Learning From Ambedkar

His struggle to reform Hindu society has lessons for the triple talaq debate

Written by Arnav Das Sharma | Updated: May 22, 2017 1:03 am
B.R. Ambedkar, Uniform Civil Code, Anti-Hindu Code Bill Committee, triple talaq, Supreme Court, Supreme Court on Triple Talaq, indian express column  As the nation gears up for the landmark SC judgment, Ambedkar’s unwavering commitment to the principles of liberalism is a lesson well worth remembering.

When the Supreme Court delivers its verdict on the contentious triple talaq issue, it would be, perhaps, one of the landmark promulgations in independent India’s judicial history. If the SC were to declare triple talaq unconstitutional, it could well open up the path for the institution of a Uniform Civil Code (UCC) — an ideal that has been an important demand of the BJP for a long time.

But as the arguments and counter-arguments are meted out in court, it is worth looking back on the years that led to the formulation of the landmark Hindu Code bills. It is pertinent to invoke this incident for two reasons: One, much of our present debate on the UCC and the triple talaq controversy is still under the shadow of that landmark event.

Second, the pioneering role that B.R. Ambedkar played in bringing those bills to fruition. It is important to remember the degree of opposition that the bills garnered during that time. For instance, in March 1949, the Anti-Hindu Code Bill Committee was formed, which enjoyed vast support from clerics and other conservative lawyers. As Ramachandra Guha chronicles in India After Gandhi, the committee would campaign against the reform bills from place to place.

In these meetings, its primary participants, which included several members of the RSS, characterised themselves as “religious warriors” who were fighting a religious battle. On December 11, 1949, the RSS held a massive rally in the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi where its members denounced the bills in the strongest possible terms. The next day, a march was organised to the Constituent Assembly where effigies of Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sheikh Abdullah were burnt.

The version of the bill that Ambedkar wanted was never to be had. With the first general election imminent, and fearing a massive Hindu backlash, Nehru had to compromise. Besides, in the Constituent Assembly, many amendments to the original bill were demanded; it took more than a year to get even four clauses passed. Eventually, the bill lapsed. This caused Ambedkar to resign as law minister.

At one point in his resignation letter, Ambedkar, expressing his shock, writes: “The Cabinet unanimously decided that it [the Bill] should be put through in this Parliament… As the discussion was going on, the Prime Minister put forth a new proposal, namely, that the Bill as a whole may not be got through within the time. The Prime Minister suggested that we should select the Marriage and Divorce part.

The Bill in its truncated form went on. After two or three days… the Prime Minister came up with another proposal. This time his proposal was to drop the whole Bill, even the Marriage and Divorce portion. This came to me as a great shock.” The reason for Ambedkar’s shock is two-fold. First, arising from the failure to get the bill passed in its entirety, and second, and more importantly, seeing the core element of the bill — which was about marriage and divorce — rejected as well.

Throughout his life, apart from fighting caste oppression, if there was one cause Ambedkar espoused, it was that of gender emancipation. As his writings testify, Ambedkar very clearly saw the way caste endeared itself to masculinity in order to perpetuate itself. He realised that the primary way to break caste oppression was to make way for marriage reforms. This endeavour was tied to Ambedkar’s larger radical role in taking the Hindu texts to task, by opening them up for reinterpretation, a method by which Brahminical control over these texts was removed. We see this very clearly in his formulation of the Hindu Code Bill, where Ambedkar went back to the texts to reinforce his arguments.

As the nation gears up for the landmark SC judgment, Ambedkar’s pioneering role in trying to modernise Hindu society, and more than anything else, his unwavering commitment to the principles of liberalism is a lesson well worth remembering.

The writer, 29, is a doctoral fellow at the Delhi School of Economics. His first novel, ‘Darklands’, will be published later this year

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    Jagatheesan Chandrasekharan
    May 23, 2017 at 10:14 am
    from Rector JCMesh J Alphabets Letter Animation ClipartMesh C Alphabets Letter Animation Clipart INSIGHT-NET-Hi Tech Radio Free Animation Clipart Online A1 (Awakened One) Tipiṭaka Research & Practice University in Visual Format (FOA1TRPUVF) Mayawati to visit Saharanpur tomorrow. With the recent caste clashes in Saharanpur giving Mayawati an opportunity to regain lost ground among her support base, the BSP chief will visit the scene of violence on Tuesday. Mayawati's visit to the trouble-torn area comes in the backdrop of the Dalit outfit Bhim Sena staging a massive dharna in Delhi over the issue. The organisation of Dalit youths across seven states in northern India, was founded by a young lawyer Chandrashekhar two years ago, and shot into prominence during the clashes. After the BSP's drubbing in the recent embly elections in Uttar Pradesh, it will be Mayawati's first attempt to reach out to her Dalit cons uency. She will leave for Saharanpur from Delhi by road to visit Sh
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      Jagatheesan Chandrasekharan
      May 23, 2017 at 10:14 am
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        Jagatheesan Chandrasekharan
        May 23, 2017 at 10:13 am
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          Jagatheesan Chandrasekharan
          May 23, 2017 at 10:12 am
          Sometime in 1977, a well kown Scheduled Caste politician Kanshi Ram visited her family home and was highly impressed by Mayawati’s speaking style and motivated her to join politics. According to biographer Ajay Bose, Kanshi Ram told her that I can make you such a big leader one day that not one but a w row of IAS officers will line up for your orders. In 1984, Kanshi Ram founded the Bahujan Samaj Party and the party focused as a platform to bring social change and to improve the welfare of the weakest of the Indian society consisting of the Bahujans or SC/STs, Other Backward castes and religious minorities. Kanshi Ram included Mayawati as the member of the party marking her first step in Indian politics. She was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 1989 representing Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh in the 9th Lok Sabha elections. In 1994, she became a member of Rajya Sabha for the first time. Kanshi Ram remained the president of BSP until 2001 however, due to his deteriorating health in
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            Jagatheesan Chandrasekharan
            May 23, 2017 at 10:12 am
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