Ambedkar’s Safeguards Against Communal Majority in Government & Parliament Need Urgent Re-Visiting, NOW!

Written by Sukhadeo Thorat | Published on: August 10, 2017

Idea of India: Relevance of Dr Ambedkar’s Ideas in Nation Building


Ambedkar

He (Ambedkar) suggested larger safeguards against the communal majority. He created two concepts of representation, namely relative representation and balance representation. He advocated the concept of relative majority to overcome the dominance of communal majority vis-vis minority and suggested method to give relatively high weightage to minorities in number of seat in legislature. Between the minorities, however he suggested high priority to those minorities who are educationally and economically more backward. In other word he suggested a scheme which moderate the majority power and ensure balanced representation.

Dr Ambedkar was immensely concerned about the political consequences of a communal democracy. He argued that in India the majority is not a political majority. It is communal majority. He draws a useful distinction between the two. The communal majority is born, it is not made. The political majority is not fixed or is not permanent majority. It is majority which is always, unmade and remade. A communal majority on the other hand is permanent, and majority fixed in its attitude. (Ambedkar 1945)

Therefore he suggested larger safeguards against the communal majority. He created two concepts of representation, namely relative representation and balance representation. He advocated the concept of relative majority to overcome the dominance of communal majority vis-vis minority and suggested method to give relatively high weightage to minorities in number of seat in legislature. Between the minorities, however he suggested high priority to those minorities who are educationally and economically more backward. In other word he suggested a scheme which moderate the majority power and ensure balanced representation.

In 1945, he proposed the principle of ‘faith (in majority Executive)’ to elect the Executive from the majority party. He argued that the legislatures which occupy the Executive position and govern should have the faith of not only majority but also minority legislature. Hence, he suggested that the Prime Minister, and the Ministers from Majority party should be elected by the whole house, majority and minority party. Similarly, the Minority cabinet ministers from the majority party should be elected by members of minority in the house legislature. All these creative thinking goes to show that Dr Ambedkar was looking for a suitable check on the communal majority and to give space to the minority in political governance.
 

This lecture was delivered recently at the Ambedkar International Conference in Bengaluru (July 21-23, 2017). The views of the architect of India’s Constitution, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar on balanced representation are crucial given the crass majoritarianism that has befallen India’s Legislature and Executive, where both the minority vote and representation has been silenced.

Full text:
I want to explain what I mean by principle of justice-the Principle of justice is a compendious one and includes most of the other principles which have become become the foundation of the moral order.
Justice has always evoked ideas of equality, of proportion of “compensation”.

Equity signifies equality. Rules and regulations, rights and righteousness are concerned with equality in value. If all men are equal, all men are of same essence and therefore, common essence entitled them to the same essence and common essence entitled them to the same fundamental rights and equal liberty. In short justice is simply another name for liberty, equality and fraternity. (Philosophy of Hinduism Published for the first time, 1987, page 25)

Extending this concept  further at another place in the same essay Dr. Ambedkar stated, ‘Fraternity and liberty are really derivative notions. The basic and fundamental conceptions are equality and respect for human personality. Fraternity and liberty take their roots in these two fundamental conceptions. Digging further down it may be said that equality is the original notion and respect for human personality is the reflection of it. So that where equality is denied, every things else may be taken to be denied.’ (Philosophy of Hinduism, first published 1987, page 66).

Significance of Period of Dr Ambedkar’s Political Engagement: 1916-1956
This International conference is focused on the theme of, ‘Reclaiming Social Justice, Revisiting Ambedkar’. The main purpose of this get together of scholars, activists and policy makers, is to revisit Dr Ambedkar’s contributions in shaping the idea of India, and project of nation building and to note their relevance, for the contemporary problems that still persists.

