On what would have been his 124th birthday, one of the founders of India’s constitution following independence, B. R. Ambedkar, is being honoured with a Google Doodle.
Born in Mhow, central India in 1891, Ambedkar, or as he’s more affectionately known by Indian people, Babasaheb, was there during the birth of the independent Indian nation in 1947 following hundreds of years of British rule, and following his admission as the country’s first law minister, spent the rest of his life trying to break the caste system that had ruled the region for years.
Having grown up in the Hindu Mahar caste as a child, Ambedkar was very familiar with what it felt like to be discriminated against, given his caste’s low social standing within Indian society. This discrimination continued into his adult life, with The Independent in the UK reporting that it was so extreme that faculty in the same university where he taught would not drink from the same water jug as him.
His belief in freedom for all of India’s citizens was seen when he and a number of other leading Indian figures, including Mahatma Gandhi, drafted the country’s first constitution, which guaranteed civil liberties for all its citizens, regardless of what caste or background they came from.
It also guaranteed freedom of religion, which at that time was an incredibly contentious issue given that the granting of independence to India by Britain left religious tensions at an all-time high between the land’s Hindu and Muslim population, which caused much bloodshed and subsequently led to the creation of the states of Pakistan and what would be later known as Bangladesh.
Ambedkar himself, due to his belief in non-confrontation, much like Ghandi, actually converted from Hinduism to Buddhism towards the latter years of his life and devoted a significant portion of it towards writing and teaching the religion in modern-day Sri Lanka.
Since 1948, however, he had been struggling to contain his diagnosis of diabetes and just three days after completing his last book on Buddhism, Ambedkar succumbed to his illness, dying in his sleep at the age of 65 in 1956.