An anthology of Dr B R Ambedkar’s writings and speeches has been compiled in the new book, ‘Dr Ambedkar and Democracy’ published by Oxford University Press. Following are excerpts from the chapter ‘Communal Deadlock and a Way to Solve It’. It is a part of a speech delivered by Ambedkar at the All India Scheduled Castes Federation held in Bombay on May 6, 1945
Proposals for Solution of the Communal Problem
Having made my position clear on certain preliminary points, I will now proceed to deal with the subject. The Communal Problem raises three questions: (A) The question of representation, in the Legislature; (B) The question of representation in the Executive; and (C) The question of representation in the Services.
A. Representation in Public Services
To take the last question first. This can hardly be said to be a subject of controversy. The principle that all communities should be represented in the Public Services in a prescribed proportion and no single community should be allowed to have a monopoly has been accepted by the Government of India. This principle has been embodied in the Government of India Resolutions of 1934 and 1943 and rules to carry it out have been laid down. It has even prescribed that any appointment made contrary to the rules shall be deemed to be null and void. All that is necessary is to convert administrative practice into statutory obligation. This can be done by adding a Schedule to the Government of India Act, which will include the provisions contained in these Resolutions and similar provisions for the different provinces and make the Schedule a part of the Law of the Constitution.
B. Representation in the Executive
This question raises three points: (i) The quantum of representation in the Executive; (ii) The nature of the Executive; (iii) The method of filling the places in the Executive.
(i) Quantum of Representation
For the solution of this question, the principle which should be adopted is that the representation of the Hindus, the Muslims and the Scheduled Castes should be equal to the quantum of their representation in the Legislature. With regard to the other minorities such as the Sikhs, Indian Christians and Anglo-Indians, it is difficult to give them representation in the Executive in strict proportion to their representation in the Legislature. This difficulty arises largely from the smallness of their numbers. If they are to get representation in the Executive in exact proportion to their numbers, the Executive would have to be enlarged to a fantastic degree. All that can be done, therefore, is to reserve a seat or two for them in the Cabinet for their representation and so establish a convention that they will get a fair portion of representation in the corps of Parliamentary Secretaries that will have to be raised, when the new Constitution comes into existence.
(ii) Nature of the Executive
In the Constitution of the Executive, I would propose the adoption, of following principles: (1) It must be recognised that in a country like India where there is a perpetual antipathy between the majority and the minorities and on which account the danger of communal discrimination by majority against minorities forms an ever-present menace to the minorities, the executive power assumes far greater importance than the legislative power. (2) In view of (1) above, the system under which a party which has secured a majority at the poll is deemed entitled to form a Government on the presumption that it has the confidence of the majority is untenable in Indian conditions. The majority in India is a communal majority and not a political majority. That being the difference, the presumption that arises in England cannot be regarded as a valid presumption in the conditions of India. (3) The Executive should cease to be a Committee of the majority party in the Legislature. It should be so constituted that it will have its mandate not only from the majority but also from the minorities in the Legislature. (4) The Executive should be non-Parliamentary in the sense that it shall not be removable before the term of the Legislature.(5) The Executive should be Parliamentary in the sense that the members of the Executive shall be chosen from the members of the Legislature and shall have the right to sit in the House, speak, vote and answer questions.
(iii) Method of Filling Places
In this connection, I would propose the adoption of the following principles: (a) The Prime Minister as the executive head of the Government should have the confidence of the whole House; (b) The person representing a particular minority in the Cabinet should have the confidence of the members of his community in the Legislature; (c) A member of the Cabinet shall not be liable to be removed except on impeachment by the House on the ground of corruption or treason.
C. Representation in the Legislature
This is the most difficult question. All other questions depend upon the solution of this question, it raises two points: (i) The quantum of representation: and (ii) The nature of the electorate.
(i) Quantum of Representation
I would first, put forth my proposals and then explain the principles on which they are based. The proposals are worked out in the following tables which show the scale of representation for the different communities in British India in the Central Legislature as well as in the Provincial Legislature....
