Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956), popularly also known as Babasaheb, was an Indian jurist, political leader, philosopher, anthropologist,inspiring economist, teacher, editor, prolific writer,historian, orator, revolutionary and a revivalist for Buddhism in India. He was also the chief architect of the Indian Constitution.
Born into a poor Mahar (considered an Untouchable caste) family, Ambedkar campaigned against social discrimination, the system of Chaturvarna – the categorisation of Hindu society into four varnas – and the Hindu caste system. He converted to Buddhism and is also credited with providing a spark for the transformation of hundreds of thousands of Dalits or untouchables to Theravada Buddhism. Ambedkar was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, in 1990.
Overcoming numerous social and financial obstacles, Ambedkar became one of the first Dalits (untouchables) to obtain a college education in India. Eventually earning a law degree and doctorates for his study and research in law, economics and political science from Columbia University and the London School of Economics, Ambedkar gained a reputation as a scholar and practised law for a few years, later campaigning by publishing journals advocating political rights and social freedom for India’s untouchables.
He is regarded as a Bodhisattva by some Indian Buddhists, though he never claimed himself to be a Bodhisattva.While practising law in 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 For the protection of Dalit rights he started many periodicals like Mook Nayak, Bahishkrit Bharat, and Equality Janta.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar is viewed as messiah of dalits and downtrodden in India.
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, also he began a struggle for the right to enter Hindu temples. He led a satyagraha in Mahad to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw water from the main water tank of the town.
In 1930, Ambedkar launched Kalaram Temple movement. This was non-violent movement for which he was preparing since three months. About 15000 volunteers assembled at Kalaram Temple satygraha making one of the greatest processions of Nashik. The procession was headed by military band, batch of scout, women and men walked in discipline, order and determination to see the god first time. When they reached to gate, the gates were closed by authorities. This movement was for human dignity and self-respect.
In 1935, Ambedkar was appointed principal of the Government Law College, Mumbai, a position he held for two years. Settling in Mumbai, Ambedkar oversaw the construction of a house, and stocked his personal library with more than 50,000 books. His wife Ramabai died after a long illness in the same year. It had been her long-standing wish to go on a pilgrimage to Pandharpur, but Ambedkar had refused to let her go, telling her that he would create a new Pandharpur for her instead of Hinduism’s Pandharpur which treated them as untouchables. Speaking at the Yeola Conversion Conference on 13 October in Nasik, Ambedkar announced his intention to convert to a different religion and exhorted his followers to leave Hinduism. He would repeat his message at numerous public meetings across India.
Upon India’s independence on 15 August 1947, the new Congress-led government invited Ambedkar to serve as the nation’s first law minister, which he accepted. On 29 August, Ambedkar was appointed Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, charged by the Assembly to write India’s new Constitution.
He played a seminal role in the framing of the constitution. Bhimrao Ambedkar was also the first Law Minister of India. For his yeoman service to the nation, B.R. Ambedkar was bestowed with Bharat Ratna in 1990.
Granville Austin has described the Indian Constitution drafted by Ambedkar as ‘first and foremost a social document’. … ‘The majority of India’s constitutional provisions are either directly arrived at furthering the aim of social revolution or attempt to foster this revolution by establishing conditions necessary for its achievement.
The text prepared by Ambedkar provided constitutional guarantees and protections for a wide range of civil liberties for individual citizens, including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability and the outlawing of all forms of discrimination. Ambedkar argued for extensive economic and social rights for women, and also won the Assembly’s support for introducing a system of reservations of jobs in the civil services, schools and colleges for members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, a system akin to affirmative action. India’s lawmakers hoped to eradicate the socio-economic inequalities and lack of opportunities for India’s depressed classes through these measures. The Constitution was adopted on 26 November 1949 by the Constituent Assembly.
Since 1948, Ambedkar had been suffering from diabetes. He was bed-ridden from June to October in 1954 owing to side-effects from his medication and failing eyesight. He had been increasingly embittered by political issues, which took a toll on his health. His health worsened during 1955. Three days after completing his final manuscript The Buddha and His Dhamma, Ambedkar died in his sleep on 6 December 1956 at his home in Delhi.