Ideological similarities and differences between Gandhi and Ambedkar

Read this article to learn, ideological similarities and differences between Gandhi and Ambedkar!

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi considered the ‘Father of the Nation’, is renowned as the leader of the nationalist movement against British rule in India. He is very eminent for his doctrine of Satyagraha (non-violent protest). On the other hand is Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, who worked very hard for the rights of the Dalits. These two men are highly respected as well as critiqued by many across the world. They not only helped India gain its freedom but also made efforts to eradicate the social problems that existed back then. Both of them identified the problems faced by the lower castes and helped them get empowered. They tried to bring about changes in the systems that existed and led India towards development. Though they both identified the evil of untouchability as the biggest bane of the social order, they differed in their approaches towards its removal. They also paved a way for India after independence.

The ideological differences between Gandhi and Ambedkar

ideological similarities - differences between gandhi and ambedkar

  1. Gandhi believed the depressed classes were an integral part of the society. He referred to them as Harijans (which literally meant- children of God). He tried to integrate them into the Indian National Congress and the freedom movement. He wanted to change the situation by bringing about a change in the mindset of the people. On the other hand, Ambedkar introduced a two-nation theory wherein the ruling nation is that of the upper castes while the subject nation is that of the lower castes. He believed that the caste system could be ended through the introduction of various reforms.
  2. Gandhi was a staunch follower of Hinduism and greatly observed the Hindu Dharma and the attributes of tolerance and adjustment. He didn’t support the abolition of the caste system and the Varnashrama dharma due to this. He, instead, considered untouchability as a moral and social problem. Ambedkar was completely opposite to Gandhi in this issue. He believed Brahmanism and Hinduism were just the same and he made statements that he wouldn’t die a Hindu though he was born one. And he eventually converted to Buddhism over time. He viewed the caste system as arising from ideological, political and economic factors.
  3. Gandhi believed in action so as to get the desired results. He advocated for peaceful political struggles and encouraged various forms of Satyagraha like non-cooperation and civil disobedience. Ambedkar asserted that the constitution (by law) could help bring about a change in the society.
  4. Gandhi encouraged people belonging to all castes to join and fight for the rights of the depressed castes. He encouraged the upper castes to take welfare measures out of the guilt of oppressing the lower castes for so long. Ambedkar believed that the members of those castes should only protest for their cause and that no one from a higher caste should work for them. He advocated for values like justice, equality and dignity.
  5. Gandhi developed the kind of a vision for future India wherein everyone is equal and said that caste conflict is not a long-standing attribute of India. Ambedkar, on the other hand, made plans only for the empowerment of the depressed classes.
  6. Gandhi believed villages to be the backbone of a country. He advocated for their autonomy and self-sufficiency and believed autonomy could help the villages have equal voices. He believed this system could eventually help in establishing Ram Raj which is believed to be an ideal traditional village community where everyone lives in harmony with the rest. Ambedkar, on the other hand, criticized this idea of Gandhi’s by claiming that Gandhism is a philosophy of well to do and the leisure class. He critiqued the local administration by claiming that localism, communalism and narrow mindsets could be seen in villages. He envisioned that the autonomy of villages could lead to people being biased and then eventually hurting the freedom of the rest. He preferred a top-down model of administration with a strong central government.
  7. Gandhi propagated that it was the moral duty of the Hindus to let the lower castes enter the temple. Ambedkar, too, supported the entry of lower castes into temples but his reason was different. He argued that the temples are built and protected by the lower castes and that it is hence their right to enter the temples.
  8. Ambedkar believed that Hinduism had to be reorganized to make sure there is no caste system anymore and ensure there is equality. And when the British government made an announcement that there would be separate electorates, he immediately accepted the proposal. But Gandhi was completely against this as he thought that it would break the Hindu religion and declared he would fast unto death unless this proposal was withdrawn. Ambedkar had to drop this idea since they couldn’t let Gandhi die. Then, they both signed the Poona pact which helped more people from the lower castes contest for elections.
  9. Gandhi wanted to rebuild India by inculcating in the people the values of spirituality and the ideals of India’s past. Ambedkar wanted everyone to forget India’s past and rebuild a future by rejecting the past.
  10. Gandhi welcomed socialism in India but he didn’t envision the political, administrative and judicial institutions for the common people. Ambedkar had a vision of the plans, policies, the form of government and institutions for the development of the depressed castes in order to reduce the economic inequalities.
  11. Gandhi followed Monoism (or Advaita) while Ambedkar believed this philosophy wasn’t suitable for India at that point of time since one who follows it becomes self-centred and heartless. He, instead, proposed that Buddhist philosophy was more appropriate since there was a lot of poverty all around and compassion and love (that Buddhism preaches) would be of help.
  12. Gandhi supported socialism as he believed that the lower castes’ life would become better due to the government’s work done towards the people, irrespective of their caste and religion. Ambedkar, instead, advocated for a democracy in a parliamentary form since anyone could contest in the elections and everyone had the right to vote.
  13. Gandhi believed that the future generations were capable enough of making the country better and establishing a good administration. Ambedkar wasn’t hopeful of the new generations; Ambedkar believed that the youth were a lot inclined towards pleasure and were not any ideal.

Read: Ambedkar Economic Thoughts

  1. When Gandhi attended the Second Round Table Conference, he said that he represented the untouchables (who were a part of Hindus and Gandhi was representing the Hindus). But for Ambedkar, untouchables were “a part apart” (he once use this phrase for himself and indicated he was a part of these uniquely oppressed people).
  2. Gandhi viewed untouchability as a flaw in Hinduism and believed it could be removed if efforts were put in. Ambedkar believed that it was a practice in Hinduism and couldn’t be separated from the religion.
  3. Gandhi mainly fought for political independence while Ambedkar fought for the social and economic freedom of the depressed classes.
  4. Gandhi supported the Varnashrama dharma and also believed that the depressed classes could be still be made equal in the hierarchy by changing the mindsets of the people. Ambedkar believed the people had to adopt an entirely new religion to lead a normal life and not that in which he is oppressed.
  5. Gandhi was reformer and an ascetic while Ambedkar was a fighter and a revolutionary.

Read: Annihilation of Caste

Though Gandhi and Ambedkar had many dissimilarities, they were similar in an equal number of ways.

A few of them are listed below:

  • They believed that a change in the society could be seen only when the society collectively acts. Hence, they spurred mass mobilization against injustice.
  • Both of then worked only on major struggles but considered all struggles as essential.
  • They knew that injustice couldn’t be eradicated without struggles.
  • The works by Gandhi and Ambedkar highlight that material life is the basis of human activity.
  • They both believed that morals are eternal and are essential for coordinating material and social lives.
  • Both advocated that religious scriptures are to be read and understood.
  • Both of them worked on social emancipation.

Gandhi called for unity to attain Swaraj with ease; He didn’t intend to work for the lower classes. But in the process, he had to address their issues as well and set them on the path of development. Ambedkar, on the other hand, belonged to the depressed caste and his main agenda was, indeed, to acquire equality for the oppressed. And this is how their personalities clashed.

Share on:

An undergraduate student of Arts, Uma Sathwika is studying in the University of Delhi. She is ardent about writing things- things that truly matter with great intricacy