Babasaheb Ambedkar’s Election speech delivered at Ludhiana, Punjab on 28th October 1951 in which he attacked Congress and raised important issues.
Dear brothers and sisters! This is the first time that I have visited Ludhiana to speak to our people. Many times before I proposed to visit this place but due to certain unavoidable circumstances, I could not do so. What an auspicious occasion it is, that you all have gathered here.
You know in two-three months elections are going to be held in which many parties are taking part. The Scheduled Castes Federation is also putting its candidates for the election. We will contest all the seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes in the State Assemblies and the Union Parliament and also some general seats where we have the sufficient number of votes. I hope that our candidates will be successful. Our candidates success depends mostly upon our own people. If all our people voted for our candidates, I am sure of our success, I would, therefore, urge that all the Scheduled Caste people should vote for the candidates put by the Scheduled Castes Federation, which is the only organization of the Scheduled Castes and other backward classes.
I want to tell you how the British people have deceived during the period of their rule over India. They were successful in establishing their Raj in Hindustan although they were hundreds of miles away. First of all, when the East India Company came to India its purpose was only to do business but by and by the Britishers became anxious to establish their Raj here. How were they able to achieve that objective? They had no army of their own in India. Nobody has so far been able to tell how the Britishers were able to subdue all the Rajas and Maharajas of India without an army of their own. I am now going to answer this question. The British people became the rulers of India with the help of the Scheduled Caste people, who were called the Untouchables; who were illiterate and with whom the treatment of the High Caste Hindus was very degrading. They had no means of livelihood and were always at the mercy of these High Caste people. Thus, they had no alternative but to join the British army and earn their livelihood. I do not want to impress upon you that what had happened was good but I want to emphasise something else. I want to point out that when the people whom we helped to establish their power inIndia have treated our people in such a way. Our people died in the army for the sake of these Britishers. But what they got in return? Who were benefited? In spite of the fact that the Scheduled Caste people helped the Britishers, Brahmanas and other High Caste people derived full benefit out of it. The Britishers educated their children and gave all financial assistance to them whereas our people were not paid any attention. This resulted in the well- being of these High Castes at the expense of the poor Scheduled Castes who remained as before. This is the reason why up till now there are no well –to-do Scheduled Caste families; why their children are not educated and why they are generally backward. Consequently, the important posts in the Army, Police and other Department of Administration are in the hands of these High Caste people at present. The British people should have done something for the betterment of our people but they did not do anything for us. In 1857 when there was meeting, what were the cause of that? Because the Britishers failed to do anything for our people, our people in the army had to revolt against them. When the meeting was subdued, and it was found that our people in the army had revolted against the Britishers, they stopped recruiting our people in the army any further. Instead, Hindus and Rajputs were recruited in the army. Thus the main source of income of our people was lost. In 1947 when the British people left India, our conditions remained the same as were before they came to India. At the time of transfer of power to Indians, Britishers handed over all power to the High Caste people. We did not get anything. We were left at the mercy these brutes.
From this you can well understand the way in which other people treated the Scheduled Castes. This is the reason we have remained so backward up-to-now. I want to ask now one question from you, whether you still want to remain backward and work as slaves in the hands of these high caste people? When the Aryans came over to India, Varna system came into force. People were given the ranks in the society according to their birth. Some were called Brahmanas, some Kshatrias, some Vaishyas, some Shudras and other Untouchables. According to this categorization, the Untouchables were the lowest of all and were totally disconnected from the society. The relation between a Caste Hindu and an Untouchable is that of a foot and shoes. When we enter our house we leave our shoes outside. The same way, Acchuts are kept our of the society and are not given any rights whatsoever. We have borne this treatment at the hands of Caste Hindus for centuries and are still suffering socially, economically and politically.
After struggling for many years, we have achieved certain political rights which have been incorporated in the Indian Constitution itself. For twenty long years, I fought against Mr Gandhi. He was against the idea of giving us any separate rights. His argument was that if the Untouchables are given separate rights, then they will never be able to come to Hindu fold. They will remain out, off from the Hindus forever. At the Round Table Conference also Mr Gandhi opposed our demand for separate electorates. After so many years of struggle, we have secured some political powers. Now we can send our own representatives to the State Assemblies and the Union Parliament against the seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes.
There are many parties which are anxious to snatch away these rights. They are anxious to get our votes and send their own henchmen to the seats reserved for our people. You can very well understand their motives. They want that the Scheduled Castes should remain where they are and should not come into power so that the menial jobs which our people are performing should not suffer. So you will have to be careful about your votes in the coming elections. You should see that only our true representatives are elected with our votes and none else. Only then your rights which have been incorporated in the constitution can be safeguarded.
