The 1931 Poona pact is an evidence of fundamental difference of Gandhi’s reading of caste from Ambedkar. Comment.
The 1931 Poona Pact shaped India’s Dalit political representation, and its implications are felt even in today’s parliamentary elections. At the heart of it lay a fundamental difference in the points of view of Gandhi and Ambedkar. While Gandhi saw untouchability as a social issue, Ambedkar understood caste as a political one.
An evidence of fundamental difference of Gandhi’s reading of caste from Ambedkar
- Ambedkar’s reading of caste pivoted on seeing the Dalit question as a political issue, and not only a social one, as Gandhi did.
- Ambedkar insisted, for the first time in India’s modern history, that caste was a political question, and couldn’t be addressed by social reforms only
- While Ambedkar preferred a rights-based approach, Gandhi’s approach was through faith and spirituality.
- “Unlike Ambedkar, Gandhi felt that any exploitative relationship could be rectified only when the exploiter had a change of heart. So he worked with upper castes to change their mindset,”
- In his writing and speeches, Ambedkar insisted that a political democracy was meaningless if the so-called depressed classes were not equal participants in it.
- for Ambedkar, the ability of the depressed classes to elect their own representatives was a way to achieve full potential of democracy. For this, voting in an electorate free from the influence of caste Hindus was required.
- Gandhi showed “remarkable irreverence” towards untouchability at a young age, and frequently ate with people from other castes. In his ashrams, the settlers came from all castes and religions and there was no strict division of labour.
Impact of Poona pact at present
- For India’s 300 million scheduled caste people, the legacy of the Poona Pact lives to this day, and many Ambedkarite scholars have argued, fundamentally distorted the form of representation of Dalits.
- India today reserves seats in Parliament and assemblies for SCs in proportion to their population.
- But Dalits are not concentrated in any specific area, so in a majority of these seats, they form a minority of the electorate.
- The current system was very different from the one the Poona Pact envisioned. “It is neither Gandhi’s nor Ambedkar’s plan