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 (also known as Babasaheb ). B.R. Ambedkar (1891-1956) was the first highly educated (Ph.D., Columbia University), politically prominent Dalit. He wrote The Annihilation of Caste for the 1936 meeting of a group of liberal Hindu caste-reformers in Lahore. After reviewing the speech, conference organizers revoked Ambedkar's invitation. He then self-published the work, which became an immediate classic.
In a letter dated 12 December 1935, the secretary of the Jat-Pat Todak Mandal (Society for the Abolition of Caste system), an anti-caste Hindu reformist group organisation based in Lahore, invited 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. The organisers found some of the content to be objectionable towards the orthodox Hindu religion, so intemperate in the idiom and vocabulary used, and so incendiary in promoting conversion away from Hinduism, that they sought the deletion of large sections of the more controversial content endangering Brahmanical interests. They wrote to Ambedkar seeking the removal of sections which they found, in their words, "unbearable.". Ambedker declared in response that he "would not change a comma" of his text. After much deliberation, the committee of organizers decided to cancel their annual conference in its entirety, because they feared violence by orthodox Hindus at the venue if they held the event after withdrawing the invitation to him. Ambedkar subsequently published 1500 copies of the speech as a book on 15 May 1936 at his own expense as Jat-Pat Todak Mandal failed to fulfill their word.
In the essay, Ambedkar criticised the Hindu religion, its caste system and its religious texts which are male dominant and spreading hatred and suppression of female interests. 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"
Mahatma Gandhi criticized Dr Ambedkar's essay on various grounds, for example, he criticized his selection of Hindu texts, ignoring the teachings of Hindu saints, etc. In his reply to Mahatma Gandhi's criticisms, Dr Ambedkar wrote in Annihilation of Caste: With a Reply to Mahatma Gandhi that the illiterate masses don't make any distinction between which texts are genuine and which texts are interpolations. Further he said that the saints could not effectively oppose the caste system itself, giving examples of Eknath and Jayandeo.
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.
Later editions and translations
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.
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