Updated: Apr 17
This lecture was delivered as part of the 6th annual History for Peace conference titled 'The Idea of Democracy' which was hosted in Kolkata through August 4, 5, and 6, 2022.
My presentation at this conference is on a topic that is very close to my heart— it is on Dr B.R. Ambedkar’s ideas of democracy. Dr Ambedkar is a figure whose writings had not been analysed or read for a long time. It is in the last few decades that we see the ‘mainstreaming’ of his writings. A lot of his ideas are still in the process of being analysed. It is important for us to understand his perspective on things other than democracy as well, especially because his writings had foresight, which makes them relevant to contemporary times. In this lecture, I am going to talk about his writings and speeches on democracy.
Let me give you a brief overview of my presentation. In the beginning, I am going to talk about where we situate Dr Ambedkar in the intellectual history of India and in understanding democracy. Then, I will talk about the socio-legal political context that we must know before we read Dr Ambedkar. This context and background are important for understanding and analysing the philosophy of Dr Ambedkar. Then, I will talk about the various aspects of democracy to which Dr Ambedkar contributed ideas. Next, I will talk about how Dr Ambedkar played a role in entrenching his ideas of democracy in the Indian constitution. We find that several of his ideas that were considered radical at the time were not incorporated into the final text of the constitution. We do have a progressive constitution now, but if more of Dr Ambedkar’s ideas could have been incorporated, it could have been far more radical and equalizing. So, in reading or understanding his work, all these aspects should be considered—what are the underlying points on democracy that he presents to us and how are they relevant today?
Let me begin by situating Dr Ambedkar within the intellectual history of India. To do this, I rely on two works. One is written by Dr Ambedkar while the other discusses the context of his work. Dr Ambedkar had a classic work that he could not finish in his lifetime; the document is not available to us in its entirety because some pages were lost. It is titled Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Ancient India. The book claims that there exists a revolution against inequality within Indian society and Indian history. There also exists a counter-revolution to undo the former. The revolution and the counter-revolution is cyclical. Indian history is not linear, that is, it is not progressing in a one-dimensional way. There are ups and downs. There is progress, in the realm of equality, but then there is also retaliation against that progress. And so, the cycle goes on. We see that in other aspects of history too. Dr Ambedkar mentions that the establishment of Buddhism was one of the initial acts of democracy which tried to give everyone equal traditions, but then there was a counter-revolution against it which led to the downfall of Buddhism and the rise of Brahminic traditions. Thus, this cycle of revolution and counter-revolution continues. So, we must understand Dr Ambedkar’s writings in this cyclical context.
The second work I want to discuss is the late Gail Omvedt’s book—Seeking Begumpura—in which she analyses a number of anti-caste social reformers from different moments of history. These reformers included those who shaped Indian history at different points in time—Ravidas, Kabir, Jyotirao Phule and Dr Ambedkar. Each of them questioned historical social privileges and demanded equality. Dr Ambedkar himself used to cite a lot of these figures from history. Dr Ambedkar’s analysis of history was not just of a single time period. He would often refer to different countries and their history in order to analyse the problems of India and the world. Dr Ambedkar would often propose ideas and solutions to existing problems in the world. In that regard, he is amongst the thinkers who have shaped global history as well as Indian history.
Now, I will talk about the socio-political and legal history that preceded Dr Ambedkar’s arrival into the public domain. How was that history instrumental in shaping Dr Ambedkar’s ideas? I am going to focus on colonial history as that was the historical context into which he was born. The earlier acts of anti-colonial resistance—essentially the roots of contemporary democratic traditions—were spearheaded by indigenous communities. Many revolts were staged by indigenous Adivasi communities against the colonial British empire. The 1857 Revolt and the series of incidents that ensued propelled the British to change their policies. The 1858 proclamation by the Queen of England promised the Indian princely states some freedom. The proclamation also established that the colonial government would not interfere in matters of customs and religious practices of Indian society. Nonetheless, we find that the British criminalized several indigenous communities by enacting the Criminal Tribes Act in 1872. According to the act, from birth, entire indigenous communities were declared criminals, at the whim of the British government. Thus, many of the indigenous and lower-caste peoples were criminalized by the British. Ramnarayan Rawat in his book, Reconsidering Untouchability, traces the history of such communities—Indian society denied them social equality and the British considered them criminal. Thus, we find the colonial system supporting the existing social structure of inequality. This is the context in which social reform movements started in India.
