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The Life and Thought of B.R. Ambedkar
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Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956) is perhaps the most iconised historical figure in India. Born into a caste deemed ‘unfit for human association’, he came to define what it means to be human. How and why did Ambedkar, who revered and cited the Gita till the 1930s, turn against Hinduism? What were his quarrels with Gandhi and Savarkar? Why did he come to see himself as Moses? How did the lessons learnt at Columbia University impact the struggle for water in Mahad in 1927 and the drafting of the Constitution of India in 1950? Having declared in 1935 that he will not die as a Hindu, why did Ambedkar toil on the Hindu Code Bill? What made him a votary of Western individualism and yet put faith in the collective ethical way of life suggested by Buddhism? Why is it wrong to see Ambedkar as an apologist for colonialism? From which streams of thought did Ambedkar brew his philosophies? Who were the thinkers he turned to in his library of fifty thousand books? What did this life of the mind cost him and his intimates? What of his first wife, Ramabai, while he was busy with the chalval?
A Part Apart is a rigorous effort at both asking questions and answering as many as one can about B.R. Ambedkar. Ashok Gopal undertakes a mission without parallel: reading the bulk of Ambedkar’s writings, speeches and letters in Marathi and English, and what Ambedkar himself would have read. This is the story of the unrelenting toil and struggle that went into the making of Ambedkar legend.
A graduate in history, Ashok Gopal has worked as a journalist, consultant for NGOs, curriculum designer and educational content developer. He has been studying the life and thought of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar since 2004. He lives in Pune.
The book features 70 photographs, most of them from the archivist Vijay Surwade’s collection.
In the Media:
In an interview to Times of India Ashok Gopal talks about the necessity of a religion without god in Ambedkar’s thought.
An interview with the author in The Hindu, where he spoke of how Ambedkar fashioned his ideas of democracy.
‘Traces the journey of Ambedkar becoming Babasaheb’—The Print
‘A magisterial new biography’—BBC
‘An exceptional life … A Part Apart is essential reading for all who wish to see a kinder, more egalitarian and more democratic India’—India Today
‘A monumental book. Bound to serve as an enduring source of authoritative reference for decades to come’—Shashi Tharoor in Open
‘Ashok Gopal’s long but tightly argued text is a profoundly important biography … marshalls an admirable wealth of corroborative references, adding to his brilliant reading of the contexts and influences that crafted Ambedkar’s personality’—Himal
‘Ashok Gopal’s A Part Apart enables us to critically appreciate Ambedkar’s contextual thinking and move beyond the easy templates of this or that ‘—ism’.’—Biblio: A Review of Books
Read an excerpt on the nuances of Ambedkar and Gandhi’s differences during the Poona Pact in The Print.
An excerpt was published on Scroll.in about how Ambedkar’s father struggled to get him educated.
An excerpt in The Print about the preparations made for the mass-conversion ceremony in Nagpur on 14 October 1956.
‘The book has brought everything together on Ambedkar’—Hindustan Times’ Books and Authors podcast run by Manjula Narayan in an interview with author Ashok Gopal.
An excerpt about the hardships faced by Ambedkar’s first wife, Ramabai, was published in The Satyashodhak.
An excerpt about how different caste groups came to be defined and differentiated by the colonial government, and the role Ambedkar played in this, was published in The Leaflet.
Ashok Gopal’s editorial in Hindustan Times about how Ambedkar’s appointment lent legitimacy to the Constituent Assembly.
An excerpt was published in The Hindu about Ambedkar’s momentous declaration of leaving Hindu religion.
An edited excerpt about Ambedkar’s letter to Savarkar was published in Indian Express.
The Print reported on the book’s launch with Vijeta Kumar, Jairam Ramesh, Ratan Lal and Ashok Gopal.
An excerpt in The News Minute about Ambedkar and his Non-Brahmin associates in the Samaj Samata Sangh.
An interview with Ashok Gopal on the Anurag Minus Verma Podcast.
An excerpt in NewsClick about the adverse and hostile reactions after the legendary Mahad Conference of 1927.
‘Takes the story of Bhimrao Ambedkar beyond his role as the Father of the Constitution’—Republic World
An extensive televisual report in BBC News हिन्दी about Ambedkar–Savarkar relations.
A long discussion of the book appeared in the Malayalam-language channel Kairali News:
‘A great book about the greatest modern intellectual of India’—Kancha Ilaiah
‘A Part Apart is a treasure trove ... a trendsetter ... in an inspiring new genre’—Anand Teltumbde
‘A commanding work of scholarship—the most important historical study of Ambedkar in English’—Sunil Khilnani
‘A deeply researched, ambitious, path-breaking, must-read book. Extraordinary accomplishment’—Shailaja Paik
‘Accompanied by stunning photographs, this is destined to become the authoritative source’—Partha Chatterjee
‘It’s like having a conversation with the great man ... A Part Apart has power and beauty’—Anurag Minus Verma
‘This unhurried account of Ambedkar’s life is a journey through his complex thought-world’—V. Geetha
‘This book will draw in readers who are both familiar and new to Ambedkar. Dive in and be awed!’—Santosh Dass
‘I was mesmerised by the painstaking, extensive, detailed work... this book is full of unknown facts, insights, arguments’—Umesh Bagade
‘Based on primary sources, this complete biography covers Ambedkar’s public and private life’—Christophe Jaffrelot