All About Ambedkar, started by the English department, aims to highlight the thinker’s literary and scholarly works
What do we really know about Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar? The father of the Indian Constitution? A reservation leader who mobilised the Dalit movement? B.R. Ambedkar the scholar was much more than that. And it is his intellectual legacy that Presidency University paid a tribute to through its online journal, All About Ambedkar, on his 130th birth anniversary.
On April 14, a team of students and professors from Presidency University’s Department of English released the fourth edition of All About Ambedkar, exclusively focusing on his life. You can read all four volumes of the journal at www.allaboutambedkaronline.com. The website already has 15,000 hits.
“This project is based on a simple premise: Ambedkar deserves to be read. Forget about appreciating his works -- from being suppressed and not published for decades to being ignored in the academic space -- Ambedkar’s books have not reached us. But times are changing. Ambedkar is no longer considered just a ‘reservation leader’ but rather as ‘the father of modern India’,” said Mahitosh Mandal, the head of the English department, and the founding member and editor-in-chief of the journal.
The journal began as a student project by four second-year students of English --- Sparsha Barman, Abhista Goswami, Ishan Purkait and Ranjana Sarkar -- and Mandal, who had asked this batch to write critical reviews of some texts by Ambedkar. Their unique write-ups sparked the idea of creating a website dedicated to Ambedkar’s works.
“We shared a few articles and received a huge response from readers across social media. Many readers and colleagues suggested we create an e-magazine or a long-term online project. When we approached some leading Ambedkar and Dalit Studies scholars across the globe, they readily agreed to join the editorial board. We eventually developed a peer-review policy. Hopefully, we would shortly be able to assign an International Standard Serial Number (ISSN) to the journal,” Mandal added.
All About Ambedkar accepts submissions on a wide range of topics, including reviews of recent books on Ambedkar and Caste Studies; analyses of caste-discrimination and violence; interviews with anti-caste activists and intellectuals; exploration of the theme of caste in literature, cinema, painting, photography and social media; reflections on caste and contemporary Indian politics; and rethinking Leftist politics.
There are 15 academicians on the editorial board, including Maroona Murmu (associate professor at Jadavpur University’s History department), Luis Cabrera (associate professor at the School of Governance and International Relations, Griffith University, Australia) and B. Mangalam (associate professor of English, University of Delhi).
The website is published by Ekalavya Digital, a group of young web developers and students of Presidency University.
What the teachers and students had to say:
-- “As a student, I never had a chance to read Ambedkar until I opted for a special paper offered by B. Mangalam when she was at JNU. That course made me realize the apathy shared by fellow comrades against Dalit Studies. Later, what personally intrigued me to pursue this project were the anti-Ambedkar sentiments across social media that seemed to influence young minds and encourage the age-old evil of casteism,” said editorial board member and assistant professor Priyanka Das of the English department.
-- “Ambedkar and his works remain a refuge of hope in Indian society, still riddled with evils like casteism and communalism. As a student, this initiative helped me confront my own prejudices and work out ways to get rid of them,” said final-year English student Ankita Sen.
-- “Indian literature in English is incomplete without the vast array of Dalit literature that lends voice to the marginalized. All About Ambedkar aims to raise awareness about the doyen’s contribution to English literature, and in turn gives a platform to the oppressed to write about their plight. As a student of English Literature, I was deeply influenced by the scholarly articles and blogs on this website,” said Debadrita Saha, a postgraduate student.
(Arundhati Sen is a first-year postgraduate student of English at Presidency University)
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