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The Doctor and the Saint: The Ambedkar - Gandhi Debate

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To best understand and address the inequality in India today, Arundhati Roy insists we must examine both the political development and influence of M. K. Gandhi and why B. R. Ambedkar’s brilliant challenge to his near-divine status was suppressed by India’s elite. In Roy’s analysis, we see that Ambedkar’s fight for justice was systematically sidelined in favor of policies that reinforced caste, resulting in the current nation of India: independent of British rule, globally powerful, and marked to this day by the caste system.

This book situates Ambedkar’s arguments in their vital historical context— namely, as an extended public political debate with Mohandas Gandhi. “For more than half a century—throughout his adult life—[Gandhi’s] pronouncements on the inherent qualities of black Africans, untouchables and the laboring classes remained consistently insulting,” writes Roy. “His refusal to allow working-class people and untouchables to create their own political organizations and elect their own representatives remained consistent too.”

In The Doctor and the Saint, Roy exposes some uncomfortable, controversial, and even surprising truths about the political thought and career of India’s most famous and most revered figure. In doing so she makes the case for why Ambedkar’s revolutionary intellectual achievements must be resurrected, not only in India but throughout the world.

“Arundhati Roy is incandescent in her brilliance and her fearlessness.”
—Junot Díaz

“The fierceness with which Arundhati Roy loves humanity moves my heart.”
—Alice Walker

184 pages, Paperback

First published May 16, 2017

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About the author

Arundhati Roy

112 books10.9k followers
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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Displaying 1 - 30 of 261 reviews
Profile Image for William2.
746 reviews2,972 followers
July 3, 2019
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, which he reported to everyone; his odd romanticization of the Indian village, his hatred of cities, and machinery, and industry, though industrialists nevertheless subsidized him most of his life. Roy is herself tinged with the romanticism of Marx, but she wears it lightly. She is never ideological, and always scholarly. She despises the idea of gross over-accumulation of capital, and laments how big capital projects (usually dams) displace the poor. (In the U.S. there’s the additional burden of the poor always being on the front lines of industrial pollution, since they tend to live where the rent is lowest and illegal dumping rampant. I don’t doubt this happens in India also, the catastrophe caused by Union Carbide at Bhopal being just one example.) The Dalits are seen as a form of human pollution. That’s hard for the Western mind to grasp. All of Hindu India therefore, according to one source, 966 million people, is built on the idea of caste. At its lowest level are the Dalits or Untouchable castes, over 400 such groups, each with its heritary skill—cobbler, barber, milkman, potter, etc.—each with an iota less privilege the farther one descends the ladder, altogether some 130 million individuals. Gandhi comes off looking like a ruthless self-promoter and an advance man for corporations and the government. It’s very damning, his utter embrace of the caste system, the status quo. The introduction here to Dr. Ambedkar, born an Untouchable, ultimately a graduate of Oxford, historically the great advocate for Dalits, is something I’ll always be grateful for.
Profile Image for Abhijit.
31 reviews1 follower
July 7, 2019
"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 eternal principle. To change it is to create disorder. I have no use for a Brahmin if I cannot call him a Brahmin for my life. It will be chaos if every day a Brahmin is changed into a Shudra and a Shudra is to be changed into a Brahmin.' "

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, a crime is committed against a Dalit by a non-Dalit every sixteen minutes; every day, more than four Untouchable women are raped by Touchables; every week, thirteen Dalits are murdered and six Dalits are kidnapped. In 2012 alone, the year of the Delhi gang-rape and murder, 1,574 Dalit women were raped (the rule of thumb is that only 10 percent of rapes or other crimes against Dalits are ever reported), and 651 Dalits were murdered. That’s just the rape and butchery. Not the stripping and parading naked, the forced shit-eating (literally), the seizing of land, the social boycotts, the restriction of access to drinking water. These statistics wouldn’t include, say, Bant Singh of Punjab, a Mazhabi Dalit Sikh, who in 2005 had both his arms and a leg cleaved off for daring to file a case against the men who gang-raped his daughter. There are no separate statistics for triple amputees.
Profile Image for Kevin.
278 reviews758 followers
June 7, 2020
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 this, let me say my review here is solely on this essay as a separate entity; I have not read Roy's annotated release of Annihilation of Caste)
--I get the sense the underlying issue is Roy’s prominence in readership, which does indeed come with responsibilities. Casual readers will read casually. However, diligent readers would never assume Roy’s extended essay is the final word on Gandhi/Ambedkar, and as an introduction it offers many compelling questions.
--I also do not see this work as a damnation of a mythical Gandhi, as I do not treat political figures in such a black-and-white manner. Gandhi was indeed part of the anti-colonial movement; it is his mystique that is not helpful, as it silences the many real-world contradictions that great actions must contend with. Gandhi devotees also say Ambedkar is romanticized here, and this is where they lose all credibility; clearly, they were too infuriated with critiques of Gandhi to notice how the same critiques were also redirected towards Ambedkar.

The Good:
1) On Liberal reformism:
--“Nonviolence” and “democracy” have become powerful cultural constructs in liberal capitalist societies. It is in the interest of power to obscure unequal power relations. Thus, “nonviolent” independence leaves much of previous violent hierarchies intact, while “democracy” is constrained to restrictive periodic votes while private domination (of production/distribution/finance/land) deters any semblance of participatory/economic democracy.
--Thus, we see Gandhi’s political career, from his troubled dealings with race/class/caste in South Africa to his incomplete evolution during India’s independence movement.
--Roy does point out Gandhi’s political tactfulness (essential against great colonial powers who rule by divide-and-conquer) and moments when he directly attacked power structures (i.e. Salt March). However, liberal reformism was prominent in Gandhi’s politics given his continued belief in the trusteeship of the rich, which Roy connects with today’s corporate social responsibility. Roy shows that Gandhi’s later visual demonstration of “poverty” hides the true nature of poverty: lack of power. Indeed, Gandhi was at the same time sponsored by industrialists (esp. G.D. Birla), which Roy amusingly connects to today’s corporate-sponsored NGOs.
--For a detailed analysis of the trappings of the liberal class compromise that was used to build a popular front for independence from colonialism, see The Darker Nations: A People's History of the Third World.

