Ambedkar’s Idea of Liberty and Anti-Conversion Laws
If one has to mention three most important events from Dr BR Ambedkar’s life, they would be the Mahad Satyagraha in 1927, Ambedkar’s role in drafting India’s Constitution in the 1940s, and his conversion to Buddhism in 1956. While the first two occupied Ambedkar as they were happening real-time, he spent many decades thinking about his conversion.
Ambedkar was done with Hinduism in the 1930s itself and had publicly declared his resolve to leave the religion on many occasions. He had held a conference of Mahars – the people he was born amongst – in 1935 in Mumbai where he delivered his famous speech ‘What Path to Salvation’. At this conference, he spoke at length why he and his caste people must convert to another religion.
Even though Ambedkar gave this speech more than two decades prior to his actual conversion, the contents of this speech are useful in analysing the ‘anti-conversion laws’ that have been brought in by a few Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-ruled states in the recent past.