Come Ambedkar Jayanti and most politicians suddenly become quite active.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on the occasion of the 126th birth anniversary of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, will be in Nagpur where he will visit a sacred place closely associated with the Dalit icon and inaugurate a number of development projects.
Many parliamentarians including Rajnath Singh, Venkaiah Naidu, Thaawar Chand Gehlot and Sonia Gandhi paid respect to Ambedkar on Thursday.
The importance of Ambedkar in Indian politics cannot be overstated. The Father of the Constitution of India and the man who fought for the oppressed in the country came from humble beginnings.
Born on 14 April, 1891, to parents Ramji Maloji Sakpal and Bhimabai Murbadkar Sakpal in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, Ambedkar had to face isolation in school because of his caste.
He was not allowed to sit inside his class and was not even allowed to touch or drink water from a vessel that everyone else used. Despite all the hardships in his way, Ambedkar was the only one among his 13 other brothers and sisters who cleared his exams and went to high school. A teacher called Mahadev Ambedkar, who was fond of him, changed his surname in the school records to his own.
Ambedkar became the only 'untouchable' in 1897 to get enrolled at the Elphinstone High School in Mumbai. When he turned 15, he was married to a nine-year-old girl.
He pursued a degree in economics and political science from Elphinstone College, University of Mumbai, and then completed his Masters in Economics (Major) at the Columbia University and Doctor of Science in Economics from London School of Economics with the help of a scholarship, according to NDTV.
In 1924, Ambedkar returned to India and founded the Bahishkrut Hitkaraini Sabha for fighting against the caste system. The Sabha ran free schools and libraries for all, according to YourStory.
Perhaps no one fought for the basic rights of Dalits like Ambedkar. He organised marches demanding their rights to drink water from public resources and their right to enter temples despite facing a lot of opposition from upper-caste powerful Hindu men.
On 25 December, 1927, Ambedkar publicly condemned the Manusmriti for justifying caste discrimination and untouchability and led thousands of Dalits and burnt copies of the text.
"The real method of breaking up the Caste System was not to bring about inter-caste dinners and inter-caste marriages but to destroy the religious notions on which Caste was founded,” he had written in an undelivered speech titled Annihilation of Caste.
After India gained independence in 1947, Ambedkar accepted Congress' proposal to serve as the country's first Law Minister and was appointed chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee on 29 August, 1947. On 26 November 1949, the Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly.
Ambedkar was against Article 370 and it was included against his wishes. In fact, he resigned in 1951 when the Parliament delayed the draft which sought to enact gender equality in the inheritance law.
In fact, Ambedkar talked about burning the lengthiest constitution in the world. "It is by placating the sentiments of smaller communities and smaller people who are afraid that the majority may do wrong, that the British Parliament works. Sir, my friends tell me that I have made the Constitution. But I am quite prepared to say that I shall be the first person to burn it out. I do not want it. It does not suit anybody," The Quint quoted Ambedkar as saying in the Rajya Sabha on 2 September, 1953. Ambedkar was arguing strongly in favour of amending the Constitution during a debate over whether the Governor should be invested with more powers.
He converted to Buddhism in 1956. And after he passed away on 6 December that year, he was accorded a Buddhist cremation.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Apr 14, 2017 11:22 AM