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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.