2. Denunciation of Poona Pact – Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

The untouchables were forced to sign the Poona Pact under the impact of the coercive fast of Mr.Gandhi. Dr. Ambedkar denounced it the very next day expressing his views, “The untouchables were sad. They had every reason to be sad.” He kept denouncing it till the end of his life in 1956. He denounced it in private discussions, public meetings, relevant writings, in fact on all the occasions that demanded denunciation. As an illustration of the denunciation by Babasahab Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, some quotations from his two books

  • What Congress and Gandhi have done to the untouchables, published in 1945
  • States and Minorities, published in 1947, are given below:
    1. “There was nothing noble in the fast. It was a foul and filthy act. The fast was not for the benefit of the Untouchables. It was against them and was the worst form of coercion against helpless people to give up the constitutional safeguards of which they had been possessed under the Prime Minister’s Award and agree to live on the mercy of the Hindus. It was a vile and wicked act. How can the untouchables regard such a man as honest and sincere?”
    2. “The communal award gave the Untouchables two benefits:
      • A fixed quota of seats to be elected by separate electorate of untouchables and to be filled by persons belonging to the untouchables.
      • Double vote, one to be used through separate electorates and the other to be used in the general electorates.Now, if the Poona Pact increased the quota of seats for the untouchables it took away the right to the double vote given to them by the communal award. This increase in seats can never be deemed to be a compensation for the loss of the double vote. The second vote given by the Communal award was a priceless privilege. Its value as a political weapon was beyond reckoning.”
    3. “Today the untouchables have a few more seats than were given to them by the communal award. But this is all that they have. Every other member is indifferent, if not hostile. If the communal award with its system of double voting had remained, the untouchables would have had a few seats less but every other member would have been a member for the untouchables. The increase in the number of seats for the untouchables is no increase at all and no recompense for the loss of separate electorate and the double vote.”
    4. 4. “Clause (5) of the Poona Pact has limited the system of Primary election to ten years which means that any election taking place after 1947 will be by a system of Joint Electorates and reserved seats pure and simple.” “Things will be much worse under the system of joint electorates and reserved seats which will hereafter become operative under the terms of the Poona Pact. This is no mere speculation. The last election has conclusively proved that the Scheduled Castes can be completely disfranchised in a joint electorate.”
    5. “The Poona Pact has produced different reactions. The untouchables were sad. They had every reason to be.”
    6. “In the light of these circumstances, it cannot but appears that the Poona pact was only the first blow inflicted upon the untouchables and the Hindus who disliked it were bent on inflicting on it other blow as and when circumstances gave them an occasion to do so.”
    7. “After having accepted the Poona Pact, why did not Mr.Gandhi keep faith with the untouchables by telling the Congress not to despoil the politics of the Untouchables by contesting the seats reserved for the Untouchables by getting such untouchables elected as were prepared to become the tools of the Hindus?”
    8. “After having accepted the Poona Pact why did not Mr.Gandhi keep up the gentleman’s agreement and instruct the Congress High Command to include representatives of the Untouchables in the Congress Cabinets?”
    9. “This shows that Mr.Gandhi notwithstanding his being a party to the Poona pact is determined not to allow the Scheduled Castes being given the status of a separate element and that he is prepared to adopt any argument however desperate to justify his attitude of opposition”.
    10. In short Mr.Gandhi is still on the war path so far as the untouchables are concerned. He may start the trouble all over again. The time to trust him has not arrived. The untouchables must still hold that the best way to safeguard themselves is to say ‘Beware of Mr. Gandhi’.
    11. “The second misdeed of the Congress was to subject the Untouchable Congressmen to the rigours of party discipline. They were completely under the control of the Congress party Executive. They could not ask a question which it did not like. They could not move a resolution which it did not permit. They could not bring in legislation to which it objected. They could not vote as they wished and could not speak what they felt. They were there as dumb driven cattle. One of the objects of obtaining representation in the Legislature for the Untouchables is to enable them to ventilate their grievances and to obtain redress for their wrongs. The Congress successfully and effectively prevented this from happening.”
    12. “To end this long and sad story the Congress sucked the juice out of the Poona Pact and threw the rind in the face of the untouchables.”
    13. “The Poona Pact has completely disfranchised the Scheduled Castes in as much as candidates whom they rejected in the Primary election-which is a true index of their will-have been returned in the Final election by the votes of the Castes Hindus.”
    14. “The Poona Pact is thus fraught with mischief. It was accepted because of the coercive fast of Mr.Gandhi and because of assurance given at the time that the Hindus will not interfere in the election of Scheduled Castes.”
    15. “The Joint Electorate is from the point of the Hindus to use a familiar phrase a “Rotten Borough” in which the Hindus get the right to nominate an untouchable to set nominally as a representative of the untouchables but really as a tool of the Hindus”

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