A HARBINGER OF CHANGE

Dr BR Ambedkar is one of the most luminous figures of modern Indian history and the principal architect of our constitution. He endeavoured to build a new social order based on the democratic ideals of liberty, equality and fraternity. Let us look back at one of his most iconic speeches at the Constituent Assembly.

On November 24, 1949, B. R. Ambedkar presented his concluding remarks on the adoption of the Constitution in the Constituent Assembly. His address recalled the detailed discussions and deliberations on fundamental rights, union powers, and upliftment of minorities that laid the foundation of our Constitution's legal framework. But what makes this speech significant in present-day's political environment is its orators prophetic predictions of the factors that threaten India's political identity as a socialist democracy.

The quest of the hour Even at the helm of liberty, what crippled Ambedkars mind with anxiety was the thought of the stronghold ideals of caste and creed had on the average citizen. Recalling past incidents like the invasion of Sind by Mahommed-Bin-Kasim, he elaborated on how India had once before lost its independence to the treachery of its people and the rise of new political parties that possess diverse and opposing political standing can cause history to repeat itself.

He declared that the day politicians choose creed over the country, the purpose of democracy will be defeated.

Therefore, the quest of the hour was to ensure that proper measures are taken to enforce and safeguard equality, liberty and fraternity as a nascent nation moved forward

Abandon the grammar of anarchy

In his address to the constituent assembly, Ambedkar implored to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving social and economic objectives and abandon methods of rebellion like civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. According to him, in a society that is built on good well and justice and is governed by leaders elected by the people there is no valid justification to employ unsanctioned methods of rebellion.

Dangers of hero-worship Calling Bhakti culture or Hero-worship a sure road to degradation and eventual dictatorship, he said "There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered lifelong services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness... With independence, we have lost the excuse of blaming the British for anything going wrong. If hereafter things go wrong, we will have nobody to blame. Except ourselves...If we wish to preserve the Constitution...let us resolve not to be tardy in the recognition of the evils that lie across our path...nor to be weak in our initiative to remove them. That is the only way to serve the country. I know of no better." (excerpt from the speech)

Key takeaways from the speech

1. Equality, liberty and fraternity are the foundations of our constitution.

2. Blind faith in any entity or individual is an enemy of the truth.

3. A good citizen understands the responsibility that comes with freedom.

DID YOU KNOW?

  1. Dr Ambedkar was the first law minister of Independent India
  2. Ambedkar's 20-page autobiography titled "Waiting for a Visa" is part of Columbia University's curriculum.
  3. Ambedkar was the first member of the backward classes to become a lawyer.
  4. Ambedkar was the first and only Satyagrahi to conduct "Satyagraha for drinking water”. Ambedkar had master's degrees in around 64 subjects and was the first Indian to obtain a doctorate in Economics from a foreign university.

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WHAT IS THE MAIN IDEA OF ‘FREEDOM OR DEATH’ SPEECH?

Emmeline Pankhurst was an English political activist and a leading figure in the suffrage movement in Great Britain. Her tireless campaigning in the face of police brutality and failing personal health made her an icon of British politics. Let us look at one of her most influential public addresses titled, "Freedom or Death"

On November 13, 1913, British activist Emmeline Pankhurst gave one of the most influential speeches of the suffragette movement titled, Freedom or Death" at a meeting of the Connecticut Woman Suffrage Association in Hartford, Connecticut. U.S.

On this day, the founder of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) took the stage to argue that women's liberation could only be achieved by civil war.

Sign of the times

One of the greatest political changes of the 20th Century was obtaining the vote for women; but behind this accomplishment lay decades of refusals by successive governments.

The long-standing campaign for women's suffrage began in 1865 but when years of peaceful protest and innumerable petitions failed to translate into political change, women took to the streets to rally for their right to vote. It was during this time that Emmeline Pankhurst. along with her daughters Christabel and Sylvia, came up with a public campaign of engagement and spectacle to gain media attention change public opinion, and influence the Parliament through (their motto) deeds and not words.

