When Babasaheb’s mortal remains reached Bombay

The passing of Dr Ambedkar on 6 December 1956 had saddened the Dalitbahujans of the country to no end. But even at such a time of loss, a large number of Dalitbahujans embraced Buddhism by touching his body. Read the documents of CID, Bombay, giving a blow-by-blow account of the last journey of Dr Ambedkar

Dr Ambedkar Mahaparinirvan Diwas Special (6 December 1956)

Dr Ambedkar passed away when the Constitution that he had drafted started bringing about changes on the ground and the Dalits and Adivasis had started getting reservations as a matter of right. Dalits and Adivasis had also become Members of Parliament. But before Dr Ambedkar could take the movement of Dalitbahujans forward, he passed away on 6 December 1956. India lost its great hero, who faced adversities all his life but never gave up. When his mortal remains reached Mumbai, a sea of humanity spilled on to the streets. The crowd was so big that the administration found it impossible to control it.

This article is a compilation of the different reports of Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Bombay, on the events that followed. These have been taken from Source Material on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar and the Movement of Untouchables, Volume 1, 1982.

Dr Ambedkar’s body brought to Bombay at 2 pm on 6 December 1956

Confidential letter number 12609-H written by the special branch of CID, Bombay, to the Secretary to the Government of Bombay on 12 December 1956

SECRET

Dr. AMBEDKAR’S FUNERAL

To,

The Secretary to the Government of Bombay,

Home Department, Bombay

Subject-Funeral of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

The news of the sudden death of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a member of Rajya Sabha and the leader of the Scheduled Caste Foundation, at Delhi reached Bombay at about 1 p.m. on December 6th, 1956 and it spread like wildfire in the city and especially in the backward class community. A large number of people collected at the residence of Dr. Ambedkar at Raj Griha, Hindu Colony, Dadar, where they expected to have his last darshan. An equal number of persons collected at Santacruz Airport, where the body was reported to be brought by air.

The dead body of Dr. Ambedkar arrived at Santa Cruz Airport at about 2 am which was accompanied by Smt. Ambedkar, Shri Shantaram Shastri, Sohanlal Shastri, Buddha Mahavli Shastri, and others. By this time about 50,000 persons [had] collected there to have a glimpse of their leaders. A number of prominent persons placed wreaths on the dead body. The body was thereafter put in an ambulance van and taken in procession (50,000) to the residence, where a crowd of over a lakh of persons was already awaiting the arrival of the dead body. The crowd then swelled to almost four lakhs.

The body was placed on a lorry to be visible to the public at about 1-40 p.m. and was taken in a procession along Kharegat Road, Vincent Road, Dadar Road, Poibavadi Road, Elphinstone Road, Sayani Road, Gokhale Road (South and North), Ranade Road, extension to Chandan Wadi cremation ground, Shivaji Park, where it reached at about 6-p.m. About a lakh of persons participated in the procession.

The body was placed on a pyre and four Buddhists headed by Bhadanta Anand Kosalyayan paid homage. Dadasaheb Gaikwad, paying tribute, said that Dr. Ambedkar was to attend the ceremony of mass conversion of his followers on December 16th, 1956 in Bombay. He suggested that those, who were present intending to embrace Buddhism should do so in the presence of the dead body of their leader and on the consent given by the majority of people by raising their hands (including Shri P.K. Atre), Bhadanta AnandKosalyayan recited mantras, which were repeated by the crowd and it was then declared that the people have accepted Buddhism.

Shri P.K. Atre said that the people of the caliber of Dr. Ambedkar were rarely born and narrated his life history and the undaunted fight put up by him single-handedly against the Government and orthodox Hindu community for the cause of his people. He remarked that had the Government of India accepted Hindu Code Bill as presented by Dr. Ambedkar, he would not have changed his religion. He called upon the citizens of Bombay and other places to try to fulfill the wishes of the great man.

Shri Yeshwantrao B. Ambedkar, then set fire to the pyre at about 7-30 p.m. in the presence of about 4 lakh people. Leaders of various political parties had also attended to pay homage.

