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Part III - Fundamental Rights is a charter of rights contained in the Constitution of

India. It guarantees civil liberties such that all Indians can lead their lives in peace and
harmony as citizens of India. These include individual rights common to most liberal
democracies, such as equality before law, freedom of speech and expression, freedom of
association and peaceful assembly, freedom to practice religion, and the right to
constitutional remedies for the protection of civil rights by means of writs such as habeas
corpus. Violations of these rights result in punishments as prescribed in the Indian Penal
Code, subject to discretion of the judiciary. The Fundamental Rights are defined as basic
human freedoms which every Indian citizen has the right to enjoy for a proper and
harmonious development of personality. These rights universally apply to all citizens,
irrespective of race, place of birth, religion, caste, creed, colour or sex. They are
enforceable by the courts, subject to certain restrictions. The Rights have their origins in
many sources, including England's Bill of Rights, the United States Bill of Rights and
France's Declaration of the Rights of Man.

The seven fundamental rights recognised by the constitution are[1]

1. The right to equality

2. The right to freedom of speech and expression
3. The right to freedom from exploitation
4. The right to freedom of religion
5. Cultural and educational rights
6. The right to constitutional remedies
7. The right to education

Rights mean those freedoms which are essential for personal good as well as the good of
the community. The rights guaranteed under the Constitution of India are fundamental as
they have been incorporated into the "fundamental Law of the land" and are enforceable
in a court of law. However, this does not mean that they are absolute or that they are
immune from Constitutional amendment.[2]

Fundamental rights for Indians have also been aimed at overturning the inequalities of
pre-independence social practices. Specifically, they have also been used to abolish
untouchability and hence prohibit discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste,
sex, or place of birth. They also forbid trafficking of human beings and forced labour.
They also protect cultural and educational rights of ethnic and religious minorities by
allowing them to preserve their languages and also establish and administer their own
education institutions.


• 1 Genesis
• 2 Significance and characteristics
• 3 Right to equality
• 4 Right to freedom
• 5 Right against exploitation
• 6 Right to freedom of religion
• 7 Cultural and educational rights
• 8 Right to constitutional remedies
• 9 Critical analysis
• 10 Amendments
o 10.1 Right to property
• 11 Right To Education
• 12 See also
• 13 References

• 14 Footnotes

[edit] Genesis
See also: Indian independence movement

The development of constitutionally guaranteed fundamental human rights in India was

inspired by historical examples such as England's Bill of Rights (1689), the United States
Bill of Rights (approved on 17 September 1787, final ratification on 15 December 1791)
and France's Declaration of the Rights of Man (created during the revolution of 1789, and
ratified on 26 August 1789).[2] Under the educational system of British Raj, students were
exposed to ideas of democracy, human rights and European political history. The Indian
student community in England was further inspired by the workings of parliamentary
democracy and British political parties.

In 1919, the Rowlatt Acts gave extensive powers to the British government and police,
and allowed indefinite arrest and detention of individuals, warrant-less searches and
seizures, restrictions on public gatherings, and intensive censorship of media and
publications. The public opposition to this act eventually led to mass campaigns of non-
violent civil disobedience throughout the country demanding guaranteed civil freedoms,
and limitations on government power. Indians, who were seeking independence and their
own government, were particularly influenced by the independence of Ireland and the
development of the Irish constitution. Also, the directive principles of state policy in Irish
constitution were looked upon by the people of India as an inspiration for the independent
India's government to comprehensively tackle complex social and economic challenges
across a vast, diverse nation and population.

In 1928, the Nehru Commission composing of representatives of Indian political parties

proposed constitutional reforms for India that apart from calling for dominion status for
India and elections under universal suffrage, would guarantee rights deemed
fundamental, representation for religious and ethnic minorities, and limit the powers of
the government. In 1931, the Indian National Congress (the largest Indian political party
of the time) adopted resolutions committing itself to the defense of fundamental civil
rights, as well as socio-economic rights such as the minimum wage and the abolition of
untouchability and serfdom.[3] Committing themselves to socialism in 1936, the Congress
leaders took examples from the constitution of the erstwhile USSR, which inspired the
fundamental duties of citizens as a means of collective patriotic responsibility for national
interests and challenges.

When India obtained independence on 15 August 1947, the task of developing a

constitution for the nation was undertaken by the Constituent Assembly of India,
composing of elected representatives under the presidency of Rajendra Prasad. While
members of Congress composed of a large majority, Congress leaders appointed persons
from diverse political backgrounds to responsibilities of developing the constitution and
national laws.[4] Notably, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar became the chairperson of the
drafting committee, while Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel became
chairpersons of committees and sub-committees responsible for different subjects. A
notable development during that period having significant effect on the Indian
constitution took place on 10 December 1948 when the United Nations General
Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and called upon all
member states to adopt these rights in their respective constitutions.

The fundamental rights were included in the First Draft Constitution (February 1948), the
Second Draft Constitution (17 October 1948) and final Third Draft Constitution (26
November 1949) prepared by the Drafting Committee.