2) On Caste:
--Gandhi’s contradictions with caste is contrasted with Ambedkar, but Roy also applies the same critique to Ambedkar by pointing to his modernist prejudice towards indigenous Adivasi.
--A part that caught my eye with Ambedkar was his division with Indian Communists. Dalit “Untouchables” were a huge part of the mills’ labor force, but it seems the Communist Party unions could not yet overcome caste prejudice and fight for the equality of workers. This is a crucial topic to explore further: India And Communism
Profile Image for Ravi Prakash.
Author 46 books62 followers
February 2, 2020
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 whom Ambedkar considered as 'the most liberal Hindus', still after reading it, the so called liberals didn't allow and later Ambedkar published and distributed it as pamphlets. Gandhi who was considered the greatest soul of that time objected and mocked this essay. So, if Ambedkar says that it's contradictory to be a 'Hindu' and 'liberal' (in the context of caste) at the same time, you have to agree.

The book starts with a comparison between Malala Yousafzai and Surekha Bhotmaange. Oh, you certainly don't have any guess about the later. One had to face Islamic extremism and the other, barbaric casteism. Have they both, one from a country where terrorism is in the air and the other from a country which is considered the biggest democracy of the world, got the same justice and recognition? To know this, you have to read this book.

Any Gandhilover can blame Roy easily that she has focused a lot on his demerits, but to understand the inequality in present time, we have to go deep in the political developments during freedom struggle and Gandhi's overwhelming effect on it. We have to observe how a godly image was created, by fake narratives, of a person who always obstructed the path of an intellectual whose sole aim was to abolish caste. Later, Ambedkar got that it's impossible to amend or abolish this system and that's why he embraced Buddhism.

Allow me to write my own opinion and experience on this. I belong to OBC (Other Backward Class), a Shudra in Varna System. I spent my childhood in a rurban vicinity, mostly among Muslim friends. I have no such personal memories where someone discriminated me on the basis of religion or caste. In graduation and afterwards, a lot of General category( so called privileged class) friends came in circle. Many of them are still very close to me, we ate and eat oftenly in the same plate. This is because I love sharing food. And I shared that with my Dalit friends/students also. I neither discriminated nor I was discriminated. Still, the scenario is not that beautiful. I have seen "social boycotts" and "honor killings". I have gone through heated debates with many older and same age persons who still favor caste-system. You can get a lot of people even today who will tell you how beautiful labor-division our forefathers created by castes but if you tell them it's not the labor-division but it's a division of laborers, full of partiality made valid on religious ground, they will get angry.

Yesterday, I was returning home from a marriage ceremony, I had a friend too in the car. He was a Vaishy( a general category, privileged class person). I asked him,

" So buddy, when are you getting married?"

" I don't think I would. I can't marry the girlfriend whom I love for the last eight years. She belongs to OBC. I told my mother that I wanna marry her and she got very disappointed. She asked how could I think of that. She said that if I marry out my caste who will be ready to marry my sisters. What will we say to our relatives?"

This is the reality of caste today in India. When people of other advanved countries are thinking about how to settle on Mars, a lot of Indians' sole problem is the marriage of their own choice.

Well, there are many factors, but the main factor by which the caste-system is still thriving, is the controlling of women. Roy doesn't give any solution till the last, even she seems very disappointed, but I think, annihilation of caste is closely related to the liberation of women.

To be honest, Roy hasn't written much of her own opinion, she just have given the references, data, URLs, interviews, what Gandhi and Ambedkar said on caste on various occasions, and by all that she has tried to prove how greatly prejudiced Gandhi was on the topic of Race and Caste, and how the biggest democracy of the world didn't try to abolish this system but fortified and modernise it. She has been erudite in uncovering many secrets of Gandhi's years spent in Africa.

The style is lucid and well-researched mingled with a wry sense of humor.

Thank you.
Profile Image for Savyasachee.
145 reviews13 followers
January 25, 2020
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 casteist as he started out, but frankly, it is astonishing how far he progressed and grew. It's difficult to understand the mindset with which Arundhati Roy wrote this book. Ambedkar is a God, while Gandhi is at best a politician, at worst a deceitful liar. Neither point makes much sense if given enough context: both were men, and the time was fairly complex. Gandhi had to navigate the maze of British imperialism and keep the masses happy. Ambedkar had no such constraints. To reduce their positions to such caricatures of what they were in order to prove a point which does not exist, is, frankly, both disingenuous and dishonest.

1/5, because that's as low as I can go. It took me time to find enough information to be able to criticise this book, and I managed to do that because I had the resources to do so. For people who have no other viewpoints and resources to consult, this book would give them a fairly biased view of a very nuanced conversation.
Profile Image for Chinar Mehta.
81 reviews15 followers
January 2, 2020
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/activists.
Profile Image for Madhulika Liddle.
Author 17 books408 followers
June 23, 2019
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 The Doctor and The Saint: The Ambedkar-Gandhi Debate – Caste, Race and Annihilation of Caste was originally written as an introduction to an annotated version of Annihilation of Caste. As Roy explains in the preface to this book, “The Doctor and the Saint looks at the practice of caste in India, through the prism of the present as well as the past.”

The plight of the Untouchables, the Dalits or Harijan or whatever other appellation one may apply to the 'lowest’ of Hinduism’s many castes, and the views on casteism of two eminent Indian personalities—Ambedkar, himself a Dalit, and Gandhi, by far the most widely-admired Indian in the world—form the bases of this book. Roy begins with a look at the situation of Dalits today, from the very rare Dalit in power (some important politicians, for example) to the rather more usual: a startling lack of Dalits in the judiciary, in administration, in the media, in business. And, most horrifyingly, the hair-raising statistics of anti-Dalit atrocities.

