BR Ambedkar in ‘savarna’ attire on book cover sparks row in Kerala

A portrait of BR Ambedkar in 'savarna' attire on the cover page of a book has sparked a row in Kerala with Dalit activists claiming it is a conspiracy to impose an identity on Ambedkar.

  • Cover page of Malayali Memorial depicts BR Ambedkar in an upper caste Hindu attire
  • Ambedkar is seen seated in the backdrop of a feudal house
  • Dalit activist Sunny Kapikad said the portrait is an insult to Ambedkar

Thiruvananthapuram , India

A portrait of BR Ambedkar in ‘savarna’ attire on the cover page of a book, Malayali Memorial, has sparked a row in Kerala. The book, brought out by DC Books, portrays Ambedkar wearing a Kasavu dhothi and shirt and seated in the backdrop of a feudal house.

A group of audience feel that this is a deliberate attempt by the upper-caste Nair community to appropriate Ambedkar’s legacy, while the other group says it’s a marketing strategy.

Reacting to the Ambedkar image, Sunny M Kapikad, a Dalit activist, said it’s a crime to portray Ambedkar in such a manner.

“It’s a crime because it’s an attack on people who follow Ambedkar. The imagination of Ambedkar sitting in front of a Nair Tharavadu ( ancestral home) is itself an attack,” Kapikad told.

“Mahatma Gandhi’s picture is also there, but it’s a familiar Gandhi. We have seen Gandhi in coat and suit during the early years but that’s not the case with Ambedkar. I believe it’s a conspiracy [to forcibly impose an identity on Ambedkar and capture the market by creating controversy],” he added.

Dalit activists have also raised questions as to how an established publication such as DC Bookes can support such a move. Malayali Memorial, brought out by DC Books, is written by short story writer Unni R.

The writer, Unni R, however, has asked the audience to read the book to understand the relevance of the cover.

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