Bombay, 7 December 1956: The last journey of Ambedkar

On the receipt of the sad news of the demise of Dr. Ambedkar, the workers of twelve textile mills did not attend the second shift and workers of nine textile mills did not attend the third shift. There were eight minor stone-throwing incidents and 2 cases of soda water bottle-throwing in the northern part of the city.

On the second day i.e. December 7th, 1956 a large number of textile mills remained closed as the workers attended the funeral ceremony. The railway workshops at Matunga, Parel, Bunder and General Stores at Curry Road were also affected due to which the General Manager had to declare the day as unpaid holiday. Several Silk Mills, factories and B.P.T. Docks were also affected. A number of schools and colleges were also closed.

One Shri Bapu Arjun, aged 55 years, died of injuries sustained by him, when he fell down from a tree at Khodadad Circle, Dadar, where he had climbed to have a look at late Dr. Ambedkar.

On December 9th, 1956, a function to offer shrandhanjali to late Dr. Ambedkar was held at the cremation ground, Shivaji Park, under the presidentship of Bhadanta Anand Kosalyayan. About two lakhs persons were present amongst whom were Shri B.D. Khobragade, Dadasaheb Gaikwad, Bhonsle and others. The president said that though a vacuum had been created in the Scheduled Caste Community due to the death of Dr. Ambedkar, the people should not get discouraged but should follow his teachings to fight against injustice. He then administered the oath of conversion to Buddhism to those who were absent on the previous day. Other speakers spoke on the life and work of late Dr. Ambedkar and advised the people to abide by the principles of Buddhism. Later on two brass vessels containing the ashes wrapped in saffron cloth were placed in an open van and taken in a mammoth procession consisting of about one lakh persons to Raj Griha, along Ranade Road, Gokhale Road, Sayani Road, Elphinstone Road, Dadar Road, Dadasaheb Phalke Road and Lakhamsi Napoo Road. Prominent amongst those who escorted the ashes were Smt. Ambedkar, Shri B.C. Kamble, B.S. Gaikwad (S.C.F.), Khobragade and others (Please see page 970).

The same evening, a mammoth meeting attended by over a lakh persons, was held at Shivaji Park, Dadar, under the auspices of the citizens of Bombay, when Shri M.V. Donde presided and Shri K.S. Thakre, Madhukar Mahajan, Naushir Bharucha, B.C. Kamble, Dr. H.R. Karnik, Dr. T.R. Naravane,   

Shri Pagare, S.G. Patkar, M. Harris, A.S. Bhide, R.D. Bhandare, M.R. Dandavate, Anant Mandekar, Dadasaheb Gaikwad and P.K. Atre paid tributes to the departed leader. In this meeting a resolution, paying homage to the memory of Dr. Ambedkar as a learned man and great patriot and expressing that his departure had caused a great loss to the country and declaring that they shared the bereavement of his followers, was unanimously passed by observing two minutes silence.

(Sd/-)

        for Commissioner of Police

           Greater Bombay,

11th December.


Persons who accompanied the dead body of Dr. Ambedkar from Delhi to Bombay

(1) Shantaram Shastri, (2) Sohanlal Shastri, (3) Bhosle Engineer, (4) Buddha Mahabali Shastri, (5) Shankar Anand.

Prominent persons present at the aerodrome

(1) S.S. Mirajkar, (2) Dr. More, (3) R.K. Bhogle, (4) Donde, (5) Prabhakar Sanzgiri, (6) Dr. Karnik (Principal, Siddharth College), (7)Smt. H.R. Karnik, (8) Barrister and Smt. Samarth, (9)Mr. R. Dandavate, (10) M.R. Donde, (11) S.G. Patkar, (12) Advocate Borade, (13) Bhandare, (14) Kowle, (15) Kamble, (16) D.D. Shamle, (17) R.B. Raut, (18) Baburao Gaikwad, (19), (20) Talwalkar, (21) Pagare, (22) Kabir and his daughters.

