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Babasaheb Dr B R Ambedkar – Another Forgotten Legend in Indian History ~ Indian Politics

  By - Stephen   On 2016-04-14T04:20:00

(Reproduced verbatim from the Cover Story of ezine PreSense April 2015 edition)

With the 125th birth
anniversary of Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956) happening this
year, we remember him as yet another legend forgotten in the annals of Indian
history. He was the architect of the Indian Constitution, which has stood the
test of time, braving various challenges of Indian politics and governance. He
was a great philosopher, economist, lawyer, political activist and social
His Early Days – No Peon, No
Bhimrao Ramji Sakpal Ambavadekar
(later Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar) was born to a Maratha family, as the 14th
child to his parents.  His community was considered ‘untouchable’ in the society.
 As a school student, he underwent much humiliation due to this social
practice of caste discrimination.  It is distressing to read about his
personal experience because of ‘untouchability’ prevailing then.


While in the school, I knew that
children of the touchable classes, when they felt thirsty, could go out to the
water tap, open it, and quench their thirst. All that was necessary was the
permission of the teacher. But my position was separate. I could not touch the
tap; and unless it was opened for it by a touchable person, it was not possible
for me to quench my thirst. In my case the permission of the teacher was not
enough. The presence of the school peon was necessary, for he was the only
person whom the class teacher could use for such a purpose. If the peon was not
available, I had to go without water. The situation can be summed up in the
statement—no peon, no water.


Mahadev Ambedkar, his Brahmin
teacher was sympathetic towards him and supported him. He changed his original
name in the school records from ‘Bhimrao Ramji Sakpal Ambavadekar’ to ‘Bhimrao
Ramji Ambedkar’, adding his own surname of Ambedkar.
With his father’s encouragement,
Dr Ambedkar completed his graduation in Bombay. Although he was opposed to ‘Manu
’, his writings reveal his deep knowledge of the ancient scriptures,
Vedas and the Upanishads.  Even in the Constituent Assembly, he favoured
Sanskrit as the national language, although it was not accepted by the
Support from the Baroda


Sayajirao Gaekwad III

Sayajirao Gaekwad III, the ruler
of Baroda was a social reformer who supported poor students from the
‘depressed class’ (untouchables).  When he met Bhimrao Ambedkar, he
recognised his potential and offered him a scholarship to study abroad. Ambedkar
completed his studies, including a doctorate at the Columbia University (USA),
and at the London School of Economics (UK).  In spite of the caste
discriminations and untouchability practices, some good-hearted people like
Mahadev Ambedkar and Sayaji Rao III recognised Ambedkar’s potential and helped
him to move to the higher levels in academics. Ambedkar proved to be an
outstanding student wherever he studied.

On his return to India, he served
the Baroda ruler for some time.  In 1918, he became the Professor of
Political Economy at the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Bombay.
Even though he was popular with the students, the professors objected to his
reformist activities such as sharing the same drinking-water jug that they all

Dr Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi in the Round Table Conference
Dr Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi in the Round Table Conference

The British Government invited
leaders from different political parties to the Round Table Conferences held in
1930-32, to draft a new Constitution leading to the self-rule by Indians. Dr
Ambedkar attended all the three Round Table Conferences.  Mahatma Gandhi
did not attend the first Conference due to a difference in opinion with
Ambedkar.  During the First Round Table Conference held in November 1930,
Dr Ambedkar proposed the concept of a ‘Separate Electorate’ for the ‘Depressed
Class’ (Untouchables). He argued that the problems faced by the untouchables
were not social problems but political problems.  More than 20% of India’s
population were from the untouchables category
. Dr Ambedkar pleaded
that the problems of such a sizeable portion of the population could not be
ignored.  He wanted a proportionate political power to resolve the issue.
 He suggested a ‘Separate Electorate’ for the Depressed Class, meaning
thereby that their representatives could be elected only by the untouchables
and not by all the others. He even quoted from the Mahabharata that the kings
and the ministers therein were from all communities, (including Sudras, which
is equivalent to the socially deprived class).  

