On BR Ambedkar’s death anniversary, a look at his contributions
December 6, 2020, marks the 64th 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 and people pay their tributes to him on this day every year which is 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.
Owing to his status as a Buddhist leader, Ambedkar’s death anniversary is referred to as Mahaparinirvana Diwas. Ambedkar, who belonged to the Mahar caste which was considered untouchable in Hinduism, converted to Buddhism after studying the religion for years on October 14, 1956, in Nagpur along with 500,000 supporters.
He died just a few days after completing his last work, The Buddha and His Dhamma, a treatise on Buddha’s life and Buddhism. Ambedkar believed that Dalits can never get their rights within Hinduism.
Baba Saheb, as he is fondly called by his supporters, was born on April 14, 1891, in Madhya Pradesh’s Mhow. Because of his caste, Ambedkar witnessed economic and social discrimination since childhood. Most of these painful experiences that honed Ambedkar’s life have been written down by him in his autobiographical book Waiting For A Visa.
In 1912, Bhimrao graduated in political science and economics from Bombay University after which he got a job in Baroda but decided to move to the United States in 1913 for further studies. In 1916, he received a doctorate degree from Columbia University, becoming the first Indian to do so. According to Ambedkar, Columbia University was the first place where he “experienced social equality.”
When he returned from the United States, the Maharaja of Baroda appointed Ambedkar as his political secretary. Bhimrao moved to Bombay in 1917 and established a fortnightly newspaper “Mooknayak” in 1920 which laid the foundations of an assertive and 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 accused the Brahmin community of ruining India and were then subsequently sued for libel. This made Ambedkar popular in the country after which he led the Mahad Satyagraha in 1927 to allow untouchables to use water in a public tank in Mahad, Maharashtra. The Kalaram Temple Movement of 1930 formed a pivotal role in the Dalit movement in India in which Ambedkar led a protest outside the Kalaram temple which did not allow Dalits to enter the temple premises.
In 1932, Ambedkar was invited to attend the Second Round Table Conference in London where he demanded separate electorates for Dalits. Mahatma Gandhi was against separate electorates for untouchables and protested by fasting in Yerwada jail. Ultimately, Ambedkar agreed with Gandhi and signed the Poona Pact, whereby a number of seats were reserved for the untouchables, which gave the Dalits a place in the general electoral list.
On August 29, 1947, he was appointed as the chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee for the constitution of independent India. After Independence, he was appointed as the law minister of India.