ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Reading Ambedkar in the Time of Covid-19

What lies behind the policy blindness towards concerns of the oppressed in India? The “social distancing” induced by the COVID-19 health crisis does not address the problem of deeper levels of distancing caused by “social isolation” and “social nausea,” two concepts used by B R Ambedkar. This article is an attempt to understand the factors behind the collective sociopolitical response towards the poorest sections characterised by lack of empathy, and to develop an Ambedkarite framework to understand social policy generally and, more specifically, in India.

Narrating an Epic Life

Gandhi: The Years That Changed the World, 1914–1948 by Ramachandra Guha, Gurgaon: Penguin Allen Lane, 2018; pp xx + 1129, ₹ 999.

How Did Ambedkar Imagine India After Independence?

A "free" India would be a model democracy that redistributed power to the marginalised, and purged society of oppressive social institutions, beliefs and practices.

Daring to Imagine Caste’s Antithesis

Republic of Caste: Thinking Equality in the Time of Neoliberal Hindutva by Anand Teltumbde, Delhi: Navayana, 2018; pp 432, ₹ 600.

Ambedkar as a Political Philosopher

Existing studies on B R Ambedkar largely focus on his substantive religious, sociological, political and constitutional concerns, and not on the concepts he deployed for the purpose or modes of his argumentation. His body of work demonstrates that he formulated a number of concepts to take stock of the social reality that he confronted, and/or reformulated existing concepts by critically engaging with the body of scholarship available to him. With regard to the conception of the political, he advanced a comprehensive and consistent design of what it means to live as a public and how best to do so in a setting very different from the West.

Ethics in Ambedkar’s Critique of Gandhi

Among the political thinkers of modern India, Gandhi and Ambedkar have elicited an intellectual enthusiasm among scholars who remain arrested in debates on the pre-eminence of one thinker over the other. The Ambedkarite critique of Gandhi is centred on the latter’s fast unto death in opposition to the MacDonald Award of separate electorates for Dalits. Formalistic readings of Gandhi are not in the interest of the robust, associative and inclusive intellectual tradition at the core of Ambedkar’s emancipatory project. Ambedkar was a pathfinder who chose critique as a method of ethical persuasion to gently pull in and retain members of caste society in the interlocutory framework of conversation.

Forgetting Partition

History’s silence resonates in the textual silence of the Indian Constitution on the immense scale of violence and exodus accompanying the partition of the subcontinent, despite the contemporaneity of partition and constitution writing. Clearly discernible on a closer reading of the Constituent Assembly's debates are implicit influences of partition on key constitutional decisions, such as citizenship, political safeguards for religious minorities and provisions creating a strong central tendency in the union. The constitutional memory of partition, as a freak occurrence for which the "outsider" was to be blamed, resembles the understanding of official historiography. Behind these common registers of memory lie powerful nationalist narratives of identity and unity, which indicate a deep and abiding connection between constitutional amnesia and nationalism.

Dialogical Dreams

Debating India: Essays on Indian Political Discourse by Bhikhu Parekh; New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 2015; pp 374, ₹895.

The Work of Theory

Tackling the question of how to recalibrate the relationship between history and theory in our favour without falling into the trap of either an unqualified universalism or a naïve historicism, this article proposes that we move from the position of being a critic of Western theory to that of being a composer and assembler of a new theory from different sources and different histories.

Ambedkar Bhavan Controversy

The contentious razing of the Ambedkar Bhavan and the Buddha Bhushan printing press started by Babasaheb Ambedkar in Mumbai has shown how wide the gap is between the Dalit "class" and "mass".

On the Ambedkar–Gandhi Debate

In response to the discussions around Arundhati Roy’s introduction to B R Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste, this article draws on Ambedkar’s views on caste in government policy to reiterate his continuing relevance today.

Welding the Two Visions of Democracy

Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy by Aishwary Kumar; Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 2015; pp xiv + 393, price notindicated.

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