In 1936, a Hindu reformist group invited B.R. Ambedkar to deliver their presidential address and chart a path to end the caste system. When he argued that the immorality of caste was sustained by the Vedas and shastras, and without ‘dynamiting’ them there could be no reform, they withdrew their invitation. Ambedkar published the text on his own. Mahatma Gandhi responded to the provocation. The hatchet was never buried.
This new annotated, critical edition features a comprehensive introduction by Arundhati Roy, who says ‘to ignore Gandhi while writing about Ambedkar is to do Ambedkar a disservice’. This edition generated inevitable questions regarding political representation, caste, privilege, and power in Indian society.
Annihilation of Caste is a breach of peace.
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 and The Ministry of Utmost Happiness. Collections of her recent political writings have been published as Listening to Grasshoppers and Broken Republic.
‘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
‘Arundhati Roy’s The Doctor and the Saint works both at an emotive and an argumentative level. She manages to convey an intimate and deeply felt sensitivity to the history that produced Annihilation of Caste. Her essay is both well-documented and closely argued. The annotations do an excellent job of providing supplementary information, corroboration and relevant citations… A robust edition of an under-appreciated classic’—Satish Deshpande, Professor of Sociology, Delhi University
‘S. Anand’s annotations are very thorough and on the whole based on first rate and current scholarship on South Asia and elsewhere. Their tone and style will appeal to a scholarly as well as lay audience … an important accomplishment. Arundhati Roy’s essay is punchy, eye-opening and provocative… There is very little left of the saintly stature of the Mahatma once Roy is done with him, while Ambedkar, quite rightly, is left standing as the man in full control of his senses and his very considerable intellect’—Thomas Blom Hansen, Director, Stanford’s Center for South Asia
‘This annotated edition of Annihilation of Caste was long overdue. It makes available to all a major text of Dr Ambedkar’s, where his intellectual engagement with caste is best articulated … the copious footnotes give the reader a sense of direction and all the additional information needed for making sense of the text—including the translation of the Sanskrit shlokas Ambedkar used to document his analysis. This edition is truly a remarkable achievement’—Christophe Jaffrelot, author of Dr Ambedkar and Untouchability: Analysing and Fighting Caste
In the media
Annihilation of Caste ‘posseses a generic openness to the wounds and decisions of existence which can breach the prisons of the world as no amount of scholarship can’—Biblio
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.’
Read an excerpt
Read a 12,000-word excerpt from Arundhati Roy’s Introduction,“The Doctor and the Saint”, in Caravan magazine