Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, commonly known as B.R. Ambedkar was a politician and reformer who fought for the upliftment of Dalits. He was the leader of the constitution drafting committee and hence is known as the Father of the Indian Constitution. He was also a social reformist who opposed the poor treatment of women in Islam and child marriage. He was born in the year 1891 to a Marathi Dalit family in Mhow (present Madhya Pradesh). His father was an officer in the British Army. After his father retired, he along with his family shifted to Satara. Ambedkar and his siblings had a difficult childhood as their mother died when they were little. As he belonged to the Dalit caste, Ambedkar was treated as an untouchable at school and was made to sit separately from other students, and was not allowed to fetch water on their own. Ambedkar went to the Elphinstone High School in Bombay and was the only Dalit student to study there at that time.
He was the first child from his community to pass examinations, go to high school and later study at college. He graduated from Bombay University with a graduation degree in Political Science and Economics. When he was 22 years old, Bhimrao, under a state scholarship scheme got the opportunity to pursue post-graduation at Columbia University,
. He studied Master of Arts in Economics (M.A.), during which he wrote two theses Ancient Indian Commerce and National Dividend of India – A Historic and Analytical Study. In 1923, he earned a D.Sc. degree in Economics from the University of London and later went to study Bar at Gray’s Inn. He pursued his doctorate degree in Economics at Columbia as well and completed it in 1927. Ambedkar was briefly employed as the Military Secretary in Baroda and had to quit shortly.
He later attempted at earning a livelihood by doing part-time jobs as an accountant, Consultant, and teaching private tuition. He even taught Political Economy at the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai. All these jobs were short-lived due to one common factor – his caste. In association with Shahu – the Raja of Kolhapur and a social reformer, Ambedkar started the publication of Mooknayak – a weekly periodical. Ambedkar started working as a barrister in 1922. Through his practice, he tried to bring justice to the Dalits and other minority communities. He established Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha for the benefit of minorities. The institution was set up with aim of serving as a platform for minor communities to voice their concerns and grievances to the government. He worked with Simon Commission in 1925. From the year 1927, Bhimrao undertook aggressive campaigns and movements to rebel against untouchability. In the same year, he organized Mahad Satyagraha to provide the Dalit Community access to the town water tank.
On December 25, he along with his supporters burned copies of the Manusmriti text that contains the ideology of caste discrimination. Ambedkar, in order to protest against the Hindu Caste System considered converting to Sikhism but converted to Buddhism. He even wrote a book on Buddhism – The Buddha and His Dhamma (published in 1956) and converted to Buddhism with his wife in Nagpur. Ambedkar signed the Poona Pact with Madan Mohan Malaviya on September 25, 1932. The agreement provided reservations for the oppressed classes in the General Electorate. He became the principal of the Government Law College in Bombay in 1935. He formed the Independent Labour Party in 1936. In his book, Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar wrote against the caste system and the people that supported it. He also worked towards ending the Khoti system by tabling a bill in the Legislative Assembly. He also served as the Minister of Labour in the Viceroy’s Executive Council. In 1940, he wrote Thoughts on Pakistan which dealt with the Muslims demanding a separate country for them – Pakistan.
This literary work guided the negotiations between Muslim League and Congress, years later giving way to the Partition of the country. He also wrote Who Were the Shudras? In which he attempts to describe the differences between Shudras, Ati Shudras, and untouchables. After India became independent, he served as the Law Minister and later the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru appointed him as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee that was to draft independent India’s constitution. He introduced the system of reservations in the constitution, which is followed to date. His role in improving the independent India’s economic conditions is also notable.
He pushed the idea of investing in agriculture and developing it as the country’s Primary sector. He formed the Finance Commission of India in 1951, through which he advocated a free economy with a stable rupee. He also rebelled against the practice of taxing low-income groups. He has to his credit the writing of Administration and Finance of the East India Company, The Problem of the Rupee - Its Origin and Its Solution and The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India. Ambedkar was married twice, first to Ramabai who died in 1935, and then to Sharada Kabir. He became ill in 1948 and his health deteriorated after that. He died while asleep in December 1956 in his Delhi home. He was felicitated with Bharat Ratna in 1990. His birthday is a public holiday, celebrated every year – Ambedkar Jayanti.