Freedom or Death

In her 1913 speech, Pankhurst addressed herself as a soldier on leave from the battle, since she was temporarily relieved from her prison sentence on account of what was popularly called the "cat and mouse act"

But her failing health could not derail her from utilising this occasion to speak on the need to fight against the injustices perpetrated on women by society. At the time working women she explained, were earning a meagre amount of two dollars a week: wives had no right on their husband's property and no legal say in the upbringing of their children. Girls were seen as marriageable at the age of 12 and divorce was considered to be an act against God: violence and assault on women rarely received any significant penalty, and above all, there was no legal framework that represented their gender in the constitutional setup. In this political environment, the right to vote, she insisted, was the first step towards getting political equality and attaining full citizenship.

The path to militancy Justifying the rise of the self-proclaimed militant suffragettes, she proclaimed "you cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs" The double standard of the society that reveres men as the harbinger of change and women as creatures to be domesticated has forced us down this road. The history of politics is a testament to the fact that one has to be more noisy" and disruptive to gain the media's attention and see their grievances addressed.

Prisoners (Temporary Discharge for Ill Health) Act 1913

 This 1913 law, also known as the cat and mouse act, was especially passed to suppress the women's movement and allowed for the early release of prisoners who were so weakened by partaking in hunger strikes that they were on the verge of dying. Addressing this legislative move by the Government, she said "There are women lying at death's door... who have not given in and won't give in... they are being carried from their sick beds on stretchers into meetings. They are too weak to speak, but they go amongst their fellow workers just to show that their spirits are unquenched and that their spirit is alive, and they mean to go on as long as life lasts...either women are to be killed or women are to have the vote." (excerpt from Freedom or Death)

World War-l

Less than a year after this speech World War I broke out. The government released all imprisoned suffragists to join the workforce and support the war effort. It was only after the Representation of the People Act was passed in 1918 that property-owning British women over 30 were granted the right to vote.

Key takeaways from the speech

  1. One must never hesitate to fight for social good.
  2.  Women's rights are human rights.
  3.  Equality is the soul of liberty.
  4. It takes courage to challenge the familiar and resilience to succeed.
  5.  Actions hold more meaning than words.

DID YOU KNOW?

  • The colour scheme for the Suffragette movement was purple, white and green which stood for dignity purity and fertility.
  • Pank-a-Squith was a pro women's suffrage board game created by WSPU in the early 1900s. The game's goal was to avoid all the pitfalls of suffragette life and get the right to vote.
  • The Museum of London holds the diary entries, letters and sketchbooks written on toilet paper, passed between imprisoned suffragettes and eventually smuggled out of the prison building.

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WHO COINED THE PHRASE TRYST WITH DESTINY?

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, delivering his Tryst with Destiny speech on the eve of independence. It is considered to be one of the greatest speeches of the 20th century.

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru is remembered as an author, humanist, and a charismatic central figure of the Indian freedom struggle. His conscious efforts in promoting values such as secularism and universal brotherhood during his tenure as the first Prime Minister of independent India made him a true democrat. Let us go back to his iconic first official address titled, "Tryst with destiny."

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru delivered his speech titled Tryst with Destiny on the eve of india's independence on August 14, 1947, from the ramparts of the historical Red Fort in Delhi to the Indian Constituent Assembly in the Parliament. The address was simultaneously broadcast on the radio to the millions of citizens who had toiled and waited for the dawn of freedom.

Nehruvian thought

Nehnu was the embodiment of the vision our nationalist leaders had of independent India. Neither on the political stage nor on moral stature was his leadership ever challenged. He was one of the great leaders of the national movement who not only campaigned for the country's freedom but also ushered it into modernity. Historians recall that there were four focal foundational principles that attributed to this shared vision of post-colonial India according to the spectrum of people who participated in the freedom struggle. These principles were iterated by the first Prime Minister of the nascent nation in his August 14 address.

