Ambedkar and Indian Nationalism

Kunal Chattopadhyay

All About Ambedkar: A Journal on Theory and Praxis, Volume 2, Issue 1, January-April, 2021, 1-14


This paper looks very briefly at the question of why Indian nationalism is not a homogeneous ideology, and why Dr. B.R. Ambedkar’s often conflict-ridden relationship with the elite dominated nationalism cannot be seen as a lack of anti-colonial sentiments in Dr. Ambedkar. But the main thrust of the paper will then be on how first elite, mainly north Indian savarna nationalist leaders constructed an image of Dr. Ambedkar. That will be followed by an examination of certain nationally recognised textbooks on modern India, especially the freedom struggle, to show how, till the reassertion of dalit struggles from the 1970s, there was a discursive attempt to erase the memory of B.R. Ambedkar as a significant figure in Indian history. Finally, there will be a brief analysis of the discussions over the last few decades, where attitudes have swung between appropriation of Dr. Ambedkar by either the RSS or the Congress, or acute vilification. It is, therefore, not Dr. Ambedkar’s own ideas, but the ideas of elite nationalism vis-à-vis Dr. Ambedkar as a major spokesperson of the oppressed castes, that is being examined.

Kunal Chattopadhyay is Professor of Comparative Literature at Jadavpur University, India. His email id is