Dr Ambedkar followed a unique approach. He propounded ideas and views on various issues of national importance, proposed solutions, and in the end, undertook advocacy through social and political action, for adoption of his views for economic, political and social framework, and policies by the government. He took among himself a triple task, namely, to analyses the roots of the problems through research, develop solutions, and convert some solutions in national goals, basis of economic, political and social institution and policies, and give practical shape to these suggestions through advocacy with the government using social and political action by the people.

It is necessary to keep in mind that Dr Ambedkar emerged on the political scene (August 21) 1917 after his return from the US (after completion of studies) and remained active till 1956. The period between early 1920 and mid 1950 is crucial in India history as a formative period, as India’s political social, and economic framework was shaped by the events that happened during this period spanning thirty years.

The main event was: realisation of political independence, adoption of a new Constitution which laid down the very idea of India as Nation with social, political and economic structure, and the economic and social policy framework which guide the policies since 1950 for next fifty years so. But most important is and was, the emergences of powerful social movement of depressed classes under Dr Ambedkar’s leadership during 1917 to 1956, which brought the goal of social justice for the Depressed classes to the fore, in these formative years.

It is also necessary to recognise the uniqueness of the situation, namely, that on most of these events, namely political independence, adoption of a new Constitution, which laid down the political, economic and social framework, the policy framework and others like question of women’s right and the minority problems, Dr Ambedkar was at the center of debates and issues, and hence able to influence the articulation of these issues and solution in most significant manners.

However, although Dr Ambedkar was successful in shaping the course of the events, his views and solutions were not made a part of the final solution. On many important issues, the final articulation of the issues and solution deviate from the views of Dr Ambedkar. Therefore, while analysing the ideas and solution of Dr Ambedkar on the issue of social justice, we will present his unique position.

Given the focus of the Conference I will discuss his contribution on question of social justice. The discussion will focus on Dr Ambedkar’s ideas and views on the issues of social justice, the solutions that he proposed and the relevance of his views and solutions in present context.

Ambedkar’s ideas of Social Justice
Dr Ambedkar’s efforts to bring Social Justice issue to the center of discourse are influenced by his notion of social justice.

In his view, the Principle of Social Justice has become the foundation of the moral order. ‘Justice’ has always evoked ideas of equality. Rules and regulations, rights and righteousness are concerned with equality them to the same civic and political rights.
Equality has a central place in Dr Ambedkar’s notion of social Justice.

He believed that, fraternity and liberty which form essential principles of moral order are derivative notions. The basic and fundamental conceptions are equality and respect for the human personality.

Fraternity and liberty takes roots in these two-fundamental conceptions. Dr Ambedkar however, argued that equality is the original notion and respect for human personality is a reflection of it. So that where equality is denied, everything else may be taken to be denied. (Ambedkar, 1987 pg 66).

Social Justice and Hindu Social Order: The Caste System
Equality being the essence of social justice, Dr Ambedkar examined the Hindu Social Order, namely the caste system that governs the social relation of Hindus (who constitute more than 80 percent of country’s population) from the point of view of equality. For obvious reasons Dr Ambedkar found the system being founded on the principle of graded inequality in all spheres of social life.

The caste system divides Hindus into five social groups, isolates each caste through endogamy-marriage within caste and restriction on inter-dinning and social relations. It fixes caste rights by birth in an unequal and graded manner, without freedom (or autonomy) for a change. The castes are ranked in term of rights and status in graded manner.

The ati-shudras or untouchables who are placed at the bottom of caste hierarchy and have no right to property, education and civil and religious rights. Their only job is to serve the caste groups above them. The unique feature is that untouchables are considered impure and therefore polluting, not to be touched. Therefore, they are socially and physically isolated and separated from the other castes.

Thus, from the point of view of justice, it comes out in a glaring manner that the Hindu Social order is inimical to equality, antagonistic to liberty and freedom and opposed to fraternity observed Dr Ambedkar. The catchment area of the influence of caste system is all inclusive. It is like a weft which crosses every aspect of Hindu life, and brings inequality in every spheres, social, economic and political, cultural, and religious. It adversely affect the social relations by denying civic and political rights, the political system bring communal aspect to democracy and the economic system, making it less efficient and bringing massive economic inequality in wealth and income and high poverty, particularly among the ex-untouchables. Dr Ambedkar therefore spent considerable academic energy to understand the consequences and implication of the caste inequality on economy, society and polity.