It was Jyotiba Phule who laid down the initial seeds of resistance against this system of discrimination. The book called Gulamgiri (Slavery), which Phule wrote in 1873, was inspired by and dedicated to the people of the United States, because, at the time the US had just amended their constitution to declare that slavery is unconstitutional. Phule appealed to the Indian people that they should also be talking about social equality like the US. With the Civil War in the US and with all that was happening in global history at the helm of the twentieth century, one would have hoped that there would be a conversation on social reforms and equality in India as well. But we find that missing in India. The focus of the national leaders of that time was on including Indians within the British system, and not talking about social reforms. At the same time, the inclusion in the British legislature or executive was based on certain conditions—a certain level of education and a certain amount of property. As a result of this, the lower castes and the shudra communities were excluded from the demands of anti-colonial political reform. It is in this context that we must understand Dr Ambedkar’s ideas. Dr Ambedkar’s rise during this time made him reflect on the system because of his own experiences.
Now, I will talk about the various historical aspects of democracy which Dr Ambedkar has discussed. His 1915 essay called ‘Caste in India: Their Genesis, Development and Mechanism’, which he presented at Columbia University as part of his seminar paper, theorises the Indian caste system. Equally important were his submissions made before the Southborough Committee in 1919. The British had promised Indians some constitutional reforms—that there would be more inclusive governance and extension of the franchise to Indians. So, following the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909, the British set up the Southborough Committee to examine the question of the franchise. Dr Ambedkar, 28 at the time, was invited to make his submission before the committee, where he talked about his ideas of citizenship within a democracy. Dr Ambedkar wrote and submitted this, and I quote:
‘Citizenship is nothing else but a collection of rights and rights such as personal liberty, personal security, right to hold property, equality before the law, freedom of speech and expression, right to representation in a country’s government, and right to hold office are those rights which constitute citizenship.’
So, he argued, citizenship is the bundle of rights that everyone should have. In democratic societies, citizenship should be defined by people enjoying these rights. If people do not have these rights, then we need to think about whether we have been granted citizenship at all. Dr Ambedkar said that the right to representation and the right to hold office are the two most important aspects of citizenship in a democratic society. In colonial times, lower castes could not be a part of the government because several conditions had to be met before people could contest elections or run for government positions. Lower castes could not meet these conditions because of structural societal discrimination. Dr Ambedkar argued that under the British system, the idea of citizenship was not fulfilling because it did not give these two basic rights to everyone.
Dr Ambedkar also talked about the political conscience which can develop from these rights, which could have galvanized the power of the downtrodden. If the oppressed castes or the shudra community were made to participate in government and given the political franchise, it would have led to their political education, developed their political conscience, and pushed them to demand their rights. The more you empowered the community, the more assertive it would become. Dr Ambedkar talked about this in 1919. In reality, this did happen after independence. For Dr Ambedkar, then, the idea of democracy is not only about political but also social and economic reforms. We cannot have a democracy if it is only talking about political systems and not about social and economic systems. Most of his writings argue that social reform must accompany political reform. If the focus is just on political reform, then no matter what nation or democracy is set up, it is bound to fail. This is because social inequalities would continue to exist, therefore the issues surrounding social reforms will come up again and again. Therefore, Dr Ambedkar was critical of the leaders of the Congress party—the nationalist leaders of the time—for not focusing on social reforms along with political reforms because democracy would fail without social reforms. In particular, he criticized nationalist leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Gopal Krishna Gokhale. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, had once made a degrading joke at the expense of the shudras and other oppressed castes because they demanded equal representation in the political system. Dr Ambedkar would refer to that incident in his criticism of Tilak and the latter’s reticence toward social reform.
