ANNIHILATION OF CASTE BY Dr. B.R. AMBEDKAR : A REVIEW
The “ANNIHILATION OF CASTE’ was a speech undelivered by Dr Bhim Rao Ramji Ambedkar, in 1936. In his presidential address at the conference by ‘JAT-PAT TODAK MANDAL’ at Lahore, he was supposed to impart insights into caste hierarchy or the system as per it was said. Though the Caste system completely changes as it doesn’t get under any institutional underpinnings, the hitherto caste supremacy or brawling over it was quite evident. The undelivered speech was also becoming a metaphor for how the people of Jat Pat Todak Mandal were not ready to be in the vicinity of Ambedkar’s ideas, to the extent the whole conference was cancelled (Ambedkar, pg. 7). Their whole approach as per Ambedkar though kept at the superficiality of their efforts and didn’t ask for a deep analysis (Ambedkar, pg. 17).
The Annihilation of Caste starts with the heavy blow on the customs and shastras of Hinduism and also ends with it too by describing the whole course. Ambedkar saw this as the opportunity put the thoughts out in order for the masses to understand. He shunned the idea of INC or SOCIALISTS, that the political awakening or the economic awakening respectively is capable enough to bring the social change. He gave the example of how the Balais were tormented by the Hindus in respect of their clothing, living style, and socio-culture consciousness (Ambedkar, pg.29). He further mentioned that,
“Religion, social status, and property are all sources of power and authority, which one man has, to control the liberty of another. One is predominant at one stage; the other is predominant at another stage. That is the only difference. If liberty is ideal, if liberty means the destruction of the dominion which one man holds over another, then obviously it cannot be insisted upon that economic reform must be the one kind of reform worthy of pursuit. If the source of power and dominion is, at any given time or in any given society, social and religious, then social reform and religious reform must be accepted as the necessary sort of reform”. (Ambedkar, pg. 39-40).
Ambedkar viewed the Caste System as not just a division of labour but also of the labourers in the watertight compartments (Ambedkar, pg. 42). In terms of the economic system, Caste plays an important role too, as it involves the subordination of man’s natural powers and inclinations to the exigencies of the social rules, which can lead to unemployment too (Ambedkar, pg. 44).
By quoting Dr Bhandarkar, he also shunned the notion of ‘PURITY OF BLOOD’, he also shunned the notion of racial difference on general logical scrutiny, and also the dogma of its eugenic nature. He made the argument clear that caste has no scientific origin (Ambedkar, pg. 45-46). The hindrance or the duty of the Hindu to preserve his Caste acts as an anxious agent throughout his life. He compared it with the other religion of Christianity, Sikhism or Islam, where there is a cement of Fraternity, ‘Bhai’, but there is so much anxiety to save oneself that the whole idea of brotherhood only comes during the communal incidents. He mentioned that this anxiety of Hindus leads to the rampant unrequired brawls, and also the tyranny of the people whom they considered untouchables. Stating the difference between Muhammadan and Hindus, Ambedkar said that though Muhammadan had been brutal and cruel in propagating their religion, the way the Hindus dealt with the untouchables was mean, and meanness according to him, was worse than cruelty (Ambedkar, pg. 55). He is of the belief that the strength of a society depends upon the presence of the points of contact, and possibilities of interaction, between different groups which exist in it. These are the organic filaments of Carlyle helping to bring the disintegrating elements together and to reunite them (Ambedkar, pg.73).
The ideal society according to him would be a society based on “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity”. Fraternity as in “Social Endosmosis”. Liberty in the sense of aright to life, limb, and property, and also to choose one’s own profession. And Equality can be seen as fiction but have three pillars: a) Physical Heredity, b) Social Inheritance, c) On his own efforts, according to Ambedkar, the first two should not be taken into consideration (Ambedkar, pg.60-61).
He hated the idea of Arya Samajists who put forward the idea of Chaturvarnya, which according to him was neither practical nor feasible. He laid down the arguments as, if under the Chaturvarnya the Hindus would be placed according to their worth in the four varnas, Brahmin, Vaishya, Kshatriya and Shudras, then what would be the need of honouring anyone without any labels? Another objection associated with it was the continuation of these labels. The names Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudras are names associated with a definite and fixed notion. The notion is that of hierarchy based on birth. So, to give the people new labels that too the same one but with the distinction of worth instead of birth seemed a lunatic idea. Moreover, there were four thousand castes to be dealt with, and grappling them down into the four Varnas only seemed far-fetched. He compared the idea of dividing or characterising the people into four varnas to Plato’s idea of division of faculties, which was again a failure. The third difficulty lying was the penal system attached with its transgression, as the example is shown of Rama killing Shambuka. He further challenged the notion that Brahmin will need to get the knowledge, Kshatriya should bear the arms, and Vaishyas should do the trade, But the Shudras may not have to do it, as the other three are there to help him out. But what if they deceive the Shudra? (Ambedkar, pg.63-69).
“Interdependence of one class on another class is inevitable. Even dependence of one class upon another may sometimes become allowable. But why make one person depend upon another in the matter of his vital needs?” (Ambedkar, pg.69).
