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Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar; one of India’s first Feminists

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By Shilpika Srivastava

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, popularly known as Babasaheb, was a leader whose ideas and thoughts continue to be relevant even in the present time. He was the ‘beacon of light’ for the millions of depressed, oppressed and exploited people in India. His knowledge has made him a revered socialist, historian, political thinker, economist, jurist and a cultural revolutionary.

A great supporter of women’s liberation, Ambedkar blamed the Hindu Verna System for the subjugation of Dalits and women. The mounting caste/class division in feminist political discourses makes Ambedkar’s views on women’s oppression, social democracy, caste and Hindu social order and philosophy, significant to modern Indian feminist thinking.

Ambedkar questioned the ancient Hindu code book, Manu Smriti, which categorized women as the lowest rung of humanity. Such declarations in the Hindu Religious texts made him conclude that until and unless we defy the Hindu Dharma Sastras, the ‘change’ in the society cannot be brought.

The Champion of Women Rights

The cause of low social ranking of women along with the wretched plight of Dalits was challenged by Babasaheb throughout his career. He not only discussed a number of problems the Indian women faced, but also fought against them in the Bombay Legislative Council, in the Viceroy’s Assembly as the chairman of the Drafting Committee, and also in the Parliament as the first Law Minister of the Independent India.

Ambedkar’s arguments on the Maternity Benefit Bill and on Birth Critical were highly germane for the recognition of women’s dignity.

His argument was –

“It is in the interest of the nation that the mother ought to get a certain amount of rest during the pre-natal period and also subsequently, and the principle of the Bill is based entirely on that principle”.

“That being so Sir, I am bound to admit that the burden of this ought to be largely borne by the Government, I am prepared to admit this fact because of the conservation of the people’s welfare is primary concern of the Government. And in every country, you will find that the Government has been subjected to a certain amount of charge with regard to maternity benefit.”

As the chairman of the Drafting Committee, Ambedkar considered women’s equality in formal and substantial sense and included special provisions for women. Articles like 15(3), 51(A) and so on established his belief in an egalitarian society. For him, law was the instrument of constructing a sane social order in which each individual’s development should be in sync with the growth of the society.

Birth of the Hindu Code Bill, 1948

If we look back in history, the introduction of the Hindu Code Bill in the Parliament was resisted by the opposition in 1948. It was Babasaheb who tried his best to advocate the Bill by indicating the constitutional ethics of equality, liberty and fraternity. However, on the eve of the first elections in 1951, Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dropped the Bill by stating that there was “too much” opposition. This fumed Babasaheb who resigned from the post of the Law Minister. His statements for the resignation illustrate how the parliament of independent India deprived its women citizens of even basic rights.

It was only during 1955-56 that most of the provisions proposed by Ambedkar were passed in four Bills on Hindu ‘marriage’ succession, minority and guardianship and maintenances.

The believer of egalitarian society

Ambedkar was the first communist thinker who believed in and supported an egalitarian Indian society. He held the Hindu religious books such as Vedas, Shastras and Puranas etc. responsible for the discrimination between men and women. He proposed to devise the new doctrinal basis of the Hindu religion “that will be in consonance with liberty, equality and fraternity’’. Ambedkar was the one who realized that the societal status of women can only be uplifted by constitutional provisions.

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Interesting Life Facts About Dr BR Ambedkar

Dr BR Ambedkar came from a middle-class Dalit family and barely had money to make ends meet but still, he didn’t budge on his efforts against social injustices.

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Dr BR Ambedkar efforts to eradicate untouchability and the caste system were phenomenal. Wikimedia Commons
Dr BR Ambedkar efforts to eradicate untouchability and the caste system were phenomenal. Wikimedia Commons
  • Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar
  • Dr BR Ambedkar inspired the Modern Buddhist Movement in India
  • In 1924, Dr BR Ambedkar formed a community for removing difficulties of the untouchables and placing their grievances before government

“I do not want that our loyalty as Indians should be in the slightest way affected by any competitive loyalty whether that loyalty arises out of our religion, out of our culture or out of our language. I want all people to be Indians first, Indian last, and nothing else but Indians.”