Since Mahatma Gandhi held
a different view, he did not agree with the suggestion.  He opposed it
in the Second Round Table Conference.   He feared that allowing a
‘Separate Electorate’ might divide the Hindu community further. He
believed in a change in the social mindset of the people to eradicate
British Prime Minister, Ramsay
MacDonald made an Award in 1932 known as the ‘Communal Award’, providing
‘Separate Electorate for Muslims, Christians, Upper Caste Hindus, Lower Caste
Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Depressed Class’.  The Depressed Class
(Untouchables) could then elect their own representatives to the various provinces
under the British rule. This was opposed by Mahatma Gandhi on the ground that
it would disintegrate the Hindus. Gandhi was then in Pune Yerwada prison.
 He went on an indefinite fast from 20th Sep 1932 against the
‘Separate Electorate’ for Depressed Class.  After some lengthy
negotiations, Ambedkar and Gandhi reached an agreement on 24th
September, 1932 to have a single Hindu electorate, with Untouchables
having seats reserved within it. This is called the ‘Poona Pact’. The text uses
the term “Depressed Classes” to denote Untouchables. It was later
called the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under the India Act 1935, and then
the Indian Constitution of 1950.
Reserve Bank Conceptualised
The Reserve Bank
of India was founded on 1st April 1935 to address the economic troubles of the
nation after the First World War. RBI was conceptualised as per the guidelines,
working style and outlook presented by Dr Ambedkar as written in his book, “The
Problem of the Rupee – Its origin and its solution.”
In 1936, Ambedkar founded the
Independent Labour Party, which contested in the 1937 Bombay elections to the
Central Legislative Assembly for the 13 reserved and 4 general seats and
securing 11 and 3 seats respectively.  Right from 1916, Dr Ambedkar began uniting all
the untouchables in India. In July 1942, he organised a national conference at
Nagpur under the banner of Scheduled Caste Federation (SCF). More than 75,000
scheduled caste people, including 25,000 women participated.  In his
historic speech, he demanded self respect and freedom. Later, SCF transformed
itself into the Republican Party of India (RPI).
In 1942, he was
invited to join Viceroy’s Executive Council as Labour Member with three
additional portfolios. As Labour Member, he influenced the British to
concede 13% representation to Scheduled Caste (SC).  The British
gave just 8.33%.  (Later, while writing the Constitution, he made a
provision of 15% for SCs.)  He continued in this position till 1946. He
was responsible for reducing the working hours of labourers from 12 hours to 8.
He also introduced the concept of Provident Fund and Dearness Allowance. He
created the employment exchanges.  He introduced maternity leave for
women.  As a believer of free market, he introduced the Gold Standard.
 He was the brain behind the Hirakud Dam and the Damodar Valley
Project.  He was also the brain behind the India’s Water Policy and the
Electric Power Planning.

Dr Ambedkar with Members of Drafting Committee
Dr Ambedkar with Members of Drafting Committee

Under the Cabinet Mission Plan
1946 of the British Government, a Constituent Assembly was set up in 1946 in
the then undivided India to frame the Constitution for India. The members were
elected from different provinces.  Since Dr Ambedkar could not be elected
from Mumbai, he was elected from East Bengal with the help of the Muslim
League. These districts were later identified for inclusion in Pakistan.
 To prevent Dr Ambedkar from leaving the Constituent Assembly, Dr Rajendra
Prasad (President of the Constituent Assembly) wrote a letter on 30
June 1947 to the then Prime Minister of Maharashtra (as he was called then)
 to get him elected from Maharashtra Province. Thus, he got elected to the
Constituent Assembly again.

