Sunday, 20 November 2016

The Lowland: Jhumpa Lahiri

The LowlandThe Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Really liked the book. It was 'