Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar (Vol. 1): Annihilation of Caste and Other Writings
Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar (1891-1956), or Babasaheb Ambedkar, was a scholar, social reformer, powerful advocate of the rights of Dalits and women, chairman of the Constituent Assembly of India, and the country’s first law minister.
In 1976, the government of Maharashtra set up an advisory committee to compile Dr. Ambedkar’s complete works. The Committee consisted of the state’s then education minister and noted scholars and writers. In 1978, when Vasant Moon (Dalit activist, author and Officer on Special Duty) joined the Committee, it decided to procure and publish Dr. Ambedkar’s unpublished writings too.
The state’s Education Department published
the first volume (in five parts) of a 22-volume series titled Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches in 1979. The series was re-printed by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in January 2014.
Volume 1 includes his famous speech on caste (Annihilation of Caste), another on Justice Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah, Dr. Ambedkar’s thoughts on the creation of states on a linguistic basis, and essays and talks on constitutional reforms and India’s economic problems.
Part I: On Caste
Part I of the volume has two works on caste: ‘Castes of India’ and ‘Annihilation of Caste’. ‘Castes of India’ is a paper presented by Dr. Ambedkar in 1916 at a seminar at Columbia University, New York. In it, he attempts to theorise caste by investigating its genesis, mechanisms and spread in India. He argues that the origin of caste lay primarily in the superimposition of endogamy on an otherwise exogamous and heterogenous population bound together by ‘a unity of culture’.
‘Annihilation of Caste’ is a speech prepared by Dr. Ambedkar in 1936 for the annual conference of the Jat Pat Todak Mandal, an anti-caste organisation in Lahore. When Dr. Ambedkar sent the organisers his speech, they found some of his views ‘unbearable’ and suggested that he delete certain sections. Dr. Ambedkar disagreed, the speech remained undelivered, and he subsequently published it himself.
In this speech, Dr. Ambedkar argues that caste has no scientific basis. He insists that it is essential to entirely annihilate caste in order to unite India, and that inter-caste marriage and inter-caste dining are not enough. He says that it is necessary “to destroy the religious notions upon which caste is founded.” In this way, Dr. Ambedkar not only criticises the practice of caste but also denounces Hinduism itself. The speech created a furore among upper-caste leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, and led to correspondence between Gandhi and Ambedkar.
Part II: On Linguistic States
Part II of the volume contains an essay in which Dr. Ambedkar critiques the recommendations of the States Reorganisation Commission (set up in 1953). Titled ‘Thoughts on Linguistic States’, the essay argues for the formation of unilingual states over multi-lingual ones. Dr. Ambedkar says that the Commission, by following the principle of ‘one state one language’ over ‘one language one state’, put in jeopardy attempts to unify India; in his view, the ‘one state one language’ principle could solve racial and cultural conflicts among various communities. He also says that smaller states can be administered more efficiently, satisfy people’s cultural and linguistic sentiments, and minimise the danger of majority rule. And he recommends the creation of a second capital in the south (Hyderabad) in order to reduce political polarisation between the north and the south.
Part III: On Hero and Hero-Worship
Part III has a speech titled ‘Ranade, Gandhi and Jinnah’ from 1943, on the 101st birth anniversary of Justice Mahadeo Govind Ranade, delivered at the Deccan Sabha of Poona. Dr. Ambedkar discusses Justice Ranade’s views in detail and his struggle to make Hindu society more democratic. He compares Ranade with Gandhi and Jinnah, and presents a scathing critique of the latter two– “the idols and heroes of the hour.” He regrets that ‘hero worship’ has become a fact of Indian political life and reminds his audience that Ranade was never considered a hero despite his important work.
Part IV: On Constitutional Reforms
Part IV contains essays and speeches on constitutional reforms, including ‘Communal Deadlock and a Way to Solve It’, an address at the annual session of the All India Scheduled Castes Federation in 1945. In this address, Dr. Ambedkar puts forth a ‘constructive proposal’ on behalf of the Schedules Castes for the future Constitution of India. He sets out a plan for a ‘United India’ (not a partitioned one) that would ensure checks and balances to safeguard the interests of all minorities. Dr. Ambedkar also says that he is wholly opposed to setting up the Constituent Assembly before the communal problem is solved, and that since the majority in India is a communal (and ‘relative’) majority and not a political majority, majority rule is untenable in theory and unjustifiable in practice.
Part V: On Economic Problems
The volume’s final part on economic problems has a paper titled ‘Small Holdings in India and Their Remedies’, which was part of Dr. Ambedkar’s doctoral thesis in Economics at Columbia University, New York. It discusses one of many problems of the agricultural economy: the size of holdings and how it affects productivity. Land holdings in India, he writes, are not only small but also scattered; this is a practical problem that raises two questions – how to consolidate existing holdings and how to ‘perpetuate’ the consolidated holding (because heirs often want their share of the holding rather than distributing ‘complete holdings’ amongst themselves.)
He also says that a small farm can be as economic as a large one, and it isn’t the size of a holding that makes it uneconomic but the inadequacy of other factors of production. Therefore, Dr. Ambedkar says that the solution for increasing productivity is to increase the capital and capital goods utilised. He asserts that industrialisation is the strongest remedy for India’s many agricultural problems.
Focus by Mythili Chandrasekhar.
Dr. Babasaheb AmbedkarCompiled by Vasant Moon
The first edition was published by the Education Department, government of Maharashtra, on April 14, 1979. This is a 2014 reprint by the Dr. Ambedkar Foundation, Delhi, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.