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The Doctor and the Saint: Caste, Race, and Annihilation of Caste

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  1,344 ratings  ·  176 reviews
“Democracy hasn’t eradicated caste,” writes Arundhati Roy. “It has entrenched and modernized it.”

To best understand caste today in India, Roy insists we must examine the influence of Gandhi in shaping what India ultimately became: independent of British rule, globally powerful, and marked to this day by the caste system.

““For more than half a century—throughout his adult l
Paperback, 184 pages
Published May 16th 2017 by Haymarket Books
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Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Damning. Insightful. I’ve been wanting just such a book. It’s a short history of untouchability, especially in the last century. It alters irremediably Gandhi’s reputation as the Saint of Nonviolence. Gandhi—unbelievably—was pro-caste. Written originally as an introduction to B.R. Ambedkar’s great work Annihilation of Caste. Much here is about Gandhi’s utterly contradictory nature: it reviews his pro-British role in South Africa; how he failed his fellow Indians there; his weird sexual life, whi ...more
Jul 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"The most famous Indian in the world, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi believed that caste represented the genius of Indian society. In 1921, in his Gujarati journal Navajivan he wrote:

'I believe that if Hindu Society has been able to stand, it is because it is founded on the caste system … To destroy the caste system and adopt the Western European social system means that Hindus must give up the principle of hereditary occupation which is the soul of the caste system. Hereditary principle is an etern
Jun 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
The story of liberal reformism, caste, and radicalism from two leaders in India’s independence movement.

--Really enjoy Roy’s longer essays... others include: Capitalism: A Ghost Story and Walking with the Comrades.
--I’ve read a few critiques of Roy from devotees of Gandhi and Ambedkar, the former saying she did not adequately contextualize Gandhi and his changes, while the latter critiquing her re-publication of Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste with this essay as the introduction (on th
This is the first book of Arundhati Roy that I've picked up. It was, frankly, a very interesting book. However, while my first review was fairly glowing, a more critical look at this work exposes it for what it is: the work of an excited journalist who lacks scholarly vigor. This book is at best an ad hominem on Gandhi, and at worst a piece of deliberately disingenuous scholarship. Roy seems to miss quite a few nuances of Gandhi's position, often deliberately so.

Yes, Gandhi was both racist and a
Ravi Prakash
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you are a fan of Gandhi and think that he was really a Mahatma, this is not for you. But if you think Gandhi was great and flawed, prejudiced and hypocritical, tricky and complex, you must read it.

The book was originally written as the Introduction of the annotated version of "Annihilation of Caste (1936)", a speech written by Ambedkar which couldn't be delivered because of its explosive intellectualism against the stigmatic caste-system in Hinduism. The speech was to be delivered among those
Chinar Mehta
Jan 02, 2020 rated it did not like it
Do yourself a favour and just read Annihilation of Caste. If you are still inclined to read further, Ambedkar's essay about "Gandhism" is a good start to view Gandhi critically. There are several edited collections of Ambedkar, and this is not one of the good ones. This introduction is not worth reading.

If you are curious as to why this may be the case, Hatred In The Belly is a good start to learn about how Ambedkarite politics have been appropriated (badly) in India, and by upper-caste writers
Madhulika Liddle
Jun 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In 1936, a Hindu reformist organization named the Jat-Pat Todak Mandal invited Dr BR Ambedkar to address its members, all of whom were upper-caste Hindus. Ambedkar agreed, but was not destined to give the speech he prepared for the occasion. An advance copy of Ambedkar’s speech, read by the organizers, resulted in them disinviting Ambedkar. Ambedkar went on to publish the speech in the form of a pamphlet named Annihilation of Caste, a work that was an attack on Hinduism itself.

