E. Napp Date: Quotes to Start the Conversation


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Gandhi, Ambedkar, and Dalits and India

World History Name: _________________

E. Napp Date: _________________
Quotes to Start the Conversation:
But I tell you that the Congress is not sincere about its professions. Had it been sincere, it would have surely made the removal of untouchability a condition, like the wearing of khaddar (homespun cotton cloth made in India by Indians – symbol of protest against British imperialism), for becoming a member of the Congress.” ~ Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
To say that a single human being, because of his birth, becomes an untouchable, unapproachable, or invisible, is to deny God.” ~ Mohandas K. Gandhi
Gandhi is the greatest enemy the untouchables have ever had in India.” ~ Dr. B.R. Ambedkar
Conclusions Thus Far:

Quick List: Biographical Facts

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar:

  • Raised as an untouchable

  • Received Masters and Ph.D. from Columbia University

  • Campaigned against varnas or caste system and untouchability

  • Helped write Indian Constitution at independence

  • Converted to Buddhism

  • Often clashed with Mohandas K. Gandhi over untouchability

  • Wanted to remove dalits or untouchables out of the Hindu community

Mohandas K. Gandhi:

  • Nonviolent leader of India’s independence movement

  • Encouraged boycotts and civil disobedience

  • Called untouchables “harijan” or children of God

  • Accepted caste system but wanted to eliminate untouchability

  • Wanted to save Hinduism by removing untouchability

India’s Dalits Still Fighting Untouchability:

As the glass flew across the room and straight into the wall, a dozen or so men stopped drinking their tea.

Dr Vinod Sonkar threw money on the counter – enough for the tea he drank and the glass he had smashed – and walked out.
Dr Sonkar's soft voice turns angry as he describes the scene.
For years, he says, he worked hard to leave behind his childhood of poverty, abuse at school and teasing at university.
By the time he had walked into the Rajasthan teashop, he had turned his life into a success story.
He had a PhD in law and a teaching position at a Delhi university.
Yet, as the shop owner handed him his tea, he asked him what caste he belonged to.
I am a Dalit,” Dr Sonkar said.
In that case, wash your glass when you are done,” the shop owner said.
He didn't want to touch whatever I had touched. I made it impure. I am an untouchable,” says Dr Sonkar.
India is well known for its caste system, but not many associate the world's biggest democracy with what Dr Sonkar, and many other Dalits, call an apartheid-style state.
Unfortunately the Indian government, made up of the upper castes, has successfully convinced the international community that caste discrimination is an internal, cultural issue. But the truth is, it affects the very way this country is run,” Dr Sonkar says.

Dr Sonkar, who in his thesis compared affirmative actions in India with those of post-apartheid South Africa and the United States, argues that in India despite all legal provisions, 15% of the population is still kept on the very margins of society because of untouchability.

India's constitution banned the practice of untouchability – in which members of India's higher castes will not touch anything that has come in physical contact with the Dalits, the lowest caste.
There are now laws protecting Dalits and affirmative action programmes. And Dalits have worked hard to increase their political power – several states have even elected Dalit chief ministers.
But, only a very few manage to break out of the cycle of poverty and caste that they are born into.
Untouchability helps to lock Dalits, who traditionally do the dirtiest manual jobs, in their occupations.
Even if a Dalit scavenger can afford to buy a cow and sell milk or open a shop, for example, upper caste customers are unlikely to buy any of the produce.”

What are the main points of the passage?


March 21, 2012, Reconciling Gandhi with Ambedkar; By Sarah Khan, New York Times
Mohandas K. Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar were the men of the hour at Columbia University on Tuesday evening.
An audience of hundreds packed the rotunda of the historic Low Library for the lecture, “Reconciling Gandhi with Ambedkar,” hosted by the Columbia Law School Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Chair in Constitutional Law. Jagdish Bhagwati, a Columbia professor and leading Indian economist, introduced historian Ramachandra Guha of the London School of Economics, who went on to detail a complicated yet complementary relationship between two of India’s dynamic founding fathers.

According to Professor Guha, while both Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Ambedkar fought against the caste system – a form of human taxonomy Professor Guha deemed “the most sophisticated, subtle, and diabolical form of social exclusion and discrimination invented by human beings” – their approaches were vastly different.

Mr. Gandhi, an upper-caste member of the elite, challenged the caste system from above, in its highest echelons, as Mr. Ambedkar, the 14th child of a Dalit sepoy in the Indian Army, challenged it from below.
And while Mr. Gandhi’s views on caste evolved slowly over the years, he remained deeply spiritual and sought social change within Hinduism. Mr. Ambedkar, on the other hand, favored using the state as an instrument for establishing forward-thinking social policies. Though he was born a Hindu, he often swore he wouldn’t die one, and, true to his word, he converted to Buddhism along with 200,000 of his followers weeks before his death in 1956.

What are the main points of the passage?

The results of their differing perspectives, according to Professor Guha? “We’ve made more progress in the last 60 years than in the last 5,000 years.”
Professor Guha said that Mr. Ambedkar’s selection as an architect of the Constitution was truly ahead of its time: “that a person who, under traditional Hindu law was not allowed into someone’s home, was now writing the Constitution, was as radical a step as Barack Obama becoming president of the United States 60 years later.”

This was just one of the comparisons Professor Guha drew to the United States, whose spirit of egalitarianism he lauded on more than one occasion. But most importantly, he said, all Indians should be inspired by visionaries like Mr. Ambedkar, just as “to admire Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., or Rosa Parks, you don’t have to be a Republican or Democrat, you just have to be American.”

It’s fitting that the government of India endowed Columbia University with a chair devoted to Mr. Ambedkar, since he had obtained masters and doctoral degrees from the institution. “Reconciling Gandhi with Ambedkar” was the first of a three-part lecture series being led by Professor Guha this week. “Sport and the Nation: Interpreting Indian History through the Lens of Cricket,” will be held on Wednesday, followed by “The Past and Future of Indian Democracy” on Thursday.
But while he will go on to explore many facets of Indian society through his lectures this week, on Tuesday night Professor Guha’s focus was two men who may not have seen eye to eye, but whose contributions to modern India were invaluable.
They should both be heroes,” he said. “Why must we diminish one figure to praise another? India today needs Gandhi and Ambedkar both.”

What are the main points of the passage?

A Political Cartoon Controversy:

A 60-year-old cartoon on BR Ambedkar in a government schoolbook rocked Parliament on Friday, forcing HRD minister Kapil Sibal to apologise to the nation and order the removal of the ‘objectionable’ caricature.

National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) textbook advisers Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar resigned in protest following the row.

The cartoon, sketched in the 1950s by celebrated cartoonist Keshav Shankar Pillai, popularly known as Shankar, depicts Jawaharlal Nehru with a whip in his hand chasing Ambedkar, seated on a snail, urging him to speed up work on the Constitution.

As a fallout of the controversy, activists of a little known outfit, Republican Panther of India, on Saturday ransacked the office of Professor Palshikar.
This is not the first time that the country has reacted strongly on matters involving national icons.” ~ Hindustan Times; May 11, 2012

From the Textbook:

Cartoonist’s impression of the ‘snail’s pace’ with which the Constitution was made: The Constitution took almost three years. Is the Cartoonist commenting on this fact? Why do you think the Constituent Assembly took so long to make the Constitution?”

Reflections on Criticism of National Icons:


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