ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Ambedkar and Gandhi

Limits of Divergence and Possibilities of Conversation

B R Ambedkar and M K Gandhi thought through different paradigms and spoke in different frameworks. As the study of ideas and political thinking in India departs from a simplistic straitjacketing based on literal accounts, we do not have to fall into the trap of sitting in judgment on key figures. This article points out that it might be much more rewarding if ideas and thinkers are studied through interpretative lenses. Such exercises will allow us to make a choice between a conversation and a closure of ideas.

Revised and abridged version of keynote address delivered at the national seminar on “Untouchability and the Caste Question: Interrogating the Gandhi-Ambedkar Debate,” Department of History, Sikkim University, Gangtok, 24–25 September 2014.

History pitted M K Gandhi and B R Ambedkar as adversaries. Their public exchanges were marked by acrimony. The debate between Ambedkar and Gandhi continues even after the departure of both. The acrimony also continues as part of that debate. Three interrelated and overlapping issues constituted the core of their exchanges—the issue of representation of the depressed classes; the removal of untouchability; and the caste question. The challenge before us is to try and go beyond the acrimony, beyond the temporal context, and make sense of the differences and possibilities of finding political (praxis-related) and epistemological spaces that both of them can simultaneously occupy.

Comparing Thinkers, Ideas

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