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Special Content

Issue No 36, 04 December -10 December 2021

Mahaparinirvan Diwas

Mahaparinirvan Diwas is observed every year on 6th December to commemorate the death anniversary of Dr. B R Ambedkar. Parinirvana is a Sanskrit term which means release or freedom after death. Ambedkar, having studied the religion extensively, emerged as a Buddhist leader and guru following his conversion to Buddhism. Owing to Ambedkar's status as a Buddhist leader, his death anniversary is referred to as Mahaparinirvana Diwas.

 Also known as the Father of the Indian Constitution, Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (popularly known as Babasaheb) chaired the Drafting Committee of the Constituent Assembly and was India's First Minister for Law and Justice. A pioneering social reformer, jurist, economist, author, polyglot orator, scholar of comparative religions and thinker, he was a multi-faceted man who remapped the frontiers of human achievement by his sheer tenacity, perseverance and the will to excel against all odds. Dr. Ambedkar braved the walls of prejudice and caste discrimination in early 20th century India to emerge as an exemplar and an unflinching crusader against the inequities of caste system and socio-economic deprivation that afflicted millions of Indians. His life is an inspirational story of achievements despite trying circumstances and the indomitable will to move beyond individual strife for the larger cause of social justice and national renaissance.

 Below are excerpts from Publications Division’s book Builders of Modern India- Dr. B.R. Ambedkar by W.N. Kuber:

 Dr. Ambedkar considered the foundations of religion to be essential to life and practices of society. According to him, religion was apart of one's "social inheritance". He wanted religion, but he did not want hypocrisy in the name of religion. Religion, to him, was the driving force for human activity. He remarked, "Man cannot live by bread alone. He has a mind which needs food for thought." He linked religion with the social well-being of the people. Ambedkar's journey to Buddhism can be traced over a span of about forty years. At the age of sixteen Keluskar gave him a copy of the life of Gautam Buddha. In 1945 he attended a Buddhist conference. On 20th June 1946, on behalf of People's Education Society, he started a college and named it Siddharth College. In 1948, he wrote a foreword to L. Narasu's book--'The essence of Buddhism'. In 1950, he took part in the first Modern Buddhist procession in Delhi. In December 1954, he took part in the Third World Federation of Buddhists. It is said that there he made up his mind to embrace Buddhism. Ambedkar was inclined towards Buddhism openly from May 1956. On 24th May 1956 he declared on the day of Buddha Jayanti celebrations at Nare Park in Bombay that he would embrace Buddhism in October 1956. On 23rd September 1956, he issued a press note announcing that his conversion to Buddhism would take place at Nagpur on the Dassahra day, October 14, 1956 between 9 and 11 a.m. He himself preferred Nagpur which was a historic town where the Buddhist Nagas flourished in ancient times. It is said that he deliberately waited up to the 2500th birthday of Buddha.

 Ambedkar was a learned scholar, distinguished educationist, masterly statesman, powerful debater, daring liberator, authoritative constitutionalist, able administrator, famous defender of the revolutionary social reformation movement and a fearless champion of the downtrodden masses. Culture, wisdom, wit, humanism, instinct of reason, spirit of rationalism, reasonable ruthlessness for inequality, contempt for injustice and superstitions were harmoniously blended in right proportions. He was a versatile genius. Gandhiji remarked that he was fierce and fearless. He borrowed evidence from the scriptures to show that discrimination had been made part of religion to facilitate exploitation of bulk of the people by those who had managed to place themselves at the highest rung of the social ladder.

 He subordinated the national struggle for independence and gave priority to the social emancipation of the untouchables. Gandhiji stressed that swaraj would be unattainable without the removal of untouchability. The nationalist movement was influenced by the above teachings of Gandhiji. Ambedkar united the untouchables, raised them to the level of human beings and put them on the social and political map of India. Because of his leadership the bonds between elite and masses have grown and an active educated middle class has been created which is to a great extent absorbed in government service. He realised that the political enemy of the untouchables in a democracy where the majority ruled, was not the Brahmin, (Though he was against Brahminism), but the dominant agricultural caste. He gave insistence on rights and privileges, to abolish Mahar Watan, and there by tried to break feudal bonds.

 Ambedkar adopted the following principles in his political thinking: recognition of the force of nationalism; crusade for social, economic and political freedom in terms of liberty, equality and fraternity; a dislike for any type of imperialism-political, social, economic or religious; a commitment to constitutional methods as the only way, a detestation for violence and a love for justice and peace; a bias for democratic dynamism which sees man as the maker of civilisation and culture and as having the potential to rise on the basis of love and knowledge.

 Ambedkar had submitted to the R.T.C. a scheme of political safeguards for the protection of the Depressed Classes in the future Constitution of a self-governing India. He demanded : (1) equal citizenship and fundamental rights; (2) declaring the practice of 'untouchability' as illegal; (3) free enjoyment of 'Equal Rights' protected by adequate constitutional remedies; (4) protection against discrimination; (5) adequate representation of the Depressed Classes in the Legislatures; adult suffrage and separate electorates to the Depressed Classes for ten years; (6) adequate representation in services; (7) redress against prejudicial action or neglect of interests-facilities for education, etc.; (8) special departmental care, special minister and welfare bureaus; and (9) seat in the Cabinet. If we examine the above demands, we can clearly remark that all these have been already brought into practice--thanks to the untiring efforts of Ambedkar and progressive democratic traditions of Indian nationalism. The Karachi Congress Resolution on fundamental rights was passed as early as April 1931. Gandhiji made removal of untouchability as one of the important programmes of the national movement. He said in 1920, "Without the removal of that taint, swaraj is meaningless."

In India, social idealism and political-idealism were opposed to each other. Ambedkar earnestly wished that the political idealism of the majority would become the social idealism of all. The essence of his allIndia leadership could be seen in his loyalty to his community. He always placed the freedom and welfare of his community above the attainment of swaraj. But when swaraj was in sight he made a compromise with the national leadership. He did not dominate politics, but influenced important political decisions. Though he was the leader of his community he tried to secularise Indian politics. Impact of the west, rule of law, equality of citizens, political participation in law-making and policy decisions, massive efforts of social reforms by Raja Rammohan Roy, Ranade, Phooley, Agarkar and others; democratic liberalism, adult franchise--were some of the factors which contributed to the secular trends in Indian politics. The Preamble of the Indian Constitution is a unique instance. Dr. Ambedkar was a contributor to the above trend.

 National integration was a burning problem. Education and economic development, rational and empirical outlook, modern science and technology, secular outlook to socioeconomic problems and constitutional approach contributed much to national integration. Ambedkar discarded separatist tendencies, and tried to become one with the national trend. In this respect his contribution to national integration was great. He vitalised the national life of India. His constructive statesmanship carved a definite place for him in the line of the nation builders.