Why does Ambedkar need Roy's patronage?

Ambedkar wrote The Annhilition of Caste in 1936. Seventy-eight years later the masterpiece needs Arundhati Roy’s annotated version to make it popular.

shivangi-narayan

Shivangi Narayan | March 5, 2014



The introduction of Arundhati Roy’s ‘annotated’ version of Ambedkar’s The Annihilation of Caste, The Doctor and the Saint was published in this month’s Caravan magazine as the cover story. It is heartening to see Ambedkar being considered saleable enough by a leading publication. But how?

Roy, even best produces a secondary understanding of the text written decades ago by Ambedkar, where he carefully explains the need to renounce caste in Hinduism in order to develop a just society. A masterpiece, The Annihilation of Caste has also been equated by some to Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto.

In referencing scholars such as Gail Omvedt, Madhu Kishwar and Kancha Illaih for her easay, she ignores many contemporary scholars who have developed a deeper understanding of dalit movement and Ambedkar. Roy's essay is therefore only a chronological piece on anti-caste movements, Gandhi and the freedom struggle. She hardly produces new insights when she ‘reveals’ how Gandhi was opposed to untouchability but favoured the four-fold varna system and for its functional importance. Or when she says that Ambedkar’s conversion to Buddhism was a major threat to caste communities with the advent of vote-bank politics. Or about the Round Table conferences and Gandhi’s refusal to give separate electorates for untouchables. 

Roy’s hatred for Gandhi is predictable and the essay has it in copious amounts. In the end she sums it up with failures of both Gandhi and Ambedkar in the solutions they profess for the future: ideal village republics in the case of Gandhi; and modern, industrial cities in the case of Ambedkar. This last section, where Roy points out the the failure of Ambedkar to see the shortcomings of modernity, looks forced, probably because in taking cues from Kishwar and Omvedt, she almost forgets that she was a part of the much hyped (and much criticised for being anti-Dalit, anti-tribal and anti-poor) Narmada Bachao Andolan.

The essay has nothing new to offer, and it references no new researches on the debate on caste and the question of Ambedkar and Gandhi. However, it of course takes The Annihilation of Caste to a wider audience than any of dalit scholars could ever take it, not because it is better but because of Roy's appeal in the intellectual world. Just the same way as Ambedkar’s books on economics and history and sociology, which never make it to university curriculums in spite of his fine academic works at Columbia University and London School of Economics.

Beyond murders, rapes and robbery, dalits still need a face to make them appealing. A theoretical discussion on them, ironically, takes place only when the issue of reservation comes up. I know I am being a spoil sport when I complain that this mass-appealing version of The Annihilation of Caste will be more popular than the original. There is another interesting piece by Ambedkar called What Congress and Gandhi have done for the untouchables, but may be we should wait for Ms. Roy to write an annotated version.

Comments

 

Other News

Five years after Nirbhaya, have things changed?

Far away in the other world, she must be weeping seeing the flames of fire she lit for justice slowly fading. On December 16, 2012, the 23-year-old Delhi woman, better known as Nirbhaya now, was brutally raped. She eventually succumbed to her injuries, but not before triggering a storm acorss the count

Income inequality has rapidly increased: Report

The rise in income inequality has been gradual in India, said the World Inequality Report which noted that at the global level, inequality has risen sharply since 1980, despite strong growth in China. The report said that inequality within world regions varies greatly. In 2016, the share of

BHEL launches coal-fired power project in Indonesia

 BHEL has successfully commissioned a 54 mega watt coal-fired captive power project in Indonesia. The project located at East Kalimantan in Indonesia has been set up by BHEL for PT Citra Kusuma Perdana (PT CKP) for its coal-mining operations.   For the project, B

Five years after Nirbhaya: A lot needs to be done

Have things changed five years after the Nirbhaya incident? I see Delhi as the capital of protest, not just capital of rape as it is often painted. In terms of legislation, in 2013 one-stop-centres were set up after the landmark report of Justice Verma Committee and Justice Usha Meh

Winter session will be productive: Modi

The winter session of parliament is starting and I am confident that it will be productive session, said prime minister Narendra Modi on Friday. He hoped that there is “constructive debate and we come up with innovative solutions to our nation`s problems”. Speaking

Know more about Project 75

When prime minister Narendra Modi dedicated Kalvari submarine to the nation, it was significant for more than one reason. Not only did the submarine enhance India’s capability as a blue water navy, it also highlighted Project 75 that focused on a major exercise to build six submarines.



Video

Govt. approves draft legislation to ban triple talaq

Current Issue

Opinion

Facebook    Twitter    Google Plus    Linkedin    Subscribe Newsletter

Twitter