A Part Apart: The Life and Thought of B.R. Ambedkar


Ashok Gopal


Hardback 9788195838516



After four years of work on a project that has been over a decade in the making, Navayana presents A Part Apart, the most complete and comprehensive account of ‘the greatest modern intellectual of India’ as the anticaste thinker Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd describes Ambedkar



Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956) is perhaps the most iconised historical figure in India. Born into a caste deemed ‘unfit for human association’, he came to define what it means to be human. How and why did Ambedkar, who revered and cited the Gita till the 1930s, turn against Hinduism? What were his quarrels with Gandhi and Savarkar? Why did he come to see himself as Moses? How did the lessons learnt at Columbia University impact the struggle for water in Mahad in 1927 and the drafting of the Constitution of India in 1950? Having declared in 1935 that he will not die as a Hindu, why did Ambedkar toil on the Hindu Code Bill? What made him a votary of Western individualism and yet put faith in the collective ethical way of life suggested by Buddhism? Why is it wrong to see Ambedkar as an apologist for colonialism? From which streams of thought did Ambedkar brew his philosophies? Who were the thinkers he turned to in his library of fifty thousand books? What did this life of the mind cost him and his intimates? What of his first wife, Ramabai, while he was busy with the chalval?


Like the rest of the English-centric world, Indians largely read Ambedkar in English, and knew little or nothing of what he wrote or said in Marathi. Although he never published a book in Marathi, he edited, published and wrote for four journals in Marathi over four decades; he wrote several letters, delivered speeches and gave interviews in this language. We have barely peeked into this world.


With A Part Apart, we learn how Ambedkar came to think the way he did, and how he believed ‘there can be no finality in thinking’. The book comes with three maps and seventy photographs, letters and documents. Many of them have never seen the light of day, and most of them are little known outside of Maharashtra’s Dalit circles. We owe these, and a lot of the information used by Gopal here, to the labours of a tireless archivist: the seventy-year old Vijay Surwade of Kalyan, near Mumbai.




‘A Part Apart is a treasure trove … a trendsetter … in an inspiring new genre’—Anand Teltumbde


‘A commanding work of scholarship—the most important historical study of Ambedkar in English’—Sunil Khilnani


‘A deeply researched, ambitious, path-breaking, must-read book. Extraordinary accomplishment’—Shailaja Paik


‘Accompanied by stunning photographs, this is destined to become the authoritative source’—Partha Chatterjee


‘It’s like having a conversation with the great man … A Part Apart has power and beauty’—Anurag Minus Verma


‘This unhurried account of Ambedkar’s life is a journey through his complex thought-world’—V. Geetha


‘This book will draw in readers who are both familiar and new to Ambedkar. Dive in and be awed!’—Santosh Dass


‘I was mesmerised by the painstaking, extensive, detailed work… this book is full of unknown facts, insights, arguments’—Umesh Bagade


‘Based on primary sources, this complete biography covers Ambedkar’s public and private life’—Christophe Jaffrelot


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Ashok Gopal

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