Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: The Untold Truth

Dr. Ambedkar

This three-hour film biography of one of India’s most important social reformers was completed in 1999 by Jabbar Patel, who had previously made a well-received, but fairly short, documentary about the same subject.

The intention when making the film was two-fold: to produce a dramatic work that would be on the same scale as the Gandhi movie in the 80s; and to correct the historical facts regarding the life of the man and the history of the country. That this was controversial can be shown by the fact that the director took almost 2 years to get the film past the censors.

To say the story is epic is very much an understatement, only in fiction would we expect to come across such a story. Here is a man who was born an untouchable at a time when they were largely forbidden education – he himself was not even allowed inside the classroom. But somehow, through hard work he studied and entered Elphinstone College and obtained a degree from the affiliated Bombay University.

He managed to get a Baroda State Scholarship and then studied at Colombia University in New York, where he prepared his MA. He later went on to London and did his PhD thesis and meanwhile studied law, attaining both his degree and being called to the bar within three years. In doing so he faced and overcame enormous hardships along the way, but his determination brought him through.

Back in India he started working for the upliftment of the untouchables, which brought him into conflict with mainstream Hindu society, which was still shackled to the law books and customs that had been passed down to them. He wrote articles, led marches and engaged in civil disobedience to attain his aims, and gained a huge following amongst the people.

He also had to struggle with the leader of the Independence movement, Mahatma Gandhi, who had his own – and sometimes very different – approach to the problems the country was facing. Branded as a traitor for dealing with the colonial government, and facing opposition to his upliftment and human rights programme, he still managed to struggle on, eventually coming to an uneasy compromise with Gandhi.

The Indian Congress would only agree to support the Allied Powers during the war if they were guaranteed independence after it, and when the time come it was Dr. Ambedkar who was appointed the nation’s first law minsiter, and was the main person who drafted the constitution. Another of his attempts at reform to uplift the legal position of women, called the Hindu Code Bill, died in parliament, and he thereafter resigned his seat.

Already in the 1930s Dr. Ambedkar had announced that because of the impossibility of reforming the Hindu system he would himself leave the fold and take his followers with him, and the final revolutionary act of his life was to renounce Hinduism and declare himself a Buddhist following the Theravada school. That was in 1956, and he died only two months later.

He had previously written a book called Who were the Shudras? in part of which he tried to show that originally the Mahar people, the caste he was born into, were originally Buddhists who had been forced outside of regular society when they refused to give up their beliefs and practices, and so he considered his conversion a re-conversion.

The film is compelling because the character it portrays is so heroic, but I found that the epic sweep of historical events that was found in the Gandhi film was missing here, and for an outsider they may have difficulty piecing together the life story with the historical story. Next week I will show a recent documentary by Stalin K. about the situation of untouchables (now called dalits) in India today.

 


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Studying Law in London

 

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Untouchables taking Water from a Tank

 

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Burning Hindu Law Book Manu Smriti

 

Mahatma Gandhi
Mahatma Gandhi

 

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Jawaharlal Nehru

 

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Converting to Buddhism

 

11 comments to Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: The Untold Truth

  • Visakha Kawasaki

    Just wondering … do you have both “India Untouched” and “Lesser Humans” by Stalin K? Both excellent but neither deals with Dalit conversion to Buddhism.

    Just my personal opinion, but almost everything about the Gandhi film was grandiose and overblown. But then I’ve never been a fan of the man behind the myth.

    In the Dhamma,
    Visakha

  • Anandajoti

    Hi Visakha, India Untouched is scheduled for next Friday.

  • Namo Buddhay to all. the story above is just touching the issue in small but leaving alot untold. some fact are far far away from reality. he is only man who revived buddhism in india. being a buddhist i know that the community he belongs was kept in such miserable conditions due to the fact that in ancient time these were the people who professed, dissemminated the through out india. bhante anandajotiji i want to become a monk but to misleading facts in dhamma texts betrayed me from doing so. i wish you will guide me.
    +919839324475

  • Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar has written a noble book “Buddha and his dhamma” along with others i wish they need to be placed here too. in this regard i will provide them. thanks Namo Buddhay

  • Philk4you

    Hi,
    does this movie “Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar: The Untold Truth” exist in French or in Tamoul with English subtitle ?
    If yes, I will be very interested to know how to get it.
    Thank you

  • in past 60 years india is not become touchable why…………….

  • Victory

    Manually download Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar Writings and Speeches ALL the Volumes
    STEPS
    1) go to https://docs.google.com/folder/d/0B5gR958uDQFKQkdDbUhOVVBqbFU/edit
    2) Sign in gmail if it asks
    3) click “open in docs”
    4) click in square icon (leftside of “title” word at top left side).
    5) check whether all 233 square boxes are selected or not. (these boxes will have tick symbol symbol if not select all)
    6) right click on any one and click and select download (or similar option).

  • Jin

    Dear Bhante
    Thank you for posting this excellent movie, I have recommended it to an agnostic Singaporean lawyer in the hope that he gets inspired by the Buddha too. The writings of Dr Ambedkar on Buddha and his Dhamma as published by Columbia University are also available on the net. Just to point out to your readers/Viewers that there seems to me one small error in the movie… Most unlikely that Dr Ambedkar would have clutched his heart and chanted “Om Mani Padmi Om ” to news of Mahatma Gandhis demise,he would have known the difference between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

    Am told that Bhante Gunaratne was present when 500,000 untouchables took refuge in the Buddha Dhamma and Sangha and he shared that to hear 500,000 voices chant Namo Tasso and Buddham Saranam Gacchami,is a sound that one never forgets and resonates in his heart till today – that was also not captured .Nonetheless still a great movie .

    Metta
    Jin,
    Buddhist Malaysian Lawyer :).
    PS: I have asked my Singaporean friend to feedback too

  • GYAN

    I am kshtriya Maratha…even Appreciate Dr. Baba Sahe Ambedkar for his contribution to India…No one have done ever what Dr. Ambedkar.

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