Last month I wrote about the two books on Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, I purchased from Ambedkar Bhawan at Jalandhar on Deeksha Day (Ambedkar’s embracing of Buddhism) on October 14. The book review of Reminiscences and Remembrances of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar has been published in the Ambedkar Times being hosted from California (USA) and the Identity being published from Chandigarh. I have now finished reading the second book – Last Few Days of Dr. Ambedkar - written by Nanak Chand Rattu, PS of Dr. Ambedkar who worked with him from April, 1940 till his death in December, 1956. The publisher has said about the book, “the volume is brought out to mark a few day to day interesting events in the stormy life of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.”
Frankly speaking, most of the things are already well known and available in the public domain in various publications on Dr. Ambedkar. Nevertheless, there are a few incidents and events of the last years of the life of the great leader which are not well known so far. I have the following observations in this regard.
The partition of India in 1947 saw mindless bloodshed and communal violence. It appears Dr. Ambedkar had a premonition of this in the prevailing communal situation at that time. Nanak Chand Rattu has recorded Dr. Ambedkar’s views on this, “Dr. Ambedkar had proposed partition of the country with complete transfer of population of Muslims and Hindus from their respective zones to avoid bloodshed and avert a civil war. His sincere call, however, fell on deaf ears.” Historians would judge this in its right perspective for posterity. In the wake of partition, dalits were at the receiving end both in India and Pakistan. They were being converted forcibly to Islam in Pakistan and bordering states like Hyderabad, Bahawalpur and Junagarh. Dr. Ambedkar was much worried and concerned about this. He wrote to PM Jawaharlal Nehru and urged him to intervene and tell Pakistani authorities to take care of the interests of dalits. Dr. Ambedkar was a nationalist to the core. He said, as the author recorded, “The scheduled castes are the children of the soil and India is their motherland as much as it is the motherland of any other group. They must wish and strive for her greatness and fight for her independence and maintain her dignity.” Dr. Ambedkar further said, “All I am anxious about is that no person from the schedule castes brings disgrace upon the community for siding with one who is the enemy of India.”
It is well known that Dr. Ambedkar was a staunch critic and opponent of Mahatma Gandhi. But he was humane to the core without compromising on his considered position. On one hand, Dr. Ambedkar not only visited Birla House, where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948, to convey his condolences but also joined the funeral procession the next day in spite of his not so good health. On the death of Mahatma Gandhi he said frankly, “Great men are of great service to their country but they are also, after a certain time, a great hindrance to the progress of their country.” He further said, citing the history, “There is one incident in the Roman history which comes to my mind on this occasion. When Caesar was done to death and the matter was reported to Cicero, Cicero said to the messengers, ‘Tell the Romans your hour of liberty has come.’ While one regrets the assassination of Mr. Gandhi and one cannot help finding in ones heart the echo of the sentiments expressed by Cicero on the assassination of Caesar.”
Dr. Ambedkar, himself a votary of parliamentary democracy, could not make much dent in electoral politics. He stood for a strong opposition and desired to join hands with the socialists like Jai Prakash Narain, Ram Manohar Lohia, Ashok Mehta, S.M. Joshi and others in the run up to launching a new political outfit, the Republican Party. He said, “Why should people think that I should remain an untouchable even in politics.” Nanak Chand Rattu recorded that in November, 1951, addressing a public meeting in Bombay, he even advised Jawaharlal Nehru to join them and lead the country. Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia wrote to his colleague Madhu Limaye in July, 1957, “Dr. Ambedkar was to me, a great man in Indian politics, and apart from Gandhi, as great as the greatest of caste Hindu. This fact has always given me a solace and confidence that the caste system of Hinduism could one day be destroyed. Such a great Indian, as Dr. Ambedkar, I had hoped, would someday be able to rise above the situation, but death came early.” It is strange and not understandable that the so called socialists of the day and the professing followers of Dr. Ambedkar in the BSP and Republican Party are quarrelling among themselves. Dr. Ambedkar had a unique idea of launching a training school, to attract the youth, for those who cherished the ambition to enter politics.