Dr Ambedkar’s is probably the only contemporary thinker who visualised the connection between the social structure based on caste and social justice, and the consequences, particular on the untouchables. How caste make it difficult for excluded people from accessing fundamental rights, and securing equality of status, and opportunities? How caste brings a communal character into political democracy and also excludes the untouchables from political governance? How caste discrimination results in unequal sharing of benefits from economic growth, and also brings inefficiencies in the economic?

Dr Ambedkar develops deep insights in the interrelations and suggested solution to deal with negative consequences of the caste system and to facilitate the agenda of social justice. It is here that he was innovative in conceptualising caste, its consequences and the solution to overcome them. And since the issue (in all its dimensions) still persists, hence the relevance of Dr Ambedkar in the present time.

We discuss the views of Dr Ambedkar on social justice, the solutions he proposed and their continuing relevance at the present time.

Firstly, we discuss the Political, Economic and Social framework proposed by Dr Ambedkar, taking social structure into account. This requires innovation in the traditional remedies or framework. We will therefore analysis his contributions.

Secondly, we specially discuss the solution to the massive Economic Equalities in Indian society that caste has produced.

Thirdly the safeguards and solution against Caste Discrimination in civic rights, economic rights, and in the Legislature, including Executive and administration, and the safeguards to minorities (social and religious) against Majority Communalism.
Fourthly the idea of Nation and Nationalism which is inclusive of all.

Dr Ambedkar ideas of Economic, Political and Social framework for India
Unlike the Hindu social order, Dr Ambedkar’s advocated a society which is founded on the principles of justice, equality, liberty, and fraternity, and proposal a particular form of social, economic and political structure which would enable  (individuals) to secure justice, (social, economic and political) equality, liberty and fraternity.

 Dr Ambedkar believed that some form of socialistic economy will ensure economic equality, and the political democracy as a method of political governance would ensure liberty and freedom. Therefore, he proposed a type of socialism with parliamentary democracy. He sees no alternative to political democracy. But at the same time, he suggested a modification in the traditional notion of democracy, given the limitation of this approach in securing economic democracy, which is he considered essential for the successful working of political democracy.
For Ambedkar, political democracy is more than a form of political governance. It is primarily a mode of associated living with an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellowmen. Therefore, the roots of political democracy are located in social, and economic relations. Political democracy will be successful, if the social and economic relations are also based on equality and liberty. “Social and economic democracy are the tissues and the fibre of a Political Democracy. The tougher the tissue and the fiber, the greater the strength of the body’.

Economic Equality and Democracy: Based on the view prevalent during the 1940’s, Ambedkar pointed out the limitation of the traditional notions of political democracy. In Ambedkar’s view this  (kind of) democracy is based on the doctrine of one man, one value, but political democracy (as we know it) has attempted to give effect to this doctrine only by adopting the rule of one man one vote, It (has) only provided (for) political structure with adult suffrage and fundamental rights, leaving the economic structure to be decided by the legislature. In his view, it is equally essential is to prescribe the shape and form of the economic structure that ensure economic equality, if democracy is to live up to its principle of one man, one value. Therefore Dr Ambedkar proposed an economic framework that ensures equal access to agriculture land through state ownership of land and key and basis industries, and also insurance, health and education under state domain.