Principles Underlying the Proposals
I may now proceed to state the principles on which this distribution has been made. They are: (1) Majority Rule is untenable in theory and unjustifiable in practice. A majority community may be conceded a relative majority of representation but it can never claim an absolute majority; (2) The relative majority of representation given to a majority community in the legislature should not be so large as to enable the majority to establish its rule with the help of the smallest minorities; (3) The distribution of seats should be so made that a combination of the majority and one of the major minorities should not give the combine such a majority as to make them impervious to the interest of the minorities; (4) The distribution should be so made that if all the minorities combine they could, without depending on the majority, form a government of their own; (5) The weightage taken from the majority should be distributed among the minorities in inverse proportion to their social standing, economic position and educational condition so that a minority which is large and which has a better social, educational and economic standing gets a lesser amount of weightage than a minority whose numbers are less and whose educational, economic and social position is inferior to that of the others. If I may say so, the representation is a balanced representation. No one community is placed in a position to dominate others by reason of its numbers. The Muslim objection to the Hindu majority and the Hindu and Sikh objections to the Muslim majority are completely eliminated, both in the Central as well as in the Provinces.
A Word to Hindus
Much of the difficulty over the Communal Question is due to the insistence of the Hindus that the rule of majority is sacrosanct and that it, must be maintained at all costs. The Hindu does not seem to be aware of the fact that there is another rule, which is also operative in fields where important disputes between individual and nations arise and that rule is a rule of unanimity. If he will take the trouble to examine the position he will realise that such a rule is not a fiction, but it does exist. Let him take the Jury System. In the jury trial the principle is unanimity. The decision is binding upon the judge, only if the verdict of the jury is unanimous. Let him take another illustration that of the League of Nations. What was the rule for decisions in the League of Nations? The rule was a rule of unanimity. It is obvious that if the principle of unanimity was accepted by the Hindus as a rule of decision in the Legislature and in the Executive there would be no such thing as a Communal Problem in India. One may well ask the Hindu that if he is not prepared to concede constitutional safeguards to the minorities, is he prepared to agree to the rule of unanimity? Unfortunately he is not prepared to accept either.
About the rule of majority the Hindu is not prepared to admit any limitations. The majority he wants is an absolute majority. He will not be satisfied with relative majority. He should consider whether his insistence on absolute majority is fair proposition, which political philosophers can accept. He is not aware that even the constitution of the United States does not lend support to the absolutistic rule of majority rule on which the Hindu has been insisting upon.
Let me illustrate the point from the constitution of the United States. Take the clause embodying Fundamental Rights. What does that clause mean? It means that matters included in Fundamental Rights are of such supreme concern that a mere majority rule is not enough to interfere with them. Take another illustration also from the Constitution of the United States. The Constitution says that no part of the Constitution shall be altered unless the proposition is carried by three-fourths majority and ratified by the States. What does this show? It shows that the United States Constitution recognizes for certain purposes mere majority rule is not competent.
All these cases are of course familiar to many a Hindu. The pity of it is, he does not read from them the correct lesson. If he did, he would realise that the rule of the majority rule is not as sacrosanct a principle as he thinks it is. The majority rule is not accepted as a principle but is tolerated as a rule. I might also state why it is tolerated. It is tolerated for two reasons; (1) because the majority is always a political majority and; (2) because the decision of a political majority accepts and absorbs so much of the point of view of the minority that the minority does not care to rebel against the decision.
In India, the majority is not a political majority. In India the majority is born; it is not made. That is the difference between a communal majority and a political majority. A political majority is not a fixed or a permanent majority. It is a majority which is always made, unmade and. remade. A communal majority is a permanent majority fixed in its attitude. One can destroy it, but one cannot transform it. If there is so much objection to a political majority, how very fatal must be the
objection to a communal majority?
It may be open to the Hindus to ask Mr. Jinnah, why in 1930 when he formulated his fourteen points he insisted upon the principle of majority rule to such an extent that one of the fourteen points stipulated that in granting weightage, limits should be placed whereby a majority shall not be reduced to a minority or equality. It may be open to the Hindus to ask Mr Jinnah, if he is in favour of a Muslim majority in Muslim Provinces, why he is opposed to a Hindu Majority in the Centre? The Hindu must however realise that these posers may lead to the conclusion that Mr Jinnah’s position is inconsistent. They cannot lead to the affirmation of the principle of majority rule.
