The Forum

BR Ambedkar: The Dalit hero of India

Educate, Agitate, Organise. This was the motto of the Indian scholar BR Ambedkar who led an extraordinary life of activism and achievement. It put him in conflict with many other political forces in his native country, such as the Indian National Congress and Mahatma Gandhi. In India itself, Ambedkar's legacy is widely respected but in other countries he is not so well known. And yet, Ambedkar was not only a leading intellectual of his day, brilliant orator, lawyer, successful politician and an unmatched champion of those suffering the harshest discrimination: he was also someone who rose from a Dalit background to being put in charge of writing the first constitution of independent India. The Dalits are the lowest of the low in the Indian social hierarchy, often considered as being below the lowest caste.

To tell Ambedkar's story Rajan Datar is joined by three distinguished Ambedkar scholars: Sunil Khilnani, professor of politics and history at Ashoka University and author of Incarnations: India in Fifty Lives; Valerian Rodrigues, emeritus professor of political studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University and first Ambedkar chair at Ambedkar University, both in New Delhi, and author of The Essential Writings of B.R. Ambedkar; and Ananya Vajpeyi, associate professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi and author of Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India.

[Photo: A statue of BR Ambedkar at Rashtriya Dalit Prerna Sthal in Noida, India. Credit: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images]

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