We also find that Ambedkar’s perception, that social reforms is a necessity in democracy, is demonstrated in his many public movements. In the 1920s, after the Government of India Act 1919 was enacted, Dr Ambedkar led mass movements including the Mahad Satyagraha and the Kala Ram Temple Entry Satyagraha. In each of these movements, he demanded greater access to resources for the oppressed castes, in addition to their right to education. Demands for getting access to resources like public tanks, water bodies, and temples reflected egalitarianism within a democracy and the centrality of the democratic concept of the right to equal access. Dr. Ambedkar even compared the Mahad Satyagraha to the French Revolution, stating that the movement to get equal access in an unequal society is nothing short of such a historic revolution.
Dr Ambedkar’s idea of democracy required the questioning of existing power structures and privileges. For this, I will refer to his submissions to the Simon Commission that came to India in 1928. While the Congress boycotted the Simon Commission, Dr Ambedkar used the platform to demand political rights for the untouchable community and raise concerns over the historical power structures and privileges prevalent in Indian society. He demanded representation of the backward classes in government before the Simon Commission. The nationalist leaders, had, for a long time demanded the inclusion of Indians in the British system. He argued that the exclusion of the backward classes from the British administration was just as morally wrong as the exclusion of Indians from the British services. Ironically, the nationalist leaders were opposed to the inclusion of backward classes into the British administration because they believed the inclusion of the former would weaken the efficiency of government. Dr Ambedkar thus questioned the double standards of these nationalist leaders. On the one hand, they demanded their own representation in the British government, but on the other, they opposed their own integration with the backward classes. He argued that the reforms sought by the nationalist leaders, entrenched existing privileges. In other words, once you become part of the system that favours you, you withhold the marginalized communities from accessing the system which once excluded you. For Dr Ambedkar, the idea of representation was a key point of democracy— i.e. unless a government is representative, we cannot call it a democratic government. Unless the government represents all the concerns of marginalized communities, it cannot be called a good government.
Dr Ambedkar also propagated that in a democracy, the idea of power should be the idea of compassion and not that of a brute majority. He made this submission when he went to London in 1930 to participate in the Round Table Conference. Three Round Table Conferences took place between 1930–1933. When we analyse the constitution, we often missed what happened at these Round Table Conferences, but so many interesting ideas were discussed during those conferences. At the conference, Dr Ambedkar stated that a government is good only when it is representative. He questioned the British for their oppression of Indians, especially the backward classes, and attacked the British for not doing enough to protect their rights. He said that the British government had failed to protect the rights of marginalized communities. In 1930, he, therefore, argued that it was time for the British government to go. Because the British government had been negligent, it was time for a new government—one that would comprise and be representative of Indians. He quoted Edmund Burke, an English philosopher, saying: ‘The power and authority must be an act of compassion and the rights of people must be guaranteed rather than suppressing them with brute majoritarianism.’
At the Round Table Conferences, Ambedkar emphasized the entrenchment of legal rights as a remedy to caste oppression as opposed to waiting for society and oppressive communities to grow a conscience and change their hearts. He did not want the rights of caste-marginalized people to have to depend on the reform of oppressive societal mindsets. Dr Ambedkar had major clashes with Mohandas K. (Mahatma) Gandhi and Rajkumari Amrit Kaur (a member of the Constituent Assembly) on how the idea of representation in a democracy should be protected. The Gandhi‑Ambedkar debate is well known. Dr Ambedkar wanted special recognition of the rights of marginalized communities whereas Gandhi thought that it would dilute the cause of unity. Dr Ambedkar also had an interesting disagreement with Rajkumari Amrit Kaur during the Round Table Conferences. Dr Ambedkar sought the recognition of rights in the form of written law; the evolution of rights could not just be left to the social consciousness development of people alone. Contrary to the view held by Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, in demanding representation and reservation for marginalized communities via law, Ambedkar also included a demand for the representation of and reservation of seats for women. He believed that much like the oppressed castes, Indian society was also excluding women from the mainstream. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was opposed to the idea of having reservations for women in British services because she believed that such rights would eventually emanate through organic social change. This was the disagreement between the two. Ultimately, at the Round Table Conferences, Dr Ambedkar’s recommendation on the reservation for women was rejected.