[edit] Significance and characteristics

The fundamental rights were included in the constitution because they were considered
essential for the development of the personality of every individual and to preserve
human dignity. The writers of the constitution regarded democracy of no avail if civil
liberties, like freedom of speech and religion were not recognized and protected by the
State.[5] According to them, "democracy" is, in essence, a government by opinion and
therefore, the means of formulating public opinion should be secured to the people of a
democratic nation. For this purpose, the constitution guaranteed to all the citizens of India
the freedom of speech and expression and various other freedoms in the form of the
fundamental rights.[6]


Theoretical distinctions

Natural and legal rights

Claim rights and liberty rights
Negative and positive rights
Individual and Group rights

Human rights divisions

Three generations
Civil and political
Economic, social and cultural

Right holders

Animals · Humans
Men · Women
Fathers · Mothers
Children · Youth · Fetuses · Students
Indigenes · Minorities · LGBT

Other groups of rights

Authors' · Digital · Labor

Linguistic · Reproductive


All people, irrespective of race, religion, caste or sex, have been given the right to move
the Supreme Court and the High Courts for the enforcement of their fundamental rights.
It is not necessary that the aggrieved party has to be the one to do so. Poverty stricken
people may not have the means to do so and therefore, in the public interest, anyone can
commence litigation in the court on their behalf. This is known as "Public interest
litigation".[7] In some cases, High Court judges have acted on their own on the basis of
newspaper reports.

These fundamental rights help not only in protection but also the prevention of gross
violations of human rights. They emphasize on the fundamental unity of India by
guaranteeing to all citizens the access and use of the same facilities, irrespective of
background. Some fundamental rights apply for persons of any nationality whereas others
are available only to the citizens of India. The right to life and personal liberty is
available to all people and so is the right to freedom of religion. On the other hand,
freedoms of speech and expression and freedom to reside and settle in any part of the
country are reserved to citizens alone, including non-resident Indian citizens.[8] The right
to equality in matters of public employment cannot be conferred to overseas citizens of

Fundamental rights primarily protect individuals from any arbitrary state actions, but
some rights are enforceable against individuals.[10] For instance, the Constitution
abolishes untouchability and also prohibits begar. These provisions act as a check both
on state action as well as the action of private individuals. However, these rights are not
absolute or uncontrolled and are subject to reasonable restrictions as necessary for the
protection of general welfare. They can also be selectively curtailed. The Supreme Court
has ruled[11] that all provisions of the Constitution, including fundamental rights can be
amended. However, the Parliament cannot alter the basic structure of the constitution.
Features such as secularism and democracy fall under this category. Since the
fundamental rights can only be altered by a constitutional amendment, their inclusion is a
check not only on the executive branch, but also on the Parliament and state legislatures.

A state of national emergency has an adverse effect on these rights. Under such a state,
the rights conferred by Article 19 (freedoms of speech, assembly and movement, etc.)
remain suspended. Hence, in such a situation, the legislature may make laws which go
against the rights given in Article 19. Also, the President may by order suspend the right
to move court for the enforcement of other rights as well.

[edit] Right to equality

Right to equality is an important right provided for in Articles 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18 of
the constitution. It is the principal foundation of all other rights and liberties, and
guarantees the following:

• Equality before law: Article 14 of the constitution guarantees that all citizens shall
be equally protected by the laws of the country. It means that the State[5] cannot
discriminate against a citizen on the basis of caste, creed, colour, sex, religion or
place of birth.[13] According to the Electricity Act of 26 January 2003 the
Parliament has the power to create special courts[14] for the speedy trial of offences
committed by persons holding high offices. Creation of special courts is not a
violation of this right.

• Social equality and equal access to public areas: Article 15 of the constitution
states that no person shall be discriminated on the basis of caste, colour, language
etc. Every person shall have equal access to public places like public parks,
museums, wells, bathing ghats and temples etc. However, the State may make any
special provision for women and children. Special provisions may be made for the
advancements of any socially or educationally backward class or scheduled castes
or scheduled tribes.[15]
• Equality in matters of public employment: Article 16 of the constitution lays
down that the State cannot discriminate against anyone in the matters of
employment. All citizens can apply for government jobs. There are some
exceptions. The Parliament may enact a law stating that certain jobs can only be
filled by applicants who are domiciled in the area. This may be meant for posts
that require knowledge of the locality and language of the area. The State may
also reserve posts for members of backward classes, scheduled castes or
scheduled tribes which are not adequately represented in the services under the
State to bring up the weaker sections of the society. Also, there a law may be
passed which requires that the holder of an office of any religious institution shall
also be a person professing that particular religion.[16] According to the
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2003, this right shall not be conferred to Overseas
citizens of India.[9]

• Abolition of untouchability: Article 17 of the constitution abolishes the practice of

untouchability. Practice of untouchability is an offense and anyone doing so is
punishable by law.[17] The Untouchability Offences Act of 1955 (renamed to
Protection of Civil Rights Act in 1976) provided penalties for preventing a person
from entering a place of worship or from taking water from a tank or well.

• Abolition of Titles: Article 18 of the constitution prohibits the State from

conferring any titles. Citizens of India cannot accept titles from a foreign State.[18]
The British government had created an aristocratic class known as Rai Bahadurs
and Khan Bahadurs in India — these titles were also abolished. However,
Military and academic distinctions can be conferred on the citizens of India. The
awards of Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan cannot be used by the recipient as
a title and do not, accordingly, come within the constitutional prohibition".[19] The
Supreme Court, on 15 December 1995, upheld the validity of such awards.

[edit] Right to freedom

The Constitution of India contains the right to freedom, given in articles 19, 20, 21 and
22, with the view of guaranteeing individual rights that were considered vital by the
framers of the constitution. The right to freedom in Article 19 guarantees the following
six freedoms:[20]

• Freedom of speech and expression, which enable an individual to participate in

public activities. The phrase, "freedom of press" has not been used in Article 19,
but freedom of expression includes freedom of press. Reasonable restrictions can
be imposed in the interest of public order, security of State, decency or morality.

• Freedom to assemble peacefully without arms, on which the State can impose
reasonable restrictions in the interest of public order and the sovereignty and
integrity of India.
• Freedom to form associations or unions on which the State can impose reasonable
restrictions on this freedom in the interest of public order, morality and the
sovereignty and integrity of India.