He was made the Chairman of the
Constitution Drafting Committee on 29th August 1947. Although there
were 7 members in the Committee, he was practically the only one shouldering
the entire responsibility and burden of drafting.
The Draft Constitution was
presented by Dr Ambedkar in the Constituent Assembly and was discussed and
adopted by the Members.  The Constitution was adopted in its complete form
on 26th November 1949 and came into force on 26th January
1950, which is celebrated as the Republic Day of India.  While adopting
the Constitution, all the members praised the extraordinary work done by Dr
Ambedkar in drafting the Constitution.
Dr Ambedkar served as India’s
first Law Minister from 15th August 1947 in the Nehru Cabinet.
 Due to his differences of opinion on the Hindu Code
Bill, which deprived equal rights to women,  he resigned from the cabinet
in September 1951.
Defeated in the Elections
During the first General
Elections in 1951 to Lok Sabha, he contested from Bombay North, but lost to a
little known Congress candidate, Narayan Kajrolkar, who was once his assistant.
He became a Member of Rajya Sabha
as a nominated member in 1952 and continued as a member till his death.
In 1954, he contested again in a
by-election held in Bombay Bandra.  Here too, he was placed third and lost
to a Congress candidate.
Sadly, Dr Ambedkar could not sit
in the First Lok Sabha, the Constitution for which was created by him.  The
Second General Election was held in 1957 after his death in 1956. He could therefore
not enter the Lok Sabha at all.

Dr Ambedkar and his wife during ‘Dhamma Diksha’ at Nagpur
Dr Ambedkar and his wife during ‘Dhamma Diksha’ at Nagpur

He declared his intention
to convert to another religion, public as a large section of the society was
treated as
untouchable by the Hindu section. Although Christians and
Muslims approached him convert to their religion, he preferred Buddhism.
 On 14
th October 1956, Ambedkar, along with his
wife, converted to Buddhism in the presence of a monk.  Thereafter, he
persuaded thousands of people of the Scheduled Caste to convert to Buddhism.
 He passed away on 6
th Dec 1956 in his sleep.

He was a great scholar and
philosopher. He was bold in expressing his views. He preferred Sanskrit
as the National Official Language.  However, it was not approved in the
Constituent Assembly.
When Prime Minister Nehru wanted
him to draft Article 370, he refused as he felt that it would be against the
interest of the nation.

While all the modern historians
argued in favour of the Aryan theory, he wrote that there was no race by that
name. He also said that the theory that Aryans invaded India through Khyber Pass
was false.

He openly criticised Mahatma
Gandhi on various issues and even wrote a book titled ‘What Congress and Gandhi
have done to the untouchables’. In response to this book, Rajaji and K
Santhanam wrote a book ‘Ambedkar refuted’, defending Mahatma Gandhi.
Media Report – Dr Ambedkar for Sanskrit as Official Language of India
Media Report – Dr Ambedkar for Sanskrit as Official Language of India

 Forgotten Legend 

There could be several people who
had differences of opinion with Dr Ambedkar.  But no one can deny the fact
that Dr Ambedkar formed his views, based on his own experiences and despite the
harassment he faced in the society.  But for this legendary personality,
India would not have got the time-tested and the much-acclaimed Constitution.
 Due to various reasons, he was not fairly recognised in the past by the
Government and by the society.  In 1990, he was conferred the Bharat Ratna
Award posthumously, under pressure from political parties.

In response to an RTI activist,
Rusen Kumar (Raipur), Ministry of Information and Broadcasting disclosed recently
that a documentary film on Dr Ambedkar made by the Government of India and
Government of Maharashtra 14 years ago, is yet to be telecast through
Doordarshan for public viewing.

The Indian society little
supported the architect of Modern India when he was alive.  It is time to
stand up and salute him for his exemplary contribution to Modern India because
although Dr Ambedkar was an ‘exclusive member’, belonging to the ‘Depressed
Class’, his lifelong work, activities and contribution were inclusive and to the
benefit of the nation as a whole.
By K. Srinivasan, Editor in Chief

(With input from Periyasamy,
Nandanar Trust)

Published in the April 2015 issue of ezine PreSense 

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Author: Stephen

Stephen is an internationally acclaimed business news journalist with 20 years of experience in the industry. Having worked for some of the most prestigious newspapers, magazines and news organizations, Stephen has become a respected leader in international business news. His writing has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times, and Bloomberg. Stephen has also appeared as a commentator on several radio and television programs, including CNN, CNBC, and Bloomberg TV. He is a sought after public speaker, appearing regularly at conferences and industry events to discuss the latest business news. With his wealth of experience, Stephen is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up to date on the latest international business news.

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