This article is written by Sarthak Kulshrestha, a BA LLB student of Jagran Lakecity University, Bhopal. In this article, the reader will learn about B.R. Ambedkar’s inclination to support the untouchables and his efforts in making the Constitution of India which ultimately made him the father of the Indian Constitution.
This article has been published by Sneha Mahawar.
A personality who plays an elemental role in the genesis of a remarkable breakthrough or a subject of huge importance and who is said to be the Father of that sphere. The Constitution of India is the lengthiest and the most deliberate in the world. The formation of the Supreme law of our nation can be largely attributed to the exhaustive efforts and insight of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who is acknowledged as the ‘Father of the Indian Constitution.’
He was a great intellectual in the capacity of an outstanding academician, a research scholar, economist, jurist, philosopher, orator, anthropologist and political scientist. He explains our nation ‘India’ as a society very deeply and dug into the evil roots of caste discrimination. He was born in a family of untouchables and raised his voice to vehemently oppose casteism. He was a proponent of democracy, and after analysing the Indian society, he fixed upon making India a democratic nation that could help achieve the objective of protecting the rights of weaker sections of the society and recognising them as citizens of equal importance.
He had the proper understanding of the people of India and he knew exactly what our country required to flourish as a modern developing power. Therefore, he incorporated democratic principles into the Constitution of India. This article thoroughly discusses the ideas and philosophy of Ambedkar that ultimately led this great man to become the Father of the Indian Constitution.
The early life and education of Ambedkar
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was born on 14th April 1891 in a low caste family. When he was a child, he had to face so many instances of caste discrimination that he was not even able to study like the children of upper castes. He was treated very badly and this corrupt castigation induced him to fight against it in the future.
Dr. Ambedkar was an ambitious, determined, and courageous leader. He was very hardworking as despite having unfavourable circumstances, he completed his education distinctively. He got an opportunity to study at Elphinstone College in Mumbai and there he was graduated with a Bachelor of Arts course having two language subjects i.e. English and Persian. Further, the Maharaja of Baroda offered him the opportunity of studying in the USA. He welcomed this opportunity and in July 1913, he joined Columbia University in the United States as a Gaekwad scholar. In 1914, he obtained his M.A. degree for his thesis on “Ancient Indian Commerce”. In 1915, he presented a paper “the Castes in India, their Mechanism, Genesis and Development” in an Anthropology seminar.
In 1916, Ambedkar submitted his thesis for a PhD entitled “National Dividend of India- A Historic and Analytical Study”. In the same year, he went to the London School of Economics & Political Science where he studied Economics and Political Science. At the same time, he was enrolled for the Bar course in Gray’s Inn where he studied law. In 1923, he completed his D. Sc. (Doctorate in Science) in Economics and published his thesis on “the Problem of the Rupee – Its Origin and Its Solution”. He also completed his L.L.D. (Doctor of Law) and D Lit. (Doctor of Literature) doctorates in 1952 and 1953 respectively.
Ambedkar’s support for the depressed classes
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar realised the necessity of laying the foundation of independent India on egalitarian and humanitarian principles. India was divided into various classes and he wanted to design the Constitution in such a way that the rights of all the people belonging to different religions or castes can be protected. Certainly, it was not an easy task as it required true statesmanship, a proper understanding of social situations in different parts of the country, and an intellectual vision to ensure the working of the Constitution by democratic means. He held the firm resolution of helping the downtrodden and marginal sections of the society as in his early life, he himself witnessed the injustice that was prevailing in India against the lower castes. Along with his learned mindset and scholarly mind, kept up his revolutionary attitude in support of the untouchables to protect them from discrimination. The other leaders of the Indian National Congress focussed mainly on the actions and movements directed towards the banishment of British rule in India. On the other hand, Ambedkar argued for the same along with the demand of granting rightful social recognition to the untouchables.
