Raja Sekhar Vundru

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Location: New Delhi, India

Ph.D on Dr.Ambedkar's Electoral System from the National Law School, Bangalore (NLSUI) Currently working as Deputy Director General, UIDAI, Government of India , New Delhi +911123752322 (office)

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Book review :Ambedkar : Towards an enlightened India

Book review :Ambedkar : Towards an enlightened

Little known facts about a known figure
Raja Sekhar Vundru

Book review
Ambedkar : Towards an enlightened India
Pages 188,
Price 295

(Published in Deccan Chronicle , Hyderabad, on 23 May, 2004)

Dedicating his book What Congress and Gandhi have done toUntouchables (1945) to ‘Miss F’, Dr B R Ambedkar writes“As you know, I am drawn in the vortex of politics whichleaves no time for literary pursuits. I do not know whenI shall be out of it.” For Ambedkar who could not write anautobiography unlike many national leaders of his times,any biography on him should be refreshing and welcome.

To aid her in her first attempt on a biography of Ambedkar,Omvedt had access to the most authentic biography onAmbedkar by Dhananjay Keer (1954), Khairmode’s MarathiBiography (1968 – 2000), Ambedkar’s PersonalAssistant Nanak Chand Rattu’s writings (1997), Ambedkar’sletters by Surendra Agnat (1993) and 17 Volumes ofAmbedkar’s writings by Maharashtra Government (1979 – 2003).

However, Omvedt missed out on the authentic biography byVasant Moon (1991/2002) and Christophe Jaffrelot’s Frenchbiography Dr Ambedkar. Leader intouchable et père dela constitution indienne (2000) . Fitting Ambedkar’slife and philosophy into 162 pages is not an easy task.

The book starts well with a clearly composed early lifeof Ambedkar, however, the mystification of Ambedkar’sbirth could have been avoided. And the author committeda glaring faux paus by writing Rao Bahadur RettamalaiSrinivasan’s name — who attended Round Table Conferenceswith Ambedkar — as untouchable representative in 1930s.

Ambedkar in his various books wrote about his feelingsand sometimes described events which were autobiographical.His rendering of events of Poona Pact, which haunted himrest of his life and his opinions about untouchable leaderslike M C Rajah who betrayed Dalits, should have beeused. After a lengthy discussion on theoretical aspects ofBuddhism, the author provides few details about the 1956conversion. Half way through, author shifts into more onthe ‘essential writings’ of Ambedkar. She gives an overdoseof Maharashtra, Phule and Buddhism, but misses out on‘Riddles in Hinduism’.

Omvedt attempts to relate life of Ambedkar with contemporaryDalit situation to make it more easier to understand thecomplexities of the times he lived in. While Ambedkarbased most of his premises on Varna based society, theauthor puts it across in a Jati framework whiledescribing caste.

Even so, the book is interesting as the writer focuses indetail on lesser known facets of Ambedkar. Drawing fromKhairmode, author provides great details of events, whilequoting heavily from Janata, a paper published byAmbedkar. She tries to make it different from earlierbiographies and succeeds in doing so. The growth of hispersona is etched well, interspersed with events hithertowent unwritten and unexplored.

Omvedt excels in bringing out Ambedkar’s growth of ideas,his scholarship and the theoretical premises he built uponwithin few pages. The book firmly re-establishes theintellectual supremacy of Dr B R Ambedkar. Omvedt’s languageis clear, succinct and racy. The book is a quick andeasy, non-stop read, worth its buy.

(Raja Sekhar Vundru is an IAS officer presently posted as Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment,Govt. of India, New Delhi)


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