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The Doctor and the Saint

Ambedkar, Gandhi and the battle against caste


ANNIHILATION OF CASTE is the nearly eighty-year-old text of a speech that was never delivered.* When I first read it I felt as though somebody had walked into a dim room and opened the windows. Reading Dr Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar bridges the gap between what most Indians are schooled to believe in and the reality we experience every day of our lives.

My father was a Hindu, a Brahmo. I never met him until I was an adult. I grew up with my mother, in a Syrian Christian family in Ayemenem, a small village in communist-ruled Kerala. And yet all around me were the fissures and cracks of caste. Ayemenem had its own separate “Parayan” church where “Parayan” priests preached to an “untouchable” congregation. Caste was implied in peoples’ names, in the way people referred to each other, in the work they did, in the clothes they wore, in the marriages that were arranged, in the language we spoke. Even so, I never encountered the notion of caste in a single school textbook. Reading Ambedkar alerted me to a gaping hole in our pedagogical universe. Reading him also made it clear why that hole exists and why it will continue to exist until Indian society undergoes radical, revolutionary change.

Revolutions can, and often have, begun with reading.

Arundhati Roy is the author of the novel The God of Small Things. The most recent collections of her political essays are Listening to Grasshoppers and Broken Republic.


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Readers' Comments

109 thoughts on “The Doctor and the Saint”

It is not conversion. It is home coming.If somebody takes away ur child by offering a chocolate what is wrong in trying to bring him back home ?

I really appreciate ur thoughts. Upper casts, sudras, Muslims, and christians all have some thing common: sense of superiority. Dalits by virtue of their past have Humility, which no other group has. They should make use of this great virtue and help spread peace and compassion in Hindu society. But large number of dalits who reached higher positions are spreading antihindu philosophy and working as missionaries. I know their strong affinity to Christianity as it gives them social respect. But in the long run it will lead to genocides and mass murders as is happening in africa.

From the demolishing of the 16th-century Babri mosque in 1992 and the 11
July 2006 Mumbai train bombings to the most recent Mumbai attacks, the divide and
rule strategy has exacerbated the differences between the twin nations that were once
united as one. The newspapers publish special supplements on the Independence day.
Alok Rana is a freelance writer whose major area of focus is travel.

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