Political Demands of Scheduled Castes 1944 (SCF)
In 1944, the Working Committee of the All India Scheduled Castes Federation (SCF) passed a series of resolutions that outlined the safeguards for the untouchables in the new Constitution. B.R Ambedkar, who founded the Federation, organized these resolutions under the heading “Political Demands of the Scheduled Castes” as an appendix to his book “What the Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables,” which was published in 1945.
The Resolutions were passed during a period when the British government was negotiating with Indian political party leaders, mainly the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League, on questions of the transfer of power and the framing of a new Constitution for India. The SCF aimed to make itself and the Dalit interests it represented integral to these negotiations.
The “Political Demands” consisted of twelve resolutions written in a non-legal style. They made it clear that the Scheduled Castes of India would not accept any Constitution that did not contain safeguards for the community. These safeguards included the recognition of Scheduled Castes as a distinct and separate element and a minority on par with the Muslim community, proportional representation and separate electorates for central and provincial legislatures, reservations in the union and state executives, local governments, and public services. Interestingly, “Political Demands” wanted a constitutional provision of separate settlements where Scheduled Castes would be transported from their current dwellings to exclusive settlements. Unlike most other historical Constitutions, “Political Demands” was an articulation of a constitutional vision that focused primarily on the sectional interests of one community.
Shekhar Bandyopadhyay, in “Transfer of Power and the Crisis of Dalit Politics in India, 1945-47,” locates the Resolutions within the larger political context and suggests that the document reflected the SCF’s wish of pushing “the idea of separate identity to its most extreme limit, in the same way as the Muslim League was pushing its Pakistan demand.” Whatever success, if any, the SCF had from passing the Resolutions was blunted by the results of the 1945-46 provincial elections in which the SCF lost almost all of the Scheduled Castes reserved seats it contested.
During the constitution-making process in 1947, Ambedkar submitted “States and Minorities” to the Constituent Assembly‘s Sub-committee on Fundamental Rights. This submission was heavily influenced by “Political Demands” – provisions on representation in legislatures and separate settlements resembled the ones in the Resolutions. Many of these provisions were not accepted by the Constituent Assembly. However, Part Sixteen of the Constitution of India, 1950 – “Special Provisions Relating to Certain Classes” – and other articles of the Constitution contained a range of measures to ensure the protection and upliftment of Scheduled Castes.
RESOLUTION NO. I
SUBJECT: – Recognition of the Scheduled Castes as a separate element.
The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation has found a section of the Press in India making the allegation, that the statement made by H. E. the Viceroy in his letter to Mr. Gandhi dated the 15th August 1944 to the effect that the Scheduled Castes are one of the important and separate elements in the national life of India and requiring that the consent of the Scheduled Castes to the Constitution of India was a necessary condition precedent for transfer of power to Indians, is a departure from the position of His Majesty’s Government as defined in the Cripps Proposals. The Committee cannot help expressing its indignation at this propaganda and takes this occasion to state in most emphatic and categorical terms that the Scheduled Castes are a distinct and separate element in the national life of India and that they are a religious minority in a sense far more real than the Sikhs and Muslims can be and within the meaning of the Cripps Proposals. The Working Committee desires to point out that what has been stated by Lord Wavell in his letter to Mr. Gandhi has been the position of His Majesty’s Government from the very beginning and was enunciated in clear terms as early as 1917 by the authors of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report simultaneously with the enunciation by them of Responsible Government as the goal of India’s political evolution and has been confirmed by subsequent action of His Majesty’s Government such as the grant of separate representation to the Scheduled Castes at the Round Table Conference, Joint Parliamentary Committee and in the Government of India Act, 1935, as a recognised minority, separate from the Hindus. The Working Committee has, therefore, no hesitation in saying that it is a false and malicious propaganda to allege that this is a departure from the policy of His Majesty’s Government and regards it as a manoeuvre on the part of the enemies of the Scheduled Castes to defeat their just claims for constitutional safeguards and calls upon Indian political leaders and particularly the Hindu leaders to accept this fact, in the interests of peace and good-will between the Hindus and the Scheduled Castes, and for the speedy realization of India’s political goal.
RESOLUTION NO. 2
SUBJECT:—Declaration by His Majesty’s Government relating to the Scheduled Castes and the Constitution.
The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation welcomes the declaration made by His Majesty’s Government and recently reiterated by His Excellency the Viceroy that His Majesty’s Government regards the consent of the Scheduled Castes, among others, to the Constitution of a free India, as a matter of vital importance and as a necessary condition precedent to the transfer of power to Indian hands. At the same time, the Working Committee wishes to draw the attention of His Majesty’s Government to the attitude of the Congress and other political organizations in the country which treats this declaration of His Majesty’s Government as not being a bona fide declaration and made without any intention to honour it and as a mere matter of tactics adopted to postpone transfer of power, and which is in all probability responsible for the unwillingness of the Majority Community to seek for a settlement with the Scheduled Castes. The Working Committee regards this allegation as baseless and calls upon His Majesty’s Government not to give any ground for such suspicion and make it clear that they will stand by the declaration at all times and under all circumstances.
