Ambedkar, Bhimrao Ramji (1891-1956), was an Indian social reformer and the most important leader of the caste (hereditary class) called the Untouchables. He was also a lawyer and played a major role in framing India's constitution.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born at Mhow, in western India. His father was a headmaster at an army school. In 1901, the family moved to Bombay where Ambedkar attended Elphinstone College. He was awarded a scholarship by the gaekwar (ruler) of Baroda.
Despite the restrictions of his lowly status, Ambedkar gained doctorates from Columbia University in New York City and the University of London. He also qualified as a lawyer.
After his return to India in 1923, Ambedkar soon emerged as one of the few articulate leaders of the Untouchables. He resisted Mohandas Gandhi's efforts to merge the Untouchables into the mainstream of Hindu society, and wrote What Congress and Gandhi Have Done to the Untouchables (1945). Ambedkar claimed a separate identiy for his people outside the caste system.
From 1947 to 1951, he was law minister in India's first cabinet. In 1956, convinced that there was no hope for his people within Hinduism, Ambedkar and 200,000 fellow Untouchables converted to Buddhism. Nearly three million other Untouchables followed his example.
Ambedkar was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian decoration, after his death. The award was made in 1990.
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