Death of Dr. B R Ambedkar - [December 6, 1956] This Day in History

6 December 1956

Dr. B R Ambedkar passed away.


What happened?

On 6 December 1956, India’s first Law Minister and the chief architect of India’s Constitution Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar passed away in Delhi.

Dr. B R Ambedkar

  • Ambedkar was born in Mhow in the Central Provinces (modern-day Madhya Pradesh) on 14 April 1891 to Subedar Ramji Maloji Sakpal and and Bhimabai Sakpal. The family’s native place was Ambadawe town in Ratnagiri District in Maharashtra.
  • Ambedkar belonged to the Mahar caste which was considered ‘untouchable’ then. In school, he faced discrimination. He was not allowed to sit inside the class and had to sit on a gunny sack which he had to carry home after class. He could quench his thirst only if another person poured water from a height as he was not allowed to touch the water or the vessel.
  • In 1897, the family moved to Mumbai and Ambedkar was enrolled at the Elphinstone High School becoming the only Dalit there.
  • In 1907, he became the first untouchable to pass his matriculation from the school and be admitted to the Elphinstone College. He was a stellar student and secured his degree in economics and political science from the University of Bombay. He started work for the Baroda State.
  • Funded by the Baroda State Scholarship, 22-year old Ambedkar went to pursue further studies at the Columbia University in New York City, USA.
  • He obtained his MA in economics and presented two theses ‘Ancient Indian Commerce’ and ‘National Dividend of India — A Historic and Analytical Study’. In 1927, he received his doctoral degree in economics for his third thesis. He presented his paper ‘Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development’ in New York in May 1916 at an anthropological seminar by Alexander Goldenweiser.
  • After that he went to London where he studied both law and economics. But he had to return to India without completing his course since his scholarship had expired.
  • He later returned to London to finish his thesis which was titled ‘The problem of the rupee: Its origin and its solution’. He completed his D.Sc. in Economics and was called to the Bar in 1923.
  • He worked for the State of Baroda since his education had been sponsored by the State. He quit that job after a brief stint. He then worked as an accountant, a tutor and also started an investment consulting business, but it failed when clients realised that he was an untouchable.
  • In 1918, he joined the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics, Mumbai as a Professor of Political Economy.
  • Ambedkar was opposed to caste-based discrimination of any kind and also rejected the Aryan Invasion Theory.
  • He became a leader of the Dalit community and fought for their social and political rights.
  • He strongly advocated creating separate electorates and reservations for Dalits or depressed classes.
  • He established the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha aimed at promoting education among the untouchables as a means to uplift them. He also started journals like Mook Nayak, Equality Janta and Bahishkrit Bharat in which he advanced Dalit rights.
  • He also launched many movements against the practice of untouchability. He led marches and movements to open up public drinking water resources for untouchables. He also started a movement for Dailts to get the right to enter Hindu temples.
  • Ambedkar publicly condemned Hindu scriptures which were perceived as promoting caste-based discrimination.
  • Ambedkar signed the historic Poona Pact with Mahatma Gandhi where they came to an agreement on how to go about having separate electorates for the Depressed Classes.
  • He founded a political party the Independent Labour Party in 1936. It contested and won seats to the Central Legislative Assembly in 1937.
  • In his book, ‘The Annihilation of Caste’, Ambedkar vehemently criticised Hindu religious leaders and the caste system. He also rebuked Gandhi in it.
  • He had also served as Minister for Labour in the Viceroy’s Executive Council.
  • His party transformed into the Scheduled Castes Federation.
  • After independence, Ambedkar was invited by the Congress-led government to be the country’s first Law Minister. He was also appointed the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly, whose mandate it was to draft a new constitution for India.
  • Ambedkar was successful in winning the assembly’s support for reservation of jobs in the civil service, and in schools and colleges.
  • He was opposed to Article 370 which gave special status to Jammu & Kashmir.
  • He also recommended the adoption of a Uniform Civil Code.
  • As an economics, he was pro-industrialisation and also stressed on the need for investment in agriculture for growth in that sector. He established the Finance Commission of India in 1951.
  • In 1955, Ambedkar founded the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha. On 14 October 1956, he converted to Buddhism in a public ceremony in Nagpur. This was followed by mass conversions by Dalits to Buddhism.
  • Baba Saheb Ambedkar, who had been suffering from diabetes since 1948 died in his sleep on 6 December 1956 at Delhi. He was cremated according to the Buddhist tradition and his cremation was attended by about 5 lakh people.

Some of Ambedkar’s works:

  • Annihilation of Caste
  • Who Were the Shudras?
  • Waiting for a Visa
  • The Buddha and His Dhamma
  • Pakistan or Partition of India
  • Buddha or Karl Marx
Also on this day

1732: Birth of Warren Hastings 1952: The first Indo-Soviet trade agreement was signed. 1992: The demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya.

See previous ‘This Day in History’ here.

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