• Freedom to move freely throughout the territory of India though reasonable

restrictions can be imposed on this right in the interest of the general public, for
example, restrictions may be imposed on movement and travelling, so as to
control epidemics.

• Freedom to reside and settle in any part of the territory of India which is also
subject to reasonable restrictions by the State in the interest of the general public
or for the protection of the scheduled tribes because certain safeguards as are
envisaged here seem to be justified to protect indigenous and tribal peoples from
exploitation and coercion.[21] Article 370 restricts citizens from other Indian states
and Kashmiri women who marry men from other states from purchasing land or
property in Jammu & Kashmir.[22]

• Freedom to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or

business on which the State may impose reasonable restrictions in the interest of
the general public. Thus, there is no right to carry on a business which is
dangerous or immoral. Also, professional or technical qualifications may be
prescribed for practicing any profession or carrying on any trade.

The constitution also guarantees the right to life and personal liberty, which in turn cites
specific provisions in which these rights are applied and enforced:

• Protection with respect to conviction for offences is guaranteed in the right to life
and personal liberty. According to Article 20, no one can be awarded punishment
which is more than what the law of the land prescribes at that time. This legal
axiom is based on the principle that no criminal law can be made retrospective,
that is, for an act to become an offence, the essential condition is that it should
have been an offence legally at the time of committing it. Moreover, no person
accused of any offence shall be compelled to be a witness against himself.
"Compulsion" in this article refers to what in law is called "Duress" (injury,
beating or unlawful imprisonment to make a person do something that he does not
want to do). This article is known as a safeguard against self incrimination. The
other principle enshrined in this article is known as the principle of double
jeopardy, that is, no person can be convicted twice for the same offence, which
has been derived from Anglo Saxon law. This principle was first established in
the Magna Carta.[23]

• Protection of life and personal liberty is also stated under right to life and personal
liberty. Article 21 declares that no citizen can be denied his life and liberty except
by law.[24] This means that a person's life and personal liberty can only be disputed
if that person has committed a crime. However, the right to life does not include
the right to die, and hence, suicide or an attempt thereof, is an offence. (Attempted
suicide being interpreted as a crime has seen many debates. The Supreme Court of
India gave a landmark ruling in the year 1994. The court repealed section 309 of
the Indian penal code, under which people attempting suicide could face
prosecution and prison terms of up to one year.[25] In the year 1996 however
another Supreme Court ruling nullified the earlier one.[26]) "Personal liberty"
includes all the freedoms which are not included in Article 19 (that is, the six
freedoms). The right to travel abroad is also covered under "personal liberty" in
Article 21.[27]

• In 2002, through the 86th Amendment Act, Article 21(A) was incorporated. It
made the right to primary education part of the right to freedom, stating that the
State would provide free and compulsory education to children from six to
fourteen years of age.[28] Six years after an amendment was made in the Indian
Constitution, the union cabinet cleared the Right to Education Bill in 2008. It is
now soon to be tabled in Parliament for approval before it makes a fundamental
right of every child to get free and compulsory education.[29]

• Rights of a person arrested under ordinary circumstances is laid down in the right
to life and personal liberty. No one can be arrested without being told the grounds
for his arrest. If arrested, the person has the right to defend himself by a lawyer of
his choice. Also an arrested citizen has to be brought before the nearest magistrate
within 24 hours. The rights of a person arrested under ordinary circumstances are
not available to an enemy alien. They are also not available to persons detained
under the Preventive Detention Act. Under preventive detention, the government
can imprison a person for a maximum of three months. It means that if the
government feels that a person being at liberty can be a threat to the law and order
or to the unity and integrity of the nation, it can detain or arrest that person to
prevent him from doing this possible harm. After three months such a case is
brought before an advisory board for review.[30]

The constitution also imposes restrictions on these rights. The government restricts these
freedoms in the interest of the independence, sovereignty and integrity of India. In the
interest of morality and public order, the government can also impose restrictions.
However, the right to life and personal liberty cannot be suspended. The six freedoms are
also automatically suspended or have restrictions imposed on them during a state of

[edit] Right against exploitation

Child labour and Begar is prohibited under Right against exploitation.

The right against exploitation, given in Articles 23 and 24, provides for two provisions,
namely the abolition of trafficking in human beings and Begar (forced labor),[31] and
abolition of employment of children below the age of 14 years in dangerous jobs like
factories and mines. Child labour is considered a gross violation of the spirit and
provisions of the constitution.[32] Begar, practised in the past by landlords, has been
declared a crime and is punishable by law. Trafficking in humans for the purpose of slave
trade or prostitution is also prohibited by law. An exception is made in employment
without payment for compulsory services for public purposes. Compulsory military
conscription is covered by this provision.[31]

[edit] Right to freedom of religion

Right to freedom of religion, covered in Articles 25, 26, 27 and 28, provides religious
freedom to all citizens of India. The objective of this right is to sustain the principle of
secularism in India. According to the Constitution, all religions are equal before the State
and no religion shall be given preference over the other. Citizens are free to preach,
practice and propagate any religion of their choice.

