Over at Sepia Mutiny, Siddhartha has an excellent post on one of the most important figures in Indian history, a man whose contribution is not as well known outside of India as it should be, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar.
Fifty years ago, on October 14, 1956 — and a mere two months before his death — Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, the scholar and political leader who was principally responsible for the drafting of India’s Constitution, converted to Buddhism in a public ceremony in Nagpur. Somewhere between 100,000 and 500,000 of his Dalit followers — the accounts vary — embraced Buddhism in the immediate wake of his conversion. For Dr. Ambedkar, nothing in his long, distinguished career could convince him that the socio-cultural dynamics of Hinduism would ever offer Dalits a way out of “untouchability,” disenfranchisement, poverty and social stigma.
When I was exploring the colonial archives in England last month, I ran across several documents recounting testimony given by Ambedkar to various colonial commissions. Even though it had little to do with our work I found myself reading these otherwise boring historical documents, drawn in by the clarity and depth of his thought.
Please read Siddhartha’s entire post!