Dr. Bheemarao Ambedkar
- If we had to find an equal for Buddha in intelligence, righteousness and broad-minded thinking, it would undoubtedly be B.R. Ambedkar! To learn the greatness of Ambedkar, one has to immerse themselves in the books of Ambedkar. Even if we finish reading his books, we would gain just one iota of the knowledge he left for us by walking the path of morality.
- India’s political history can be divided as Before Gandhi and After Gandhi. Similarly, India’s social history can be divided as Before Ambedkar and After Ambedkar. He won hearts by chasing out all injustices that prevailed in the name of customs and traditions. He opined that a religion should be a set of philosophies rather than being a set of rules. He lashed out at caste bias saying, “A human will not differentiate on the basis of caste, only a person with mental disorder will do so.” “A society’s development can be judged by the development of its women” – this quote of his on women empowerment is one of his renowned quotes.
- Ambedkar was born in Madhya Pradesh, in an oppressed caste called Magar. His people were given less freedom than that of pet animals. We have heard about touches of certain castes being considered impure, but the dominant castes of that time and place went another step backward by considering even the sight of Ambedkar’s clan impure. He was not given access to well water; when he went to school, he was made to sit on the floor, when the students of the dominant caste had seats, and many such injustices. But despite all this framework to oppress the people of Ambedkar’s caste, he rose like the sunrise that outshines every other light, how much ever clouds try to hide it. Following is a compilation of Ambedkar’s education.
- A. Economics and Political Science at Elphinstone College, Maharashtra
- Masters and Doctorate from the London School of Economics
- Doctorate in economics from the University of Columbia
- Bar and more honorary degrees from Gray’s Inn, London
- India doesn’t have a ‘national text’ as such. But our Constitution can be hailed as the unofficial national text. By wiping out the concentration of power among the dominant classes and empowering every Indian with equal rights and power, Ambedkar designed an epitome of equality. More than 600 sleepless nights have gone into the creation of the Constitution. One of the many hardships he faced in bringing the Constitution into effect was the protests against the Hindu Law. Hinduism being the dominant religion in India had quite a lot of backward practices. Ambedkar nudged these practices in favour of equality through the Hindu Law, and as expected this caused quite a ruckus. Disappointed by such opposition, he declared “If the Constitution I have drafted doesn’t steer the country in the right direction, I will be the first person to burn it”, and stepped down from the position of Law Minister. Later, Nehru divided this Hindu Act into four parts and brought it into effect, part by part.
- Beyond social reforms and the Constitution, Ambedkar was a brilliant economist. He may be considered the best of the finest economic scholars with a Political background who shook the twentieth century. The Reserve Bank of India is one of his great contributions to India’s economic domain. The suggestions he made to the Hilton Young Commission were the foundation stones for the Reserve Bank of India. The 8-hour work day is yet another feat of his. His researches were at par with his knowledge of economics. It was meticulous and supported by impeccable reasons and arguments. His books such as Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development, The Annihilation of Caste, who were the Shudras, all serve as a portal to an understanding of the caste system in India. Another interesting fact – Ambedkar was just 23 when he wrote the book “Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development”
- As a lawyer, Ambedkar practised mostly at Bombay court. If one were to analyse the cases Ambedkar took up, they would definitely notice that Ambedkar advocated for people of all classes and religions. In fact, he had also argued for sex workers. Let’s see the highlight cases Ambedkar has worked on. The first is the Jawalkar case. In 1926, Jawalkar wrote a book, Desanche Dushman, which means ‘Enemies of the country’. In this book he has pointed out the crude approach of leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Vishnushashtri Chiplunkar toward non-brahmin communities. Their wrongful addressing of Jyotirao Phule as a Christian was also highlighted in the book. A case was filed against this book. Initially the verdict did not favour Jawalkar. In the second hearing, Ambedkar advocated for Jawalkar. The verdict tipped in favour of Jawalkar when Ambedkar raised the question, “Have you decided that Phule is a Christian without even enquiring it?” Even today, this case is a milestone case among cases of Brahmins versus Non-brahmins. Next is the case of Philip Spratt, an English Communist. Philip Spratt had written a pamphlet titled ‘India and China’. For this work, he was imprisoned on grounds of acting against the country. Ambedkar appeared for him and advocated that he had not acted against India in any way. He further explained that Spratt had only written about the tyrannical rule of the British. With his skilled arguments, he set Philip Spratt free. Third is the case of Raghunath Dhondo Karve, the editor of a magazine named ‘Samaj Swastiya’. This case happened in 1933. Through his publications, Karve wanted to spread the importance of sex education in our country. It is no secret that sex is still a taboo topic in our society. If that’s the state today, then protests against sex education in 1933 is no wonder. Many people of a conservative mentality filed a case on Karve. It was Ambedkar who appeared for Karve and fought against the conservative mentality. He argued that ‘Indecency is not in the idea, it lies in the way we see the idea’.