Religious communities can set up charitable institutions of their own. However, activities
in such institutions which are not religious are performed according to the laws laid down
by the government. Establishing a charitable institution can also be restricted in the
interest of public order, morality and health.[33] No person shall be compelled to pay taxes
for the promotion of a particular religion.[34] A State run institution cannot impart
education that is pro-religion.[35] Also, nothing in this article shall affect the operation of
any existing law or prevent the State from making any further law regulating or
restricting any economic, financial, political or other secular activity which may be
associated with religious practice, or providing for social welfare and reform.[36]

[edit] Cultural and educational rights

The Flag of India

As India is a country of many languages, religions, and cultures, the Constitution

provides special measures, in Articles 29 and 30, to protect the rights of the minorities.
Any community which has a language and a script of its own has the right to conserve
and develop it. No citizen can be discriminated against for admission in State or State
aided institutions.[37]

All minorities, religious or linguistic, can set up their own educational institutions in
order to preserve and develop their own culture. In granting aid to institutions, the State
cannot discriminate against any institution on the basis of the fact that it is administered
by a minority institution.[38] But the right to administer does not mean that the State can
not interfere in case of maladministration. In a precedent-setting judgment in 1980, the
Supreme Court held that "the State can certainly take regulatory measures to promote the
efficiency and excellence of educational standards. It can also issue guidelines for
ensuring the security of the services of the teachers or other employees of the institution.
In another landmark judgement delivered on 31 October 2002, the Supreme Court ruled
that in case of aided minority institutions offering professional courses, admission could
only be through a common entrance test conducted by State or a university. Even an
unaided minority institution ought not to ignore the merit of the students for admission.

[edit] Right to constitutional remedies

Right to constitutional remedies empowers the citizens to move a court of law in case of
any denial of the fundamental rights. For instance, in case of imprisonment, the citizen
can ask the court to see if it is according to the provisions of the law of the country. If the
court finds that it is not, the person will have to be freed. This procedure of asking the
courts to preserve or safeguard the citizens' fundamental rights can be done in various
ways. The courts can issue various kinds of writs. These writs are habeas corpus,
mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari. When a national or state emergency
is declared, this right is suspended by the central government.[39]

[edit] Critical analysis

The fundamental rights have been criticised for many reasons. Political groups have
demanded that the right to work, the right to economic assistance in case of
unemployment, old age, and similar rights be enshrined as constitutional guarantees to
address issues of poverty and economic insecurity,[40] though these provisions have been
enshrined in the Directive Principles of state policy.[41] The right to freedom and personal
liberty has a number of limiting clauses, and thus have been criticized for failing to check
the sanctioning of powers often deemed "excessive".[40] There is also the provision of
preventive detention and suspension of fundamental rights in times of Emergency. The
provisions of acts like the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA) and the National
Security Act (NSA) are a means of countering the fundamental rights, because they
sanction excessive powers with the aim of fighting internal and cross-border terrorism
and political violence, without safeguards for civil rights.[40] The phrases "security of
State", "public order" and "morality" are of wide implication. People of alternate
sexuality is criminalized in India with prison term up to 10 years. The meaning of phrases
like "reasonable restrictions" and "the interest of public order" have not been explicitly
stated in the constitution, and this ambiguity leads to unnecessary litigation.[40] The
freedom to assemble peacably and without arms is exercised, but in some cases, these
meetings are broken up by the police through the use of non-fatal methods.[42][43]

"Freedom of press" has not been included in the right to freedom, which is necessary for
formulating public opinion and to make freedom of expression more legitimate.[40]
Employment of child labour in hazardous job environments has been reduced, but their
employment even in non-hazardous jobs, including their prevalent employment as
domestic help violates the spirit and ideals of the constitution. More than 16.5 million
children are employed and working in India.[44] India was ranked 88 out of 159 in 2005,
according to the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials
and politicians worldwide.[45] The right to equality in matters regarding public
employment shall not be conferred to Overseas citizens of India, according to the
Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2003.[9]

[edit] Amendments
Changes to the fundamental rights require a constitutional amendment which has to be
passed by a special majority of both houses of Parliament. This means that an amendment
requires the approval of two-thirds of the members present and voting. However, the
number of members voting should not be less than the simple majority of the house —
whether the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha.

The right to education at elementary level has been made one of the fundamental rights
under the Eighty-Sixth Amendment of 2002[28].

[edit] Right to property

The Constitution originally provided for the right to property under Articles 19 and 31.
Article 19 guaranteed to all citizens the right to acquire, hold and dispose off property.
Article 31 provided that "no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of
law." It also provided that compensation would be paid to a person whose property has
been taken for public purposes.
The provisions relating to the right to property were changed a number of times. The
Forty-Forth Amendment of 1978 deleted the right to property from the list of
fundamental rights[46] A new provision, Article 300-A, was added to the constitution
which provided that "no person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of
law". Thus if a legislature makes a law depriving a person of his property, there would be
no obligation on the part of the State to pay anything as compensation. The aggrieved
person shall have no right to move the court under Article 32. Thus, the right to property
is no longer a fundamental right, though it is still a constitutional right. If the government
appears to have acted unfairly, the action can be challenged in a court of law by

The liberalisation of the economy and the government's initiative to set up special
economic zones has led to many protests by farmers and have led to calls for the
reinstatement of the fundamental right to private property[47].The Supreme Court has sent
a notice to the governmentt questioning why the right should not be brought back.

As in 2007 the supreme court unanimously said that the fundamental rights are a basic
structure of the constitution and cannot be removed or diluted.

[edit] Right To Education

On 1st April 2010, India joined a group of few countries in the world, with a historic law
making education a fundamental right of every child coming into force. Making
elementary education an entitlement for children in the 6-14 age group, the Right of
Children to Free and Compulsory Education Act, 2009 will directly benefit children who
do not go to school at present.

