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Ambedkarite scholar as critic of Gandhian nationalism from anti-caste perspective

By Abhay Kumar* 

At the JNU Library Canteen, Dr. Umakant came to me and asked, "Do you recognise this person?" "No" was my reply. Afterwards, he said he [the man in the centre of the frame] was G Aloysius.
On hearing this, I felt as if I had found treasure. "Sir, I am Abhay. I have read your works. Your book 'Nationalism Without a Nation in India' was an eye-opener for me. You have brilliantly critiqued nationalist historiography."
On hearing this, Ambedkarite scholar Aloysius replied, "Many people buy my books but few of them read and engage with the work. But you have done it". For those who may not know G. Aloysius, here is a brief account of his life and struggles.
He was a former JNU student, who did his MPhil from the Centre for Social System, popularly known as the Sociology Centre. We have heard from the seniors that some professors at the sociology centre were not happy with the way he looked at Indian nationalism in his MPhil work. He took an Ambedkarite perspective.
Particularly, G Aloysius's critique of Gandhian nationalism from the anti-caste movement was very sharp and critical. His new approach and critical outlook put a question mark on the dominant historiography. The JNU academics at his centre tried to put up all kinds of hurdles to kill his work. But he was not ready to budge an inch. Finally, he completed his MPhil. 
Later, his brilliant work was developed into a book which is known as 'Nationalism Without a Nation in India'. The book was widely appreciated and within a few decades, multiple editions have been published by the Oxford University Press.
The reason why I am inspired by him is his scholarship. G Aloysius has never been driven by careerism. His work is guided by a quest for social justice and a drive to reconstruct a just society. Through publication, he is trying to create social awareness among the people about inequality.
Since he has challenged the dominant academics, he has never been given a proper place by the university system of India which continues to be dominated by a handful of groups of people belonging to upper castes.
Despite facing all these challenges and hardships, G Aloysius has never given up his mission. Apart from being a voracious reader, he opened a new publishing house with the help of his wife by the name of "Critical Quest". The achievement of Critical Quest is that it publishes and sells brilliant and critical essays. These pamphlets are as cheap as the price of two samosas and one cup of tea.
I must say by reading the essays published by "Critical Quest", my views were transformed. Having gone through these pamphlets, I got to know the revolutionary ideas of Ambedkar, Phule and Periyar. Soon, I began to look at the world from anti-caste ideology.
While interacting with G Aloysius in the Library Canteen, I told him that his selection of essays published under Critical Quest was great and relevant to the social justice movement with these words, "Sir you have done as much work as one thousand professors have not done".
On hearing this, he smiled and said "Thank you" and left the canteen along with Dr Umakant.
After he went, I kept thinking about him.
I admire him, my hero. Like me, he is an inspiration for many. He has silently worked and brought out an intellectual revolution. G Aloysius's contribution will always be remembered in history, particularly by those who belong to subaltern groups.
*PhD in Modern History, Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University



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