As we prepare to celebrate the 125th year of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar’s birth, his stature as a visionary and an architect of a modern, democratic, and socially-just India can scarcely be overestimated or overstated. He has been sketched as a messiah of “bahishkrit Bharat”, which highlights the deep-seated social cleavages and cultural prejudices, which continue within India’s polity. His name has also become the singularly most important motif for the assemblage of dalit political struggles. Ambedkar’s thought helps unleash the myriad of discourses that bring the question of India’s internal hierarchies of power into bold relief and empower a heterogeneous imagining of Indian nation.
There are various opinions on the formidable range of issues and controversies in which Ambedkar figured as a protagonist during four decades of his public life. Ambedkar was a searchingly honest, challenging and analytical liberal thinker. He differed from Gandhi and the Congress ideology which, he felt, ignored the internal contradictions of Indian society.
It should be absolutely clear in his coming 125th birthday year that Ambedkar represented, in the truly national sense, the profound side of the socio-political struggle that was not adequately represented in the national movement. His lifelong concern with the inequities and oppression embedded in religion, conventional morality and the values of so-called mainstream society led him to forge his own conception of socio-economic justice. What is impressive is that this doughty fighter for social justice commands a powerful following today, as democratic India grapples with the troubling questions he never tired of raising in politics and public life.
He chaired the Constitution Draft Committee in the Constituent Assembly and had a productive stint in the Union Ministry under Nehru. In these positions he championed social egalitarianism and popular liberties and criticized the sway of big business and landlordism and campaigned for social and economic democracy. He had a number of interesting things to say about tricky national problems – Kashmir, language, nationhood citizenship, ethnicity, and so on, and his analysis lit up the field for a proper democratic understanding of federalism and centre-state relations in India.
The social and class basis of the following he commanded, the non-philanthropic, non-petitioning nature of his social questioning, his passion for social justice and democratic liberties; his unyielding secularism and progressive views on a number of questions, especially on the condition and future of women and on civil society; his ability to concentrate on attainable, practical goals and his constructive sense of realism – these marked him out as a unique leader.
In the recent period of socio-political development in India, Dr. Ambedkar’s fearless analysis of caste system, of chaturvarnya and sanatana dharma, of unalterable or rigid social hierarchy must be made part of a national debate. His major theoretical exposition of such questions is contained in a 1936 presidential address, the radical “Annihilation of Caste”. This ideological offering to the building of a new India must be ranked on a par with his justly celebrated contribution to the making of the Constitution.
Apart from his solid contribution to constitutional and institution-building, he had a great deal to say about democracy as a real way of life and about citizens’ rights. Dr. Ambedkar had a visionary conception of democracy which needs to be “rediscovered” today. His political principle of particular contemporary relevance is “Make political democracy a social democracy; resolve the contradictions, else they will undermine democracy itself”.
In this backdrop, we propose to organise a seminar on “The Contemporary Relevance of Social and Political thought of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar,” which is to be conducted by Mahatma Gandhi Labour Institute (MGLI), Ahmedabad with the support of the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment, Government of Gujarat.
Seminar Plan and Topics
Original and unpublished papers under the following broad themes (but not limited to) are invited from researchers and freelancers.
- Shaping of Modern India: Contribution of Ambedkar.
- Social inclusion and social justice in the contemporary growth story of India: Analysis from the social philosophy of Ambedkar.
- Ambedkar and Women’s empowerment.
- Construction of social movements India: Influence of Ambedkar’s ideology, symbols and images.
- Annihilation of caste: Interpretation in the present context
- Ambedkar and Egalitarian Revolution: Lessons in inclusion for state and civil society.
- Ambedkar’s vision and way forward
The seminar will be held 19th and 20th of March, 2016 at Mahatma Gandhi Labour Institute (MGLI), Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Ahmedabad is a well developed city of Gujarat. It is well connected by rail and air network to the rest of India. The MGLI campus is about 14 Kms from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport and 11 kms from railway station. From any point in the Ahmedabad city, come to Manav Mandir The campus is within 100 metres from Manav Mandir.
Submission of Papers
All contributors should submit their abstract in soft copy, with short CV and passport sized photograph to the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org Abstracts of all the papers accepted will be published and distributed among the participants. The paper ideally should not exceed 10,000 words limit (including tables and appendices). Selected papers will be published as a volume.
Last date for receipt of Abstracts : 28th February, 2016
Last date for receipt of full length Papers : 10th March, 2016
Travel Support and Accommodations
Travel (economy class airfare/1st AC and 2nd AC/ 3rd AC by shortest route) in India will be provided to invited Speakers/Professors and Paper Presenters/Freelancers respectively. Accommodation will be at the institute’s guest house and nearby hotels.
Dr Shailendra Prasad Thakur, Assistant Professor,
Mahatma Gandhi Labour Institute, Ahmedabad
Dr Ayanendu Sanyal, Assistant Professor,
Mahatma Gandhi Labour Institute, Ahmedabad