The Round Table Conference
The Round Table Conferences (1930-1932) were very significant from the perspective of Indians as they were held for the purpose of consultation with the Indian leaders on the matter of forming the Constitution for India. It was the first time when the representation of depressed classes of India was allowed in such a conference. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and R. Srinivasan were the two representatives of the depressed classes. In 1930, the first session of the Round Table Conference was held in the Royal Gallery House of Lords in London where Ambedkar put forth the demands of Dalits in India and emphasised their pathetic position.
On the behalf of the Dalit community, he spoke against the bureaucratic rule of the British in India and he clearly stated his requisition of replacement of British Government with the Government of the people, by the people, and for people of India. Further, he justified the point at the issue of the marginalised sections by substantiating it with the general scenario prevailing in our country at that time. He stated that the Government of India failed to realise that the landlords were using force to exploit the peasants and the labourers were not getting enough wages and were forced to work in improper working conditions.
Ambedkar spoke on the issue in the Round Table Conferences so courageously that he even articulated his resentment of the British Government of India. He said that the reason why the Government was not intervening on the issue stated above was its fear of facing strong resistance. With the existing passive governance of the Government in this aspect, it was very unlikely to have reforms in the socio-economic condition of India. Ambedkar had said that these grievances could only be addressed if India got the political power in its own hands. “It is only the Swaraj Constitution that we stand any chance of getting the political power in our own hands without which we cannot bring salvation to our people”, Ambedkar said.
Majorly, he emphasised on two notions which are;
- First, depressed classes were supporting the freedom struggle exactly like the other countrymen were doing. They were not having any different approach towards the British. The Hindu orthodox oppression of Dalits had no meaning concerning their perspective on British rule.
- Second, the Dalit problem was not only a social problem but largely a political problem. This notion of Ambedkar was not agreed upon by many INC leaders. Ambedkar strongly advocated the connection of the Dalit problem with the political sphere. He supported his argument that in order to ameliorate the conditions of the marginalised section, political power was much needed. Without political hold, their condition could not be improved. But the INC never considered it a political issue other than a social evil.
Considering the fact that after Muslims, the Dalit community was the largest minority in India, Ambedkar, in 1931, set up the Minority subcommittee in which the rights of minorities were discussed. Following the efforts of Ambedkar, a scheme of political safeguards for the protection of the Depressed Classes in the future Constitution of a self-governing India was prepared and attached in the report of the Minority subcommittee. It called for equal citizenship, fundamental rights, protection against discrimination, etc. Ambedkar described the Indian society as divided into three distinct sections — Hindus, Muslims and the depressed classes. He further stated that India can be truly independent only if these classes elect their own representatives to take part in the process of government. Dr Ambedkar broadly categorised SC/ST as the depressed class, as almost all of them had the same socio-economic situation.
The Poona Pact is one of the most significant events of India’s freedom struggle. It was an agreement signed between Dr. Ambedkar and Mahatma Gandhi in 1932. It marked the beginning of the social justice movement in our country under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar.
Both Gandhi and Ambedkar wanted the upliftment of the vulnerable classes of the society but the two big leaders had different ideologies to achieve this common aim. The Poona Pact was a negotiation in this aspect by which the objective of betterment of the underprivileged section came into being.
In August 1932, the British government announced the communal award through which 71 seats were reserved for the depressed classes. It paved the way for a separate electorate for different classes living in British India. Gandhi was absolutely against the separate electorate as he felt that the British were trying to divide the Hindus. Initially, Ambedkar favoured the idea of a separate electorate but because he had differences with Gandhi, a series of negotiations took place and arrived at a solution through the Poona Pact, repealing the communal award.
In the settlement negotiated with Mahatma Gandhi, Ambedkar agreed for depressed class candidates to be elected by a joint electorate. The Poona Pact emphatically pervaded Ambedkar’s leadership of the depressed classes across the country and he made the Indian National Congress and every citizen of India morally responsible for the welfare of the depressed classes. He was successful in making the depressed classes a formidable political force for the first time in India.
