Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891 – 1956):
The slogan “Jai Bhim” is a salute to the man who spent his life fighting for the rights of the weakest citizens of India. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar is remembered as the father of the Indian Constitution.
The Constitution of India is a guiding light for the values that should govern India. After independence, the responsibility of leading the task of writing the Constitution was given to Ambedkar. He was India’s first Minister of Law and Justice and fought tirelessly against social discrimination of India’s poorest minority class.
Ambedkar was born on 14 April 1891 in the central provinces of India. He was born into the Mahar caste, which faced deep discrimination within society. People from his caste were treated as “untouchables”. In school, he received little help from teachers, and was expected to sit separately and even carry his own makeshift chair.
Ambedkar was a hardworking student. In 1907, he passed the entrance exam for Bombay University. By 1912, he had obtained his degree in economics and political science. He was awarded a scholarship to study further in the United States. Ambedkar graduated in 1915 from Columbia University after studying Economics and the social sciences. After moving to London, he completed both his practicing law degree and his doctorate in Economics by 1923 and returned to India.
After returning to India, Ambedkar tried to work as a private tutor, an accountant, a financial advisor, and finally, a lawyer. However his caste was still a major obstacle. He lost many clients because of it. During this time, the British were slowly giving political power back to India. They held hearings and Ambedkar used this opportunity to speak. He spoke about protections for oppressed minorities through reservations.
Ambedkar’s fight for minorities often took place in the courtroom. In 1935, he was appointed as the principal of Government Law College, Bombay. It was during his tenure that he wrote a book called Thoughts on Pakistan, which supported ceding Pakistan to the Muslims. Its immense detail influenced the dialogue between the Muslim League and the Indian National Congress, paving the way for the partition of India.
India gained independence on the 15th of August 1947 and the new government invited Ambedkar to serve as the nation’s first Law Minister. Ambedkar accepted and on the 29th of August, 1947, he was tasked to lead the committee that would write India’s new Constitution. The text he created focused on protecting the rights of individuals. It focused on freedom of religion, outlawing all forms of discrimination and equal rights for women. He also created a system of reservations that saved some government jobs and seats in schools and colleges for the underprivileged.
Ambedkar also tried to ensure gender equality in marriage and inheritance but faced stiff opposition. He resigned his post as Law Minister in protest and joined the Upper House or Rajya Sabha of the Indian parliament. Ambedkar kept working diligently. He wrote three books on the Indian Economy and his ideas were used to create the Reserve Bank of India. His models on Economic development were adopted by the Government. These included education, public hygiene, community health, and residential facilities for the underprivileged.
Even at the end of his life, caste played a central role in Ambedkar’s life. Around 1950, at the age of 59, Ambedkar and 500,000 of his followers converted to Buddhism. He had already written various books on Buddhism and its relationship with India. However, his health was declining and he soon died. He was posthumously awarded India’s highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna.
Ambedkar’s legacy has had a deep impact on the India we know today. It is to him we owe protection of minorities and providing incentives to disadvantaged people so that they can succeed. Ambedkar also ensured that values like gender equality, social equality, and education are held strongly in the constitution and the courts of India. Many public institutions are named in his honor. B.R. Ambedkar was a scholar, an economist, and a tireless social reformer. His actions gave fundamental rights to millions of oppressed minorities in India.
Born: 14 April 1891, Central Provinces, India
Died: 7 December 1956, Mumbai, India
Education: Columbia University (1913–1916)
Major contribution: Indian Constitution, fundamental rights of minorities in India
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