Babasaheb Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was a jurist, economist, politician and social reformer who inspired the Dalit Buddhist movement and campaigned against social discrimination against Untouchables (Dalits), while also supporting the rights of women and labour. He was Independent India’s first law minister, the principal architect of the Constitution of India and a founding father of the Republic of India.
Ambedkar was born on 14 April 1891 in the town and military cantonment of Mhow in the Central Provinces (now in Madhya Pradesh). He was the 14th and last child of Ramji Maloji Sakpal, an army officer who held the rank of Subedar, and Bhimabai Sakpal, daughter of Laxman Murbadkar. His family was of Marathi background from the town of Ambadawe (Mandangad taluka) in Ratnagiri district of modern-day Maharashtra. Ambedkar was born into a poor low Mahar (dalit) caste, who were treated as untouchables and subjected to socio-economic discrimination.Ambedkar’s ancestors had long worked for the army of the British East India Company, and his father served in the British Indian Army at the Mhow cantonment. Although they attended school, Ambedkar and other untouchable children were segregated and given little attention or help by teachers. They were not allowed to sit inside the class. When they needed to drink water, someone from a higher caste had to pour that water from a height as they were not allowed to touch either the water or the vessel that contained it. This task was usually performed for the young Ambedkar by the school peon, and if the peon was not available then he had to go without water; he described the situation later in his writings as “No peon, No Water”. He was required to sit on a gunny sack which he had to take home with him.
In 1897, Ambedkar’s family moved to Mumbai where Ambedkar became the only untouchable enrolled at Elphinstone High School. In 1906, when he was about 15 years old, his marriage to a nine-year-old girl, Ramabai, was arranged.
At the age of 15 in 1906, he was married to Ramabai who was just 9. After completing his studies, Ambedkar launched himself politically, fighting for the rights of the depressed section. Trained as a jurist, Ambedkar went on to become the first Law Minister in independent India. To free himself the perils of the caste system and unfair practices, he acted as a revivalist of Buddhism by converting himself to the religion.
Very few know that Ambedkar is the first Indian to pursue a doctorate degree in Economics abroad. He is also the first Ph.D in Economics and the first double doctorate holder in Economics in South Asia. In 1990, he was honoured with the Bharat Ratna.
Ambedkar’s life and legacy today still is an inspiration for many in the world who believe that caste discrimination should end and formation of an equal society is the only way to move forward.
On the occasion of 127th Ambedkar Jayanti, we bring you some of the famous quotes by the architect of Constitution of India, Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: