SEATTLE, Washington — April 14, 2020, marked the 129th anniversary of the birth of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, who is widely credited as the architect of India’s Constitution. Dr. BR Ambedkar, who was a social reformer and India’s first law and justice minister, not only played a large role in the drafting of the Indian Constitution. He was also instrumental in the formation of the Reserve Bank of India, which is the central banking system of the country. Many politicians in India and elsewhere celebrate the birth anniversary of Ambedkar and his achievements. To celebrate the life and legacy of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, Congressman Ro Khanna [D-CA-17] introduced H.Res. 921.
The Life of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar
The youngest of 14 children, Ambedkar was born on April 14, 1891, in the Mhow military camp in India. His family belonged to the Mahar caste, which was considered one of the lowest castes. The caste was classified as “untouchable” and faced marginalization and discrimination.
Based on his caste, Ambedkar was segregated in school from children of higher status. Part of the discrimination Ambedkar faced, was that a person from a higher caste had to pour his drinking water because touching the water vessel was forbidden. On days when the school peon was not there, Ambedkar and other low caste children of his class could not get any drinking water. Ambedkar also could not sit inside the classroom. He had to sit outside on a sack brought from home.
After studying economics and political science and graduating from Elphinstone College in 1912, Ambedkar qualified for a state scholarship that enabled him to study at Columbia University in New York.
At Columbia, he studied economics and received his doctorate in the subject in 1927. according to Columbia, he was the “first highly educated, politically prominent member of the Hindu ‘untouchable’ caste.”
The Legacy of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar
Known as the Father of the Indian Constitution, Ambedkar championed civil rights for the untouchable caste. He wrote extensively about the injustices and inequalities of India’s caste system and crucially served as Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution. In 1936, Ambedkar penned the classic work Annihilation of Caste. Throughout his life, he fought for justice, liberty and equality in India.
Along with his role in drafting the Indian Constitution, Ambedkar contributed to Indian society as a jurist, socioeconomic reformer, civil rights leader, feminist and human rights advocate. He mobilized millions of people in India and around the world to rise up against discrimination of all kinds.
As an advocate for including women’s rights in the Indian Constitution, he explained, “I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved.”
Ambedkar served as India’s first Minister of Law and Justice for the better part of three years and established basic civil rights for hundreds of millions of Indians of the Dalit caste. He did so by including Article 17, which abolishes untouchability in India’s Constitution. He fought for labor reforms and won better working conditions, insurance and pay. Ambedkar was a lifelong advocate for democracy and human rights for all.
House Resolution 921
In commemoration of the life and legacy of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, on April 14, 2020, in the House of Representatives, Congressman Ro Khanna [D-CA-17] introduced H.Res. 921: Celebrating the 129th anniversary of the birth of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. The resolution has four Democratic cosponsors and is in the first stage of the legislative process. It was assigned to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the House Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, where it will be considered before potentially being considered by the House as a whole.
H.Res. 921 marks the 129th anniversary of Ambedkar’s birth and commends his accomplishments, including his central role in establishing the Constitution of India. The resolution recognizes that liberty, equality and justice are vital human rights for all people and condemns discrimination based on birth-descent, in all forms. It declares Ambedkar’s profound impact in helping to further these rights, which is certainly an achievement worth celebrating.
– Sarah Frazer