Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (Vol. 12): Notes on Law, Autobiography, and Miscellaneous Writings
Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891-1956) was a scholar, social reformer, powerful advocate of the rights of Dalits and women, chairman of the Constituent Assembly of India, and the country’s first law minister.
In 1976, the
government of Maharashtra set up the Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Source Material
Publication Committee to compile his complete works. The Committee consisted of
the state’s then education minister and noted scholars and writers. In 1978,
when Vasant Moon (Dalit activist, author and Officer on Special Duty) joined
the Committee, it decided to procure and publish Dr. Ambedkar’s unpublished
The state’s Education
Department started to publish a 22-volume series titled Dr. Babasaheb
Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches
in 1979, and it brought out this 12th volume in April 1993. The series was re-printed by the Dr. Ambedkar
Foundation, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and
Empowerment, in January 2014.
The 12th volume – arranged in six parts – contains
a broad range of Dr. Ambedkar’s writings, covering India’s commercial
presence overseas before the British era, essays on social reforms for the First
and Second Round Table Conferences (1930-1933) in London, classroom lectures on
jurisprudence and the English Constitution, autobiographical notes, and other
In this part, Dr. Ambedkar discusses ancient Indian commerce, the region’s commercial relations with the Middle East, and its economy after colonisation by the East India Company and British Crown. These were written in 1913-15 as notes for his MA dissertation at Columbia University, New York. (Read the final dissertation in volume six.)
Dr. Ambedkar reflects on the economic
developments in ancient India through the study of early Buddhist texts. In those
times, he notes, agriculture was the primary profession. There was a tendency
towards hereditary work, but without stringent caste regulations. Trade within
and outside the region was largely unregulated and there was significant
presence of coinage.
Speaking contrary to the claims of the Company,
Dr. Ambedkar wrote that its protectionist policies destroyed property and
industries in India, its land revenue laws ruined the agriculture sector, and
that India was coerced to contribute to England’s economy without regard for
its own growth.
Titled The Untouchables and the Pax Britannica, this part contains Dr. Ambedkar’s notes for a presentation for the British government at the Round Table Conferences in London. He argues for the introduction of a law prohibiting Untouchability. (Read his speeches at the Conferences in volume two.)
In the British government’s 150 years of ruling
India, Dr. Ambedkar notes, they legislated upon just six social evils. These
include regulations barring Brahmins and other communities from wounding and
killing their female relations and children in the Bengal Presidency; preventing
child sacrifice – particularly the practice of drowning them in the river Ganges;
prohibiting ‘suttee’ – the immolation or burying alive of widows; and allowing
He argues that the British have neglected the ‘Depressed
Classes’ in their social reforms. They have done nothing to secure adequate
representation for this section in the public services, such as the armed
forces and civil services. The Depressed Classes have only benefitted from the government’s
principle of ‘equality before law’, which was not present before British Rule.
This part contains two chapters: Lectures on the English Constitution (Chapter 1) and Paramountcy and the Claim of the Indian States to be Independent (Chapter 2).
The first are lectures Dr. Ambedkar delivered to
his students at the Government Law College in Bombay in 1934-35. He discusses the
principles underlying the English Constitution according to the work of British
jurist Albert Venn Dicey (1835-1922), the parliament, the rule of the Crown, the
House of Lords – and more.
The second chapter discusses the decisions of
the princely states of Travancore and Hyderabad to be independent and sovereign
States after India attained independence on August 15, 1947. Dr. Ambedkar
analyses whether individual states can and should declare themselves as independent
countries. He thought that the princely states should join the Union, and their
heads should adopt the titles of Constitutional Monarchs. In his opinion, this
would help them govern effectively as well as solve the problem of international
This part contains Dr. Ambedkar’s notes on various legal provisions for his students at the Government Law College in Mumbai during 1929-37, covering common law, criminal procedure, transfer of property, evidence – and more.
The People’s Education Society – established by Dr. Ambedkar in 1945 – published the booklet Waiting for a Visa in March 1990. It contains Dr. Ambedkar’s personal recollections of the oppressive reality of Untouchability as well as the experiences of those around him.
In 1901, when he was around nine years, Dr.
Ambedkar and his three siblings set out from Maharashtra’s Satara district to spend
the summer with his father – then, a cashier in Koregaon (a town in present-day Pune
district). The four took a train to a station near Koregaon where nobody turned
up to fetch them. Dr. Ambedkar made the mistake of revealing to the railway
staff that they were Mahars, an untouchable caste, drawing their revulsion. None
of the bullock cart drivers agreed to take them to their destination a couple
of hours away. Finally, they found someone who agreed to let them drive their
cart for a fee – anything further would have meant ‘pollution’. The
unaccompanied minors traveled for hours, were denied water due to their caste,
and had to spend a night at an unknown toll booth. They finally reached
Koregaon to learn that their father had not been intimated of their arrival. This early
memory of caste discrimination is one of the many that Dr. Ambedkar recalled in
The booklet also states the experience of an
Untouchable school teacher in a village in Gujarat’s Kathiawar region, whose
wife and child passed away for want of immediate medical treatment
post-delivery. Their Hindu doctor had refused to thoroughly inspect and follow
up with them. This was published in December 1929, as a letter sent to the
editors of Mahatma Gandhi’s journal Young India.
This part consists of miscellaneous notes by Dr. Ambedkar on the Constitution of British India; parliamentary procedure; the history of India; Manu and the Shudras; the preservation of the Hindu social order; constitutional safeguards for Scheduled Castes as separate from the Hindus; political suppression – among others.
Focus by Swarna Jain.
First edition compiled and edited by Vasant Moon
Second edition edited by Hari Narke
The first edition was published by the Education Department, government of Maharashtra, in 1991. This is a 2014 reprint by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, Delhi, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.