Sovereignty at the stroke of midnight

Giving a vocal expression to the longing and the self-determination of the Indian people, Nehru declared Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge… At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, india will awake to life and freedom Freedom and power bring responsibility. The responsibility rests upon this Assembly, a sovereign body representing the sovereign people of India (excerpt from Tryst with Destiny)

A democratic nation

The Gandhian philosophy of Sarvodaya or universal upliftment was one of the non-negotiable tenets of the freedom movement. In his first address as the appointed leader of India. Nehru paid homage to Gandhiji by saying. On this day our first thoughts go to the architect of this freedom, the Father of our Nation who held aloft the torch of freedom and lighted up the darkness that surrounded us generations will remember this message and bear the imprint in their hearts of this great son of India magnificent in his faith and strength and courage and humility (excerpt from Tryst with Destiny)

Celebration of diversity

-All of us, to whatever religion we may belong, are equally the children of India with equal rights, privileges and obligations. We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action. "(excerpt from Tryst with Destiny)

Nehru believed that in a country like India which is home to people with different faiths and religions, no real nationalism can be built except on the basis of secularity.

A pro-poor orientation

From the early nationalist days, the poor were at the centre of imagination when one thought of a liberated India Dadabhai Naoroji in his book Poverty and Un-British Rule in India elaborates on how colonialism relied on corruption and wealth inequality to sustain itself. He exclaimed that a devastated economy inhibits political independence. Therefore, aligning with the common consensus, eradication of poverty was seen as a fundamental move to exercise literal autonomy as India stood on the cusp of freedom

These sentiments echoed in Nehru's statement. "The service of India means. the service of the millions who suffer. It means the ending of poverty and ignorance and poverty and disease and inequality of opportunity. To bring freedom and opportunity to the common man, to the peasants and workers of India: to build up a prosperous, democratic and progressive nation, and to create social, economic and political institutions which will ensure justice and fullness of life to every man and woman. There is no resting for any one of us till we make all the people of India what destiny intended them to be" (excerpt from Tryst with Destiny)

Nehru came into power when the flames of violence were burning across the country following the tragedy of partition. But even in these unsettling circumstances, his insistence on retaining democracy and the idea that in a country no leader should be bigger than its people. Constitution and State is what makes him one of the most celebrated leaders of the 20th Century.

DID YOU KNOW?

1. Before immersing himself in India's freedom struggle, Nehru was training to be an advocate.

2. In 1937 Nehru anonymously published an article in the Modem Review journal of Calcutta under the pen name Chanakya criticising himself as "some triumphant Caesar passing by, who might tum into a dictator with "a little twist. He did this to encourage the people of the nation to hold their leaders accountable.

3. Nehru's close associates say that in his last moments, a note with the following lines from Robert Forst's poem Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening lay on his side.

"The woods are lovely dark and deep,

But I have promises to keep,

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to before I sleep."

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WHO WAS THE SPEAKER OF TITLED SPEECH "I AM PREPARED TO DIE"?

"I Am Prepared to Die" is the name given to the three-hour speech given by Nelson Mandela on 20 April 1964 from the dock of the defendant at the Rivonia Trial. The speech is so titled because it ends with the words "it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die".

April 20, 1964, saw Nelson Mandela, a 45-year-old member of the anti-apartheid movement, testify at the Pretoria courtroom as part of the Rivonia Trial. In his defence statement, the young lawyer declared that freedom and equality were the ideals for which he was prepared to die.

This speech became the rallying cry of the masses that shook the apartheid regime and set Mandela on the path to becoming the country's first democratically elected president 30 years later.

Apartheid

Apartheid was the most extreme kind of racism that the world witnessed. It started from 1652 when the Dutch East India Company landed in the Cape of Good Hope and established a trading colony in what is now known as Cape Town. This was a rest stop for ships travelling between Europe and India.

The Dutch colonists went to war with the natives to establish their control. This ultimately led to the creation of a new set of laws to enslave the aboriginals. When the British took over the Cape colony, the descendants of the Dutch settlers trekked inland and developed their own language, culture, and customs eventually becoming the Afrikaners, the first white tribe of South Africa.

The fall of the British Empire saw the Afrikaners claim South Africa for themselves. But to sustain their supremacy over the country's restless black majority, they needed new stringent laws. A formal commission was set up and an expedition was sent to different parts of the world including the Netherlands, Australia, and America with the purpose of studying institutionalised racism and its application. The government used this knowledge to build the most advanced version of racial oppression ever created.

Apartheid (means 'apartness in African language) was a police state, a system of surveillance meant to keep the black people under control. This policy was in place for nearly 50 years.