Arundhati Roy’s T
Jul 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ebook available on Hoopla. 4.5 stars

What is that sound I hear? Why it is the smashing to smithereens of who I thought Mohandas K Ghandi was, what I thought he had believed in and what he had accomplished. He is usually called "Mahatma," which is his self-aggrandized title, which means Great Soul. The SAINT in the title, he is often put on a pedestal alongside Jesus.
After reading ARUNDHATI ROY's short but painstakingly referenced history, I have no illusion that he was a hardly Great Soul. He wa
Kshitij Chaurel
Jun 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Gandhi we know is just the face of him which has been constructed by the power. His views on caste sytem and untouchability make him as guilty as any person that discriminates on the basis of caste.
Ayan Sinha Mahapatra
Oct 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A must read expose of the Saint, and the Caste system he upholds. A fascinating piece of text.
Feb 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: india
In this 2014 introduction to B R Ambedkar's undelivered 1936 speech, "Annihilation of Caste", Arunhati Roy reveals the shameful treatment of India's untouchables, the Dalits. The famous but forgotten debate on caste between the great soul Gandhi and Ambedkar, drafter of the constitution and champion of the downtrodden, helped to define the era.

Roy examines the plight of the outcastes with an economy of words, yet in heart rending detail. Their condition is described from colony to republic, with
Swagato Chatterjee
Jun 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Written primarily as an introduction to Annihilation of Caste - a written account of a speech Dr. B. R. Ambedkar was supposed to deliver but never did- this book is a critique of different historical contexts that led to the ideological flashpoints between Gandhi (the saint) and Ambedkar (the doctor). It delves deep into the historical oppression of dalits by casteist Hindus, their transformation into political fodder by opportunist political parties during independence movement and how Gandhi ...more
May 30, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Relentlessly irreverent of icons, personalities, socio-economic beliefs, religions and cultures alike, nobody or their mother's feelings are spared in this essay by Arundhati Roy. In my very humble opinion, works like these are paramount and necessary, if not sufficient, foil to the cultish mentality of hero-worship that abounds in a nation like India. I just wish these ideas were more accessible. ...more
Nivan Bagchi
Aug 21, 2020 rated it liked it
The book is a stinging critique of Gandhi but brushes off Ambedkar's criticisms in a caricaturish tone.

There is one paragraph on Ambedkar which describes all the criticisms against him.
"The caveats continue to be murmured: ‘opportunist’ (because he served as Labour Member of the British Viceroy’s Executive Council, 1942–46), ‘British stooge’ (because he accepted an invitation from the British government to the First Round Table Conference in 1930 when Congressmen were being imprisoned for brea
Apurva Vurity
Mar 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Roy's portrayal of Ambedkar as the radical revolutionary that he was instead of just being the "Father of our constitution" was so important and fair.

The systematic reveal of Gandhi's flaws was also soul calming because deification of Gandhi has always been a mystery to me and this book answered how the process of mahatma-ization came about. Gandhi being one of the most popular politicians of the world was also one of the most racist, casteist and misogynist leader of those times and I wish we
Feb 08, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Starting with a horrific story of caste-based lynching, the book got me thinking about the origins of the caste. Although it's a general feeling, the stats about Brahmin's dominance in Indian workforce up until 1990s came as a shock! The book outlines the ideological differences between Gandhi and Ambedkar, and the actions they took to advance those principles. Ambedkar is portrayed as a principled leader with a vision of abolishing caste whereas Gandhi is portrayed as privileged-Hindu and accep ...more
Divakar T
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Doctor and The Saint - An Important document on casteism in Indian society. Best thing about the book is, The content are directly taken from the writings of BR Ambedkar - Gandhi. The sources are very clearly mentioned under every text. Must Read.

“While the Doctor was searching for a more lasting cure, the Saint journeyed across India distributing a placebo.” -― Arundhati Roy, The Doctor and the Saint: Caste, Race, and Annihilation of Caste, the Debate Between B.R. Ambedkar and M.K. Gandhi
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I have so many thoughts after reading this one. It's unparalleled to any piece of writing related to Gandhi & Ambedkar.
I need to gather my thoughts to write a comprehensive review.
Mukesh Pareek
Feb 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
There's so much I didn't know about casteism and untouchability in India. Draws logical parallels between racism and casteism, at the same time highlighting the difference. Casts light on the freedom struggle from an untouchable's perspective, and they have been unfortunate to not have something as significant as the struggle for freedom in India, or the civil war in the US.