Dr Ambedkar also discussed democracy in terms of nationalism. He claimed that it is necessary to reflect on nationalism in a democracy because nationalism is bound to emerge in any democratic society. Dr Ambedkar was critical of any narrow concept of nationalism. He critiqued the narrow concept of nationalism in the following way:
‘A peculiar patriot and nationalist in India is one who sees with open eyes, his fellow men being treated as less than men, but his humanity does not arise in protest. He knows that men and women for no cause are denied their human rights but it does not prick his civic sense to helpful action. He finds whole classes of people shut out from public employment but it does not rouse his sense of justice and fair play. Hundreds of evil practices that injure men and society are perceived by him but they do not sicken him with disgust. The patriots’ cry is power and more power for his class. I am glad that I do not belong to that class of patriots.’
In other words, Ambedkar claims that if all those who talk about nationalism and patriotism do not also talk about the existing social realities of inequality and exclusion, then they are not the real patriots or nationalists but the ‘peculiar’ ones. The real patriots or nationalists are those who stand up in a democracy and destroy monopoly in every shape and form—whether it be in politics, economics or society. Thus, Dr Ambedkar makes a distinction between what he thinks nationalism should mean in a democracy and how nationalism used to be talked about.
Because Ambedkar criticizes so many aspects of society a natural emergent question is: What is Dr. Ambedkar’s ideal society or democracy? Dr Ambedkar responds to this question in 1936, in his classic undelivered address, Annihilation of Caste, where he says, ‘For me, an ideal society must be based on the idea of liberty, equality and fraternity.’ He takes it a step further by defining liberty, equality, and fraternity in the Indian context.
On Liberty, Ambedkar claimed liberty in a democracy does not merely mean the freedom to do anything—to discriminate, or the freedom of speech and expression to abuse and bully. If liberty does not allow several individuals to choose their future or decide their own occupation, then it is not liberty. He argues that in the context of the caste system, the occupation, fortune, and worthiness in a society of many communities are decided on the basis of their birth. Therefore, for him, if liberty does not question these existing biases or exclusions, or non-freedoms, then that is not liberty. Liberty must be understood in the context of Indian society and in terms of how it could give rights to marginalized communities. On equality, Ambedkar said that equality does not imply that you treat everyone equally blindly. Rather, one has to take into consideration the material conditions of society. If someone is born unequal for no fault of their own but as a consequence of their caste and birth, then policies have to take into account those realities and special rights have to be given to these communities. On fraternity, Ambedkar said that fraternity is another name for democracy. Democracy is about respecting each other, the feeling of associated collaborations and the social system of endosmosis. Fraternity is another name for democracy. Thus, if you do not have mutual respect for your fellow citizens, that is not a fraternity. Therefore, democracy cannot exist without fraternity.
So, this is Ambedkar's ideal conception of democracy. This conception is also linked with the enhancement of human potential and social welfare. So, he says that democracy is the only system that can revolutionize human potential without bloodshed. If you recognize the rights of the people and focus on enhancing them, then a bloody revolution is not needed and freedom can be achieved with a non-violent revolution. We see Dr Ambedkar’s contribution towards raising human potential in many of the legislations that he initiated, as part of the Bombay Legislative Council and as a Labour member in the Viceroy’s Council. Several social reform initiatives and legislations were either brought forward by Dr Ambedkar or were strongly supported by him in his capacity as a legislator.
