ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Mukti Kon Pathe?

Caste and Class in Ambedkar’s Struggle

In the 1930s, for the first time in Indian politics,Ambedkar jointly addressed caste and class, unravelling the connections between caste, class, and religion in Indian society. A focus on the anti-khoti struggle in the Konkan region and the working class struggle in Bombay, under Ambedkar’s leadership through the Independent Labour Party during 1936–42, allows for a deeper exploration of this ideological position. Ambedkar’s formulation and emphasis of the “untouchables’ question” in class struggle, then and now, has continued to disrupt traditional formulations of working class solidarity.

This paper is a revised version of one presented at the First International Willi Münzenberg Congress, 2015 at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, Berlin. The author would like to thank Umesh Bagade and Tanika Sarkar for their critical insights in understanding the issues of caste and class.The title of this paper,Mukti Kon Pathe? (Which Way to Emancipation?) has been inspired by the title of Ambedkar’s popular speech delivered in 1936 in Bombay city.

On 20 June 1936, Ambedkar delivered a speech in Bombay titled Mukti Kon Pathe? (Which Way to Emancipation?), which was reproduced in his self-published news weekly Janata. This speech was important as it presented pathways for the emancipation of the untouchables and laid bare the interlinkages between caste, class, and religion. The speech was delivered between two important events of Ambedkar’s life—his announcement of leaving the Hindu religion in 1935 and the establishment of the Independent Labour Party (ILP) in 1936, a concerted effort to march along the outlined pathways.

The formation of the ILP in the 1930s did not represent a shift or expansion in Ambedkar’s anti-caste ideology; rather it had always been one of the core tenets of his philosophy since the writing of “Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development” (1916). The material reality of caste and class was always central to his ideological position. His first struggle, the Mahad Satyagraha in 1927, had passed a resolution along economic lines. According to Raosaheb Kasbe (1985: 57), the period of the 1930s had given a realistic approach to Ambedkar’s political position.

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Updated On : 11th Dec, 2017
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