Persons who were present at the cremation ground

(1) Shri P.K. Atre, (2) M.V. Donde, (3) N.C. Bharucha, (4) A.H. Gadre, (5) M.R. Dandavate, (6) M. Harris, (7) Rajabhau Kopergade, (8) Upashyam Guruji, (9) C.K. Bhole, (10) R.B. More, (11) Bapurao Jagpat, (12) M.P. Mahajan, (13) Waman Parab, (14) A.S. Bhide, (15) Dr. and Smt. Malati Tendulkar, (16) Baburao Gholap, (17) Dinkar Sakharikar, (18) Y.G. Gaond, (19) Prabhakar More, (20) S.G. Songaonkar, (21) H.N. Trivedi, (22) Nana Ramji Patil, (23) Padmakar Dandare, (24) Kopkar, (25) Dr. Mathkar, (26) Chief Secretary to Government of Bombay, (27) S.L. Silam (Speaker).

‘Source Material on Dr Ambedkar Ambedkar and the Movement of Untouchables’, Vol 1, 1982

Station Diary

6th December 1956

2-20 p.m.

Inspector Fandagai (C.I.D.) informed that dead body of Dr. Ambedkar is being brought by plane from Delhi to Bombay between 4 to 5 p.m. today and will be taken to Rajgraha, Hindu Colony and that Kingsway Police Station should be informed as the crowd has started collecting in Hindu Colony. S.I.S. Etne and Bade from Kingsway Police Station informed to make arrangements immediately.

D.C.P.H. and Q.D.C.P. (N) have been informed as above.

Superintendent E. Division was informed personally by P.I. Chopde in Head Office and as per his instructions duty officer Mulla of Bhoiwada Police Station has been asked to send one S.I. and 5 men in uniform to report to Kingsway Police Station for this purpose.

E.S.’s also informed to go to Rajgriha and check on the crowd.

Under instructions from D.C.P.H.Q. the following Police Stations were alerted in connection with the dead body of late Dr. Ambedkar being brought to Bombay, to see that no incidents occur in their jurisdictions.

(1) Superintendent of Police Station F. Division through S.I. Mulla of Bhoiwada Police Station.

(2) S.I. Kadam of Kalachowky Police Station.

(3) S.I. Mulla of Bhoiwada Police Station.

(4) S.I. of Byculla Police Station.

(5) Inspector Sawant of Mahim Police Station.

5-20 p.m.

D.C.P.H.Q. phoned to say that Shri Deodhar and Shri Damale be asked to depute loudspeaker van to Santacruz Aerodrome and wireless van for Bombay Branch, accordingly Deodhar  and Damale informed personally.

7 p.m.

S.I. Shinde of Chembur Police Station informed that he had received information at 3-30 p.m. that there was some trouble near Chembur Railway Station. He proceeded and found that some soda water bottles were broken by 25-30 boys who were shouting slogans to close the shops. He did not find the said crowd but learnt that the crowd had proceeded to Krishna Colony, Chembur, where he proceeded and arrested four (4) persons shouting slogans under 151 C.P.C.

10 p.m.

On receipt of instructions from Shri Deodhar the following wireless was passed to all Police Stations at 9:50 p.m.

It is reported that the Textile workers and other Industrial workers are going to observe hartal on 7th December 1956 i.e. tomorrow as a mark of respect to the memory of late Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, Ex-minister of Law, Government of India. It is further reported that the workers who will stay away from work will be peaceful, but some of them may try to obstruct bus and train traffic.

The Sectional Inspectors should be vigilant and have constant patrols in their respective sections with a view to avoiding any untoward incident. They should also apprise their Divisional Superintendents of this message immediately. They should also draw 3 gallons of petrol from M.T. Section free of charge on 7th December 1956. Any incident of importance should be immediately reported to H.Q. Control Room and S.B.I.

10-15 p.m.

S.I. Kulkarni S.B.II at Santacruz Airport telephoned to say that the planes carrying the body of late Dr. Ambedkar is arriving at 2-05 p.m. D.C.P.H.Q., D.C.P. (N) and Shri Deodhar and Superintendent  Bhaiji have been informed.