While this is the position of Dr Ambedkar which he put forth at the time of Constitution making, it did not receive support. As an alternative, therefore, Dr Ambedkar brought the provision for social and economic equality through the Directive Principles of State policy, which guide the efforts of the state for social and economic equality in passing laws and policies. The Fundamental Rights are primarily aim at assuring political freedom to the citizens, while the Directive principles aim at securing social and economic freedoms by appropriate state action. In particular, State is expected to strive to minimize the inequalities in income, and eliminate inequalities in status, facilities and opportunities, amongst individuals and amongst groups of people. The State is obliged to secure to common man an adequate means to livelihood. The ownership of the material resources of the community are to be distributed in a manner such that it best serve the common good of the people. And the operation of the economic system should not result in to the concentration of wealth and means of production which is detrimental to the people’s interest. One can see how socialist goal of economic and social equality are brought in through Directive principles, as a substitute by Dr Ambedkar, although a weak alternative, not enforceable in court of law. But it was one part of the accommodation, which Dr Ambedkar had to resort to.

What is the relevance of a democracy which makes economic equality a necessary condition for the success of a political democracy, and also asks to make this economic structure that ensures economic equality part of the Constitution? These indeed are new insights that Dr Ambedkar brought, which include the definition of democracy as a mode of associated living with an attitude of respect and reverence towards fellowmen, linking political democracy with economic relations securing economic equality, and making economic structure that ensure economic equality a part of the Constitution.

I am quite sure that the current theories of democracy do recognise the role of economic equality in success of political democracy, and the danger of concentration of wealth within a  democracy. It was in early 1940 that Dr Ambedkar recognised the significance of economic democracy, which is even more relevant today.

Caste, and Democracy: Like economic equality, Dr Ambedkar considered social equality or social democracy as a necessary pre-condition for the success of political democracy. It became crucial in the context of a caste system which acts as an anti-theses of democracy. The social relations within the caste system are based on an unequal entitlement of rights. It (caste system) denies the civic, political, cultural, religious and economic rights to the caste in a graded manner and all rights to untouchables. It denies individual liberties to the untouchables and developed an anti-social attitude toward them. So the equality in access to rights, the inter-group communication and sharing of joy and sorry in social life, with feeling of brotherhood is absent in the Hindu social order, all of which are a necessary condition for social democracy. More importantly , the caste system as a corporate group, provides a communal or caste base to political democracy, and takes away its secular character.

Therefore, Dr Ambedkar had applied his mind to the question of social democracy right from the early 1920s until the farming of the Constitution in 1950, and even thereafter towards finding a solution. The solution in the form of safeguards are dual in nature.
There are particular schemes which he proposed for minorities that include both social minorities and religious minorities as safeguards against the communal majority and their effective and real participation. The second set of solutions include the safeguards against discrimination of scheduled caste in accessing civic rights, political representation and in access to jobs and education and other public and private spheres.

As regards the first set of remedies Dr Ambedkar put up an innovative proposal containing the safeguard to minorities from communal majority in 1945 in Memorandum, Communal Dead Lock and Way to Solve It, submitted to the Government and repeat again in 1947 in State and Minorities in Memorandum submitted to Constitution Assembly.

Dr Ambedkar was immensely concerned about the political consequences of a communal democracy. He argued that in India the majority is not a political majority. It is communal majority. He draws a useful distinction between the two. The communal majority is born, it is not made. The political majority is not fixed or is not permanent majority. It is majority which is always, unmade and remade. A communal majority on the other hand is permanent, and majority fixed in its attitude. (Ambedkar 1945)

The social relations within the caste system are based on an unequal entitlement of rights. It (caste system) denies the civic, political, cultural, religious and economic rights to the caste in a graded manner and all rights to untouchables. It denies individual liberties to the untouchables and developed an anti-social attitude toward them. So the equality in access to rights, the inter-group communication and sharing of joy and sorry in social life, with feeling of brotherhood is absent in the Hindu social order, all of which are a necessary condition for social democracy. More importantly , the caste system as a corporate group, provides a communal or caste base to political democracy, and takes away its secular character.



Therefore he suggested larger safeguards against the communal majority. He created two concepts of representation, namely relative representation and balance representation. He advocated the concept of relative majority to overcome the dominance of communal majority vis-vis minority and suggested method to give relatively high weightage to minorities in number of seat in legislature. Between the minorities, however he suggested high priority to those minorities who are educationally and economically more backward. In other word he suggested a scheme which moderate the majority power and ensure balanced representation.

