Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

                    Dr. B. R. Ambedkar 
            (Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar)
 (Father of India's Constitution, polymath, revolutionary, social reformer)

Born: 14 April, 1891 

Place of Birth: Mhow in Central Provinces (currently Madhya Pradesh)

Parents: Ramji Maloji Sakpal (father) and Bhimabai Murbadkar Sakpal (mother)

Spouse: Ramabai Ambedkar (1906-1935); Dr. Sharada Kabir rechristened Savita Ambedkar (1948-1956)

Education: Elphinstone High School, University of Bombay, Columbia University, London School of Economics

Associations: Samata Sainik Dal, Independent Labour Party, Scheduled Castes Federation

Political Ideology: Right winged; Equalism

Religious Beliefs: Hinduism by birth; Buddhism 1956 onwards

Publications: Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability, The Annihilation of Caste, Waiting for a Visa

Passed Away: 6, December, 1956

                                         Life Should be great rather than Long


Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar, was a jurist, social reformer and politician. He is also known as the Father of Indian Constitution. A well-known politician and an eminent jurist, his efforts to eradicate social evils like untouchablity and caste restrictions were remarkable. Throughout his life, he fought for the rights of the dalits and other socially backward classes. Ambedkar was appointed as India’s first Law Minister in the Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, in 1990. 

Childhood & Early Life

Bhimrao Ambedkar was born to Bhimabai and Ramji on 14 April 1891 in Mhow Army Cantonment, Central Provinces (Madhya Pradesh). Ambedkar’s father was a Subedar in the Indian Army and after his retirement in 1894, the family moved to Satara, also in Central Provinces. Shortly after this, Bhimrao’s mother passed away. Four years later, his father remarried and the family shifted to Bombay. In 1906, 15 year old Bhimrao married Ramabai, a 9 year old girl. His father Ramji Sakpal died in Bombay, in 1912.

Throughout his childhood, Ambedkar faced the stigmas of caste discrimination. Hailing from the Hindu Mahar caste, his family was viewed as “untouchable” by the upper classes. The discrimination and humiliation haunted Ambedkar at the Army school. 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 enrolled at a local school but the change of school did not change the fate of young Bhimrao. Discrimination followed wherever he went. After coming back from the US, Ambedkar was appointed as the Defence secretary to the King of Baroda but there also he had to face the humiliation for being an ‘Untouchable’. 

Education

He cleared his matriculation in 1908 from Elphinstone High School. In 1908, Ambedkar got the opportunity to study at the Elphinstone College and obtained his graduate degree in Economics and Political Science in the year 1912 from Bombay University. Besides clearing all the exams successfully Ambedkar also obtained a scholarship of twenty five rupees a month from the Gaekwad ruler of Baroda, Sahyaji Rao III. Ambedkar decided to use the money for higher studies in the USA. He enrolled in the Columbia University in New York City to study Economics. He completed his Master’s degree in June 1915 after successfully completing his thesis titled ‘Ancient Indian Commerce’. 

In 1916, he enrolled in the London School of Economics and started working on his doctoral thesis titled “The problem of the rupee: Its origin and its solution”. With the help of the former Bombay Governor Lord Sydenham, Ambedkar became a professor of political economy at the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Bombay. In order to continue his further studies, he went to England in 1920 at his own expense. There he was received the D.Sc by the London University. Ambedkar also spent a few months at the University of Bonn, Germany, to study economics. He received his PhD degree in Economics in 1927. On 8 June, 1927, he was awarded a Doctorate by the University of Columbia.

Movement Against Caste Discrimination

After returning to India, Bhimrao Ambedkar decided to fight against the caste discrimination that plagued him throughout his life. In his testimony before the Southborough Committee in preparation of the Government of India Act in 1919, Ambedkar opined that there should be separate electoral system for the Untouchables and other marginalised communities. He contemplated he idea of reservations for Dalits and other religious outcasts. 