In an unprecedented move, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced the

operationalisation of the Act. For the first time, education will become a constitutional
right. It is a tryst with destiny in the area of education. Children, who had either dropped
out of schools or never been to any educational institution, will get elementary education
as it will be binding on the part of the local and State governments to ensure that all
children in the 6-14 age group get schooling. As per the Act, private educational
institutions should reserve 25 per cent seats for children from the weaker sections of
society. The Centre and the States have agreed to share the financial burden in the ratio of
55:45, while the Finance Commission has given Rs. 25,000 crore to the States for
implementing the Act. The Centre has approved an outlay of Rs.15,000 crore for 2010-

The school management committee or the local authority will identify the drop-outs or
out-of-school children aged above six and admit them in classes appropriate to their age
after giving special training.

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (Marathi: डॉ.भीमराव रामजी आंबेडकर [bʱiˑmraˑw raˑmʥiˑ

aˑmbeˑɽkər]) (14 April 1891 — 6 December 1956), also known as Babasaheb, was an
Indian jurist, political leader, Buddhist activist, philosopher, thinker, anthropologist,
historian, orator, prolific writer, economist, scholar, editor, revolutionary and a revivalist
for Buddhism in India. He was also the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. Born
into a poor Mahar, then Untouchable, family, Ambedkar spent his whole life fighting
against social discrimination, the system of Chaturvarna — the categorization of Hindu
society into four varnas — and the Hindu caste system. He is also credited with
providing a spark for the conversion of hundreds of thousands of Dalits with his
Ambedkar(ite) Buddhism. Ambedkar has been honoured with the Bharat Ratna, India's
highest civilian award.

Overcoming numerous social and financial obstacles, Ambedkar became one of the first
"Dalit" to obtain a college education in India. Eventually earning law degrees and
multiple doctorates for his study and research in law, economics and political science
from Columbia University and the London School of Economics, Ambedkar returned
home as a famous scholar and practiced law for a few years before publishing journals
advocating political rights and social freedom for India's untouchables. He is regarded as
a Bodhisattva by Indian Buddhists even though he never claimed himself to be a


• 1 Early life
• 2 Fight against untouchability
• 3 Poona Pact
• 4 Political career
• 5 Pakistan or The Partition of India
• 6 Architect of India's constitution
• 7 Conversion to Buddhism
• 8 Death
• 9 Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, writings and speeches
• 10 Criticism and legacy
• 11 In popular culture
• 12 Notes and References
• 13 Further reading
• 14 External links & Writings

• 15 Headline text

[edit] Early life

Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born in the British-founded town and military cantonment
of Mhow in the Central Provinces (now in Madhya Pradesh).[2] He was the 14th and last
child of Ramji Maloji Sakpal and Bhimabai.[3] His family was of Marathi background
from the town of Ambavade in the Ratnagiri district of modern-day Maharashtra. They
belonged to the Hindu, Mahar caste, who were treated as so called untouchables and
subjected to intense socio-economic discrimination. Ambedkar's ancestors had for long
been in the employment of the army of the British East India Company, and his father
Ramji Sakpal served in the Indian Army at the Mhow cantonment. He had received a
degree of formal education in Marathi and English, and encouraged his children to learn
and work hard at school.

Belonging to the Kabir Panth, Ramji Sakpal encouraged his children to read the Hindu
classics. He used his position in the army to lobby for his children to study at the
government school, as they faced resistance owing to their caste. Although able to attend
school, Ambedkar and other untouchable children were segregated and given no attention
or assistance by the teachers. They were not allowed to sit inside the class. Even if they
needed to drink water somebody from a higher caste would have to pour that water from
a height as they were not allowed to touch either the water or the vessel that contained it.
This task was usually performed for the young Ambedkar by the school peon, and if he
could not be found Ambedkar went without water.[3] Ramji Sakpal retired in 1894 and the
family moved to Satara two years later. Shortly after their move, Ambedkar's mother
died. The children were cared for by their paternal aunt, and lived in difficult
circumstances. Only three sons — Balaram, Anandrao and Bhimrao — and two
daughters — Manjula and Tulasa — of the Ambedkars would go on to survive them. Of
his brothers and sisters, only Ambedkar succeeded in passing his examinations and
graduating to a higher school. His native village name was "Ambavade" in Ratnagiri
District so he changed his name from "Sakpal" to "Ambedkar" with the recommendation
and faith of Mahadev Ambedkar, his Deshastha Brahmin teacher who believed in him.

Ramji Sakpal remarried in 1898, and the family moved to Mumbai (then Bombay), where
Ambedkar became the first untouchable student at the Government High School near
Elphinstone Road.[4] Although excelling in his studies, Ambedkar was increasingly
disturbed by the segregation and discrimination that he faced. In 1907, he passed his
matriculation examination and entered the University of Bombay, becoming one of the
first persons of untouchable origin to enter a college in India. This success provoked
celebrations in his community, and after a public ceremony he was presented with a
biography of the Buddha by his teacher Krishnaji Arjun Keluskar also known as Dada
Keluskar, a Maratha caste scholar. Ambedkar's marriage had been arranged the previous
year as per Hindu custom, to Ramabai, a nine-year old girl from Dapoli.[4] In 1908, he
entered Elphinstone College and obtained a scholarship of twenty five rupees a month
from the Gayakwad ruler of Baroda, Sahyaji Rao III for higher studies in the USA. By
1912, he obtained his degree in economics and political science, and prepared to take up
employment with the Baroda state government. His wife gave birth to his first son,
Yashwant, in the same year. Ambedkar had just moved his young family and started
work, when he dashed back to Mumbai to see his ailing father, who died on February 2,

[edit] Fight against untouchability

As a leading Indian scholar, Ambedkar had been invited to testify before the
Southborough Committee, which was preparing the Government of India Act 1919. At
this hearing, Ambedkar argued for creating separate electorates and reservations for
Dalits and other religious communities. In 1920, he began the publication of the weekly
Mooknayak (Leader of the Silent) in Mumbai. Attaining popularity, Ambedkar used this
journal to criticize orthodox Hindu politicians and a perceived reluctance of the Indian
political community to fight caste discrimination. His speech at a Depressed Classes
Conference in Kolhapur impressed the local state ruler Shahu IV, who shocked orthodox
society by dining with Ambekdar. Ambedkar established a successful legal practice, and
also organised the Bahishkrit Hitakarini Sabha to promote education and socio-economic
uplifting of the depressed classes.

