In ancient India, women enjoyed a very high position but gradually their position degenerated into merely objects of pleasure meant to serve certain purpose. According to the Country Report of Government of India, “Empowerment means moving from a position of enforced powerlessness to one; of power”. But, from time immemorial, the women in this land of ours were treated as a sort of thing. Her placing in the society was not at par with other human beings. She has no rights. She cannot move nor do anything at her will. In Hindu Shastras, she has been branded just like animals or some Objects of enjoyment. From the verses of Ramayana as written by Tulsi Das, Dhol, ganwar, shudra, pashu, naari - Ye sab tadan ke adhikari”, In ‘Manusmriti’ the ancient Hindu Code-book, the status granted to women is quite visible and she was put to the lowest rug of humanity as she was treated at par with the animals and slave by the proprietors of Hindu Dharma.
Dr. B.R Ambedkar Towards The Empowerment Of Indian Women
The operations of caste both at the systemic level and at the functioning of patriarchy, the growing caste / class divide in feminist political discourse makes Ambedkar’s view on women's oppression, social democracy, caste and Hindu social order and philoshopy, significant to modern Indian feminist thinking. Although Ambedkar proved, himself to be a genius and was known as a great thinker, philosopher, revolutionary, jurist – par excellence, prolific writer, social activist and critic and strode like a colossus in the Indian sociopolitical scene unto his death, his thoughts never received adequate attention in the generality of Indian society just because he was born as an untouchable. However, the contemporary social realities warrant close examination of the wide range of his topics, the width of his vision, the depth of his analysis, and the rationality of his outlook and there essential humanity of his suggestions for practical action. Hence, for Indian women’s movement Ambedkar provides a powerful source of inspiration to formulate a feminist political agenda which simultaneously addresses the issues of class, caste and gender in the contemporary sociopolitical set up, which still keeps conservative and reactionary values in many respects, particularly on gender relations.
The Hindu ideal of duties under the Varna-Vyavastha has developed only as a means of exploitation and oppression. It is a system which deadens, paralyes and crippled the people from which useful activity, and also prevents them form eretivity.
Ambedkar made some memorable speeches in the Round Table conference. He placed the view point of the depressed classes and pleaded for Dominion Status. His speeches created a good impression upon the British public. He served on a number of important sub-committees and prepared scheme of political safeguards far the protections of depressed classes in the future constitution of a self governing India. Ambedkar also advocated the immediate introduction of adult franchise.
Ambedkar was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India by the members of West Bengal Legislative Assembly though he was defeated in Bombay. He was elected on the on the Drafting Committee and later appointed its chairman.
My final words of advice to you are educate, agitate and organize, have faith in yourself. With justice on our side I do not see how we can loose our battle to me is a matter of joy. You must abolish your slavery yourselves. Do not depend for its abolition upon god or a superman.
Ambedkar believes that Buddha treated women with respect and love and never tried to degrade them like Manu did. He taught women Buddha Dharma and religious philosophy. Ambedkar cites women like Vishakha, Amrapali of Visali, Gautami, Rani Mallika, Queen of Prasenajjth who approached Buddha, as evidences of Budda’s treatment of women as equals. (Paul, 1993 : 383-84) it was mainly the Hindu culture and social customs, which stood in the headway of women's empowerment.
Like Ambedkar, the National Policy for the Empowerment of Women 2001, also admits, “The underlying causes of gender inequality are related to social and economic structure .............. and practices, Consequently, the access of women, particularly those belonging to weaker section including Scheduled Caste / Tribes Other Backward Classes and Minorities .......... To education, health, and productive resources, among others is inadequate. Therefore, they remain largely marginalized, poor and socially excluded.” Since Ambedkar himself was a victim of oppression and discrimination in all its severity, his views about women’s oppression and equal rights are more useful than anybody else’s theory based on mere observation for the feminist movement to strengthen its strategy for approaching the systemic challenges and contradictions in a more pragmatic way to bring women to the mainstream.