Skip navigation

Democracy Set in Stone?

The construction of civic monuments celebrating the supposed virtues of powerful generals and merchants was a popular governing strategy of the British Raj. One of the most noticeable changes to the landscape of postcolonial India however, has been the proliferation of statues of the Dalit leader B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956). Dressed in a three-piece suit, his animated right arm indicating his skills as a teacher and orator, and with a copy of the constitution he helped to craft under his arm, Ambedkar statues can now be found at hundreds of street corners, rural crossroads, bus stands, and university campuses.

Some people have argued that the statues are frivolous and only attest to the shallowness of low caste politics. But many others see them as evidence of the extent to which democracy has taken root in minds of ‘common people’ and an  important means through which Dalit activists can symbolically appropriate public space. The iconography of the statues also fortifies the aspirations of a growing number of Dalits, particularly young men, to attain educational qualifications and ‘respectable’ work and, more broadly, reaffirms formal democracy as a route to political emancipation.

Symbolic resources such as statues surely are important in developing a sense of pride, solidarity, and belonging amongst historically marginalized communities. Indeed, the periodic accounts of attacks against Ambedkar statues by non-Dalits seems to support the idea that they have succeeded in making the political struggles of low castes more visible.

Yet, it is important to also consider what the iconography might obscure or exclude. Ambedkar’s role in challenging social prejudice and economic injustice is clearly central to the political identity of many Dalits but he himself was at best ambivalent about civic monuments commenting: “India is par excellence the land of idolatry. There is idolatry in religion, there is idolatry in politics, hero and hero worship is a hard if unfortunate part of public life.” Do Ambedkar statues also tend to collapse the struggles of all oppressed peoples in India into one category – the amorphous ‘subaltern society’? And does his persona as an educated man obscure the less ‘civil’ and more informal actions that have also characterized struggles for political rights?

What experience do you have of the politics of monuments, memory and civil rights?


  1. Posted July 16, 2012 at 1:38 am | Permalink

    Attractive component to content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in
    accession capital to say that I get actually enjoyed account your blog posts.
    Anyway I’ll be subscribing in your augment or even I success you get admission to constantly rapidly.

  2. Posted November 9, 2012 at 2:08 am | Permalink

    Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know a few of the
    images aren’t loading correctly. I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue.

    I’ve tried it in two different internet browsers and both show the same results.

  3. Posted November 16, 2012 at 12:45 am | Permalink

    I like what you guys are up too. Such clever work and reporting!
    Keep up the very good works guys I’ve incorporated you guys to blogroll.

  4. Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:06 am | Permalink

    You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something that I think I would never understand.
    It seems too complicated and very broad for me.
    I’m looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  5. Posted June 29, 2013 at 4:23 am | Permalink

    Incredible! This blog looks just like my old one!
    It’s on a entirely different subject but it has pretty much the same layout and design. Wonderful choice of colors!

  6. Posted July 2, 2013 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for your marvelous posting! I definitely enjoyed reading
    it, you can be a great author. I will always bookmark your blog
    and will often come back sometime soon. I want to encourage one
    to continue your great job, have a nice morning!

  7. Posted January 11, 2016 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    It has clear massaging gel and it works very well with open toe shoes.

    If the injury is not severe, the recovery should be fast.
    The i – Pad 2S aka i – Pad HD aka i – Pad 3 is now known as just the i – Pad.

Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: