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Ambedkar - Life and Contribution


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Life and Contribution of Ambedkar to emancipation of untouchables, eradication of caste system, women's rights, Constitution of India, equality, liberty, fraternity etc

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Ambedkar - Life and Contribution

  1. 1. 1891 - 1956 R RAMESH
  2. 2. The years 1901 to 1956 were a period of great social upheavals and revolutionary movements around the world. In India during this time, there were two struggles being fought simultaneously; the first, which is well known throughout the world, was India’s fight for independence spearheaded by Mahatma Gandhi, against the British colonial powers. "We must stand on our own feet and fight as best as we can for our rights. So carry on your agitation and organize your forces. Power and prestige will come to you through struggle." R RAMESH
  3. 3. The second struggle, much less well known but no less important was an internal struggle. Seventy million Indian untouchables, led by Dr. Ambedkar were fighting for their rights against upper caste Hindu society. It has its equation in the political and social disparity all over the world. The basic aim of the social revolution is to uphold the meaning of humanity in its truest sense. "Lost rights are never regained by begging and by appeals to the conscience of the usurpers, but by relentless struggle. Goats are used for sacrificial offerings and not lions." R RAMESH
  5. 5. Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born in a family of “untouchables” on April 14th 1891. They were called the untouchables because if a member of another caste touches one of them, they will become polluted. The untouchables had the lowest status possible and were discriminated against by all other castes. “Indifferentism is the worst kind of disease that can affect people.” R RAMESH
  6. 6. Living at the bottom of the hierarchy, the "untouchable" in India was not only low in occupational and other privileges, but was considered unclean in the eyes of the intermediate and higher caste. They could not change their status. They were stuck in a life of poverty. Even in those parts of pockets of the country where there was a certain degree of tolerance towards them, they were never accepted as a part of the society. “Equality may be a fiction but nonetheless one must accept it as a governing principle.” R RAMESH
  7. 7. During his school days, Ambedkar had several humiliating experiences, which made him realize what the stigma of untouchability meant. Once, Ambedkar and his brother were going to Goregaon from Masur Railway Station. They hired a bullock-cart for this purpose. Hardly had the cart gone a few yards when the caste Hindu cart-man realized that the two boys in his cart were "untouchables". He threw them out on the road in a fit of rage, because he felt that they had polluted his wooden cart. Ambedkar and his brother calmed the cart man’s anger by paying double the fare. Ambedkar's elder brother drove the cart, and the cart-man followed the cart on foot, as he was afraid of being polluted! Ambedkar and his brother could not get drinking water during the whole journey. "If you believe in living respectable life, you believe in self-help, which is the best help! " R RAMESH
  8. 8. Similarly, barbers refused to cut Ambedkar's hair because of fear of pollution. Ambedkar's sister used to cut her brother's hair. Further, because of being an "untouchable" by birth, Ambedkar was forced to sit apart from other students in the school. He could not mix with other boys or play cricket and other games with them. His teachers would not touch his notebooks. Some of them would not even ask the "untouchables" to recite poems or put questions to them for fear of being polluted! When they felt thirsty in the school, they turned their mouths upward and somebody would kindly pour drinking water into their mouths. The "untouchables" were traditionally prohibited from learning Sanskrit. The Sanskrit teacher in Ambedkar's school refused to teach Sanskrit to the "untouchables". Ambedkar had no option except to study Persian as the second language in the high school. “If the depressed classes gained their self-respect and freedom they would contribute not only to their progress and prosperity but also by their industry, intellect and courage would contributes also to the strength and prosperity of the nation.” R RAMESH
  9. 9. After his graduation, Ambedkar joined the Baroda State Service. The higher office in Baroda State was manned by upper caste Hindus. The idea of pollution by touch was so strong that even the peons in his office used to throw office files at him from a distance! He could not get residential accommodation in any decent locality. He was staying with Pandit Atma Ram, an Arya Samajist. The social conditions were highly unfavorable and it was difficult for him to continue in service. He therefore decided to resign his post at the earliest opportunity. “History bears out the proposition that political revolution have always been preceded by social and religious revolution. “ R RAMESH
