Presenting to you all a landmark hour of the Lok Sabha (Lower House of India) where the House was mourning over the news of Death of Dr B. R. Ambedkar and speech given on the same by then Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru.
Thursday, 6th December, 1956
The Lok Sabha met at Eleven of the Clock
(Mr Speaker in the chair)
Death of Dr Ambedkar
The Prime minister and leader of the house (Shri Jawaharlal Nehru)-
Mr Speaker, sir, I have to convey to the house the sad news of the death of Dr Ambedkar. Only two days ago, I believe, the day before yesterday, he was present in the other house of which he was a Member. The news, therefore, of his death today came as a shock to all of us who had no inkling of such a thing happening so soon.
Dr Ambedkar, as every member of this house knows, played a very important part in the making of the Constitution of India, subsequently in the legislative part of the Constituent Assembly and later in the Provisional Parliament. After that, he was not a Member of Parliament for some time. Then, he came back to the Rajya Sabha of which he was a sitting Member.
He is often spoken as one of the architects of Indian Constitution. There is no doubt that no one took greater care and trouble over constitution making than Dr Ambedkar. He will be remembered also for the great interest he took and the trouble he took over the question of Hindu Law reform. I am happy that he saw that reform in a very large measure carried out, perhaps not in the form of that monumental tome that he had himself drafted, but in separate bits. But, I imagine that the way he will be remembered most will be as a symbol of the revolt against all the oppressive features of the Hindu Society. He used language sometimes which hurt people. He sometimes said things which were perhaps not wholly justified. But, let us forget that. The main thing was that he rebelled against something against which all ought to rebel and we have, in fact, rebelled in various degrees. This Parliament itself represents in the legislation which it has framed, its repudiation of those customs or legacies from the past which kept down a large section of our people from enjoying their normal rights.
When I think of Dr Ambedkar, many things come to my mind, because he was a highly controversial figure. He was not a person of soft speech. But, behind all that was this powerful reaction and an act of rebellion against something that repressed our society for so long. Fortunately, that rebellion had the support, not perhaps the exact way he wanted it, but in a large measure, the principle underlaying that rebellion had the support of Parliament, and, I believe, every group and party represented here. Both in our public activities and in our legislative activities, we did our utmost to remove that stigma on Hindu Society. One cannot remove it completely by law, because custom is more deep rooted and, I’m afraid, it still continues in many parts of the country even though it may be considered as illegal. That is true. But I have no doubt that it is something that is in its last stages and may take a little time to vanish away. When both law and public opinion become more and more determined to put an end to state of affairs, it cannot last long. Anyhow, Dr Ambedkar, as I said, became prominent in his own way, and a most prominent symbol of that rebellion. I have no doubt that, whether we agree with him or not in many matters, that perseverance, that persistent and that, if I may use the word, sometimes virulence of his opposition to all his did keep the people’s mind awake and did not allow them to become complacent about matters which could not be forgotten, and helped in a prominent n rousing up those groups in our country which had suffered for so long in the past. It is, therefore, sad that such a prominent champion of the oppressed and depressed in India and one, who took such an important part in our activities, has passed away.
As the house knows, he was a minister, a member of our Cabinet, for many years, and I had privilege of co-operating with him in our Governmental work. I had heard of him and, of course, met him previously on various occasions. But, I had not come into any intimate contact with him. It was at the time of Constituent Assembly that I got to know him a little better. I invited him to join the government. Some people were surprised that I should do so, because it was thought that his normal activities were of the opposition type rather than of the Governmental type. Nevertheless, I felt at that time that he had played an important and very constructive role in the making of the constitution and that he could continue to play a constructive role in Governmental activities. Indeed, he did. In spite of some minor differences here and there, chiefly, if I may so, not due to any matters of principle, but rather linguistic matters and language used, we cooperated in the Government for several years to our mutual advantage, I think. Anyhow, a very leading and prominent personality, who has left his mark in our public affairs and on the Indian scene, has passed away, a personality, who was known to nearly all of us here, I suppose, and I feel sure that all of us feel very sad. We know him well. He had been unwell for a long time. Nevertheless, the passing of a person is painful. I am sure that you, Sir and the house will be pleased to convey your deep condolences and sympathy to his family.
There are various rules laid down in our Rules of Procedure in regard to such occurrences, in regard to adjournment of the House. Normally speaking, those rules apply to Members of The House. Dr Ambedkar was not a Member of this House. He was a member of the Rajya Sabha. He was an ex member of this House. The rule says that in such cases, a reference may be made in the House, but there may be no adjournment unless he comes in the category of outstanding personalities. According to the strict rule, it says token adjournment may be made. I submit that, without doing any violence to this rule, the present case deserves for some reasons which I have mentioned and others which I have not mentioned, that the House do adjourn for a day. That is subject to your wishes and the wishes of the House.
By Raj Kamble
Lok Sabha Debates, volume 10- Part 2 (1956)
Very special thanks to Chaudhari sir @ Gokhale Institute of Politics and Economics library