Dr. Ambedkar’s fast failing health in his last years was a great worry and concern to his close associates and millions of his followers. On the other hand, as recorded by Nanak Chand Rattu, his wife Savita Ambedkar and treating physician Dr. Madhav Malvankar were not allowing anybody to interfere in his treatment. Some of the associates of Dr. Ambedkar suspected some foul play on the part of the duo. The repeated efforts and offers of K. Krishnamurthy, a social activist and a trade unionist, to get Dr. Ambedkar examined and treated by a specialist L.F. Bastien from France did not find favour with Savita Ambedkar. The correspondence exchanged in this regard by Krishnamurthy, which has been appended to the book, is revealing. In the aftermath of Dr. Ambedkar’s death on December 6, 1956, this suspicion got further currency. There was an underlying current against the wife of Dr. Ambedkar. She did not inform Prakash Ambedkar, son of Dr. Ambedkar from his first wife, about the death of Babasaheb. She even wanted to take the dead body to Sarnath, instead of Bombay, for final rites. An eminent scholar who knew Dr. Ambedkar well, as recorded by the author, C.B. Khairamody clearly alleged Savita Ambedkar’s hand in the mysterious death. Khairmody’s letter dated August 10, 1957 has been appended to the book. This suspicion got further impetus because of the rumors that Dr. Ambedkar was not too happy with his wife’s activities and behavior.
Some more new information and light on some other aspects of Dr. Ambedkar’s life have come up in the book. Dr. Ambedkar’s financial position was not sound. He had to borrow money to settle the bills for the repairs of his house ‘Rajgriha’ in Bombay. There was no money to pay for the air-lifting of the dead body of Dr. Ambedkar from Delhi to Bombay. Babu Jagjivan Ram extended help in chartering a small plane for the purpose. Dr. Ambedkar kept himself busy in his last days in preaching and propagating Buddhism. Nanak Chand Rattu has written about some personal aspects of relations between Dr. Ambedkar and his wife Savita. Before marriage in April, 1948, they discussed issues and concerns pertaining to divorce and sex. On divorce, Dr. Ambedkar wrote to her in a letter dated March 15, 1948, as mentioned in the book, and said, “In case you would be wanting a divorce, you would need to find a cause of action against me. For I shall neither be cruel nor unchaste. If you want divorce, you will have to force me to seek for it by practicing unchastity. I cannot help you. You will have to help yourself. There is only one way I can help you that is to live apart and away from you when you have so tired of me. That is easy. You have only to say so and you will be relieved of the tedium of having to live in the company of a husband for whom you have no use.” In the same letter, Dr. Ambedkar wrote on sex and said, “I don’t know why you have talked so much about sex. Since you seem to abhor sex, my condition is an advantage to you…. I am a gentleman and if a woman against whom I have the right of a husband, I can practice self control and continence which I have used it for the last 15 years.” The author has cited the source and given these in quotes. But it may be observed that the language used in the said letter tends to generate doubts on the veracity of the matter.
Dr. Ambedkar’s speech delivered at Nagpur on October 15, 1956 at the Deeksha ceremony has been appended to the book. It is one of finest speeches of Babasaheb on Buddhism and why he embraced it.
The book “Last Few Years of Dr. Ambedkar” has many flaws pertaining to its editing and presentation. But still it is worth reading as it came from a man who remained with the great man as his trusted aide for a long 17 years. I conclude this with a quote from the last chapter of the book, Dawn of Ambedkar Era.
The Gandhian era with its ignorance and darkness will come to close with the end of twentieth century and Ambedkar era of Equality, Liberty, Justice and Fraternity will unfold with the dawn of twenty first century. The twenty first century belongs to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar and the people for whose liberation he struggled hard and sacrificed his life.
It is my tribute to Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on his death Anniversary (Mahaparinirvan Diwas) on December 6.
By:- Ambassador Ramesh Chander, IFS (Retired)