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Swaraj and Democracy: C. Rajagopalachari

Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, affectionately called Rajaji, was a great freedom figther, social reformer and author. He successfully defends the idea that “Vedanta” is the basic culture of India in the eponymous book. As an unapologetic Hindu, he was fiercly anti-communist and a staunch critic of Nehru’s socialist policies. So much so that he co-founded the Swatantra Party to put forth the implementation of economic liberalism and a social market economy. He was a member of the INC party as long as Mahatma Gandhi was alive but split from it as soon as Nehru took over after the Independence.

The following is an extract from his work, “Ambedkar Refuted”. Dr. Ambedkar had earlier played the minority card: that the people of the Scheduled Castes (SC, formerly called Dalits) would not support the then freedom-struggle on the grounds that they were minorites and hence demanded their own seperate state. Ambedkar himself belonged to an SC. The following is unedited Rajaji’s reply.

Why now? Because it is relevant. Even today. The words of Rajaji ring so true.

Rajaji’s Reply

Dr. Ambedkar has recently produced a book, the main object of which is to prove that the Indian National Congress has no legitimate right to speak on behalf of the Scheduled Castes [1] of India. He seeks to establish that these people are not behind the Congress claim for Indian freedom. The Congress aims at the establishment of a democratic form of government for free India. It is an irrelevant issue whether the Congress does or does not represent any particular minority community in India. The Scheduled Castes are evenly distributed all over India and are about ten per cent of the population. This is the case in every village, in every town, in every district and in every province. Thus distributed, they have to be part of the general population and cannot isolate themselves into a separate democracy. Nothing therefore follows from the argument even if conclusively proved that the Scheduled Castes do not stand behind the Congress and do not support its claim for political freedom.

There are two fundamental points in democracy without which government by the people cannot be conceived.

  1. The first is acceptance of rule by majority. Unless this principle is accepted no popular government is physically possible.
  2. The second essential condition is the legal protection of every individual whether of the minority or the majority in the fullest enjoyment of all civic rights.

Without this, democracy would be a sham and a tyranny. The ciaims of any minority scattered all over the territory of a state for any kind of positive sovereignty or for a negative right of control in the shape of a veto is inconsistent with democracy. The acceptance of majority-rule does not mean a denial of the right of discussion or opposition which every individual or group should have the fullest opportunity to exercise. It is this limited political right and the full enjoyment of civil rights on which such a minority must depend.

It is idle to talk of separate ‘nationalities’ or ‘distinct elements’ of the population when the persons claiming the benefit of the principle of national self-determination do not occupy a definable and divisible territory so as to be capable of being formed into a separate state or sub-state. Dr. Ambedkar’s vague attempts to imitate Mr. Jinnah are therefore inadmissible. The Indian claim for swaraj is and can only be for a democracy. No other Form of government is possible in any civilized country in modern times. Swaraj For India is conceivable only in terms of democracy. Any argument tendered by leaders of minority communities or groups against what is the fundamental of democracy, viz. majority-rule, really amounts to opposition to Indian freedom and abetment of the British imperialist claim for the maintenance of the status quo.


The minorities must accept the rule of the majority, as long as both of them are equally entitled to the same civil rights and duties.

Notice how Rajaji rebuts Ambedkar for trying to imitate Mohd. Jinnah, who played the same minorty card (Muslim) but succeeded (unfortunately) to seize Pakistan from India.

  1. ‘Harijans’, ‘Scheduled Classes’, ‘Depressed Classes’, ‘Pariahs’ and ‘Panchamas’ are several names for the same people. They are a group of several castes, themselves divided from one another. The common factor being very low economic and social condition. Their uplift has been the concern of many Indian reformers, the most illustrious of whom is Gandhiji.  ↩