‘Magnanimity’ of Dr BR Ambedkar, who despised Brahminic system, but did not hate Brahmins


By Sheshu Babu*

‘A great man is different from an eminent one in that he is ready to be the servant of the society’ — Dr BR Ambedkar

Scholars, journalists and writers have analysed and critiqued the life and works of Dr Ambedkar in many ways. One of his great characteristics has been to appreciate others irrespective of caste or religion. Though he despised Hindu Brahminic system, he did not ‘hate’ Brahmins as persons.

Many right wingers propagate that Ambedkar hated upper caste people. This criticism is leveled most prominently on his comments of Gandhi. But his own thoughts give a clear idea of his intentions:

“I am condemned because I criticized Mr Gandhi and Mr Jinnah for the mess they have made of Indian politics, and that in doing so, I am alleged to have shown hatred and disrespect. In reply to this charge what I have to say is that I have been a critic and continue to be as such. It may be I am making mistakes, but I have always felt that it is better to make mistakes than to accept guidance and direction from others or to sit silent and allow things to deteriorate.

“Those who accuse me of having been actuated by feelings of hatred forget two things. In the first place this alleged hatred is not born of anything that can be called personal. If I am against them, it is because I want a settlement. I want a settlement of some sort, and I am not prepared for an ideal settlement… In the second place, no one can hope to make any effective mark  upon his time, and bring the aid that is worth bringing to great principles and struggling causes, if he is not strong in his love and his hatred.

“I hate injustice, tyranny, pompousness and humbug… I want to tell my critics that I regard my feelings of hatred as a real force. They are only the reflex of the love I bear  for the causes I believe in, and I am in no wise  ashamed of it …”  (“Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah”, address delivered on 101st birthday  celebrations of Ranade, in Poona, 1943).

This indicates his attitude towards leaders of his time. He was vehement in highlighting the cause and had nothing personal. That is why he applauded the greatness of Mahadev Govind Ranade and his contribution to the betterment of society.

Ranade was a scholar, social reformer and author. He was a founding member of the Indian Congress Party.  He was born into a Chitpawan family in Nashik District. He married a child bride, Ramabai Ranade, who continued social and educational reform after his death.

In Ambedkar’s view:

“He was a man of sanguine temperament, of genial disposition and versatile in his capacity. He had sincerity which is the sum of all moral qualities”. He was not merely a lawyer of the high court and a judge, but a “first class economist, a first class historian, a first class educationist and a first class Divine”. His whole life “is nothing but a relentless campaign for social reform.”

Analysing the monumental and sincere contribution of Ranade to social reforms, Ambedkar brings out the weakness of the Hindu Brahmin society and the adverse conditions in which Ranade had to struggle for promoting his ideals of social reforms and equality. Comparing Ranade with Phule, he emphasises the importance of social reform over political reform and rates them as great men.

Thus, Ambedkar never ceased to admire others’ greatness. Similarly, he also sincerely applauded contribution of the members of drafting committee who helped in framing of constitution, like Alladi Krishnaswamy Iyer, N Madhavrao, Sayyed Saifulla, etc.

Praise without ego

Ambedkar praised the contribution members in preparing draft copy of constitution. He said of Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar, “bigger, better and more competent than myself” and possessed knowledge of the world’s constitutions and Indian law like none other. (“Alladi Krishnaswami: An Architect” by Rinchen Norbu Wangchuk, September 18, 2018,  thebetterindia.com). His contribution related to citizenship and adult franchise.

Ambedkar paid his homage in 1949 in his concluding speech:

“I came into the Constituent Assembly with no greater aspiration than to safeguard the interests of scheduled castes. I had not the remotest idea that I would be called upon to undertake more responsible functions. I was greatly surprised when the Assembly elected me to the Drafting Committee. I was more than surprised when the Drafting Committee elected me to be its chairman. There were in the Drafting Committee men bigger, better and more competent than me such as my friend Sir Alladi Krishnaswami Ayyar” (Simrin Sirur, September 15, 2018, theprint.in).

This explains the wholehearted commitment and appreciation of others without personal ego or selfish attitude.

These examples illustrate the true generous character of a great person like Ambedkar. He rightly said, “Cultivation of mind should be the ultimate aim of human existence.” He was not averse to religion. He said, “I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity.”

When remembering the month and day of adopting the constitution, the greatness of Ambedkar should be remembered not only for his tremendous work on constitution but also his versatile  character and ‘sportive’ attitude in recognizing talent of other persons and leaders.

*The writer from anywhere and everywhere supports humanity and socialism

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