Writer Arundhati Roy doesn’t speak in public often, but she packs a punch when she does. The most recent occasion was the launch of a Tamil translation of BR Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste, which includes a detailed introduction and annotations by Roy.
The writer is currently facing criminal trial for contempt of court for an article she wrote about Dr Saibaba’s incarceration in 2015. Her speech covered topics ranging from civil rights movements across the world to situation in India today.
Roy said: “I’ll speak briefly because not only can I not speak Tamil, we are also living in very dangerous times. Now, language is twisted. Videos are doctored. I’m already facing a criminal trial. I want to say that Dr Ambedkar is perhaps the most brilliant intellectual of modern India.
“Today, we live in a time, where although officially we are not colonised, yet nobody can say what Dr Ambedkar said in 1936. What would happen if somebody said like he said in the Annihilation of Caste that to the untouchable, ‘Hinduism is a veritable chamber of horrors.’ That person would be put into jail, right?
“In 1932, when Ambedkar and Gandhi met in London, and Gandhi asked him why he was criticising the Congress which meant criticising the homeland, and he said, ‘Gandhiji I have no homeland. No untouchable worth his name would be proud of his land.’ The text of Annihilation of Caste is 80 years old but when you read it, you feel like it was written for today.”
Roy talked about the actions of the armed forces against Christians, Adivasis, Muslims, Sikhs, and Dalits. “Always it is the mind of an upper caste State against the mind of the other. Just like the British did,” she said.
She also linked the actions of corporations to social oppression, averring, “…when you look at these corporations that own the mines, that own the ports, have privatised electricity, have taken over the land, who are those people? When you start asking those specific questions, you will see that caste is the mother of Capitalism.”