Reading Ambedkar

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Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSLG1FC1224

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon 2018

Course Coordinator and Team: Dr. Anuj Bhuwania

Email of course coordinator: anuj[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: None


Dr B.R. Ambedkar is one of the founders of modern India. As a political figure and as a public intellectual, his impact on our present is without parallel. And the impact of his ideas has only grown with time. He was also a master stylist of prose, and reading him is a pleasure in terms of erudition and clarity, bringing together passionate intensity, analytical skill as well as deep insight. However, Dr Ambedkar’s works haven’t been made canonical in Indian school education, the way Gandhi and Nehru’s writings have been for decades. Part of the reason is of course the polemical tone of some of his writings, as well as the shock one gets in being challenged in one’s fundamental beliefs and categories of thought. The first year of a BA program in a university named after him is an ideal time to introduce students to this powerful thinker, as well as to give them an opportunity to systematically read some truly brilliant prose. Students will thereby also get a necessary perspective on Indian society and polity. Ambedkar is a figure who now enjoys significant attention in the media. This course will help introduce students to the force of his ideas, and the complexities of his thought.

Course Outcomes:

After completion of this course, the students would be able to:

a) gain general familiarity with the life and works of Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar;

b) get some understanding of Ambedkar's critique of caste;

c) get a sense of Ambedkar's position on pre-independence politics in India;

d) appreciate Ambedkar's contributions to the making of India's Constitution.

Brief Description of modules with reading list

This course will involve reading some key texts by Ambedkar. We will be reading solely primary texts in this course, all written by Ambedkar. Ambedkar’s ideas have left a huge footprint on our social, political and legal institutions, and the focus of the course will be on these three arenas. Ambedkar’s powerful critique of caste, which he wrote about extensively throughout his life will be covered first. As a political actor representing an marginalized minority constituency, Ambedkar provides an important vantage point for viewing the rise of nationalism and the decolonization movements in India. Ambedkar’s role as the Chair of the Drafting Committee of India’s Constitution and India’s first law minister makes his vision of social justice particularly important to understand. The course will therefore comprise of modules on these areas, with some of his seminal writings around each of them.


Unit 1. Ambedkar, the life (1 week)

This module is meant to introduce the life of Dr Ambedkar through his short autobiographical notes.


Reading list:

Ambedkar, Waiting for a visa,

Additional reading:

Natarajan, S., Anand, S., Vyam, D., & Vyam, S. (2011). Bhimayana: Experiences of Untouchability.


Unit 2. Ambedkar’s critique of caste (4 weeks)

In the second module, we will read some of Ambedkar’s most influential and devastatingly critical writings on caste. We will read works from different periods of his life, to trace the development of his thought on this key issue.


Reading list:

  • Ambedkar (1917), Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development,
  • Ambedkar (1936), The Annihilation of Caste,
  • Ambedkar (1948), The Untouchables: Who were they and why they became Untouchables?,


Additional reading:

  • Ambedkar (1946), Who were the Shudras?`,
  • Ambedkar, B.R. (1951), “The Rise and Fall of the Hindu Woman: Who was Responsible for it?”, Rege, Sharmila (2013), Against Madness of Manu: B R Ambedkar’s Writings on Brahmanical Patriarchy, Navayana Publishing, New Delhi.


Unit 3. Ambedkar’s Politics (3 weeks)

This module focuses on Ambedkar’s critical perspective on Indian nationalism and its principal actors. It takes the theme of the second module forward by looking at how his vantage point enabled a very different view of the political orthodoxies of his time.

Reading list:

  • Ambedkar, What Congress and Gandhi have done to the untouchables.
  • Ambedkar, Pakistan; or Partition of India,


Additional reading:

  • Ambedkar, Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah,,%20Gandhi%20and%20Jinnah.htm


Unit 4. Ambedkar’s Constitutional and Legal vision (3 weeks)

As the architect of India’s Constitution and its first law minister, Ambedkar’s interventions in this period saw his project of social justice get an enduring institutional form. We will be reading some of his key interventions in these processes.

Reading list:

  • Ambedkar, Speech in the Constituent Assembly, 25 November 1949,
  • Ambedkar, ‘English Address at Poona District Law Library, Pune’, 22 December 1952, Narendra Jadhav ed., Ambedkar Speaks, Vol.1, 2013, p. 287-294.
  • Ambedkar, “Basic features of the Indian Constitution,” Rodrigues, Valerian, ed. The essential writings of BR Ambedkar. Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 473-194.
  • Ambedkar, “The Hindu Code Bill,” Rodrigues, Valerian, ed. The essential writings of BR Ambedkar. Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 495-516.


Additional reading:

  • Ambedkar, Evidence before South Borough committee on Franchise,


Unit 5. Ambedkar on Conversion ( 1 week)

Late in his life, Ambedkar converted to Buddhism. We will try to understand his reasons.

Reading list:

  • Ambedkar, “Conversion (‘Away from Hindus’),” Rodrigues, Valerian, ed. The essential writings of BR Ambedkar. Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 219-238.


Additional reading:

  • Ambedkar, “Buddha or Karl Marx,” Rodrigues, Valerian, ed. The essential writings of BR Ambedkar. Oxford University Press, 2010, p. 173-190.


Assessment details with weightage

  • Mid-term: Exam (40%)
  • Written assignment (20%)
  • End-term exam (40%)