In the course of a relatively short but intense book, Roy examines the Dalit question from various angles. Its origins, in the chaturvarna; its history and evolution; its inhuman and brutal implementation; its ramifications not just for the Dalits themselves, but for others too—especially for politicians who have tried to balance political correctness with their own inherent prejudices. Its connections (or not) with what might appear to be similar movements, like that of the Adivasis.

Most importantly, Roy examines, through their own abundant writings, the very contrasting stances of Ambedkar and Gandhi. While she provides an insight into Ambedkar’s life, his education and political career, it is on Gandhi that she focuses. The ‘Mahatma’, whose devotion to the cause of the ‘Children of God’, the ‘Harijan’ as he dubbed them, was among the many reasons he was pretty much deified in his own lifetime.

And this is where Roy is especially effective, in proving—through Gandhi’s own words, his often contradictory statements—that the Father of the Nation used the Dalit cause as a means to further his own politics. From Gandhi’s sojourn in South Africa (where the truth of his relationship with the British and the Africans may come as a shock to many), to the Khilafat Movement and beyond, Roy traces a picture of a man of an immensely patriarchal, racist and casteist bent of mind.

The Doctor and The Saint, ironically enough (or by design?), portrays the saint as being far from a saint—but, in the process, Roy makes a very pertinent point: that the plight of the Dalits is such that they have been used and abused, time and again, by others. Not just as performers of menial tasks the upper castes have considered beneath themselves, but as vote banks, as buffers between communities, as leverage, as a means to garner money and power.

Distressingly enough, a situation which, given the examples from 21st century India that Roy presents, has not really changed much.

Roy’s writing is lucid, well-researched and well-presented, and her wry sense of humour invariably hits the nail on the head. The Doctor and The Saint is a book that is both shocking and depressing in the insight it offers into the plight of the Dalits. It throws light on the intricacies of the Dalit system, and while it offers no solution—that is beyond the scope of this book—it is, at the very least, a much-needed eye-opener.

(From my review for The New Indian Express: http://www.newindianexpress.com/magaz...)
Profile Image for Dmitri.
191 reviews136 followers
May 25, 2021
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, within the framework of religion and politics. Short biographies of Gandhi and Ambedkar are given, as well an analysis of the demographic upheavals that occurred during the partition of Pakistan.

For Gandhi, the living saint, an end to caste struck at the heart of Hinduism. He did not challenge caste except to condemn untouchability and encourage social mixing. Rights to public water, schools and roads would need to be fought for. Ambedkar argued for separate electorates and reserved appointments for Dalits, opposed by Gandhi during his life.

Conversions to Islam and Buddhism resulted from Hindu social rejection of outcastes. British rule exacerbated the problem by institutional reduction of four thousand castes into four. Ambedkar, outcaste and convert, came to view Buddhism as a solution to the caste system. Gandhi's campaign to embrace Dalits would greatly stem the tide.

This is work is best read alongside the text of the address, and the subsequent debates of Gandhi and Ambedkar. The combined tracts are available in a different edition. If you read one book on the social background of modern India this might be it. There are also insights into the roles Hindu nationalism and Marxism have played on the public stage.
October 31, 2022
“Caste has however done one thing. It has completely disorganized and demoralized the Hindus.”
― B.R Ambedkar, The Annihilation Of The Caste

'The Annihilation Of Caste' তথা 'বর্ণপ্রথার বিনাশ' নামে বইটি আম্বেদকরের একটি 'না দেওয়া' ভাষণের লিখিতরূপ। এই বইটির একটি টীকাসহ সংস্করণ প্রকাশের সময় বইটির ভূমিকা লেখেন অরুন্ধতী রায়। না পড়ে লেখা যায় না। তাই আম্বেদকর ও গান্ধিকে নিয়ে পড়তে হয় অরুন্ধতী রায়কে। মূলত, 'বর্ণপ্রথার বিনাশ' বইটির ভূমিকা এবং অরুন্ধতী রায়ের একটি সাক্ষাৎকার নিয়েই রচিত 'The Doctor And The Saint' নামের কেতাবটি। যেখানে অরুন্ধতী রায় সচেতনভাবে পক্ষ নিয়েছেন আম্বেদকরের।

ব্রাহ্মণ্যবাদ নিজের সুবিধার্থেই সবসময় জাতপাতের মাধ্যমে বিভাজনকে উৎসাহিত করেছে। আম্বেদকর এই জাতপাতের নাশ চেয়েছেন। তাকে কমপক্ষে দুইটি ফ্রন্টে লড়ে যেতে হয়েছে আমৃত্যু। এক. ধর্মশাস্ত্র যেমন- বেদ, মনুসংহিতা ইত্যাদির নামে যারা বর্ণপ্রথাকে হালাল ঘোষণা করেছিল তাদের বিরুদ্ধে এবং দুই. কংগ্রেস ও মোহনদাস গান্ধির মতো মানুষদের বিপক্ষে। এরা সর্বদাই মুখে মুখে জাতপাতের বিনাশ চাইলেও কাজে সাক্ষ্য দি��়েছে জাতপাতের পক্ষে। বিশেষত, গান্ধিজির মতো খ্যাতনামা ব্যক্তির বহুমাত্রিক রূপ দেখেছিলেন আম্বেদকর। ১৯৩১ সালে প্রথমবার গান্ধির সাথে পরিচয় হয় আম্বেদকরের। তখন মিস্টার গান্ধি জাতপাতের রাজনীতির পার্থক্য ভুলে কংগ্রেস কর্তৃক পরিচালিত সংগ্রামে আম্বেদকরকে যোগ দিতে বলেন। আম্বেদকর গান্ধিজিকে স্মরণ করিয়ে দিয়েছিলেন, অচ্ছুৎ মানুষদের কোনো দেশ নেই, নেই ভূমি। তাই তারা দেশের জন্য গর্ববোধ করার কিছু খুঁজে পায় না। অর্থাৎ দৃষ্টিভঙ্গিগত পার্থক্য ছিল সুস্পষ্ট।