We also find that in his conception, the question of labour is equally important. Ambedkar argues that we must understand the labour question in Indian democracy, not just in terms of class, but also in the social context of caste because they are interlinked. The basic assumption is that one can navigate the system of class. But there is no upward mobility when it comes to caste because caste restricts one’s ability to move beyond the station granted to a person at birth. Caste prevents people from coming out of the inhuman practices to which they are subjected, for instance, that of manual scavenging, which continues to date. His analysis helps us to understand that caste prohibits class mobility or the ability to move out. Therefore, it was important for him to tie in the labour question into the discussion of democracy.
These are the aspects of democracy that Dr Ambedkar talks about in different moments of history, in different submissions that he made. By the 1940s, these aspects became important, especially during the adoption of the Indian constitution. In the early 1940s, before India achieved independence, Dr Ambedkar proposed that these aspects of democracy be adopted into the future constitution of India. He wrote three important documents at that time—1945, 1946, and 1947—where he talks about how these ideas of democracy can be entrenched in written form in the constitution. In 1945, he wrote his essay titled ‘Communal Deadlock and How to Solve It’. It is a document where he tries to give solutions to the problem of the majority and minority in India. The essay reflected on whether India would become a Hindu communal majority, and how to navigate the communal system and protect the rights of the minorities. In the essay, ‘Communal Deadlock’, Dr Ambedkar gave a constitutional framework for the representation of the minority—whether social or religious—and how they would be legally protected was emphasized. He said that the number of seats in any legislature should be reserved for minorities to such an extent that without their consent or their approval, the issues concerning them are not legislated upon by the majority. If the majority becomes a communal majority where one religious group is numerically dominant (as we see in the later years), then it has the risk of undermining the rights of the minorities. He said that if special rights or special representation of minorities is not guaranteed in the constitution, then it might lead to the risk of rights being undermined by the political majority. The proposal was not accepted by the British or the Congress at the time. Dr Ambedkar wrote another work in 1946, titled ‘What Gandhi and the Congress Have Done for The Untouchables’. The work was written for an international audience because this was the time when the United Nations was established, and many revolts were occurring across the world on the rights of marginalized people. The work was meant to appeal to the international communities and force the British to take the rights of the marginalized communities seriously.
Interestingly, in that work, he explains why the idea of including the rights of minorities in written form is necessary for any democracy. He gives the example of the US, where, as you know, there is a race problem and African Americans have been discriminated against in the US, sometimes by law and sometimes by social forces. When the US Constitution was enacted initially, it did not provide for the rights of African-Americans in the constitution. As a result of that, we find some terrible judgments of the US Supreme Court saying that African Americans are not citizens of the US. Even chattel slavery was not unconstitutional for a while. It was only after the civil war in the 1860s in the US, that the constitution was amended to declare that slavery was unconstitutional. So, Dr Ambedkar said that we have a lesson to learn from the US: ‘The Untouchables of India cannot forget the fate of the African Americans of the United States,’ he said. Therefore, he said that in the future Indian constitution, it is necessary to write down the rights of the social minorities, because otherwise, future democratic governments will not incorporate these rights out of their own will. That is why Ambedkar advocated for the inclusion of certain special rights when the constitution was adopted.
Then, the third classic work that everyone must read is States and Minorities, which Ambedkar wrote as a draft constitution for the ‘United States of India’. He talks about the relationship that the economic system of a country should have with its political democracy. He says again, that if safeguards are not included in the constitution for protecting the economically vulnerable marginalized communities, then democracy in India would be another name for dictatorship. Further, he argued, if everything is left to the government without introducing safeguards, then the residue of liberty would not be a democracy; the residue of liberty would be dictatorship instead because you are not controlling the government that is coming and you are leaving it to their whims and fancies. In order to establish a purely democratic government, which would respect the rights of minorities, Ambedkar argued that certain safeguards had to be placed in the constitution. By the time, the Constituent Assembly of India was set up and these issues were raised, most of these ideas were excluded from the Constitution. But if we understand Dr Ambedkar’s ideas, then it would broaden the way we understand our Constitution. To quote Dr Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud, who is currently Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India:
‘Reading Dr Ambedkar compels us to look at the other side of the independence history. It was not just a fight for freedom from colonial government but it was also a fight for social justice (…)’
Dr Ambedkar brought with him several values that were made part of the constitution and the constitution must be understood in that light.