By 1927 Dr. Ambedkar decided to launch active movements against untouchability. He

began with public movements and marches to open up and share public drinking water
resources, also he began a struggle for the right to enter Hindu temples. He led a
satyagraha in Mahad to fight for the right of the untouchable community to draw water
from the main water tank of the town.

He was appointed to the Bombay Presidency Committee to work with the all-European
Simon Commission in 1925. This commission had sparked great protests across India,
and while its report was ignored by most Indians, Ambedkar himself wrote a separate set
of recommendations for future constitutional reformers.

[edit] Poona Pact

By now Ambedkar had become one of the most prominent untouchable political figures
of the time. He had grown increasingly critical of mainstream Indian political parties for
their perceived lack of emphasis for the elimination of the caste system. Ambedkar
criticized the Indian National Congress and its leader Mohandas Gandhi, whom he
accused of reducing the untouchable community to a figure of pathos. Ambedkar was
also dissatisfied with the failures of British rule, and advocated a political identity for
untouchables separate from both the Congress and the British. At a Depressed Classes
Conference on August 8, 1930 Ambedkar outlined his political vision, insisting that the
safety of the Depressed Classes hinged on their being independent of the Government
and the Congress both:

We must shape our course ourselves and by ourselves... Political power cannot be a panacea for
the ills of the Depressed Classes. Their salvation lies in their social elevation. They must cleanse
their evil habits. They must improve their bad ways of living.... They must be educated.... There
is a great necessity to disturb their pathetic contentment and to instill into them that divine
discontent which is the spring of all elevation.[3]

In this speech, Ambedkar criticized the Salt Satyagraha launched by Gandhi and the
Congress. Ambedkar's criticisms and political work had made him very unpopular with
orthodox Hindus, as well as with many Congress politicians who had earlier condemned
untouchability and worked against discrimination across India. This was largely because
these "liberal" politicians usually stopped short of advocating full equality for

In 1932, M. C. Rajah concluded a pact with two right-wingers in the Indian National
Congress, Dr. B. S. Moonje [5][6] and Jadhav. According to this pact, Moonje offered
reserved seats to scheduled castes in return for Rajah's support. This demand prompted
Ambedkar to make an official demand for Separate Electorate System on an all-India
basis. Ambedkar's prominence and popular support amongst the untouchable community
had increased, and he was invited to attend the Second Round Table Conference in
London in 1931. Here he sparred verbally with Gandhi on the question of awarding
separate electorates to untouchables.[3] Gandhi fiercely opposed separate electorate for
untouchables but accepted separate electorate for all other minority groups like
Muslims,sikhs...etc. Gandhi feared that separate electorates for untouchables would
divide Hindu society for future generations.

When the British agreed with Ambedkar and announced the awarding of separate
electorates, Gandhi began a fast-unto-death while imprisoned in the Yerwada Central Jail
of Pune in 1932 against the separate electorate for untouchables only. Exhorting orthodox
Hindu society to eliminate discrimination and untouchability, Gandhi asked for the
political and social unity of Hindus. Gandhi's fast provoked great public support across
India, and orthodox Hindu leaders, Congress politicians and activists such as Madan
Mohan Malaviya and Palwankar Baloo organized joint meetings with Ambedkar and his
supporters at Yeravada. Fearing a communal reprisal and killings of untouchables in the
event of Gandhi's death, Ambedkar agreed under massive coercion from the supporters of
Gandhi to drop the demand for separate electorates, and settled for a reservation of seats.
This agreement, which saw Gandhi end his fast, in the end achieved more representation
for the untouchables, while dropping the demand for separate electorates that was
promised through the British Communal Award prior to Ambedkar's meeting with
Gandhi. Ambedkar was to later criticise this fast of Gandhi as a gimmick to deny political
rights to the untouchables and increase the coercion he had faced to give up the demand
for separate electorates.

See also: Poona Pact

[edit] Political career

In 1935, Ambedkar was appointed principal of the Government Law College, Mumbai, a
position he held for two years. Settling in Mumbai, Ambedkar oversaw the construction
of a large house, and stocked his personal library with more than 50,000 books.[7] His
wife Ramabai died after a long illness in the same year. It had been her long-standing
wish to go on a pilgrimage to Pandharpur, but Ambedkar had refused to let her go, telling
her that he would create a new Pandharpur for her instead of Hinduism's Pandharpur
which treated them as untouchables. His own views and attitudes had hardened against
orthodox Hindus, despite a significant increase in momentum across India for the fight
against untouchability. and he began criticizing them even as he was criticized himself by
large numbers of Hindu activists. Speaking at the Yeola Conversion Conference on
October 13 near Nasik, Ambedkar announced his intention to convert to a different
religion and exhorted his followers to leave Hinduism.[7] He would repeat his message at
numerous public meetings across India.

