December 6, 2021, marks the 65th death anniversary of Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. BR Ambedkar breathed his last on December 6, 1956, in his sleep. People pay their tributes to him on this day every year which is also observed as the Mahaparinirvana Diwas. Parinirvana, regarded as one of the major principles as well as goals of Buddhism, is a Sanskrit term which means release or freedom after death. As per the Buddhist text Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the death of Lord Buddha at the age of 80 is considered as the original Mahaparinirvana.
Ambedkar’s death anniversary is known as Mahaparinirvana Diwas because of his standing as a Buddhist leader. On October 14, 1956, at Nagpur, with 500,000 followers, Ambedkar, a member of the Mahar caste, which was deemed untouchable in Hinduism, converted to Buddhism after years of studying its philosophy. He died only a few days after finishing ‘The Buddha and His Dhamma’, his treatise on Buddha’s life and Buddhism. Ambedkar believed that in Hinduism Dalits would never be given equal rights.
Baba Saheb, as he is affectionately known among his fans, was born in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, on April 14, 1891. He was subjected to economic and social prejudice since he was a child because of his caste. The majority of these traumatic experiences shaped Ambedkar’s life, which he chronicled in his autobiographical book ‘Waiting For A Visa’.
CONTRIBUTIONS OF AMBEDKAR
Bhimrao graduated from Bombay University with a degree in political science and economics in 1912, and went on to work in Baroda before deciding to continue his education in the United States in 1913. He became the first Indian to get a doctorate degree from Columbia University, in 1916. According to Ambedkar, Columbia University was the first place where he “experienced social equality.”The Maharaja of Baroda appointed Ambedkar as his political secretary after he returned from the United States. In 1917, Bhimrao migrated to Bombay and, in 1920, founded the fortnightly newspaper “Mooknayak,” which lay the groundwork for assertive identity and which organised Dalit politics. Ambedkar was appointed by the Bombay Presidency Committee to work in the Simon Commission in 1925. In 1926, Ambedkar successfully defended three non-Brahmin leaders who had falsely accused the Brahmin community of destroying India and were afterwards prosecuted for libel. Ambedkar became well-known in the country after leading the Mahad Satyagraha in Mahad, Maharashtra, in 1927, to allow untouchables to drink from a public tank. The Kalaram Temple Movement of 1930 was a watershed moment in India’s Dalit movement, with Ambedkar leading a demonstration outside the Kalaram temple, which forbade Dalits from entering the temple grounds.
Ambedkar was called to the Second Round Table Conference in London in 1932, when he demanded that Dalits be given separate electorates. Separate electorates for untouchables were opposed by Mahatma Gandhi, who protested by fasting in Yerwada jail. Finally, Ambedkar agreed with Gandhi and signed the Poona Pact, in which a number of seats were set aside for untouchables, allowing Dalits to vote in general elections.
Ambedkar was named chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee for preparing the Constitution of independent India, on August 29, 1947. Following India’s independence, he was chosen as the country’s law minister.
Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was a highly educated man who was well-versed in a wide range of disciplines. When he sought to be a member of the Constituent Assembly, one of the most powerful Congress leaders, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, openly said that “aside from the doors, even the windows of the Constituent Assembly are locked for Dr Ambedkar.”
Because of his efforts for untouchables, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was the most despised person in India. Many individuals (of the upper caste) believe his work was anti-Hinduism. Backward communities would lose their rights if Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar was defeated, but there was much opposition from upper caste leaders, who held power over 60 million untouchables and backward communities.
HOW AMBEDKAR ENTERED
THE CONSTITUENT ASSEMBLY
Ambedkar was invited to contest for the Constituent Assembly from the Jessore-Khulna constituency in Eastern Bengal by Jogendra Nath Mandal. By electing him to the Constituent Assembly, the Bengali untouchables (Namo Suddras) supplied him with the platform that launched him to the world’s attention as the Father of the Indian Constitution.
