Samata Sainik Dal:
Soldiers for social justice and human dignity representative of India’s Depressed class. It was in January 1920 that he started Marathi weekly paper Mooknayak to champion the cause of the Depressed Classes. Post his doctoral research that earned him a D.Sc. in economics of the London School of Economics in 1923, Dr. Ambedkar launched his first organizational attempt as a part of the struggle against untouchability in July 1924 by founding the “Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha”. In an attempt to create awareness of their problems and ameliorate their conditions, the Sabha held numerous meetings of untouchables in different parts of the Bombay Presidency, its first major effort at mobilization being the Chavdar Tale satyagrah at Mahad in 1927. In April 1927 Dr. Ambedkar started the fortnightly, Bahishkrit Bharat, as an open forum to discuss the problems of untouchables and mobilize them in the fight against untouchability. The Samaj Samata Sangh to promote the idea of social equality was founded in September 1927. Another fortnightly, Samata, was launched in 1928. In the meanwhile in 1926 Dr. Ambedkar had been appointed member of the Bombay Legislative Assembly. It is in this context that the formation of the Samata Sainik Dal in 1927 must be viewed. In those initial days when Dr. Ambedkar was fully absorbed in mobilizing, organizing and awakening the untouchables against the social injustice of the caste Hindus, he needed volunteers to spread his message far and wide and thus strengthen his hands. The first such dedicated group of volunteers was probably formed during the Mahad Chavdar tale satyagraha of 1927. The initiative for forming a group of volunteers of this kind may be traced to the effort of Comrade R. B. More who while a staunch communist was closely associated with Dr. Ambedkar.
In an article in Peoples’ Democracy, Satyendra More and Subodh More write that More formed an organization of Dalit youth in Mumbai and named it ‘Dr. Ambedkar Seva Dal’ along the lines of the Rashtra Seva Dal of the Congress. Dr.Ambedkar while approving of such an organisation changed its name to ‘Samata Sainik Dal’ or ‘Social Equality Corps’.
The purpose behind the formation of this group was to counter any possible attacks on Dalits during the Mahad Satyagraha. The formation of the group was helped by the support of the retired Dalit soldiers in the British army. A militant squad of Dalit youth was thus formed to spread the message of the second Mahad convention in December 1927. The Samata Sainik Dal (SSD) was thus born with an objective to promote the idea of equality as also to keep away the mischievous elements from obstructing the implementation of the constructive ideas by the workers in the movement. It may be said to have evolved later as a non-political wing of the Indepandent Labour Party (ILP).
It seems Dr. Ambedkar regarded the Samata Sainik Dal as an important instrument for public education on issues of human equality and protection of the rights of the untouchables. It also came to be regarded later as an instrument for attainment of the political objectives of the Independent Labour Party which was established in 1936. In a speech to the SSD members on 8 November 1936 prior to elections to the Bombay Legislative Assembly under the Government of India Act, 1935, he explained to them the purpose behind the formation of ILP and how the party differed from the objectives of the Indian National Congress. He appealed to the members of the Samata Sainik Dal to see to it that every member of the untouchable community exercised his right to vote in the ensuing elections. The ILP achieved a good measure of success in the election which may be attributed substantially to the work of the SSD volunteers during the election. Dr.Ambedkar himself was declared elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly. In another speech on 8 January 1939, he tried to raise the morale of the SSD members who were facing charges of hooliganism and mischief during the labour stike on 7 November 1938. The strike had been jointly called by the ILP and the BPTUC (Bombay Provincial Trade Union Congress) to protest against the Bombay Trade Disputes Bill which the workers felt affected their right to strike under certain circumstances. The charges had been levelled by the Congress which was in power then and was understandably opposed to the strike. During his speech Dr. Ambedkar dismissed the charges as foul and venomous and said that the SSD volunteers had served in the army for years and realized their responsibilities. He stressed that the SSD was an outcome of the Mahad Chavdar Tale satyagrah which had been organized for the assertion of human rights. At the same time he asked them to be the men of character whom the society would look upon as model ofhumanity. He further pointed out to them the difference between the members of a mob or crowd and those of a disciplined well-trained group like the SSD. In a speech at Nagpur on 20 July 1942 to the SSD members of the Central Provinces, Dr. Ambedkar dismissed the charge of violence often levelled against the organizations like SSD. In his speech, he made a distinction between non-violence (ahimsa) and meekness, and said he himself was a believer in ahimsa.But for him ahimsa was not meekness. Meekness of attitude indicated a weak and feeble character and an inability to rise against the evil. He said the principle of ahinsa included love and kindness toward all creatures as much as a commitment to annihilate the evil around. He said the second part of the principle was as important as the first one but is often forgotten making the doctrine of ahimsa look ridiculous. In the same speech, he also asserted that the objective of the movement of untouchables had shifted from attaining equality within the Hindu society to that of attaining it with the Hindu society. Accordingly the objective of the SSD too had changed. The attainment of the new objective, he added, needed a complete separation from the Hindus and this would be effected in stages. A clear anti-Congress view is seen in his address to SSD volunteers on 22 July 1942 when he, now a part of the Viceroy’s Executive Council, asked them to resist with all the power at their command the attempt of the Congress to launch the Civil Disobedience movement.
From Dr. Ambedkar’s addresses to the SSD volunteers, it becomes clear that while he wanted them to be the disciplined soldiers in the movement against untouchability, he hated regimentation and complete submission to authority that often features organizations of this kind. He wanted them to be enlightened and upright individuals in their battle against untouchability. The Samata Sainik Dal has survived to this date and been active in different parts of the India. It did suffer erosion following Dr. Ambedkar’s demise in 1956 and almost disappeared but The SSD was however being revived by Dr. Ambedkar’s followers adopting the very Republican culture in practice within the society for bringing change we need.