'বর্ণপ্রথার বিনাশ' বইতে আম্বেদকর লিখেছেন, যৌক্তিকতা এবং নৈতিকতা হলো যে-কোনো সংস্কার মুখ্য উপাদান। যে সমাজ জাতপাতের মতো ঘৃণ্য দেওয়াল দিয়ে ঘেরা, সেই সমাজের প্রাচীর পেরিয়ে যৌক্তিকতা ও নৈতিকতার মতো শুভাশুভ বোধ পৌঁছাতে পারে না। দ্রোহী আম্বেদকর ধর্মশাস্ত্রকে এতটাই ঘৃণা করতেন যে, তিনি প্রকাশ্যে বেদ পুড়িয়েছিলেন। কারণ বইটি জাতপাতের মূল উৎস।

ড. আম্বেদকরের বিপরীত মেরুর মানুষ 'সন্ন্যাসী' গান্ধিজি। তিনি দীর্ঘ জীবনে অনেক লেখালিখি করেছেন। প্রায় ৪৮ হাজার পৃষ্ঠায় ৯৮ খণ্ডে তার সমগ্র রচনাবলি প্রকাশিত হয়েছে। এই রচনাবলির একটি বড়ো অংশ পড়েছেন অরুন্ধতী রায়। সেখানে তিনি আবিষ্কার করেছেন জনান্তিকে অচেনা ও অজানা এক গান্ধিকে।

অরুন্ধতী রায় গান্ধির রচনাবলি দোয়াই দিয়ে জানিয়েছেন, কস্মিনকালেও গান্ধি জাতপাতের বিরুদ্ধে দৃঢ়ভাবে অবস্থান নেননি বরং গান্ধির মানস প্রচণ্ডরকম বর্ণবিদ্বেষে ভরা। যেমন: দক্ষিণ আফ্রিকায় থাকাকালে ডারবান পোস্ট অফিসে কৃষ্ণাঙ্গ ও শেতাঙ্গদের জন্য আলাদা দরজা থাকলেও তিনি সকলের জন্য একই দরজা দিয়ে প্রবেশের দাবি তোলেননি। বরং গান্ধিজির আবদার ছিল দক্ষিণ আফ্রিকার কাফিরদের সাথে একই দরজা ভারতীয়রা ব্যবহার করতে পারে না ( কৃষ্ণাঙ্গদের ওখানে কাফির বলা হতো)। গান্ধির যুক্তি ছিল, সাদারা যেমন আর্য তেমনি ভারতীয়রাও আর্যজাতির অন্তর্ভুক্ত। তাই দক্ষিণ আফ্রিকার কালো মানুষদের সাথে একই দরজা তারা ব্যবহার করতে পারে না!

বুয়ার যুদ্ধে এবং বিদ্রোহ দমনে ইংরেজ সরকারকে একনিষ্ঠভাবে সেবা করেছিলেন গান্ধিজি। 'ইন্ডিয়ান অপিনিয়ন' পত্রিকায় তখন ইংরেজদের পক্ষে এবং দক্ষিণ আফ্রিকার কালোদের বিরুদ্ধে চরম বর্ণবাদী কথা-বার্তা লিখেছিলেন তিনি। কিন্তু, ১৯২৮ সালে সেইসব ভুলে গিয়ে দক্ষিণ আফ্রিকায় তিনি যুদ্ধে কালোদের সেবা করেছিলেন বলে দাবি করেন। হয়তো তিনি 'ইন্ডিয়ান অপিনিয়ন'-এ লেখা কলামগুলোর কথা ততদিনে বিস্মরণ হয়েছিলেন। রাজনীতির স্বার���থেই তিনি তখন ইংরেজ শিবিরের বাইরের লোক। তাই হয়তো এমন উলট পুরাণ পড়া!

অচ্ছুৎদের কল্যাণে হরিজন সেবাসংঘ এবং মজদুর সংঘ প্রতিষ্ঠা করেছিলেন গান্ধিজি। কিন্তু, মজার ব্যাপার হলো সেই প্রতিষ্ঠাগুলোর নেতৃস্থানীয় সকলেই ছিলেন উচ্চবর্ণের হিন্দু।

আম্বেদকর কখনোই গান্ধিকে পছন্দ করতেন না। তিনি তার প্রকৃত স্বরূপ চিনতেন৷ এই অপছন্দের কথা ড. আম্বেদকর গোপন করেননি৷ যেমনটি তিনি বলেছেন, কংগ্রেস ��্বাধীনতার কথা বলে। কিন্তু সেই আজাদি কার একথা কেন বলে না?

অচ্ছুৎদের কল্যাণের প্রশ্নে গান্ধি চরমমাত্রায় বৈপরীত্যে ভরপুর একজন মানুষ। লিখেছেন একরকম, করেছেন ভিন্নরকম। আবার, কখনো কখনো জাতপাতকে সমর্থন করে লেখার পর নিজেই তার বিপরীত লেখা লিখেছেন। মোটকথা, অরুন্ধতী রায়ের কাছেই মোহনদাস করমচাঁদ গান্ধি মোটেই 'মহাত্মা' নন। বড়োজোর, বিড়লার টাকায় চলা একজন 'মুখোশধারী রাজনীতিবিদ', যে সবসময় জাতপাতকে সমর্থন করেছে। কিন্তু, সুযোগ বুঝে ভান করেছে জাতপাত নাশের।