The political party of Ambedkar
In 1936, Dr. Ambedkar founded a political party named Independent Labour Party (ILP). It was one of the major steps of Ambedkar in his political career. His party strongly opposed the Brahmanical and capitalist structures in India, supported the Indian working class and had the primary objective to dismantle the caste system. In 1938, the ILP organised a march of thousands of tenants to Bombay, making it the largest peasant mobilisation of that region. It also joined with the Communists to organise Bombay textile labourers in opposition to a bill intended to control strike actions by the labourers.
Role of Ambedkar in Viceroy’s Executive Council
Being a member of the Viceroy’s Executive Council (VEC) used to be a great matter of fact in those times. Ambedkar joined the VEC as a Labour member in July 1942. He truly represented the working class of India by being the responsible member in charge of the Labour industry. He successfully led the struggle for reducing working hours from 12 hours a day to 8 hours in 1942. He contributed to the idea of setting up Employment Exchanges in India. When Ambedkar joined the British Executive Council, he was lauded for his rise as a great leader.
Role of Ambedkar in drafting the Indian Constitution
Dr. Ambedkar was one of those intellectual statesman-politicians who pondered upon every aspect of independent India. He played a very important role in framing the Constitution and thus, he is also known as the ‘Chief Architect of the Constitution’. On August 3, 1947 Dr. Ambedkar was appointed the 1st Law Minister of our country. As a law minister, he was the main person behind writing the Constitution of India and passed many laws pertaining to religious, gender and caste equality during this period.
During the last decades of colonial rule in India, Ambedkar was considered to be the messiah of the depressed classes because he was actively working for the welfare of the untouchables by putting efforts to incorporate the provisions of equality and non-discrimination into the Constitution.
After considering his social & political acumen and firm resolution to bring betterment to Indian society, on August 29 1947, the Constituent Assembly of India appointed Dr Ambedkar the Chairman of the Drafting Committee. This Committee was given the responsibility to prepare the draft of the Constitution of independent India. It consisted of seven members namely:
- Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (The Chairperson)
- KM. Munshi
- Alladi Krishnaswami Iyer
- Mohammad Saadulah
- Gopala Swami Ayyangar
- B.L. Mitter
- D.P. Khaitan
The drafting of the Constitution was completed by this committee and it was the result of the collective efforts of great leaders of the Constituent Assembly like Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, B.N. Rau, Sardar Patel, and many more. There were very detailed discussions that took place in the Assembly while preparing the draft of the Constitution. Various concepts like fundamental rights, directive principles of state policy, amendment procedures, etc. were borrowed from different nations and eventually, India was established as a quasi-federal democracy.
We all know that the Constitution is the supreme law of the nation and it forms the basis for all the other laws as they ought to be consistent with the Constitution. But, according to Ambedkar, along with the feature of supremacy, the Constitution possessed the driving force of the nation’s development. It not only eradicated the evils of inequality and other negative factors that could push India away from the progressive path but also introduced certain characteristic features for the advancement of the nation. Let us individually deal with those features on which Ambedkar worked meticulously and considered them to be the driving force of developing independent India.
The Fundamental rights are guaranteed to the people in India under Part III of the Constitution from Article 12 to 35. Generally, the fundamental rights are enforceable against the state but Articles 15 (2), 17, 23 & 24 are enforceable against the individuals as well because they give protection to the people from discrimination on the grounds only of religion, caste, race, sex, place of birth, etc. Ambedkar was highly against the practice of discrimination and was publicly opposing any such unequal treatment since he gave his speech at the Round Table Conference. Now that he was appointed the Chairman of the Drafting Committee, he extensively argued for the civil liberties of the depressed classes and abolition of the practice of untouchability.
Article 17 of the Constitution which states the provision of “Abolition of untouchability”, was incorporated by Dr. Ambedkar and we see today that following his efforts, untouchability is banned in India and is punishable under the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1965 and Prevention of Atrocities (Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes) Act, 1989. It was Ambedkar who showed the path of social equality and helped the depressed classes to gain recognition of the outer world. Apart from Article 17, Ambedkar considered the right to equal opportunity to be a very important right given to the citizens of India under Article 16 because by exercising this right, every person can exercise the opportunity given in a particular field irrespective of the religion, caste, race, sex, descent, residence, place of birth or any of them. So, this was a progressive step aimed at the upliftment of the downtrodden section.
