Dr. B. R. Ambedkar: An Indefatigable Defender of Human Rights
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born as the fourteenth child of Mahar parents, Ramji and Bhimabai, on 14 April 1891 at Mhow, in present-day State of Madhya Pradesh. The Mahars are considered low- caste and treated as untouchables (Dalits) by higher-caste Hindus. They are mainly found in the State of Maharashtra.
The father and grandfather of Ambedkar served in the army and were of well-to-do family. But the stigma of being members of Mahar community caused their social oppression in a caste-ridden society.
Ambedkar had a bitter taste of discriminatory treatment due his caste at an early age. He and his brother had to carry gunny bags to sit on inside the classroom because they were not allowed to sit on classroom chairs. They were denied drinking water facilities, and excluded from games and mixing with other children. Even teachers would not check their notebooks for fear of "pollution." Thus sowed the seeds of discontentment about the Hindu social system in the life of Ambedkar.
He did his early education in Satara in Maharashtra State and then moved on to Bombay. In 1912, he passed his B. A. examination with distinction from the prestigious Elphinstone College with the scholarship and encouragement from the Maharaja of Baroda State. In 1913, with a condition that he would serve the Baroda State for ten years, he was chosen by Maharaja of Baroda State for higher studies at Columbia University in the USA. This was followed with a trans-Atlantic shift to the United Kingdom where he studied at the University of London. While studying abroad, he mixed with students of various nationalities and races, which was an eye- opener for him.
He joined the Union Cabinet of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru during the 1946-1951 period. He resigned on 27 September 1951 to protest the deferment of the discussion in the parliament of the Hindu Code Bill supposedly due to the coming 1952 elections. Ambedkar saw the Bill as a very important reform of Hindu law, with reform proposals on marriage, divorce, and monogamy.
Despite failing health, he plodded on with his advocacy for the cause of the Dalits. He came to Nagpur in October 1956 for his conversion to Buddhism and a couple of months thereafter on 8 December 1956 breathed his last.