গান্ধিকে ড. আম্বেদকর চিনেছেন তার কর্মের দ্বারা এবং অরুন্ধতী রায় গান��ধির বৈপরীত্য উন্মোচন করেছেন তার রচনাবলির সহায়তায়। গান্ধিপূজার বেদীতে জোরেশোরে ধাক্কা দেবে 'The Doctor And The Saint'.
Profile Image for Kshitij Chaurel.
142 reviews11 followers
June 18, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Catherine.
246 reviews
July 13, 2017
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 was a deft, sly politician whose racism against Black Africans in South Africa and his stubborn belief in the caste system despite its stomach-turning pronouncements on the Hindu God's blessing on the Untouchables, as "Children of God," (as long as they continued to provide their proud, excrement-removing function for society,), makes David Duke seem benign.
As I read this I discovered that his acclaimed non-violence had very violent underpinnings. I just wonder what MLK would have thought of his model had he read this. Depite the Reverend's faults and shortcomings, he was certainly a Mahatma. Unlike the hypocritical, so-called reformer of India.

Here is a quote found in the last few pages of the 174 page ebook:

"It’s true that Gandhi often contradicted himself. It’s also true that he was capable of being remarkably consistent. For more than half a century—throughout his adult life—his pronouncements on the inherent qualities of Black Africans, Untouchables and the labouring classes remained consistently insulting. His refusal to allow working-class people and Untouchables to create their own political organisations and elect their own representatives (which Ambedkar considered to be fundamental to the notion of citizenship) remained consistent too.261"

In contrast, THE DOCTOR, Babasaheb Ambedkar, a contemporary of MK Ghandi, tirelessly and consistently fought for the lowest, and most deprived of Indian society. Unfortunately, although he contended in the political arena, he was no politician in the most venal sense in which we use that term these days.
This is a short but hardly sweet book.
Profile Image for Nivan Bagchi.
40 reviews6 followers
August 21, 2020
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 breaking the salt laws), ‘separatist’ (because he wanted separate electorates for Untouchables), ‘anti-national’ (because he endorsed the Muslim League’s case for Pakistan, and because he suggested that Jammu and Kashmir be trifurcated. "

Throughout the 150 odd pages, this is the only paragraph that makes a case against Ambedkar and you can see there is not even an attempt to analyses the arguments in details.

She does make a strong case against Gandhi for the entirety of the book regarding his views on race, caste, adivasi, Industrailists (and thus a 3 star rating) but at the end her position on separate electorates for dalits is erranouse to say the least. Rather than even remotely suggesting that Gandhi was trying to keep the Hindu fold together, she keeps repeatedly portraying him as a unscrupulous politician who fooled untouchables.

Read this book, only after you have familiarized yourself with Gandhi's works or else this will paint a very misguided portrait of his.
Profile Image for Swagato Chatterjee.
5 reviews8 followers
June 29, 2020
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 and Ambedkar- two stalwarts of India's freedom movement- did end up with polar opposite opinions with regard to the rights and acceptance of the hitherto untouchables of India.
Highly recommended for anyone interested in an alternate perspective w.r.t history of caste in India.
8 reviews10 followers
May 31, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Phillip.
798 reviews4 followers
December 5, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Randall Wallace.
531 reviews390 followers
December 14, 2022
This book is an overdue re-evaluation of Gandhi versus his foil, the Untouchable spokesman Dr. Ambedkar who headed the committee to draft the Indian Constitution. Gandhi was Hindu and Hindus enjoy a repressive caste system; so, let’s look at it. In 2012 alone, 1,574 Dalit (the lowest caste) women were raped, but note only 10% of Dalit rapes are ever reported. Bant Singh, a Dalit of Punjab filed a case against those who gang raped his daughter; in response in 2006 his arms and a leg were cleaved off by a Hindu mob. As Ambedkar reminded us, “To the Untouchables, Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors.”

Arundhati asks, how is it possible that Gandhi’s own religion is neither scrutinized nor censured? Sure, the yoga, the Beatles, vegetarianism, and spiritualism parts seem nice, but why intentionally ignore the obvious bad bits? Why not see plainly how the bottom of the Hindu pyramid “has no entitlements but plenty of duties”? Clearly Hinduism is a system of “ascending scale of reverence and descending scale of contempt.” Untouchables can’t walk the common roads, drink from common wells, or be allowed in Hindu temples. Men of privileged castes feel free to rape Untouchable women. Can we ask, who thought up this system? Gandhi thought “caste represented the genius of Indian society.” Ambedkar wrote, “nothing can emancipate the outcaste except the destruction of the caste system.” Instead, 800 million people in India presently live on 24 cents a day.

There are no Dalits or Adivasis on the list of richest Indians. When a Brahmin pays 24% interest annually on loans, Dalits must pay 60% interest. Guess which group has all the good jobs? Untouchables have no press, because press demands advertising revenue. Only 2.24% of Dalits are graduates. Dalits are often displaced or landless and always underpaid. Most are sweepers or clean toilets or carry baskets of shit on their heads when cleaning toilets that use no water. Imagine cleaning all this human waste daily without gloves or any protective equipment.

There is no excuse for Gandhi’s silence on caste as the anti-caste intellectual tradition goes back clearly to 200-100 BCE. “Colonization of knowledge was a central tenet of the caste system.” Buddhists broke with caste “by creating sanghas that admitted everybody, regardless of which caste they belonged to.” Ambedkar couldn’t understand why Hindus couldn’t merely show the courage of the Buddhists. Why has Dr. Ambedkar’s role been excised from the story of Gandhi? The Indian government also did so in their financing of Attenborough’s film Gandhi.

