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Congress leaders dissuaded Ambedkar from embracing Sikhism

July 10, 2018 | By

Chandigarh: Refuting oft-repeated fallacy that held Akalis responsible for dissuading Dr B R Ambedkar from embracing Sikhism, Sikh thinkers and academicians said it was Mahatma Gandhi and other Hindu leaders who had conspired and pressurized Baba Sahib in 1936 not to go for religious conversion at that juncture.

They were participating in a discussion held at Kendri Sri Guru Singh Sabha complex here on a newly published book ‘Why did not Dr Ambedkar become a Sikh’, authored by Mal Singh in Punjabi. The book is collection and analysis of documents relating to 1935-36 events when Dr Ambedkar had announced to renounce Hinduism– the religion in which he was born but did not wish to die as a Hindu– at two public conferences in Maharashtra, largely attended by Dalits and members of his community, Mahar. The documents in the book endorse Baba Sahib’s cordial talks with the Sikh leadership of the 1930s on the execution of his plan to become a Sikh along with thousands of untouchables.

The book also carries documentary proofs that the Sikh leadership had accepted all conditions of Dr Ambedkar that could have helped him in becoming a Sikh like opening up of a college and setting up a printing press in Mumbai. The Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (SGPC) purchased two plots for that purpose in the name of Baba Sahib and constructed college building and a printing press there at the cost of more than Rs ten lakh those days.

The scholars like Gurtej Singh IAS and Prof Gurdarshan Singh Dhillon reeled out details given in the book that the Sikhs had invited Dr Ambedkar to Amritsar on Baisakhi day in 1936. He was profusely welcomed and a largely attended Sikh Mission Conference was held in his honour where Akali leaders asserted that Sikhism stands for the downtrodden and for smashing obnoxious caste system. Senior journalists Jaspal Singh Sidhu and Karamjit Singh pointed out that the Sikh scholar Sirdar Kapoor Singh, believing on a hearsay, erroneously wrote down that Akalis had dissuaded Babe Saheb from converting to Sikhism as they feared that Dalits being in greater number would control the Sikh institutions. Singh’s misrepresentation of the facts was later exploited by Arya Samajists and vested interests for widening the differences between the Sikhs and Dalits, even as both are victims of excesses perpetrated by the upper caste Hindutva forces, said Gurbachan Singh Jalandhar.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Amrik Singh Sacramento said the hidden role played by the colonial English rulers in dividing and restructuring of the Indian society as per their needs should also be taken into consideration. The British masters’ unseen moves also impacted the decision of Dr Ambedkar not leaving Hinduism for embracing Sikhism at that time.

Punjabi writer and activist Rajwinder Singh Rahi said the Sikh leadership was rather got stunned when Dr Ambedkar told their representative at an island, 70 KM away from Mumbai in 1937 that he was not in the position to embrace Sikhism. But the thus disturbed Sikh leadership had never spoken against Dr Ambedkar and never accused him of ‘ditching’ them in the public rather Akali leader Master Tara Singh and others continued to have warm relations with Baba Sahib till his death in December 1956. Critiquing bitterly Baba Sahib’s decision of becoming Buddhist, 20 years after his earlier plans of embracing Sikhism Mr Rahi said Dr Ambedkar had rather pushed Dalits back into the lap of idol-worshippers since Buddhism has long been integrated into a pantheon of Hindu gods by declaring Buddha as a Hindu god in the incarnation. Such Brahminical sophistication is still retaining the Buddhist Dalits in the Hindutva stranglehold, he added.

Several speakers including Rajinder Singh Khalsa Panchayat and Gurpreet Singh from Singh Sabha said they were yet to comprehend why Baba Sahib had arrived at an agreement with Hindu Maha Sabha leader Dr B S Munje on his religion conversion plan. But the book’s author Mal Singh spoke at length to prove that Dr Munje had breached the promise of not making public the agreement, also referred as a ‘secret formula’ and the Hindu Maha Sabha leader conveyed it to Gandhi and other Congress leaders. The author said Dr Ambedkar himself written in black and white about five leaders responsible for scuttling his plan of becoming a Sikh. They included Mahatma Gandhi, C Rajagopalachari, Dr Munje and Madan Mohan Malviya.

The three-hour-long discussion resolved that the Sikhs should strive to diffuse myths and misgivings created among the Sikhs and Dalits for the benefit of both of them.


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