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Early Life

Born: 14 April 1891 

Died: 6 December 1956 (aged 65)

Ambedkar was born on 14 April 1891 in the town and military cantonment of Mhow in the Central Provinces (now in Madhya Pradesh). He was the 14th and last child of Ramji MalojiSakpal, an army officer who held the rank of Subedar, and BhimabaiMurbadkarSakpal. His family was of Marathi background from the town of Ambavade(Mandangad taluka) in Ratnagiri district of modern-day Maharashtra. Ambedkar was born into a poor low Mahar(dalit) caste, who were treated as untouchables and subjected to socio-economic discrimination. Ambedkar's ancestors had long worked for the army of the British East India Company, and his father served in the British Indian Army at the Mhow cantonment. Although they attended school, Ambedkar and other untouchable children were segregated and given little attention or help by teachers. They were not allowed to sit inside the class. When they needed to drink water, someone from a higher caste had to pour that water from a height as they were not allowed to touch either the water or the vessel that contained it. This task was usually performed for the young Ambedkar by the school peon, and if the peon was not available then he had to go without water; the situation he later in his writings described as "No peon, No Water". He was required to sit on a gunny sack which he had to take home with him.

Ramji Sakpal retired in 1894 and the family moved to Satara two years later. Shortly after their move, Ambedkar's mother died. The children were cared for by their paternal aunt, and lived in difficult circumstances. Three sons – Balaram, Anandrao and Bhimrao – and two daughters – Manjula and Tulasa – of the Ambedkars would go on to survive them. Of his brothers and sisters, only Ambedkar passed his examinations and graduated to high school. His original surname Ambavadekar comes from his native village 'Ambavade' in Ratnagiri district. His teacher, Mahadev Ambedkar, who was fond of him, changed his surname from 'Ambavadekar' to his own surname 'Ambedkar' in school records.

Education

Post-secondary education

In 1897, Ambedkar's family moved to Bombay 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 arranged.

Undergraduate studies at the University of Bombay

In 1907, he passed 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. This success evoked much celebration among untouchables and after a public ceremony, he was presented with a biography of the Buddha by DadaKeluskar, the author and a family friend.

By 1912, he obtained his degree in economics and political science from Bombay University, and prepared to take up employment with the Baroda state government. His wife, by then 15 years old, had just moved his young family and started work, when he had to quickly return to Mumbai to see his ailing father, who died on 2 February 1913.

Postgraduate studies at Columbia University

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 scheme established by SayajiraoGaekwad III (Gaekwad of Baroda) that was designed to provide opportunities for postgraduate education at Columbia University in New York City. Soon after arriving there he settled in rooms at Livingston Hall with Naval Bhathena, a Parsi who was to be a lifelong friend. He passed his M.A. exam in June 1915, majoring in Economics, and other subjects of Sociology, History, Philosophy and Anthropology. He presented a thesis, Ancient Indian Commerce. Ambedkar was influenced by John Dewey and his work on democracy.

In 1916 he completed his second thesis, National Dividend of India-A Historic and Analytical Study for another M.A., and finally he received his PhD in Economics in 1927 for his third thesis, after he left for London. On 9 May, he read the paper Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Developmentbefore a seminar conducted by the anthropologist Alexander Goldenweiser.

Postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics

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 ended. His book collection was dispatched on different ship from the one he was on, and that ship was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine. He got permission to return to London to submit his thesis within four years. He returned at the first opportunity, and completed a master's degree in 1921. His thesis was on the "The problem of the rupee: Its origin and its solution". In 1923, he completed a D.Sc. in Economics, and the same year he was called to the Bar by Gray's Inn. His third and fourth Doctorates (LL.D, Columbia, 1952 and D.Litt., Osmania, 1953) were conferred honoris causa.



Opposition of untouchability

As Ambedkar was educated by the Princely State of Baroda, he was bound to serve it. He was appointed Military Secretary to the Gaikwad but had to quit in a short time. He described the incident in his autobiography, waiting for a Visa Thereafter, he tried to find ways to make a living for his growing family. He worked as a private tutor, as an accountant, and established an investment consulting business, but it failed when his clients learned that he was an untouchable. In 1918, he became Professor of Political Economy in the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai. Although he was successful with the students, other professors objected to his sharing a drinking-water jug with them.

Ambedkar had been invited to testify before the Southborough Committee, which was preparing the Government of India Act 1919. At this hearing, Ambedkar argued for creating separate electorates and reservations for untouchables and other religious communities.In 1920, he began the publication of the weekly Mooknayak (Leader of the Silent) in Mumbai with the help of Shahaji II(1874–1922), Maharaja of Kolhapur.

Ambedkar went on to work as a legal professional. In 1926, he successfully defended three non-Brahmin leaders who had accused the Brahmin community of ruining India and were then subsequently sued for libel. DhananjayKeer notes that "The victory was resounding, both socially and individually, for the clients and the Doctor".



Protests

While practicing law in the Bombay High Court, he tried to promote education to untouchables and uplift them. His first organized attempt was his establishment of the central institution BahishkritHitakarini Sabha, intended to promote education and socio-economic improvement, as well as the welfare of "outcastes", at the time referred to as depressed classes For the defense of Dalit rights, he started many periodicals like MookNayak, Bahishkrit Bharat, and Equality Janta.

He was appointed to the Bombay Presidency Committee to work with the all-European Simon Commission in 1925.This commission had sparked great protests across India, and while its report was ignored by most Indians, Ambedkar himself wrote a separate set of recommendations for the future Constitution of India.

