Political demands of Scheduled Castes – Separate Electorates

Speech delivered by Ambedkar to the Bombay Presidency Mahar Conference, 31st May 1936, Bombay.
Translated from the Marathi by Vasant W. Moon

Dr B R Ambedkar in 1951A second doubt is about political rights. Some people express fear as to what will happen to our political safeguards if we convert…

But I feel, it is not proper to depend solely on political rights. These political safeguards are not granted on the condition that they shall be ever lasting. They are bound to cease sometime. According to the communal Award of the British Government, our political safeguards were limited for 20 years. Although no such limitation has been fixed by the Poona Pact, nobody can say that they are everlasting. Those, who depend upon the political safeguards, must think as to what will happen after these safeguards are withdrawn on the day on which our rights cease to exist. We will have to depend on our social strength. I have already told you that this social strength is wanting in us. So also I have proved in the beginning that this strength cannot be achieved without conversion…

Resolutions passed by the Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation held in Madras on the 23rd September 1944 under the President-ship of Rao Bahadur N .Shiva Raj, B.A., B.L., M.L.A., outlining the safeguards for the
Untouchables in the new Constitution.

SUBJECT :—Electorates.
The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation is of opinion that the experience of the last elections held under the Government of India Act has proved that the system of joint electorates has deprived the Scheduled Castes of the right to send true and effective representatives to the Legislatures and has given the Hindu Majority the virtual right to nominate members of the Scheduled Castes who are prepared to be the tools of the Hindu Majority. The Working Committee of the Federation therefore demands that the system of joint electorates and reserved seats should be abolished and the system of separate electorates be introduced in place thereof.


The caste is a nation but the rule of one caste over another may not be admitted to be the same as the rule of one nation over another. But supposing the case is not carried so far but is limited to majority and minority even then the question remains.

What right has the majority to rule the minority?
The answer is that whatever the majority does it is right. What complain the minorities can have ? People who rely upon majority rule forget the fact that majorities are of two sorts :(1) Communal majority and (2) Political majority.A political majority is changeable in its class composition. A political majority grows. A communal majority is born. The admission to a political majority is open. The door to a communal majority is closed. The politics of a political majority are free to all to make and unmake. The politics of a communal majority are made by its own members born in it.

How can a communal majority run away with the title deeds given to a political majority to rule ? To give such title deeds to a communal majority is to establish a hereditary Government and make the way open to the tyranny of that majority. This tyranny of the communal majority is not an idle dream. It is an experience of many minorities. This experience to Maharashtrian Brahmins being every recent it is unnecessary to dilate upon it.What is the remedy ? No doubt some safeguards against this communal tyranny are essential. The question is: What can they be ? The first safeguard is not to have too large a State. The consequences of too large a State on the minority living within it are not understood by many. The larger the State the smaller the proportion of the minority to the majority. To give one illustration—If Maha-vidarbha remained separate, the proportion of Hindus to Muslims would be four to one. In the United Maharashtra the proportion will be fourteen to one. The same would be the case of the Untouchables. A small stone of a consolidated majority placed on the chest of the minority may be borne. But the weight of a huge mountain it cannot bear. It will crush the minorities. Therefore creation of smaller States is a safeguard to the minorities.
The second safeguard is some provision for representation in the Legislature. The old type of remedy provided in the Constitution were (1) certain number of reserved seats and (2) separate electorates. Both these safeguards have been given up in the new Constitution. The lambs are shorn of the wool. They are feeling the intensity of the cold. Some tempering of the wool is necessary.Separate electorates or reservation of scats must not be restored to. It would be enough to have plural member constituencies (of two or three) with cumulative voting in place of the system of single-member constituency embodied in the present Constitution. This will allay the fears which the minorities have about Linguistic States.

The Working committee of the Scheduled Castes Federation under its president Dr.Ambedkar expressed itself by a resolution,on August 27,1955,in favour of abolition of reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes in the Central and State Legislatures and District Local Boards throughout the country.as it belived that the time had come for its abolition, and there was no need now for such a provision.

