14th April – Dr. Ambedkar’s birthday
Posted by bethechange on April 14, 2006
Ambedkar was a leader in the struggle for Indian independence, the architect of the new nation's constitution, and the champion of civil rights for the (then) 60 million members of the "untouchable" caste, to which he belonged. He spoke and wrote ceaselessly on behalf of "untouchables," but his passion for justice was broad: in 1950 he resigned from his position as the country's first minister of law when Nehru's cabinet refused to pass the Women's Rights Bill. Ambedkar was committed to maintaining his independence, and many of the positions he staked out in a long and complex relationship with Gandhi – on the future of Hinduism, for example – remain central to debate within Indian society.
Ambedkar received a scholarship to Columbia University from the Maharajah of Baroda, who would deal with him only through an intermediary. He earned an M.A. in 1915 and then a doctorate at the London School of Economics, returning to Columbia University for a Ph.D. that he received in 1928. In 1952 Columbia presented him with an honorary doctorate for his service as "a great social reformer and a valiant upholder of human rights." In 1995, a bronze bust of Ambedkar was donated to Lehman Library by the Federation of Ambedkarite and Buddhist Organizations of the United Kingdom.
At Columbia University, Ambedkar studied under John Dewey, who inspired many of his ideas about equality and social justice. Ambedkar later recounted that at Columbia he experienced social equality for the first time. "The best friends I have had in my life," he told the New York Times in 1930, "were some of my classmates at Columbia and my great professors, John Dewey, James Shotwell, Edwin Seligman, and James Harvey Robinson."
"My final words of advice to you is – Educate, Agitate, Organise – have faith in yourself. With justice on our side, I do not see how we can lose our battle. The battle to me is a matter of joy. The battle is in the fullest sense spiritual. There is nothing material or social in it. For ours is a battle not for wealth or for power. It is a battle for freedom. It is a battle for the reclamation of the human personality." –Dr.B.R.Ambedkar.