. Obviously, Nehru, hailing from Kashmir, wanted it as his personal conviction towards secularism.

Dr Ambedkar wrote that democracy does not mean the rule of the majority alone. The minorities have to be included in decision making. All his life, he was fighting for the rights of the depressed classes and the minorities. Even in Kashmir, his concern would have been for the Dalits there, but if he were present today, I can say with full conviction that he would have chosen to stand with the people of the state, who have been denied the right to speak, communicate and assemble, the right to express political dissent. There is no question of his siding with those who claim everything is normal after enforcing a complete communication blockade.

  1. Kashmir – and the strange paralysis of the Indian civil society
  2. Abrogation of Article 370: SC refers petitions to Constitution Bench, issues notices to Center
  3. Kashmir: The Worst Conflict Area In The World
  4. Kashmir Blackout: In Conversation with AnuradhaBhasin
  5. Government’s Decision on Jammu and Kashmir: A Long Leap into Unconstitutionality




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