These were the words from one of the greatest social reformers of our nation and the most influential name who worked against social discrimination. Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar. He was an exceptional leader that modern India has ever seen. Dr BR Ambedkar had multi feathers like that of a jurist, politician and an economist in his hat.

Also Read: Savitribai Phule: The Pioneer Of The Women Education In India

Dr BR Ambedkar was independent India’s first Law Minister and known to be the author of India’s constitution. He used education as a means to rise above all odds and envisioned India to stand on the ladder of prosperity and development. He inspired the Modern Buddhist Movement in India and pioneered campaigns against social discrimination against Dalits, women and labour. He wanted India’s to be a real democratic country and even quoted:

“Democracy is not merely a form of government.It is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. It is essentially an attitude of respect and reverence towards our fellow men.”

Dr BR Ambedkar was elected as the first Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly.
Dr BR Ambedkar was elected as the first Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly.

Dr BR Ambedkar was born in 1891 in Mhow, Madhya Pradesh and died due to severe diabetic neurosis on 6 December 1956 at his home in Delhi. After his demise, his political party was renamed as Republican Party of India in 1957 by his followers. This visionary’s birthday is celebrated as Ambedkar Jayanti in India, every year. He came from a middle-class Dalit family and barely had money to make ends meet but still, he didn’t budge on his efforts against social injustices.

Also Read: Swami Vivekananda’s Quotes That Will Inspire You To The Fullest

The legacy of one of India’s brilliant leader should be noted down well and hence; we have taken up few of the facts about his life and struggle, take a look:

  1. Dr BR Ambedkar ‘s real name was Ambavadekar but his teacher, Mahadev Ambedkar, who was very fond of him, changed his surname from ‘Ambavadekar’ to his own surname ‘Ambedkar’.
  2. Ambedkar was very much against the Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that gives a special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He even offered his resignation for his condition of removing Article 370 from the constitution.
  3. In 1924, Dr BR Ambedkar formed a community for removing difficulties of the untouchables and placing their grievances before government. He named it ‘Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha’.
  4. In First Round Table Conference which was held in London on November 12, 1930, Dr BR Ambedkar and Rao Bahadur Srinivasan represented the depressed classes in the assembly.
  5. In 1936, Dr BR Ambedkar formed the Independent Labour Party and participated in the provincial elections of Bombay. In that election, he won 13 seats out of 15 seats reserved for scheduled castes. The Party was transformed by Ambedkar as the All India Scheduled Castes Federation in 1942.
  6. Dr BR Ambedkar was against the strikes and protest by civil servants. In his views, the strike was nothing more than a breach of contract of service.

    Dr BR Ambedkar strongly campaigned against Caste System in India. Wikipedia Commons
    Dr BR Ambedkar strongly campaigned against Caste System in India. Wikipedia Commons
  7. Dr BR Ambedkar was appointed the member of Executive Council of Viceroy as a Labour member in July 1942 and he resigned from this post in May 1946.
  8. In January 1920, Dr BR Ambedkar started a weekly paper called ‘Mooknayak‘(Leader of the Dumb). Through this, he wanted to spread the cause of depressed classes in India.
  9. Due to differences with Jawahar Lal Nehru on the Hindu Code Bill, Dr BR Ambedkar resigned from the Cabinet on September 1951.
  10. Dr BR Ambedkar was elected as the first Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly. He is also referred as the father of the Indian Constitution. However, K.V. Rao portrayed Ambedkar as the mother of the Indian Constitution because according to him, the vital decisions about the Constitution were taken by Nehru and Patel, and Ambedkar followed the same.
  11. In 1952, Dr BR Ambedkar was defeated in the election mainly due to his advocacy of partition of Kashmir. But later in March, he was elected as a member of Rajya Sabha from Maharashtra.
  12. It was Dr BR Ambedkar, who changed the working hours in India from 14 to 8 hours.

Also Read: Jamini Roy: A True Rebel Artist

Dr BR Ambedkar efforts to eradicate untouchability and the caste system were phenomenal. Also Being a writer, he wrote many famous books including-The Untouchable: Who are They and Why They Have Become Untouchables, Buddha and His Dhamma, The Rise and Fall of Hindu Women and many more.

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Why Republic Day Is Celebrated On 26th January?

