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Remarks by Ambassador of India H.E. Sujan R. Chinoy on the Commemoration of the 125th Birth Anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar at the Indian Embassy, Tokyo

Remarks by Ambassador of India H.E. Sujan R. Chinoy on the Commemoration of the 125th Birth Anniversary of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar at the Indian Embassy, Tokyo (14 April, 2016)

Father Cyril Veliath
Ladies and Gentlemen

1. I welcome you all to this commemoration of the 125th Birth Anniversary of Bharat Ratna Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar who was popularly known as Babasaheb. Dr. Ambedkar was independent India's first Law Minister and his greatest and enduring contribution in founding modern India was his role as Chairman of the Constituent Assembly which drafted the Constitution of India. He was the foremost opponent of the chaturvarna, the pernicious caste system that pervaded Indian society. His lifelong mission extended to protecting and ensuring the dignity and rights of those who suffered from injustice, which found expression in the highest legal document of the country, the Constitution of India. He was posthumously awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honor in 1990.

2. Let us recall the life of and contributions of this intellectual giant and remarkable social reformer. Dr. Ambedkar was born on 14 April, 1891 in Mhow which is now in Madhya Pradesh, to Ramji Maloji Sakpal and Bhimabai, in a family of Marathi background, which was socially determined as untouchable. Despite the many setbacks he faced on account of his social status and poverty, his father encouraged him to study and he was a prolific and brilliant student.  He had the distinction of being the first Indian to pursue an Economics doctorate degree abroad which he received from Columbia University and his second doctorate from the London School of Economics. His love for education prompted him to open the Siddhartha College of Arts and Science in Bombay in 1946 to open up educational benefits to dalits. He founded Bahishkrit Hitkarini Sabha for creating awareness among the depressed classes and encouraged them to educate themselves.

3. Dr. Ambedkar served in many positions including as Military Secretary to the Gaikwad of Baroda. He became the Professor of Political Economics in Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai. He was a Barrister in the Bombay High Court and member of the Bombay Legislative Council. He also served as Principal of Government Law College, Mumbai. He started publications like Mooknayak, Bahishkrit Baharat and Equality Janata. He was appointed to Bombay Presidency Committee to work with the Simon Commission in 1925. He started active movements against untouchability, such as marches to open up and share public drinking water resources and for the right to enter Hindu temples.

4. He testified before the Southborough Committee which was preparing for the Government of India Act 1919, arguing for separate electorates and reservations for untouchables and other religious communities. Dr. Ambedkar argued for separate electorates for untouchables for electing members of state legislative assemblies in British India in the second Round Table Conference. Mahatma Gandhi had a difference in opinion and felt that the communal award would disintegrate Hindu society and started a fast unto death. Dr. Ambedkar agreed to larger reservation of seats for the untouchables which led to the famous Poona Pact in 1932.

5. Dr. Ambedkar was invited by Prime Minister Nehru to serve as independent India's first Law Minister. On 29 August 1947, he was appointed Chairman of the Constitution Drafting Committee. The framers of the Constitution were faced with the tremendous task of uniting and at the same time safeguarding the plurality and diversity of a newly independent India on the ideals of liberty, equality, fraternity and justice. The Constitution, under the leadership of Dr. Ambedkar, provided guarantees and protections through fundamental rights, including freedom of religion, the abolition of untouchability through Article 17 and the prohibition of all forms of discrimination to all citizens of India.  Dr. Ambedkar had argued for the economic and social rights of women. He also introduced reservation for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in government service and educational institutions. According to constitutional scholar Granville Austin, probably no other nation's constitution "has provided so much impetus toward changing and rebuilding society for the common good". The Constitution was adopted on 26 November 1949 by the Constituent Assembly.

