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Be Educated, Be Organised and Be Agitated

After completing his studies in London, he returned to India. In July 1924, he founded the Bahishkrit Hitkaraini Sabha (Outcastes Welfare Association). The aim of the Sabha was to uplift the downtrodden socially and politically and bring them to the level of the others in the Indian society. In 1927, he led the Mahad March at the Chowdar Tank at Colaba, near Bombay, to give the untouchables the right to draw water from the public tank where he burnt copies of the “Manusmriti” publicly.

In 1929, Ambedkar made the controversial decision to co-operate with the all-British Simon Commission which was to look into setting up a responsible Indian Government in India. The Congress decided to boycott the Commission and drafted its own version of a constitution for free India. The Congress version had no provisions for the depressed classes. Ambedkar became more sceptical of the Congress’s commitment to safeguarding the rights of the depressed classes. When a separate electorate was announced for the depressed classes under Ramsay McDonald “Communal Award”, Gandhiji went on a fast unto death against this decision. Leaders rushed to Dr. Ambedkar to drop his demand.

On September 24, 1932, Dr. Ambedkar and Gandhiji reached an understanding, which became the famous Poona Pact. According to the pact, the separate electorate demand was replaced with special concessions like reserved seats in the regional legislative assemblies and Central Council of States. Dr. Ambedkar attended all the three Round Table Conferences in London and forcefully argued for the welfare of the “untouchables”. Meanwhile, British Government decided to hold provincial elections in 1937. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar set up the “Independent Labor Party” in August 1936 to contest the elections in the Bombay province. He and many candidates of his party were elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly. In 1937, Dr. Ambedkar introduced a Bill to abolish the “khoti” system of land tenure in the Konkan region, the serfdom of agricultural tenants and the Mahar “watan” system of working for the Government as slaves.

A clause of an agrarian bill referred to the depressed classes as “Harijans”, or people of God. Bhimrao was strongly opposed to this title for the untouchables. He argued that if the “untouchables” were people of God, then all others would be people of monsters. He was against any such reference. But the Indian National Congress succeeded in introducing the term Harijan. Ambedkar felt bitter that they could not have any say in what they were called.

In 1947, when India became independent, the first Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, invited Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar, who had been elected as a Member of the Constituent Assembly from Bengal, to join his Cabinet as a Law Minister. The Constituent Assembly entrusted the job of drafting the Constitution to a committee and Dr. Ambedkar was elected as Chairman of this Drafting Committee.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

In February 1948, Dr. Ambedkar presented the Draft Constitution before the people of India; it was adopted on November 26, 1949. In October 1948, Dr. Ambedkar submitted the Hindu Code Bill
to the Constituent Assembly in an attempt to codify the Hindu law. The Bill caused great divisions even in the Congress party. Consideration for the bill was postponed to September 1951. When the Bill was taken up it was truncated. A dejected Ambedkar relinquished his position as Law Minister. On May 24, 1956, on the occasion of Buddha Jayanti, he declared in Bombay, that he would adopt Buddhism in October. On 0ctober 14, 1956 he embraced Buddhism along with many of his followers. On December 6, 1956, Baba Saheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar died peacefully in his sleep.

The author is an electronics engineer which masters’ degree in RF engineering. Apart from technical field the area of interest includes philosophy, geography and art. She is a great follower of work of the American neuroscientist and celebrity Myiam Bialik and has deep fascination for Indian as well as world history.

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