Tag Archives: Today In History

5th June in Dalit History – Dr. Ambedkar conferred with honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Columbia University


2nd June 1915: Dr. Ambedkar passed M.A. examination from Columbia University

Dr. Ambedkar passed M.A. examination from Columbia University (New York) with major in economics. The other subjects were sociology, history, philosophy, anthropology and politics.

Dr. Ambedkar

Dr. Ambedkar

5 June 1952: Dr. Ambedkar conferred with honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by Columbia University.

Dr. Ambedkar was was to have received the degree at the hands of General Eisenhower, who was then President of the University. But due to cabinet responsibilities and later electioneering the General would not make the trip.

Check out – LL.D. Degree Certificate of Dr. B. R. Ambedkar from Columbia University

Earlier on night of 31 May, Dr. Ambedkar was felicitated at a dinner party at the Cricket Club of India, Bombay (presently Mumbai), by Dr. V.S. Patankar, Principal and K.V. Chitre, Registrar of the Siddharth College. Dr. Ambedkar left Bombay for New York by a T.W.A. flight on 1 June. A large gathering of his followers and admirers gave him a send-off at the Santa Cruz airport. On 5 June, the convocation was held. Columbia University conferred on six persons the honorary degree of Doctor of Laws. While awarding him an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws, at its 198th commencement exercises. The University hailed Dr. Ambedkar “as a framer of the constitution, member of the cabinet and of the council of states, one of India’s leading citizens, a great social reformer and a valiant upholder of human rights”. He received the degree before a large crowd assembled to watch 6,848 graduates of Columbia’s 17 schools and colleges receiving their degrees.

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30th May (1936) in Dalit History – Bombay Presidency Conversion Conference


Bombay Presidency Conversion Conference was held on 30th May 1936.

Bombay Presidency Conversion Conference (Mumbai Elaka Mahar Panshad) of Mahars was held at Naigaum (Dadar) to sound their opinion on the issue of Conversion. Mr. Subha Rao, popularly known as Hydrabadi Ambedkar, presided over the Conference. In the morning the Ascetics shaved their beards, mustaches and destroyed their symbols of Hinduism in an Ascetic’s Conference.

Say No To Hindu Temples

Say No To Hindu Temples

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26th May (1935) in Dalit History – Death anniversary of Mata Ramabai Ambedkar


26th May (1935) in Dalit History – Death anniversary of Mata Ramabai Ambedkar

Ramabai Ambedkar’s parents died when Ramabai was in her childhood, leaving behind two small brothers to take care of. Their uncle and maternal uncle proceeded with all the three to Mumbai. At Mumbai she married Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar. During her domestic struggle she lost her father-in-law Ramji. Ramabai Ambedkar did help Dr. Ambedkar during ups and downs in life.  Then another tragedy followed with the demise of Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar’s elder brother Anandrao.

Check alsoMovie on Ramabai Ambedkar – Ramai

Mata Ramabai Ambedkar

Mata Ramabai Ambedkar

Afterwards, for higher education Babasaheb got the Sayajirao Gaikwad scholarship at Baroda. For higher education when Dr. Ambedkar had to leave for England, all the responsibilities to take care of home came to Ramabai, which she handled very well.

Ramabai used to encourage Babasaheb for higher studies and used to do household work and remit money to Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar. Ramabai went through difficult life but her sheer determination helped her win over her difficulties. Heap of troubles, difficulties were showered on Ramabai but she didn’t surrender, she was adamant in upbringing the poor and downtrodden of her society, she took over the struggle carried by Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar and stood like a rock along with Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar to carry out the grand work initiated by Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar.

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On 26th May, 1935, Mother Ramabai Ambedkar left this world. More than 10000 people attended the final procession.

Salute to Mother Ramabai Ambedkar on death anniversary.

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22nd May in Dalit History – Birth anniversary of Bhagya Reddy Varma (Madari Bhagaiah)


Remember Bhagya Reddy Varma (May 22, 1888 – July 2, 1950) the “Father of Dalit Movement in Andhra Pradesh” on his birth anniversary. His original name was Madari Bhagaiah and he was founder of Adi Hindu Movement in Andhra Pradesh. Bhagya Reddy Varma was born in a Dalit, Mala caste family in the princely Hyderabad State to Madari Venkaiah.