I will now briefly discuss what happened in the Constituent Assembly—why were these values that Dr Ambedkar talked about not included and what were the values which were finally adopted? We find that Dr Ambedkar’s proposals were considered so radical by the members of the Constituent Assembly at that time, that they did not think that it would be necessary to have those systems in the Constitution. Even basic rights, such as the right to vote is not a fundamental right as of now. Dr Ambedkar proposed that the right to vote be made a fundamental right so that in the future, no condition can be imposed to limit the right to vote.
Ironically, even leading figures such as Sardar Patel was opposed to this. But several radical provisions were made part of the constitution, and they were agreed upon by the majority of the members of the Constituent Assembly. Specifically, for example, we see that the problem of untouchability was included in the chapter on fundamental rights because it was felt that without prohibiting the problem of untouchability, the idea of fundamental rights cannot be realized. The adult franchise has been extended to everyone. Certain socio-economic rights, although they are not enforceable, have been included in the constitution. Dr Ambedkar had wanted these rights to be enforceable—i.e. if these socio-economic rights were not being guaranteed, then we could bring the government to court—but that did not happen.
In the constitutional discourse, Dr Ambedkar focused on the role of institutions and the discretion that they should be given. Dr Ambedkar had argued that if institutions or institution office holders are given absolute liberty and if their role is not defined in the constitution, it would be doom for democracy because there would not exist any constitutional curbs on their power. That is why he wanted to constitutionally restrict the discretionary powers of institutions to whatever extent possible. He, therefore, says that the constitution of India is lengthy because they wanted to incorporate each and every possible thing in the constitution so that in the future, it does not lead to the arbitrariness of the ruling leaders. For the office of the Governor, Dr Ambedkar wanted something called ‘Instruments of Instruction’, so that the role of the Governor, i.e. how they should act in particular situations, should be clearly defined in the constitution. But he did not get support from the majority of the members of the Constituent Assembly on that.
He also reinterpreted several democratic principles that are considered necessary in any democratic society. The principles of separation of power state that the separation of powers between the legislature and the executive is an inherent part of any democratic system. Dr Ambedkar gave a broader understanding of this principle and said that this principle is not just limited to the separation of powers between different organs of government but between different communities of society. If that does not happen, he argued, then power will once again become a monopoly of the few. The rights of Schedule Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and indigenous communities have been exclusively incorporated into the constitution because of Dr. Ambedkar’s stand. At one moment, he had even threatened to leave the Constituent Assembly and his role as the chairman of the Drafting Committee if the rights of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were not included in the final text of the constitution.
Because all these contestations were happening during the framing of the constitution, Indian ‘democracy’ must be seen as a form of contestation as well. Some of those contestations were accepted by everyone, while some were left out. Dr Ambedkar said in his final address to the Constituent Assembly that on 26 January 1950, India will become a political democracy where everyone will have equal voting rights—one man, one value in the political system. But India will not have a social democracy or an economic democracy where everyone is equal and has equal economic rights. That is something we must aspire to today. If democracy has to be realized, then it cannot just be a political democracy. Democracy is equally as much about having a social or economic democracy, as Dr Ambedkar claimed. It was through this contestation that the constitution of India came into being.
