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BJP claims CAA helps Dalits. But lives of Jogendra Nath Mandal & Ambedkar say otherwise

Ambedkar and Mandal resigned from Indian and Pakistani cabinets in 1950-51. Their letters hold the key to understanding the debate around CAA and BJP's push for it.

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From either side of the India-Pakistan border, Bhim Rao Ambedkar and Jogendra Nath Mandal are two of the most prominent Dalit leaders. And the lives of both legal stalwarts had a similar trajectory. Navigating a casteist society and facing humiliations at each step, the ‘political’ journey of India and Pakistan’s first law ministers culminated in both resigning from their respective cabinets – J.N. Mandal from Pakistan PM Liaquat Ali Khan’s cabinet on 8 October 1950; and B.R. Ambedkar from PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s cabinet on 27 September 1951.

And the reasons for their resignations is pertinent today in the wake of the debate around the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), the politics of Dalit-Muslim coalition propounded by leaders like Chandrashekhar Azad, and the troubles of Dalits in the face of Islamic and Hindu fundamentalism. But it is also important to look into Mandal’s decision because of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s sustained campaign to use it to push its own divisive agenda.

Also read: When a Pakistan minister & Jinnah follower resigned over atrocities against Hindus

BJP’s fear

Remembering J.N Mandal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had in April 2019 equated him with Ambedkar and Jagjivan Ram but only to take a swipe at the Congress, alleging it had always disrespected ‘great leaders’ from ‘backward’ caste.

Today, when India is swept by a movement against the Modi government’s discriminatory citizenship law, and when calls for a Dalit-Muslim unity is louder than ever, the BJP is repeatedly turning to Mandal to bolster its divisive claim of Hindu persecution in Muslim-majority Pakistan.

The idea is not lost on anyone that the main agenda of the BJP, and of its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is to drive a wedge between India’s Muslims and Dalits.

Using Mandal

Consider these instances. While defending the CAA, former Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh recently said that J.N. Mandal “had to leave Pakistan and take shelter in a refugee camp in West Bengal where he died” for raising the “issue of atrocities on minorities”. Union Minister Smriti Irani said despite being the first law minister of Pakistan, Mandal was booed out and forced to take refuge in India. BJP’s IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya also used Mandal’s name to tell everyone “If this is what happened to a high ranking public official (in Pakistan), imagine the plight of normal people…”.

The RSS has been slightly clearer in laying out why the Indian public must be repeatedly told “the story of J.N. Mandal”, which according to top RSS leader Dattatreya Hosabale, “clearly shows how Dalits were lured by the Muslim League’s politics which proved disastrous for them”. “They were left with only two options — either get forcibly converted or migrate to India. Mandal’s realisation about his destiny is a great lesson,” Hosabale had said at a function in June 2016, where RSS ideologue Rakesh Sinha had asserted in no uncertain terms: “Dalit-Muslim unity is impossible.”

Also read: Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Bengali Dalit leader who went on to become a Pakistani minister

BJP’s cause

With such sustained invocation of J.N Mandal, the BJP and the RSS want to achieve mainly four things:

  1. They want to establish that Dalit-Muslim unity is a myth, and any such associationwill prove disastrous for Dalits.
  2. They want to show why the CAA is necessary –because Muslims have persecuted Hindus – especially Dalits – in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan.
  3. They want India’s Dalits to support the CAA because the law will give citizenship to fellow Dalits.
  4. Also, the BJP seeks to wean Dalits away from leaders like Mayawati, Chandrashekhar Azad, Prakash Ambedkar and Jignesh Mevani, all of whom oppose the CAA.

So, is the BJP lying? Or is it simply cherry-picking some historical facts that further polarises Hindus and Muslims?

Also read: Modi govt’s handling of Chandrashekhar Azad & Kanhaiya Kumar shows who is the bigger threat

Mandal’s letter of resignation

It’s true that Pakistan failed Jogendra Nath Mandal, who took a considered decision to stay there for mainly two reasons. First, Muslims and Dalits in eastern Pakistan are a lot similar and Mandal believed they could have a shared future. Second, there was nothing about Indian society to inspire confidence that Dalits in Hindu-dominated India won’t continue to face caste discrimination. So, he considered it was better if Bengali-speaking Dalits stayed in their birthplace.