‘How to bring the reform of the Hindu social Order? How to abolish caste?’
The idea of the fusion of sub-castes may not be feasible, as it may lead to the strengthening of the castes and make them more powerful, hence more mischievous. The action can begin with the Inter Caste Dinners but is an inadequate remedy. Hence, the final resolution that comes to the mind of Ambedkar is that of inter-caste marriages and transfusion of blood. The Jat Pat Todak Mandal was also in favour of this system, hence got the appraisal of Ambedkar. (Ambedkar, pg.77-78).
“Caste is a notion; it is the state of the mind. The destruction of the caste does not, therefore, mean the destruction of a physical barrier. It means a notional change.” (Ambedkar, pg.79).
“Caste is the natural outcome of certain religious beliefs which have the sanction of shastras, which are believed to contain the command of divinely inspired sages who are endowed with a supernatural wisdom and whose commands, therefore, cannot be disobeyed without committing a sin.” (Ambedkar, pg.80).
The notional change is possible when the people would not seek the sanctity of the shastras, as the shastras are completely contrary to one another too, and hitherto made a peace with the smriti by the Manu. Ambedkar was of the view to become the Buddha and Nanak and have the courage to tell the Hindus what is wrong with their religion.
DISTINCTION BETWEEN THE RULES AND THE PRINCIPLES:
Ambedkar draw a distinction between a society based on rules and principles and favoured the principles. He said the existing Hindu society was entirely based on the rules of smritis and shrutis, which no matter what according to him should be destroyed. For him, a principle was justice as it does not prescribe the way to go ahead with, but the basic morality. Under the rule, any account is an act of good as minded, but under the principle, it can be wrong too, but the consciousness behind it can never be wrong. The responsibility of the religion can never lie with the rule, but with the principles. (Ambedkar, pg.92).
Similar to the approach of Karl Marx, where they both thought that some sort of religion is essential for the people to understand, Ambedkar laid down his famous five cardinal points to bring the reform which dealt with the uniform book of Hindus, holding of sanad (Hindi for certificate) by the priests, no ceremony must be officiated by the priest without the sanad, and declaring it as a punishable offence, and limiting the number of priests (Ambedkar, pg.94-95).
At the ending of Annihilation of Caste, we see two more articles, one by Gandhi as the “Vindication of Caste” or “Dr Ambedkar’s Indictment”, which he published in his journal, Harijans. He was of the view that it was an attempt by Dr Ambedkar to gain attention and is an unnecessary commentary on the communality amongst the various religions, especially Hinduism. Moreover, too much criticism by Ambedkar made Gandhi defensive about the whole approach of caste politics. He was of the view that there were many best people too who put forward their views on the religion, and put the level or bar of Hinduism high. He quoted Mahabharata, Geeta and Ramayana, and adjoined everything to spirituality, which was further viewed as an unnecessary attempt to demean the statue of Ambedkar. He further mentioned that Caste has never to do anything with that of the Religion. Varna and Ashram had never to do with the Caste. He claimed about no disparity in the region, his ashram at Wardha, which just showed his lack of awareness (Ambedkar, pg.105-111).
Sant Ram Ramji further wrote the letter to Gandhi, explaining to him the difference between Caste and Varna, and how Ambedkar’s views were not mere views but a study of the whole caste system. (Ambedkar, pg.112-114).
In his reply to Mahatma, Ambedkar is not defensive, but very straight and forward, that how he never wanted to indulge in any controversy, and how the Mahatma needed to get his facts in order. He further mentioned how it was never an attempt on his part to seek any attention, as it is futile and useless. He claimed that the texts he mentioned in his speech, which were further published as authentic, as the opposite was claimed by Mahatma. He, later on, rebutted the idea that many saints came for the best, as he believed that most of the brahmins believed were actually the staunch believers of the Caste System. He further questioned the Mahatma’s own practice of Varna Vyawatsha, as by this he being a Bania, he must have been into trading. (Ambedkar, pg.115-131).
Ambedkar being a learned man he was, talks extensively about the notion of Caste, how it led to the anxiety among the Hindu Society, which not only affected traumatically the people of lower castes, as they were not supposed to get the basic life without the prior permission but had to live accordingly. The whole idea of the Chaturvarnavyavastha was countered, which was neither practical nor feasible, but came out as a repellent plan. The approach of Ambedkar makes one wonder about the society of that time, the legal rules, the government approach, and mostly how even though the people were just protectors of their clans seeking the sanctity from the texts of shrutis and smritis. He laid the emphasis on the religion based on the principle, and not on rules, as mentioned by the Manu. He shunned the whole idea of integration of new customs but sought a new epiphany or a reform which could further save the social fabric of Hinduism. He was a person of vast knowledge and great critical analysis. Arundhati Roy mentioned him as the person of knowledge, and Gandhi, as him acting quite ignorant of the whole situation, or wanted to deal with it in a different manner as a person of ‘Status Quo’. Ambedkar sought the destruction of the texts, and in his attempt at the speech cum writing, he didn’t over victimize the plight of the untouchables, but analysed the whole and led the society to a solution.
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