Amongst all the social reformers that India has had, Ambedkar was one of the most remarkable. For a country like India, where caste system is ingrained as such, the role of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar cannot be forgotten.
On 12th December 1935, Bhimrao Ambedkar was asked by the Hindu reformist group, Jat-Pat Todak Mandal (Society for the Abolition of Caste System), to address their annual conference. He had been asked to speak about the horrifying and detrimental effects that the caste system brought upon the country.
However, when Ambedkar sent in his address, it was denied by the group. It had been deemed “too controversial”, and no one wanted to risk offending the higher caste groups. When they asked him to delete any provoking comments, Ambedkar had adamantly replied that he “would not change even a comma”. A year later he published this speech as the essay, “Annihilation of Caste”, which was remarked as one of the most scathing reviews of the caste system.
Inarguably, the caste system is one of the most shameful concoctions to be birthed out of archaic Indian traditions. A repressive and inhumane ideology, the caste system was one of the social constructs that many Indian reformists tried to abolish, and the contribution of Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar was one of the most stellar.
Dr B.R Ambedkar dedicated his entire life to the abolishment of caste, and his contributions towards dismantling the system are extremely notable. Born to a Mahar family, Bhim Rao was one of the few lower-caste children to attend school. Despite the discrimination, he became the first Dalit to be enrolled into the prestigious Elphinstone High School and won the Baroda State Scholarship for three years. He finished his postgraduate education from the Columbia University in New York, and for his thesis, he wrote about the castes in India- a paper that was presented at the Columbia University.
When Ambedkar returned to India in 1924, he launched a social reform movement against untouchability. He founded the Bahishkrut Hitkaraini Sabha, an organisation with the resolve of uprooting India’s caste system. He organised various marches for Dalit rights to basic human activities that were denied to them, like drinking water from public resources, or their right to enter religious houses. As a famous symbol of struggle against injustice, Ambedkar along with other protestors, walked into public tanks and reservoirs to drink from their waters. In late 1927, Ambedkar presented in a conference and publicly condemned the religious text of Manusmriti and its inhumane justification for caste discrimination and the notion of untouchability. He then led a march later that year where he and his fellow protestors burnt copies of his text as a token of opposition.
For the rest of his years, Ambedkar continued to fight against the archaic system. His most famous contribution is the construction of the Indian constitution under his guidance as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee. The Constitution of India, applauded as one of the most progressive documents of its time, abolished untouchability every form.
It has been over sixty years since Ambedkar’s reformations, and though caste still remains an evil that taints the society, it is only fair to recognise the immense struggle and development Dr B.R. Ambedkar contributed towards dismantling the caste system.
In 1936, Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar had said, “Political tyranny is nothing compared to the social tyranny and a reformer who defies society is a more courageous man than a politician who defies Government.” The life of B.R. Ambedkar is that of a courageous and brave man working passionately to reform the Indian society and rid it of one of its worst evils. His legacy is one of great example and precedent which we cannot afford to forget.
Feature Image Credits: Britannica