Cornell West calls Ambedkar greatest public intellectual in India’s history

Cornel West
Cornel West

The Princeton professor says Ambedkar is a brother, comrade and soul mate.

Prominent political philosopher and activist Cornel West has called Dr. B.R. Ambedkar “the greatest public intellectual in the history of India.” In a video message, posted on social media on the occasion of Ambedkar’s 130th birth anniversary, on Thursday, the Princeton University professor emeritus termed the Indian leader as his “comrade,” “brother,” and “soul mate.”

West compared Ambedkar to the 20th century American sociologist and civil rights activist W.B Du Bois. He said, “like the great W.B Du Bois, who was the greatest public intellectual in the history of the American empire, Dr. Ambedkar is the greatest public intellectual in the history of India.”

READ: Make Ambedkar Jayanti ‘World Equality Day’: Plea at the United Nations (April 14, 2016)

The academic, who himself participated in civil rights marches during his high school days, said Ambedka “had a love of poor people, a love of working people.” West continued, “He came out of the rich, deep history and heritage of my precious Dalit brothers and sisters. He looked at the world from the lens of those [French West Indian political philosopher Frantz] Fanon called the ‘Wretched of the Earth.’”

The 67-year-old West said “any time we talk about freedom fighters, love warriors, wounded healers, we should talk about Dr. Baba Ambedkar.” Even though Ambedkar lived only for 65 years, “he would put in three lifetimes in those 65 years,” West said.

He pointed out that Ambedkar called for the “annihilation of caste, the abolishment of caste” and for “a radical democracy that stayed in contact with the humanity of everybody, beginning with those who are treated most inhumanely, our precious Dalit brothers and sisters.”

He ended the video with a clarion call: “Let us go forth never forget the great Ambedkar and allow his spirit to infuse our souls, so that part of his afterlife is at work in our life, as we like him, tell the truth, bear witness to justice, love beauty, love each other, with solidarity. Forever!”

Watch the video:

Here is the full transcript of the video:

I am so blessed to send my deep and profound solidarity and love to the one and only Dr. B.R Ambedkar — Baba Ambedkar. He is my comrade; he is my brother; he is my soul mate. Why?

Because, like the great W.B Du Bois, who was the greatest public intellectual in the history of the American empire, Dr. Ambedkar is the greatest public intellectual in the history of India. He had a love of poor people, a love of working people. He came out of the rich, deep history and heritage of my precious Dalit brothers and sisters. He looked at the world from the lens of those [Frantz] Fanon called the “Wretched of the Earth.”

In any time we talk about freedom fighters, love warriors, wounded healers, we should talk about Dr. Baba Ambedkar, born April 14, 1891 — a 130 years ago. He would live for 65 years, but he would put in three lifetimes in those 65 years… calling for the annihilation of caste, the abolishment of caste, calling for a radical democracy that stayed in contact with the humanity of everybody, beginning with those who are treated most inhumanely, our precious Dalit brothers and sisters. Let us go forth never forget the great Ambedkar and allow his spirit to infuse our souls, so that part of his afterlife is at work in our life, as we like him, tell the truth, bear witness to justice, love beauty, love each other, with solidarity. Forever!

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