Dr B. R. Ambedkar
Leader of the Dalits
Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born into a low caste Mahar family on 14 April 1891 in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh. As society followed a rigid caste system, people of a low caste were considered untouchables. People of the Mahar caste were brave and admitted into the army. Bhimrao’s father Ramji Rao also served in the army. When the family migrated to Bombay from their village, Bhimrao was admitted to Elphinston College. They lived in a small tenement where there was not enough space for the whole family, so the father and son slept in turns.
Ambedkar had to face a lot of difficulties in his quest for education. The Maharaja of Baroda helped him and so , after completing his B.A., he went to America for his Master’s. He did research on India’s economy and obtained his doctorate. After coming back to India, he started practising law in Bombay. Alsong with his practice, he also worked for the uplift of the socially backward classes. It was this work which drew him close to Gandhiji.
In 1931 when Gandhiji went to London for the Round Table Conference, he accompanied Gandhiji as a representative of the backward classes, while Gandhiji was the representative of the Congress. The Congress was not in favour of giving separate representation to the backward classes. But Ambedkar strongly advocated separate representation for the backward classes. A compromise was reached by the Poona Pact of 1932. The backward classes were given the right to draw water from local wells and ponds and visit temples and other public places. Due to the efforts of Dr Ambedkar, the attitude of society towards these classes changed. But Dr Ambedkar was not happy with the results, so he converted to Buddhism on 14 October 1956. Ambedkar was accused of creating a rift in Hinduism when he converted to Buddhism. Earlier he had founded the Depressed Classes Association and worked for the amelioration of the suffering of the Dalits or backward classes. In 1947, Pt Nehru included him in his Cabinet as the law minister.
Ambedkar’s health deteriorated because of his rigorous work. His wife had died many years ago. In 1948, at the age of 57, he married Lakshmi Savita. She was a doctor and took good care of Ambedkar. He died on 6 December 1956.
In 1990, the man who was the driving force behind the drafting of the Constitution of independent India, Dr Ambedkar was awarded the Bharat Ratna posthumously.
(Famous Indians of the 20th Century, Vishwamitra Sharma, Pg. 127)