Bhagya Reddy Varma

Bhagya Reddy Varma

Bhagya Reddy Varma founded around 26 schools in around Hyderabad region for Dalits. He established Dalit panchayat courts to settle disputes among dalits. He chaired All India conference of Schedules castes held at Lucknow on 27, 28 December 1930, to support send delegation to Round Table conference. Babasaheb Ambedkar was present in this meeting.

In 1906, he started Jagan Mitra Mandali to educate Dalits through popular folklore. Mandali worked on the social consciousness among untouchables. Later in 1911, he founded Manya Sangham, which tried to create awareness among untouchables through literature and lectures.

Bhagya Reddy Varma had launched a movement against devadasi system, forcing the Nizam to declare it a crime.

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15th May in Dalit History – Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar published Annihilation Of Caste


On 15th May, 1936 Babasaheb Ambedkar published Annihilation Of Caste book. Dr. Ambedkar was scheduled to deliver this speech to a conference in Lahore, but could not. The conference organizers cancelled his invitation as they felt the contents of the speech were too radical for the time. Dr. Ambedkar later released the speech in written format, and it became one of his most famous work – title, ‘Annihilation of Caste’. In this work, Dr. Ambedkar discussed the problems in ending the caste system in India, and how those problems could be countered.

If you’d like to read the text, Columbia University in the City of New York has designed a special e-text format of the speech for easy readability and cross-referencing at http://ccnmtl.columbia.edu/projects/mmt/ambedkar/web/index.html

Annihilation of Caste – Front Page

Annihilation of Caste – Front Page

 

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6th May in Dalit History – Death anniversary of Shahu Maharaj – A Bahujan Revolutionary


Sahuji Maharaj

Sahuji Maharaj

The Bahujan Samaj owes a deep debt of gratitude to the Bahujan Revolutionary CHHATRAPATI SHAHU MAHARAJ who was the ruler of Kolhapur state in Maharashtra from 1884 to 1922. He was born on 26/6/1874. Maharaj of Kolhapur wanted to exterminate the stifling and strangulating structures of caste system and untouchability which are the immoral institutions created by the brahminical class. By undertaking the responsibilities of the “Satya Sodhak Samaj movement” which was started by RASTRAPITHA JOTIBA PHULE, Shahu Maharaj toiled untiringly to uplift the Bahujan Samaj. He cautioned the Bahujan Samaj by showing the flagrant injustice happened to them by the despotic rule carried by the brahminical gluttons who seized hegemony in every sphere. Shahu Maharaj proposed communal representation and he viewed it as one of the weapon of liberation for the Bahujan Samaj. Writing to Lord Sydenham, Ex- Governor of Bombay in 1918, he said “the principle that majorities have no need of separate representation doesn’t hold good in a province where a selfish minority is likely to get the power, which is sure to be used to hold the majority (Bahujan Samaj) in perpetual vassalage.” Shahu Maharaj instigated many programs in order to liberate the Bahujan Samaj from the cloak of brahminical hegemony. The programs are as follows:

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5th May in Dalit History – Death Anniversary of Iyothee Thass – Great Social reformer and Buddhist Scholar


This article was first posted at Round Table India and is written by Bala J.

We may say that great minds think alike when two scholars who lived in two different times and places reach a similar conclusion on the same problem. The traditionally educated nineteenth century Tamil scholar, Pandit Iyothee Thass as well as the twentieth century western educated intellectual from Maharashtra, Babasaheb Ambedkar, embraced Buddhism to show that it was the only way to annihilate the caste system. Both of them identified that the caste system had originated with the fall of Buddhism; therefore, believed the revival of Buddhism could perhaps liberate the people from the evil system of caste.