History proved his first hypothesis wrong, which is tragic. It brought miseries to lakhs of Dalits in Pakistan who might have escaped this fate had Mandal taken a different decision.

In his resignation letter to PM Liaquat Ali Khan, Mandal explained why he became disillusioned with the idea of Pakistan. He listed the unfulfilled promises made to him prior to his decision to remain in Pakistan. He cited the cases of atrocities against Dalits and the involvement of Pakistani establishment in them. He also noted that Eastern Pakistan had been turned into a colony of West Pakistan and many Muslim leaders of North-West and Eastern Pakistan, like Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, and A.K. Fazlul Huq were either in detention without trials or in misery.

He wrote: “When I am convinced that my continuance in office in the Pakistan Central Government is not of any help to Hindus I should not with a clear conscience, create the false impression in the minds of the Hindus of Pakistan and peoples abroad that Hindus can live there with honour and with a sense of security in respect of their life, property and religion.”

India proved Mandal right

But J.N. Mandal’s second reason for staying in Pakistan – that Dalits will be discriminated by Hindus (the term was used for caste Hindus) in India – ultimately proved to be true. Anyone not ready to accept this only needs to look at human development indicators, number of people who have died cleaning toxic sewers, cases of atrocities against Dalits, data released by National Crime Records Bureau, or take a quick glance at the upper echelons of all power centres in the country – bureaucracy, higher judiciary, media, corporate sector, academics – to find out who holds the top positions.

There might not have been mass persecution of Dalits that J.N Mandal witnessed in Pakistan, but the discrimination against Dalits in India at societal, economic, and institutional levels has been nothing short of a tragedy. And India’s ‘collective conscience’ has not even begun to acknowledge it, let alone make amends to undo the damage it has caused to the lives and psyche of millions of people.

Also read: Who represents India’s Muslims? Thanks to CAA protests, we now know the answer

Ambedkar’s foresight

B.R. Ambedkar was able to sense what lay ahead for Dalits in the ‘upper’ caste-ruled Hindu-dominated India at an early stage. In his resignation letter, Ambedkar scathingly wrote: “What is the Scheduled Castes today? So far as I see, it is the same as before. The same old tyranny, the same old oppression, the same old discrimination which existed before, exists now, and perhaps in a worst form.”

He goes on to write: “I can refer to hundreds of cases where people from the Scheduled Castes… have come to me with their tales of woes against the Caste Hindus and against the Police who have refused to register their complaints and render them any help. I have been wondering whether there is any other parallel in the world to the condition of Scheduled Castes in India. I cannot find any.”

Ambedkar, like J.N. Mandal, left Nehru’s cabinet a disillusioned man. He listed some of the important promises that had not been met. Nehru’s cabinet had failed to constitute the backward classes commission. The Congress scuttled Hindu Code Bill prepared by Ambedkar. For him, the Hindu Code was “the greatest social reform measure ever undertaken by the legislature in this country. No law passed by the Indian Legislature in the past or likely to be passed in the future can be compared to it in point of its significance”.

“To leave inequality between class and class, between sex and sex, which is the soul of Hindu Society untouched and to go on passing legislation relating to economic problems is to make a farce of our Constitution and to build a palace on a dung heap,” Ambedkar wrote in his letter.

We should be thankful to J.N Mandal, though. If it wasn’t for him, B.R. Ambedkar would not have made it to the Constituent Assembly. The Congress and caste Hindus had ensured that Ambedkar was not elected from Maharashtra. It finally fell upon Mandal, who got Ambedkar elected from Bengal.

Dilip Mandal is the former managing editor of India Today Hindi Magazine, and has authored books on media and sociology. Views are personal.

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  1. The Print is a child if lutynes media who have flourished on creating divides in Indian society and are nourished by people who oppose the idea of India.
    Let me show you mirror Mr The Print
    1. How do you fail to mention that Mr JN Modal being the First Law Minister of Pakistan was issued an arrest warrant and ran off from Pakistan to India to save his life and his immediate family.
    2. Mr JN Mondal was a champion of Dalit Muslim unity and he even looked other side when his people in Noakhali were Butchered and was rewarded being the first Law Minister of Pakistan. He had no role in drafting Pakistani constitution. Though he choose to move to Pakistan and when he was chased off from Pakistan in 1950( just 3 years after creation of Pakistan) he chose to take shelter in India. India could have denied him entry BUT honoured him with citizenship.
    3. Did Ambedkar chose to go to Pakistan after he resigned as law minister in Nehrus cabinet.Was he NOT the chief architect of Indian Constitution. Is NOT he honoured by putting his picture in all governments offices. Does JN Mongdol get same respect in Pakistan. Does, in fact , anyone even know him /remember him there.
    So please do NOT act like a p@r@site and suck the blood of the very country which gives you all the liberty- My humble advice to The Print.
    Please mend your ways.