  10. 10. In 1913 the Maharaja of Baroda who was already convinced of Ambedkar’s intrinsic worth, advised him to apply for one of the scholarships offered by his state for higher studies at the Columbia University. In the USA, for the first time, Bhim Rao had the opportunity to move, think and act freely without the stigma of untouchability haunting him for ever. His inborn intelligence and deep insight at last found the proper atmosphere for growth and development. “Humans are mortal. So are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise both will wither and die.” R RAMESH
  11. 11. From his M.A. course, Bhim Rao took up such difficult and diverse subjects as political science, moral philosopy, anthropology, sociology and economics and studied for as many as 18 hours a day. In 1915, Ambedkar was awarded his M.A. Degree for his theses entitled “Ancient Indian Commerce”. In 1916, he also presented a paper entitled “Castes in India, their mechanism, Genesis and Development” in which he not only traced the origin of the caste system in India brilliantly but also pointed out its evil consequences. “Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act” R RAMESH
  12. 12. In June, 1916 he submitted his thesis for the Ph.D., Degree to the Columbia University which was entitled “The National Dividend of India, a Historic and Analytical Study”. Later on, this thesis was enlarged and published as “The Evolution of Imperial Provincial Finance in India”. The entire book was highly critical of the British Bureaucracy and of the British imperial System and brought out forcefully Ambedkar’s love and concern for his country. “I want all people to be Indians first, Indian last and nothing else but Indians.” R RAMESH
  13. 13. Ambedkar left New York in 1916 for London and entered in October, 1916 the Gray’s Inn for doing his Bar-at-Law, and also simultaneously enrolled himself in the famous London school of economics. He had to discontinue his studies due financial reasons and return to Bombay. “ What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights. “ R RAMESH
  14. 14. Here Ambedkar came in touch with another enlightened prince, the Maharaja of Kolhapur, Shahu Maharaj, who had been trying to do his best to break down the barriers of the caste system and help the untouchables in every possible way. This turned out to be yet another turning point in his life. The Maharaja not only appointed the untouchables to posts in his personal staff, provided the untouchable students with free education, board and lodging but even went to the extent of taking meals with them in public. “The British Government only followed the precedent of the previous Mohammedan rulers who also claimed an enormous Land Tax. What the Mohammedans claimed they could never fully realize : what the British claimed they realized with vigour.” R RAMESH
  15. 15. He again left for London in 1920. He pursued his studies in economics at the London School of Economics and was called to bar simultaneously. Ambedkar’s painstaking research work in London resulted in completing his thesis entitled “Provincial Decentralization of imperial Finance in British India” for which he was awarded the degree of Master of Science in June, 1921. In October next year, he completed another thesis entitled “ The problem of the Rupee” for the University of London. “It ought to serve as an object lesson to all financiers to show that when their revenue laws are harmful to the resources of the people they must blame none but themselves for their empty treasury” R RAMESH
  16. 16. His thesis raised a furore in the academic world of the University of London, because of his frank and forthright criticism of the British Fiscal system in India. Even a socialist professor like Harold Laski was convinced, like many other dons of the University of London, that Ambedkar was an Indian Revolutionary. “The immenseness of India’s contribution to England is as much astounding as the nothingness of England’s contribution to India. Both are, however, true statements if looked at from economics point of view. “ R RAMESH
  18. 18. In 1919 Ambedkar started a fortnightly paper under the name of Mook Nayak (Leader of the Dumb). Although Ambedkar was not its editor officially, this paper became his mouth-piece. He made full use of it to expose with his brilliant logic, the irrationality and the basic injustice inherent in the Caste System. “The Swaraj wherein there were no fundamental rights guaranteed for the Depressed Classes, would not be a Swaraj to them. It would be a new slavery for them.“ R RAMESH