I didn't know much about BR Ambedkar, and it's definitely a great read, to set the context, before reading Annihilation of
Oct 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
The Doctor and the Saint is Arundhati Roy's attempt to detonate Gandhi's mahatma pedestal, and raise up Ambedkar as deserving the status of India's preeminent modern figure. Why? By beginning this journey in his post-London South African days, Roy lays out the case for Gandhi's hypocrisy, inconsistency, and untempered casteism (and racism?). We have mistaken Gandhi for a saint, as Roy claims, which has disabled us from being more critical about his true attitudes on scavengers, sexual purity, sa ...more
Saurabh Sharma
When a writer of the stature of Ms Roy writes then you know that she's had her research. The amazing writer never ceases to scandalize you with information. Here's an amazing work which stands apart from the army of content produced to glorify the already glorified and worshiped like a religion - Mahatama Gandhi, the Father of the Nation. Among his other talents were to uphold caste system, to tactfully create a balance and mediating between the British and Africans in Durban, and assuming an op ...more
Nov 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Arundhati's writing is heartbreakingly beautiful and tender. This book serves as a great primer to unlearning the mythology (that easily border on fantasy) when it comes to Gandhi by seriously interrogating his personal beliefs and political career. She also discusses Ambedkar in-depth, a deeply tenacious and moral man, who's main goal was to see the abolition of caste through various political, social and intellectual endeavours (who also, however, at best had incredibly condescending beliefs a ...more
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
It's easy to look at our part of the world and say that not all people are valued equally. Race, religion, and class all play a major part. However, there's always this sense of progress, a gradual crawling and slouching forward, an overly optimistic worldview that people are in charge of their own destiny.

Reading this book sheds light on a part of the world where for a large percentage of the population, none of the above has ever been true, their fates codifed in centuries old religious texts,
May 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, india
You can hear Roy’s rage in this—it makes for an impassioned, albeit messy, treatise in support of a man neglected in history despite remaining steadfast in the name of human rights and equality in India. Not my favorite work by Roy by any means, but a solid read. Pulls back the curtain on the subversive ways in which Gandhi perpetuated the caste system and Untouchability, in ways that are shocking and devastating.
3.5 / 5.0

Well written but does not clearly state the terms and implications of the dispute. Detailed dissection of Ghandi's shortcomings dominates discourse.

Probably not wise to title a book "Why Ghandi wasn't so great" but would have been more appropriate.
Aditi Gupta
Jul 24, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Carried the capacity to challenge all the textbook history we had known for so long especially around our struggle for freedom, Gandhi and Ambedkar!
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
In this well written short book, Roy makes the case that we should take Gandhi off his "Mahatma" pedestal because he embraced the caste system rather than trying to annihilate it.

Despite Gandhi's personal shortcomings highlighted in the book, I am not sure if Gandhi, or any other person in his position, had a choice. Gandhi was a political leader whose goal was to unite majority of Indians under the umbrella of the Indian National Congress and against the British. Trying to annihilate the caste
Oct 09, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
To each his own. Roy is a prolific writer but she cannot be (become) expert of everything. Reading her essay is sheer joy but one should not confine to her side of the story alone. If you are a Gandhi hater you will love this book; if you are not then you would become one after reading this. Read other authors before you pass any judgement on Gandhi. If you liked this essay "With the 'true' doctor and the 'false' saint" you might also read the rebuttal by Rajmohan Gandhi. ...more
Prakhar Prateek
Dec 21, 2020 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the style of writing and Roy's passion on the matter greatly. Her impassioned discourse warms the heart and simultaneously breaks one's heart because of ill treatment of those who are considered to be lowly. It shows how India may have been liberated from the Britishers but have lower caste truly been uplifted, have they become an equal citizen of India.
“To the Untouchables,” Ambedkar said, with the sort of nerve that present-day intellectuals in India find hard to summon, “Hinduism
Shankari Palanichamy
Apr 14, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As someone with a one-dimensional tone to understand India's struggle for independence (read: School curriculum of India's Independence, My Experiments with Truth – M.K. Gandhi, Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi) I thought I ought to diversify my understanding of what actually went through from different perspectives. Nationalism in a certain sense has varied meanings, and truth cannot be found from just one source and one certainly should not buy it from one party.

Arundhati Roy does not beat aroun
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Arundhati Roy is an Indian writer who is also an activist who focuses on issues related to social justice and economic inequality. She won the Booker Prize in 1997 for her novel, The God of Small Things, and has also written two screenplays and several collections of essays.

For her work as an activist she received the Cultural Freedom Prize awarded by the Lannan Foundation in 2002.

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