Ambedkar’s “contribution to the making of modern India is possibly more substantial than that of any other leader of his generation.” Uniquely among leading national figures, Ambedkar not only overcame enormous personal odds (caste humiliation, poverty, the deaths of four of his five children), he also pioneered a critique of Indian society based on Enlightenment values of liberty, equality, and fraternity—values that he situated in India’s own ancient traditions, most notably in Buddhism. He was more of a secular rationalist than even Nehru, with a far more sophisticated sense of history, economics, and philosophy. This aspect of Ambedkar—rooted in a worldly, inclusive, scrupulously reasoned, secular and radical egalitarianism, coupled with a bracing focus on equal dignity and social justice as foundations for civil rights—still hasn’t received its due in mainstream scholarship and opinion. Which other leader of the 20th century is as relevant to every dream of a just, modern, liberal, secular, humane, and democratic society in India today?
We feature here an excerpt from Riddles in Hinduism: The Annotated Critical Selection published by Navayana to commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar.
Dr. Ambedkar took on and eventually won in two very important debates against two of the greatest economists the world has seen, a feat that cannot be equalled by any economist of India past or present. The more one reads Ambedkar the more one is left amazed at the giant nature of his intellectual prowess. Especially since he was not just an armchair intellectual but a social crusader who fought for justice for the oppressed.
Radhika Vemula, the mother of deceased dalit scholar and Ambedkarite activist Rohith Vemula was on one side enslaved in anguish and on the other side has radically transformed herself by associating with the ambedkarite movement