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Ethics in Ambedkar’s Critique of Gandhi

Gopal Guru ( teaches at the Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Among the political thinkers of modern India, Gandhi and Ambedkar have elicited an intellectual enthusiasm among scholars who remain arrested in debates on the pre-eminence of one thinker over the other. The Ambedkarite critique of Gandhi is centred on the latter’s fast unto death in opposition to the MacDonald Award of separate electorates for Dalits. Formalistic readings of Gandhi are not in the interest of the robust, associative and inclusive intellectual tradition at the core of Ambedkar’s emancipatory project. Ambedkar was a pathfinder who chose critique as a method of ethical persuasion to gently pull in and retain members of caste society in the interlocutory framework of conversation.

This article is a revised version of the fi rst Sabarmati lecture titled “Dr Ambedkar’s Gandhi: A Step Forward” delivered at Ahmedabad on 26 November 2016. I have since changed the title in lieu of Ramchandra Guha’s essay titled “Gandhi’s Ambedkar” (2001) while retaining the essence that is essential to the ethical bond between Gandhi and Ambedkar.

The author thanks Tridip Suhrud, Director and Chief Editor, Sabarmati Ashram Preservation and Memorial Trust, Ahmedabad for permitting the publication of this article, and Gopal Krishna Gandhi and Gurpreet Mahajan for their inputs in writing it.

Updated On : 20th Apr, 2017


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