Dr B R Ambedkar, the messiah of dalits and downtrodden, was a remarkable leader, jurist and politician.
He was one of the main architects of the Indian Constitution. Babasaheb Ambedkar, as his followers called him, lovingly, fought for the rights of dalits and other socially backward classes, his entire life.
He was appointed as the nation’s first Law Minister and was a crucial and irreplaceable member of PM Jawaharlal Nehru’s Cabinet.
In 1990, he was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, which is India’s highest civilian honor.
Ambedkar was a great leader who disdained concepts of untouchability and caste restrictions. Born in the family of ‘untouchables’ he could relate himself to the pain his community had to endure and vowed to fight till the very end.
Dr B R Ambedkar’s contribution to the society can never be forgotten. He was and will always remain one of the pivotal pillars of Indian democracy. Ambedkar died on December 6, 1956.
Today as we remember him on his 58th Death Anniversary, let us know more about him:
Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar was born to Bhimabai Sakpal and Ramji on 14 April 1891 in Madhya Pradesh. His parents belonged to poor low Mahar caste.
Ambedkar was the 14th child of his parents. His father was a Subedar in the Indian Army.
His family was of Marathi background from the town of Ambavade (Mandangad taluka) in Ratnagiri district of modern-day Maharashtra.
Ambedkar’s Mahar caste falls under the category of ‘untouchables’ as per the socially condemnable caste system. Owing to this, his family was always subjected to socio-economic discrimination.
The discrimination and humiliation haunted Ambedkar even at the Army school, run by British government. Fearing social outcry, the teachers would segregate the students of lower class from that of Brahmins and other upper classes.
The untouchable students were often asked by the teacher to sit outside the class. After shifting to Satara, he was admitted to a local school but the change of school did not change the fate of young Bhimrao.
Discrimination followed wherever he went. In 1908, Ambedkar got the opportunity to study at the Elphinstone College. Besides clearing all the exams successfully Ambedkar also obtained a scholarship of twenty five rupees a month from the Gayakwad ruler of Baroda, Sahyaji Rao III.
Political Science and Economics were the subjects in which he graduated from the Bombay University in 1912. Ambedkar decided to use the money for higher studies in the USA.
Ambedkar was a very bright student and knew that he had to achieve a lot in life, if he wanted to succeed.
In 1913, he moved to the United States. He had been awarded a Baroda State Scholarship of £11.50 (Sterling) per month for three years under a scheme established by the Gaekwar of Baroda that was designed to provide opportunities for postgraduate education at Columbia University in New York City.
Ambedkar completed his Masters in June 1915, majoring in Economics, with Sociology, History, Philosophy and Anthropology as other subjects of study. He also presented a thesis on Ancient Indian Commerce.
He also pursued Masters from London School of Economics and Bar by Gray’s Inn. There he was awarded honor of D.Sc by the London University. Ambedkar also spent few months at the University of Bonn, Germany, to study economics. On 8 June, 1927, he was awarded a Doctorate by the University of Columbia. In fact he was the first Indian to pursue an Economics doctorate degree abroad.
Right after coming back from the US, Ambedkar was appointed as the Defence secretary to the King of Baroda. On his return he was again subjected to humiliation.
But by now, Ambedkar has prepared himself to fight of this discrimination. He made a resolution to fight against this evil that almost tore the nation apart.
Ambedkar opined that there should be separate electoral system for the Untouchables and lower caste people. He also favored the concept of providing reservations for Dalits and other minority religious communities.
Moreover he also started reaching out to people to influence their thoughts.
He launched a newspaper called “Mooknayaka” (leader of the silent) and other periodicals like Bahishkrit Bharat and Equality Janta. It was believed that, one day, after hearing his speech at a rally, Shahu IV, an influential ruler of Kolhapur dined with the leader.
The incident also created a huge uproar in the socio-political arena of the country.
As a lawyer at the Bombay High Court, he tried to uplift the untouchables in order to educate them. His first organised attempt to achieve this was the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha, which was intended to promote education and socio-economic improvement, as well as the welfare of “outcastes”, at the time referred to as depressed classes.
By 1927 Ambedkar decided to launch active movements against untouchability. He began with public movements and marches to open up and share public drinking water resources.
He also began a struggle for the right to enter Hindu temples. In 1930, Ambedkar launched Kalaram Temple movement.
This was a non-violent movement for which he was preparing for three months.
About 15000 volunteers assembled at Kalaram Temple satygraha making one of the greatest processions of Nashik.
The procession was headed by a military band, a batch of scouts, women and men walked in discipline, order and determination to see the god for the first time. But when they reached to gate, the gates were closed by Brahmin authorities.
In 1936, he founded the Independent Labor Party. His party won 15 seats in 1937 elections to the Central Legislative Assembly.
Ambedkar objected to the decision of Congress and Mahatma Gandhi to call the untouchable community as Harijans. He would say that even the members of untouchable community are same as the other members of the society.
Ambedkar was appointed on the Defence Advisory Committee and the Viceroy’s Executive Council as Minister for Labor. He was also made the first Law Minister and Chairman of the committee responsible to draft a constitution.
Ambedkar resigned from the cabinet in 1951 following the stalling in parliament of his draft of the Hindu Code Bill, which sought to expound gender equality in the laws of inheritance and marriage.
According to him, it would be difficult to maintain the unity of the country if the difference among the classes were not met.
Ambedkar opposed Article 370 in the Constitution, which gives a special status to the State of Jammu and Kashmir.
In 1950, Ambedkar traveled to Sri Lanka to attend a convention of Buddhist scholars and monks. After his return, he decided to write a book on Buddhism and soon, converted to Buddhism. In his speeches, Ambedkar lambasted the Hindu rituals and caste division.
Ambedkar founded the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha. Post death, his book “The Buddha and His Dhamma” was published.
Ambedkar condemned child marriage and mistreatment of women. He advocated the birth control rate to develop the Indian economy which is being followed by the government. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), was based on the ideas that Ambedkar presented to the Hilton Young Commission.
Dr Ambedkar was suffering from diabetes and weak eyesight. Day by day, his health deteriorated. On December 6, 1956 he breathed his last. He was cremated as per Buddhist rituals. The ceremony was attended by of thousands of supporters and admirers.
Ambedkar was survived by his second wife, who died in 2003 and his son Yashwant (known as Bhaiyasaheb Ambedkar). Ambedkar’s grandson, Ambedkar Prakash Yashwant, is the chief-adviser of the Buddhist Society of India, leads the Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh and has served in both houses of the Indian Parliament.