Tuesday, December 7, 2010

[ZESTCaste] Through vast library, Ambedkar still stays close to his followers


Through vast library, Ambedkar still stays close to his followers
Sukanya Shetty Posted online: Tue Dec 07 2010, 05:52 hrs

Mumbai : For Pune's Prashant Hire, a self-proclaimed 'Ambedkarist',
the annual visit to Chaityabhoomi in Dadar still holds an element of
surprise. "A man about whom we read and study today, derived his sense
of understanding from various types of literature he read over his
lifetime," says Hire, who visits different places in Mumbai around
this time every year in search of books from Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar's
personal collection.
Mumbai, where Dr Ambedkar spent his formative years, still houses most
of the books from his vast personal collection. After settling here in
the 1930s, Ambedkar oversaw the construction of a house in Dadar
called Rajgriha, where he stocked his 50,000-odd books.

But today these books have found their way into schools and
universities, thanks to the People's Education Society set up by
Babasaheb in 1944. "The People's Education Society has been by far
successful in spreading his personal collection out to as many
universities as possible so that maximum people have access to his
books," says Dr Suresh Mane, Head of Mumbai University's Department of
Law. But this decentralised approach also creates trouble, sometimes,
for scholars and researchers, who have to hunt for those books, Mane

"Dr Ambedkar showed a very strange mix of inclinations, from mysticism
to strands of Marxist philosophy and Buddhist humanitarianism,"
explains Hire. Ambedkar most revered Edvin Seligman, an economist and
his mentor, Historian James Shotwell, who had a great influence on his
life, and philosopher John Dewey, whom he often quoted in his
speeches. And naturally there are a lot of books from the trio in his

"Bhimrao took it upon himself to gain as much knowledge as was
possible in his lifetime. He was a voracious reader. His interest in
Kabir and Tukaram is seen in the number of books he had gathered. He
tried to lay his hands on anything and everything and that made him a
scholar," says Mane.

But Professor Sridhar Kale points out that unlike other great figures,
Babasaheb's collection is not preserved under one roof and that has
helped more and more people to access his works. "During his lifetime,
one thing that he was overly protective about was his mammoth
collection of books. By 1944, he had set up the People's Education
Society and subsequently the Sidharth College in Mumbai, followed by
the Milind Mahavidyalaya in Aurangabad in 1950. On any given day, you
see people visting the libraries in these places and reading his
books," Kale adds.


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