domenica 17 aprile 2016

Ambedkar and Annihilation of Caste

B. R. Ambedkar
I just finished reading "Annihilation of Caste: The annotated critical edition" of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar with the introduction of Arundhati Roy entitled "The Doctor and the Saint" (Ed. Navayana - New Delhi).
This is the inaugural speech that Ambedkar would have to say in 1936 at a conference which was later canceled because of the explosiveness of the contents of the text which he had previously sent to the organizers.
Ambedkar (1891-1956) was a lawyer, graduated in the United States and the United Kingdom in law and economics, chairman of the committee that wrote the constitution of independent India. But it was also, or above all, a Dalit, an outcast, and throughout his life he fought against the institution of castes in India and came to the belief that the castes were inextricably linked to Hinduism and to eliminate them it was necessary to abandon the Hindu faith, which he did by converting to Buddhism.
In the text, in rational and consequential way, Ambedkar says just that.
The existence of castes "killed public spirit - says Ambedkar - has destroyed the sense of public charity" and disputes the view that the castes represent a normal division of labor, not being based on attitudes, but on the birth and on the "dogma of predestination".
And the blame for this where it is? In Hinduism. "What is wrong is our religion - Ambedkar writes  - which inculcated the notion of caste and the real remedy is to destroy the belief in the sanctity of the shastras, the sacred texts of Hinduism" beginning with the Rig Veda, in which it gives account of the birth of castes, ending with Manusmirti (the Code of Manu) with respect to which Ambedkar says "there is no code of laws more infamous regarding social rights that the laws of Manu."
Hinduism criticism continues in the text to be maintained that "the Hindu religion, as contained in the Vedas and smirtis, is nothing but a mass of  sacrificial, social, political, and sanitaryrules and regulations, all mixed up. What is called religion is really by the Hindus is nothing but a multitude of commands and prohibitions" and concludes "I have no hesitation in saying that such a religion must be destroyed".
The text could not be accepted by the conference organizers, they tried to convince Ambedkar to change it but getting only a rejection. The conference was then canceled and Ambedkar published the text at their own expense.
The controversy that the publication aroused was great and even Mahatma Gandhi intervened in Harijan magazine in defense of Hinduism and its texts. But I will speak about in a future post.

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