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Paper 76

Exploring egalitarian potentials of anticasteism: Articulating an Ambedkarite theory

of democracy

Mr Prateek Khobragade

MPhil Scholar, School of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India


The pervasive phenomenon of caste in South Asia despite its evolution and

persistence has historically been countered and resisted by movements that have

sought to endorse egalitarian ideals. These movements, collectively termed as anti-

caste movements can be characterized by their revolutionary zeal to dismantle the

Brahminical order of Hindu religion, particularly the caste-ordained sociopolitical

hierarchy, untouchability and patriarchal legacies derived from the caste system. One

of the most epoch-making modern political articulation of this nature came with the

work and movement of Ambedkar who analyzed and theorized the caste system,

simultaneously espousing the political project of annihilation of caste. With a

pronounced transition in Indian politics and society post the Cold war, subsequent

economic reforms, and sociopolitical movements, particularly the Mandal movement,

while there came an undeniable shift in Indian politics from centre-left hegemony to

right-wing hegemony, there also comes the emergence of an autonomous

Ambedkarite public informed with anti-caste consciousness that continue the legacy

of Ambedkar decades after his demise. With burgeoning Ambedkarite discourses in

India and across the world, Ambedkar is now increasingly recognized as a global

thinker of some of the most universal ideas such as equality, democracy, minority

rights representation and so on. Recent scholarship on Ambedkar (Omvedt,

Rodrigues, Thorat and Kumar, Jaffrelot, Choudhury, Kumar, Rathore, Bhaskar and

many others), have renewed academic interests in Ambedkar’s original axiomatic

thought and praxis. A systematic theorization of Ambedkar’s ideology or

Ambedkarism however is yet impending. The scope of this project although huge, this

paper seeks to outline the contours of such a project of defining Ambedkarism in

relation to theorising anticasteism in the contemporary context of dynamic

sociopolitical changes in South Asia. In defining and theorizing Ambedkarism, the

paper seeks to underscore the egalitarian potentials of anticasteism and

Ambedkarism’s radical commitment towards republican constitutionalism, liberty,

equality, fraternity, public education, minority rights and the conceptual category and

politics of representation. The paper ultimately seeks to espouse an Ambedkarite

theory of democracy contributing to the contermporary debates on theories of

democracy, particularly the agonistic and radical theories of democracy that have de-

stigmatised identity politics from liberal hegemony by reestablishing it as

fundamentally a compossibility of representation politics. Drwaing from foundation

articulations of anticaste consciousness, the paper employs critical analysis and

discourse analyses to propound a robust and consistent theory of Ambedkarism that

would inform the contemporary scholarship on caste and anticasteism as well as

global scholarship on egalitarianism and democracy.

Keywords: Anticasteism, Ambedkarism, Egalitarianism, Democracy, Representation

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