Arundhati says Gandhi is so popular, loved both by the left and right (Modi) because “Gandhi actually said everything and its opposite.” It’s easy to cherry pick whatever you want, by ignoring all the rest. Why does Gandhi’s “moral self-righteousness” rest “so comfortably on a foundation of utterly brutal, institutionalized injustice”? Did Gandhi really speak truth to power? Or really ally himself with the poorest of the poor? Poverty is about having no power, yet Gandhi was about “accumulating” power. It’s been a crime, the hiding away of the writings of Ambedkar, the stripping away of his “radical intellect and searing insolence.” By ignoring the caste system, “Democracy in India is only a top-down dressing on an Indian soil that is essentially undemocratic.” “Gandhi believed Ambedkar was throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Ambedkar believed the baby and that bathwater were a single, fused organism.” “Brahminism precludes the possibility of social or political solidarity across class lines.” Ambedkar said, “If we were members another faith, none would treat us so.”

The very word Hindu was given to the peoples east of the Indus, by the Mohammedans who had invaded. Therefore, Hindu society doesn’t really exist but is basically a collection of castes. The 1857 Sepoy Mutiny is also called the First War of Independence; it was started by a soldier who refused to use cartridges greased with animal fat. In 1947, the British callously drew up Pakistan’s borders, cutting through long-established communities with little rhyme or reason. Dividing India and Pakistan killed 500,000 to one million people and displaced almost 12 million.

Gandhi is basically canonized as Mahatma for his two decades of work in South Africa where he petitioned for a third entrance to buildings so that he wouldn’t have to also enter with blacks. “We could understand not being classed with the Whites, but to be placed on the same level with the Natives seemed to be too much to be put up with. Kaffirs (blacks) as a rule are uncivilized. They are troublesome, very dirty, and live almost like animals. We cannot ignore the fact that there is no common ground between us.” Yuck. Gandhi also wanted separate blankets, lest a Hindu touch a blanket a Kaffir had used. Double yuck.

Contrast that with Gandhi’s admiration for the British. In South Africa, Gandhi had actively “collaborated with the Whites in their wars to forcibly occupy the country, appropriate the land and enslave Africans.” Gandhi’s two decades in South Africa when studied show “no tangible good to anyone.” One black said, Gandhi got thrown off a train while “we couldn’t even get on one.” “Gandhi maintained that Indians deserves better treatment than Africans.” So much for basic equality.

Gandhi’s real job was “never harming the old hierarchies that he and his sponsors intrinsically believed in.” Never once did Gandhi criticize landed aristocracy or Indian industrialists. Note that Martin Luther King in speeches complimented Gandhi, even though Gandhi, in Arundhati’s words, “feared and despised Africans.” Note, that the women around Gandhi had to never challenged the patriarchy. Gandhi’s life left us with “a joyless, joke-free world: no desire, no sex, no food, no beads, no nice clothes, no dance, no poetry.” How do we celebrate? By saying keep the castes, and keep the patriarchy but stop enjoying yourself and others in the most basic ways?

Ambedkar had to endure countless sad insults for being an untouchable, co-workers flinging files he wanted at him, rolling up carpets so he wouldn’t pollute them. Even Muslims would stop him as an Untouchable from using a public well for drinking and washing. Crazy stuff. It makes you wonder why there haven’t been social revolutions in India? Why are Dalits left to starve? As Gandhi’s chief lieutenant said in a “pep” speech to a Brahmin audience, “Mahatmaji wants you to look upon so-called untouchables as you do at the cow and the dog and other harmless creatures.” Ambedkar on the other hand felt that equality was the only answer because “classification and assortment of human society was impossible.”

Gandhi said, “when labour (labor) comes to fully realise (realize) its strength, I know it can become more tyrannical than capital”. Gee, you’d never know that Gandhi’s main sponsor was a mill-owner (sarcasm). Ambedkar’s two biggest enemies were capitalism and Brahminism and yet these two enemies were writing Gandhi’s paychecks. We pretend Gandhi wished to tread lightly on the earth (with simple clothing, eating, etc.) but apparently not treading as lightly as the Adivasis or Dalits which are presently 25% of the Indian population. Apparently, look poor, but don’t be poor. Did you know that Gandhi “stopped in” on Mussolini to compliment him? Later on, when Gandhi was deliberately starved himself “to deny Untouchables a separate electorate”, Ambedkar was laughably portrayed as “the man who was trying to kill Gandhi”. Of Gandhi, Ambedkar said, “How can the Untouchables regard such a man as honest and sincere.” Gandhi infantilized Untouchables by calling them Children of God. Gandhi’s Poona Pact “was meant to defuse or at least delay the political awakening of Untouchables.”

Intelligence might make you think, well then why didn’t Untouchables simply convert to a different religion rather than put up with this wildly demeaning crap? Gandhi “adamantly opposed the religious conversion of Untouchables.” The G Man had an answer for everything. He said, “Would you preach the Gospels to a cow?” Nothing insulting there. Gandhi as an elitist hypocrite? What a surprise. Another great book by Arundhati; my understanding of Gandhi was completely transformed. And who doesn’t wish they could write as beautifully and poetically as Ms. Roy?
Profile Image for Apurva Vurity.
32 reviews
July 4, 2021
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 all had the courage to not ignore the complexity of his role in Indian politics. Roy has quoted some of his books, speeches and articles to state his point of view on matters of caste and women. Additionally, Roy's narrative of some of the most important Hindu leaders and their casteist mindsets made me wish I'd read about these occurences through my school days. The problems with the saviour complex among Caste Hindus was not taught to us (by us I mean savarnas like me) which ensured that we took longer to be the kind of allies that we should be.

As far as Ambedkar is concerned, there is ample amount of his texts and speeches quoted in this essay and gives us an insight into his rational, logical and revolutionary mind.

I'd say it's a must read for some important references of Ambedkar's speeches, books and articles. It is also an incident by incident reveal of all the places Gandhi fucked up. So definitely a must read!
Profile Image for Kriti.
95 reviews2 followers
February 2, 2020
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.
Profile Image for Anthony.
250 reviews12 followers
October 7, 2017
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, satyagraha, and the centrality of caste in a functioning Indian society.

