Bhimrao Ambedkar was born to Bhimabai and Ramji on 14 April 1891 in Mhow Army Cantonment, Central Provinces (Madhya Pradesh). Ambedkar’s father was a Subedar in the Indian Army and after his retirement in 1894, the family moved to Satara, also in Central Provinces. Shortly after this, Bhimrao’s mother passed away. Four years later, his father remarried and the family shifted to Bombay. In 1906, 15 year old Bhimrao married Ramabai, a 9 year old girl. His father Ramji Sakpal died in Bombay, in 1912.
Throughout his childhood, Ambedkar faced the stigmas of caste discrimination. Hailing from the Hindu Mahar caste, his family was viewed as “untouchable” by the upper classes. The discrimination and humiliation haunted Ambedkar at the Army school. Fearing social outcry, the teachers would segregate the students of lower class from that of Brahmins and other upper classes. The untouchable students were often asked by the teacher to sit outside the class. After shifting to Satara, he was enrolled at a local school but the change of school did not change the fate of young Bhimrao. Discrimination followed wherever he went. After coming back from the US, Ambedkar was appointed as the Defence secretary to the King of Baroda but there also he had to face the humiliation for being an ‘Untouchable’.
Movement Against Caste Discrimination
After returning to India, Bhimrao Ambedkar decided to fight against the caste discrimination that plagued him throughout his life. In his testimony before the Southborough Committee in preparation of the Government of India Act in 1919, Ambedkar opined that there should be separate electoral system for the Untouchables and other marginalised communities. He contemplated he idea of reservations for Dalits and other religious outcasts.
Ambedkar began to find ways to reach to the people and make them understand the drawbacks of the prevailing social evils. He launched a newspaper called “Mooknayaka” (leader of the silent) in 1920 with the assistance of Shahaji II, the Maharaja of Kolkapur. It is said that after hearing his speech at a rally, Shahu IV, an influential ruler of Kolhapur, dined with the leader. The incident also created a huge uproar in the socio-political arena of the country.
Ambedkar started his legal career after passing the Bar course in Gray’s Inn. He applied his litigious skills in advocating cases of caste discrimination. His resounding victory in defending several non-Brahmin leaders accusing the Brahmins of ruining India, established the bases of his future battles.
By 1927, Ambedkar launched full-fledged movements for Dalit rights. He demanded public drinking water sources open to all and right for all castes to enter temples. He openly condemned Hindu Scriptures advocating discrimination and arranged symbolic demonstrations to enter the Kalaram Temple in Nashik.
In 1932, the Poona Pact was signed between Dr. Ambedkar and Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, representative of the Hindu Brahmins relinquishing reservation of seats for the untouchable classes in the Provisional legislatures, within the general electorate. These classes were later designated as Scheduled Classes and Scheduled Tribes.