Born: 14 April, 1891
Passed Away: 6, December, 1956
B R Ambedkar, popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar, was one of the
architects of the Indian Constitution. He was a well-known politician
and an eminent jurist. Ambedkar's efforts to eradicate the social evils
like untouchablity and caste restrictions were remarkable. The leader,
throughout his life, fought for the rights of the dalits and other
socially backward classes. Ambedkar was appointed as the nation's first
Law Minister in the Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru. He was posthumously
awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor in 1990.
Bhimrao Ambedkar was born to Bhimabai Sakpal and Ramji on 14 April 1891
in Madhya Pradesh. He was the fourteenth child of his parents.
Ambedkar;s father was a Subedar in the Indian Army and posted at Mhow
cantonment, MP. After the retirement of his father in 1894, the family
moved to satara. Shortly after, his mother passed away. Four years
later, his father remarried and the family shifted to Bombay, where he
cleared his matriculation in 1908. His father Bhimabai Sakpal died in
Bombay, in 1912.
Ambedkar was a victim of caste discrimination. His parents hailed from
the Hindu Mahar caste, which was viewed as "untouchable" by
the upper class. Due to this, Ambedkar had to face severe
discriminations from every corners of the society. a 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.
After coming back from the US, Ambedkar was appointed as the Defence
secretary to the King of Baroda. Even, there also he had to face the
humiliation for being an 'Untouchable'. With the help of the former
Bombay Governor Lord Sydenham, Ambedkar obtained the job as a professor
of political economy at the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics
in Bombay. In order to continue his further studies, in 1920 he went to
England at his own expenses. 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.
After returning to India, Bhimrao Ambedkar decided to fight against the
caste discrimination that almost fragmented the nation. 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 religious communities.
Ambedkar began to find ways to reach to the people and make them
understand the drawbacks of the prevailing social evils. He launched a
newspaper called "Mooknayaka" (leader of the silent). 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.
1936, Ambedkar founded the Independent Labor Party. In the 1937
elections to the Central Legislative Assembly his party won 15 seats.
Ambedkar oversaw the transformation of his political party into the All
India Scheduled Castes Federation, although it performed poorly in the
elections held in 1946 for the Constituent Assembly of India.
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. His reputation as
a scholar led to his appointment as free India's first, Law Minister and
chairman of the committee responsible to draft a constitution.
Framer of Constitution
Bhimrao Ambedkar was appointed as the chairman of the constitution
drafting committee. He was also a noted scholar and eminent jurist.
Ambedkar emphasized on the construction of a virtual bridge between the
classes of the society. According to him, it would be difficult to
maintain the unity of the country if the difference among the classes
were not met.
Conversion to Buddhism
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 himself to Buddhism. In his speeches,
Ambedkar lambasted the Hindu rituals and caste division. Ambedkar
founded the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha In 1955. His book "The
Buddha and His Dhamma" was published posthumously.
On October 14, 1956 Ambedkar organized a public ceremony to convert
around five lakh of his supporters into Buddhism. Ambedkar traveled to
Kathmandu to attend the Fourth World Buddhist Conference. He completed
his final manuscript, "The Buddha or Karl Marx" on December 2,
Since 1954-55 Ambedkar was suffering from serious health problems
including diabetes and weak eyesight. On 6 December, 1956 he died at his
home in Delhi. Since, Ambedkar adopted the Buddhism as his religion, a
Buddhist-style cremation was organized for him. The ceremony was
attended by hundreds of thousands of supporters, activists and admirers.