By 1927, Ambedkar had decided to launch active movements against untouchability. He began with public movements and marches to open up public drinking water resources. He also began a struggle for the right to enter Hindu temples. He led a satyagraha in Mahad to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw water from the main water tank of the town. In a conference in late 1927, Ambedkar publicly condemned the classic Hindu text, the Manusmriti (Laws of Manu), for ideologically justifying caste discrimination and "untouchability", and he ceremonially burned copies of the ancient text. On 25 December 1927, he led thousands of followers to burn copies of Manusmrti. Thus annually 25 December is celebrated as ManusmritiDahal Din(Manusmriti Burning Day) by Ambedkarites and Dalits.

In 1930, Ambedkar launched Kalaram Temple movement after three months of preparation. About 15,000 volunteers assembled at Kalaram Temple satygraha making one of the greatest processions of Nashik. The procession was headed by a military band, a batch of scouts, women and men walked in discipline, order and determination to see the god for the first time. When they reached to gate, the gates were closed by Brahmin authorities.

Drafting India's Constitution

Upon India's independence on 15 August 1947, the new Congress-led government invited Ambedkar to serve as the nation's first Law Minister, which he accepted. On 29 August, he was appointed Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, and was appointed by the Assembly to write India's new Constitution.

Granville Austin described the Indian Constitution drafted by Ambedkar as 'first and foremost a social document'. 'The majority of India's constitutional provisions are either directly arrived at furthering the aim of social revolution or attempt to foster this revolution by establishing conditions necessary for its achievement.

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 the outlawing of all forms of discrimination. Ambedkar argued for extensive economic and social rights for women, and won the Assembly's support for introducing a system of reservations of jobs in the civil services, schools and colleges for members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribesand Other Backward Class, a system akin to affirmative action. India's lawmakers hoped to eradicate the socio-economic inequalities and lack of opportunities for India's depressed classes through these measures. The Constitution was adopted on 26 November 1949 by the Constituent Assembly.



Reserve Bank of India

Ambedkar was trained as an economist, and was a professional economist until 1921, when he became a political leader. He wrote three scholarly books on economics:

Administration and Finance of the East India Company

The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India

The Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and Its Solution

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI), was based on the ideas that Ambedkar presented to the Hilton Young Commission



Conversion to Buddhism

Ambedkar considered converting to Sikhism, which encouraged opposition to oppression and so appealed to leaders of scheduled castes. But after meeting with Sikh leaders, he concluded that he might get "second-rate" Sikh status, as described by scholar Stephen P. Cohen.

Instead, he studied Buddhism all his life. Around 1950, he devoted his attention to Buddhism and travelled to Ceylon(now Sri Lanka) to attend a meeting of the World Fellowship of Buddhists. While dedicating a new Buddhist viharanear Pune, Ambedkar announced he was writing a book on Buddhism, and that when it was finished, he would formally convert to Buddhism. He twice visited Burma in 1954; the second time to attend the third conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Rangoon. In 1955, he founded the BharatiyaBauddhaMahasabha, or the Buddhist Society of India. He completed his final work, The Buddha and His Dhamma, in 1956 which was published posthumously.

After meetings with the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk HammalawaSaddhatissa, Ambedkar 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, along with his wife. He then proceeded to convert some 500,000 of his supporters who were gathered around him. He prescribed the 22 Vows for these converts, after the Three Jewels and Five Precepts. He then travelled to Kathmandu, Nepal to attend the Fourth World Buddhist Conference.His work on The Buddha or Karl Marx and "Revolution and counter-revolution in ancient India" remained incomplete.



Death

Since 1948, Ambedkar suffered from diabetes. He was bed-ridden from June to October in 1954 due to medication side-effects and poor eyesight.He had been increasingly embittered by political issues, which took a toll on his health. His health worsened during 1955. Three days after completing his final manuscript The Buddha and His Dhamma, Ambedkar died in his sleep on 6 December 1956 at his home in Delhi.



SUGGESTIONS AND OBSERVATIONS

B.E. Ambedkar the name known to everyone in India. It would be definitely unfair if we do not discuss the RTE when talking about Mr. Ambedkar. Only the notions of Ambedkar were named into RTE and the credit of this goes to Dr. Manmohan Singh, the former Prime Minister of India. The introduction of RTE by Mr. Manmohan Singh made Mr. Ambedkar immortal.

However, the views of Ambedkar seem to be quite humanitarian and favorable to “oppressed” people such as the SC, ST and OBC. We also support the views Ambedkar and we also understand that only the wearer knows how the shoe bites. We are aware of the fact that Ambedkar has undergone all the prejudices and discriminations during his days.

The reservation for the Backward Classes have definitely proved to be very beneficial and also facilitated a lot in the uplift of them. But today if we look around us what we see? Specially I feel that today those who fall under general category need “reservation” desperately-all government institutions, colleges and even jobs are today meant for those only who belong to either SC, ST or OBC category. Is it really equality?

Obviously not! This is not where we need to stand today. I feel that even Ambedkar wanted “equality of All” and not of a certain class only.

However, if we are to talk about the views of Ambedkar on education, let us quote Ambedkar himself who called education the “milk of Tigress”-if drunk once, no one can oppress him. I totally support his views with this regard.



But being a part of general category (not to offend anyone) I feel a lot of discrimination today whether I am to join a government college or when I apply for a government job. Therefore the provision of reservation cannot be supported by me to the full.



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