Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born in very lowest caste of Hindu society who are known as the dalits or untouchables. In 1908, Ambedkar passed the Matriculation exam from Bombay University. After graduating from Elfinstone College, Bombay in 1912, he joined Columbia University where he was awarded Ph.D for a thesis which he published in book form as “The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India”.
Later he joined the London School of Economics and obtained a degree of D.Sc for his thesis, “The Problem of the Rupee”. He became a Professor of Political Economy in the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, Bombay in 1918.
In 1920, he started a Marathi Weekly paper called ‘Mooknayak’ to champion the cause of the depressed classes. He attended the depressed classes Conference on March the same year, under the Presidency of Chatrapati Sahu Maharaj at Kolhapur. He later resigned Professorship at Sydenham College to resume his studies in London. He returned to India on April 1923 and started to practice in the Bombay High Court. He also attended the three Round Table Conferences that were held in London to enable representatives of the various Indian communities and the three British Political parties to consider proposals for the future constitution of India. He founded the ‘Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha’ on July 20, 1924 for the upliftment of the depressed classes. The aims of the Sabha were Educate, Agitate, and Organise.
He opened a hostel for untouchable students at Barshi. He was nominated as a member of the Bombay Legislative Council in 1926. He started Satyagraha at Mahad, a place in Kolaba district to secure to the untouchables the Right of access to the Chavdar Tank. He also started Satyagraha at Kalram Temple, Nasik to secure the Right of entry into the temple by the untouchables.
On September 1932, he signed the Poona Pact with M.K.Gandhi giving up the separate electorates granted to the depressed classes by Ramsay MacDonald’s communal Award, and instead accepting representation through Joint Electorates which greatly increased the number of reserved seats. By signing this Pact, Ambedkar marked his emergence as the most influential leader of the untouchables. From 1932-34, he became a member of joint parliamentary committee on the Indian Constitutional Reform.
A historical Yeola Conversion Conference was held under the Presidentship of Dr.Ambedkar on Oct 13th, 1935. There he exhorted the depressed classes to leave Hinduism and embrace an other religion. He declared: ‘I was born as a Hindu but I will not die as a Hindu’. These activities made him unpopular in the mainstream Hindu caste opinion. He was invited by the Jat Pat Todak Mandal of Lahore to preside over the conference. Dr. Ambedkar prepared his historical speech- ‘The Annihilation of Caste’. But the conference was cancelled by the Mandal on the ground that Dr. Ambedkar’s thoughts were revolutionary. Finally, he refused to preside and published his speech in book form in 1937.
Ambedkar founded the Independent Labor Party and took part in the provincial elections that were held under the Government of India Act, 1935. With the outbreak of World War in 1939, Ambedkar regarded the Nazi ideology as a direct threat to the liberties of the Indian people. In 1941, he was appointed to the Defence Advisory Committee and in the following year joined the Viceroy’s Executive Council as Labour Member. During the same period, he transformed the Independent Labor Party into the All-India Scheduled Caste Federation.
In 1938, the Congress party introduced a bill making a change in the name of untouchables. i.e. they would be called Harijans meaning Sons of God. Dr. Ambedkar criticized the bill, as in his opinion the change of name would make no real change in their conditions. Dr. Ambedkar and Bhaurav Gaikwad protested against the use of the term Harijans in legal matters. In 1947 Aug 15 India obtained her Independence. Dr. Ambedkar was elected to the constitution assembly by the Bombay Legislature Congress Party. He joined Nehru’s cabinet. He became the First Law Minister of Independent India. The Constitution Assembly appointed him to the drafting committee, which elected him as a Chairman on 29th August 1947. He completed the Draft Constitution of Indian Republic by Feb 1948. The Constituent Assembly adopted Article 17 of the Constitution for the abolition of Untouchability.
On Sept 9 1951, he resigned from the Nehru cabinet because of the withdrawal of its support to the Hindu Code Bill. The Untouchability Bill was introduced in the Parliament in the Nehru Government in 1953.
Later in his life he embraced Buddhism as he felt it as the best religion which does not consider Untouchability. In 1950, he visited Sri Lanka where he addressed a meeting of the World Fellowship of Buddhists. In 1951 he wrote an article defending the Buddha against the charge that he has been responsible for the decrease in the women’s status in ancient India. The same year, he compiled the ‘Baudha Upasana Patha’, which is a small collection of Buddhist devotional texts.
In 1955 he founded the Buddhist Society of India and installed a image of Buddha in a temple near Poona. Addressing the thousands of Untouchables who had assembled for the occasion, he declared that henceforth he would devote himself to the propagation of Buddhism in India.
Ambedkar died on 6 December 1956. He was cremated at Dadar Chawpatti- which is now known as Chaitya Bhoomi Dadar in Bombay. His birth date is now a public holiday in India known as Ambedkar Jayanti. As a sign of respect, many Indians use the title ‘Babasaheb’ infront of his name. Bharat Ratna Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was a champion of the depressed classes. Being himself one of them and a mass orator, he roused his followers to stand up for their human rights. He was a veritable phenomenon in the 20th century. There may scarcely be a parallel indeed in the annals of human history to the saga of struggle his life represented. Only the concerted struggle of many committed people can restore true Ambedkar to his people.
Few other important writings of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar:
1. Administration and Finance of the East India Company
2. Lectures on Indian Constitution
3. Mr. Gandhi and the Emancipation of the untouchables
4. Communal Deadlock and a way to solve it.
5. Buddha and his Dhamma
Some of the Important Quotations of the famous Orator:
1.’Men are mortal. So are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise both will wither and die’
2.’Untouchability shuts all doors of opportunities for betterment in life for untouchables. It does not offer an untouchable any opportunity to move freely in society; it compels him to live in dungeons and seclusion; it prevents him from educating himself and following a profession of his choice’.
3.’Everyman must have a philosophy of life, for everyone must have a standard by which to measure his conduct. And philosophy is nothing but a standard by which to measure’.
4.’Unlike a drop of water which loses his identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self’.
5.’Freedom of mind is the real freedom. A person, whose mind is not free though he may not be in chains, is a slave, not a free man. One whose mind is not free though alive, is no better than dead. Freedom of mind is the proof of one’s existence’.
Compiled By: – Kalapala Hima Deepthi.