The Mahad Satyagraha – The Core IAS

The Mahad Satyagraha

Context of the Satyagraha:

  • The events that led to the Mahad Satyagraha began to unfold in August 1923. The Bombay Legislative Council passed a resolution moved by the social reformer Rao Bahadur S K Bole, which said “the Untouchable classes be allowed to use all public water sources, wells and dharmashalas which are built and maintained out of public funds or administered by bodies appointed by the Government or created by statute, as well as public schools, courts, offices and dispensaries.
  • Albeit with reluctance, the Bombay government adopted the resolution in the following month, and issued directions for its implementation. The situation on the ground, however, remained unchanged — upper caste Hindus would not allow the lower castes to access public water sources.
  • At that point, Ramchandra Babaji More, a Mahad-based Dalit political leader, approached Ambedkar to preside “over a conference of the Untouchables in Konkan”, the scholar and civil rights activist Anand Teltumbde wrote in his book, Mahad: The Making of the First Dalit Revolt (2016).
  • Ambedkar at the time was helping Dalits fight against the social evil of untouchability through the Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha, the institution that he had founded in 1924.
  • Ambedkar agreed to More’s proposition, and involved himself in overseeing the preparations for the conference, which was to take place in Mahad town in the Konkan (now in Maharashtra’s Raigad district) in March 1927, which demanded that Hindu society should be organised on the basis of equality and absence of casteism. It was also resolved to burn Manusmriti, as according to Ambedkar, it perpetuated the social, economic, religious and political slavery of the untouchables. As per the resolution, Manusmriti was burnt on December 25, 1927.

Significance of Mahad Satyagraha

The Mahad Satyagraha is considered to be the “foundational event” of the Dalit movement. This was the first time that the community collectively displayed its resolve to reject the caste system and assert their human rights. Although anti-caste protests had taken place before the Mahad Satyagraha, they were mostly localised and sporadic.

The Mahad Satyagraha was to become the blueprint for organising future movements against the caste system and its practices. It marked an important point in Ambedkar’s political journey, catapulting him to the leadership of the downtrodden and oppressed classes in the country.

Source: Indian Express

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