Who is an Indian? Who is a nationalist? Who is antinational? This selection of speeches, from 1930 to 1956, shows Dr B.R. Ambedkar as the most original among the architects of modern India as he asks and answers such difficult questions. Whether he was dealing with the British or the Congress, his commitment to equality and justice for minorities remained steadfast.
These twenty speeches tell us a story jettisoned by narratives that valorise a Hinduised ‘idea of India’. Ambedkar addresses various publics: dalit workers in Nashik, British lawmakers in London, the Non-Brahmin Movement in Madras, parliamentarians in Delhi and college students in Jalandhar. He speaks of democracy, labour, minority rights, communalism, brahminism, constitution-making and foreign policy. The prose spans different registers of reason and affect—lyrical and polemical, combative and poignant.
B.R. Ambedkar is one of the foremost thinkers of the twentieth century and the chief architect of the Indian Constitution. Several of his works have been reissued at Navayana with annotations.
Bhagwan Das (1927–2010) was an Ambedkarite and a historian of the dalit movement. A meeting with Ambedkar in Shimla, in 1943, defined the trajectory of his life leading to his single-minded pursuit of Babasaheb’s ideals.
Anurag Bhaskar teaches at Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat. He is an Affiliated Faculty of the Center on the Legal Profession at Harvard Law School, and a Visiting Faculty at Indian Institute of Dalit Studies, Delhi. He holds a Masters in Law degree (2019) from Harvard Law School.
‘To compare the average oration of a Congress politician with a speech by Doctor Ambedkar is like comparing a Hindu chant with a fusillade of pistol shots’—Beverley Nichols
‘‘We are in a crisis. The speeches here show us a way out’—Prof Sukhadeo Thorat
‘What a steam-roller intellect: levelling down palms and poppies’—Dr Pattabhi Sitaramayya
‘There are no more worlds for Ambedkar to conquer’—Prof Herbert Foxwell