Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar:The man behind the idea of modern Indian nation

Date: April 08, 2015

Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar Dalit Movement untouchablity socially backward classes idea of nation

Babasaheb Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s 125th Birth Anniversary

Dr B R Ambedkar, popularly known as Babasaheb Ambedkar, was one of the architects of the Indian Constitution. He was a well-known politician and an eminent jurist. Ambedkar's efforts to eradicate the social evils like untouchablity and caste restrictions were remarkable. The leader, throughout his life, fought for the rights of the dalits and other socially backward classes. Ambedkar was appointed as the nation's first Law Minister in the Cabinet of Jawaharlal Nehru. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor in 1990. 

April 14, 2015 will kick off celebrations of Babasaheb Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar’s 125th birth anniversary. Though Dr. Ambedkar’s stature and image is growing larger with time, his prominence as India’s foremost advocate of Dalit empowerment often does not do much justice to several sterling aspects of the man’s multi-faceted personality.

prepare ias

Dr. Ambedkar was an economist par excellence and his work in this field had laid the foundation for the country’s central bank, Reserve Bank of India. He planned India’s first river valley project to generate power and irrigation facilities. As the chairman of the drafting committee of the Indian Constitution he was its chief architect. He had also drafter the far-reaching Hindu code bill to liberate vast majority of women and finally resigned from union cabinet when this bill was not passed by the Parliament.

However, Dr. Ambedkar’s greatest and least known contribution was to be able to stretch the idea of the nation-state to include India’s vast diversity of people, cultures and their differing aspirations. For him, nation is a philosophical entity with shared dreams as its central theme.

         Dr. Ambedkar’s idea of nation is not only of a political or geographical entity, having a map and a flag. He didn’t subscribe to the popular definition of nation something as “large group of people living in one area with their own government, language, traditions, etc. (Cambridge Dictionary).” For him idea of nation has to have a philosophical and spiritual connotation with welfare, equity and fraternity as central themes. While explaining his idea of nation he had quoted French philosopher Ernest Renan saying that “A nation is a living soul, a spiritual principle. Two things, which in truth are but one, constitute the soul, this spiritual principle. One is in the past, the other in the present. One is the common possession of a rich heritage of memories; the other is the actual consent, the desire to live together, the will to preserve worthily the undivided inheritance which has been handed down. The nation, like the individual, is the outcome of a long past of efforts, and sacrifices, and devotion…A heroic past, great men, glory, these form the social capital, upon which a national idea may be founded.”

Any evaluation of Dr. Ambedkar’s contribution should keep this philosophical and spiritual framework he had in mind for the sub continent. In his seminal but undelivered speech known as ‘The Annihilation of Caste’ he deliberated that a casteless society is prerequisite for a strong nation. Keeping this idea in the mind he led many social movements like Mahad Satyagraha for equal right to drink water from a public tank, temple entry rights movement and movement to burn the Manusmriti. He had warned that without having social and economic equality, our nation may face existential crisis. While concluding the debate in the constituent assemble, as chairperson of drafting committee, Babasaheb had said that, “On the 26th January, 1950, we are going to enter into a life of contradictions. In politics we will have equality and in social and economic life we will have inequality. In politics we will be recognizing the principle of one man one vote and one vote one value. In our social and economic life, we shall, by reason of our social and economic structure, continue to deny the principle of one man one value. How long shall we continue to live this life of contradictions? How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? If we continue to deny it for long, we will do so only by putting our political democracy in peril. We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment or else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of political democracy which is Assembly has to laboriously built up.”

Dalit Movement
After returning to India, Bhimrao Ambedkar decided to fight against the caste discrimination that almost fragmented the nation. Ambedkar opined that there should be separate electoral system for the Untouchables and lower caste people. He also favored the concept of providing reservations for Dalits and other religious communities.

Ambedkar began to find ways to reach to the people and make them understand the drawbacks of the prevailing social evils. He launched a newspaper called "Mooknayaka" (leader of the silent). It was believed that, one day, after hearing his speech at a rally, Shahu IV, an influential ruler of Kolhapur dined with the leader. The incident also created a huge uproar in the socio-political arena of the country.

Political career
Dr. B. R. AmbedkarIn 1936, Ambedkar founded the Independent Labor Party. In the 1937 elections to the Central Legislative Assembly his party won 15 seats. Ambedkar oversaw the transformation of his political party into the All India Scheduled Castes Federation, although it performed poorly in the elections held in 1946 for the Constituent Assembly of India.

Ambedkar objected to the decision of Congress and Mahatma Gandhi to call the untouchable community as Harijans. He would say that even the members of untouchable community are same as the other members of the society. Ambedkar was appointed on the Defence Advisory Committee and the Viceroy's Executive Council as Minister for Labor. His reputation as a scholar led to his appointment as free India's first, Law Minister and chairman of the committee responsible to draft a constitution.

Framer of Constitution
Bhimrao Ambedkar was appointed as the chairman of the constitution drafting committee. He was also a noted scholar and eminent jurist. Ambedkar emphasized on the construction of a virtual bridge between the classes of the society. According to him, it would be difficult to maintain the unity of the country if the difference among the classes were not met.

 As Earnest Renan had rightly said that a nation must forget the bad memories of the past and cherish the dream of a shared future, the constituent assembly of India passed that test of having social equality and fraternity with flying colours. That’s the legacy we have, when we remember the great son of India, Baba Saheb Dr. Bhim Rao Ambedkar.


Source: PIB