Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: A Vishwa Manav
“Unlike a drop of water which loses its identity when it joins the ocean, man does not lose his being in the society in which he lives. Man’s life is independent. He is born not for the development of the society alone, but for the development of his self.” – Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.
Ambedkar Jayanti is celebrated every year on 14th April in India as well as around the world to mark the birth anniversary of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar. It is a public holiday and is celebrated with great enthusiasm. On 31st March, 2021, the Government of India decided to declare April 14 as a public holiday on account of the birthday of Dr. Ambedkar.
For the first time, activist Janardan Sadashiv Ranpise celebrated Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday publicly on 14th April, 1928, in Pune. Since then, this day is celebrated as Ambedkar Jayanti. Dr. Ambedkar was a renowned jurist, politician, social reformer, economist, and also the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly of India.
He worked tirelessly for the upliftment and empowerment of Dalits in the country and his noteworthy contribution in framing the Constitution of India will always be remembered. From a humble background, Dr. Ambedkar went on to become one of the greatest legal minds of the country.
Dr. Ambedkar was born on 14th April, 1891, in the Central Provinces (Presently, Madhya Pradesh), in a family of Marathi background. His family moved to Mumbai in the year 1897, where he got enrolled at a High School. Upon passing his matriculation examination, he got admitted in a college affiliated to the University of Bombay where he obtained his degree in Economics and Political Science. He was also awarded a Baroda State Scholarship that provided him an opportunity to pursue his post-graduate education at Columbia University. After getting enrolled for the Bar course at Gray’s Inn, and at the London School of Economics, he completed his Master’s degree in the year 1921 and completed his D.Sc. in Economics which was awarded to him by the University of London in the year 1923.
Having a keen interest in politics, he founded the Independent Labour Party in the year 1936, which contested the 1937 Bombay Elections. He himself contested the First Indian General Election in the year 1952 but did not win. In the year, 1947, he was invited by the then Government to serve as the Law Minister of India, which he graciously accepted. He was also appointed as the Chairman of the Constitution’s Drafting Committee to write India’s Constitution. The Constituent Assembly considered a total of 2473 amendments proposed to the Draft Constitution from 9th December, 1946 to 26th November, 1949. Many articles were immediately given effect to on 26th November, 1949, which were, the provisions of Citizenship, Oath and affirmation by the President, Election, Definitions, Interpretation, Powers of the President to remove difficulties and the short title of the Constitution. The rest of the provisions came into effect from 26th January, 1950 and the working of the Constituent Assembly came to a stop. The preamble, a part of the Constitution, also came into force on 26th January, 1950, which presents the intention of the framers of the Constitution and the principles of the nation.
Describing the nature of the Constitution of India, Dr. Ambedkar said, “I feel that the Constitution is workable, it is flexible and it is strong enough to hold the country together both in peacetime and in wartime. Indeed, if I may say so, if things go wrong under the new Constitution, the reason will not be that we had a bad Constitution. What we will have to say is that Man was vile.” Dr. B.R. Ambedkar while highlighting the central importance of Article 32 of the Constitution (Right to Constitutional Remedies) stated, “I am very glad that the majority of those who spoke on this article have realised the importance and significance of this article. If I was asked to name any particular article in this Constitution as the most important - an article without which the Constitution would be a nullity - I could not refer to any other article except this one. It is the very essence of the Constitution and the very heart of it and I am glad that the House has realised its importance.”
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, in his speech on November 25, 1949, stated that if we wish to maintain democracy not merely in form, but also in fact, what must we do? The first thing in my judgment we must do is to hold fast to constitutional methods of achieving our social and economic objectives. It means we must abandon the bloody methods of revolution. It means that we must abandon the method of civil disobedience, non-cooperation and satyagraha. When there was no way left for constitutional methods for achieving economic and social objectives, there was a great deal of justification for unconstitutional methods. But where constitutional methods are open, there can be no justification for these unconstitutional methods. These methods are nothing but the Grammar of Anarchy and the sooner they are abandoned, the better for us. The second thing we must do is to observe the caution which John Stuart Mill has given to all who are interested in the maintenance of democracy, namely, not to lay their liberties at the feet of even a great man, or to trust him with powers which enable him to subvert their institutions. There is nothing wrong in being grateful to great men who have rendered life-long services to the country. But there are limits to gratefulness. As has been well said by the Irish Patriot Daniel O’ Connel, no man can be grateful at the cost of his honour, no woman can be grateful at the cost of her chastity and no nation can be grateful at the cost of its liberty. This caution is far more necessary in the case of India than in the case of any other country. For in India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship. The third thing we must do is not to be content with mere political democracy. We must make our political democracy a social democracy as well. Political democracy cannot last unless there lies at the base of it social democracy.
Dr. Ambedkar always stressed on the importance of economic and social justice for women. He created awareness among poor, illiterate women and inspired them to fight against the unjust and social practices like child marriage and devdasi system. He made significant efforts for the inclusion of women’s rights in the political vocabulary and Constitution of India.
As we celebrate the 132nd Birth Anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a duty is cast upon all of us to abide by the Constitution, respect its ideals, and remember the notable contributions of Dr. Ambedkar in making of the present independent India. Casteism, regionalism, gender bias, etc., are against our constitutional ideals and we must work to fight against those fearlessly. We must draw our attention towards the basic principles of law in our society and call to mind the purpose which the law has in view to serve in a country governed by rule of law envisaged by the Constitution. Fundamental rights and fundamental duties have to be given equal importance. Fundamental duties, though non-justiciable, are rules of law. It is our duty to carry out our fundamental duties effectively for instilling a sense of obligation and discipline amongst ourselves. We have to fulfil the objectives of law to dispense social justice to the people of our country. Article 51-A (j) of the Constitution obliges us to strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity, so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement. We must always uplift the core constitutional values in our day-to-day lives and take appropriate measures to make our constitution successful, by remembering the words of Dr. Ambedkar when he said that an ideal society should be mobile, should be full of channels for conveying a change taking place in one part to other parts. In an ideal society there should be many interests consciously communicated and shared. There should be varied and free points of contact with other modes of association. In other words, there should be social endosmosis. This is fraternity, which is only another name for democracy. 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 fellowmen.
Muneeb Rashid Malik is an Advocate and a Writer. He tweets @muneebmalikrash.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.