  19. 19. Ambedkar came back to India in April, 1923. Although he had by that time acquired the highest possible academic qualifications from the foremost centres of learning in England, America and Germany he was in extreme financial difficulties. Ambedkar’s caste again stood in his way. The litigants belonging to the upper castes were not willing to hire even such a highly qualified barrister and those who did were mostly from the poorer sections who could pay either very little or no money at all for his services. "It is not a sin to crave for honour. But if honour does not come your way, you should not give up your struggle in despair. Your resilience should not desert you if you are ungratefully ignored or denied the credit you deserve." R RAMESH
  20. 20. Bhim Rao was naturally depressed by these conditions but his spirit was as usual undaunted and his determination and enthusiasm unabated. A society named Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha was formed to promote the interest of the untouchables. The principal aims of the Sabha were : • to promote the spread of education amongst the untouchables • to promote the spread of culture amongst the untouchables by opening libraries, study circles etc., • to improve the economic status of the untouchables by starting industrial and agricultural schools and • to bring the grievances of the depressed classes to the attention of the Government. “I have heard labour leaders speaking against capitalism. But I never heard any labour leaders speaking against Brahmanism amongst workers. On the other hand their silence on this point is quite conspicuous. “ R RAMESH
  21. 21. The composition of the committee reflected the broad and secular outlook of Dr. Ambedkar. He had a firm belief that untouchability should be the concern not only of the untouchables alone but of all the sections of the Indian society. "Every man should have a philosophy of life, for every one must have a standard by which to measure his conduct. And philosophy is nothing but standard by which to measure." R RAMESH
  22. 22. There was a subtle distinction between the approach by the several other organisations which were also working in their own way for the same cause. Dr. Ambedkar was of the firm conviction that a distinction existed between social reform confined only to the reform of the Hindu family and social reform aimed at a complete re-organisation and reconstruction of the entire Hindu Society. "There is one thing which I think is very necessary in the working of democracy and it is this that the name of democracy there must be no tyranny of the majority over the minority." R RAMESH
  24. 24. While Ambedkar as well as Gandhi had the same goad of the ultimate removal of untouchability, their individual approach to achieve the goal was radically different. While it would be entirely wrong to deny Gandhiji’s sincerity in the cause of upliftment of the untouchables, as it was evident from his deeds as well as writings in ‘Harijan’, it would be equally truthful to say that Gandhiji’s approach was one mainly of treating the symptom rather than the disease. “He (Gandhi) has almost in everything the simplicity of the child with the child’s capacity for self-deception. Like a child he can believe in anything, he wants to believe. He may be trying to spiritualize politics. Politics have certainly commercialized him.” R RAMESH
  25. 25. Dr. Ambedkar made a memorable speech in 1st Round Table Conference. He said : “While I want to emphasise the fact that one fifth of the total population of British India – a population as large as the population of Britain – has been reduced to a position worse than that of serfs or slaves. However, I maintain that the untouchables in India were also for replacing the existing Government by a Government of the people for the people and by the people”. “My definition of democracy is ‘A form and method of Government whereby revolutionary changes in the economic and social life of the people are brought about without bloodshed. “ R RAMESH
  26. 26. Further on, in his speech Dr. Ambedkar posed some direct and inconvenient questions to the British Government. “When we compare our present position with the one in pre-British days, we find that instead of marching on, we are making time. Before the British, we were in the loathsome condition due to our untouchability. Has the British Government done anything to remove it? …. Our wrongs have remained as open sore and they have not been righted, although 150 years of British rule have rolled away. Of what good is such a government to anybody?” “Indian Nationalism has developed a new doctrine. Any claim for the sharing of power by the minority is called Communalism while the monopolizing of the whole power by the majority is called Nationalism. “ R RAMESH
  27. 27. During the first Round Table Conference, when Ambedkar favoured the move of the British Government to provide separate electorate for the oppressed classes, Gandhi strongly opposed it and went for an indefinite hunger strike from against the decision of granting communal award to the depressed classes in the constitution for governance of British India. In view of the mass upsurge generated in the country to save the life of Gandhi, Ambedkar was compelled to soften his stand. A compromise between the leaders of caste Hindu and the depressed classes was reached on September 24,1932, popularly known as Poona Pact. “We mean no harm to the Hindu Society, when we demand separate electorates. If we choose separate electorates, we do so in order to avoid the total dependence on the sweet will of the caste Hindus in matters affecting our destiny.” R RAMESH