The art of persuasion

Most leaders are known for their rhetoric. Philosopher Aristotle lays emphasis on the art of persuasion through speech in his treatise on the subject. According to the philosopher, the true means of introducing change in a society can only be accomplished by deliberative rhetoric. A deliberative speech focusses on the future rather than the past or the present. Here the speakers present their audience with a possible future and try to encourage them to lend their support to their vision.

What cements the appeal of this kind of persuasive speech is the use of ethos (credibility), logos (logic and reason), and pathos (emotional connect), and Mandela's speech is an excellent example of this.

The appeal of Mandela

1 am the First Accused I hold a Bachelor's Degree in Arts and practised as an attorney in Johannesburg for several years in partnership with Oliver Tambo. I am a convicted prisoner serving five years for leaving the country without a permit and for inciting people to go on strike at the end of May 1961. (An excerpt from the speech "I am prepared to die”) By beginning his defence statement with an announcement of his educational qualification and contribution to the anti-apartheid movement, Mandela established his credibility. He took full responsibility for his actions and the disruption they led to. His demeanour exuded confidence in himself and in the cause he was fighting for.

"…The complaint of Africans, however,  is not only that they are poor and whites are rich, but that the laws which are made by the whites are designed to preserve this situation" (An excerpt from the speech "I am prepared to die")

This part of the oration justified the need for a movement against a government that used racial segregation as a weapon to divide society. His sincere dedication to the struggle of the African people and his willingness to sacrifice himself for the fundamental principles of freedom and equality made him a man of mythical proportions.

"I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. (An excerpt from the speech 7 am prepared to die”)

DID YOU KNOW?

  • Mandela's birth name was Rolihlahla Mandela. The name Nelson was given to him by his primary school teacher.
  • In August 1952, Mandela and Oliver Tambo established South Africa's first black law firm, Mandela and Tambo.
  • July 18 is celebrated as Nelson Mandela International Day each year.
  • As the first black president of South Africa, Mandela took it upon himself to unite the country that had been divided along racial lines. According to him, sports like rugby promoted unity and fostered national pride.

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WHO IS WORLD'S NUMBER ONE SCHOLAR?

Dr.Bhim Rao Ambedkar declared no. 1 scholar in world by colombia University. He was a world-class lawyer, social reformer and number one world-class scholar as per the Ministry of Social Justice, Government of India. Ambedkar graduated from Elphinstone College, University of Bombay, and studied economics at Columbia University and the London School of Economics, receiving doctorates in 1927 and 1923 respectively and was among a handful of Indian students to have done so at either institution in the 1920s. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar is remembered as one of the most respected and revered leaders India has ever produced. To the young and old alike, he is an icon of equality, fraternity and social justice. He advocated politics with values, democracy with fraternity, and religion with social responsibility.

Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born on 14 April 1891 at Mhow, in the Central Province (presently Madhya Pradesh). He was the fourteenth and the last child Ramji Maloji Sakpal and Bhimabai Sakpal. Bhimrao was a brilliant student who earned two doctorates in Economics from the prestigious Columbia University and the London School of Economics. He was a well-known statesman, ambitious leader, erudite economist, expert jurist, dynamic journalist, brilliant scholar, prolific writer and social reformer, all capsuled into one. As the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution, he was its principal architect. He championed the cause of the Dalits, women, the poor and other socially backward people of India. He was the first law minister of independent India. After a prolonged illness, he died in the year 1956, a few months after converting to Buddhism. The country honoured him with the highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, posthumously in 1990.

Coming from a poor and backward class who were treated as untouchables, the Ambedkar family was exposed to the sheer brutality of the caste system and its atrocities in life. The bitter experiences in life gave him enough fire to burn with the desire for social justice and equality and shape him as a social reformer. He campaigned against social discrimination towards the untouchables of his time. He condemned child marriage and the mistreatment of women in society. He vociferously crusaded against the caste system in India. He fought for the legal protection of the Dalits, and for equality of opportunities through the reservation system. He inspired millions and represented the voice W for self-respect, intolerance of injustice, and struggle against social and economic oppressions.

As a political philosopher and architect of the Indian Constitution, Dr Ambedkar had a prophetic vision of how political parties, down the decades, would use caste and creed to influence voters. Perhaps the India of today is what Dr Ambedkar had feared seven decades ago.

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