By Shikhar Bhardwaj
The story of Indian Constitution making is incomplete without B R Ambedkar. With his knowledge, vision and struggle, he has fought hard for making Indian constitution more inclusive. His contribution in representation of marginalised groups, poor and people who were subjected to caste based discrimination in India is one of the significant steps we as a country took to establish and maintain the fabric of Country. Seventy years later while these problems largely persist, it is this document which inspires faith in people. Amedkar himself had to face many obstacles, restrictions to learn, read or sustain life. On his birth anniversary month, it is important to recall his life journey which is nothing but a story of perseverance, knowledge, excellence and breaking all existing barriers.
Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar was born on 14th April 1891 in Mhow, Central Provinces (currently in Madhya Pradesh) in a ‘mahar’ community which was considered as Untouchable. He was the youngest and the 14th child of Mr. Ramji Sakpal, a Subedar in the Indian Army and Mrs. Bhimabai Sakpal. Little did one think that later in his life he would put the upliftment of untouchables at the center of his concerns and change the social landscape of India for good.
Dr. Ambedkar married Ramabhai at the age of 15 only in 1906, from whom he had a son named Yashwant Ambedkar. Ramabhai died in 1935 after a long illness. He later married Dr. Sharada Kabir, whom he met in Bombay on his health treatment, on 15th April 1948. Dr. Sharada adopted the name Savita Ambedkar.
Dr. Ambedkar was a brilliant student but had to struggle in early life breaking barriers to get education. He obtained his graduate degree in Economics and Political Science from the University of Bombay in 1912 and the 1st Indian to get a Doctorate in Economics from Columbia University and the London School of Economics. His education at Columbia University and London School of Economics was funded by Maharaja of Broda Sayaji Rao III. He got his degree of Barrister-at-law from Grey’s Inn, London in 1923 and later went on to become the 1st Law Minister of independent India in 1947.
Dr. Ambedkar and Separate Electorate
Dr. Ambedkar wanted a separate electorate for the Scheduled Caste. He was invited to the 2nd Round Table Conference in 1931 in London where he argued for separate electorates on the basis of caste. The British Government had also announced a Communal Award that provided a separate electorate. However, Ambedkar gave up his demand when Mahatma Gandhi went on a fast until death against his demand of a separate electorate. Ambedkar feared that in the event of Gandhi’s death there are high chances of reprisal against Dalits all over the country. Later Dr. Ambedkar wrote in his book “What Congress and Gandhi have done to the untouchables” that: “There was nothing noble in the fast. It was a foul and filthy act. The fast was not for the benefit of the ‘untouchables’. It was against them and was the worst form of coercion against helpless people to give up the Constitutional safeguards (which had been awarded to them)”. In September 1932, Dr. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi entered into Poona Pact whereby they agreed for depressed class candidates to be elected by a joint electorate. The Pact reserved 148 seats from the general electorate for depressed classes and called for non-discrimination of depressed classes in public services.
Dr. Ambedkar played a very important role in framing the Constitution of India and therefore is known as the father of the Indian Constitution. He was elected to the Constituent Assembly from the West Bengal Constituency. On 29th August 1947, he was appointed as the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee. In his last speech delivered in the Constituent Assembly on 25th November 1949, he said that “however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot. However bad a Constitution may be, it may turn out to be good if those who are called to work it, happen to be a good lot.”
Dr. B.R Ambedkar wrote many books in his life of which many revolved around the caste system and the Dalits. He authored books like The Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and its Solution; The Annihilation of Caste; The Untouchables; The Buddha and his Dhamma; Philosophy of Hinduism; Caste in India and many more.
End of the era
Dr. Ambedkar suffered from diabetes and post-1950 his health started deteriorating. In the last years of his life, he visited many Buddhist countries and later he also converted to Buddhism on 14th October 1956 in Nagpur. He passed away, a few days after completing his final manuscript “The Buddha and His Dhamma”, on December 6, 1956, at his residence in Delhi. Today, his death anniversary is observed as Mahaparinirvana Diwas. He left behind his 2nd wife Savita Ambedkar, son Yashwant Ambedkar and his legacy which inspires many in the country. Dr Ambedkar was later awarded Bharat Ratna (P), India’s highest civilian award, in 1990.
(Writer is a law student at UPES School of Law, Dehradun and a Contributor at TA. He tweets at @shikhar__08)
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