Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (B.R. Ambedkar), popularly known as Baba Saheb was the principal architect of the Constitution of India.
He also played a leading role in promoting the welfare of the untouchable castes and in elevating their status.
Find below a concise Profile / Biography of this great Dalit Leader.
B. R. Ambedkar Profile / Biography :
Early Life of Ambedkar :
Baba Saheb Ambedkar was born on 14 April 1891 as the 14th and last child of Ramji Maloji Sakpal and Bhimabai Murbadkar Sakpal in the town and military cantonment of Mhow in the Central Provinces (now in Madhya Pradesh).
His family was of Maharathi background, hailing from the town of Ambavade (Mandangad taluka) in Ratnagiri district of modern-day Maharashtra.
Born into a poor low Mahar (dalit) caste, Ambedkar was subjected to socio-economic discrimination.
In 1987 Ambedkar’s family moved to Bombay and he joined Elphinstone High School. In 1906 he passed his matriculation examination and then entered Elphinstone College. In 1912 he obtained his degree in economics and political science from Bombay University.
In between in 1906, when he was about 15 years old, his marriage was arranged to a 9 year-old girl Ramabai.
In 1913, Ambedkar moved to the United States at the age of 22 for his postgraduate education at Columbia University in New York City.
In October 1916, Ambedkar enrolled at the London School of Economics where he started working on a doctoral thesis. In 1923, he completed a D.Sc. in Economics.
Few years later, in 1927, he received his PhD in Economics at the Columbia University.
Thus Dr. B.R. Ambedkar had obtained B.A., M.A., Ph.D., M.Sc., D.Sc., Bar-at-Law, LL.D. and D.Lit – being first Dalit to ever do so….
Princely State of Baroda had given scholarship for post graduation of Ambedkar outside India, and hence he was bound to serve it. He was appointed Military Secretary to the Gaikwad but had to quit in a short time.
Later on he worked as a private tutor, as an accountant, and established an investment consulting business, but it failed when his clients learned that he was an untouchable.
In 1918 he became Professor of Political Economy in the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai.
Later he went on to work as a legal professional, practising law in the Bombay High Court.
In 1935, Ambedkar was appointed principal of the Government Law College, Bombay, a position he held for two years and there after his political career started.
Protests against untouchability :
In 1924, B.R.Ambedkar formed an institution “Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabaha” to promote education to untouchables and uplift them.
Three years later in 1927, Ambedkar decided to launch active movements against untouchability. He first began with public movements and marches to open up public drinking water resources. This was folllowed by a struggle for the right to enter Hindu temples.
On 25 December 1927, Ambedkar along with his thousands of followers burnt copies of Manusmrti – the classic Hindu text which justified cast discrimination and “untouchability”. Today, this ceremonial burning of Manusmrti is celebrated as Manusmriti Dahan Din (Manusmriti Burning Day) by Ambedkarites and Dalits.
On September 24, 1932, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar along with Mahatma Gandhi signed a landmark resolution in the history of the Dalit movement in India – the Poona Pact which gave reservation of seats for the untouchable classes in the Provisional legislatures, within the general electorate.
This Poona Pact resolution subsequently formed the basis for giving due share to Dalits in the political empowerment of Indian people in a democratic Indian polity.
These untouchable classes were later designated as Scheduled Classes and Scheduled Tribes.
Political Career of Ambedkar :
In 1936, Dr. Ambedkar formed the Independent Labor Party and a year later, his party contested the Bombay Central Legislative Assembly Elections and managed to win 14 of the 17 contested seats.
A decade later, oversaw the transformation of his political party into the All India Scheduled Castes Federation but it performed poorly in the elections held in 1946 for the Constituent Assembly of India. Later he was elected into the constituent assembly of Bengal where Muslim League was in power.
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.
The first Lok Sabha polls of Independent India were conducted between October 1951 and February 1952. Ambedkar contested in this election from the Bombay North seat but lost the seat to his former assistant and Congress Party candidate Narayan Kajrolkar.
However, later in April 1952 he entered the Parliament as a member of the Council of States (Rajya Sabha), representing Bombay.
He was again defeated in his second attempt to enter the Lok Sabha through a 1954 by-election from Bhandara constituency.
Drafting of the Indian Constitution :
On 29 August 1947, Dr. Ambedkar was appointed Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, and was appointed by the Assembly to write India’s new Constitution.
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.
The Constitution was adopted on 26 November 1949 by the Constituent Assembly
Illness and Second Marriage :
After completing the draft of India’s constitution in the late 1940s, Dr. Ambedkar’s health started detoriating. He suffered from lack of sleep, had neuropathic pain in his legs, and was taking insulin and homoeopathic medicines.
For medical treatment he went to Bombay, where doctors recommended him a companion who was a good cook and had medical knowledge to care for him.
In Bombay, Dr. Ambedkar met Dr. Sharada Kabir, a Brahmin, whom he married on 15 April 1948, at his home in New Delhi. She later on adopted the name Savita Ambedkar and cared for Ambedkar the rest of his life.
Conversion to Buddhism :
Baba Saheb Ambedkar had studied Buddhism all his life. However in 1950’s he devoted his attention to Buddhism and travelled to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) to attend a meeting of the World Fellowship of Buddhists. He soon announced that he was writing a book on Buddhism, and that when it was finished, he would formally convert to Buddhism.
In 1955, he founded the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha, or the Buddhist Society of India.
A year later, Ambedkar organised a formal public ceremony for himself and his supporters in Nagpur on 14 October 1956 to get converted into Buddhism.
Ambedkar completed his own conversion, along with his wife and then proceeded to convert some 500,000 of his supporters who were gathered around him.
In 1950’s Ambedkar’s health ditoriated and he was bed-ridden from June to October in 1954 due to medication side-effects and poor eyesight. All the political issues surrounding him were taking a toll on his health.
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.
On 7th December a Buddhist cremation was organised at Dadar Chowpatty beach which was attended by half a million grieving people. This place is today a memorial dedicated to Dr. B R Ambedkar and is known as Chaitya Bhoomi.
On 16th December 1956, a conversion program was organised so that cremation attendees were also converted to Buddhism at the same place.
Every year, on Ambedkar’s death anniversary (Mahaparinirvan Din), lakhs of people across the nation throng Chaitya Bhoomi in Dadar to pay homage to him.
In 1990, India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratra was posthumously conferred upon Ambedkar.