Every year January 26 is celebrated with full fervor to acknowledge the Republic Day

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Any new law initiated by the government should be in accordance with the constitution. Wikimedia Commons
Any new law initiated by the government should be in accordance with the constitution. Wikimedia Commons
  • 26 January is observed to honour the Constitution of India
  • This year, India will observe its 69th Republic on January 26, 2018.
  • The Constitution adopted by India was written by BR Ambedkar on January 26, 1950

NEW DELHI: Every year, 26 January is marked as the Republic Day in India. It is one of the few occasions when the whole of the nation celebrates the hoisting of National Flag. 26 January is observed to honour the Constitution of India as it came into force on the same day in the year 1950. The new constitution replaced the Government of India Act, 1935 into the governing document of India, thus, making India a Sovereign-Democratic nation. The Constitution adopted by India was written by BR Ambedkar on January 26, 1950, and since then the day is commemorated as Republic Day. The Constitution of India is considered as the supreme law of India and the nation has to abide by its rule.

The other significant day of Indian freedom movement is 15 August. This day is celebrated to glorify the independence of India from the clutches of British rule. After attaining independence, India required a blueprint to run the government and guide its people on a progressive path. Till then, India was functioning under the laws enacted and implemented by the British government. An independent constitution was the best bet to protect the rights of citizens and jot down the principles for running the nation. So to fulfill this need, India’s first law minister and chief architect of Indian Constitution, BR Ambedkar came up with a drafted framework for our constitution. It finally came into force after several amendments made by the cabinet body.

The Constitution adopted by India was written by BR Ambedkar on January 26, 1950, and since then the day is commemorated as Republic Day. Wikimedia Commons
The Constitution adopted by India was written by BR Ambedkar on January 26, 1950, and since then the day is commemorated as Republic Day. Wikimedia Commons

Constitution was a tool to govern the country in a constructive way and make the country a sovereign, secular, and democratic republic. On this day, the first president of independent India, Rajendra Prasad took the oath at the Durbar Hall and hoisted the national flag, followed by a 21-gun salute. It marked the tradition of flag hoisting and parade began.

Also Read: 20 Amazing Facts About Indian Navy That Everyone Should Know

Why is 26th January celebrated as the Republic Day in India?
With campaigns like non-violence and civil disobedience movements, India finally attained freedom from British rule on August 15, 1947. This date has a great importance in the Indian history. On January 26, 1950, BR Ambedkar drafted the Constitution of India which was adopted by the Indian Constituent Assembly. Then finally, Constitution came into force on January 26, 1950.

The reason behind choosing 26 January as the Republic Day was that, on 26 January 1930, Indian National Congress (INC) announced the declaration of Indian Independence while rejecting the Dominion status offered by the British Regime.

Cultural groups of many states display their heritage and diversity through various platforms. Wikimedia Commons
Cultural groups of many states display their heritage and diversity through various platforms. Wikimedia Commons

Prominence of the Constitution of India
India stands out to be the largest democratic country in the world and has the longest written constitution of any sovereign nation. The credit for the framing the Indian Constitution goes to Dr. BR Ambedkar. He was the principal architect behind drafting the outline of our Constitution.

The idea of making an Indian constitution was coined by M.N.Roy IN 1934. After that, Indian National Congress proposed the formation of the constituent in 1935.
After the validation of the Constitution, India became the contemporary Republic and replaced the Government of India Act, 1935. The Constitution of India states that “It declares India a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic, assuring its citizens of justice, equality, and liberty, and endeavours to promote fraternity among them.”

Also Read: Mahabharata or Game of Thrones? Quite similar!

The Constitution can never be upturned by parliamentary supremacy. It lays down the fundamental framework, procedures, and duties of government, fundamental rights, directive principles and the duties of citizens. Basically, it is a gateway between the government and people. Any new law initiated by the government should be in accordance with the constitution.

Who drafted the Indian Constitution?
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was India’s first law minister of an independent India. He was an eminent jurist, social reformer and politician. Throughout his career, Ambedkar fought for the rights and integrity of the Dalits and other socially backward classes. For his immense service to the nation, Ambedkar was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honor, in 1990.