The Constitution guarantees the Right to Constitutional remedies under Article 32. Ambedkar regarded this provision as the “heart and soul of the Constitution”. It provides protection to the citizens of India from exploitation at the hands of public authorities and lets them enforce their fundamental rights in the Supreme Court if violated. The reason why Ambedkar considered it to be very significant was that it activated expeditious justice delivery. His acute insight on humanitarian subjects helped the Constituent Assembly to include such rights and created a permanent impact on the constitutional setup of the nation.
Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP)
Articles 36 to 51 constitute Part IV of the Constitution and it deals with the Directive Principles of State Policy (DPSP). The DPSP are the obligations or duties imposed on both Central and State governments to establish a welfare society; Dr. Ambedkar defined it as a novel feature of the Constitution as, interestingly, it specifies the guidelines for the State to follow to provide socio-economic justice to the citizens of the country. It includes equal pay for equal work for both men & women, adequate means of livelihood, right to public assistance, uniform civil code, and many other welfare provisions for society in general. It has to be noted that the DPSP is non-justifiable in nature and the reason behind why it can’t be enforced are the practical problems that the Constitution-makers felt. India did not have enough financial resources to fulfil the needs to attain the welfare guaranteed under DPSP. Moreover, the diversity within the Indian society was a big hindrance in implementing these provisions justifiably.
Dr Ambedkar believed that Part IV was very significant in providing social justice to the people and can be proved to be beneficial for the depressed classes. For example, Article 38 provides for social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of national life. Also, it forbids inequality in various aspects like income, status, opportunities, etc. irrespective of their place or job. Therefore, it can be said that the objective of Ambedkar to strengthen the position of depressed classes was achieved through DPSP as well as it upheld the principles of socio-economic justice.
In the Parliamentary form of democracy, the Prime Minister is the real head of the state. The Monarch or the President is the nominal head only. Dr. Ambedkar strongly advocated the idea of Parliamentary democracy for India since the enactment of the Government of India Act, 1935. He believed that the Parliamentary form of government is a more stable form because it is more responsible as it lacks authoritarianism and the members of the parliament can ask questions and prevent the government from passing draconian laws. The features of the Parliamentary form aligned with Ambedkar’s principles of social democracy. His social democracy consisted of politicians with high standards of political morality, honesty, integrity and strength as well as a highly responsible Opposition party or parties committed to the welfare of the marginal and depressed classes.
Also, he was a strong supporter of the federal structure comprising the Union and independent states. He wanted to ensure public unity and national integrity, therefore in that respect, he proposed the unified judicial system and All India Civil Services for our country.
The feature of protective discrimination is closely related to Ambedkar’s objective of collective development of the individuals. It is reflected under both Part III & IV of the Constitution. Article 15 forbids the State to discriminate among individuals on certain grounds. And at the same time, it allows protective discrimination to uplift the weaker sections of the society like women and children. Article 16 calls for equality of opportunities and reservation in public sector jobs. This is considered to be Ambedkar’s major triumph as by introducing reservation policy, the depressed classes became able to exercise the principle of equality of opportunity practically on ground level and eventually served to raise the standard of living of those people.
Article 30 also deals with the welfare of the minorities and facilitates the establishment of their educational institutions. On similar lines, Schedule V & VI of the Constitution explicitly deal with the upliftment of the SCs and STs. All of it clearly shows how deliberately Ambedkar worked for the betterment of the downtrodden section of this country and today, the condition of these classes is far better than that in the first half of the twentieth century.