RESOLUTION NO. 3
SUBJECT:—Nature of Constitutional Safeguards.
The Working Committee declares that no Constitution shall be acceptable to the Scheduled Castes unless:—
(a) it has the consent of the Scheduled Castes;
(b) it recognises the Scheduled Castes as distinct and separate element;
(c) it contains within itself provisions for securing the following purposes:
(1)For earmarking a definite sum in the Budgets of the Provincial and Central Governments for the Secondary University and Advanced Education of the Scheduled Castes.
(2)For reservation of Government lands for separate settlements of the Scheduled Castes through a Settlement Commission.
(3)For Representation of the Scheduled Castes according to their needs, numbers and importance:— (i) in the Legislatures, (ii) in the Executive, (iii) in Municipalities and Local Boards, (iv) in the Public Services, (v) on the Public Service Commissions.
(4) For the recognition of the above provisions as fundamental rights beyond the powers of the Legislature or The Executive to amend or alter or abrogate.
(5) For the appointment of an Officer similar in status to that of the Auditor-General appointed under Section 166 of the Government of India Act of 1935 and removable from office in like manner and on the like grounds as a judge of the Federal Court to report on the working of the provisions relating to Fundamental Rights.
RESOLUTION NO. 4
The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Caste Federation, while it is most eager for a settlement of the Communal problem, wholly disapproves of the secret negotiations which are being carried on by Mr, Gandhi and Mr, Jinnah for a settlement between the Hindus and the Muslims, The Working Committee is of opinion “that Communal settlement of a sectional character is harmful in every way. It is harmful because it ignores the vital interests of other communities. It is harmful because it creates a feeling of suspicion in other communities that dishonest deal is being made between two communities to defeat their interests’ It is also harmful to the general interests of the country, inasmuch as the singling out of one special community from others for conferring special privileges, not necessary for its protection but demanded on the basis of prestige, creates differences in status which from the point of view of maintaining equal citizenship for all, are unjustifiable and must be deplored. The Working Committee is surprised that Mr. Gandhi who has time and again proclaimed himself as an opponent of secrecy in public life should have entered into secret diplomacy to bring about Hindu-Moslem Settlement. The Committee expresses its emphatic opinion that the proper ‘procedure to settle the communal question, which would give a sense of security and ensure fair and equal treatment to all is to discuss the demands put forth by each interest in public and in the presence of and with the representatives of other interests.
RESOLUTION NO. 5
SUBJECT:—Revision of the Constitution
The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation is of opinion that the provisions in the existing Constitution relating to minority representation are not based on any intelligible principle. The Committee finds that as the system now stands, some minorities have not received even their population ratio of representation, while other minorities have been given weightage over and above their population ratio as a concession to their claims based on historical and military importance. The Working Committee regards the recognition of such claims to be harmful to the interests of other minorities and inconsistent with the ideal of social and political democracy, which is the goal of all Indians and that they should never be tolerated. In this connection, the Committee wishes to draw attention to the fact that the principle of giving weightage to specially selected minorities has been condemned by the authors of the Montagu-Chelmsford Report and also by the Simon Commission. The Committee demands that in view of the fact that the next Constitution of India will be for India as a Dominion, the provisions of the Constitution relating to minorities should be revised and should be brought in accord with the principle of equal treatment of all minorities.
RESOLUTION NO. 6
SUBJECT:—Representation in the Legislatures and in the Executive
The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation desires to state in categorical and emphatic terms that the Scheduled Castes will not tolerate any discrimination between one community and another in the matter of representation and will insist upon their claim for seats in the Provincial and Central Legislatures and in the Provincial and Central Executive being adjudged in the same manner and by the same principles that may be made applicable to the claims of the Muslim Community.
RESOLUTION NO. 7
The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation is of opinion that the experience of the last elections held under the Government of India Act has proved that the system of joint electorates has deprived the Scheduled Castes of the right to send true and effective representatives to the Legislatures and has given the Hindu Majority the virtual right to nominate members of the Scheduled Castes who are prepared to be the tools of the Hindu Majority. The Working Committee of the Federation therefore demands that the system of joint electorates and reserved seats should be abolished and the system of separate electorates be introduced in place thereof.