Pandit Iyothee Thass (1845-1914)* was born in a Dalit family in Royapettah in Chennai. He was a Siddha practitioner and a well-versed Tamil scholar having scholarly expertise in the traditional knowledge on astrology and palm-leaf manuscript reading. In 1870, Iyothee Thass founded Adhvaidhananda Sabha (considered to be the first institution-building activity in his life), in Uthagamandalam, where he was brought up. In 1891, he established an organization called the Dravida Mahajana Sabha, and on 1st December 1891, he organised the First Conference on behalf of the Sabha at Ooty in Nilgiris district. In that conference, ten resolutions were passed including the one on enacting a criminal law to punish those who humiliated untouchables by calling them Pariahs, creating separate schools and providing scholarships for matriculation education for untouchable children; providing employment for educated untouchables, and representation for untouchables in District Boards and Municipal Boards (Tamilan, 14 October 1908).

The resolutions were sent to the Indian National Congress and the Mohammedans’ Association on 21st December 1891. In 1896, Reverend John Ratnam and Iyothee Thass jointly started a journal called Dravida Pandian. Another interesting piece of information is that, in 1882, Reverend John Ratnam and Iyothee Thass established a movement under the name of Dravida Kazhagam, (G. Aloysius, Nationalism without a Nation in India, Oxford, 2000); but this fact has been concealed so that no one now remembers Iyothee Thass as the pioneer of the Dravidian movement or anti-Brahmin movement.

Returning to Buddhism

Pandit Iyothee Thass

Pandit Iyothee Thass

Pandit Iyothee Thass exhorted Dalits to embrace Buddhism for annihilating the system of caste. With this objective he constructed an alternative history with the help of Tamil literature and folk traditions of Tamil. He demonstrated that the untouchables were the native Buddhists and untouchability was imposed upon them because they opposed the orthodox practices exemplified by the Hindu Brahmins. He asserted that Buddhism was the first anti-Brahmin movement in Indian history. So he called on the Dalits to return to their original religion, Buddhism.

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Dalit History Month – Remembering Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar


‪Dalit History‬ today is honored to write a post on our dear Babasaheb on this special day. While to the most of the world, Dr. B. R Ambedkar is known as the architect of the Indian constitution, a social reformer, and an eminent jurist; his contribution as an economist, as an advocate of women’s rights; as a writer, an educationist, and a philosopher is also equally important. In this capacity he is not only a Dalit icon but a true revolutionary and is recognized as a founding father of independent India.

Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born the 14th child on April 14th, 1891 into Mahar family. Discovered by a Maharaja Sayaji Rao he received a full scholarship and went on to study at the Elphinstone College, Mumbai in 1908. From there he was one of the first Indian to study abroad and he went to pursue economics at the Columbia University. Later, he became a professor of political economy at the Sydenham College of Commerce and Economics. In 1920, he went to London to get his Bar-at-Law at Gray’s Inn for Law. On 8 June, 1927, he was awarded a Doctorate by the University of Columbia. From 1920 to 1930, he also published a series of newspapers namely Mook Nayak (The Silent Hero), Bahishkrit Bharat (Exiled India), Samata (equality), and Janata (People)

Dr. Ambedkar

Dr. Ambedkar

Upon his return to India he faced vicious caste discrimination with top employers refusing to hiring him. Thus began Dr. Ambedkar’s relentless struggle for equality for Dalits. He had a multi-pronged strategy: First eradicate illiteracy, then focus on the economic upliftment while also using non-violent struggle against visible symbols of casteism, like denial of entry into temples and drawing water from public wells and tanks. He later added the powerful call for Dalits to leave Hinduism for Buddhism. Leading to one of the largest mass conversion in world in Nagpur where over 600,000 Dalits joined Him in becoming Buddhist.

His focus on Dalit Liberation often put him at odds with Gandhi and it was due to Ambedkar that Gandhi eventually shifted his draconian position on caste. Ambedkar’s leadership in the independence movement ensured Dalits were at the table in the crucial Round Table conferences that led to the formation of the Indian State. While disappointed at the refusal of separate Dalit electorates, it was his advocacy that led to the reservation system that helped provide affirmative action to Dalits and Adivasis in government and public institutions.

In the wake of his legacy this post is a call to read and learn more from this Dalit Giant. He leaves behind a rich treasury of speeches and almost forty books that are still relevant today. In fact his seminal text Annihilation of Caste is available for free everywhere around the world. In his honor we leave you with his exhortation to educate, agitate, and organize. And of course the Dalit salutation which is a honorary reference back to him: ‪‎Jai Bhim‬.

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