  29. 29. Ambedkar was elected as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution of independent India on 29 August 1947. There were seven members in the committee. Ambedkars’ problems began even before the task of drafting the constitution started. One of them resigned, whose place was empty all the time, another person died and that place was also empty, one member lived in America, ultimately his place also remained empty, one member was busy with his political duties and could not spare time in the Assembly, one or two people were out of Delhi hence it was impossible for them to adjust in Delhi’s cold weather. Consequently a situation arose that the entire responsibility for drafting the constitution came upon Ambedkar’s shoulders. “History bears out the proposition that political revolution have always been preceded by social and religious revolution. ” R RAMESH
  30. 30. The text prepared by Ambedkar provided constitutional guarantees and protections for a wide range of civil liberties for individual citizens, including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability and outlawing all forms of discrimination. Ambedkar argued for extensive economic and social rights for women, and also won the Constituent Assembly’s support for introducing a system of reservations of jobs for members of the SC and ST. “A people who, notwithstanding their differences accept a common destiny for themselves as well as for their opponents, are a community. “ R RAMESH
  31. 31. Ambedkar kept the clauses of the Constitution flexible so that amendments could be made as and when the situation demanded. He provided an inspiring Preamble to the Constitution ensuring justice, social, economic and political, liberty, equality and fraternity. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution echoes the principles of parliamentary democracy. It reads: “There is one thing which I think is very necessary in the working of democracy and it is this that the name of democracy there must be no tyranny of the majority over the minority.” R RAMESH
  32. 32. We the people of India, having solemnly resolved to constitute India into a Sovereign Democratic Republic and to secure to all its citizens— Justice, Social, Economic and Political; Liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship, Equality of status and of opportunity and to promote among them all—Fraternity, assuring the dignity of Individual and the Unity of the Nation, in our Constituent Assembly this 26th day of November, 1949 do hereby adopt, enact and give to ourselves this Constitution. “Our loyalty as Indians should not be in slightest way affected by any competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises out of our religion, out of our culture, out of our language. I want all people to be Indian first, Indian last and nothing else” R RAMESH
  33. 33. Ambedkar was a champion of fundamental rights, and Part III of the Indian Constitution guarantees the fundamental rights to the citizens against the state. Some of the fundamental rights contained in Articles 15(2), 17, 23, and 24 are also enforceable against individuals as they are very significant rights relating to the prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth etc. “No constitution will be workable which is not acceptable to the majority of the people.” R RAMESH
  34. 34. According to Ambedkar, the most significant feature of the fundamental rights is that these rights are made justiciable. The right to move to the Supreme Court for enforcement of fundamental rights under Article 32 is itself a fundamental right. Article 32 authorises the Supreme Court to issue directions, orders or writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, certioraris etc. or any other appropriate remedy, as the case may be, for the enforcement of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution “An open mind may also be an empty mind and that such an open mind, if it a happy condition, is also a very dangerous condition for a man to be in.” R RAMESH
  35. 35. He took a very prominent part in the deliberations of the Assembly. He was known for his logical, forceful and persuasive arguments on the floor of the Assembly. He is thus recognised as the ‘Father of the Constitution of India’ and is also known as a ‘Modern Manu’. Dr. Ambedkar tried an adequate inclusion of women’s rights in the political vocabulary and constitution of India. He insisted on Hindu Code bill suggesting the basic improvements and amendments in assembly. He also insisted and evoked all the parliamentary members to help to pass the bill in parliament. “You may abuse me as much as possible, provided you do not take much time. I am concerned more with time than with abuse. ” R RAMESH
