Dr.B.R.Ambedkar, fondly called as Babasaheb, is a world known intellectual, great social and political reformer, staunch nationalist, doyen of Social Justice and Chief Architect of the constitution of India.
By this time the Indian nation must have geared up and celebrating his 129th Birthday in a grand manner at all levels, but, for the global disaster in the form of Covid-19 Corona virus leading to total lock-down and social distancing, bringing the nation to a grinding halt, preventing people from celebrating his Jayanthi by processions and public meetings. All of us are constrained to celebrate it in a simple and individual manner, wherever we are. On this occasion, I extend my warm greetings to all of you and offer my salutations to Babasaheb Ambedkar.
In the last few months, we have been witnessing intense debate nationwide, particularly in the background of CAA, NRC and NPR, on the Constitution, and we saw even mass movements with the slogan "Save Constitution – Save Nation", bringing the Constitution of India into public focus and discussion on large scale.
At the outset, it is necessary to have a brief look at the life of Babasaheb Ambedkar, his evolution as a student, scholar, politician, social reformer, intellectual and above all as Father of Indian Constitution.
Having born in an untouchable caste, the social segregation and discrimination suffered in his childhood and as an adult had a lasting influence on his outlook and approach on Indian social system and its political life. However, caste discrimination and humiliation did not deter him, instead strengthened his resolve to acquire knowledge and to rise to greater heights in academic, social and public life. He firmly believed that attaining knowledge, self respect and self help alone matters to come up in life. Ambedkar has got the distinction of many firsts as a student; he was the first Dalit student to enter into a high school in 1897, first to join the college of University of Bombay and first to enter into Foreign Universities.
By time he was 30 years of age, he had been through real life education, which most people including the most renowned scholars, do not acquire in life time. His multifaceted talents and versatile knowledge in all the fields of education, mastery over many languages made him a peerless leader of his times. His deep insights into the social and religious system of Indian society, its Varna and caste system led him to forge his own conception of socio economic justice in idealistic sense. He was very vocal about his views on the link between caste and classes in India.
He said "there cannot be a more degrading system of social organization than Varnasramadharma and its offshoot caste system. It is the system which deadens, paralyses and cripples the people from helpful activity and the real remedy is to destroy the belief in the sanctity of the Sashtras and their caste born tyranny".
By 1919, Dr.B.R.Ambedkar became a high profile leader in Indian social and political arena and became increasingly concerned and active about the plight of his fellow suppressed classes people. He started a weekly "Mook Naik" (Silent leader) in 1920 to spread his philosophy of social justice and equality through his writings and speeches. In, 1924 he founded the "Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha", to promote and improve education, socio and economic welfare of the outcastes in India. That apart ,he conducted historic social movements like Mahad Satyagraha (for opening tank to the outcastes for drinking purpose), burning of Manusmriti as a symbolic protest against sanctioning of caste discrimination (25.12.1927) and temple entry (1930), to name a few.
While fighting against social evils in the society, Ambedkar was also active in political front, closely observing the developments under British Colonial rule. In 1919, Ambedkar took active part in discussions in the Mansford commission and argued for separate electorates to the outcastes and minorities and autonomous status to India. Due to his consistent efforts and engagements with the British Govt, the then British PM Ramsay Macdonald announced Communal award 1932 for formation of separate electorate for depressed classes. But Gandhi fiercely opposed separate electorate for untouchables stating that they should remain in Hindu caste system and went on fast unto death in Yerawada Central jail. Due to pressure from the leaders and also taking into consideration the larger interest of freedom movement and the nation, Babasaheb Ambedkar reluctantly entered into an agreement which popularly called Poona Pact on 25/09/1932, giving up the right for separate electorate for depressed classes. As per Poona pact within the general electorate certain seats were reserved for suppressed classes in the provincial legislatures.
At that moment, Babasaheb Ambedkar was so disappointed, depressed and with anguish he stated "there are many Mahatmas in our country with sole aim of eradication of Untouchability and to lift up untouchables but all of them failed. Many mahatmas have come, many mahatmas have gone but untouchables remained as untouchables".
The effect of Poona pact is now visible as the representatives elected from reserved constituencies are not really reflecting the aspirations and voice of Dalits communities and the representation is almost nominal and notional. Babasaheb with his foresight got communal award for real representation of SC/ST's in the legislative bodies, but had to relent and compromise in the national interest as he said "where there is clash between community interest and nations interest he opted national interest".
The respect he commanded from the huge masses of social groups and adversaries as well, his radical nature of questioning Varna and caste system, his passion for social justice and equality, open mindedness to modern, scientific and rational ideas, total commitment to secularism and forward looking on many issues particularly on the condition and future of women in Hindu society, his great intellect, tireless curiosity to learn and progress, wide ranging of interests, his ability to concentrate on any attainable practical goals and his sense of realism made him a towering personality, setting him apart from many of his contemporaries and marking him out as a unique leader and statesman.
