Droupadi Murmu took the oath to become the 15th President of India on July 25. Ever since it was announced that Murmu won the presidential election by an overwhelming margin, a quote attributed to the social reformer Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is being shared on social media. The quote in Hindi reads, “The day a tribal woman becomes the President of India (the highest office), reservation should be abolished in the country”.
[Translated from: जिस दिन कोई आदिवासी महिला भारत के सर्वोच्च पद “राष्ट्रपति” तक पहुंच जाएगी देश में आरक्षण खत्म कर देना चाहिए।]
This quote, along with Dr Ambedkar’s image, has been widely shared on social media. On July 23, a page called We Are Against Reservation shared this quote on Facebook. Another anti-reservation page आरक्षण एक अभिषाप also posted this image.
Several other Facebook accounts have shared and amplified this claim.
Mirroring Facebook’s trend, various Twitter accounts have also attributed this quote to Dr Ambedkar.
Alt News has received multiple requests on our WhatsApp helpline (76000 11160) to verify authenticity of this claim.
Curiously enough, The Sentinel, a Guwahati-based English daily newspaper, also published an article under the “Letters to THE EDITOR” column where a reader opined on reservation based on the alleged quote by Dr Ambedkar. (Archived link)
Alt News performed a search in Hindi and English using relevant keywords. However, this did not yield any credible source of information that attributes this claim to Dr Ambedkar. This was a red flag.
We then looked at the website of the Ministry of External Affairs where all the published writings and speeches of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar are available in separate volumes. To have an understanding of these works, we reached out to experts who were involved in the research and compilation process of this project.
Alt News spoke with Hari Narke, editor of Writings & Speeches of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar from volumes 17 to 22. He was a professor and the head of Mahatma Phule Chair in Savitribai Phule Pune University, Pune till 2016. He pointed out, “These volumes include all works and speeches by Dr Ambedkar, including his speeches in the Constituent Assembly Debates.”
On a telephonic call, Narke told Alt News, “My credibility is built on my life’s work on Dr BR Ambedkar and Mahatma Jotirao Phule. It’s worth noting while I was not the editor of the first 16 volumes, I was a part of the research. Based on my research, I can state on record that Dr Ambedkar never said, ‘The day a tribal woman becomes the President of India, the reservation should be abolished in the country’. This is not the first time Ambedkar has been attributed to a fake quote on social media. It is worth noting the one commonality among all such fake quotes — they never attribute when or where Dr Ambedkar made these quotes”.
Narke continued, “First, we must look at the timing of the quote. Prior to the news of Droupadi Murmu being elected as 15th President of India, this quote didn’t surface. Second, Dr Ambedkar didn’t believe in tokenism. I feel the impact on tribal community’s welfare after Droupadi Murmu becomes the president will be similar to the impact Ram Nath Kovind’s president tenure had on Scheduled Castes community in India.”
Old claims with new packaging
This is not the first anti-reservation quote attributed to Dr Ambedkar. It is pertinent to note that in the past, several social media accounts (1,2,3,4) have claimed that Dr Ambedkar only wanted reservations for 10 years.
In 2018, BJP leader Sumitra Mahajan said, “The idea of Ambedkarji was to bring social harmony by introducing reservation for 10 years. But what we do is to extend the reservation every 10 years. There is a shortcoming,” at the three-day Lok Manthan programme in Jharkhand’s capital Ranchi.
In June 2022, Anurag Bhaskar, assistant professor at Jindal Global Law School, published a paper titled, “The Myth of the Ten-Year Limit on Reservations and Dr Ambedkar’s Stance” in Sage Journals, an academic journal that publishes peer-reviewed, original research and review articles in an interactive, open access format.
Bhaskar wrote, “Some individuals, including constitutional office holders, tend to argue that ‘Ambedkar wanted reservations only for a decade’ (Scroll, 2018). It is often argued that reservations were intended to exist only for 10 years. In this article, I demonstrate that the argument of Ambedkar wanting reservations for only a period of 10 years is a falsehood.”
In order to debunk the claim, he stated, “For this, one needs to examine India’s constitutional history deeply from the Poona Pact (1932), as it marked a significant moment for the discourse around special rights for lower castes in political offices and a time limit upon it. In this article, the terms ‘Depressed Classes’, ‘untouchables’ and ‘Scheduled Castes’ (SCs) have been used interchangeably, as all of these appear in Dr B. R. Ambedkar’s writings in different phases of history. Similarly, Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Adivasis have been used interchangeably in this article.” Those interested in reading the entire paper can do so if they have access to Sage Journal.
He concluded, “Ambedkar was not in favour of a fixed time limit of 10 years, even for political reservations for SCs and STs. His demand during the Poona Pact was that after 10 years, there should be a reconsideration of the position of reserved constituencies in joint electorates and that the SCs should decide by referendum if they want to continue with the system. This would mean deciding whether to adopt another method of electing candidates from SCs. Even though this demand was not included in the final text of the Constitution, Ambedkar had left it to the SCs to ‘invent new ways of getting the same protection’ (CAI, 1949e). In effect, without the consent of SCs and STs, political reservation cannot be done away with. The political reservations were a result of ‘mutual agreement’ (Vundru, 2017, p. 57) between SCs and caste Hindus. When it was incorporated into the Constitution, it became akin to a constitutional promise. Though the Constituent Assembly fixed a time limit of 10 years on political reservations, Ambedkar himself had prescribed the method of the constitutional amendment to extend this time limit, if the situation of SCs and STs does not improve (Vundru, 2017, p. 57). The extension of this time limit since 1960 is in consonance with the spirit of Ambedkar’s demands. No time limit was set on reservations for backward classes in public services and educational institutions.”
To conclude, a quote was falsely attributed to Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar in the backdrop of Droupadi Murmu being elected as the president. Based on our research and inputs from Hari Narke, editor of Writings & Speeches of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar from volumes 17 to 22, there is no evidence to suggest Dr Ambedkar said that reservation should be abolished the day a tribal woman becomes the President of the country.
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