While the book is subtitled “The Debate Between B.R. Ambedkar and M.K. Gandhi,” there's no debate here. Roy utters few critical statements against Ambedkar (save some throwaway statements about quasi-eugenics informed views of Hindus). The pages are instead dominated by a dismembering of Gandhi's character. Ambedkar's contributions unfortunately gets short shrift, but the subtext is that his Annihilation of Caste should be required reading for the entire country.

You can see for yourself that Roy and the book have received significant criticism since the 2014 release in India, some attacking her historical accuracy which I cannot speak to either way. Regardless, The Doctor and the Saint demands a reconsideration of how we organize stars in the sky, and firmly prods us to inspect whether we are looking through the telescope on the correct side.
Profile Image for Saurabh Sharma.
133 reviews31 followers
May 20, 2019
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 opposite role in homeland, which he purposefully wanted to be of handful of people, not all. Constantly supported by great industrialists, this illusion, our Mahatama, needs to be analyzed critically. Start from this text. Rest, there's a world to explore.

The book is more about Ambedkar than it is about Gandhi. However, the conversation and arguments among the two will make it an appearance that's completely against Gandhi - it's just stating the facts. Ambedkar, celebrated for who he was Gandhi, on the other hand, is still celebrated for who he was not. Highly recommend, it will resonate with people who are on a quest. Certainly not for people who believe they are on the right path, and with cemented views.
Profile Image for Maggie.
35 reviews3 followers
November 17, 2017
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 about Adivasis). One of my favorite things about his analysis of caste was its inseparability from capitalism:

"Can caste be annihilated?... Not unless those who call themselves revolutionary develop a radical critique of Brahminism. Not unless those who understand Brahminism sharpen their critique of capitalism"

Profoundly insightful and incisive.
Profile Image for Keenan.
307 reviews9 followers
March 27, 2019
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, their lowliness so entrenched that even converting away from Hinduism won't relieve them from their suffering.

Roy presents this battle for souls as a conflict between Gandhi and Ambedkar, and brilliantly shows in this long essay just how hard this problem has been and will be to solve. A great read to understand a very heavy topic
Profile Image for Mukesh Pareek.
56 reviews3 followers
February 13, 2021
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 Caste, which I am going to read next.

Presents Gandhi in a very different perspective, and unfortunately, that perspective is a very negative one. I guess it's encouraging to find such strong critique of a person, celebrated by the whole country, whose critique in general has been censored for the fear of losing credibility.
Profile Image for Divakar T.
10 reviews3 followers
January 27, 2020
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
Profile Image for Sumaiya.
15 reviews11 followers
May 5, 2019
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.
Profile Image for Aditi Gupta.
179 reviews12 followers
July 24, 2020
Carried the capacity to challenge all the textbook history we had known for so long especially around our struggle for freedom, Gandhi and Ambedkar!
Profile Image for jrendocrine.
539 reviews32 followers
January 3, 2023
I can’t remember where I heard about this piece by Arundhati Roy? It can be read for free on-line from several internet archives. It’s short ~75 p, though very dense. It’s worthy of anyone’s effort, however challenging.

Roy sets her crosshairs at the Hindu caste system in India – a brutal system that has not let up in 'modern' times – and is being exported with emigrating Indians. It is undeniably the source of immeasurable suffering and injustice.

The Doctor of the title is the Columbia educated Ambedkar, of the Dalit untouchable caste. The Saint is of course Gandhi, of a higher caste. Roy compares Ambedkar’s poorly known “Annihilation of Caste” with Gandhi’s well popularized texts (especially Hind Swaraj). Both men were involved in the founding of the Indian state.

Roy tells us that Ambedkar's life work on caste has been buried – he appears as a writer of the Indian Constitution rather than an anti-caste revolutionary. At the same time, Gandhi’s upholding of the caste system (among other not so saintly doings) has been ignored under his Mahatmahood. She writes:
“how do we reconcile the idea of ..the Gandhi who spoke Truth to Power … with Gandhi’s views (and deeds) on caste? What do we do with this structure of moral righteousness that rests so comfortably on a foundation of utterly brutal, institutionalized injustice?”

There are a lot of references to Indian literature and people and history that to the uninitiated (i.e., me) are frankly overwhelming. Indeed, the entire concept of castes and their basis in Hinduism – and controlling people - is foreign to most non-Hindus.

In the USA I’ll generalize (my experience) that Indian-Americans are uncomfortable talking about caste… It's hard to have the discussion. Rushdie, read extensively by many westerners, perhaps as a Muslim doesn’t give us much help; (interesting that Roy writes that many Indians changed religions as a way to escape caste). Nor is there much help in the spate of popular literature available in English that takes place in India.

This piece is a start, and taps into the rage of Indians of lower castes. Also it serves to underline some of the brutal episodes against lower caste women going on every day in India. And maybe it brings reality to the Gandhi mythos – indeed, Roy has little patience or admiration for Gandhi and makes the case that he was, prima facie, an opportunist. [She notes that Modi agrees with Gandhi’s patronizing comments on Untouchables continuing generation after generation because 'their duty is bestowed by the Gods', see p 78.]

On the other side, Ambedkar is under-known and less celebrated than his work warrants. He renounced Hinduism in 1935 because of the caste system, finally ending up a Buddhist.

The work is scholarly, and well referenced. India is as complicated as centuries of history and huge populations would predict. There have to be many viewpoints, all supported by belief and history -- but reading this piece by Roy, I am certain that caste is bad for the powerless people on the bottom.
Profile Image for Arun Pandiyan.
140 reviews31 followers
February 28, 2022
Similar to Dan Brown weaving the invisible cloak to establish the marital union between Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene, Comrade Arundhati Roy had done an effective hatchet job in establishing MK Gandhi as an ardent casteist and racist. At an outset, Comrade Roy had assumed that MK Gandhi was a born Mahatma and all his actions and writings should conform to her perception of Gandhi as a saint. Cherry-picking had often achieved its intent; to demean, denounce, and dishonor an individual who is often perceived to be belonging to the ideological enemy camp. We can also cherry-pick enough quotes. Let us begin with Karl Marx who wrote about his political competitor Ferdinand Lassalle (a person of color) in a letter to Fredrick Engels:

“It is now completely clear to me that he, as is proved by his cranial formation and his hair, descends from the Negroes who had joined Moses’ exodus from Egypt, assuming that his mother or grandmother on the paternal side had not interbred with a n****. Now this union of Judaism and Germanism with a basic Negro substance must produce a peculiar product.”