State socialism is the ideology in which the government holds control over the industries and various other social service sectors. Dr. Ambedkar supported state socialism in the draft Constitution as he suggested state ownership in agriculture with modified means of cultivation. He believed that an economy with state-controlled industries would let the democratic government presuppose a democratic form of society as it would induce a sense of social conscience in the minds of citizens. There is a famous statement of Ambedkar in this regard, “‘Rights are protected not by law but by the social and moral conscience of society”. But he faced opposition from the Assembly and thereby he could not incorporate state socialism under the part of fundamental rights in the Constitution.
Ambedkar felt that democracy is not merely a political aspect but forms the root of social relations among the people within the society. All the characteristic features of democracy such as equality, morality, freedom, etc. have to be adopted by society first, only then the adoption of the democratic system in the Constitution will be successful. To deny equality in social and economic life would adversely affect democratic notions. Therefore, he emphasised the need of having the people realise the rights and duties conferred on them by the State and not just establish the organs of the state because it will defeat the purpose of making India an independent democracy.
Finance Commission under Ambedkar
In 1951, Dr. Ambedkar established the Finance Commission of India. The Finance Commission is constituted by the President of India under Article 280 of the Constitution. According to the first point of his theory of state socialism, he believed in state ownership of agricultural land as it would be a more democratic way of maintaining the economy through the farm sector. The other two points of his theory were the maintenance of resources for production by the state, and a just distribution of these resources to the population. He emphasised a free economy with a stable Rupee which India adopted not long ago. In the Finance Commission, Ambedkar opposed income tax for low-income groups and he contributed to land revenue tax and excise duty policies to stabilise the national economy.
An insight into Ambedkarism
So far we have seen the instrumental involvement of Dr. Ambedkar in reforming the social condition of the untouchables and his efforts in drafting the Constitution of India. The dedication to work for the welfare of depressed classes and move their concerns to the house of discussion form the very element of Ambedkarism. He understood the needs of the people and wanted to create social equality in every sphere of life of the untouchables. The ambition of Ambedkar to raise the social acceptance of the Dalits was complemented by his political and economic insight on the basis of which he put in efforts to move this issue coherently in the Assembly so as to incorporate the provisions into the Constitution accordingly.
Ambedkar realised that caste-based discrimination has its roots in the philosophy of Hinduism. Manu is considered to be the writer of the ancient text Manusmriti, who gave the concept of social stratification and introduced the caste system. Ambedkar criticised it strikingly and envisioned the annihilation of caste in India. In order to achieve social equality in its totality, he felt that Hinduism has to be repudiated so that the evil of casteism can be eradicated. This motivated him to adopt an alternative religion, and thus, Ambedkar renounced Hinduism and adopted Buddhism. He believed that Buddhism could render salvation to the untouchables and be socially fit for a diverse India.
Dr. B.R. Ambedkar aimed at transforming India into a civilised and tolerant society through non-violent and Constitutional means. He himself belonged to a depressed class and right from his childhood he realised the need to bring societal changes in the country to improve the condition of the people of his community and other marginalised sections. His strong determination enabled him to gain such a position where he could himself bring this change, and he did it when appointed as the Chairman of the Drafting Committee. It is the result of his extensive involvement in the formation of the Constitution, that the weaker sections can enjoy their freedom granted to them under the supreme law of the nation.
Ambedkar had a far-sighted vision as he kept in mind the relevance of his thoughts and notions in the future as well. His work aimed not only at improving the socio-economic condition of the weaker sections at that time but also cared to let the future generations of India thrive in a tolerant India. However, still, after several decades India is not free from exploitation of the depressed classes but whatever has been done to uplift the marginalised communities over this period, is surely the result of the relentless efforts of Dr. Ambedkar. His introduction of reservation policy, abolition of untouchability, and many such contributions in this direction have largely benefitted plenty of people till now and they served the legacy of India. His firm determination to dedicate himself to the cause of the weaker sections is an inspiration for everyone today to believe in equality and seek collective progress. The pivotal role that he played in the drafting of the Constitution is an unforgettable effort that someone has ever done for our country and indeed, it makes him the father of the Indian Constitution.
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