– Dr. Ambedkar : Life and Mission- Dhananjay Keer Page 488

பட்டியல் ஜாதிகள் கூட்டமைப்பின் செயற்குழு அதன் தலைவர் Dr.அம்பேத்கரின் கீழ் ஆகஸ்ட் 27,1955 அன்று ஒரு தீர்மானத்தை நிறைவேற்றியது. அத்தீர்மானம் மத்திய, மாநில சபைகள், மாவட்ட பொது வாரியங்கள் ஆகியவற்றில் பட்டியல் ஜாதியினருக்கு நாடு முழுவதும் வழங்கப்படும் இட ஒதுக்கீட்டை நீக்க தக்க தருணம் வந்து விட்டதால் இனிமேலும் அப்பிரிவைத் தொடர வேண்டியதில்லை எனத் தீர்மானம் இயற்றியது. – தனஞ்செய் கீர்

prakash-ambedkar-b4“Babasaheb (Ambedkar) himself in his lifetime suggested reservation in politics should be done away with in the coming elections.”

Time to end quota in Parliament, assemblies: Prakash Ambedkar , Indian Express Mumbai, Sun Jan 06 2013

Shubhangi Khapre: Is it true that your grandfather had advocated reservations for SC/STs for just 10 years?

Prakash Ambedkar: There are two kinds of reservation — one in political system and the other in the education and service sector. He spoke of political reservation to be in effect for 10 years. We should now definitely do away with political reservation. My grandfather was afraid of the social ostracisation of the Scheduled Castes and tribals and thought no one would vote for them. Hence, a system was needed where there is reservation for such candidates. But he was also of the opinion that the rigidity of the caste system was slowly weaning away and thus it would be ideal to do away with reservation in the political system after a few years. But we do not have any brave political leaders who have the guts to take the decision of doing away with this political reservation. I am of the opinion that political reservation should be done away with.

Shubhangi Khapre: What about education and job quota?

Prakash Ambedkar: It was made a permanent feature of the Constitution with a rider. He said that every 30 years, there should be a parliamentary committee for evaluation to ascertain what we have achieved so far and what remains. Initially, he proposed this in the form of a commissioner and later a commission. But in both the cases, the Supreme Court said they lacked any powers. So even after so many years of reservation, a system of evaluation has not been allowed in the country. No politician has bothered to place this issue on the floor of the House in 60 years. This issue was first addressed in Parliament in 2004 when we were a part of it, with the help of some retired Supreme Court judges. A bill was introduced in Parliament that proposed reservation in promotions also. But this bill was never considered despite being introduced. I personally support reservations in promotions and I have been fighting for the issue in the High Court and Supreme Court.

‘Babasaheb Ambedkar a prisoner of caste politics, his relevance will grow’: Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh president Prakash Ambedkar , Indian Express Mumbai, Sun Jan 07 2013

On November 30, 1948, the founding father of the Constitution Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar had a note of caution for future governments—large scale reservation quotas could destroy the rule of equality of opportunity. He advocated that reservation quotas be consistent with Article 10 (now Article 14) of the constitution and must be confined to minority of seats.
Dr Ambedkar argued that theoretically it was good to have principle of equality of opportunity, but he said there must also be a provision for the entry of certain communities outside the administrative set up. He gave a hypothetical ratio of 70 per cent reserved seats and 30 per cent for unreserved category. His argument then was, “Could anybody say that the reservation of 30 per cent as open to general competition would be satisfactory from the point of view of giving effect to the first principle, namely, that there shall be equality of opportunity?” He said if large number of seats were to be reserved, an individual could go to court on the premise that the rule of equality of opportunity had been destroyed.
The court too will decide if the state had acted in a reasonable and prudent manner. While taking part in the debate Lokanath Misra (Orissa) had then argued that reservation was not a fundamental right for any citizen to claim and that rights like Right to Employment ought to go by merit alone.


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