Ambedkar is considered as the Father of Indian Constitution and popularly known as Baba Saheb. Wikimedia Commons
Ambedkar is considered as the Father of Indian Constitution and popularly known as Baba Saheb. Wikimedia Commons

Ambedkar is considered as the Father of Indian Constitution and popularly known as Baba Saheb. He was the mastermind behind drafting the Constitution of India. He guided the Constitution of India that laid down the principals of defining fundamental political approach of the system.

BR Ambedkar was the chairman of Drafting Committee which included Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and other prominent leaders. The members took over a period of 2 years, 11 months and 18 days before adopting the Constitution. The Constitution got the signed approval of 308 members on January 24, 1950, and came into effect on January 26, 1950 – India’s first Republic Day.

Also Read: An insight into two biggest political parties of India

Republic Day celebrations in India
Every year January 26 is celebrated with full fervor to acknowledge the Republic Day. People from every corner of the nation comes together to lighten up the spirit of oneness and unity. This year, India will observe its 69th Republic on January 26, 2018. The celebrations include Flag Hoisting ceremony by the President of India followed by the March Past at Janpath. The entire event lasts for 3 days. The parade showcases India’s defense capability and its traditional and social heritage.

The parade showcases India's defense capability and its traditional and social heritage. Wikimedia Commons
The parade showcases India’s defense capability and its traditional and social heritage. Wikimedia Commons

Cultural groups of many states display their heritage and diversity through various platforms. The occasion also calls for the display of military might to its people and also to the world. Important awards like the Ashok Chakra and Kirti Chakra are been given away by the President, before the commencement of the ceremony.

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What BR Ambedkar visualized on Casteism in India?

As per Ambedkar's views, the caste system was a mere tool to guide inequalities in the society.

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BR Ambedkar is the father of Indian constitution. Wikimedia Commons
BR Ambedkar is the father of Indian constitution. Wikimedia Commons

NEW DELHI: The architect of the Constitution of India, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was also an economist, politician and social reformer. He was also known as Baba Saheb and was appointed as India’s first Law Minister. Ambedkar was posthumously decorated with Bharat Ratna in 1990.

He was the front face of the campaign against social discrimination and also pioneered Dalit Buddhist movement. Due to his own sufferings, he was very much related to the people considered as untouchable’s in the society.

In his speeches and works, he raised his voice for equal rights in favour of women and labour union. It was only his idea for chalking out reservations for Dalits and other suppressed religious caste. Ambedkar even opined for a separate electoral system for the Untouchables. It was only after his efforts through which the lower classes were designated as Scheduled Class and Scheduled Tribe.

Through his newspaper “Mooknayaka”, he wanted to spread his views in people on the drawbacks of ongoing social evils of that time. In the year1927, he came forward with full-on campaigns for equal rights for Dalits and wanted the availability of water resources for all classes of the society.

Have a look at some of the quick bytes from his life:

  • Ambedkar was the mastermind behind the set-up of Reserve Bank of India in 1935. The idea of the bank was weaved on the basis of his book, ‘The Problem of the Rupee – Its Origin and Its Solution’.
  • He was responsible for the shortening of working hours in India from 14 hours to 8 hours. He introduced this reform at the 7th Session of Indian Labour conference.
  • He also helped in the establishment of the National Employment Exchange Agency in India.
  • He played an important role in the technology behind dams in India. He extended support in the construction of Damodar, Hirakud and Sone river dam projects.
  • He was very much averse to the Article 370 of the Indian constitution, according to which Jammu & Kashmir was granted special status.

Ambedkar’s aspect of caste system

As per his views, the caste system was a mere tool to guide inequalities in the society. There were no equal rights for the people belonging to the low class. The people of high class were enjoying the benefits of these disparities.

BR Ambedkar being sworn in as Independent India’s first Law Minister. Wikimedia Commons
BR Ambedkar being sworn in as Independent India’s first Law Minister. Wikimedia Commons

He also opposed the system of selection for occupation as per the class grade. The people belonging to higher class drew the undue benefits of easy and respectable jobs, where the Dalits and untouchables were meant to do petty jobs.

Individuals were assigned jobs as per the social status of their family, irrespective of merit and aptitude of the person.

He viewed the Hindu social order as a way to exploit a certain lot of people so that the rich and high-class people could reap the inappropriate benefits. Thus, Ambedkar voiced the annihilation of the caste system.