Home / Politics / Policy /  Dr. B.R. Ambedkar: Our reading list

This year marks the 125th birth anniversary of Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution and one of India’s greatest icons. We at Mint have been writing about Ambedkar’s legacy over the last year. Here’s our reading list on Dr. Ambedkar:

1) The misappropriated legacy of Dr. BR Ambedkar (April 15, 2015)

In our edit on Ambedkar’s legacy, we wrote, “In terms of scholarly output among political leaders, he stands alone. Seldom has an Indian written on as diverse a range of subjects as Ambedkar. Everything he wrote or said was deeply referenced in the style of the scholar that he was. His was not the politics of inner voice. The Problem of the Rupee: Its Origin and its Solution (1923) looked at India’s currency problem in the colonial age. Pakistan or the Partition of India (1946) was a clear-sighted and realistic appraisal of India’s partition. Thoughts on Linguistic States (1955) tackled a subject on which India still continues to tie itself into knots. Since then, India has not seen another leader who brings such learning to practical problems."

2) Ambedkar’s teacher (March 31, 2016)

In this piece, Anurag Behar writes about Prof. John Dewey, who taught Ambedkar at Columbia University, New York between 1913 and 1916. He ends his work quoting Ambedkar quoting Dewey, “… Prof. Dewey said... Every society gets encumbered with what is trivial, with dead wood from the past, and with what is positively perverse. As a society becomes more enlightened, it realizes that it is responsible not to conserve and transmit the whole of its existing achievements, but only such as to make for a better future society. The school is its chief agency for the accomplishment of this end."

3) Why the Ambedkar legacy matters (November 30, 2015)

In another edit, we write about why Ambedkar’s legacy matters, and why we must go beyond just quoting him tactically. “Picking and choosing quotes while ignoring the larger Ambedkarite project is an easy sport that too many indulge in these days. That Ambedkarite project is about individual liberty, the end of the caste system, social democracy, a democratic public culture, the embrace of modernity, pragmatism, constitutional methods and education for an enlightened citizenry."

4) Ambedkar, rupee and our recent troubles (April 14, 2015)

Niranjan Rajadhyaksha, wrote about Ambedkar the monetary economist and his approach to the rupee problem. “Much has changed in the Indian economy since Ambedkar did his academic work in monetary economics. But some of his general approach to the problem of the rupee is still relevant: the benefits of depreciation in an open economy, the need to take the distributional consequences into account, the need to maintain price stability in the domestic economy, and the preference for rules over discretion in monetary management."

5) Our ‘un-Indian’ constitution (April 4, 2016)

An excerpt from the soon-to-be released book, The Oxford Handbook of the Indian Constitution, about how the constitution transcended nationalism. “From its very promulgation, the Indian Constitution situated itself at the forefront of universalism. The Indian nationalist movement was self-conscious about the need to transcend nationalism; Indian Independence was instrumental in realising the unity of mankind. For such a project, it did not make sense to limit the possible sources of normative or legal authority. To be free was not to be bound by a particular tradition, or just a particular political contract. It was to be free to take any tradition and history and make it one’s own.

6) The economics of Ambedkar (April 10, 2016)

Last week’s Mint on Sunday featured a column by Pramit Bhattacharya on the economics of Ambedkar. He writes, “Ambedkar’s views on economics were as complex as his views on politics and it is likely that one shaped the other. As his views on India’s agrarian problems indicate, he saw no contradiction between advocating for industrialization on the one hand and cooperative farming on the other. And in both cases, he supported his arguments with examples of countries in other parts of the world which had adopted the solutions he was advocating. More than doctrine, empirical evidence seems to have guided many of his policy positions."

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