B. R. Ambedkar
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was a lawyer, a respected scholar, a Dalit political leader and the “father of the Indian constitution.” Born in Mhow (Madhya Pradesh) to a poor family belonging to the Mahar caste (considered as “Untouchable”), he was educated in a government school and then at the University of Bombay, where he earned a degree in economics and political science in 1912, becoming one of the first Untouchables to obtain a college education in India. In 1913, he went to Columbia University in New York and, subsequently, to the London School of Economics (LSE) from which he obtained a PhD and where he elaborated a sociological theory of the caste system. Facing difficulties in finding a job in India because of the stigma attached to his “untouchability,” he returned to London to read law, passed the Bar exams, and, afterwards, came back to India as a successful lawyer. By 1927, he had started launching movements against untouchability and asked for separate electorates, a demand first agreed to by the British but subsequently withdrawn as Gandhi, fearing a loss of unity in the Hindu community, undertook a long fast to oppose the demand. In 1935, Ambedkar became the principal of Bombay Government Law College. In 1936, he founded the Independent Labour Party and published the Annihilation of Caste, a direct attack against Hindu orthodox leaders, in particular, and the caste system in general. Upon Independence in 1947, he became India’s first law minister and was appointed chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee. The Constitution of India, a progressive document, was adopted in 1949. In 1951, following criticism from many members of Parliament after his attempt to reform the Hindu personal law, Ambedkar resigned (it was eventually Jawaharlal Nehru who got the law passed under the name of Hindu Code Bill in 1955-56). In 1952, Ambedkar was appointed to the Rajya Sabha, a position he retained till his death. In Nagpur, in 1956, Ambedkar and his supporters converted to Buddhism to protest against Hinduism’s oppressive caste system. In all, throughout his life, he started three political parties (the Independent Labour Party, the Scheduled Castes Federation, and the Samata Sainik Dal).
JAFFRELOT, Christophe. 2005. Dr Ambedkar and Untouchability: Analyzing and Fighting Caste. London: C. Hurst.