Born on April 14, 1891 in the Mahar caste in the British-founded town named Mhow near Indore, the trials, tribulations and triumphs of Babasaheb Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar are too colossal to be covered in a single article.
He had lost his mother at the age of five, and despite being a student par all parameters of brilliance, he had to constantly depend on scholarship aids. Undeterred, Babasaheb marched ahead. He did his postgraduation from Columbia University, a degree in law from Gray’s Inn, a dual-postgraduate degree in economics and political science from London School of Economics, a Doctor of Science degree from the University of London, and a PhD and an honorary LLD from Columbia University. Ambedkar was the first Indian to get a PhD in economics from abroad.
In the early years of humble beginnings, Ambedkar and his wife, Ramabai, constantly struggled to make their ends meet but continued to fight regardless. At every stage, Ambedkar fought for the rights of the Dalits (present-day Scheduled Castes). He led the Mahad Satyagraha to fight for their right to draw water from the Chavdar tank and to assert equality, post which upper-caste Hindus rioted, tormented Dalits, and then Brahmins ‘purified’ the tank. Such callousness has been hitherto practised brazenly for so-called upper castes continue to have separate vessels for Bahujans; and unabashedly perform casteist behaviour claiming to ‘maintain the purity’ of their bloodlines and homes.
A man beyond brilliance, Ambedkar practised at the Bombay high court, was a professor of political economy at the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, principal at the Government Law College Bombay and the Perry Professor of jurisprudence. He was a member of the Bombay Legislative Council, Labour Member of Viceroy’s Executive Council, Minister of Law in the first Cabinet of independent India and chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution.
His book The Problem of the Rupee – Its Origin and Its Solution became the basis on which the Reserve Bank of India was founded, and in Small Holdings in India and their Remedies he comprehensively discussed the solutions for the agrarian and labour crisis of India. He further introduced bills for the same. At the First Round Table Conference, Ambedkar demanded separate electorates and reserved seats for the Depressed Classes, in proportion to their population.
Among the myriad organisations he founded, were the Independent Labour Party, the Municipal Workers’ Union in Bombay, the All India Scheduled Castes Federation, the Building Trust and the Scheduled Castes Improvement Trust, the People’s Education Society including the Siddharth College of Art and Science, and the Siddharth College of Law in Bombay. He established Central Technical Power Board, Central Waterways, Irrigation and Navigation Commission, and founded the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha, Samata Sainik Dal, and Bhartiya Buddha Jan Sangh.
He addressed a historic conference of railway workers at Nasik and led a procession of industrial workers striking for their rights. He moved a resolution for the adoption of birth control measures, addressed the Reconstruction Policy Committee meeting and gave the speech titled Post-War Development of Electric Power in India. He burned the Manusmriti, led mass conversion to Buddhism and despite his ill-health, introduced the Hindu Code Bill for women rights while facing menacing opposition from upper-caste men as well as women who accused him of ‘harming the Indian culture’. However, Ambedkar asserted, “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.”
Awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously, Ambedkar wrote extensively, and some of his imperative works include:
Annihilation of Caste
Castes in India
The Evolution of the Provincial Finance in British India
Mr Gandhi and the Emancipation of the Untouchables
Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah
Thoughts on Pakistan
What Congress and Gandhi have done to the Untouchables
Maharashtra as a Linguistic State
Who were the Shudras?
States and Minorities
History of Indian Currency and Banking
Thoughts on Linguistic States
Buddha and Karl Marx, Communal Deadlock and A Way to Solve it
Buddha and the Future of his Religion
Future of Parliamentary Democracy
Linguistic States: The Need for Checks and Balances
Buddhism and Communism
The Buddha and his Dhamma
Hindu Women: Rise and Fall
The Problem of the Rupee
Waiting For A Visa
He also started the newspapers Mooknayak, Bahishkrut Bharat, Samta, Janata and Prabudhha Bharat.
Ambedkar worked towards prohibiting child labour, making laws for maternity leave, equal pay for equal work of both men and women, changing 12-hour work hours to eight, the creation of new states like Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh, and strengthening trade unions and establishing employment exchanges across India. He also introduced measures like medical leave, leave benefit, dearness allowance, employee insurance, minimum wages and periodic revision of pay scale, and pioneered multipurpose river valley projects.
Ambedkar’s achievements are beyond measure, his impact unfathomable. And all through his extensive endeavours, he faced vicious attacks, bed-ridding accidents and debilitating diseases, as well as umpteen personal losses, be it the death of his wife Ramabai, or of his three sons and a daughter.
Following the devastating failure of the cabinet in passing the Hindu Code Bill, and its utter disregard for OBCs, Ambedkar resigned from the Cabinet explicating, “I will now refer to another matter that had made me dissatisfied with the Government…the Constitution did not embody any safeguards for the Backward Classes.”
A revolutionary intellectual, a complete leader and a compassionate reformer, Ambedkar is not just a human but a way of life, and the right way of life; and he had elucidated:
“There should be social endosmosis…Democracy is not merely a form of government. It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience.”
Ankita Apurva was born with a pen and a sickle.
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