Further, to provide more role to minority in decision making he proposed the principle of unanimity for decision making where the minority will voice.

In 1945, he proposed the principle of ‘faith (in majority Executive)’ to elect the Executive from the majority party. He argued that the legislatures which occupy the Executive position and govern should have the faith of not only majority but also minority legislature. Hence, he suggested that the Prime Minister, and the Ministers from Majority party should be elected by the whole house, majority and minority party. Similarly, the Minority cabinet ministers from the majority party should be elected by members of minority in the house legislature. All these creative thinking goes to show that Dr Ambedkar was looking for a suitable check on the communal majority and to give space to the minority in political governance.

Second set of measures relates to the safeguards to the untouchables against discrimination in accessing fundamental rights, representation in legislature, jobs, education (both private and public) and safeguards against cast discrimination against the untouchables by Executive and administration dominated by higher caste, in policy making, and implementation of policies and schemes.

As a safeguard against discrimination Ambedkar proposed a law against untouchability and caste discrimination so that untouchables could access fundamental rights, which was eventually enacted in 1955. As a safeguard against discrimination in jobs and education Ambedkar proposed the Reservation policy in jobs both public and private sectors, which was done in 1950 for only public sector.

As safeguards against discrimination representation in legislation, central and state reservation was introduced in 1932 and continue after 1950.

As a safeguard against discrimination by Executive and Administration, nothing much was done. In case of Executive a separate Ministry was set up with limited mandate. In case discrimination by administration nothing much was created, except that a Commission for Scheduled caste was created to provide a window to submit grievances by the scheduled caste.

For the general economic empowerment of the untouchables, general policies were used by giving them share in proportion to their population, in some in formal way and in other in informal way.

Relevance of Dr Ambedkar’s view on Current problem Facing Dalits
These were some of the achievements on the front of policies for the untouchables. However they deviate (significantly) from the Dr Ambedkar’s proposal. The policies for economic empowerment for the untouchables through the general policies have their limitations and they have brought limited success. Similarly, the reservation policy has been confined to the public sector alone and the private sector is excluded, as a result privatisation of jobs and education has led to an erosion of reservation policy. The laws against untouchability have had limited success. Political democracy has increasingly been consumed by a caste base. It is in this context that the proposals and suggestions of Dr Ambedkar assume great relevance today.

Limits of law and need of Social Conscience in favor of equity: Back to Dr Ambedkar
Laws are necessary to provide safeguards to individuals against discrimination. In fact Dr Ambedkar emphasized the need of legal safeguards against discrimination, but at the same time warn against the limitation of law in a situation where the entire community opposed equal rights to untouchables.

In his famous lecture which he delivered in 1943 at the Ghokhe Institute, Pune, that is Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah, Babasaheb Ambedkar observed:
“The idea of making gift of fundamental rights to every individual no doubt is laudable. The question is how to make them effective? The prevalent view is that once rights are enacted in a law then they are safeguarded. This again is an unwarranted assumption. An experience proves, rights are not protected by law but the social and moral conscience of society. If social conscience is such that it is to recognize the rights which law chooses to enact, rights will be safe and secure. But (when) the fundamental rights are opposed by the community, no law, no Parliament, no Judiciary can guarantee them in the real sense of the words. Law can punish a single solitary recalcitrant criminal. It can never operate against a whole body of people who are determined to defy it. Social conscience – is the only safeguards of all rights fundamental or non-fundamental.”

In a Hindu social order, there is nearly absence of a social conscience that is supportive of equal rights and equal status, inequality being the foundation of caste system.

