Friday, July 03, 2015

Ambedkar's pamphlet on caste

On Anu Murthy's insistence, I finally read 'The annihilation of caste' by Ambdkar. The reason I did not read it earlier is I read excerpts from it in articles by D.R.Nagaraj, Valerian Rodrigues, Ramachandra Guha and others. Also I read Kancha Ilaiah 's book on caste and found it had some good points but found it was disappointing polemic. So, I did not want to read another polemic. But Ambedkar is different. It is a pamphlet in the tradition of Tom Paine. It is a bit over cooked after section 12 . In section 9, at the beginning he observes sanskritization later attributed to M.N. Srinivas. Later on he goes against the might of scholars like S.Radhakrishnan and asserts that Hinduism was a ' missionary' religion ( later on, he says that it is not really a religion). Richard Eaton confirms this in his book on conversions in Bengal right up to eighteenth century where both Muslims and Hindus were allowed to convert in the process of extending the frontier for agriculture. Hinduism might have lost its vitality by then or the competition is stronger. About 90 percent converted to Islam. Ambedkar's undelivered talk is resounding polemic. I am glad that I read it.
I think that Sumit Guha underestimates the influence of Hinduism and reliion in eneral in his book 'Beyond caste'. There are caste differences in all religions in South Asia but as Ambedkar says, these differences are different. 

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