Book-Review-ABook Review of Ambedkar-by-Gail-Omved
Why I picked this book?

Dr. Ambedkar is one leader about whom so much is written, and he has also written so much on various topics and subjects, still people know very less about him. I also know his life story, but at a very generic level. There is so much more to Dr. Ambedkar beyond the statues that we see, where he is holding a book in his one hand and the other hand is pointing to something. It is when you read about him and read what he has written then you get to know what a man he was. I decided to read more about Dr. Ambedkar and read more of what he has written. This is one of the books in the series to know more about Dr. Ambedkar.

the book

Ambedkar : Towards an Enlightened India is a short biography of Dr. Ambedkar by Gail Omvedt. She was an American born Indian Sociologist and human rights activist, whose primary work is on anti-caste movement, Dalit politics and women struggle in India. She gives us a brief view of the life and work of Dr. Ambedkar and his contribution towards the Dalit unity and awareness about their rightful place in society. Starting from his childhood to his days in US and England for studies and then coming back to India and his involvement in politics and social upliftment of Dalits and Untouchables, the book touches in brief on all the topics. The disagreement with Gandhi on the issue of caste and other important events of his life are covered and also covered in the book his tenure as a law minister and the reforms he tried to bring in.

The book starts with his early days in school at army camp and an interesting information about his surname Ambedkar, which was registered in honour of a Bhraman teacher named Ambedkar, who helped Bhiva (Bhimrao Ambedkar) in his school days. When his father moved to Bombay he joined Elphinstone High School, where he has no student friend and no teacher paid attention to him, he devoted most of time in studying. The book takes the readers through his days after completing his matriculation and his first job in Baroda, where he was treated badly because of his caste.

Ambedkar argued his case before the maharaja of Baroda in Bombay and got a scholarship to study at Columbia University in New York, America. One would be amazed to know the educational qualification and the degrees and PhD’s that Dr. Ambedkar has earned. Master of arts and doctorate in economics from Columbia University, Master of Science and Doctor of Science from London School of Economics, and Political Science and barrister-at-law from Grey’s Inn, London. Most impressive for anyone to have these many degrees but an outstanding achievement for an untouchable in those times.

The book takes the readers to his political and activist life which he reminded throughout his life. His life was devoted in the upliftment of Dalits and untouchables. For this he has to take on the whole system which patronized the caste system and varna vyvastha as described in Hindu religious texts. He opposed it till the end of his life and has written many essays, articles, and books which tells about his views on various socio-political issues that the country was facing.

The book talks about the strong disagreement between him and Gandhi regarding Dalits, untouchability, and political representation of Dalits. The Poona pact between him and Gandhi increased the bitterness among them. Dr. Ambedkar was even portrayed by some people as anti-national who is not interested in the independence of country, but more interested in the issues of caste and untouchability. Ambedkar’s argument was that there is no point of getting political independence until we are not socially and economically independent. Gandhi wanted all the Dalits and untouchables under the umbrella of Hindu religion and wanted to be a representative of all Hindus. He started his own efforts for the upliftment of Dalits and even given them a new name “Harijan”.

In my mind there is no doubt that Gandhi age is the dark age of India. It is an age in which people instead of looking for their ideals in future are returning to antiquity.

Dr. Ambedkar was in complete disagreement with Gandhi on various matters and especially the matter of caste and untouchability and his ways of dealing with it. Ambedkar wanted Dalits out of the Hindu fold, while Gandhi said, they were always a part of Hindu religion. Here is what Ambedkar said about the Gandhian idea of hereditary religion.

To remain in a religion because it is ancestral only suited to a fool. No thinking man can take such a policy. Remaining in a situation in which one finds himself fits an animal; it cannot satisfy a human being. The difference between humans and animals is that animals cannot progress. Humans can

The readers will get to know about the various organisations Ambedkar has formed to consolidate and bring all the Dalits and untouchables together. His views and thoughts about the various issues of that time be it social, political, or economic. He raised his voice for what he believed in and stood against what was wrong as per him. His contribution in drafting the constitution of India as the chief of the drafting committee. His contribution as law minister and his Hindu code bill which was opposed by almost everyone at the time it was tabled in 1948 but was passed in 1956. Owing to the delay in implementing the Hindu Code Bill, Ambedkar resigned.

The Hindu code was the greatest social reform measure ever taken by the Legislature in this country. No law ….. in the past ….. or the future can be compared to it in its significance. To leave inequality between class and class, between sex and sex which is the soul of Hindu society and go to on passing legislation relating to economic problems is to make a farce of our Constitution and to build a palace on a dung heap

There is lot that readers will get to know about Dr. Ambedkar though this book. And this book will also be a reference for further readings on Ambedkar and his work. The book is written in simple chronological order and gives the readers an overview of the growth of Dr. Ambedkar as a person, as a reformer, as a leader of Dalits and untouchables and gives a glimpse of the stature of Ambedkar. A must read for everyone to know about one of the tallest leaders, intellectual and social reformer of twentieth century India has produced.

About The Author

Gail Omvedt has an MA and PhD in sociology from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been living in India since 1978 and was a senior fellow at the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. Among her numerous books focusing on social and economic issues are Buddhism in India (2003), Dalit Visions (1995), Dalits and the Democratic Revolution (1994), Reinventing Revolution (1993) and Cultural Revolt in a Colonial Society (1966). She has also collaborated with Bharat Patnakar in translations from the Marathi into English

Our Verdict

Ambedkar : Towards an Enlightened India is a must read for everyone who wants to know and read about Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar. A short and crisp biography covering the main events of the life of one of greatest intellectual and social reformer of twentieth century.

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