Ambedkar: A Tribute

Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati, 14/04/2016The statue of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar in Tirupati appears drowned in garlands, after various political parties and social organisations paid tributes on his 125th birth anniversary on Thursday. ------K_V_POORNACHANDRA_KUMAR   | Photo Credit: K_V_Poornachandra_Kumar

In my childhood, I had the extremely good fortune of coming in contact with two great men of our times – Mahatma Gandhi and Babasaheb Ambedkar. I had seen Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the chief architect of our Constitution, from close quarters since I was a boy of six. He used to come regularly on Saturdays to the office of Vividh Vrit, a Marathi weekly, situated in my immediate neighbourhood of Mumbai’s Thakurdwar. Many progressive leaders of Maharashtra would sit there and discuss the past, present and future of the country. He also visited Dr. Jaykar’s clinic which was located in a room next to my home. I have stood by his side many times. Sometimes he also greeted me.

The memory of one of the earliest entries of Dalits to a Hindu temple is still fresh in my mind. In 1936, my father invited Dr. Ambedkar to enter our family temple of Shri Thakurji Murlidhar in Thakurdwar. Accompanied by leading figures like M.R. Jaykar, noted jurist and statesman, N.V. Gadgil, a Minister in the first Union Cabinet after independence, Anant Hari Gadre, Rambhau Mandlik, Rambhau Tatnis and about 100 followers and Dalits, Ambedkar entered the temple. As an eight year old boy, I was there with my father to receive them. The incident influenced my mind and shaped my ideas.

Later, our family moved to Dadar Hindu Colony, where our house was next to Ambedkar’s house, Rajgruha. He had a library with a stock of over 50,000 books including his 1st standard books. I have never known anyone having such passion and zest for books.

Ambedkar was born a Mahar, at Mhow in Indore on April 14, 1891. He studied at the government school, but faced unbearable insults because of his low caste. He was not allowed to sit inside the class. Even if he needed to drink water, somebody from a higher caste would pour water from a height so that the boy would not touch either the water or the vessel that contained it.

Humiliation, however, did not deter him; it only made him stern and strong. He continued his studies. He obtained two doctorates, one from Columbia University in 1917 and the other from the London School of Economics for his thesis “The Problem of the Rupee—Its Origin and Its Solution” in 1923. He also pursued a course in Law and became a Barrister-at-Law at Gray’s Inn in 1920.

In 1935, Ambedkar became the Principal of the Government Law College, Mumbai, where I later studied and taught. He was the founder of Sidharth College, Mumbai and I had the privilege of graduating in the first batch of the College. Ambedkar visited our college regularly. He would often sit in an arm chair on a verandah and read books. He talked to me sometimes enquiring about my progress. When I won a running race ahead of our drill teacher, he told me to run even faster in life.

It would be very difficult to find another man rising from the lowest rungs of society and reaching the very top as Ambedkar did. He died on December 6, 1956. India’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna was conferred on him posthumously, but he was much more than that. All his life he fought to remove discrimination, degradation and deprivation from society to make it just and equal.

Ambedkar was an authority on the Constitutions of all the democratic nations. On November 26, 1949, when the Constitution was adopted, Fali Nariman, Anil Divan, Ashok Desai and I, students of the Government Law College, were filled with joy and pride, because our former Principal had played a major role in drafting it.

Ambedkar is even more relevant today because the blot of untouchability is still there on the face of our society as we hang our head in shame over the suicide of Rohith Vemula, a scholar of the University of Hyderabad for the humiliation he faced.

The words of Ambedkar in the Conference of Mahars in 1936 still reverberate in my mind: “The religion that does not recognize you as human beings or give you water to drink, or allow you to enter the temples is not worthy to be called a religion.”

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Printable version | Oct 23, 2020 6:32:13 PM |

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