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Remembering Bharat Ratna B. R. Ambedkar, The Crusader Of Social Justice In India

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06th December, 2018 17:23 IST

Imagine a life where you go to school but have to sit outside the class and the space where actual education takes place is denied to you. You have to and have to bring along a gunny bag to sit on and take it back home with yourself. The only time you can have water is when someone else pours it for you because you’re not allowed to touch the well. And if there is no person to give you water, you just go thirsty. Now, you’re told that all the measures that are taken to keep you away from the rest of the people is because you’re an ‘untouchable.’

India’s caste system has been rather cruel to the dalits who were tagged as the ‘lower caste’ and not allowed to interact with the rest of the society. They were forced into menial labour and kept away from education. These were some of the social factors that made sure they stayed poor.

But, on 14th April 1891 man was born into this very community who took up the challenge to change it all and as India’s history is now witness to it, this man kept getting out of any boundaries he was forced into because of his social status. We know that man as B.R. Ambedkar and the work he did earned him the respectful title of Babasaheb, or ‘father-sir.’

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One could assume that Ambedkar was always conscious of his caste and that’s probably why in one of the books he authored he recounts that the community wanted to celebrate the occasion of him passing his fourth grade exams because they thought it was a great achievement. A public ceremony took place and one of the people present gifted Babasaheb a book on Buddhism, a religion he kept close to all throughout his life because it liberated him from the strict social structures of the Brahmanical society.

Using education as his means of breaking barriers, Babasaheb went on to become the first dalit student to be admitted to Elphinstone College which was affiliated with the University of Bombay. He got his degree in economics and politics. By 1912, he was already working with the government of Baroda. At the young age of 22 in 1913, Babasaheb was given a scholarship that allowed him to go to the US to study at the prestigious Columbia University.

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But getting an education, didn’t change social attitudes towards him. He served the government of Baroda for a little while but soon moved away to find other jobs. Given his education, he did secure a job with a college in Mumbai but the other professors were not too happy with his caste. They even created an issue over them having to share the same drinking jug as them.

By the time he started his journey into the legal profession, he was ready to change this attitude. In 1926, he took three clients for a non-Brahmanical community who had accused the Brahmin community of India and were then sued for libel. Ambedkar not only fought this case but also won it. This victory wasn’t just in the legal sense but also in the social sense.

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Ambedkar kept doing his work but also kept up with his role as a social activist. He launched journals for dalits, kept working towards the cause of opening up water resources to dalits and also started the struggle to allow dalits to enter temples. He became a renowned scholar and his on-ground work empowered people from a community that had, for the longest time, been stuck in a social system that put barriers on its development.

Babasaheb was eventually invited by the Congress-led government to become the first Law Minister of India. He became the Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee and once the Constitution was drafted, it came with the promise to protect various civil liberties. Everyone applauded it as a document that was a social documents first and an administrative one second. And even today, there are so many freedoms we enjoy because of the man who drafted it.

While most of us will remember Babasaheb as the man behind the Constitution of India, it is also important to remember that he was someone who broke all the barriers to be where he was.
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