Bhagwan Das: In Pursuit of Ambedkar
6pm on 28 April 2009
London School of Economics
H103 in Connaught House on the Aldwych (building next to the Old Building).
The film charts the life and work of Bhagwan Das, 82, who worked as a research associate with Dr B.R. Ambedkar in 1955â€“56. Between 1963 and 1980, well before the Maharashtra government began to publish the writings and speeches of Ambedkar, Das edited, compiled and produced the four-volume Thus Spoke Ambedkar series. Born in 1927 in Jutogh cantonment, Shimla, Das joined Ambedkarâ€™s Scheduled Caste Federation at the age of 16. Picking up English under the guidance and care of a British missionary family in the neighbourhood, Das served the Royal Indian Air Force as a radar operator during World War II. Das then worked in the Labour Department following a chance meeting with Ambedkar in Shimla in 1943 when the latter was Labour Member of the Viceroyâ€™s Executive Council. After shifting to Delhi in the 1950s, Das studied Law and practised as an advocate in the Supreme Court. In August 1983, supported by a coalition of dalit organisations, Bhagwan Das gave a testimony on untouchability before the UN Subcommission on Human Rights in Geneva, much against the wishes of the official Indian delegation at the conference.
The film, shot in Shimla and Delhi over nine months, chronicles Bhagwan Dasâ€™ sustained pursuit of Ambedkar and his ideals. The films coaxes Das to remember the past and offers a dalit perspective on some of the key moments in modern Indian historyâ€”Das recalling the â€˜moment of Independenceâ€™ (August 1947) as â€˜Hindu Rajâ€™, as a time when the â€˜untouchables were afraidâ€™; his critique of Gandhi; and his critique of the â€˜Valmikisationâ€™ of the sweeper community following large-scale conversions to Christianity in the 1870s and 1880s.
Script, Research, Direction: S. Anand (www.navayana.org)
The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on Chronicling Dalit History featuring featuring
Dr Manuela Ciotti, Centre for South Asian Studies at the University of Edinburgh;
Pradeep Shinde, doctoral fellow, LSE;
S. Anand, publisher and filmmaker.
Dr Annu Jalais, Research Fellow, LSE, shall chair the discussion.
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