Mr.A. V, Thakkar, General Secretary, Harijan Sevak Sangh has issued the following statement, refuting some of the charges made by Dr. Ambedkar in his recent speech at Ahmedabad.
I have read the summary of the speech made by Dr. Ambedkar, the leader of the Maharashtra Mahars, at Ahmedabad as reported in the A. P. L telegram dated 22nd instant. I am sorry to find that the bitterness and animosity unjustifiably shown usually by him against Mahatma. Gandhi, Congress Governments, and Hindu reformers who are doing their bit for the improvement of the Condition of Harijans, has not in the least abated.
The Doctor’s charge sheet consists of (1) Mahatma Gandhi’s not agreeing to reservation of seats for Harijans at the Second Round Table Conference in London, ( 2) Gandhi’s not urging the Congress Ministries to include a Harijan Minister in all the provinces and (3) Bombay Congress Ministry having not done anything to carry out the recommendations made by the Committee appointed by the previous Government, in the interests of Harijans.
I am not a deep student of politics, nor was I in personal touch with the Round Table Conference affairs, so I cannot speak authoritatively on that charge. But this much is beyond controversy that it was on account of Mahatma’s 1932 fast unto death that Harijans secured a total of 148 seats in all Provincial Assemblies, in place of 71, that they had secured by the communal award of Mr. MacDonald.
This figure of 148 grew into 151 as a result of the separation of Orissa from Bihar. Moreover in Bombay the Harijans secured 15 seats as a result of the Poona Pact in place of 10 seats for Bombay and Sind put together guaranteed by the MacDonald decision. And still he has no “faith in Mahatma Gandhi that he will do any good to the depressed classes”. This was in 1932
The second charge is that Gandhiji has failed in imposing on all Premiers of Congress Ministries a uniform rule that. they should include a Harijan Minister. whether’ the Harijans be from the Congress party or in the opposition party. The Doctor conveniently forgets that there is one Minister in Madras, one in Bihar and two in Assam, and two Parliamentary Secretaries in the U. P., one in Bihar and one in Madras all of Hindu Harijan caste.
It is no doubt true that there is no Minister or Parliamentary Secretary from Harijan M.L.A’s in Bombay and that is because Dr. Ambedkar and all his Harijan followers, who are 12 out of 15, have chosen to remain in the opposition. And how can a uniform rule be made that a Minister from such and such castes shall be appointed, irrespective of any other considerations?
As regards the third charge, it must be said that it is absolutely untrue, and I am surprised at the audacity of the Doctor in making a mention of it. The Doctor and myself were both active members of the Committee and it is a matter of history that the recommendations made in the year 1930 were not given effect to by the previous Government up to April 1937 not even by the interim Ministry up to July’37, on the plea of want of finance. No doubt the Backward Class Board was formed in 1933 or thereabouts and the same has now been enlarged by the Congress Ministry and made more active.
But the achievements of Bombay Congress Ministry for the advancement of Harijans have been too numerous to be mentioned. Hostels for Harijans and aboriginal students by private and State agencies are enlarged and aided by the Government, the College and secondary school students are exempted from the payment of fees, scholarships in schools and colleges including foreign scholarships have been made very liberally now, the temple worship Act has been passed, (but perhaps that does not affect the Doctor), public hotels and restaurants have been thrown open, and the Ministry is following a strong policy in enforcing the rights of the Harijans for use of public wells and have budgetted large amounts of construction of wells in rural areas.
Harijan children are being freely admitted in common schools even in conservative Gujarat. and last but not least, the prohibition policy is doing enormous moral and material good to Harijans wherever it is and will be brought into force. Any reasonable man would be grateful for these achievements in the short space of 15 months by the Bombay Congress Ministry and not try to spread untruths or half truths in the interests of the society at large.
The Bombay Premier has all along been more of a social worker than a political worker and even his bitterest critics will testify that he is one of the greatest friends of the Harijans.
Nov 3 1938 – The Servant of India