In Annihilation of Caste, Babasaheb Ambedkar argued that:
“People are not wrong in observing caste. We should realize that the acts of the people are merely the results of their belief inculcated up on their mind by the Shastra and that people will not change their conduct until they cease to believe in the sanctify of the Shasta on which their conduct is founded.” (Ambedkar 1936)

Therefore there is need to develop “the social and moral conscience of society such that it recognizes the rights of individuals. Our main focus has been on the laws, which is the right way.

But very little focus has been given on the transformation of norms and belief of people which opposite inequality, as a result the traditional norms and beliefs continuing to influence the behaviour of high caste towards the untouchable. We need to deal with the sources of discrimination, and make values in favor of laws supporting justice. This message of Dr Ambedkar is relevance today more than any time in Indian history.

In the context of the Village, Dr Ambedkar suggested separate settlements of scheduled caste and settlement of them in towns and cities to cope with discrimination.

The problems of continuing discrimination by the administration run by the higher caste in recruitment under reservation, in-service discrimination and discrimination in policy making and implementation of government schemes is also in the outcome of same set of reasons. The willful negligence with bias is the main reason for less effective implementation of reservation policy in jobs and in various government schemes. This is also a major issue when it comes to dealing with caste discrimination.

Present problem of Reservation in jobs and education and lesions from Dr Ambedkar
Similarly, the current reservation policy also deviates from the proposal by Dr Ambedkar, and is responsible for limited results. In jobs, business and education Dr Ambedkar suggested to cover both public and private sector, more specifically in private sector, where discrimination persists. The privatisation of government sector jobs and education has eroded the coverage of reservation. The safeguards against discrimination to scheduled caste farmers and entrepreneurs is also absent which affect their income. No wonder the poverty is high among them.

Present Problem of Reservation in legislature: Back to Dr Ambedkar’s solution
The present policy related to representation in central and state legislature, are also different from the schemes as suggested by Dr Ambedkar. And the consequences of this are visible. The experience has revealed the problem which Dr Ambedkar visualized.  In the present electoral system of Reservation, since the election of SC representatives depends on the high caste due their majority, enviably, only the persons of their choice are elected. So, those elected persons (even from the SCs) are not free and independent to take or ask for policies of their choice. Dr Ambedkar has suggested a Separate Electorate with dual member constituency, with two votes for the SCs. This would mean that the SC voter would elect their own representative, and also vote for a high caste candidate. The SC candidate, so elected would be independent of the will f the higher, dominant castes and work for them (SC interests).

There is a clear lesson here, for a reform within the present system of political reservation. There is a need to reform the present system and bring back the system of Separate Electorates or a variation of this which would ensure the election of real and independent representatives of the scheduled caste.

Present status of Economic Empowerment of Scheduled caste: Lessons from Dr Ambedkar
The limited space in jobs and due to limited reservation and lack of group focus policies on the poor has not changed the basic economic status of the scheduled caste. They own less land and enterprises / business. The situation has not changed much as of today.
In 2012, at an all India level only 20 per cent of the total rural households among SCs were farmers and another 14 per cent were small entrepreneur / business households. In urban areas, the ratio of entrepreneur was 27 per cent, which is much lower than others. The Economic Survey of Private Enterprises for 2013 indicates that the share of SCs in the country’s enterprise was 10 per cent, which is lower than their share in the population.

A low incidence of ownership of income-earning assets by the SCs results in a high level of their dependence on wage labour. Of the total rural households / workers, about 52 per cent are wage labour, as compared to 32 per cent for OBCs and 21 per cent for Others. Similarly, in urban areas, about 21 per cent of the SCs were casual wage labourers, as compared to 15 per cent for OBCs and 6 per cent for Others.

They have also lagged behind in education and civic amenities. In 2014, the enrolment rate for higher education was 22 per cent for SCs as compared to 42 per cent for higher caste.

In 2011, the percentage of SC households without drinking water facilities at home was 68 per cent as compared with 57 per cent for Others. In addition, 77 per cent of the SC households had no latrines in their homes as compared to 66 per cent for Others, and 41 per cent of the SC households had no electricity as compared to a corresponding figure of 34 per cent for Others.

