ADDRESS DELIVERED ON THE 101ST BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION OF MAHADEV GOVIND RANADE HELD ON THE 18TH JANUARY 1943 IN THE GOKHALE MEMORIAL HALL, POONA By Babasaheb Dr. B. R. AMBEDKAR
P R E F A C E
The Deccan Sabha of Poona invited me to deliver an address on the 101st birthday of the late Justice Mahadev Govind Ranade which it proposed to celebrate and which fell on the 18th January 1940. I was not very willing to accept the invitation. For I knew that my views on social and political problems, a discussion of which could not be avoided in a discourse on Ranade, would not very pleasing to the audience and even perhaps to the members of the Deccan Sabha. In the end I accepted their invitation. At the time when I delivered the Address I had no intention of publishing it. Addresses delivered on anniversaries of Great Men are generally occasional pieces. They do not have much permanent value. I did not think that my address was an exception to this. But I have some troublesome friends who have been keen on seeing the whole of it in print and have been insisting upon it. I am indifferent to the idea. I am quite content with the publicity it has receiver and I have no desire to seek more. At the same time if there are people who think that it is worthy of being rescued from falling into oblivion, I do not see any reason for disappointing them.
The address as printed differs from the address as delivered in two respects. Section X of the address was omitted from the address as delivered to prevent the performance going beyond [a] reasonable time. Even without it, it took one hour and a half to deliver the address. This is one difference. The other difference lies in the omission of a large portion of Section VIII which was devoted to a comparison of Ranade with Phule. For this omission there are two reasons. In the first place, the comparison was not sufficiently full and detailed to do justice to the two men; in the second place, when the difficulties of finding enough paper compelled me to sacrifice some portion of the address, this appeared to be best offering.
The publication of the address is taking place under peculiar circumstances. Ordinarily reviews follow publication. In this case the situation is reversed. What is worse is that the reviews have condemned the address in scathing terms. This is a matter primarily for the publishers to worry about. I am happy that the publisher knows the risk and he takes it. Nothing more need be said about it except that it supports the view taken by my friends that the address contains matter which is of more than ephemeral value. As for myself I am not in the least perturbed by the condemnation of this address by the Press. What is the ground for its condemnation? And who has come forward to condemn it?
I am condemned because I criticized Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah for the mess they have made of Indian politics, and that in doing so I am alleged to have shown towards them hatred and disrespect. In reply to this charge what I have to say is that I have been a critic and I must continue to be such. It may be I am making mistakes, but I have always felt that it is better to make mistakes than to accept guidance and direction from others or to sit silent and allow things to deteriorate. Those who have accused me of having been actuated by feelings of hatred forget two things. In the first place this alleged hatred is not born of anything that can be called personal. If I am against them, it is because I want a settlement. I want a settlement of some sort, and I am not prepared to wait for an ideal settlement. Nor can I tolerate [for] anyone on whose will and consent settlement depends, to stand on [his] dignity and play the Grand Moghul. In the second place, no one can hope to make any effective mark upon his time, and bring the aid that is worth bringing to great principles and struggling causes, if he is not strong in his love and his hatred. I hate injustice, tyranny, pompousness and humbug, and my hatred embraces all those who are guilty of them. I want to tell my critics that I regard my feelings of hatred as a real force. They are only the reflex of the love I bear for the causes I believe in, and I am in no wise ashamed of it. For these reasons I tender no apology for my criticism of Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah, the two men who have brought India’s political progress to a standstill.
The condemnation is by the Congress Press. I know the Congress Press well. I attach no value to its criticism. It has never refuted my arguments. It knows only [how] to criticise, rebuke and revile me for everything I do; and to misreport, misrepresent and pervert everything I say. Nothing that I do pleases the Congress Press. This animosity of the Congress Press towards me can to my mind, not unfairly, be explained as a reflex of the hatred of the Hindus for the Untouchables. That their animosity has become personal is clear from the fact that the Congress Press feels offended for my having criticised Mr. Jinnah, who has been the butt and the target of the Congress for the last several years.
However strong and however filthy be the abuses which the Congress Press chooses to shower on me, I must do my duty. I am no worshipper of idols. I believe in breaking them. I insist that if I hate Mr. Gandhi and Mr. Jinnah—I dislike them, I do not hate them—it is because I love India more. That is the true faith of a nationalist. I have hopes that my countrymen will some day learn that the country is greater than the men, that the worship of Mr. Gandhi or Mr. Jinnah and service to India are two very different things and may even be contradictory of each other.
15th March 1943
22, Prithvi Raj Road
I must tell you that I am not very happy over this invitation. My fear is that I may not be able to do justice to the occasion. When a year ago the Centenary of Ranade’s Birthday was celebrated in Bombay the Rt. Hon’ble Srinivas Shastri was chosen to speak. For very many reasons he was well qualified for performing the duty. He can claim to be a contemporary of Ranade for a part of his life. He had seen him at close range and was an eye witness of the work to which Ranade devoted his life. He had opportunity lo judge him and compare him with his co-workers. He could therefore expound his views about Ranade with a sense of confidence and. with intimacy born out of personal touch. He could cite an anecdote and illuminate the figure of Ranade before his audience.
None of these qualifications are available to me. My connection with Ranade is of the thinnest. I had not even seen him. There are only two incidents about Ranade which I can recall. First relates to his death. I was a student in the first standard in the Satara High School. On the 16th January 1901 the High School was closed and we boys had a holiday. We asked why it was closed and we were told that because Ranade was dead. I was then about 9 years old. I knew nothing about Ranade, who he was, what he had done; like other boys I was happy over the holiday and did not care to know who died.
The second incident which reminds me of Ranade is dated much later than the first. Once I was examining some bundles of old papers belonging to my father when I found in them a paper which purported to be a petition sent by the Commissioned and non-Commissioned officers of the Mahar Community to the Government of India against the orders issued in 1892 banning the recruitment of the Mahars in the Army. On inquiry I was told that this was a copy of a petition which was drafted by Ranade to help the aggrieved Mahars to obtain redress.
Beyond these two incidents I have nothing to recall of Ranade. My knowledge about him is wholly impersonal. It is derived from what I have read about his work and what others have said about him. You must not expect me to say anything of a personal character which will either interest you or instruct you. I propose to say what I think of him as a public man in his days and his place in Indian Politics today.