BR Ambedkar: A man more than just a Dalit icon

Edited By: Gravitas desk WION
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Apr 14, 2021, 10:57 PM(IST)

The Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly on 26 November 1949 while it came into effect on 26 January 1950. (Image source: Wikimedia Commons) Photograph:( Others )

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Ambedkar was not just a Dalit leader but also a maker of modern India and a beacon of social justice

He drafted the Indian republic's most sacred book and called on millions to dream of equality and justice.

Dr BR Ambedkar pioneered good trouble in India. He was steadfast in his beliefs. His arguments were rooted in logic and his passion for justice inspired a generation of political leaders.

Today marks 130 years of his birth. We celebrate it every year as Equality Day but beyond the symbolism, what is Ambedkar's legacy?

Ambedkar was a prolific writer. His philosophy and teachings are spread through hundreds of works but there are some trends that persisted throughout his life.

Also read | PM Modi pays tribute to Babasaheb Ambedkar on his 130th birth anniversary

His childhood was shaped by the injustices of British India. It was a time when the caste system was the norm. The everyday discrimination turned him into a revolutionary. He was disgusted with the way the Dalits were treated in India.

The rebellious boy soon turned into a gifted student. He earned degrees from Columbia University and the London School of Economics. He excelled in economics, sociology, history and philosophy.

It is important to talk about Ambedkar's educational prowess because this would come to define him — a man who believed in logic and rationality.

Most social reformers used religion to oppose discrimination, including Mahatma Gandhi who used the word 'Harijan' (children of God) to describe Dalits.

However, Ambedkar didn't bank on religion to fight casteism. For him, the system was flawed — religion or no religion —which is why he converted to Buddhism in 1956. His peers believed they could reform Hinduism from within, but he disagreed.

However, to be honest, India does not remember Ambedkar as a man of logic. He has forever been christened the Dalit icon — which he was and still continues to remain one.

Ambedkar has done more for India's Dalits than any other leader, but there is so much more to him.

"I measure the progress of a community by the degree of progress which women have achieved," he once remarked. Through this, we can also see him as a feminist icon.

He also said, "A great man is different from an eminent one -- in that he is ready to be the servant of the society", which is important for today's India.

Ambedkar was a civil servant par excellence. Today, the Indian civil service is mired in inefficiency and corruption and has gone from being a service to merely a job.

Maybe Ambedkar's words can spur a change. This is a man who had strong opinions on most issues, and unlike the so-called commentators of today, Ambedkar's opinions were based on logic.

His take on spirituality and intellect was clear: "Cultivation of mind should be the ultimate aim of human existence".

Today, they are more relevant than ever. Society has been divided into echo chambers. Everyone thinks they are right and no one wants to listen to each other. So, cultivating the mind is a good idea. The first step in that is listening to all voices.

So looking back at his life and times, we can describe Ambedkar as a common thread through most of his beliefs.

He was a man who fought for what was due, not just to Dalits but to women, the elderly and to the poor.

Unfortunately, today, Dalit leaders have appropriated him and reduced him to a picture on billboards.

Our message today is that Ambedkar was not just a Dalit leader but also a maker of modern India and a beacon of social justice.

The mettle of one's ideology is tested only by time. More than half a century after his death, Ambedkar and his beliefs are still relevant today and it is a testament to his intellect and to his sense of right and wrong.

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