The abandonment of the principle of majority rule in politics cannot affect the Hindus very much in other walks of life. As an element in social life they will remain a majority. They will have the monopoly of trade and business which they enjoy. They will have the monopoly of the property which they have. My proposals do not ask the Hindus to accept the principle of unanimity. My proposals do not ask the Hindus to abandon the principle of majority rule. All I am asking them is to be satisfied with a relative majority. Is it too much for them to concede this?
Without marking any such sacrifice the Hindu majority is not justified in representing to the outside world that the minorities are holding up India’s Freedom. This false propaganda will not pay. For the minorities are doing nothing of the kind. They are prepared to accept freedom and the dangers in which they likely to be involved; provided they granted satisfactory safeguards. This gesture of the minorities is not to be treated as a matter for which Hindus need not be grateful. It may well be contrasted with what happened in Ireland. Mr Redmond, the leader of the Irish Nationalists once told Carson, the leader of Ulster; ‘Consent to United Ireland, Ask for any safeguard and they shall be granted to you’. He is reported to have turned round and said: ‘Damn your safeguards; we don’t want to be ruled by you’. The minorities in India have not said that. They are ready to be satisfied with safeguards. I ask the Hindus is this not worth a mass? I am sure it is.
These are some of the proposals I have had in mind for the solution of the Communal Problem. They do not commit the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation. They do not even commit me. In putting them forth, I am doing nothing more than exploring a new way. My emphasis is more on the principle, I have enunciated, than on the actual proposals. If the principles are accepted then I am sure the solution of the Communal Question will not be as baffling as it has been in the past. The problem of solving the Indian deadlock is not easy.
I remember reading a historian describing the condition of Germany before the Confederation of 1867 as one of ‘Divinely Ordained Confusion’. Whether that was true of Germany or not, it seems to me that they form a very accurate description of the present conditions of India. Germany did get out of this confusion, if not at one stroke at least by successive stages until just before the war she became a unified people, unified in mind, unified in outlook and unified by belief in a common destiny.
India has not so far succeeded in evolving order out of her confusion. It is not that she had no opportunities to do so. In fact, there have been quite a number. The first opportunity came in 1927, when Lord Birkenhead gave a challenge to Indians asking them to produce a constitution for India. That challenge was taken up. A committee was formed to frame a constitution. A constitution was produced and was known as ‘The Nehru Constitution’. It was, however, not accepted by Indians and was buried without remorse. A second opportunity presented itself to Indians in 1930, when they assembled at the Round Table Conference. There again, Indians failed to play their part and write out their own Constitution. A third attempt is the one recently made by the Sapru Committee. The proposals of this committee too have fallen flat. There is neither enthusiasm nor optimism left to indulge in another attempt.
One is pursued by a sense of fatality, which suggests that as every attempt is doomed to failure, none need be made. At the same time I feel that no Indian ought to be so down hearted or so callous as to let the deadlock stink, as though it was a dead dog, and say that he is prepared to do nothing more than be a mere witness to the political dog-fight that is going on in this country. The failures of the past need not daunt anybody. They do not daunt me. For, I have a feeling that though it is true that all attempts to reach an agreement on the communal question have failed, the failure have been due not so much to any inherent fault of the Indians as they have been due to a wrong approach.
I feel confident that my proposals, if considered dispassionately, should be found acceptable. They constitute a new approach and as such I commend them to my countrymen.
Before I conclude, I must, however, warn my critics that they may be able to amend my proposals in some respects; but it will not be easy to reject them. If they do reject them, the first thing they shall have to do is to controvert the principles on which they are based.
Following these principles, my proposal is that the Prime Minister and the members of the Cabinet from the majority community should be elected by the whole House by a single transferable vote and that the representatives of the different Minorities in the Cabinet should be elected by a single transferable vote of the members of each minority community in the Legislature.