THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Author and social scientist Ananya Vajpeyi eloquently speaks about B R Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution of India, as she had spent over 15 years researching on him. When she says that the life and ideas of Ambedkar was overshadowed by Mahatma Gandhiji, the gravity is more.
“Mahatma Gandhiji overshadowed everything in British India. The public life and politics then were dominated by Gandhiji. So it was very difficult for Ambedkar to be heard. If Gandhiji was not there, the ideas of Ambedkar would have been got much more importance. Even though he was 22 years younger to Gandhiji, his ideas were practical and strong enough to change the society,” observes Ananya, who was in Kochi recently to participate at the Annual Conference on Metaphysics and Politics. Now she is writing a book on the life and work of Dr B R Ambedkar with a holistic approach. She is currently a Global Ethics Fellow with the Carnegie Council on Ethics in International Affairs, 2014-2017.
Her first book ‘Righteous Republic: The Political Foundations of Modern India’ was published in 2012. It is a profound account on social, political, and cultural backgrounds of Independent India. The book was named book of the year 2012 by The Guardian and The New Republic. It has also received the Thomas J Wilson Memorial Prize from Harvard University Press, Tata First Book Award for Non-Fiction (2013), and the Crossword Award for Non-Fiction (2013). In that book there is a chapter on Ambedkar. “I started studying Ambedkar since 1997. You cannot write an all-inclusive book about him without mentioning what he had felt about Gandhiji. In my first book, Gandhiji is a prominent figure. But when you delve deep into the life and ideas of Ambedkar, you will get the feeling that he had not received due importance because of Gandhiji, who stood as a towering figure in the history of British India. Though so many books were written about Ambedkar, in some way they all are inadequate. His engagement with Gandhiji forms the soul of the book. But it is also the narration of a period when both Ambedkar and Gandhiji lived,” elaborates Ananya, who is assistant professor at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Institute for Research in the Social Sciences and Humanities, in New Delhi.
“I look and observe Gandhiji in a scholarly way. My purpose is not to tell who was right or wrong. But one thing I can surely say is that when you go deeper and deeper into the lives of both, your perspectives might change,” she says about her thoughts on Gandhiji given more importance than Ambedkar in the history.
It took Ananya five years to complete her first book and her next book on Ambedkar will be published soon.
In her opinion Ambedkar was more pragmatic than Gandhiji when it comes to caste system. “Gandhiji believed that caste system could be cast off from Hindu religion. But Ambedkar was apprehensive about this argument. Now the caste system is worst than ever,” she points out.
She has stern views about the political developments in the country. Terming the construction of Patel statue in Gujarat, Ananya says it is “Opportunity Politics as Patel has not contributed much to the nation and was less secular. Building his statue is a political gimmick,” says Ananya who completed her studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, Oxford University and University of Chicago.
About Kerala, Delhi-born Ananya says “Though it is highly educated society, Kerala is deeply patriarchal. The students from Kerala are articulative and are highly politicised. Such pupils are only seen in Kerala, Bengal and Hyderabad,” she evaluates.