- Many people concur on the thought that Gandhi and Ambedkar are two sides of the same coin. But a more apt analogy would be that Gandhi and Ambedkar are two peaks of a mountain. If Ambedkar was a Gandhi with many social views, Gandhi was an Ambedkar with many political views. Both of them have influenced one another at different points of time. Gandhi has especially received much encouragement from Ambedkar. The two great men met in Yerwada jail in 1932. It was during that time that Gandhi heard from Ambedkar about the plight of the oppressed sections in our country. Ambedkar explained the hardships and the bias they face even in day-to-day activities. This later inspired Gandhi to announce that he will bless only inter-caste weddings, where either the bride or the groom is from an oppressed class. Similarly, though Ambedkar was staunchly against the Congress, he accepted the post of Law Minister, only out of respect for Gandhi.
- Another thing about Ambedkar is that he did not just direct the people to fight when he was busy living his life, he jumped onto the field with the people and fought against injustice. One of his prominent protests was the Mahad Satyagraha in 1927. Mahad is a town in Maharashtra, the upper castes of the town closed off a tank for selective use by the upper castes. No lower caste person was allowed to use the water from that tank. Ambedkar announced a Satyagraha against this issue, stating that water is a natural resource and no one has the right to deny it to others. It is during this period that Ambedkar advised women of oppressed classes to wear their saris just like the upper caste women. In that period, lower caste women were not allowed to wear their saris to cover their entire body. They were supposed to wear it shorter. After Ambedkar’s empowered words hit them, the lower caste women started dressing like upper caste women. Later, the tank was again closed off by the upper caste people, citing that the tank is a private property. The upper castes filed a case regarding the privatisation of the tank. Ambedkar put an end to the protest as he thought it was improper to protest when the case was going on at the court. After a 10-year struggle, the decision favouring the use of the tank by the oppressed classes was announced in 1937.
- Any activist who wishes to fight for the oppressed, has to learn one thing from Ambedkar – it is ‘Democracy’. Ambedkar had every reason to lift a weapon against the oppressed classes. Right from his childhood, he had been seeing his people being treated like mere lifeless objects. His blood boiled on seeing the plight of his peers. Despite the boiling rage, he never resorted to violence. He raised his voice to bring justice to his people, not to hurt others outside his circle; he raised his hand to lead people, not to strike anyone who opposed him; he kept moving forward, but not at the cost of stamping anyone. Such clarity makes us think the title ‘Mahatma’ would be a right fit for Ambedkar too.
- In 1956, he became a Buddhist. Though he had been fighting against the rigid caste system of Hinduism since his early years, he could not make an impact deep enough to last the test of time. Later, after learning about Buddhism, he became a Buddhist and attacked the principles of Hinduism more strongly. One of his best books ‘The Buddha and his Dhamma’, is a nightmare to the rigid irrational minds even today.
- India has seen a variety of reigns from Maurya to Mughals to the British. But the state of the oppressed classes remained unchanged through all these eras, but the sun dawned upon them with the birth of Ambedkar. If the oppressed classes are enjoying a dignified life, it is because of Ambedkar. This is why many upper caste people still hold a grudge against him, even after his demise. We have seen the news channel telecasting the defacing of Ambedkar’s statue. But defacing his statue would yield nothing; for Ambedkar is more than a man, he is the fighting spirit of every man fighting for his / her freedom. Ambedkar will continue to live in the hearts of people to the end of caste bias and beyond!