In 1936, Ambedkar founded the Independent Labour Party, which won 15 seats in the
1937 elections to the Central Legislative Assembly. He published his book The
Annihilation of Caste in the same year, based on the thesis he had written in New York.
Attaining immense popular success, Ambedkar's work strongly criticized Hindu religious
leaders and the caste system in general. He protested the Congress decision to call the
untouchable community Harijans (Children of God), a name coined by Gandhi.[7]
Ambedkar served on the Defence Advisory Committee and the Viceroy's Executive
Council as minister for labour. With What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the
Untouchables, Ambedkar intensified his attacks on Gandhi and the Congress, charging
them with hypocrisy.[8] In his work Who Were the Shudras?, Ambedkar attempted to
explain the formation of the Shudras i.e. the lowest caste in hierarchy of Hindu caste
system. He also emphasised how Shudras are separate from Untouchables. Ambedkar
oversaw the transformation of his political party into the All India Scheduled Castes
Federation, although it performed poorly in the elections held in 1946 for the Constituent
Assembly of India. In writing a sequel to Who Were the Shudras? in 1948, Ambedkar
lambasted Hinduism in the The Untouchables: A Thesis on the Origins of Untouchability:

The Hindu Civilisation.... is a diabolical contrivance to suppress and enslave humanity. Its proper
name would be infamy. What else can be said of a civilisation which has produced a mass of
people... who are treated as an entity beyond human intercourse and whose mere touch is enough
to cause pollution?


Ambedkar was also critical of Islam and its practices in South Asia. While justifying the
Partition of India, he condemned the practice of child marriage in Muslim society, as well
as the mistreatment of women. He said,

No words can adequately express the great and many evils of polygamy and concubinage, and
especially as a source of misery to a Muslim woman. Take the caste system. Everybody infers
that Islam must be free from slavery and caste.[While slavery existed], much of its support was
derived from Islam and Islamic countries. While the prescriptions by the Prophet regarding the
just and humane treatment of slaves contained in the Koran are praiseworthy, there is nothing
whatever in Islam that lends support to the abolition of this curse. But if slavery has gone, caste
among Musalmans [Muslims] has remained.[9]

He wrote that Muslim society is "even more full of social evils than Hindu Society is"
and criticized Muslims for sugarcoating their sectarian caste system with euphemisms
like "brotherhood". He also criticized the discrimination against the Arzal classes among
Muslims who were regarded as "degraded", as well as the oppression of women in
Muslim society through the oppressive purdah system. He alleged that while Purdah was
also practiced by Hindus, only among Muslims was it sanctioned by religion. He
criticized their fanaticism regarding Islam on the grounds that their literalist
interpretations of Islamic doctrine made their society very rigid and impermeable to
change. He further wrote that Indian Muslims have failed to reform their society unlike
Muslims in other countries like Turkey.[9]

In a "communal malaise", both groups [Hindus and Muslims] ignore the urgent claims of social

[edit] Pakistan or The Partition of India

Between 1941 and 1945, he published a number of books and pamphlets, including
Thoughts on Pakistan, in which he criticized the Muslim League's demand for a separate
Muslim state of Pakistan but considered its concession if Muslims demanded so as

In the above book Ambedkar wrote a sub-chapter titled If Muslims truly and deeply
desire Pakistan, their choice ought to be accepted. He wrote that if the Muslims are bent
on Pakistan, then it must be conceded to them. He asked whether Muslims in the army
could be trusted to defend India. In the event of Muslims invading India or in the case of
a Muslim rebellion, with whom would the Indian Muslims in the army side? He
concluded that, in the interests of the safety of India, Pakistan should be acceded to,
should the Muslims demand it. According to Ambedkar, the Hindu assumption that
though Hindus and Muslims were two nations, they could live together under one state,
was but a empty sermon, a mad project, to which no sane man would agree.[9]

[edit] Architect of India's constitution

"Ambedkar at his desk" (an art piece) at Ambedkar Museum in Pune

Upon India's independence on August 15, 1947, the new Congress-led government
invited Ambedkar to serve as the nation's first law minister, which he accepted. On
August 29, Ambedkar was appointed Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee,
charged by the Assembly to write free India's new Constitution. Ambedkar won great
praise from his colleagues and contemporary observers for his drafting work. In this task
Ambedkar's study of sangha practice among early Buddhists and his extensive reading in
Buddhist scriptures were to come to his aid. Sangha practice incorporated voting by
ballot, rules of debate and precedence and the use of agendas, committees and proposals
to conduct business. Sangha practice itself was modelled on the oligarchic system of
governance followed by tribal republics of ancient India such as the Shakyas and the
Lichchavis. Thus, although Ambedkar used Western models to give his Constitution
shape, its spirit was Indian and, indeed, tribal.

Granville Austin has described the Indian Constitution drafted by Dr Ambedkar as 'first
and foremost a social document.' ... 'The majority of India's constitutional provisions are
either directly arrived at furthering the aim of social revolution or attempt to foster this
revolution by establishing conditions necessary for its achievement.'

The text prepared by Ambedkar provided constitutional guarantees and protections for a
wide range of civil liberties for individual citizens, including freedom of religion, the
abolition of untouchability and the outlawing of all forms of discrimination Ambedkar
argued for extensive economic and social rights for women, and also won the Assembly's
support for introducing a system of reservations of jobs in the civil services, schools and
colleges for members of scheduled castes and scheduled tribes, a system akin to
affirmative action. India's lawmakers hoped to eradicate the socio-economic inequalities
and lack of opportunities for India's depressed classes through this measure, which had
been originally envisioned as temporary on a need basis. The Constitution was adopted
on November 26, 1949 by the Constituent Assembly.

Ambedkar resigned from the cabinet in 1951 following the stalling in parliament of his
draft of the Hindu Code Bill, which sought to expound gender equality in the laws of
inheritance, marriage and the economy. Although supported by Prime Minister Nehru,
the cabinet and many other Congress leaders, it received criticism from a large number of
members of parliament. Ambedkar independently contested an election in 1952 to the
lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, but was defeated. He was appointed to the
upper house, of parliament, the Rajya Sabha in March 1952 and would remain a member
until his death.

