The year was 1932. The day September 24. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar was facing one of the greatest dilemma in his life. To stand for what he believed and worked for all his life – the Upliftment of dalits or to heed to an humanitarian call- to save a life? That too life of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

By then the British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald agreeing on Ambedkar's suggestion was going to incorporate Communal Award to the depressed into the constitution in the governance of British India. But Mahatma Gandhi strongly opposed the Communal Award on the grounds that it would disintegrate Hindu society. He began an indefinite hunger strike at Yerwada Central Jail from September 20, 1932 to protest against this Award. His health deteriorated and it came on Ambedkar to take a decision.

In a later interview to BBC in 1955 Ambedkar sums up what he did and how he overcame one of the greatest dilemma he faced, “ I told him (Gandhi) I am prepared to save your life provided you do not make hard terms. But I am not saving your life at the cost of life of my people. I am not going to sacrifice the interest of my people,”

On September 24, Ambedkar signed the pact which came to be known as the Poona Pact. Among other terms incorporated it declared. “Henceforth, amongst Hindus no one shall be regarded as an untouchable by reason of his birth and they will have the same rights in all the social institutions as the other Hindus have,” This was regarded as a landmark resolution in the history of the Dalit movement in India which paved way for due share to Dalits in Indian polity. But the Poona pact also augmented the bitterness between Gandhi and Ambedkar. In the same interview he gave to BBC Ambedkar says, “ He was never a Mahatma. I refused to call him Mahatma. He did not deserve the title. Not even from the point of view of his morality.”

From Yerwada Central Jail Gandhiji telegraphs 'Kerala Gandhi'

OWhen Mahatma Gandhi was continuing his fast at Yerwada against the move to grant separate electorates for the dalits, K Kelappan known as 'Kerala Gandhi' was also into a fast unto death Satyagraha. Reason – For the right to entry of all Hindus to temples. The Guruvayoor Satyagraha began many months back on November 1, 1931 to be exact. The decision to launch the struggle was taken at the Congress Kerala conference organised in Vadakara in May 1931. A committee formed with Mannath Padmanabhan as president and K Kelappan as secretary led the protest. As a prelude to the satyagraha, a march led by Subrahmanian Thirumunpu was taken out from Kannur to Guruvayur. A K Gopalan was its volunteer captain. With the Zamorin of Calicut, not heeding Kelappan decided to fast till the temple was opened to Dalits.

Coming to know about it, Gandhiji,opposed the move and send a telegram to Kelappan requesting him to give up the plan. The reasons that Gandhi cited in letter for asking him to stop was that Kelappan did not get the prior permission from Gandhi to hold fast. He also said that Kellappan had not issued notice about the fast. Gandhi pointed out that the Zamorin had requested that the fast be postponed. Kelappan replied that the 10 months protest was a sufficient notice. He pointed that he took Gandhiji's own fast at the Yerwada prison for Dalits as consent. However, he eventually accepted Gandhiji's advice and broke the fast on October 2, 1932 — after 13 long days. But Before it in a telegraphic reply, Kelappan said that the whole burden of getting Kerala's temples opened for all would be on Gandhi.

Nothing happened for years. Finally, after years of struggle, Temple Entry Proclamation was issued by Maharaja of Travancore in 1936 throwing open the doors of temples to people from lower castes. Two months after the Temple Entry Proclamation, Mahatma Gandhi arrived in Thiruvananthapuram on January 12, 1937, to participate in celebrations. The proclamation was a milestone in the history of Kerala and also in the Dalit movement in the country.

One man, One vote, One value

On 25th November, 1949, when the constitution was adopted Ambedkar, the principal architect of the constitution of India gave a speech in which he gave his views on democracy. If we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? Ambdedkar said in Parliament “The first thing in my judgment we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. The Grammar of Anarchy...the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us,” he said.

The second thing Ambdedkar pointed out in his speech quoting John Stuart Mill was words of caution for all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy. “Not to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with power which enable him to subvert their institutions. There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish Patriot Daniel O'Connel, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship,” he said.

The third thing Ambedkar said Indians must do is not to be content with mere political democracy and make political democracy a social democracy as well. “On the 26thof January 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man, one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which the Assembly has to laboriously built up,” warns Ambedkar.