Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, popularly known as Babasaheb, was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Modern Buddhist Movement and campaigned against social discrimination of Dalits, women and labour. He was independent India's first law minister and the principal architect of the Constitution of India.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambavadekar was born in the British-founded town of Mhow, an important military center near Indore, Madhya Pradesh. He was the fourteenth and last child of Ramji Sankpal and Bhimabai Murbadkar Sankpal. The family's ancestral town was Ambavade (in the Ratnagiri District of Maharashtra). Bhimrao studied at Satara and then in Bombay, where he did so well on his exams that he was admitted to Bombay University - a unique feat for a member of the Mahar caste in his time and place. Bhimrao passed the Matriculation Examination that entitled him to enroll in Elphinstone College, a college affiliated with Bombay University. Later he had earned various doctorates from Columbia University and the London School of Economics, and gained a reputation as a scholar for his research in law, economics and political science.
In his early career he was an economist, professor, and lawyer. His later life was marked by his political activities, where he became involved in the negotiations for India's independence campaigning by publishing journals like Mook Nayak, Bahishkrit Bharat, and Equality Janta to advocating political rights and social freedom for untouchables and contributing significantly to the establishment of the state of India. In 1924, he founded the "Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha" (Group for the Wellbeing of the Excluded), to help the Depressed Classes mobilize. Its motto was "Educate, Agitate, Organise."
He was appointed to the Bombay Presidency Committee to work with the all-European Simon Commission in 1925. This commission had sparked great protests across India, and while its report was ignored by most Indians, Ambedkar himself wrote a separate set of recommendations for the future Constitution of India. By 1927 Ambedkar decided to launch active movements against untouchability. He began with public movements and marches to open up and share public drinking water resources. He also began a struggle for the right to enter Hindu temples. He led a satyagraha in Mahad to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw water from the main water tank of the town. In a conference in late 1927, Ambedkar public condemned the classic Hindu text, the Manusmrti (Laws of Manu), for ideologically justifying the system of caste discrimination and “untouchability,” ceremonially burning copies of the ancient text. On 25 December 1927, thousands of people burnt copies of Manusmriti under leadership of Ambedkar.
Due to Ambedkar's prominence and popular support amongst untouchable community, he was invited to attend Round Table Conference in London in 1930. Gandhi fiercely opposed a separate electorate for untouchables, saying he feared that such an arrangement would split Brahmins and Dalits, dividing the Hindu community into two groups. In 1932, when the British had agreed with Ambedkar and announced a Communal Award of a separate electorate, Gandhi protested by fasting while imprisoned in the Yerwada Central Jail of Poona. The fast provoked huge civil unrest across India and orthodox Hindu leaders, Congress politicians and activists such as Madan Mohan Malaviya and Palwankar Baloo organised joint meetings with Ambedkar and his supporters at Yerwada. Fearing a communal reprisal and genocidal acts against untouchables, Ambedkar was forced into agreeing with Gandhi. This agreement, which saw Gandhi end his fast and Ambedkar drop his demand for a separate electorate, was called the Poona Pact.
He founded his first political party, the Independent Labour Party, which contested 17 seats in the 1937 General Elections, and won 15. He founded his second political party, the All-India Scheduled Castes Federation, which didn't do so well in the elections of 1946. Upon India's Transfer of Power by British Government to leaders of High Cast on 15 August 1947, the new Congress-led government invited Ambedkar to serve as the nation's first Law Minister, which he accepted. On 29 August, he was appointed Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, charged by the Assembly to write India's new Constitution.
Ambedkar organised a formal public ceremony for himself and his supporters in Nagpur on 14 October 1956. Accepting the Three Refuges and Five Precepts from a Buddhist monk in the traditional manner, Ambedkar completed his own conversion, along with his wife. He then proceeded to convert some 500,000 of his supporters who were gathered around him. He was died in his sleep on 6 December 1956 at his home in Delhi. He was posthumously awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1990.
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