Narendra Jadav on writing a biography of B. R. Ambedkar and his relevance today

Six books on Dr. B. R. Ambedkar and a television serial in the offing. Narendra Jadhav, Member, Planning Commission, author, educationist, policymaker, is an inexhaustible writer. He has authored and edited 30 books with 12 of them on Ambedkar. Six of these books have been brought out by Konark Publishers. The biography titled “Ambedkar, Awakening India’s Social Conscience”, is compelling work by Jadhav. “Untouchables” has sold 2,50,000 copies in Korea alone. Here he speaks on the definite biography of Ambedkar.

What does Dr. Ambedkar mean to you?

He has always remained outside the mainstream media and private sector zone. It is very surprising and indeed very depressing to note that Dr. Ambedkar is always seen as a leader of untouchables. Of course, he was their messiah, the ultimate champion of human rights. We are doing great disservice to ourselves by treating Dr. Ambedkar only as a leader of Dalits or leader of untouchables. He was much more than that. Very reluctantly, he is recognised as the principal architect of the Indian Constitution. To my mind, Dr. Ambedkar was a national leader. Period.

How was he different?

He was very different. His idea of Independence was not transfer of power from colonial to native Indian. He aimed for a broader and sustainable model in a society that is inherently caste ridden and unjust. He was the ultimate champion of democratic republic, demanding equality in our social and economic life.

Can you highlight some of his contributions?

He made uniquely distinctive contributions in various fields. He was the one who said we must be first Indians and in the end also we must be Indians. His contributions came in economics, sociology, anthropology, religion, law and constitution. This book is an effort to make people realise and understand the enormity of his contribution in nation building and laying the foundation of a democratic republic. What prompted me to write this book is to give him his rightful place in the pantheon of our national leaders.

How much research went into this book?

I have been working on Dr. Ambedkar for close to 35 years. It is only in the recent past that I could bring it to fruition. I started with his speeches. The Government of Maharashtra has done a wonderful job of bringing out 22 volumes, putting everything together, his writings and speeches. But there is no chronological or subject wise classification in bringing out those volumes. They are not at all reader friendly. His (537) speeches (in four languages) have been scattered.

How did you build the story?

I focused on his speeches and then I divided them in seven categories (social, economical, political, religion, law and constitution, autobiographical and guidance to his followers). Each category has a sub-classification. They reflect the evolution of his thinking. It is amazing how he could be such a prolific writer. I don’t think there is any national leader who has written so much while being a mass leader. He completed 22 books and 10 were left unfinished. His books are classics. In March, 1940, the Muslim League came up with a demand for Pakistan and by year end Dr. Ambedkar was ready with a 485-page treatise on Pakistan, a standard source of reference even for Gandhiji and Jinnah. His second political book was on what Gandhi and Congress have done to the untouchables. This book is a bitter critic of Gandhiji and Congress.

What was your aim when working on Dr. Ambedkar?

The idea was to present those books in a manner that anybody should be able to understand. There were treatises extremely complicated and based on research. In my effort, those two volumes (“Ambedkar Writes”) and three volumes ( “Ambedkar Speaks”), are short summaries for the layman to understand. Then there is longish summary for the advanced readers. It is a lifetime work. My book is the first ever intellectual and analytical biography of Dr. Ambedkar. I have interwoven all his significant writings and speeches.

How relevant is Dr. Ambedkar today?

He is more relevant today than he ever was. The reason being that Dr. Ambedkar made a very significant contribution in the closing decades of the British Empire. After Independence, he devoted himself to building a democratic republic, writing the Constitution. He made path-breaking recommendations on the reorganisation of the states, like dividing Bihar, central Province and Uttar Pradesh, of one state having one language. A large part of what he has written is timeless. He was way ahead of times.

Your next venture?

A TV serial on Dr. Ambedkar in English, Marathi and Hindi. I would be the anchor of this 26-part story of life and times of Dr. Ambedkar.

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