A few days back, in the Dharma Sansad at Udupi, Sri Pejawara Swamiji asked for changes to the Constitution to ensure the majority community got the same constitutional benefits as the minority.
Swamiji’s intention was in highlighting the lack of equal rights in running educational institutions vide Article 30(1). However, some organizations and media outlets misinterpreted it and accused Swamiji of asking for removal of Dalit rights.
Today, Sri Swamiji has issued a clarification and pointed out how his demand actually gives even Dalit educational institutions more freedom and rights than what is available today.
If we refer to some historical documents, it becomes extremely clear that Dr B R Ambedkar actually wanted Dalits to be very much counted under the “minorities” umbrella with respect to *ALL* constitutional rights. Therefore, the current interpretation of Article 30(1) due to which Dalits are denied the benefits of running educational institutions needs to be corrected.
In other words, if the demands of Sri Pejawara Swamiji are accepted, the original intention of Dr B R Ambedkar will actually be honored.
Interpretation of Article 30(1)
Right from the ‘re Kerala Education Bill’ case, the honorable Courts of India have interpreted Article 30(1) as being applicable to only non-Hindu communities. In an earlier article, it has been highlighted how the makers of our Constitution always intended for the provision to be applicable to communities qualifying as “cultural minorities” also. In the Constituent Assembly debates also, Dr B R Ambedkar had argued that the word “minority” in the relevant provisions must NOT be narrowly interpreted.
Dr B R Ambedkar’s views of minority rights vs Dalit rights.
In an earlier article, it has been pointed out how, during the Second Round Table Conference of 1931–32, Dr B R Ambedkar had represented the Dalits in the “Minorities Committee” that framed the initial draft of the minority rights that eventually found their way as Articles 29 and 30 in our Constitution. It is quite clear therefore that Dr Ambedkar always wanted minority rights protection under political categories to be applicable to Dalits as well.
However the question right now is — Did Dr Ambedkar want ALL minority rights to be applicable to Dalits as well. If the answer is YES then we can conclude safely that educational rights under Article 30 were also meant to be applicable to Dalits.
In the year 1947, Dr Ambedkar published a memorandum titled “STATES AND MINORITIES — What are Their Rights and How to Secure Them in the Constitution of Free India”
This was a memorandum submitted to the Constituent Assembly on behalf of the All India Scheduled Castes Federation.
In the preface of that memorandum, Dr Ambedkar explains in detail his stance on where Dalits stand vis-a-vis minorities and what rights he envisages for them. Instead of paraphrasing what he said, I reproduce below the exact statements as-is.
“I interpret it to mean that the Scheduled Castes are more than a minority and that any protection given to the citizens and to the minorities will not be adequate for the Scheduled Castes”
“The other interpretation is that the Scheduled Castes differ from a minority and therefore they are not entitled to the protection which can be claimed by a minority. This interpretation appears to be such unmitigated nonsense that no sane man need pay any attention to it”
“…I am justified in demanding for the Scheduled Castes, all the benefit of the Fundamental Rights of citizens, all the benefit of the Provisions for the Protection of the minorities and in addition special Safeguards”
Dr Ambedkar then went on, in the same memorandum, to detail out the various rights required, in the form of Articles of the proposed Constitution.
It is crystal clear, from the above, that every single right meant for “minorities” was always meant to be available to Dalits as well.
It is also clear that, currently, rights under Article 30 are NOT available to Dalits.
Therefore, if what Sri Pejawara Swamiji is demanding is granted, it will only restore those rights to Dalits — which Dr B R Ambedkar had always envisioned for them.
The only thing realisation of Swamiji’s demands will end up achieving is paying more respect to the intentions of Dr Ambedkar, and certainly not disrespecting him in any way.