The Centre for Ambedkar Studies, School of Social Sciences held a two lecture series on Ambedkar’s unique political thought delivered by Professor Aishwary Kumar from Stanford University in U.S.A. The lecture series which started on 20th October, first mused upon the topic, “Ambedkar and the Inappropriable”, which was witnessed by a packed house.
Professor Kumar is a leading political theorist and intellectual historian of South Asia and has worked extensively on areas of Political thought, democratic ethics, modern legal thought, etc.
He teaches Political Theory and Intellectual History at Stanford, and has written a book titled, Radical Equality: Ambedkar Gandhi, and Risk of Democracy published in 2015, went on to be judged by The Indian Express as one of the most important books to be published in 2015.
Through his work, he tried to break down the many aspects of Ambedkar’s political thought that was initially shaped by his lived experiences as a Dalit and eventually by his turning towards Buddhism.
Bits of Ambedkar’s unfinished autobiography were put in context. “There’s not much on himself in the autobiography. He mainly describes the dungeons of untouchable experiences and how nobody lent him a house. Eventually, he took shelter where nights were cold, and he had company of bats…he only had a lamp to read and write. That’s the reading we are speaking of today,” observed Kumar.
He pointed out, how a 25 year old Ambedkar said that caste was blood and habit. He quoted Ambedkar, “Humans die under roads cleaning it, and we can’t do anything about it? Ambedkar asks, why can’t we? With all the power?”
Kumar gave justice to the vividness of Ambedka’rs thoughts and especially his leaning towards thoughts of Sidhhartha and Socrates. Ambedkar championed shunyata or void. “Ambedkar’s political thought was inappropriable as he had the courage to be. This came from his understanding of his Dalit existence.” Ambedkar called the Dalit and incompressible minimum which made them defiant. They have rights but no justice,” noted Kumar, hinting at the various atrocities meted out to Dalits across the country through generations.
He concluded the session with an answer to a question raised, “One can appropriate Ambedkar, but not his thoughts. Those who want to appropriate him, would not be able to bear his readings and thoughts,” said Kumar. The session was chaired by Prof. Jyotirmaya Sharma, faculty in the Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad.
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