10-25 p.m.

Inspector Ghai, S.B.I., telephoned to say that the Committee of Communist Party of India Bombay Br., especially in Naigum and Parel areas, Bombay Resham Mazdoor Union to all silk mill workers and municipal workers under the influence of Socialists and Scheduled Caste Foundation have given a call for general strike tomorrow. Shri Deodhar informed. In this connection wireless message is passed on to all police stations ref. S.D.E. No. 31 of date.

Dr Ambedkar breathed his last at his residence, 26 Alipur Road, Delhi

7th December 1956

00-45 a.m.

S.I. Mulla of Bhoiwada Police Station reports that on 6th December 1956 at 4-30 p.m. some persons who had gone to Wadala are asking the shopkeepers to close their shops in connection with the death of Dr. Ambedkar, had visited “Gala Store and Provisions” at Wadala and threw a small stone in the shop slightly damaging the showcase. No one injured. No one arrested.

4 a.m.

Inspector Sudagar S.B.I. and Fox report that about 50,000 persons accompanied the procession of Dr. Ambedkar from Santacruz Airport to Rajgriha.

5-30 a.m.

Shri Deodhar telephoned to say that the funeral procession of Dr. Ambedkar will proceed as follows. Khareghat, Vincent Road, Poibavdi, Suparibaug Road, up to Krishnanagar and turning to Elphinstone bridge, Dhan Mill Naka, Ghokle Road South, Portuguese Church, Ghokle Road (N), Ranade Road ext. and to Sea Face. D.C.P. (N), Kingsway Police Station Dadar and Bhoiwada, Mahim, Kalachauki, Superintendents E and F through respective police stations informed.

9-20 p.m.

Special Sub-Inspector Mehta of S.B.I. informed that the following mills are closed as the workers have observed hartal. (1) Swadeshi Mills, Kurla, (2) Tata Mills, (3) Finlay Mills, (4) Gold Mohar, (5) Indian Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Hindustan Mills, Khatau Manekji Mills, Simplex Mills, Apollo Mills; Shri Sitaram Mills, New China Mills, Podar Mills, Bradbury Mills, Jam Mills No. 1 and Digvijay are on partial hartal. B.E.S.T. workshops, Kingsway Train Department – out of 850 workers, 450 have taken leave and gone. Bus Department – out of 1,000, only 50 have taken leave. Fores Road Municipal workshop total hartal.

10-35 a.m.

Special Sub-Inspector Mehta of S.B. informed that the following mills have observed complete hartal.

(1) Bombay Dyeing (Textile), (2) Kohinoor Mills, No. 3, Dadar, (3) Raguvanshi Mill, (4) Victoria Mill, (5) Prakash Cotton Mill, (6) Hind Mills, (7) Century Mill, Madhusudan Mill

Partial Hartal as follows:-

(1) Sassoon Spinning Mill, (2) Kurla Spinning and Weaving, (3) Shriram. Out of 60 mills, 11 are closed.

All workers of Matunga Central Railway Workshop left at 9 a.m. and there is complete strike. Central Railway Workshop observing stay-in strike. Indian Naval Dockyard – out of 5,500, 500 workers are on hartal. Indian Government Mint – of 1,850, 200 workers are on hartal. Premier Automobiles, Kurla – there is complete strike.

3-00 p.m.

Police Inspector Saudagar telephones to say that he is going to Dadar Police Station along with Collector’s representative and desires that following message be given to D.C.P.H.Q., S.B.C.B. and Dadar Police Station (for Superintendent, F Division). Enquiries show that foreshore upto high water level mark belong to B.P.T. and went to B.P.T. Office and made enquiries with Deputy Manager Docks, and it is ascertained that nobody has taken permission to allow the body on the foreshore belonging to B.P.T. and also Collector’s Office has not given permission for their jurisdiction.

