Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

Photo Credit : High Court of Bombay

Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

CA Speech - 17 Dec 1946

Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891-1956) was born on 14 April 1891 in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh. He completed his primary schooling in Satara, Maharashtra and completed his secondary education from Elphinstone High School in Bombay. His education was achieved in the face of significant discrimination, for he belonged to the Scheduled Caste (then considered as ‘untouchables’). In his autobiographical note ‘Waiting for a Visa’, he recalled how he was not allowed to drink water from the common water tap at his school, writing, "no peon, no water".

Dr Ambedkar graduated from Bombay University in 1912 with a B.A. in Economics and Political Science. On account of his excellent performance at college, in 1913 he was awarded a scholarship by Sayajirao Gaikwad, then Maharaja (King) of Baroda state to pursue his M.A. and Ph.D. at Columbia University in New York, USA. His Master's thesis in 1916 was titled “The Administration and Finance of the East India Company”. He submitted his Ph.D. thesis on “The Evolution of Provincial Finance in India: A Study in the Provincial Decentralization of Imperial Finance”.

After Columbia, Dr. Ambedkar moved to London, where he registered at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) to study economics, and enrolled in Grey’s Inn to study law. However, due to lack of funds, he had to return to India in 1917. In 1918, he became a Professor of Political Economy at Sydenham College, Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay). During this time, he submitted a statement to the Southborough Committee demanding universal adult franchise.

In 1920, with the financial assistance from Chatrapati Shahuji Maharaj of Kolhapur, a personal loan from a friend and his savings from his time in India, Dr. Ambedkar returned to London to complete his education. In 1922, he was called to the bar and became a barrister-at-law. He also completed his M.S.c. and D.S.c. from the LSE. His doctoral thesis was later published as “The Problem of the Rupee”.

After his return to India, Dr Ambedkar founded Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha (Society for Welfare of the Ostracized) and led social movements such as Mahad Satyagraha in 1927 to demand justice and equal access to public resources for the historically oppressed castes of the Indian society. In the same year, he entered the Bombay Legislative Council as a nominated member.

Subsequently, Dr. Ambedkar made his submissions before the Indian Statutory Commission also known as the ‘Simon Commission’ on constitutional reforms in 1928. The reports of the Simon Commission resulted in the three roundtable conferences between 1930-32, where Dr. Ambedkar was invited to make his submissions.

In 1935, Dr. Ambedkar was appointed as the Principal of Government Law College, Mumbai, where he was teaching as a Professor since 1928. Thereafter, he was appointed as the Labour Member (1942-46) in the Viceroy’s Executive Council.

In 1946, he was elected to the Constituent Assembly of India. On 15 August 1947, he took oath as the first Law Minister of independent India. Subsequently, he was elected Chairperson of the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly, and steered the process of drafting of India’s Constitution. Mahavir Tyagi, a member of the Constituent Assembly, described Dr. Ambedkar as “the main artist” who “laid aside his brush and unveiled the picture for the public to see and comment upon”. Dr. Rajendra Prasad, who presided over the Constituent Assembly and later became the first President of the Indian Republic, said: “Sitting in the Chair and watching the proceedings from day to day, I have realised as nobody else could have, with what zeal and devotion the members of the Drafting Committee and especially its Chairman, Dr. Ambedkar in spite of his indifferent health, have worked. We could never make a decision which was or could be ever so right as when we put him on the Drafting Committee and made him its Chairman. He has not only justified his selection but has added luster to the work which he has done.”

After the first General Election in 1952, he became a member of the Rajya Sabha. He was also awarded an honorary doctorate degree from Columbia University in the same year. In 1953, he was also awarded another honorary doctorate from Osmania University, Hyderabad.

Dr. Ambedkar's health worsened in 1955 due to prolonged illness. He passed away in his sleep on 6 December 1956 in Delhi.

  • Vasant Moon (eds.), Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings And Speeches, (Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India, 2019) (Re-print)
  • Dhananjay Keer, Dr. Ambedkar Life and Mission, (Popular Prakashan, 2019 Re-print)
  • Ashok Gopal, A Part Apart: Life and Thought of B.R. Ambedkar, (Navayana Publishing Pvt. Ltd., 2023)
  • Narendra Jadhav, Ambedkar: Awakening India's Social Conscience, (Konark Publishers Pvt. Ltd., 2014).
  • William Gould, Santosh Dass and Christophe Jaffrelot (eds.), Ambedkar In London, (C. Hurst and Co. Publishers Ltd., 2022).
  • Sukhadeo Thorat and Narender Kumar, B.R. Ambedkar: Perspectives on Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies (Oxford University Press, 2009).
  • Constituent Assembly Debates