Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (Vol. 2): Writings and Speeches from the Bombay Legislature, Simon Commission and Round Table Conferences
Dr. Bhimrao 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.
In 1976, the government of Maharashtra set up an advisory committee to compile Dr. Ambedkar’s writings and thoughts. The Committee consisted of the state’s then education minister and noted scholars and writers. In 1978, when Vasant Moon (Dalit activist, author and Officer on Special Duty) joined the Committee, it decided to procure and publish Dr. Ambedkar’s unpublished writings too.
The state’s Education Department started to publish a 22-volume series titled Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches in 1979, and it brought out this second volume in 1982. The series was re-printed by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in January 2014.
The second volume in this set has three parts. Part I contains Dr. Ambedkar’s speeches in the Bombay Legislature (1927-1939); Part II has his reports for and statements before the Simon Commission (also known as the Indian Statutory Commission; 1927-1929); and Part III is his speeches at the First and Second Round Table Conferences (1930-1933).
In the 12 years between 1927 and 1939, Dr. Ambedkar was deeply engaged with questions about the nature of democracy,and the representation and treatment of minorities, especially Dalits. He led the Mahad satyagraha (March and December 1927) and the movement for the right of Dalits to enter temples (1929). He was also involved in organising labour movements during this period. In the fortnightly Marathi bulletin called Bahishkrit Bharat started by him, he wrote on various social, political and religious subjects.
Part I: Dr. Ambedkar in the Bombay Legislature
In 1927 and 1932, Ambedkar was nominated to the Bombay Legislative Council and in 1937, he was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly. His speeches in this part cover a wide range of topics, including the Presidency’s budget and education, the amendment of the Bombay Hereditary Offices Act (1874), the abolition of the ‘khoti’ land tenure system (in the then Ratnagiri, Kolaba and Thana districts), the Bombay Police Act (1902), the Maternity Benefit Bill (1928), the independence of the judiciary, and India’s participation in World War II.
An appendix to this part includes a speech in favour of birth control made on Dr. Ambedkar’s behalf by P. J. Roham (Assembly member, Ahmednagar South).
In the Bill to abolish the khoti system, Dr. Ambedkar said that a direct relationship must be established between the government and those in possession of or occupying land. He also said that reasonable compensation must be given to the khot (landlord) for the loss of his rights and ‘inferior holders’ occupying the land must be given the status of occupants under the Land Revenue Code.
Ambedkar staunchly defended the Maternity Benefit Bill in the Bombay Legislative Assembly and said that the care of a woman during “pre-natal conditions” was in the larger interest of the nation.
Part II: Dr. Ambedkar with the Simon Commission (Indian Statutory Commission)
This part contains, among other portions, Ambedkar’s independent report on the changes in the Constitution of the Bombay Presidency. It includes his detailed analyses of the redistribution of the area of Bombay Presidency; a ‘dyarchy’ (a government consisting of British executive councillors and popularly elected Indian legislature members) or a unified government for the provinces; the functioning of the provincial executive and its responsibilities towards the people. Dr. Ambedkar also recommended that adult suffrage be extended to all males and females above the age of 21 as an alternative to communal electorates. And he argued for complete provincial autonomy from the central government and for an “Indianisation of the [public] services.”
In 1928, Ambedkar submitted two memoranda to the Commission on behalf of the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha, formed to place the grievances of the ‘untouchables’ before the government – these included the education of the ‘depressed classes’ and safeguards for the protection of their interests as a minority.
Part III: Dr. Ambedkar at the Round Table Conferences
This part contains Ambedkar’s speeches in the plenary sessions of the First Round Table Conference (November 1930-January 1931) in the Minorities Sub-Committee, where he argued for safeguarding the rights of ‘untouchables’ in the future Constitution of India, and in the sittings of the Franchise Sub-Committee (constituted in 1931) where he advocated for universal adult suffrage.
During the Second Round Table Conference (September-December 1931), Dr. Ambedkar crossed swords with Mahatma Gandhi on the question of the rights of untouchables. Ambedkar was also a member of the Joint Committee on Indian Constitutional Reform and he examined several witnesses on its behalf. The ‘evidence’ gathered from this examination is presented in this part.
by Mythili Chandrasekhar.
Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
First edition compiled and edited by Vasant Moon
Second edition edited by Hari Narke
The first edition was published by the Education Department, government of Maharashtra, in 1982. This is a 2014 reprint by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, Delhi, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.