[edit] Conversion to Buddhism

Diksha Bhumi, Nagpur ; Stupa at the site where Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, with his
followers embraced Buddhism

In the 1950s, Ambedkar turned his attention to Buddhism and travelled to Sri Lanka (then
Ceylon) to attend a convention of Buddhist scholars and monks. While dedicating a new
Buddhist vihara near Pune, Ambedkar announced that he was writing a book on
Buddhism, and that as soon as it was finished, he planned to make a formal conversion to
Buddhism.[10] Ambedkar twice visited Burma in 1954; the second time in order to attend
the third conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Rangoon. In 1955, he
founded the Bharatiya Bauddha Mahasabha, or the Buddhist Society of India. He
completed his final work, The Buddha and His Dhamma, in 1956. It was published

After meetings with the Sri Lankan Buddhist monk Hammalawa Saddhatissa,[11]
Ambedkar organised a formal public ceremony for himself and his supporters in Nagpur
on October 14, 1956. Accepting the Three Refuges and Five Precepts from a Buddhist
monk in the traditional manner, Ambedkar completed his own conversion. He then
proceeded to convert an estimated 500,000 of his supporters who were gathered around
him.[10] Taking the 22 Vows. He then traveled to Kathmandu in Nepal to attend the Fourth
World Buddhist Conference. His work on The Buddha or Karl Marx and "Revolution and
counter-revolution in ancient India" (which was necessary for understanding his book
"The Buddha and his dhamma")remained incomplete.

[edit] Death

Bust of Dr. Ambedkar at Ambedkar Museum in Pune

Since 1948, Ambedkar had been suffering from diabetes. He was bed-ridden from June to
October in 1954 owing to clinical depression and failing eyesight.[10] He had been
increasingly embittered by political issues, which took a toll on his health. His health
worsened as he furiously worked through 1955. Just three days after completing his final
manuscript The Buddha and His Dhamma, it is said that Ambedkar died in his sleep on
December 6, 1956 at his home in Delhi.

Since the Caste Hindus denied the cremation at Dadar crematorium, A Buddhist-style
cremation was organised for him at Chowpatty beach on December 7, attended by
hundreds of thousands of supporters, activists and admirers. A conversion program was
supposed to be organised on 16 December,1956. So, those who had attended cremation
function also got converted to buddhism at same place.

Ambedkar was survived by his second wife Savita Ambedkar and converted to Buddhism
with him. His wife's name before marriage was Sharda Kabir. Savita Ambedkar died as a
Buddhist in 2002. Ambedkar's grandson, Prakash Yaswant Ambedkar leads the Bharipa
Bahujan Mahasangha and has served in both houses of the Indian Parliament.

A number of unfinished typescripts and handwritten drafts were found among

Ambedkar's notes and papers and gradually made available. Among these were Waiting
for a Visa, which probably dates from 1935–36 and is an autobiographical work, and the
Untouchables, or the Children of India's Ghetto, which refers to the census of 1951.[10]

A memorial for Ambedkar was established in his Delhi house at 26 Alipur Road. His
birthdate is celebrated as a public holiday known as Ambedkar Jayanti or Bhim Jayanti.
He was posthumously awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna in 1990.
Many public institutions are named in his honour, such as the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar
Open University in Hyderabad,Dr BR Ambedkar University in Srikakulam Andhra
Pradesh, B. R. Ambedkar Bihar University, Muzaffarpur Dr.B.R.Ambedkar National
Institute of Technology,Jalandhar the other being Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International
Airport in Nagpur, which was otherwise known as Sonegaon Airport. A large official
portrait of Ambedkar is on display in the Indian Parliament building. On the anniversary
of his birth (14 April) and death (6 December) and on Dhamma Chakra Pravartan Din,
14th Oct at Nagpur, at least half a million people gather to pay homage to him at his
memorial in Mumbai. Thousands of bookshops are set up, and books are sold. His
message to his followers was " Educate!!!, Agitate!!!, Organize

Ambedkar delivering a speech to a rally at Yeola, Nashik, on 13 October

Mahan Bodhisatva, Baba Saheb,
Date of birth: 14 April 1891
Place of birth: Mhow, Central Provinces, British India
Date of death: 06 December 1956
Place of death: Delhi, India
Movement: Ambedkar(ite) Buddhism
Major Samata Sainik Dal, Independent Labour Party,
Scheduled Castes Federation, Buddhist Socity Of
India, Republican Party of India,
Religion: Buddhism
Buddha · Mahapandit Rahul Sankrityayan ·
Kabir · Mahatma Phule · Moses · Jesus · Ashoka ·
Shivaji · George Washington · Thomas Paine ·
Abraham Lincoln · Thomas Jefferson · Edmund
Burke · Martin Luther · Booker T. Washington ·
Shahu Maharaj · Maharaja Sayajirao Gaekwad
III · Constitution of the United States of America ·
Indian Constitution · American Revolution ·
French Revolution · October Revolution ·
Tripitaka · Dhammapada
D.K.Khaparde · Manya Kanshi ram · A H
Salunkhe · Chhagan Bhujbal · Prakash
Ambedkar · Chiranjeevi · Mayawati · Bhadant
Influenced Sangharatna Manke · Surai Sasai · Buddhist
movement · Annabhau Sathe · Gangavane ·
Wamanrao Godbole · Sohanlal Shastri · Ram
Vilas Paswan · Sant Gadge Baba