RESOLUTION NO. 8
SUBJECT:—Framework of Executive Government
The working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation takes note of the fact that not only all wealth, property, trade and industry are in the hands of the Majority Community, but even the whole administration of the State is controlled by the Majority Community whose members have monopolized all posts in the State services both superior and inferior. The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation regards this as the most dangerous situation which cannot but cause great apprehension to the minority communities since the combination of these circumstances gives the majority the fullest power to establish its stranglehold upon the minorities. This fear of a stranglehold is greatly augmented by the Constitutional provisions relating to the Executive contained in the Government of India Act of 1935 which permits the majority in the Legislature to form a Government without reference to the wishes of the minorities. The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation feels that while, in the absence of an alternative system, the Parliamentary system of Government may have to be accepted, the Committee is definitely opposed to the system of Parliamentary cabinet inasmuch as it automatically vests the Executive authority in the Majority Community and thereby strengthens the hold of the Majority Community which has entered into the steel frame of the administration and thus has become a source of great danger to the Minorities. The Working Committee has, therefore, come to the conclusion that the system of Parliamentary Cabinet is not suited to Indian conditions and that a different system under which Executive Government would be formed in consultation with the wishes of the Minorities must be designed to give them a better sense of security. The Working Committee insists that the Executive in the Provinces as well as in the Centre should be constituted in the following manner:—
(i) The Executive should consist of a Prime Minister and other ministers drawn from general community and from minority communities in a proportion to be specified in the Constitution.
(ii) The Prime Minister and Ministers drawn from the general community shall be elected to the Executive by the whole house by single transferable vote.
(iii) The Ministers representing the minority communities shall be chosen by the members representing the different communities by single transferable vote.
(iv) The Members of the Executive shall be members of the Legislature, shall answer questions, vote and take part in debates.
(v) Any vacancy in the Executive shall be filled in accordance with rules governing the original appointments.
(vi) The period for which the Executive shall hold office shall be co-terminus with the life of the Legislature.
RESOLUTION NO. 9
While it is desirable to plan for a Government which will be a Government of Laws and not of men, it cannot be forgotten that no matter how Government is organised, it must remain a Government of men. That being so, whether Government is good or bad as distinguished from a merely efficient Government and how far the administration of public affairs will be nonpolitical and impartial must depend upon the spirit and outlook and sense of justice of the men who are appointed to administer the Law. The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation is convinced that the Scheduled Castes can never get protection, justice or sympathy from the present administration which is controlled by men full of caste consciousness, narrow-mindedness, absence of sense of justice and having a hatred and contempt for the Scheduled Castes. The Working Committee, therefore, demands that the Constitution must recognise the right of the Scheduled Castes to reservation in the Public Services in the same proportion as may be applied to the claims of the Muslim Community.
RESOLUTION NO. 10
SUBJECT:—Provision for Education
The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation feels that unless persons belonging to the Scheduled Castes are able to occupy posts which carry executive authority, the Scheduled Castes must continue to suffer, as they have been doing in the past all the injustices and indignities from the hands of the Government and the Public. The Working Committee, therefore, regards the spread of higher and advanced education among the Scheduled Castes as of vital importance to them. But, it cannot be denied that such advanced education is beyond the means of the Scheduled Castes. The Committee regards it as essential that a definite liability in this behalf should be imposed on the State to provide funds for that purpose and demands that the Constitution should impose an obligation upon the Provincial Governments and the Central Government to set apart adequate sums, as may be specified by the Constitution, exclusively for advanced education of the Scheduled Castes in their annual budgets and to accept such provisions as a first charge on their revenues.
RESOLUTION NO. 11
The Working Committee of the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation holds;—
(a) that so long as the Scheduled Castes continue to live on the outskirts of the Hindu village, as an alien people, with no source of livelihood and in small numbers as compared to Hindus, they will continue to remain Untouchables and subject to the tyranny and oppression of the Hindus and will not be able to enjoy free and full life, and
(b) that for the better protection of the Scheduled Castes from the tyranny and oppression of the Caste Hindus, which may take a worse form under Swaraj, and to enable the Scheduled Castes to develop to their fullest manhood to give them economic and social security as also to pave the way for the removal of untouchability, the Working Committee demands that the Constitution should provide-
(1) For the transplantation of the Scheduled Castes from their present habitations and form separate Scheduled Caste villages away from and independent of Hindu villages;
(2) For the settlement of the Scheduled Castes in new villages a provision shall be made by the Constitution for the establishment of a Settlement Commission;
(3) All Government land which is cultivable and which is not occupied and land which may be reclaimed shall be handed over to the Commission to be held in trust for the purpose of. making new settlements of the Scheduled Castes.
(4) The Commission shall be empowered to purchase new land under the Land Acquisition Act from private owners to complete the scheme of settlements of the Scheduled Castes.
(5) The Constitution shall provide that the Central Government shall grant to the Settlement Commission a minimum sum of rupees five crores per annum to enable it to carry out their duty in this behalf.
RESOLUTION NO. 12
“The Working Committee of the A.I.S.C. Federation unanimously resolves that it places its complete confidence in Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and authorises him to negotiate on its behalf and on behalf of Scheduled Castes with other political parties or their leaders as and when necessity arises.”