If I tell you that I was once a Gandhian and now I am an Ambedkarite, you won’t be surprised. Things are changing and a better view of history is giving us more and more access to what is called the truth. Today, I feel that Ambedkar was perhaps the greatest philosopher India has seen in its last two or so centuries. He was one of the most well-read “Indians” of his time, his analytical acumen was unsurpassable and he had a soft heart for things living and suffering.
Some would definitely disagree. They would say that Ambedkar was more of an activist, a lawyer, a minister, just another one of those negative nellies who was always seeing the bad in the system. A book, ‘No Laughing Matter: The Ambedkar Cartoons’, which chronicles the cartoons based on him, in his time, reveals that he was looked down upon by almost everyone (Hindus). He was, in other words, misunderstood.
I cannot say he was beyond his age. He was not a genius. What he was, was human. And that is more important. And yes, I sometimes feel that his dismissiveness of Gandhi was a little too bitterish in approach, but what else could he do? As I mentioned above, he was human. And amidst the “public aura” of Gandhi, he found himself helpless.
He could do anything. But he had chosen the upliftment of the untouchables as his goal for life, and there was nothing else in his life. The way Gandhi was worshipped in his time, the way his greatness, (yes Gandhi was great. Let me be honest. I respect him a lot, still), hid his weaknesses, it was almost horrific. According to my interpretations, ‘Horror horror’ was Ambedkar’s unsaid response to whatever Gandhi thought he stood for. His god-like stature was menacing. He was the one everyone looked at, for guidance, to validate their idiosyncrasies. Like we look at Gods? I think Ambedkar felt that was wrong. And, I believe that it should be considered wrong. Humans should not be made into Gods!
Gandhi was against untouchability in spirit. He really wanted the upliftment of those poor sections of society. But, as per my interpretations of history, he was unaware, that he actually didn’t want that. His approach was already smeared, with what is today termed as ‘brahminical attitude’. Ambedkar was forever uneasy about it.
Anyway, today I am an Ambedkarite. Two months ago, I was agnostic as to where I am. Two years ago, I was a Gandhian. But is it really true? Can we change so much? I don’t think so. The point is, you do not need to know Ambedkar to be an Ambedkarite. Now I know I was an Ambedkarite all along. Yes, I was. But without the required knowledge of the world/eidos to really understand myself, without really having a vocabulary.
Understand the true version of Ambedkar. Beyond the lens of Brahminism that is there in the books. Go into history, his and the world he was living in. And perhaps you will understand my shift. The most enlightening experience would be looking into the core concepts like equality, liberality, fraternity etc. from his perspective, which form the basis of our constitution. Dr Ambedkar was after all its architect!
Note: The above is a condensed version of what made me convert into an Ambedkarite. More specifically, it is a catalogue of conclusions from my readings, written for the express purpose of representing for the popular audience. For appealing to a wider audience, we have to lose some academic integrity.
The reader is encouraged to read more and make his own views. I suggest you go through the writings of Prof. Aakash, my academic mentor and one of the foremost Ambedkarite scholars in the world (he is compiling a definitive biography of Ambedkar as we speak). For starters, there is Indian Political Theory: Laying the Groundwork for Svaraj (2017) And the upcoming, Ambedkar’s Preamble: A Secret History of the Constitution of India (Penguin, 2020). I am suggesting books by only one author but we need an extensive study of various opinions before coming to any conclusion.