In this BBC video interview recorded in 1953 Ambedkar declares, “Democracy will not work [in India], for the simple reason we have got a social structure which is totally incompatible with parliamentary democracy.”

Ironically, Ambedkar was the chief defender of the parliamentary system inside India’s Constituent Assembly just a few short years prior to this interview. Although all his life, before and after the Assembly, he derided the system as totally unfit for Indian conditions. Only seven months before his stint with the Constitution Drafting Committee, Ambedkar had declared that “there is no doubt that the British type of executive is entirely unsuited to India.” He even proposed forming a “United States of India” with many features similar to the US-type presidential system of government (see link below).

Here’s the 1953 video interview followed by its transcript…

Transcript of Ambedkar’s 1953 Video Interview with BBC

[Some parts are inaudible; best effort has been made to decipher the video.]

BBC – Dr. Ambedkar, do you think democracy is going to work in India?

Ambedkar – No, except in a formal sense if you want to…

BBC – What do you mean?

Ambedkar – I mean there would be paraphernalia of democracy, quinquennial [every five years] elections, prime ministers, and so on and so on.

BBC – Well, elections are very important.

Ambedkar – No, elections are important provided they produce really good men.

BBC – But aren’t they important because they allow a change in government. I mean it’s better to change peaceably than…

Ambedkar – Yes, but who has the idea that voting means change of government?Nobody has. People have no consciousness. Our electoral system is of a sort which never allows a man to choose the candidate. Now, for instance, Congress says vote for Bullock [election symbol]. Well, the man never cared who represented the Bullock. Whether it were donkeys who represented the bullock or if it is educated men who represented the bullock. He simply voted for the Bullock.

BBC – It does convey to me a part of the system, but what do you mean in a formal sense? Do you mean in a fundamental sense or…

Ambedkar – Democracy will not work. For the simple reason we have got a social structure which is totally incompatible with parliamentary democracy.

BBC – What do you mean? Is it based on inequality?

Ambedkar – Yes, it is based on the inequality.

BBC – And therefore unless you can get rid of the caste system…

Ambedkar – The social structure ought to be altered. I am quite prepared to say that it will take some time for the social structure to be altered, if you want to do it in a peaceful way. But then somebody must be making the effort to change the social system.

BBC – But the Prime Ministers and others have made a lot of speeches against the caste system…

Ambedkar – These are just endless speeches. You know, when Carlyle was presented with volumes by Spencer, he said, “Oh, this endless speaking ass in Christendom.” It’s the same… one is sick of speaking. We would like to have some action.

BBC – Well, what sort of action…

Ambedkar – Some program. Some machinery by which the things could be altered. Some action.

BBC – Well, supposing it doesn’t work, what alternatives do you see?

Ambedkar – The alternative I would think is some kind of communism.

BBC – And why do you think that would work, would it raise the standard of living…

Ambedkar – Yes undoubtedly. I don’t know who cares really for this election business. People want food. People want their material needs to be satisfied.  In America, yes I agree, the democracy works and I don’t think there ever would be communism in America. I have just come from that country. I was invited to get a degree. That’s because each American earned so much…

BBC – Well, you can’t begin to compare…

Ambedkar – How can we compare. We have no land, our rainfall is so short, our forests have been diluted, what can we do, unless we tackle these problems. I don’t think the present government will be able to tackle these problems.

 

Related Links…

Ambedkar’s ‘United States of India’

Ambedkar on India’s Current Constitution

When BR Ambedkar said Democracy won’t work in India
(The Indian Express, 8 December 2017)

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