6. Dr. Ambedkar resigned as Law Minister in 1951 because his draft of the Hindu Code Bill to which he was personally committed was stalled in parliament. It would have provided equality for women in the laws of inheritance and marriage. Dr. Ambedkar contested in the Lok Sabha elections, lost marginally, but was appointed to the Rajya Sabha in March 1952 and remained a member till his demise.

7. Babasaheb's conversion to Buddhism on 14 October, 1956, in Nagpur with many of his followers is also well known. He said “Positively, my social philosophy may be said to be enshrined in three words: Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. Let no one, however, say that I have borrowed my philosophy from the French Revolution. I have not. My philosophy has roots in religion and not in political science. I have derived them from the teachings of my Master, the Buddha… He gave the highest place to fraternity as the only real safeguard against the denial of liberty or equality or fraternity which was another name for brotherhood or humanity, which was again another name for religion.”

8. The Government of India has organized yearlong celebrations to commemorate the 125th anniversary of Dr Ambedkar and five places related with life and work Dr Ambedkar are being developed as ‘Panch Theerath' or the Five Memorials, including his birth place at Indore, his residence at 10, Kings Henry Road in London where he lived in 1921-22 while pursuing his doctoral studies at the LSE (which the state government of Maharashtra acquired and which was inaugurated by the Hon'ble Prime Minister of India last year), and 26 Alipur Road Delhi where Dadasaheb spent his last days. A postal stamp commemorating Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was released on September 30, 2015 and commemorative coins of Rs. 125 and Rs. 10 on Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, were released in New Delhi on December 06, 2015.

9. Hon'ble Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of Dr. Ambedkar International Centre on 20 April 2015, which is envisaged to spread awareness about the life and teachings of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar. Hon'ble Prime Minister in his speech on the occasion said that there was not even a trace or hint of malice in the Constitution of India, of which Babasaheb was the architect, despite the intense social abuse he had faced at every step of his life. He had created great constitutional institutions such as the Election Commission and the Finance Commission, in which the entire nation had immense faith and confidence even today. Prime Minister Modi said Babasaheb united society, and India must make sure that the whole world recognizes his immense contribution to mankind. He said Babasaheb represented a combination of Samata (equality) and Mamata (motherly love), which brought about Samrasta (social harmony).

10. Hon'ble Prime Minister also unveiled the foundation plaque of Dr Ambedkar National Memorial on 21 March 2016 to be constructed at 26, Alipur Road, Delhi where Dr Ambedkar breathed his last. Since this building is to be constructed as memorial of Baba Saheb who was creator of the constitution of India, it is designed in the shape of the book. The project would be completed by end of March 2018.

11. As Indians we take pride in our unity in diversity and the notable achievements we have made since independence in diverse fields, including atomic energy, space science, agriculture, bio-technology and, of course, information technology, for which India and Indians are well-known the world over. India today is the world's fastest-growing large economy. It is expected to grow at 7.5 per cent during the current financial year. There is an air of optimism and expectancy among our youth who comprise 50 per cent of India's population. Society in India is changing, and many of the old barriers are being broken down through education, urbanization, the digital age, and, above all, the far-reaching provisions of our Constitution. It is in this context that we celebrate and laud Bharat Ratna Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, a visionary and foremost among the founding fathers of the Indian Constitution. While constitutional and legal safeguards are necessary to realize his vision of a united and inclusive society which promotes opportunities for all sections of society, they must be backed by raising social awareness and sensitivity to this issue so that the scourge of discrimination meted out to certain sections of society is consigned permanently to the annals of history. It is only when every section of society feels part of India's rapid rise and development that we truly claim to be a great nation.

12. I am happy that two organisations Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar International Association for Education, Japan (BAIAE) and Ambedkar International Mission, Japan are propagating Babasaheb's message here. I would also like to acknowledge the enthusiasm with which two Indian schools: the India International School in Japan and Global Indian International School have participated in organizing essay competitions on the life of Dr. Ambedkar and the Constitution of India. May Babasaheb's legacy live on in these young minds. May the path laid by him lead to progress for all.

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