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B.R. Ambedkar: A ‘Rebel-Liberal’ in the Gandhian Universe

Bidyut Chakrabarty
SAGE Journals
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B.R. Ambedkar (1891–1956) pursued a scathing critique against the dominant nationalist discourse that Gandhi shaped, to a significant extent. Unlike Gandhi who insisted on village swaraj, Babasaheb preferred liberal democracy of the Western variety in which an individual remained the basic unit of governance. What he established in the 1950 Constitution of India had its beginning in Ambedkar’s witness before the 1919 Southborough Committee and the 1930–32 Round Table Conference. This was a political battle that he had waged against the Mahatma to substantiate his arguments in favour of liberalism. There was also another battle that he was engaged in while challenging ‘the archaic social values’ supportive of caste discrimination. On the basis of his thorough research, he reinvented the idea of social justice in tune with his firm commitment to liberalism. True that he did not always succeed in his mission; nonetheless, the debate between the Mahatma and Babasaheb testifies several new dimensions of India’s nationalist thought that did not, so far, receive adequate scholarly attention. By drawing on a rather neglected aspect of the nationalist debate, the article seeks to fill up in our understanding of the ideas of Gandhi and Ambedkar which were definitely context driven. This is also a textual study that also makes the point that Ambedkar’s ideas did not appear to be as significant as they later became in independent India presumably because of the hegemonic influence of Gandhi in the nationalist universe probably due to contextual reasons. journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0376983616663417