Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

B.A; M.A; Ph.D; MSC; Barrister-at-law; DSc; L.L.D; D.Litt.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born to Bhimabai and Ramji on 14 April 1891 in Mhaw Army cantonment, Madhya Pradesh. Ambedkar was born into a poor low Mahar (dalit) caste, who were treated as untouchables and subjected to socio- economic discrimination. Ambedkar’s ancestors had long worked for the army of the British East India Company, and his father served in the British Indian Army at the Mhow cantonment. Although they attended school, Ambedkar and other untouchable children were segregated and given little attention or help by teachers.
They were not allowed to sit inside the class. When they needed to drink water, someone from a higher caste had to pour that water from a height as they were not allowed to touch either the water or the vessel that contained it. This task was usually performed for the young Ambedkar by the school peon, and if the peon was not available then he had to go without water; he described the situation later in his writings as “No peon, No Water”. He was required to sit on a gunny sack which he had to take home with him. 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.

“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”

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.

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 Bhimrao Ambedkar. 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. Dr. B.R Ambedkar Towards The Empowerment Of Indian Women: The operations of caste both at the systemic level and at the functioning of patriarchy, the growing caste / class divide in feminist political discourse makes Ambedkar’s view on women’s oppression, social democracy, caste and Hindu social order and philoshopy, significant to modern Indian feminist thinking. Although Ambedkar proved, himself to be a genius and was known as a great thinker, philosopher, revolutionary, jurist – par excellence, prolific writer, social activist and critic and strode like a colossus in the Indian sociopolitical scene unto his death, his thoughts never received adequate attention in the generality of Indian society just because he was born as an untouchable. Dr. Ambedkar championed the cause of women as well as the miserable plight of Schedule Castes and Scheduled Tribes throughout his career. He discussed a number of problems of Indian women and sought for their solutions in Bombay Legislative Council, in the Viceroy’s Assembly as the chairman of the Drafting Committee and also in the Parliament as the first Law Minister of Independent
India.

 

Dr. Ambedkar was sworn in as a nominated members of the Bombay Legislative Council on 18th Feb., 1927. He advised Indians to participate in the world war on behalf of the British Government. His arguments on the Maternity Benefit Bill and on Birth Critical were quite relevant to recognize the dignity of women. He vehemently supported the Maternity Bill. His argument was – “It is in the interest of the nation that the mother ought to get a certain amount of rest during the pre-natal period and also subsequently, and the principle of the Bill is based entirely on that principle”. Women started participating in satyagrahs and also launched women’s associations for untouchable women for spreading education and awareness among them. In the Mahad Satyagraha for temple entry in 1927, even caste Hindues participated. Shandabai Shinde was one such participant. In the Satyagraha it was decided to
burn the Manusmriti, which humiliated women, and shudras. In the demonstration after the bonfire of the Manusmriti more than fifty Women participated. Ambedkar addressed the meeting thereafter and advised women to change their style of wearing saress, wear lightweight ornaments, not to eat meat of dead animals. It was upper caste women like Tipnis who taught them proper way of wearing sarees. At the All India Depressed Classes Women’s Conference held at Nagpur on 20th July, 1940 Dr. Ambedkar emphasized that there could not be any progress without women. He spoke “I am a great believer in women’s organization I know that what they can do to improve the condition of the society if they are convinced. They should educate their children and instill high ambition in them. Sakalp Bhoomi: visionary ruler Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad played a key role in mentoring Ambedkar by arranging for his higher education both in Mumbai and in the US, Ambedkar faced untouchability in Vadodara, then called Baroda, that eventually made him resolve to fight for equality.

 

Ambedkar had joined the royal family in Baroda as their Dewan up on his return from Columbia. He was in service of the royal family from 1916 to 1917. But after a brief stay in the city till November 1917, he left for Mumbai. The ill treatment he faced on grounds of untouchability had forced him to leave service. Ambedkar had difficulty in finding a house due to his caste and even the peons in his office at Baroda started mistreating him once they came to know of his caste. It is said that they would not give him water and would even drop files on his table instead of giving it to him in hand. Even his co-workers objected to his presence and would not even make eye contact with him. Eventually, Ambedkar had to resign fromservice and left for Mumbai resolving to fight inequality.


Before leaving the city to join the revolt against untouchability, Ambedkar spent five hours at Sayaji Baug. Same place is now known as “ sankalp bhoomi”.

Death:Since 1948, Ambedkar suffered from diabetes. He was bed-ridden from June to October in 1954 due to medication side-effects and poor 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.