Annihilation of Caste
Cover of the first edition of Annihilation of Caste
|Author||B. R. Ambedkar|
Annihilation of Caste is an undelivered speech written in 1936 by B. R. Ambedkar, an Indian politician who fought against the country's concept of untouchability. The speech was prepared as the presidential address for the annual conference of a Hindu reformist group Jat-Pat Todak Mandal, on the ill effects of caste in Hindu society. After his invitation to speak at the conference was withdrawn due to the address's "unbearable" content, Ambedkar self-published 1,500 copies of the speech in May 1936.
Background and publications
On 12 December 1935, in a letter, the secretary of the Jat-Pat Todak Mandal (Society for the Abolition of Caste system), an anti-caste organisation based in Lahore, asked B. R. Ambedkar to deliver a speech on the caste system in India at their annual conference in 1936. Ambedkar wrote the speech as an essay under the title "Annihilation of Caste" and sent in advance to the organisers in Lahore for printing and distribution. But the organisers found that some of the contents were against Hinduism and its shastras. The organisation's insistence on deleting these passages of the speech and Ambedker's declaration that he "would not change a comma" resulted in the withdrawal of the invitation. He subsequently published the speech as a book on 15 May 1936, at his own expense.
The readers will recall the fact that Dr. Ambedkar was to have presided last May at the annual conference of the Jat-Pat-Todak Mandal of Lahore. But the conference itself was cancelled because Dr. Ambedkar's address was found by the Reception Committee to be unacceptable. How far a Reception Committee is justified in rejecting a President of its choice because of his address that may be objectionable to it is open to question. The Committee knew Dr. Ambedkar's views on caste and the Hindu scriptures. They knew also that he had in unequivocal terms decided to give up Hinduism. Nothing less than the address that Dr. Ambedkar had prepared was to be expected from him. The committee appears to have deprived the public of an opportunity of listening to the original views of a man, who has carved out for himself a unique position in society. Whatever label he wears in future, Dr. Ambedkar is not the man to allow himself to be forgotten.
In the second edition of his book, Ambedkar replied to Gandhi's comments. This edition was published in 1937 as Annihilation of Caste: With a Reply to Mahatma Gandhi. He published a third edition in 1944; it included another essay, "Castes in India: Their Mechanism, Genesis and Development", which had been presented at a seminar in New York in 1916.
Ambedkar criticised the Hindu caste system and its law books. He argued that inter-caste dining and inter-caste marriage is not sufficient to annihilate the caste system, but that "the real method of breaking up the Caste System was... to destroy the religious notions upon which caste is founded"
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