I finally read Annihilation of Caste by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, a seminal work that must be read more widely. He wrote the text for a speech that was scheduled but never delivered; the organizers thought its content too incendiary, even if they were against caste themselves. I have always hesitated to read scholarly works, I imagine I will not be able to understand what is being said. I am now trying to rectify this somewhat erroneous belief.
The first two hundred pages are an essay by Arundhati Roy, titled The Doctor and the Saint. It runs longer than AoC itself, and concerns itself with contrasting the ideologies of Gandhi and Ambedkar. This ‘introduction’ has come under much criticism since its publication, for repackaging one man’s political legacy, and reducing him to a counterpoint for Gandhi. Take a look at this article on Hatred In The Belly, shared with me by someone on Twitter. HITB is a collection of writing that emerged on the topic of appropriation of Ambedkar by upper caste voices.
The only thing I was taught about Ambedkar in school is that he was the Father of the Indian Constitution, when in reality, he was disappointed by it. We were not taught that his life’s work was caste – its analysis and eradication. But this should not be surprising, because we are never taught what caste is. We do not need education on this front, we live along its codes by example, we learn by instinct who to be with, what to eat, what is allowed and what is not, what is pure and by association, superior.
I cannot say I read AoC now because Arundhati Roy wrote about it. Maybe it has taken me a while to arrive here, after a journey that made me realise the numerous ways in which I was privileged, and also the ways in which I was silenced.