Read this article to learn about the movement of the depressed classes for the freedom of India!
The Mahars were one of the Barah Balutas (12 artisan / servant castes) of Maharashtra. They were an untouchable caste of inferior village servants.
The Mahar movement was organized by Gopal Baba Walangkar, an ex-serviceman, who in 1894 drafted a petition claiming Kshatriya status and thereby demanding more jobs in the army and the services. The Mahars later formed the backbone of Dr. Ambedkar’s movement.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and his Depressed Classes Movement:
Born at Mhow in Madhya Pradesh in the Mahar untouchable community, Bhimrao Ramji (1891- 1956) graduated from Elphinstone college. The Gaikwad of Baroda sent him to Columbia University in New York (1913) where he received his Ph. D. Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur provided aid which enabled him to get a D.Sc. from the University of London and to pass the Bar from Greys Inn.
After returning home to start legal practice at the Bombay High Court in 1924, he established the Depressed Classes Institute (Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha) in Bombay. Three years later (1927), he started a Marathi fortnightly, Bahishkrit Bharat, and the same year established the Samaj Samata Sangh to propagate the gospel of social equality among untouchables and caste Hindus.
In December 1927, Ambedkar led the Mahad Satyagraha to establish the rights of untouchables to draw water from public wells and tanks. In 1930, Ambedkar entered national political. He demanded separate electorates for the untouchables. He was nominated as a delegate of the three Round Table Conferences in London (1930-32).
The Communal Award (1932) announced by the British Prime-Minister provided for separate electorates for the depressed classes. This led to the signing of the Poona Pact (1932) between Gandhiji and Ambedkar which provided for reservation of seats for the depressed classes in the general constituencies.
He founded the Independent Labour Party in 1936 for protecting the interest of the labour classes. In 1942, he founded the Scheduled Caste Federation as an all India party to promote the interests of his community Ambedkar established the People’s Education Society in 1945. Later, he announced that Scheduled Castes would leave Hindu fold altogether.
He along with many followers embraced Buddhism. Ambedkar also served on the Governor-General’s Executive Council as member for Labour during 1942-46. After India’s independence he was made the Law Minister in Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet and he was also Chairman of the Constituent Assembly’s drafting committee.
In Northern and Eastern India too, the lower caste movement gained momentum such as the Kaivartas Movement (Calcutta), Namasudras (Faridpur, Bengal), Kayastha Movement, etc.