Dr. Suraj Yengde is one of India’s leading scholars and public intellectuals. Named as one of the “25 Most Influential Young Indian” by GQ magazine and the “Most influential Young Dalit” by Zee, Suraj is an author of the bestseller Caste Matters and co-editor of award winning anthology The Radical in Ambedkar. He is currently a Post-Doctoral fellow at Harvard University.
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Dr Suraj Yengde’s Biography
Dr Suraj Milind Yengde (born 1988) is an Indian researcher, writer and human rights activist. Originally from Nanded, a city in Maharashtra’s Marathwada region, India. Suraj is currently a Post-Doctoral fellow at Harvard University. He has emerged as a thinker and public intellectual of India due to his assessment of the caste system in his book ‘Caste Matters’ which has been flying off the shelves since its publication. Dr. Yengde is also co-editor of the anthology ‘The Radical in Ambedkar’; which is an attempt in examining his life works form hitherto unexplored perspective.
Suraj Yengde is follower of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, the father of the Indian constitution and the leader of depressed classes. Suraj is known as the Ambedkarite scholar.
In 2021, Dr. Suraj Yengde was included in the “25 Most Influential Young Indian” list by the GQ Magazine which described ‘Caste Matters’ as a Classic Hit. ‘The dapper, flamboyantly groomed young scholar at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government is an adept and worthy inheritor of that grand tradition, who’s very swiftly emerged as the foremost intersectional activist of his generation, with serious scholarly chops (see his monumental The Radical Ambedkar: Critical Reflections, edited with Anand Teltumbde) as well as an uncommon style and swagger. The world is already paying close attention’, says GQ’s citation.
Early years and education
Dr Suraj spent most part of his childhood in Nanded’s Janata Housing Society which was developed by the educated members of the Neo Buddhist community of the city. It was a cluster of shacks made of wood, metal and plastic sheets.
His father Milind Yengde who was associated with Dalit Panther since its inception worked as an assistant in a bank. Raja Dhale, a writer and activists for Dalit rights who was a friend and collaborator of senior Yengde had named the first born of his friend Sahriday (the kind heart).
Later Milind Yengde joined BAMCEF. He had launched a weekly called ‘Vastunishtha Vichar’ (transl. Objective thinking). At his insistence Suraj read Master Kanshiram’s book ‘Chamcha Yug’ in which he had enumerated six types of sycophants belonging to the Ambedkarite movement.
While studying in school Suraj had to support his family by taking up odd jobs like cargo loading, newspaper vending and such. He started writing poems however the emotional overflow of feelings dried soon after.
Suraj has a younger brother and a sister. He completed his graduation from a college in Nanded in which he secured first rank and he joined a law course and earned LLB degree (Legum Baccalaureus). During his college years he contested students’ union elections and won the post of General Secretary (GS) even though the dominant caste groups had controlled students’ politics.
Suraj Yengde participated in national and international level essay writing and debating competitions while pursuing law degree.
In 2010, Suraj relocated to Mumbai and registered for LLM – Master of Laws course and Suresh Mane was one of his teachers. While perusing the course he participated in the ‘General Cooperation’ debating competition at Lucknow and Suraj went on to secure the ‘Best Debater’ prize.
Suraj Yengde had consciously selected ‘Environment’ as one of his subjects. With the help of like-minded classmates he had filed several Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in a number of High Courts across India as environment is a fundamental right.
By the end of the law course he secured a scholarship to study abroad and left for London and after completing the course he went to Geneva on a scholarship of the United Nations which worked with the decision makers from around the world. Meanwhile Suraj registered for PHD programme at the University of Johannesburg in Africa on the Indian migrant workers in Africa (Descendants of the indentured labaourers who had migrated to Africa during colonial rule?).
Not only did he want to know about the movements in Africa, he also wanted to share with the Africans the details of the Dalit movement of India. Suraj Yengde became the first Indian Dalit student to secure doctorate degree from an African University.
‘Wouldn’t the society where all are depressed be bonded together?’ Suraj wondered. He secured PHD degree on “South-South Migration: An ethnographic study of an Indian business district’. He was able complete his PHD in 18 months, however he lived in Africa for four years. Post the PHD he embarked on an idea of ‘Smart Phone Migration’ in which Yengde examins the cultural aspects of labour migrants. This idea is now being examined and studied in all streams of liberal arts.
Dr Suraj wrote an article titled ‘Caste amongst Indians in Africa’ for the Economic Political Weekly (EPW). ‘The ideas of Dr. Ambedkar makes you restless; everyone should be infatuated by his thoughts’. In 2015 Suraj went to Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he’s a post doctoral fellow.
The walls of his office don the photographs of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Malcolm X, EWE, Angela Davis and Master Kanshiram and a lot of books. While studying at Harvard he attended the classes held by Nobel laureate Dr. Amartya Sen. While discussing Ambedkar Dr. Sen once said, ‘‘Dr. Ambedkar’s decision to adopt Buddhism was based on reasoning; I also follow Buddhism’’.
While studying in England Suraj Yengde had to face castiest slurs from his fellow Indian students. Other students belonging to depressed castes too had to face the discrimination. The idea of caste is exported to foreign shores and is used to discredit the Dalit students and professionals abroad.
In an interview for the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC) Marathi service after the suicide of Payal Tadvi a tribal doctor in one of Mumbai’s government run hospital; Yengde shared ‘Caste doesn’t leave you even when you in a foreign country’.
Yegde is a column writer for an English Daily- ‘Indian Express’.
In 2019 he published his first book called ‘Caste Matters’ which has broken all records and the second edition had to be printed in just a week after the publication of the first edition.
Caste Matters was voted the ‘Best Book of the Decade’ by the readers of the English Daily The Hindu in the non-fiction category.
His second book The Radical Ambedkar: Critical Reflections, edited with Anand Teltumbde) will be published soon.
Yengde is trying to bring together the persecuted communities of the world such as Roma (Gypsy), Dalits, Black and the migrants from across the world.
He’s also in the midst of publishing an English biography of Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar.
He’s owes his allegiance to the Dalit Panther and BAMSEF movements. His wiry hairstyle which has become his USP is inspired by the styles of Albert Einstein and his teacher Prof. Ajay Skariya.
Awards and honours
– The Book Caste Matters is nominated for the Sahitya Academy award
– Recipient of the Dr. Ambedkar Social Justice Award’ by Canadian —2019.
– Yendge was featured on the cover of Marathi weekly Sadhanaa’s 14th November 2020 issue
– Featured in ‘25 Most Influential Young Indian” list by the GQ Magazine which described ‘Caste Matters’ as a Classic Hit’.
* His profile on Harvard University
On social media
Suraj Yengde is also active on social media. The number of his fans is as follows (as of March 2023) :
Read also :
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- Wikipedia : Top 36 World famous Personalities of India (in Marathi)
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