If our true representatives are not elected to the State Assemblies and the Union Parliament, then we cannot enjoy freedom. Independence will be a farce for our people. This will be independence of the High Caste people and not ours. But if our true representatives are in Parliament and State Assemblies, they can fight for our cause and get grievances redressed. Only then our children can get proper education; only then our poverty can be removed and only then we will be given equal share in all spheres of life. Although special privileges have been provided for the Scheduled Castes people in the Indian Constitution the other parties, specially the Congress, are unnecessarily interfering with them. They are putting up their own henchmen for election to the seats reserved for Scheduled Castes. How can the people elected on Congress tickets safeguard our interests when they will have to go according to the wishes of their master? What they can do for us
I want to tell you about the people who were elected the parliament on Congress tickets to the seats reserved for the Scheduled Castes. They were about 30 in number and were in the Parliament for the last four years. Not a single member out of the thirty raised any question in the Parliament about the grievances of the Scheduled Castes. Even if a question was put in Parliament, the Speaker did not allow it and the matter ended there. If the Speaker was generous and had allowed the question and it was included in the business, then the Chief Whip of the Congress would go to the member concerned and ask him to withdraw the question before it is printed. Per chance, if the question had been printed, then the Chief Whip would ask the member concerned to leave the Station for the day when the answer is required and thus there would be no discussion at all in the Parliament on the matter raised as the Member himself would not be there. For the month there is discussion on the Budget in Parliament. At that time any person can speak on the Budget and point out that such and such privileges should be provided for his community or his party. He can point out that so much money is being spent on unnecessary projects whereas the important proposals have been neglected. During these four years, I have not seen a single Member moving any Cut Motion. This is all due to Congress Party’s discipline (Dunda). If the members wanted to move a Resolution, they had to obtain the permission of the Chief Whip long before it was actually moved . Neither of these Members put up any Bill during these four years. How can the Untouchables, Indian Christians, Anglo Indians, etc. avail of the privileges provided for them in the Constitution, if the seats reserved for them are occupied by their enemies through the Congress ticket?
I want to make the point clear that if you voted for the Congress, you will have to suffer forever. Our representatives on Congress tickets will keep silent in the State Assemblies and the Parliament. Our interests can be safeguarded only if our true representatives are elected on Federation’s ticket which is the only organization of the Scheduled Castes. Has there been any possibility of getting our grievances redressed in the Congress, I would not have left the Organization. I know that Congress has sufficient money and will try to buy the votes with that. But you should be careful about it. If I wanted I could remain in the Congress for ever and definitely have got a good place there. But I would have done that only if I had selfish motives and not any regard for my community. I would have remained there, if I was in need of any license or permit for myself. The man seeking license and permits can do so at the expense of his community. He will do anything for his own self and nothing for his community. This is the experience I have gained during the period I remained in the Congress Government.
The English people could do for the welfare of our community during their stay in India, had they wished so; but they also deceived us. That time has passed now and another phase has come into being. If at this time also we are not careful and kept our eyes closed, then we will be ruined. If you want that your coming generations should not suffer as you are suffering now, then you should do something for that now. When you plant a tree, you get the fruit after some time. I want to impress upon you that the reservation of seats in the Assemblies and the Parliament is only for 10 years. Although I wanted it till untouchability was prevalent in India, our own people who became Members of the Parliament on Congress tickets opposed me not to speak of Members belonging to High Castes. So thinking that something is better than nothing. I agreed that reservation may be for 10 years and secured something for our people. The reservation is only two elections and only upto that time, the interested parties like the Congress will come to you and request for votes. And this way, this period of 10 years will pass away and there will be no body to ask for extension of this period. I want to ask you, what will you do then? Will these Congress people come to you then and request you to stand on their tickets? Certainly not. They are not such fools. They want to befool you people. These Congressmen will not even spit on the face of these people who are seeking Congress tickets to-day. So you should all ponder over this problem and then decide to which candidate you have to vote.
Every party must have either power or money. Our community has neither any money nor any power. We are living in the villages in small numbers at the mercy of these High Caste people. Baniyas and Marwaris, etc. are also not powerful but they have got money. With money they can buy anything. So this is the opportunity for you to do something for yourselves. If you are united, you can send your representatives to the Assemblies and Parliament for the safeguarding of your interests; otherwise you will be ruined. So you must unite under the banner of the Scheduled Castes Federation to pull your community out of chaos. Every Achhut should help the Federation in electing their true representatives. Many parties will come to you and ask for votes but do not be misled by them.