I now focus on the final speeches that Dr Ambedkar gave after the constitution was adopted. His remarkable speech in 1952, called ‘The conditions necessary for the successful working of any democracy’, argued that if democracy in India has to work, then certain conditions must be fulfilled. In fact, we could consider these conditions to be a formula through which we can analyse or understand democracy. The first condition was that there cannot be any glaring inequalities in societies, for if there are inequalities, there will be revolts, bloodshed and democracy will be in question. He gave examples of different countries where the privileged class did not shed their privileges and did not share its power with the marginalized, which then led to revolutions. So Dr Ambedkar said that to prevent ourselves from getting into that situation, it is necessary to eradicate all the glaring inequalities in society. Otherwise, the basic idea of democracy itself would falter.
Dr Ambedkar also said that in a democracy, the opposition plays an important role, and the testing of faith in government is not just about elections every five years, but on a regular basis. That’s why we need to have a strong opposition in the country, and the basic rights of the opposition should be entrenched in the constitution. We see that if the rights of the opposition party are not entrenched in the constitution, quite often governments will ignore the concerns of the opposition party. Dr Ambedkar said that certain basic things such as recognizing the position of the leader of the opposition in every condition, even when the opposition holds minimal seats, are necessary for democracy. This is because if the opposition is not recognized, an authoritarian government can come to power, which could ignore the concerns of the opposition, and establish an autocracy or authoritarian rule.
For Ambedkar, the most important condition for safeguarding democracy was following the practice of constitutional morality, which he defined as constitutional conventions. This means if a situation arises, then there should be certain accepted practices that should be followed in order to preserve democracy and prohibit arbitrariness. He argued for this by drawing from examples in other countries like the UK and the US. In the UK for instance, despite not having it in writing, elected leaders do not re-contest elections after serving a term of two years. A similar practice that later made itself into the US Constitution was that a president can serve only for two terms. Dr Ambedkar argued for the incorporation of such a provision into the Indian constitution in order to pave the way for the development of such a constitutional culture or convention. He argued that democracy will not work if left to the whims and fancies of those in power.
The last condition he mentions is that no law or constitution that aims to protect fundamental rights can be realized if it is not supported by social discourse. He further says that if the social discourse is against fundamental rights, then no law, parliament or judiciary, can implement those rights. Therefore, apart from having laws and a strong constitution, we also need a strong social discourse in favour of these rights, and he left it to the intellectual class to propagate that. He claimed that the intellectual class has the power to change the narratives of any country. Thus, it is the job of the intellectual class to propagate these principles and to foster a social discourse in favour of equality and democracy. We see, that in Dr Ambedkar’s conception of democracy—that democracy is not the freedom to do anything or run a majoritarian rule. It is a system that is supposed to be supported by legal and constitutional measures so that the majority does not become arbitrary. In such a system, the rights of minorities—whether social or religious—are protected, and society works towards the enhancement of human potential without bloodshed. That is an intervention that Dr Ambedkar provides—that we need to have certain restrictions on the behaviour of society via the law, because if society is given the liberty to act in any way it pleases in the name of democracy, then in an unequal society like India, this would only solidify the systems of inequality and exclusion that are already in place. So, to dilute that exclusion, we must have safeguards in place. This is an overview of Dr. Ambedkar’s idea of democracy and the democratic standards that must be maintained to preserve democracy. I would like to end on this note.
Anurag Bhaskar is an Assistant Professor at Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat. He is also an Affiliate Faculty at Harvard Law School Center on the Legal Profession, USA, and the Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, Delhi. Anurag pursued his LL.M. from Harvard Law School (2018–19) and B.A. LL.B. (2012– 17) from RMLNLU, Lucknow. He has also clerked for Dr. Justice DY Chandrachud, Judge, Supreme Court of India, during 2017–18. Anurag is a recipient of the Bluestone Rising Scholar Award 2021 conferred by Brandeis University, USA, and the Indian Equality Law Fellowship 2022 at the University of Oxford. He is one of the founders of CEDE, an organisation working towards increasing representation in the legal profession and the judiciary.