Dr Ambedkar’s meritorious services were desperately required by the country. Those who made it possible deserve our highest praise and gratitude, but they have regrettably been forgotten. This is not mentioned in public because the Bengali chotalok (low castes) have made a significant contribution to nation-building. Jogendra Nath Mandal and other Scheduled Caste leaders and supporters helped Ambedkar achieve what he did and for which he is known renowned in history.
Even after winning the election for the Constituent Assembly, the Congress and upper caste leaders continued to oppose Ambedkar. When Bengal was partitioned in 1947 as a result of the India Independence Act, his constituency and those who backed Dr Ambedkar, a Muslim majority district, were expelled to East Pakistan (Bangladesh). He was no longer a member of the Constituent Assembly.
As his constituency became part of Pakistan, politicians advised Ambedkar to travel to Pakistan and draft a Constitution there. Many people believed it was all part of a plot to keep Ambedkar out of the Indian Constituent Assembly. Had Ambedkar really gone and drafted Pakistan’s Constitution, Hindus who were part of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) would not have been subjected to a great deal of persecution and discrimination.
Ambedkar didn’t give up and continued to fight for the rights of untouchables and other backward populations in India, including of minorities and indigenous peoples, in the Indian Constituent Assembly. He wrote to the British government via letters. Gradually, it came to be acknowledged within the country that a good Constitution could not be drafted without him.
After much effort, he was elected as a member of the Constituent Assembly. Without him, the Constitution that was given to the country would have been a mash-up of Manu’s, Yajnavalkya’s, Parashar’s, and other laws at the hands of bigoted and orthodox groups. Untouchables, minorities, and indigenous peoples would have no rights or benefits in this country.
FATHER OF INDIAN CONTITUTION
T. Krishnamachari had told the Constituent Assembly that although the Constitution Making Committee had seven members, one had resigned, one had died, one had gone to America, another had been preoccupied with state affairs, and one or two members lived outside of Delhi and were unable to participate in the work of the Constitution due to illness. As a result, Dr Ambedkar had to finish the entire process of drafting the Constitution by himself.
Babasaheb made his first statement of 3310 words on 17 December 1946, explaining the facts contained in the draft of the Constitution placed in the Constituent Assembly and he worked alone for 141 days as the chairman of the constitution making committee, although there were a total of 7 people in that committee. According to Babasaheb, when the draft of the constitution was prepared, it was kept open for the public’s comments. FBased on these comments, 7635 amendments were passed. Babasaheb read these amendments and rejected 5162 amendments and adjusted 2473 amendments in the Constitution. It was only him who replied to all questions raised by others.
He gave a speech (statement) of 8334 words on Nov 4, 1948, to explain the facts contained in the draft of the constitution prepared by him to the members of the Constituent Assembly. In the proceedings of the Constituent Assembly, Babasaheb used to speak standing 8 to 9 times daily, but there were times when he had to stand 24 to 25 times in a day to guide the House. In this way Babasaheb worked continuously for a total of 2 years 11 months and 18 days in the Constituent Assembly and while handing over the final copy of the Constitution to the President, on Nov 25, 1949, he explained in detail the merits, demerits, nature, future, etc, of the Constitution and thanked the members of all political ideologies. He gave his last speech of 3900 words.
Today, under the Indian Constitution, ST, SC, OBC, women, and minorities enjoy specific benefits and protection, and every citizen of India enjoys fundamental rights that are protected and justified by law. We now have one of the world’s most attractive and comprehensive constitutions. Those who made it possible deserve a standing ovation and thanks, but they have regrettably been forgotten. Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Bengali untouchables who backed him and elected him as a Member of the Constituent Assembly, are not discussed in public. Thank You, Dr Ambedkar, for your struggles, sacrifices and giving us one of the most beautiful Constitutions.
—The writer is a law student at Galgotias University & associate editor at Lasdes e-journal. [email protected]