The doctrinal, political and sociological differences between Babasaheb Ambedkar and Gandhi and Congress were well known at that time. However, after attaining independence on 15/08/1947, the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, being aware of multi-faceted talents of Babasaheb Ambedkar, invited him to join his cabinet and thus he became first law minister of Independent India. At that time, PM Jawaharlal Nehru and home minister Sardar Vallabhai Patel approached, the International Constitutional expert, Sir Ivor Jennings to take up the responsibility of drafting constitution to our country. He was said to have told them, why they should be looking for foreign experts when they had right within India an outstanding legal and Constitutional expert in Dr.Ambedkar.
Then there was no second thought for Pandit Nehru and Dr.Ambedkar was made chairman of the 7 Member drafting committee formed on 29/08/1947. Though they were 7 Members on the drafting committee, the other six could not attend their work or participate in the process of preparing the draft constitution and the entire burden fell on the shoulders of Dr. Ambedkar. He spared no efforts and put his heart and soul, disregarding his failing health and toiled single-handedly concentrating all his energies and health without rest or recreation for two years, 11 months and 18 days exclusively for drafting the constitution .Thus, the drafting of constitution flowed heavily in his head, blood and veins all the time during this period.
The same was openly acknowledged by T.T. Krishnamachari, one of the committee members in the full constituent assembly meeting on 5/11/1949 by saying "Though a committee of seven members was framed, one of the them resigned, another was nominated in his place. Another member died. No one took his place. One of the members was busy with govt work in his state. Owing to ill health two other members stayed away from Delhi, as a result Dr.Ambedkar alone had to carry the entire burden of preparing the draft constitution. The work he has done is so admirable ".
Dr.Ambedkar gave a shape to independent Modern India of a complete sovereign democratic socialistic, republic based on adult franchise. The Preamble of the constitution itself is the replica of the Aims and Objectives of the Indian State. The draft constitution was adopted by the constitution assembly on 26/11/1949.
Piloting it Dr.Ambedkar said, "the constitution is strong enough to hold country together both in peace time and war time. If things go wrong, the reason will not be that we had bad constitution, what we will have to say is that man is vile".
Thus he emphasized that if any wrong is happened, it is fault of the people who are given power to implement or enforce the constitution of India, and not of the constitution. Dr.Ambedkar was also very vocal about working of the constitution which came into force on 26/01/1950.
On the occasion, Ambedkar said," Political democracy can't last long unless there lies at the base of it, social democracy. Social democracy means, a way of life which recognizes liberty, equality and fraternity as the principles of life".
He further said," In Politics, we will have equality but our social and economic structure continue to deny the principle of one man, one value. How long shall we continue to deny equality in our social and economic life? We must remove this contradiction at the earliest possible moment. Else those who suffer from inequality will blow up the structure of democracy which this constituent assembly laboriously built-up".
He strongly advocated the principle one man, one value in all walks of life, based on Liberty, Equality and Fraternity to strengthen the political and social democracy. He further warned "People don't want governments run on their name but one which work for them. If we want to protect our constitution which is to establish a govt of the people, for the people, by the people; we must identify the evil forces lying ahead without any delay and remove them with no compromise in this regard. To my knowledge, there is no other better way than this to serve our country".
By this warning Ambedkar entrusted the responsibility of protecting the constitution to the people of India themselves. On political leadership, Ambedkar categorically stated however may be great the leader, the right and liberties of the people should not be thrown at his feet. Personality cult/ hero worship in politics is dangerous and sure road to degradation of democracy giving rise to authoritarian rule or dictatorship, as such absolute power should not be given to political leadership however great and strong he may be and that is not the intention or the object of our constitution.
"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.", he said in his last speech to the Constituent Assembly of India.
Dr.B.R.Ambedkar was a great visionary and looked beyond drafting the constitution. He fore warned people to live up to their responsibility of safe guarding the constitution. Babasaheb Ambedkar gave best constitution under the world to the largest and biggest democracy with diverse social structure, regions, cultures, religions and languages to keep India united under any circumstances with its unique characteristic of unity in diversity.
The inherent strength and stability of Indian democracy lies in its constitution. That is why Babasaheb Dr.B.R.Ambedkar is rightly called as father of Indian Constitution and lauded for his stellar role in shaping modern India. It is the bounded duty of every citizen while celebrating the Jayanthi/ Birthday of Babasheb Ambedkar, to take a vow to commit themselves to the ideal of one man, one value in all walks of life and protect the constitution from all evil and undemocratic forces to make the country move forward with progress unitedly and that will be the greatest tribute we can pay to the great leader on this occasion.
(Author is a Senior Advocate at Andhra Pradesh High Court)