  36. 36. The Hindu Code Bill, the most formidable legislative measure of modern India, sought among other reforms, to put an end to a variety of marriage systems prevailing in India and legalise only monogamous marriages. The Code also sought to confer on women the right of property and adoption which had been denied by Manu. It put men and women on an equal level in all legal matters. This bill had to face intense opposition from other members of the Parliament including his own cabinet members. Eventually, he resigned for the same. “Be Educated, Be Organised and Be Agitated” R RAMESH
  38. 38. Ambedkar believed that the dalit people were an ancient Buddhist community of India who had been forced to live outside villages as outcasts because they refused to renounce their Buddhist practices. He considered this to be why they became untouchables and he wrote a book on this topic, entitled “Who were the Shudras?.and Who were the Untouchables?” He studied Buddhism all his life, and around 1950s, Ambedkar turned his attention fully to Buddhism. “The history of India is nothing but a history of a mortal conflict between Buddhism and Brahminism. ” R RAMESH
  39. 39. Dr. Ambedkar declared that the religion was for the man and not the other way around and in 1935 he uttered those famous words: “I solemnly assure you that I will not die as a Hindu.” “We build a temple for a God to come in and reside, but before the God could be installed, the devil had taken possession of it, what else could we do except destroy the temple?” R RAMESH
  40. 40. “Send your children to schools. Education is as necessary for females as it is for males. If you know how to read and write, there would be much progress. As you are, so your children will be” He 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. Ambedkar died in his sleep on the 6th of December 1956. R RAMESH
  42. 42. Ambedkar was a multifaceted personality. He was a scholar, a lawyer, an educationist, a constitutionalist, a social reformer and a lover of peace. He wanted peace both individually and in social relationship. It was only through peaceful means that he did a lot of good for the downtrodden. "So long as you do not achieve social liberty, whatever freedom is provided by the law is of no avail to you." R RAMESH
  43. 43. He stressed upon the change of the heart and mind set of the people. He sincerely believed in the Buddhist teaching that hatred cannot be put an end to by hatred. Hatred ceases to be only when there is love. Ambedkar’s motto was to change but not to revenge. "I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved." R RAMESH
  44. 44. According to Ambedkar, the social norms founded on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity alone can guarantee of egalitarian society. The egalitarian society can be established by the peaceful means of educate, agitate and organize. He adopted the method of three slogan from the Buddhist trinity namely, Buddham, Dhammam and Sangham. The three slogans were based on non-violence. “I like the religion that teaches liberty, equality and fraternity.” R RAMESH
  45. 45. Ambedkar adopted peaceful means of social change. He believed in the evolutionary process of social change, which moves on constitutional lines. He preferred the evolutionary process since it preserves the factors like law and order which are indispensable for social life. It also strives to develop institutions that will guarantee a better ‘social order’. Ambedkar rejected the revolutionary or radical method of bringing about social change for it disturbs peace and tranquillity and creates chaos, strife and war. “The sovereignty of scriptures of all religions must come to an end if we want to have a united integrated modern India” R RAMESH
  46. 46. Ambedkar held that a really new society cannot be brought about through the means of ‘violence’, ‘contempt’ and ‘hatred’. A welfare society of all cannot be developed on the basis of ‘violence’, ‘force’ and ‘compulsion’. To him, violent approach to a peaceful society is not only unscientific but also improper and immoral. It is a contradiction to suppose that a society of liberty, equality and fraternity can be built by means of violence. “What are we having this liberty for? We are having this liberty in order to reform our social system, which is full of inequality, discrimination and other things, which conflict with our fundamental rights.” R RAMESH
  47. 47. Resorting to violence would be the violation of the principles which were dearest to Ambedkar’s heart and mind. He resorted to the means of ‘peace’ and ‘persuasion’ even before the constitution came into force. He adopted a ‘peaceful campaign’ to secure civil rights for the untouchables even before the Indian independence. To him, the campaign was legal and based on ‘legitimate rights’. It was peaceful as well as reasonable. It did not involve violence against those’ who denied the fundamental rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to millions of people. “Men are mortal. So are ideas. An idea needs propagation as much as a plant needs watering. Otherwise both will wither and die.” R RAMESH
