Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Chronology Of Dr. Ambedkar’s Life

This can be considered as continuation of my last post on “Dr. Ambedkar and Dalits of India”. There were few requests from some of my readers (it really feels good to write *my readers* ) to give a very brief introduction on Dr Ambedkar’s life.

Here you go …

14th April 1891 - Born to Bhimabhai and Ramji Ambadvekar in the town of Mhow near Indor in Madya Pradesh.

1896 - His family moved to Satara in Bombay and he was enrolled in school in Satara.

1908 - Cleared his matriculation and got the opportunity to study at the Elphinstone College, affiliated with Bombay University. (Ambedkar also obtained a scholarship of twenty five rupees a month from the Gayakwad ruler of Baroda, Sahyaji Rao III)

1912 - Graduated with the economics and political science as major subjects from Bombay University and got a job in Baroda.

1913 to 1916 - Went to USA for further studies at Columbia University (Columbia University had awarded him the PhD for his thesis, which was later published in a book form under the title “The Evolution of Provincial Finance in British India”)

1917-1919 - Taught at a College in Bombay and also brought out Marathi weekly whose title was ‘Mook Nayak’.

1920 to 1923 - Went to London and completed his thesis titled “The Problem of the Rupee” (for this thesis he was awarded the degree of DSc )

1923 - set up the ‘Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha’ (Out-castes Welfare Association), which was devoted to spreading education and culture amongst the downtrodden, improving the economic status and raising matters concerning their problems in the proper forums to focus attention on them and finding solutions to the same.

1927 - Led the Mahad March at the Chowdar Tank at Colaba, near Bombay, to give the untouchables the right to draw water from the public tank where he burnt copies of the ‘Manusmriti’ publicly.This marked the beginning of the anti-caste and ant-priest movement.

1930 - Launched The temple entry movement at Kalaram temple, Nasik. This is one more landmark in the struggle for human rights and social justice.

1932 - Signed Poona Pact. (some more info on poona pact; Ramsay McDonald announced the ‘Communal Award’ as a result of which in several communities including the ‘depressed classes’ were given the right to have separate electorates. This was a part of the overall design of the British to divide and rule. Gandhiji wanted to defeat this design and went on a fast unto death to oppose it. So Dr. Ambedkar and Gandhiji reached an understanding, which became the famous Poona Pact. According to this Pact, in addition to the agreement on electoral constituencies, reservations were provided for untouchables in Government jobs and legislative assemblies. The provision of separate electorate was dispensed with. The Pact carved out a clear and definite position for the downtrodden on the political scene of the country. It opened up opportunities of education and government service for them and also gave them a right to vote.)

1935 - Appointed principal of government law college and also once publicly proclaimed, his famous quote, “ I was born a Hindu because I had no control over this but I shall not die a Hindu” ( He was of the view that there was no future for untouchables in the Hindu religion and they should change their religion if need be.)

1936 - Founded “The Independent Labour Party”, participated in the provincial elections and was elected to the Bombay Legislative Assembly.

Between 1941 - 1945 - Published number of books and pamphlets including his famous book Thoughts on Pakistan.

1947 - Joined the First Cabinet of independent India as a Law Minister. (Resigned because of the differences of opinion with the Government over the Hindu Code Bill)

1948 - Completed the draft of the Constitution and presented it in the Constituent Assembly

1949 - Draft adopted with very few amendments. ( Many provisions have been made in the Constitution to ensure social justice for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and backward classes).

1952 - Independently contested an election to the Lok Sabha but was defeated. He was appointed to the Rajya Sabha in March 1952 and would remain a member until his death.

14th 0ctober 1956 - Embraced Buddhism along with many of his followers. The same year he completed his last writing ‘Buddha and His Dharma’.

6th December 1956 - Baba Saheb Dr. B.R. Ambedkar died peacefully in his sleep at his home in Delhi.

1990 - Bestowed with Bharat Ratna

Friday, March 19, 2010

Dr. Ambedkar and Dalits of India

I was reading a Gujarati book on some of the great men of India and read some excerpts taken from the biography of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar . So thought to write something on this, Volumes can be written on the work done by him but this is just my thoughts on the subject.

I have heard a lot about this grate man, like he was the chief architect of our constitution, he had worked hard for upliftment of dalits in India….. But I was never sure what and how exactly he did all these (this may be because of my not being mentally present state in history and social studies class during my school days . I even don’t remember studying anything about him at all) . The only thing I knew for sure, before reading about him, was that he was responsible for introducing the caste based reservation in our society, which I always thought as bottleneck to our growth.

