Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (14 April 1891 – 6 December 1956), famously known as Babasaheb, was an Indian jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination towards Untouchables (Dalits), while also uplifting the rights of women and labor. He was Independent India’s first law minister, the principal architect of the Constitution of India and a founding father of the Republic of India.
Early life and family
Ambedkar was born on 14 April 1891 in the town and military cantonment of Mhow in the Central Provinces (now in Madhya Pradesh). Ambedkar was the 14th and last child of Ramji Maloji Sakpal, an army officer who held the rank of Subedar, and Bhimabai Sakpal, daughter of Laxman Murbadkar. Ambedkar was born into a poor low Mahar (Dalit) caste, who were considered as untouchables and subjected to socio-economic discrimination. In 1897, Ambedkar’s family gone to Mumbai where Ambedkar became the only untouchable enrolled at Elphinstone High School. In 1906, when he was about 15 years old, his marriage to a nine-year-old girl, Ramabai, was done. In 1907, he finished his matriculation examination and in the following year, he entered Elphinstone College, which was affiliated to the University of Bombay, becoming the first untouchable to do so. In 1913, Ambedkar moved to the United States at the age of 22. He had been awarded a Baroda State Scholarship of £11.50 (Sterling) per month for three years under a project established by Sayajirao Gaekwad III (Gaekwad of Baroda) that was designed to give opportunities for postgraduate education at Columbia University in New York City. In October 1916, he enrolled for the Bar course at Gray’s Inn, and at the same time enrolled at the London School of Economics where he started working on a doctoral thesis. In June 1917, he returned to India because his scholarship from Baroda accomplished.
He was elected as a Military Secretary to the Gaikwad but had to quit in a short time. In 1935, Ambedkar was appointed principal of the Government Law College, Bombay, a position he held for two years. He also worked as the chairman of Governing body of Ramjas College, University of Delhi, after the death of its Founder Shri Rai Kedarnath. Settling in Bombay (today called Mumbai), Ambedkar oversaw the construction of a house, and lineup his personal library with more than 50,000 books. His wife Ramabai died after a long illness the current year. It had been her long-standing wish to go on a pilgrimage to Pandharpur, but Ambedkar had denied to let her go, telling her that he would create a new Pandharpur for her instead of Hinduism’s Pandharpur which considered them as untouchables. At the Yeola Conversion Conference on 13 October in Nasik, Ambedkar announced his intention to convert to a different religion and encourage his followers to leave Hinduism. He would repeat his message at many public meetings all over India.
In 1936, Ambedkar established the Independent Labour Party, which contested the 1937 Bombay election to the Central Legislative Assembly for the 13 reserved and 4 general seats, and secured 11 and 3 seats respectively.
Ambedkar worked on the Defence Advisory Committee and the Viceroy’s Executive Council as minister for labor.
In his work Who Were the Shudras?, Ambedkar initiated to explain the formation of untouchables. He saw Shudras and Ati Shudras who made the lowest caste in the ritual hierarchy of the caste system, as separate from Untouchables. Ambedkar oversaw the transformation of his political party into the Scheduled Castes Federation, although it performed badly in the 1946 elections for Constituent Assembly of India.
Ambedkar contested in the Bombay North first Indian General Election of 1952 but lost to his former assistant and Congress Party candidate Narayan Kajrolkar. Ambedkar became a member of Rajya Sabha, probably an appointed member. He tried to enter Lok Sabha again in the by-election of 1954 from Bhandara, but he placed third (the Congress Party won). By the time of the second general election in 1957, Ambedkar had died.
Ambedkar also condemned Islamic practice in South Asia. While justifying the Partition of India, he criticizes child marriage and the mistreatment of women in Muslim society.