An Open Letter to Ms. Arundhati Roy Concerning B. R. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste


A Dalit organization on Arundathi Roy's introduction to Annihilation of Caste after excerpts from her introduction were published in Caravan and Outlook:

We are writing this letter to clarify our position on the rumors spreading in New Delhi about the cancellation of the launch of the book, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar's Annihilation of Caste, introduced by you and published by Navayana. The rumors claim that Dalit activists and intellectuals in Hyderabad have allegedly stalled the event of book launch. It is said that an event at EFL University and other events were cancelled because of the threats of Dalit activists. You know well that the memorial meeting (of Mudasir Kamran) at EFL University you were supposed to address was not permitted by the EFL University Vice Chancellor. The book launch events atSundaraiah Vijnana Kendra and La Makaan were cancelled by the publisher Navayana.

We deny this well-designed false propaganda. We clarify in no uncertain terms that Dalit activists in Hyderabad were never in favor of stalling the event. The intention has always been to raise criticism of your role in the preparation of the edited book and also the contents of your introduction. Many Dalit activists including myself are not pleased with your introduction and the planning of the event and publicity around your book and your star status. Some activists spoke to Anand and voiced their views strongly including objections to the book launch. The intention is not to stall the event or to ban your views but to make our point that you did not do justice toAnnihilation of Caste.

More here. Roy's response.

The fact is that in Annhilation of Caste Ambedkar makes a range of references, to incidents, to philosophical concepts, to scholars and philosophers, and he cites Sanskrit slokas without translating them. The annotations try to explain all of this. How does this constitute a crime?

You say I patronize Ambedkar? I find that offensive. Why would I spend so much time reading what he wrote, and writing this introduction, just in order to patronize him? Here's what I say: “More than anything else, what Ambedkar brought to a complicated, multifaceted political struggle, with more than its fair share of sectarianism, obscurantism and skullduggery, was intelligence.”

Does this sound patronizing to you? My introduction ends by saying: “Can caste be annihilated? Not unless we show the courage to rearrange the stars in our firmament. Not unless those who call themselves revolutionary develop a radical critique of Brahminism. Not unless those who understand Brahminism sharpen their critique of capitalism. And not unless we read Babasaheb Ambedkar. If not inside our classrooms then outside them. Until then we will remain what he called the “sick men” and women of Hindustan, who seem to have no desire to get well.”

This is patronizing?

Finally, on the question of the amount of space that Gandhi occupies in my introduction. I do know, and was fully aware of the fact that there are sections of Dalit intellectuals who object to Gandhi even being mentioned when we speak of Ambedkar. I disagree.

More here.