Democracy seems torn between the ideal search for harmony and unity and the reality of polarizing differences and injustices. Harsh criticism both seems a useful response to societal problems and appears to undermine the search for this ideal of unity. This article engages Bhimrao Ambedkar, the Indian statesman and anti-caste philosopher, to explore this tension in democratic rhetoric. By placing his harsh critique of Hinduism in Riddles in Hinduism in conversation with his crafting of fraternity and love as ideals in The Buddha and His Dhamma, we can perceive the tense dialectic between the democratic injunction to seek community with opponents and the very human impulse to harshly criticize those perpetuating injustice. Analyzing archival drafts of his work that capture his processes of revision and invention, I extract a sense of tentative critique as an entailed form of Ambedkar’s reconstructive rhetoric. Such a tentative rhetorical style reduces the tensions between loving one’s enemies and harshly criticizing one’s opponents by introducing ways to lessen the impact of excessive critique, showing Ambedkar’s potential as an innovative thinker in the global history of rhetoric.

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