A few days back, Pandit Nehru came here. It was reported that two three lakhs of people gathered to hear him. I do not know how many people were there Yesterday when I visited Jullundur . Over two lakhs of people gathered there but the pressmen published that thirty thousand people had gathered there. What I want to tell you is that if there is any conference of the Congress, than even if the audience is very thin, they will publish that large gathering witnessed the Conference. For five they will say fifty, for fifty they will say five hundred, for five hundred they will say five thousand and for five thousand they will report five lakhs. I do not mind this criticism of the pressmen. They all have criticized me for so many years but in spite of that I have progressed physically as well as mentally. I do not want to witness large gatherings. What I want is that our people should organize themselves to fight against the atrocities of these Caste Hindus. I want that our people should hear me. Whether they gather in small numbers or large numbers, is immaterial.
Every political party has put forward its Manifesto, Every party promises that if it comes into power it will do this and that. Scheduled Castes Federation has also published a manifesto. The Congress also has published a very voluminous Manifesto but when they came to understand that, ordinary people would not follow it, they amended it and compressed into a small one. I hope by and by their Manifesto will become smaller and smaller and a day will come when there will be no Manifesto of the Congress. I want to tell you what should be in the Manifesto and what should not be. I challenge all the political parties to constitute a Committee to find out which Manifesto is the best and I have no doubt in mind that our Manifesto will be the best of all. All the parties have promised many things in their Manifesto to the people. To promised many things in their Manifesto to the people. To promise is easy but it is difficult to put it into practice. If you promise one thing you can promise one hundred. Manifesto should not be a list of promises only. It should deal with the problems. Is there anything of that sort in the Manifesto of the Congress? The only thing impressed in the Congress Manifesto is the Muslim problem. According to it, there is no other problem facing the country. Can anybody agree to this? Of course, Muslim problem was there when India was united and when there was no Pakistan. But then too, this was not the only problem. The Muslims have migrated to Pakistan, the only Hindus, Sikhs and other minorities are in India. Do you think that India isnow facing Muslim problem? Do you agree that nothing should be done for the Depressed Classes, who are ten times poorer and backward thanthe Muslims? There are Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Criminal Tribes, which need the best attention of the Government. But the Congressmen say that people should not be communal minded and should not demand some special privileges for these backward classes. The other problem is that of poverty in India. People in India are very poor so much so that 90 per cent people do not get proper meals. They do not get sufficient clothes. They do not have any shelter. Food-stuffs worth crores of rupees are being imported every year. If we have to import even food-stuffs from outside and spend so much, how we will be able to pull on? But all these things have no place in the minds of Congressmen. They have only one problem to solve and that is Muslim problem.
I want to inform you that we are putting up candidates for the coming elections through the Scheduled Castes Federation. The Scheduled Castes Federation is for all backward classes. Every backward class will be given representation. Nobody should be afraid of it. Chamars and Bhangies are all equal. We should be united and nobody should think himself separate from the other. I want to reqest all men and women that they should leave asise everything on the day of polling and go to the polling booths and cast their votes. Already our votes are not sufficient and if the voters do not cast their votes on that day, it would not be good for us. We will be unrepresented. The day of polling is the day of life and death for the Scheduled Castes.
Every political party which is taking part in the coming elections has b een allotted a Party Symbol. Our Federation’s symbol is Elephant’. I have selected this so that there may not be any confusion in the minds of our people. Some parties selected oxen, horses, donkeys as their symbols. But for distinction I have selected ‘Elephant’.
This time we will not have the cumulative system of voting so that we may cast all our votes to a single candidate of our choice. But we have distributive system and will have to distribute our votes among different candidates. In a constitutency where a seat has been reserved for Scheduled Castes, people will have two votes, one for general seat and the other for the reserved seat. We cannot cast both of our votes to our candidate who is standing for the reserved seat. We cannot cast in his favour only one vote and the other vote must be given to the other candidate standing on general seat. So we shall have to join some party which will give their second vote to our candidate and get our second vote in return. We have not decided as yet which party we will join hands with. Many parties have approached us for alliance but nothing has yet been finalized. Negotiations are going on. We have to think many times before we join hands with any party. But join we must with some party or the other.
In the end Iwant to tell you that thousands of people come to Delhi from Punjab and U.P. and other distant places to put their grievances before me. Some complain that they have been beaten by the Zamindars and when they approached the authorities concerned, decisions were taken against them as the people in power also belong to high castes. So there are so many complaints that it is not possible for me to cope with these single handed. Many people returned to their homes disappointed. So I have decided to construct a building in Delhi and to keep a pleader there who will scrutinize our people’s complaints and advise them in the matter. We have already purchased a piece of land in New Delhi for that purpose and on that site we want to construct a building which shall be the Head Offce of the Federation. People from outside will be entertained there and their grievances heard. We do not have sufficient funds for the construction of this building, although it is absolutely essential. So I request that you all should contribute something according to your means. In this way we shall be able to achieve our purpose. Bawa Tula Dass will tour the whole Punjab for the collection of Building Fund. I once again request you to contribute liberally for this noble cause.