Or Che Guevara in his Motorcycle Diaries;

"The blacks, those magnificent examples of the African race who have maintained their racial purity thanks to their lack of an affinity with bathing, have seen their territory invaded by a new kind of slave: the Portuguese. The black is indolent and a dreamer; spending his meager wage on frivolity or drink; the European has a tradition of work and saving, which has pursued him as far as this corner of America and drives him to advance himself, even independently of his own individual aspirations."

Or the Cuban Revolution followed by the macho persecution of homosexuals and rounding them into camps, for which Fidel Castro himself had issued an apology at the age of 84. In the words of Arundhati Roy, Castro was ‘inconsistent’, maybe. But Comrade Roy’s cherry-picking couldn’t sustain for long, when she cherry-picked a quote from EMS Namboodripad’s biography. Comrade Roy had written:

“Angered by Ambedkar’s display of independence, the communists denounced him as an ‘opportunist and an ‘imperial stooge’. In his book History of the Indian Freedom Struggle, E. M. S. Namboodiripad wrote about the conflict between Ambedkar and the left: ‘However, this was a great blow to the freedom movement. For this led to the diversion of the peoples’ attention from the objective of full independence to the mundane cause of the uplift of Harijans.”

In the original text given below, EMS had blamed Gandhi (not Ambedkar like how Roy claims) for his attention of eradicating untouchability rather than focusing on freedom movement.

“…. subordinated the struggle for Swaraj to the day-to-day activities for the upliftment of the depressed castes. What is more, Gandhi gave amoral (religious) character to this political approach...Thus, the Congress as well as its undisputed leader, Gandhi, which was engaged in a country-wide struggle with the objective of liberating India from the British rule, engrossed itself in the program of liberating the Depressed Castes and other Hindus from the curse of untouchability from which the entire Hindu religious community had been suffering. A direct result of this was the weakening of the civil disobedience movement.”

Well, (deliberate) factual inaccuracies happen often when researchers try to establish their biased narrative. Fortunately, Arundhati Roy is neither a historian nor a researcher. If Gandhi was as racist as how Comrade Roy claims, why were the black intellectuals, activists, and leaders so keen to meet Gandhi, befriend him, and utilize his methods to free themselves from oppression? Maybe, Comrade Roy should have also cherry-picked instances from the Soviet Union where leaders like Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel taking inspiration from Gandhi had replaced communist dictatorships with democracy through non-violence and satyagraha.

Like Arun Shourie’s botch job in ‘Worshipping False Gods’ where he tried to paint Ambedkar as a traitor, British stooge and an anti-national, with Doctor and the Saint in hand, some were pretending to have found their Arun Shourie in Arundhati Roy. To simplify, both see history in terms of heroes and villains. Comrade Roy ends her 120-page long propaganda pamphlet with a note “Can Caste be annihilated? Not unless we sharpen the critique of capitalism”. Comrade has a problem with Gandhi’s imaginary wonderland in villages, but she also has a problem with urban cities where she finds the democracy to have modernized the caste. For people who have migrated from regressive rural pockets to an urban metropolis, the dilution of caste is evident. In her discovery of a villain in Gandhi, Comrade Roy had also vented her disapproval of liberalization, capitalism, and urbanization. In conclusion, holding incommensurate and paradoxical views simultaneously and trying to be good at all things at once, or without understanding the contradictions within her belief system, Arundhati Roy poses akin to a labyrinth in this prejudiced polemic.
Profile Image for Shankari Palanichamy.
24 reviews2 followers
April 15, 2021
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 around the bush here, nor is she mincing for words. She is quick to attack o the most revered man in India, and I wouldn’t be lying if I said on the most revered men the whole wide world. I was even mildly surprised when she called him a politician. For the naïve Indian citizen, Nehru and Jinnah were politicians, maybe even Patel was one, but certainly not the Mahatma? He is after all the Father of our Nation. His ideas on Satyagraha and Active Resistance is a folklore for Indians around the world to be proud of. How can he be reduced to the now scorned about crowd of politicians? This was where I realized that I go in as a reader with a clean slate without any baggage of my lopsided views.

The book for most parts takes on ideologies presented by both these great men and contrasts them under the fabric that has shaped our country today. Every once a while, the world sees a major event occur that forces us to recalibrate our take on the various norms we accepted and followed as a community. The Mahatma’s take on things therefore are the result of the society and its know-how in the colonial times. Would this then justify his position and take on things such as women’s right in the last century? When you read on, you come to realize that Gandhi was a man of contradictions. While he is indeed open about the fact that his understanding of truth is bound to be momentary, and that its human to have a change of opinion, one cannot deny the view and stand taken by Ambedkar to show his character and beliefs, and that his understanding of equality and representation is something our generation still aspires to do. His ideas have indeed stood the test of times.

Even though I believe this surmises what the book the is really about, I know the only justice as one can really do as a reader is let the book be foreword to further reading and understanding the social dystopia called ‘Caste’, dig deeper and truly understand the menace it has become. Further, the Freedom movement in India is not just one person, but the labour of so many more who should all be given equal credit and placed on if not at par with the Mahatma, at least on a pedestal and give then the true credit that they deserve. History as it was is not what is propagated in our present times, and only by reading texts such as this might keep the truth alive.
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