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Monday, March 29, 2010

Dr B.R.Ambedkar – part A



The contemporary debate on Dalit identity and empowerment bears a deep imprint of a political and social legacy of national movement and political awakening in India. Dr. B. R. Ambedkar is an important part of this legacy. He singlehandedly struggled for the upliftment of down trodden low castes of Indian society, for giving them social equality and self-respect and for their political empowerment. He was one of the best legal minds produced by modern India. His contribution in the framing of the Indian Constitution earned him the title of father of Indian Constitu tion. He was a voracious reader. It is

significant that he built a bungalow in Bombay and named it 'Rajgriha' or Buddha's palace. Like other great personalities namely M. R. Jaykar, Jawaharlal Nehru or justice K. T. Telang,, he maintained his personal library in his house. About his vision and preaching, W. N. Kuber rightly remarks, "He preached by his own example, that the 'worth' not the 'birth' shapes the life of an individual in a country. Before he entered Indian politics, h was fully equipped with the western thought of democracy, equality, liberty and fraternity. His study in America and England fully revealed to him that the Hindu social

system would never free the untouch ables from social and political oppression. It became clear to him that constitutional safeguards and the laws of Manu would ultimately leadthe untouchables to a free and dignified life." Jawaharlal Nehru termed him as the symbol of revolt against the exploitative elements of Indian society.

B. R. Amhedkar was born on 14April, 1891 at Mhow, a military training school in Madhya Pradesh as his father Ramji was posted at Mhow as the head instructor of military school. He belonged to a good Mahar family of Ratangiri district in Maharashtra. Maharas are the untouchable community of Maharashtra. His family was the follower of famous Bhakti poet,Kabir. Ambedkar entered the Govern

ment High School at Satara in 1900 in the first standard. His name in the school was Bbiva Ramji Ambavadekar, however, the surname of his family was 'Sankpal'. He was deeply influenced by teacher called

Ambedkar and he himself adopted this surname. Being an untouchable, Ambedkar was forced to sit apart in the school. He passed his matricula tion examination in 1907 and B.A. examination in the year in 1912 from Elphinstone college, Bombay. He was married to Ramabai at the age of 14. With the financial assistance from Maharaja Sayajirao of Baroda he joined Columbia University in America in 1913 for higher studies. A well known economist, Prof. Seligman was his teacher. Ambedkar obtained his M.A. degree in 1915 for his thesis, 'Ancient Indian Commerce'. In June 1916 he submitted his thesis on National Dividend for India: A Historic and Analytical Study for his Ph. D. degree. He left Columbia University and joined London School

of Economics and Political Science for advance studies in June 1916. But he has to leave his study as his scholarship was not extended. He worked as Military Secretary to the Maharaja of Baroda from 1917 to 1920. With the help of Shahu Chhatrapati, Maharaja of Koihapur, he went back to London in 1920 for further study. University of London awarded him M. Sc. (Economics) degree for his thesis,

"Provincial Decentralisation of Imperial Finance in British India" in 1917 and D.Sc. (Economics) degree in 1923 for his thesis, "The problem of Rupee-Its Origin and Solution." During his stay in America, he

was deeply influenced by two things. First, the fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the U.S.A., which granted freedom to the Negroes. In India, he found that the untouchables did not have such freedom. Second, he was impressed by the activities of Booker T. Washington, who was a great social reformer and educator of Negro race in America.

Social Struggles

Back home in India he was deeply influenced by three great social reformers—Kabir, Jyotiha Phooley and Buddha. Kahir's teaching of social equality through Bhaticult influenced him from the early childhood, as his family was the follower of Kahir. Jyotiha Phooley, himself an untouchable, was a great social reformer of Maharashtra in 19th century. He founded Satya Sodhak Samaj in 1873 and preached social equality among castes. He was the first man who inspired confidence in self-confidence in the downtrodden. Phooley inspired him to strive for anti-Brahmanism and amelioration of the masses, their education and economic upliftment. He was deeply influenced by the teachings of Buddha. Buddha gave him mental and metaphysical satisfaction and showed the way leading to the emancipation of untouchables. He was influenced by the three principles of Buddhism namely right knowledge, Karuna or comparison and Samata or equality.

He was also influenced by pragmatism or instrumentalism of American thinker John Dewey, who was his teacher in America. Ambedkar has admitted that he owed so much to him. For him, pragmatism is an attitude and habit of thought—a habit of looking forward to results rather than backward to principles. It is a forward looking philosophy of hope and promise. The spirit of pragmatism is the spirit of youth adventure and experimentation. In the light of above influences, his social philosophy was based on the principles of liberty, equality and fraternity. On the basis of his con vinction he strong to free his community from the slavery of caste Hindus. In order to fight Brahmanism, he had to fight the oppression of high castes. He explained his social philosophy to explain nationalism and internationalism. For him nationalism was based on the principle of social equality and unity. Similarly, internationalism should he founded on the principle of brotherhood. Ambedkar believed that change is the law of life for individuals as well as br society. To him social progress and stability depended on the equity among the classes. Stability is wanted hut not at the cost of change when change is imperative. Adjustment is wanted but not at the sacrifice of social justice. Social stability meant to him negation of the caste system in Indian society. The social struggles launched by Amhedkar were aimed at correcting the unequal treatment meted out to untouchables in Indian society.

Mahad Satyagrah, 1927

In 1926, Municipal Board of Mahad, Maharashtra passed orders to throw open the famous tank of Mahad city to all communities. Earlier, untouchables were not allowed to use

water from Mahad tank. High caste Hindus opposed this order of Municipal Board. In response, Arnbedkar organised a conference of 10,000 untouchable delegates at Mahad on March 20, 1927 to support the decision of Municipal Board. Ambedkar, in his presidential address, stressed the necessity of rooting out ideas of highness or lowness and inculcating self-elevation through self-help, self-respect and self-knowledge. After the conference all delegates marched to the tank and asserted their right to drink and take water from the tank.

A Satyagrah Conference was organised at Mahad on December 25, 1925 which demanded that Hindu society should be organised on the basis of equality and absence of casteism. It was also resolved to burn Manusmriti, as according to Ambedkar, it perpetuated the social, economic, religious and po11 tical slavery of the untouchables. As per the resolution, Manusmriti was burnton December 25, 1927.



Continued in coming series …………..


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