The World Discovers Ambedkar
MASSACHUSETTS: On April 29 Brandeis University in Massachusetts, USA inaugurated the bust of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar on the occasion of his 126th birth anniversary. Lisa Lynch, the Provost and chief academic officer of Brandeis University unveiled the bust in front of the main Library of the Heller School of the University.
Several eminent guests,professors and Indian diaspora from across America and Asia participated in the event that was made possible by Boston Study Group (BSG), a small group of Ambedkarites around Boston and Heller school of Social Policy at Brandeis university. The bust of Ambedkar was made in Nagpur, India and transported to the Goldfarb Main Library at Brandeis.
Speaking after the inauguration, Lynch said, “As an alumnus of London School of Economics (LSE), I am particularly pleased to see that we too will have bust of Dr. Ambedkar like LSE(London School of Economics) has. Impact of the legacy of Dr Ambedkar on the entire world and particularly his focus on education after coming out of oppression is a source of inspiration. This bust at Brandeis will not only inspire those who know about him but will inspire those who do not know about him to help them learn more and be inspired.”
Explaining the purpose behind installing the bust, president of BSG Sanjay Bhagat said, “ The purpose of the Dr Ambedkar statue is not to just create history or to have a decorative piece, but to introduce to thousands of students coming to the esteemed university, a person, who after facing worst kinds of discrimination, went on to earn so many degrees and became the founding father of modern India. His mastery over multitude of subjects like Economics, Polity, Social Science, History, Law should arouse curiosity among the students to learn about his philosophy.”
This event was part of the Third Annual Conference on unfinished legacy of Dr Ambedkar —at Brandeis University that took place from April 28-30. BSG hosted round-tables discussions during the conference on Reimagining caste, religion, and patriarchy and social justice in South Asia. The roundtables featured prominent members from the field of religion, gender studies, African-American activists and an organizer from the Roma community. The conference also saw the presence of a high-level delegation from Sant Tukdoji Maharaj Nagpur University, India, which participated in several panels in the conference.
Those attending the Panel discussion included Prof Sukhdeo Thorat, former UGC chief, Prof. Christopher Queen, who teaches Buddhism and religion at Harvard University, among other dignitaries of the Brandeis university.
The relation between Ambedkar and USA have roots in the days of the former being student of Columbia University, New York, for both Masters and Doctorate studies, with the help of the Maharaja Sayajirao Gaikwad of Baroda. USA played an instrumental role in shaping Ambedkar’s progressive thoughts. Of late, Dr Ambedakar’s life and work has attracted increasing attention by the US academicians of Economics, Social Science and Polity.
This is the second bust of Ambedkar in a US University. The first one was installed 22 years ago at Columbia University, Ambedkar’s alma mater. In 2014, the University had declared Ambedkar as the most intelligent student — the only Indian to have featured in the list of top 100 students. It was in Columbia University that Ambedkar said he actually felt he was socially equal in the 1920’s.
Echoing this, and announcing the award for the most intelligent student, Prof Nicolas Dirks had said in 2014 that “Although Ambedkar went on to do this formal legal training at London School of Economics, we like to claim a very special role for the Columbia University in the conception and drafting of the Indian Constitution which bans discrimination based on untouchability, and enshrines a number of critical principals framing provisions for reservations, or affirmative actions in education and employment for historically oppressed groups.”
Apart from Brandeis University, Ambedkar Jayanti was celebrated across North America where the Dalit and Buddhist Diaspora has been spreading awareness about him, his thoughts and his struggle against social discrimination. Seminars, Panel discussions and Cultural events marked most of the events.
On April 13, Ambedkar Jayanti was celebrated at the United Nations by focussing on the empowerment of the poor and the marginalized using information and communication technologies to achieve the UN’s sustainable development goals. The UN mission organized it with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) and US NGO Foundation for Human Horizon. It may be recalled that last year US celebrated the event for the first time marking 125th Birth Anniversary of the human rights champion.
On April 13, Consulate General of India, Chicago held a one day event commemorating Babasaheb Ambedkar Jayanti jointly with the Ambedkar Association of North America, an association of the Dalit-Buddhist Diaspora.
On April 29, the California community under the aegis of Ambedkar International Center organized a one day grand celebration in the bay area. Celebrations were also reported across the United states from Michigan, Texas, Arizona and New York.
Universities that have South Asian studies or Economy and polity have been getting increasingly attracted to the philosophy of Ambedkar. Professors like Christopher Queen of the Harvard, Prof Andres Lamas of UPENN, Professor Kevin Brown of Indiana University and Prof. Davind Blundell of the University of California have done extensive research on various aspects of Ambedkar’s philosophy.
Ambedkar’s thoughts and work are spreading throughout the world and people around the world are taking inspiration from his writings and speeches. Last year, Ambedkar’s first statue was installed in the heart of Hungary. Ambedkar’s Jayanti was celebrated in UAE, Australia, UK, Canada and the US.It may be recalled that when President Obama Visited India in 2009, he made special mention of Ambedkar, praising his role in drafting the Indian constitution while he addressed the joint session of Parliament.
The world is discovering the Indian scholar, an inspiration to all conversant with his struggle and his world view.