Message passed on to D.C.P.H.Q., and S.B. (D.C.P.B. could not be contacted on air) and to Sub-Inspector, Karansingh of Dadar Police Station who has been informed to pass on the message to Superintendent, F. Division.

3-00 p.m.

Sub-Inspector Padwal of Kingsway Police Station telephones to say that the procession which started at about 1-15 p.m. from Rajgriha, Tilak Bridge, has passed through Kingsway jurisdiction at about 2-35 p.m. – crowd was 50/60 thousand strong. Now the procession is in Bhoiwada jurisdiction.

8-45 p.m.

The procession started from Rajgriha Hindu Colony, Tilak Bridge at 1-40 p.m. and after passing the prescribed route reached Shivaji Park, “Sonapur” at 5-24 p.m. The funeral procession attended by approximately 2 lakh persons ended at 7-35 p.m. At 7-50 p.m. most of the crowd had dispersed and the roads closed to traffic were opened up by D.C.P., A.F. Strength of the crowd attending the procession at Hindu Colony to its destination at Sonapur rose from 50,000 to 2 lakhs.

No untoward incident reported in connection with the procession and the funeral ceremony which followed the procession.

The C.P. and the Secretary H.D. were informed about the situation from time to time.

Emergency Station Diary

8-00 a.m.

Labour Officer, Ambika Silk Mills, Haines Road reported that his mill was working and some outsiders are throwing stones and calling the workers to stop work.

Doru informed and Sub-Inspector Paradkar of Agripada Police Station informed. Doru informed at 8-32 a.m. that he visited Ambika Mills but noticed no trouble. At 7-7-39 a.m. some boys had gone to get the mills closed and had thrown some stones and gone away.

8-45 a.m.

Shri Shah, Labour Officer, Phoenix Mills, Tulsi Pipe Road informed that some persons are throwing stones at the mills asking the labour to go on strike.

Fox reports that he went to the place and dispelled the crowd. Some stone-throwing was reported at the mill and some glass panels were broken, situation normal.

8-55 a.m.

Shri Danpale Standard Mills, New Prabhadevi Road, Dadar informed that stones were being thrown at the Mills from behind the mill. Fox visited the place at 9-20 a.m. Some stones were thrown from the back side of the Mill from Chana Gally. Situation now is normal.

9-45 a.m.

Sub-Inspector Sawant, Bhoiwada, informs that stone throwing at Murphy Radio Co., Dr. Shirodkar Road, Parel. One window pane was broken. The situation is quiet now.

9-45 a.m.

Easy visited Bobson & Co. near Jubilee Mills, Sewree. The workers from the Company requested the Manager to close. Manager refused. Thereupon they went out and threw some stones. 2 glass panes broken. The workers ran away. Situation is normal. The company is working.

10-49 a.m.

Easy visited the place near New Sun Mill Compound, Parel. Enquiries show that at about 10-15 a.m. about 30/40 boys approached the manager and requested him to close and one of them threw some small stones, as a result three glass panes were broken. One R.N. Kothari, an Officer of the mill informed the W/L Officer that the mill is now closed and situation is normal.

10-50 a.m.

Fox visited, Tyre-soles Rubber Co., Prabadevi, contacted the Assistant Manager Shri Ramani who informed that 10-15 persons collected and threw stones and went away. The company is working P.N. No. 1307/F of Dadar Police Station patrolling the area. Sub-Inspector Joshi informed that two glass panes were broken by stone-throwing.

12-45 p.m.

Sub-Inspector Garud, Kalachowki Police Station informs that some part of workers of National Electric India Ltd., Lalbaug and Calico Mill came out and stoned both companies. No damage to Calico. 2 panes of National Electric were broken. Guard kept.

3-20 p.m.

Shri Trivedi, Manager, Standard Mill, Prabhadevi informs that 200 to 300 people have gathered outside the Mill and are preventing the loyal workers from entering. Fox and Sub-Inspector Karansingh of Dadar Police Station informed.

(This correspondence was lightly edited for clarity.)

Transcription: Zeeshan Ali


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