The hero of the underprivileged, Bhimji Ramji Ambedkar’s life is an example of what determination can achieve.
Ambedkar was born in 1891 to a lower caste family in an era where such differences were imposed with great rigidity. A bright and determined student, it troubled him to see these the barriers that existed between people due to socio-religious codes.
Despite numerous obstacles, he managed to complete high school, so rare a feat for an 'untouchable' student that he was felicitated at a public meeting. He was sent for higher studies to Columbia University, where he graduated in economics.
On his return to India, he found work as a military secretary in the princely state of Baroda. But harassment and discrimination due to caste differences persisted. Determined to do something about it, he went abroad again to study, this time to England in 1920.
Returning after three years, he dedicated himself to working towards a casteless India. Despite great humiliation at the hands of fellow lawyers, who would refuse to interact with a 'lower' caste colleague, his fame amongst the lower castes as a crusader for justice spread.
From then, he carried on a relentless struggle against the 'chaturvarna' concept of Hinduism. Opposition came from many quarters and as most of those opposed to him were in powerful positions in society and Government, the struggle for him was that much more difficult. He however was not to be cowed and his aim of getting the lower castes recognised as a separate religion caused him to even take up the issue against Gandhi.
Like Gandhi, he too led movements like temple entry, exhorted the lower castes to demand their rights and refused to suffer discrimination and a urged a better social position for women.
As chairman of the Drafting Commission of the Indian Constitution, his role as an architect of the Constitution is crucial too. He is credited with ensuring that the Constitution makes no discrimination on the basis of religion or caste. He was also appointed India's first Law Minister.
Profile by: Suman Tarafdar