Dr. Ambedkar has fought whole of his life against the untouchablility, indignity and social injustice done to the people belonging to castes which are at the very bottom of ancient Indian caste hierarchy ( This is, again, a misinterpretation of Hindu scripture where the caste (varna) system had altogether different meaning). The journey of a boy from untouchable mahar caste to the Bharat Ratna was full of despise, ignominy and insult at the hand of caste establishment. Even after more than six decades of our independence we are unable to abolish untouchability completely, though the situation ,today, is slightly better than pre or early independence days.

The great dalit thinkers choose two ways to improve their situation in India. The first thing they thought of was to gain political power and play an important role in the decision making at the highest level and the other thing they did, and are doing, is to bypass the caste hierarchy completely.

Political power has not helped dalits in a way that it should have been. Dr. Ambedkar had provided few provisions in constitution to uplift the dalits, but like most of such provisions gets misused, by political parties for vote bank politics or by some people with vested interest, this provision also got exploited and as a result; instead of improving the life of dalits, by providing equal social status and protecting their basic human rights, people are fighting to label themselves as dalit !!! and dalit population is increasing year on year. Dalit politician, winning election, on dalit votes, and becoming rich (The latest example is, Kumari Mayawati , UP chief minster, felicitated with a gigantic garland made up of 1000 Rs. currency notes. That garland contained 21lakh rupee only ) without doing anything for dalits.

Moreover, millions of dalits, in India over the period of more than a century, have attempted to escape caste system by converting to Christianity or Buddhism (Dr. Ambedkar himself converted to Buddhism at the end of his life) but it has not helped, to majority of them, either. Earlier they were Hindu dalits and now they are Christan dalits or Buddhist dalits. No change in their basic standard of living.

But everything is not so gloomy for dalits in India. The caste based reservation introduced by Dr. Ambedkar and the government’s efforts to bring dalits in mainstream are paying off. We have number of examples where dalits are at the top positions; ex-president K.R.Narayanan was dalit, current Chief justice of India Balakrishnan is dalit, First woman speaker Ms Meira Kumar is dalit and it is very likely that we may have our first dalit prime minister as well, in the form of Kumari Mayawati . These are the examples of people who have made it to the top but there are thousands of people who are beneficiary of the collective efforts done by different governments and NGOs and have done much better in life, as a dalit, compare to their ancestors.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Success - an illusion ??

I’m 27 years old, initial 4-5 years, don’t know what I did, spent around 17 years studying and since last 5 years I am earning and spending my own money.

I am thinking of buying a house, a house of my own !!! My father and mother saved money all through their life and managed to build a house, of their own, only after they got retired from their work. And look at me, I am planning to buy a house at such a young age. I am in hurry !!!

Why am I running ?? well, I am running because everybody is running.

Why everybody is running ??? because everybody wants to be successful.

successful !!! what does success means ? A billion dollar question !!! right ?

The concept of success I had, during my school/college days, was entirely different, what I believed was that, ‘you have to do your karma and whatever result comes is your success.’ for example, if you get 80% marks in your exam, that mean you are succeeded 80% and there is nothing to get excited. you still don’t know 20% of the things. But then I learned; success is not absolute, its relative.You are successful as long as you are better than other, no matter how bad, you think, you are. This is true in our personal as well as professional life also. Like, you will get more increment if you outperform your colleague. Your opinion will count more if you are a well-to-do member of family.

Going by this rational ,I can say, I may be successful in one company but not in some other, I may be respected by my family but not by neighbor. So what should I consider of myself ? am I successful in life or not ? well, the problem is, we are not allowed to be the judge of our own success or failure, its the society who judges us, and society has only one scale to measure the success and its; the material possession we are having. And if that is the case then nobody can really be successful in one way or the other. then what is success ?

Success is software not hardware, you can feel it but can not touch. The day you start looking at yourself from others eyes, its over. You will lose your individuality and will try to fine tune yourself to meet others expectation and the day you think you have or you are very near meeting their expectation they (the society )will have some more expectations and the cycle will continue and its very difficult to come out of it.

I remember one of the Miya Fuski stories, I have read during my school days. Story goes like this

“Miya Fuski, a very wise man, was having a donkey, it was very lazy. One fine day miya decides to visit one of his relatives, living in some far place. He took his donkey and started his journey. After covering some distance, donkey refused to go any further. Miya Fuski was intelligent and he quickly thought of a solution. He knew that his donkey likes carrot very much so he took one long stick, hung a carrot on one end with long thread and sat on the donkey with other end, of the stick, in his hand, holding it in front of donkey. then asked his donkey to get the carrot and free himself . that’s it, donkey started moving forward to get that carrot but he couldn’t get it and eventually miya reached his destination.”

I didn’t understand the moral of the story at that time and laughed at the foolishness of the donkey. But now, when I think of this story again I see a great meaning in it. With little exception, we all are running, throughout our life, to get the carrot called success and the carrot is being held, in front of us, by someone else.