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Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

Full nameDr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, MA, PhD, DSc, DLitt, MLA, JP, LLD, Barrister-at-Law (aka Bhimrao Ramji Ambavadekar; Babasaheb Ambedkar)
Born14 Apr 1891, Mhow, India
Died06 Dec 1956, Delhi, India

The youngest of fourteen children from an "untouchable" family, Bhimrao Ramji Ambavadekar grew up in Dapoli and Satara. In spite of the handicaps of caste, he distinguished himself (from 1900 under the name ‘Ambedkar’) at Elphinstone High School and Elphinstone College in Bombay. He earned a PhD at Columbia University, New York, a DSc from the University of London, and was called to the Bar in 1923. Upon his return to India he began to politically organise the the “depressed classes” through the publication of newspapers and the organisation of conferences, and from 1925 represented their interests in the Bombay Legislative Assembly.

Ambedkar was a member of the British Indian delegation, speaking specifically for the depressed classes (formerly known as Untouchables) at the conference.

For additional biographical information, see the official delegate Who's Whos. See also Emery Kelen's caricature, from his portfolio of delegates at the Round Table Conference.


  • October 2nd1930: given a send off by untouchable community in Bombay, Ambedkar promised sto pursue the case of suppressed untouchables while also demanding Swaraj. He Sailed to Europe on the SS Viceroy of India. Almost daily meetings were held aboard during the two week journey, with fellow travellers including Jinnah, Shaukat Ali, Sapru, Jayakar, Moonje, and Patro (Moonje Diary). No unity was formed: " Ambedkar invariably opposes me and thinks too much of himself." (Moonje Diary 13/10/30)

First Session

  • November 20th 1930: Moonje noted of Ambedkar's opening speech:
    • "Ambedkar: the most remarkable speech which followed in terms of diction, language, and thought. Though he brought out in detail all the grievances he has against the Hindu Society he proved to the hilt that the Britishers have done nothing for the depressed classes except exploiting the against the higher classes. Only in Swaraj would their condition improve." (Moonje Diary 20/11/30)
  • January 17th 1931: Ambedkar wrote to PM pleading for special meeting (see end of file), threatening to withdraw cooperation from future conference sessions unless conditions met.

Second Session

  • September 28th 1931, Stenographic notes of the Minorities Committee, meeting at St James's Palace:
    • "...have heard with great pleasure that further certain negotiations are going to take place for the settlement of the communal issue, but I would like to make this matter absolutely plain at the very start. I do not wish that any doubt should be left on this question at all. Those who are negotiating ought to understand that they are not plenipotentiaries at all; that whatever may be the representative character of Mr. Gandhi or the Congress people, they certainly are not in a position to bind us – certainly not. I say that most emphatically in this Meeting.
    • "Another thing want to say is this - that the claims put forward by the various minorities are claims put forward by themselves irrespective of the consideration as to whether the claims that they have put forward are consistent with the claims of the other minorities... I have no quarrel with the question whether any particular community should get weightage or not but I do want to say most emphatically that whoever claims weightage and whoever is willing to give that weightage he must not give it -- he cannot give it -- out of my share. I want to make that absolutely plain." (NMML Moonje Papers 20.I)
    • Moonje recorded the meeting in his diary (Moonje Diary 28/9/31) " Birla remarked to me that Ambedkar is like a serpent in our garden." Moonje felt that Ambedkar's tone towards Gandhi was "disrespectful and insolent."
  • 8th October 1931: The Minority Committee met and Gandhi reported the failure to find a compromise in informal meetings, suggesting further adjournment. Ambedkar was reported as "blasting" Gandhi (NMML: Moonje Diary).
  • October 1931: As Hoare explored ways forward during the economic crisis, Ambedkar and Muslims became more willing to consider provincial autonomy first, as long as fed to follow soon after, which Sapru opposed. (Moore, 1974:233)
  • November 1931: Ambedkar fought for separate electorates for untouchables (as for Muslims) which Gandhi wanted reserved seats in general constituencies. He had telegrams from depressed classes, grouped by province, circulated at the conference as a geographical signal of his representativeness (NMML.Moonje.21.II)
  • August 1932: As a result of Ramsay MacDonald's 1932 Communal Award, which treated untouchables as politically separate to Hindus, Gandhi launched a protest fast (September 20-26 1932), leading to negotiations with Ambedkar. These resulted in the Poona Pact (24 Sept 1932), granting greater parliamentary representation (18% of seats) to untouchables, but with their representatives elected by the general public.
  • Ambedkar served as a member of the consultative committee that continued work in India between the second and third sessions of the conference. (Moore, 1974:253)

Third Session

  • Ambedkar was one of the only 46 delegates to attend: “It was agreed that there would be a number of special seats for the depressed classes, which would be filled by election from special constituencies in which only members of the depressed classes who were qualified to vote would take part (although they would also be entitled to vote for general constituencies).” (Chakrabarty, 2016: 142)


  • 1935 founded the Independent Labour Party, forerunner of the Scheduled Castes Foundation (1946) and Republican Party (1956).
  • 1946 member of constituent assembly, chair of the drafting committee of India's constitution.
  • 1956 embraced Buddhism.

Sources used

  • Nehru Memorial Museum and Library: Dr BS Moonje Papers
  • The National Archives, Kew: PRO/30/69/578
  • R.J. Moore, The Crisis of Indian Unity, 1917-1940 (Oxford: Clarendon Press; 1974)
  • Bidyut Chakrabarty, "BR Ambedkar and the history of constitutionalizing India", Contemporary South Asia 24:2 (2016), pp. 133-148:

Selected publications

Secondary literature

Online resources

ImagesPhotograph of Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, from the published biographical guide to delegates at the second session of the Round Table Conference, 1931

"Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, M.A., Ph.D., D.Sc." From Indian Round Table Conference Second Session 1931: Biographical Notes and Photographs of the British and Indian Delegates (London: St. James's Palace). By permission of the British Library (shelfmark T 11187). Reproduced under Open Government Licence v3.0 (

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