Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (popularly known as Babasaheb) used education as a tool to rise above the ordinary and become one of the great leaders of modern India, an effective fighter against the discrimination present in a caste-ridden society, and one of the chief architects of the Indian Constitution.
As jurist, economist, politician and social reformer, his life is an example to all of us.
On his 124th birth anniversary today, April 14, we take a look at what we can learn from him.
Education is the key to success
Ambedkar was a bright student and did not let anything come in the way of his determination to be educated.
In a society that shamefully denied Dalits or ‘untouchables’ an education, he became the first Dalit to finish college.
He won a scholarship of Rs 25 to Mumbai University, and a state scholarship that enabled him to travel abroad for a post-graduate degree.
He studied at the London School of Economics and at Columbia University in the US, emerging with a PhD in Economics.
He served as defence secretary in the state of Baroda.
He was India’s first Law minister and chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee.
Don’t be daunted
The stranglehold of the pernicious Hindu caste system was even stronger then than now.
The young Ambedkar was not allowed to sit in the same classroom, or drink water from the same well, as his ‘higher born’ peers.
He did not allow this discrimination to come in the way of his determination to get an education and become a leading figure in the history of this country.
In 1990, he was posthumously awarded the country’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna.
Give back to society
Ambedkar used his education to spearhead the cause of equality, fraternity and liberty.
He believed that society will progress only when women are empowered and thus upheld women’s right to higher education and employment.
He wrote several books and columns highlighting the fundamental and human rights of all people.
To close the gap of inequality inflicted on Dalits for centuries, he canvassed for reservation in education and employment for Dalits, and won.
Human rights are more talked about than practised in India.
Dr Ambedkar, himself a victim of the denial of rights, made sure that fundamental rights were enshrined in our Constitution, benefiting generations to come.