  2. Why is Dilip Mandal not equally vociferous about Pasmanda Muslims and the so called Arzals of Muslim society who were actually made slaves of High Caste Converts and foreign invader types, in the name of Islam? He is all against Dalit Muslim division but not against Disunity among Hindus along caste lines.
    Hypocrisy at its height and victim card recklessly used.

  3. Dalits in India achieved high position and become cm of states and President and chief justice but in Pakistan all dalits converted to Muslims or migrated to India
    Indians don’t have problem with Muslims but extreme hard core Muslims are to be neutralised by force

  4. Ambedkar was writer SCF jogninder was traitor and so is this mandal who talks about invader unity with bhim. Baba would have never tolerate this swine

  5. Dilip mandal is a fraud person.. fact is that all dalit who were part of SCF has been. either killed by muslim or converted in pakistan. this comparision is utter nonsense and beyond logic of science ! hahaha. he trying to portray BJP as anti Dalit. but deliberately failed . Even in today muslim are oppressing dalit more than casteist brahmin. Not all Brahmin are same.

  6. So the author here is trying to paint BJP as the main rival of Dalits and has taken an example of 2 leaders of Indian Independence who were done wrong by Congress and Upper Caste Hindus and then he says that the J.N Mandal was proven right by saying how the Dalits have been treated in India but forget to mention that out of these years nearly 60 years it was the congress govt who were in power. He conveniently cherry picks both J.N Mondal and Ambedkar’s statements to justify his article but doesn’t mention what their views were about Muslims. Ambedkar wrote a book Pakistan and Partition of India in which he has described Islam to be a brotherhood of Muslims and Muslims alone. Apparently, when J.N Mondal went to Pakistani PM asking about the atrocities being done to the Dalits in Pakistan he was told something along the line that if they were given equal rights and better positions then who would clean their sewers. This article is nothing but what it’s trying to say, it’s as a propagandist and as divisive as it tries to claim the other party to be but it lacks proper premises and proper conclusion as a result of those premises.

  7. To equate Pakistan and India is sheer ungratefulness. Agreed that in Indian psyche specially in North India, casteism is ingrained and even few months back a lady doctor commited suicide due to incessant heckling by her upper caste seniors but still the problems faced are entirely different. In India the struggle of Dalits is for social recognition and respect which is very important but in Pakistan please note the struggle is for survival.
    So how can you even compare the two states.
    Mondal was a great leader but due to this gigantic blunder he has now moved to oblivion.

  8. Muslim means Muslims it includes 1) Sunni 2) Shia 3) Ahamadias 4) Labbai 5) Arab 6) non Arab etc.
    There is no castism or caste discrimination or caste conflict in Hinduism. These are created by the Communist and propelled by Muslims and Missionaries.
    Your so called Dalits is a fake narrative. In the so called and branded Dalits by Communist, there are kings, rishies, God men in Hindu history.

      • You know nothing about real hinduism. Even valmiki was a dalit. But then a brahmin after he gained knowledge and became a guru. Castes were professions in ancient india, not given by birth. Castism became apparent during British rule due to their divide and rule policy. So, we need to move back to our roots not away from it.

  9. Extremely silly on the part of the writer to equate Joginder Nath Mandal’s sufferings in Pakistan to the trouble Ambedkar faced from Congress in India. Mandal was lured to support formation of Pakistan and then faced deceit by the Islamic govt. there. No such thing happened to Ambedkar in India.
    The recent efforts by some frustrated elements to cause dissatisfaction amongst dalits , consider them as a separate group from Hindus and trying to get them close to Muslims, especially against CAA will fail miserably. Dalits in India know that, CAA is mainly for Hindu and Christian dalits of Pakistan, who are being forcibly converted or murdered, with their womenfolk being raped or forcibly married to Muslims there.

