Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956), or Babasaheb Ambedkar, was a scholar, social reformer, powerful advocate of the rights of Dalits and women, chairman of the Constituent Assembly of India, and the country’s first law minister.
- ‘Castes of India’ and ‘Annihilation of Caste’. ‘Castes of India’ is a paper presented by Dr. Ambedkar in 1916 at a seminar at Columbia University, New York. In it, he attempts to theorise caste by investigating its genesis, mechanisms and spread in India. He argues that the origin of caste lay primarily in the superimposition of endogamy on an otherwise exogamous and heterogenous population bound together by ‘a unity of culture’.
- Titled ‘Thoughts on Linguistic States’, the essay argues for the formation of unilingual states over multi-lingual ones. Dr. Ambedkar says that the Commission, by following the principle of ‘one state one language’ over ‘one language one state’, put in jeopardy attempts to unify India; in his view, the ‘one state one language’ principle could solve racial and cultural conflicts among various communities. He also says that smaller states can be administered more efficiently, satisfy people’s cultural and linguistic sentiments, and minimise the danger of majority rule. And he recommends the creation of a second capital in the south (Hyderabad) in order to reduce political polarisation between the north and the south.
- a speech titled ‘Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah’ from 1943, on the 101st birth anniversary of Justice Mahadeo Govind Ranade, delivered at the Deccan Sabha of Poona. Dr. Ambedkar discusses Justice Ranade’s views in detail and his struggle to make Hindu society more democratic. He compares Ranade with Gandhi and Jinnah, and presents a scathing critique of the latter two– “the idols and heroes of the hour.” He regrets that ‘hero worship’ has become a fact of Indian political life and reminds his audience that Ranade was never considered a hero despite his important work.
- Communal Deadlock and a Way to Solve It’, an address at the annual session of the All India Scheduled Castes Federation in 1945. In this address, Dr. Ambedkar puts forth a ‘constructive proposal’ on behalf of the Schedules Castes for the future Constitution of India. He sets out a plan for a ‘United India’ (not a partitioned one) that would ensure checks and balances to safeguard the interests of all minorities. Dr. Ambedkar also says that he is wholly opposed to setting up the Constituent Assembly before the communal problem is solved, and that since the majority in India is a communal (and ‘relative’) majority and not a political majority, majority rule is untenable in theory and unjustifiable in practice.
- a paper titled ‘Small Holdings in India and Their Remedies’, which was part of Dr. Ambedkar’s doctoral thesis in Economics at Columbia University, New York. It discusses one of many problems of the agricultural economy: the size of holdings and how it affects productivity. Land holdings in India, he writes, are not only small but also scattered; this is a practical problem that raises two questions – how to consolidate existing holdings and how to ‘perpetuate’ the consolidated holding (because heirs often want their share of the holding rather than distributing ‘complete holdings’ amongst themselves.)