Annihilation of Caste is an audacious denunciation of Hinduism and its caste system.
In 1936, a Hindu reformist group invited Dr B.R. Ambedkar to deliver its annual lecture. When the group read an advance copy of the text of the speech, it found the contents “unbearable” and rescinded its invitation. Ambedkar published the text on his own. It offers a scholarly critique of the Vedas and shastras—scriptures the Hindus regard as sacred, scriptures that sanction the world’s most hierarchical and iniquitous social system. The world’s best known Hindu, Mahatma Gandhi, responded to the provocation. The hatchet was never buried.
This extensively annotated edition of Annihilation of Caste is introduced by Arundhati Roy. Her introduction, The Doctor and the Saint, looks at the ways in which caste plays out in modern India, and how the conflict between Ambedkar and Gandhi continues to resonate into the present day. It takes us to the beginning of Gandhi’s political career in South Africa, where his views on race, caste and imperialism were shaped. It tracks Ambedkar’s emergence as a major political figure in the national movement, and shows how his scholarship and intelligence illuminated a political struggle beset by sectarianism and obscurantism. Roy breathes new life into Ambedkar’s anticaste utopia, and says that without a Dalit revolution, there cannot be any other in India.
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar was born in 1891 into an ‘Untouchable’ family of modest means. One of India’s most radical thinkers, he transformed the social and political landscape in the struggle against British colonialism. He was a prolific writer who oversaw the drafting of the Indian Constitution and served as India’s first Law Minister. In 1935, he publicly declared that though he was born a Hindu, he would not die as one. Ambedkar eventually embraced Buddhism, a few months before his death in 1956.
Arundhati Roy is the author of the novel The God of Small Things. Collections of her recent political writings have been published as Listening to Grasshoppers and Broken Republic.
‘Annihilation of Caste is a breach of peace’ Arundhati Roy, in the Introduction
‘This edition, with Ambedkar’s words in Nietzschean aphoristic format, is extremely useful. It helps us discover new dimensions of Ambedkar’s subversive power. The annotations—many times orthogonal and tangential—enhance the value of this book. Those who have read Annihilation of Caste many times before will still read this work for the sake of the annotations and reference-based clarifications of Ambedkar’s thoughts. This edition will foster a more critical engagement among readers’ Ayyathurai Gajendran, anthropologist
‘For the 1930s, Annihilation of Caste was a case of marvelous writing with conceptual clarity and political understanding—something the world should know about. The annotations illumine the whole book. Roy’s essay has the sharp political thrust one has come to expect from her’ Uma Chakravarti, author of Everyday Lives, Everyday Histories: Beyond the Kings and Brahmanas of ‘Ancient’ India and Pandita Ramabai: A Life and a Time
ISBN 9788189059637 | Hardback | 415 pages | 5.75 x 8.75 x 1.2” | Rs 525 | 580 gm
Available from 1 March 2014
In the Media
Read a comprehensive interview with Arundhati Roy in Outlook, where she says, "Caste is at the heart of the rot in our society. Quite apart from what it has done to the subordinated castes, it has corroded the moral core of the privileged castes. We need to take Ambedkar seriously."
Samreen Mushtaq reports on the Walter Memorial Sisulu lecture delivered by Arundhati Roy on 4 March 2014. Ms Roy read some excerpts from Annihilation of Caste at the lecture, shining a torchlight on the corner in which modern India has hidden the racist and blatantly casteist worldview of the person it proudly proclaims as its ‘Father of the Nation’.
“Ambedkar and Gandhi mix as well as oil and water, sand and fire, cats and dogs, or snakes and babies. In other words, they don’t go together. They are irreconcilable…. On the one hand, Dr Ambedkar stood for the annihilation of caste. On the other hand, Gandhi stood for the perpetuation of caste.”—Parmjit Singh in Sikhsiyasat.
Read an Excerpt
Read a 12,000-word excerpt from Arundhati Roy's Introduction, The Doctor and the Saint, in Caravan magazine. Read also a key passage from Annihilation of Caste where Dr Ambedkar argues that Hinduism is governed by rules, not principles.