'Untouchable' Father of India's Constitution

by Mohan Tiptur, OhMyNews International, Dec 30, 2005

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar overcame caste prejudice to become Indian leader

New Delhi, India -- Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the father of the Indian Constitution, was born on April 14, 1891, at Mhow. His parents were Ramji Sakpal and Bimabai. His mother died when he was small, and his maternal aunt Meerabai brought him up with care.

<< B.R. Ambedkar

He was a very active child, and it was difficult for Meera to handle him. In school he had to sit separately with his brother, because social interaction with Hindus was forbidden to untouchable children.
Hindu caste teachers seldom had much interest in teaching untouchable children. With difficulty, Ambedkar somehow learnt and completed his curriculum. It was a festive occasion for the untouchables to have one of their boys achieve success in his studies. This is the plight of untouchables in the land of the Buddha.

With the help of King Gaekwad of Baroda, Ambedkar went to the West for further studies.

He got his PhD from Columbia University. He also studied law at Gray's Inn in London. These western experiences gave him confidence in himself and helped him in comparing the freer society there with the congested and restricted one of the Hindus. His mind grew stronger as he resolved to demolish the caste system of untouchables.

On his return, he had to serve in the ministry of King Gaekwad of Baroda, as he had agreed before accepting assistance for his studies abroad. But when Ambedkar entered the office environment he was ill-treated by the other officials and subordinates. Even non-Hindu parsees [members of a monotheistic sect of Zoroastrian origin] would not rent him a house. He and his family took refuge under a tree, and there the most educated Indian of the time wept over his misfortune and decided to work for the emancipation of the untouchables.

He also took upon himself the responsibility of educating his untouchable brethren. But how could he do it, as the untouchable masses were illiterate, ignorant, superstitious, and enslaved to liquor? He chose to wage a war on their ignorance on two fronts. He started newspapers to guide and organize the educated few. He envisioned some popular movements to awaken the sleeping masses, e.g., the Chowder tank movement and the Nasik Kalaram movement.

He tried his best not only to educate the untouchables, but also to change the minds of Hindus. But he was not successful in this. So, he decided to stop all his efforts to win a place for his brethren and at last decided to lead all the untouchables out of the Hindu fold. He hoped that such a step might end the suffering of his brethren.

In 1930 at the Yeola conference, he declared that although he had been born a Hindu, he would not die a Hindu, a promise he fulfilled on Oct. 14, 1956, when he converted to Buddhism. He wanted only to give his people a life of liberty, equality and fraternity denied to them up until then. He asked his followers to embrace Buddhism, not only for their own emancipation, but also to lend a hand in its worldwide growth.