Remembering the man behind the Indian Constitution6 min readReading Time: 5 minutes
The Indian Constitution came into effect on January 26, 1950. This is when India became the Republic of India.
A republic is a state in which citizens hold supreme power. It has an elected representative rather than a king or a monarch.
January 26 was chosen as the date because on this date in 1930, Indian National Congress declared its plan for Purna Swaraj or complete independence of India from British Rule. The Indian constitution rests on the foundation of equality, fraternity, and equal opportunity. The person behind this complete document is Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar.
Dr. Ambedkar was the most learned politician of his time. He earned a Doctorate from Columbia University and another one from London School of Economics. He got the degree of Barrister-in-Law from Grey’s Inn’s in London. He was a voracious reader and his own library held 50,000 books! But Babasaheb is most widely known and respected for his relentless work towards the welfare of Dalits in India.
Who are Dalits?
‘Dalit’ refers to socially and economically depressed communities based on caste. In Sanskrit and Hindi, it translates to broken or scattered.
The Dalits were also called the untouchables as their work was usually considered menial and degrading. They were often assigned the task of cleaning latrines and preparing meat for butcher shops. But all of this changed, when this mistreatment of a certain section of the country’s population was made illegal in the Indian Constitution, thanks to the efforts of Babasaheb.
And Ambedkar’s political story is a personal one, as he himself was born into the ‘untouchable’ Mahar community. As indicated in his autobiographical essays and books, all through his childhood, Babasaheb faced discrimination at the hands of caste whether that was in school or while using public transport. He talks about how the peon of his school would make the ‘untouchable’ kids drink water from atop ensuring that the nozzle did not touch their mouths lest their touch contaminates water for the upper castes. He remembers not being able to learn Sanskrit for no teacher would teach a Dalit the language. He also remembers being beaten up when he chose to drink water from a public tap.
Think with Owliver:
In the world we inhabit, it might be difficult to think about the struggles people face in their everyday lives. Always tread with kindness and empathy. If you see any discrimination around you, do not accept it. Challenge it. The world is meant for everyone and no one can be superior to another.
That’s what Babasaheb did, and look how he made India a better place!
In awareness of the social ills plaguing the society he lived in, Babasaheb dedicated himself to learning. He got a scholarship to study English and Persian at Elphinstone College. He went on to study in Columbia University and London School of Economics. He returned to India as a barrister.
Upon his return, Babsaheb dedicated himself to the upliftment of Dalits and gained political representation for his cause. He was appointed as the Law Minister from 1947-1951. His appointment as the Chairman of the Drafting Commission of the Indian Constitution also brought him closer to his vision.
In the three Round Table Conferences held to discuss constitutional amendments, Babasaheb represented the case of the depressed classes.
In all the Fundamental Rights presented in the Constitution, Babasaheb emphasised on the Right to Equal Opportunity.
Owliver’s Obscure Observations:
Apart from rights as equal citizens of India, children also have specific rights in the Constitution. These are:
- Right to free and compulsory elementary education for all children in the 6-14 year age group (Article 21 A)
- Right to be protected from any hazardous employment till the age of 14 years (Article 24)
- Right to be protected from being abused and forced by economic necessity to enter occupations unsuited to their age or strength (Article 39(e))
- Right to equal opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and guaranteed protection of childhood and youth against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment (Article 39 (f))
- Right to early childhood care and education to all children until they complete the age of six years (Article 45)
Sourced from HAQ Centre for Child Rights.
Till the end of his life in 1956, Babasaheb continued to work towards removing the social ill of untouchability from the fabric of Indian society. Article 17 of the Constitution abolished untouchability, and practicing untouchability was made punishable under the Untouchability Offences Act, 1955.
For his contributions, 14th April every year is celebrated as Ambedkar Jayanti in India. He was also given the Bharat Ratna, posthumously, in 1991.
To know more about Babasaheb, read Bhimayana by Subhash Natrajan, S. Anand, and Durgabai Vyam.
To know more about the Constitution, grab a copy of The Constitution of India for Children by Subhadra Sen Gupta.
Happy Republic Day, folks! Remember to uphold everyone’s fundamental rights, and practice individual fundamental responsibilities.