Finding Ambedkar in Mumbai
Ambedkar's 125th birthday is a good time to browse at a Dadar bookshop dedicated to Dalit literature
The legacy of Dr BR Ambedkar remains in every sphere of our life. Be it women inheriting property or untouchables breaking the deadlock of caste and making it up the social ladder. And not to forget the Constitution that is the foundation of Indian democracy.
But when it comes to reading his work our knowledge is often limited. A possible reason could be that unlike the works of Nehru and Gandhi, Ambedkar’s writing is not freely available.
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Mangala Kadam, in charge of the centre at work. Pics/ Ajinkya Sawant
In pursuit of books on Ambedkar, in the year of his 125th birth anniversary, we were led to the Ambedkar Book Centre at Dadar (E).
The store is sparse with a seat or two and looks like a large stall, there are books in Hindi, Marathi and English. The list is fairly updated and includes recently published titles such as Hatred in the Belly, published by The Shared Mirror. The shop is the one of its kind in the city, and is run under the Scheduled Caste and Tribe Improvement Trust started by BR Ambedkar. Adjacent to it, is a computer centre also run under the trust.
Bheemrao Ambedkar, the grandson of BR Ambedkar and the working president of the Buddhist Association of India
“BR Ambedkar purchased this land in 1944 and wanted to turn it into a hub of social and cultural activity and a marriage hall,” says Bheemrao Ambedkar, the grandson of BR Ambedkar and working president of the Buddhist Society of India, as he leads us to his office in the area.
The book centre, however, started much later. “It started in 1991. Earlier, the lone bookstall for Dalit literature and books on Ambedkar was at Naigaon, near Dadar station. It was run by a man called Nimjibhai, and was thriving till 1985,” he says.
Ambedkar informed that a lot of the works in the store were about movements apart from Dalit literature and Buddhist literature.
Mangala Kadam, who runs the daily activity at the store, informed that there are currently 300 titles at the store. “We get all kinds of visitors — old and retired, office goers and college students,” she says.
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There is also a steady supply of new books as writers contribute to and publish regular anthologies. “I am looking forward to the soon-to-be-released title by the Baba Saheb Ambedkar Marathawada University. Also, one should look out for anthologies by writers from Sohlapur district.”
Ambedkar informs us that during Ambedkar Jayanti, books on Ambedkar roughly do a business of over R4 crore. “I had asked a few unlettered buyers why they are buying these books. They assert that it is for their children who will grow up to be educated,” he says.
At: Near Chitra Cinema, Gokuldas Pasta Road, Gautam Nagar, Dadar (E).
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>> Collected works of BR Ambedkar
>> Hatred in The Belly