As a result of all this, income is low and poverty is high. In 2011, about 30 percent of SC were poor compared to 12 per cent of the Others and 25 per cent of the OBCs and 23 per cent of national average. The incidence of poverty among the SCs was more than double as compared to Others.

Thus, this shows that among the castes, the Dalit are poorer, more illiterate, more unemployed, more land less and without assets.
Dr Ambedkar suggested distribution of agricultural land through nationalisation of land to scheduled caste. He favoured making education, health, insurance, and housing a State Responsibility. Today the policies are going in an opposite direction. Land reforms have been bypassed the SC. Privatisation has eroded the reservation in jobs and education. There is need to revert to Dr Ambedkar solution for economic empowerment of the scheduled caste.

Relevance of Dr Ambedkar’s notion of Nation and Nationalism
The idea of India is embedded in the Constitution, which is, India as a Sovereign, Socialist, Secular Democratic Republic. There is another notion of the Nation which is propagated, India as a Hindu State, based on the concept of one culture, one race, and one language. All those who opposed the idea of Hindu Rashtra, are anti-national.

Dr Ambedkar had warned about his tendency as early as 1947. Dr Ambedkar observed:
Unfortunately for the minorities in India, Indian Nationalism has developed a new doctrine which may be called the Divine Right of the Majority to rule the minorities to the wishes of majority. Any claim for the sharing of power by the minority is called communalism while the monopolizing of the whole power by the majority is called Nationalism. (Ambedkar 1947 pg 427)

Dr Ambedkar was in a way prophetic in his articulation. What he saw in mid-1940’s is fairly obvious and visible in the present time.

Dr Ambedkar idea of Nation is different. In 1946 Dr Ambedkar define and conceive Nation and Nationalism.

“A nation is not a country in the physical sense, whatever degree of geographical unity it may possess. A nation is not a people synthesized by a common culture derived from common language, common religion or common race… Nationality is a subjective psychological feeling. It is feeling of corporate sentiment of oneness which makes those who are charged with it feel that they are kith and kin… It is a feeling of” consciousness of kind ‘which bind together those who are within the limits of kindred. It is longing (a strong feeling of wanting added) to belonging to one’s own group…This is essence of what is called a nationality and national feeling.” (Ambedkar, 1943 pg 223)

Dr Ambedkar goes on to argue:
“The point is that nationality is not primarily a matter of geography, culture or language… The nation is not a physical thing in which certain objective characteristics, such as commonality of language, race, territory, persists etc. Nation on the contrary, is a spiritual reality binding people into a deep comradeship.”

And add that:
“Nationality is social feeling of a corporate sentiment of oneness. It is a feeling of consciousness of kind, like mindedness, possessing things in common in life of communication, participation and of sharing with all those who constitute one nation. In this sense nation is a society where there is an unlimited scope for ‘social endosmosis’ Nation is a democracy, a mode of associated living, of conjoined communicated experience.” (Ambedkar 1946)

Thus, the communication, participation and sharing with all those who constitute one nation is a key thing for nationhood.
The relevant message from Dr Ambedkar ideas is that, economic and social equality and above all fraternity is a necessary condition to make nation and Democracy strong and all inclusive. Fraternity and brotherhood makes this possible. The lack of equality in social and economic life and of fraternity in our social relations undermine the efforts towards strengthening Democracy and the Nation. With the persistence of economic and social inequalities and lack of fraternity, we remain as a Nation in the making. We remain a Democracy in the making.

There is lot to draw from Dr Ambedkar’s idea and suggestions for making India Democracy strong and more resilient, India as nation more inclusive and of course lessons for empowerment for the scheduled caste. Reforming the Nation’s Agenda around Dr Ambedkar’s Ideas would make India more socially inclusive, and just.

(The author is Professor Emeritus, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi,Distinguish Professor, Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune. (Maharashtra)Chairman, K.R. Narayanan Chair in Human Right and Social Justice, Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam (Kerala)