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) in 1920 with the assistance of Shahaji II, the Maharaja of Kolkapur. It is said that 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. 

Ambedkar started his legal career after passing the Bar course in Gray’s Inn. He applied his litigious skills in advocating cases of caste discrimination. His resounding victory in defending several non-Brahmin leaders accusing the Brahmins of ruining India, established the bases of his future battles.

By 1927, Ambedkar launched full-fledged movements for Dalit rights. He demanded public drinking water sources open to all and right for all castes to enter temples. He openly condemned Hindu Scriptures advocating discrimination and arranged symbolic demonstrations to enter the Kalaram Temple in Nashik.

In 1932, the Poona Pact was signed between Dr. Ambedkar and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, representative of the Hindu Brahmins relinquishing reservation of seats for the untouchable classes in the Provisional legislatures, within the general electorate. These classes were later designated as Scheduled Classes and Scheduled Tribes.

Political Career  

In 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 the 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 for independent India.

Framer of the Constitution of India

Dr. Ambedkar was appointed as the chairman of the constitution drafting committee on August 29, 1947. Ambedkar emphasized on the construction of a virtual bridge between all 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. He put particular emphasis on religious, gender and caste equality. He was successful in receiving support of the Assembly to introduce reservation for members of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in education, government jobs and civil services.

Br Ambedkar & Conversion to Buddhism

In 1950, Ambedkar travelled 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 divisions. 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 to 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, 1956.

Death

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 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.


10 Facts You Probably Don’t Know About the Father of the Indian Constitution

The importance of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar in Indian polity cannot be overstated. Economist, educationist and the chief architect of the Indian Constitution, Ambedkar fought all his life to remove discrimination, degradation and deprivation from the society.

Born on April 14, 1891, to parents Ramji Maloji Sakpal and Bhimabai Murbadkar Sakpal in Mhow in Madhya Pradesh, Ambedkar came from humble beginnings but he went on to become one of India’s greatest leaders.

We bring to you 10 facts that you may not have known about him. They will help you see Baba Saheb’s legacy in a new light!

1. Ambedkar’s original name was actually Ambavadekar.

Ambedkar original surname was Ambavadekar (derived from the name of his native village ‘Ambavade’ in Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra). It was his teacher, Mahadev Ambedkar who changed his surname from ‘Ambavadekar’ to his own surname ‘Ambedkar’ in school records as he was very fond of him.

2. Ambedkar was the first Indian to pursue a doctorate in economics abroad.

Not only in Ambedkar the first Indian to pursue an Economics doctorate degree abroad, he is also the first Ph.D in Economics and the first double doctorate holder in Economics in South Asia. He was also among the highest educated Indians of his generation.

During his three years at Columbia University, Ambedkar took twenty nine courses in economics, eleven in history, six in sociology, five in philosophy, four in anthropology, three in politics and one each in elementary French and German!

3. Ambedkar played a key role in establishment of Reserve Bank of India in 1935.

Reserve Bank of India was conceptualised according to the guidelines presented by Ambedkar to the Hilton Young Commission (also known as Royal Commission on Indian Currency and Finance) in his book, The Problem of the Rupee – Its Origin and Its Solution.

Ambedkar also knew that the problem of the rupee is eventually linked to the problem of domestic inflation. In the preface to the book version of his thesis, he pointed out:
 “…nothing will stabilize the rupee unless we stabilize its general purchasing power”.

4. The Mahad Satyagraha of 1927 was Ambedkar’s first important crusade.


The Mahad satyagraha of 1927 was one of the defining moments in Ambedkar’s political thought and action. Held in the small town of Mahad in Maharashtra, this satyagraha was held three years prior to Gandhi’s Dandi march. While salt was at the centre of Gandhi’s campaign, drinking water was at the core of Ambedkar’s crusade.