  10. What a joke that Dalit – Muslim unity can’t be good for Dalits and giving the example of J N Mandal…. But in CAA a single word not mentioned for Dalit or their pain. I think any kind of people or any group of people who suffer atrocities or any human right humiliation in any country can be considered as Dalit . Because the word Dalit actually explains it meaning like that… Then there is no question of support to Muslim or not support to Muslim….. Dalit should stand for their pain and human right humiliation or stand against the procedure or law or anything can make a human Dalit

  11. Jogendra Nath Mandal huh? Couldn’t the author find anyone better. No wonder Dalits have always been shortchanged by their ‘leadership’, over the last 70+ years. None of them have worked for the welfare of their brethren. Added to this, authors like this gentleman who have no agenda other then constantly whining and blaming the other.

  12. Elsewhere, in The Print, an analogy to the game Twister was made. It was rather apt. A similar analogy can be made here too. At first CAA – NPR – NCR was discrimanatory towards Dalits of India, because they apparently don’t have any documentation to prove they are Indian citizens.

    Now, a case is being made that Pakistani Dalits illegally in India will not benefit in 2020 from the CAA because of what happened with Ambedkar and Mandal in the 1950’s and 60’s. Strange causality to make.

    The author brings up a valid point re: “human development indicators” and draws the conclusion that they remain poor within the Dalits community because they self – identify as Dalits. It was this rationale that was used to institutionalize positive discrimination several decades ago.

    The author seems to state that despite institutionalizing positive discrimination and thereby institutionalizing caste based identity, human development indicators remain poor. One wonders what the author would suggest as a solution? I’m sure they have access to enough data to perform RCT style studies on this matter.

    Because apart from the politics of the CAA, the fact of the matter is, that those Non-Naturalized Dalits who support the CAA want citizenship so they can be recipients of the benefits afforded by the State.

  13. One hopes that Mr Dilip Mandal will stop grumbling one day and not be jealous of some people being in higher judiciary, media etc. most of whom have come up through sheer hard work and after paying through their nose for their academics.

    Regarding the SC/ST Atrocity statistics, they are just cases registered because of the way the law has been drafted. One has only to make a complaint and it is registered as an “atrocity”. This is how the statistics of “atrocity” are compiled and used to scare the rest of the Hindus of India, by media in particular.

    But what is the truth about the two most serious crimes against “dalits” – murder and rape? Total no of murders in 2016 – 31496 (number of murders of “SC” – 799 (2.54%), Total no of rapes in 2016 – 39068 (number of rapes against “SC” women – 2545 (6.51%). Thus it can be seen that the ratio of serious crimes against “dalits” is meagre compared to their known population. In fact, the number of murders/rapes against other citizens is far higher. (Source – NCRB)

  14. The writer of this article has cherry picked facts to bolster his case. Congress leaders in general and Gandhiji in particular made sustained efforts to ensure the victory of Dr. Ambedkar. Besides, sucessive governments in India taken affirmative action for upliftment of dalits. A section of dalits who benefited from the affirmative actions are the ones who are joining hands with Muslims and raising hue and cry over CAA/NPR/NRC.

  15. What is he trying to say? That BJP is trying to ensure there is no coalition of Dalits and Muslims? How mean of the BJP! That they keep arresting dalit leaders like Chandrasekhar Azad to retain their Hindu caste coalition. Very bad of BJP!

    There is no justice in an upper caste dominated India. Thank you professor, we needed you to point out the obvious. Indian upper caste Hindus are bad. Yeah they are demons… all of them including moi. How come Lalu, Mayawati, Mulayam, Akhilesh, Nitish, other Dalit leaders not made a difference over 72 years? Why sirji?

    Coming to Pakistan, Mandal idiot bet on the wrong side and felt short changed. If you mortgage your brains and take political decisions for short term gains including supping with the devil, that is what will happen in a predominantly feudal society. Obviously professor has eaten too much maken for his own good.

    Throw in a few lines about Ambedkar, bring some kind of equivalence between India and Pakistan, then mention about the plight of Dalits here, demonise BJP for what all political parties do and viola, you have a cringe worthy article which is published in ThePrint, which surprised me a bit.
    Ho hum. Yawn.

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