They represented two foundational but antagonistic visions of “what we as a society, what we as a state should embody”
( Review of ‘Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and The Risk of Democracy’ By Aishwary Kumar Navayana, Rs 599)
In the early 1990s D.R. Nagaraj published The Flaming Feet, a compilation of his essays in which he admired both Gandhi and Ambedkar. Coming close on the heels of the phenomenon of Dalit assertion, it argued that “there is a compelling necessity to achieve a synthesis of the two”. But that has not been the only attempt to examine how the ideas of these two leaders interacted, challenged each other, and how they extended or revisited the meanings of different concepts.
The book, Radical Equality: Ambedkar, Gandhi, and the Risk of Democracy by Aishwary Kumar, takes forward the conversation around the two “most formidable non-Western thinkers of the twentieth century, whose visions of moral and political life have left the deepest imprints”. For the author they “exemplified two incommensurable ways of forging a relationship between sovereignty and justice, force and disobedience”, or represented two foundational but antagonistic visions of “what we as a society, what we as a state should embody”.
Focusing mainly on Hind Swaraj — a monograph written by Gandhi on a ship to South Africa from London (1909) — and Annihilation of Caste, which happens to be the undelivered speech by Dr Ambedkar when he was invited by the Jat Pat Todak Mandal, Lahore (1936) — the organization rescinded the invite when it came across the ‘radical’ proposals he had put forward in the draft — this around 400-page book discerns “an insurrectionary element at the limit of politics” in the works of these two stalwarts. It is “an insurrection that sought to extract the political itself — and the social question — from the doctrinal prescriptions and certitude of its European past”
( Read the full text here : https://www.telegraphindia.com/culture/books/lessons-from-ambedkar-and-gandhi-to-take-forward/cid/1747042?ref=books_culture-books-page)
Can Dalits rightfully claim that they have a ‘homeland’?
( Review of The Doctor and the Saint: The Ambedkar-Gandhi Debate — Caste, Race, and Annihilation of Caste; By Arundhati Roy, Penguin, Rs 299)
“Gandhiji, I have no homeland.” The first meeting between Gandhi and B.R. Ambedkar, who later became chairman of the drafting committee of independent India’s Constitution and its first law minister, is memorialized in this sentence. It expresses the centuries-old plight of those most oppressed in the varna hierarchy under the “institutionalised social injustice at the heart of the country”.
Has there been a qualitative change in the situation of the ‘ex-untouchables’ since this meeting some 90 years back? Can Dalits rightfully claim that they have a ‘homeland’? Figures collated by National Crime Records Bureau show that “a crime is committed against a Dalit by a non-Dalit every sixteen minutes”, including four rapes a day and murders of 13 Dalits every week. And these figures do not include “the stripping and parading naked, the forced shit eating, the seizing of land and the social boycotts…” This is the backdrop of the book, The Doctor and The Saint: The Ambedkar-Gandhi Debate — Caste, Race, and Annihilation of Caste by Arundhati Roy. It earlier formed part of an introduction to an annotated 2014 edition of Annihilation of Caste — the historic pamphlet Ambedkar wrote when invited by the ‘Jat Paat Todak Mandal’ in Lahore. The invitation was withdrawn after the hosts read the lecture draft. Continue reading Caste and other demons
Guest post by RAJSHREE CHANDRA
The immediate motivation for writing this piece has been the passionate and often partisan debate that surrounded the publication of the new, annotated critical edition of B. R. Ambedkar’s work, Annihilation of Caste (AoC) by Navayana Publishing. Sufficient water has flowed under the bridge to soften the various sharp edged stones and so it is perhaps time for some dispassionate perspective on the matter.
There are two kinds of debate that got triggered off by the publication of AoC. One of course relates to the 124 page provocative introduction to AoC written by Arundhati Roy titled ‘The Doctor and the Saint’ – The “Doctor” being Ambedkar and the “Saint” referring to Gandhi. The other relates to questions of ownership of archival material and questions of its fair dissemination. While the former has been hotly, and often intractably, debated by experts, scholars, followers and fans of Gandhi and Ambedkar, it is the latter that has received less attention than it deserves.
The question is important: It does not merely relate to the question of who owns Ambedkar, but in general relates to a wider question of authorship and representation of intellectual heritage. And as I have argued in my earlier posts on Kafila , for me the legal question is preceded by a normative concern and a political question, which is this: Should the answer to the question of who speaks for and about Ambedkar be selective? And relatedly, should ideas, works and publications of our thinkers and philosophers be policed and guarded by caretakers and/or representatives deemed to be “authentic” and/or “legal”? But before I come to these questions let me briefly contextualize the publication of AoC, as only a specific instance of his large body of work. Continue reading Un-owning – Archives in General, Ambedkar in Particular: Rajshree Chandra
‘Turn in any direction you like, caste is the monster that crosses your path. You cannot have political reform, you cannot have economic reforms unless you kill the monster.’
Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar
‘If Lenin was born in India , he would not have even let the idea of revolution come to his mind before he had completely buried casteism and untouchability’
The Indian left today presents a very contradictory picture. As opposed to many left formations/movements in different parts of the world which witnessed decline/3reverses after the Soviet collapse, it has been able to sustain itself and at places even expand itself. Yes, the movement is far from united, there are ruptures and divisions at various levels, which at times even prove deadly, but if one is able to look at the cumulative impact of what is known as left and contrast it with many other countries, situation does not appear that bleak.
It’s sustenance and continuation amongst heavy odds, does not mean that it is not beset with challenges. The challenge of outlining its emancipatory vision of social transformation for 21 st century, devising innovative strategies of mobilisation and rejuvenating itself organisationally still remains. It also needs to reboot itself to address few important issues which are of key importance for any radical restructuring of Indian society and state. Undoubtedly, its failure on this count has cost it heavily. Question of dalit emancipation or the whole struggle for annihilation of caste forms one such core issues which demand serious attention. Continue reading Cast Away Caste – Breaking New Ground …