  48. 48. Ambedkar suggested a ‘common participation’ on the family level among the touchable and the untouchable classes of the Hindus. This kind of participation establishes an intimate relation between them. It helps people to overcome the strangeness of feeling. Bringing the isolated groups into contact and allowing the depressed classes to the houses of the caste-Hindus as guests or servants would bring people together effectively. Ambedkar says that the live contact thus established will familiarize both to a common and associated life and will pave the way for the unity we are striving for. “Religion must mainly be a matter of principles only. It cannot be a matter of rules. The moment it degenerates into rules, it ceases to be a religion, as it kills responsibility which is an essence of the true religious act.” R RAMESH
  49. 49. Finally, Ambedkar emphasized the need for the employment of a large army of sincere workers who can carry out the programme against caste and untouchability. He wanted the workers to regard social service as love’s labour and believe in the words of Tolstoy ‘only those who love can serve’. Ambedkar shunned force and compulsion for social change. He wanted to bring about change through peace and persuasion. He never subscribed to violence and hatred as the means of social harmony. “Turn in any direction you like, caste is the monster that crosses your path. You cannot have political reform; you cannot have economic reform, unless you kill this monster.” R RAMESH
  50. 50. Ambedkar gave utmost importance to love as a means of bringing the untouchables and the caste Hindus together. He said “The touchables and the untouchables cannot be held together by law, certainly not by any electoral law substituting joint electorates for separate electorates. The only thing that can hold them together is love" “The fundamental principle of Buddhism is equality… Buddhism was called the religion of Shudras. There was only one man who raised his voice against separatism and Untouchability and that was Lord Buddha.” R RAMESH
  51. 51. The life of Dr. Bhimarao Ambedkar is a saga of great struggle of a man who in spite of his being born in a family of ‘Untouchables’, rose to great heights and occupied important positions entirely on account of his great merit and hard work. “The religion which treats crores of its adherents worse than dogs and criminals and inflicts upon them insufferable disabilities is no religion at all. Religion is appellation for such an unjust order. Religion and slavery are incompatible. “ R RAMESH
  52. 52. At a time when untouchables were forbidden education, Ambedkar bore many insults and humiliations at the hands of his fellow students and became the first graduate of his community Later, while studying at Columbia University, New York, Ambedkar was able to rid himself of the stigma of untouchability and breathe the air of freedom. But at the same time living next to Harlem he could equate the fate of his people with that of the Afro-Americans. “Untouchability is nothing but slavery. Tell a slave, he is a slave he will revolt.” R RAMESH
  53. 53. Though he was intent upon upliftment of the oppressed, his focus was very much on the unity, integrity and glorification of the nation despite all the contradictions and diversities. He believed that only in unification and not in the disintegration, lies the good of all. The various provisions of the constitution stand testimony to these ideals of the great mind. The secular sentiments of the constitution are the refulgent of his liberal and all-assimilative mind-set “India is a home of inequality. Hindu society is just like a tower which had several storeys without a ladder or an entrance. One was to die in the storey in which one is born.” R RAMESH
  54. 54. Dr. Ambedkar is one of those illustrious personalities, whose life and work has influenced and inspired both young and old generations. His contribution in the making of the Constitution of India is phenomenal and he defiantly fought for the betterment of the oppressed classes. And in this struggle he showed rare crusading spirit, carving out in the process an important place for himself among the prominent architects of contemporary India. "They cannot make history who forget history." R RAMESH
  55. 55. While Dr Ambedkar was rooted in India, he also had an international outlook. There will always be people like him who struggle to better the lot of the exploited, the downtrodden, and the forgotten. His was the universal fight of the underdog, to gain his people a rightful place in the sun. “Constitution is not a mere lawyers document, it is a vehicle of Life, and its spirit is always the spirit of Age. R RAMESH
  56. 56. THANK YOU "The Out-caste is a bye-product of the Caste-system. There will be out-castes as long as there are castes. Nothing can emancipate the Out-caste except the destruction of the Caste-system. Nothing can help to save Hindus and ensure their survival in the coming struggle except the purging of the Hindu Faith of this odious and vicious dogma." R RAMESH