Nehru on Ambedkar’s death : Most Prominent Symbol of Rebellion

This is the tribute Jawaharlal Nehru paid Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar in the Lok Sabha, after he passed away on 6 December, 1956.

 यह लेख हिन्दी में पढ़ें 

Obituary in Lok Sabha by PM Nehru on demise of Dr Ambedkar
Jawaharlal Nehru and Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar

In Lok Sabha, Nehru tribute to Ambedkar

Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India, paid tribute to Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, the first Law Minister of India, in both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha after his death on December 6, 1956. This is the tribute Jawaharlal Nehru paid Dr BR Ambedkar in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament.

On December 6, 1956, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar passed away at his residence in Delhi. After getting the news of Babasaheb’s death, MPs and ministers from Nehru’s cabinet also came to Dr Ambedkar’s residence at 26, Alipur Road. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru himself also came to pay his last respects. Babasaheb’s wife, Savita Ambedkar writes in her autobiography ‘Dr. Ambedkaranchya Sahavasaat’ that, “Nehru consoled me. He inquired very earnestly about Saheb’s age, health, illness, when and how he passed away. I gave them detailed information.”

Jawaharlal Nehru on Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

Obituary in the Lok Sabha by Jawaharlal Nehru on demise of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar


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 to-day 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 of as one of the architects of our 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 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 in the exact way he wanted it, but in a large measure, the principle underlying 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 am afraid, it still continues in many parts of the country even though it may be considered 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 persistence and that, if I may use the word, sometime virulence of his opposition to all this 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 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 the 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 the 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 say so, not due to any matters of principle, but rather linguistic matters and language used, we co-operated 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 our 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, in which case, total adjournment may be made. There can be no doubt that he comes under 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 or to the spirit underlying 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 the day. That is subject to your wishes and the wishes of the House.


Jawaharlal Nehru, then the Prime Minister, made the statement on the floor of the Lok Sabha after the father of the Indian Constitution Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar’s death.

PM Nehru also paid tribute Dr. Ambedkar in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India’s parliament. See here

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