By leading a group of Dalits to drink water from Chavadar lake in Mahad, Ambedkar didn’t just assert the right of Dalits to take water from public water sources, he sowed the the seeds of Dalit emancipation. In his famous quote, he said,

“We are not going to the Chavadar Tank to merely drink its water. We are going to the tank to assert that we too are human beings like others. It must be clear that this meeting has been called to set up the norm of equality.”

5. Ambedkar changed the working hours in India from 14 hours to 8 hours.

As the member for labour in the viceroy’s council from 1942 to 1946, Dr Ambedkar was instrumental in bringing about several labour reforms. He changed the working hours from 12 hours to 8 hours in the 7th session of Indian Labour Conference in New Delhi in November 1942.

He also introduced several measures for workers like dearness allowance, leave benefit, employee insurance, medical leave, equal pay for equal work, minimum wages and periodic revision of scale of pay. He also strengthened trade unions and established employment exchanges across India.
6. Ambedkar’s autobiography is used as a textbook in the Columbia University.

A 20-page autobiographical story written by Ambedkar in 1935-36 (after his return from America and Europe), Waiting for a Visa is a book that draws from his experiences with untouchability, starting from his childhood. The book is used as a textbook in the Columbia University.

7. Ambedkar had opposed Article 370 of the Indian constitution

Ambedkar refused to draft Article 370 of the constitution (which gives special status to the state of Jammu & Kashmir) on the grounds that it was discriminatory and against the principles of unity and integrity of the nation. Article 370 was eventually drafted by Gopalswamy Ayyangar, former Diwan to Maharajah Hari Singh of Jammu and Kashmir.

8. Ambedkar fought for three years to get the comprehensive Hindu Code Bill passed which gave several important rights to women.

Ambedkar resigned from his post of the first law minister of India when the comprehensive Hindu Code Bill was dropped by the Indian parliament. The bill had two main purposes – first, to elevate the social status of Hindu women by giving them their due rights and second, to abrogate social disparities and caste inequalities.

Some of the key features of this bill were:

  • Women could now inherit family property, permitting divorce and adoption of girls
  • The code gave both men and women the right to divorce if the marriage was untenable.
  • Widows and divorcees were given the right to remarry.
  • Polygamy was outlawed
  • Intercaste marriage and adoption of children of any caste would be permitted.

A staunch supporter of women’s rights, Ambedkar also said,

“I measure the progress of community by the degree of progress which women had achieved. Let every girl who marries stand by her husband, claim to be her husband’s friend and equal, and refuse to be his slave. I am sure if you follow this advice, you will bring honour and glory to yourselves.”


9. Ambedkar was the first to suggest the division of Bihar and Madhya Pradesh

In his book (published in 1995), Thoughts on Linguistic States, Ambedkar suggested splitting Madhya Pradesh and Bihar. A good 45 years after he originally wrote the book, the split finally came with the formation of Jharkhand out of Bihar and Chhattisgarh out of Madhya Pradesh in the year 2000.

On splitting one-language states, he wrote in the book: 

“The number of pieces into which a state with people speaking one language should be divided into should depend upon (1) the requirements of efficient administration, (2) the needs of the different areas, (3) the sentiments of the different areas, and (4) the proportion between the majority and minority.”

10. Ambedkar’s efforts were pioneering in the development of India’s national policy for water and electricity

Ambedkar handing over the final draft of the constitution to President Rajendra Prasad on November 26, 1949

The pioneer of multipurpose river valley projects in India, Ambedkar initiated the Damodar Valley project, the Bhakra Nangal Dam project, the Son River Valley project and Hirakud dam project. He also established the Central Water Commission to facilitate the development of irrigation projects at both the Central and the state level.

To spark the development of India’s power sector, Ambedkar also established the Central Technical Power Board (CTPB) and Central Electricity Authority to explore the potential of and establish hydel and thermal power stations. He also emphasized on the need for a grid system (which India still relies on) and well-trained electrical engineers in India.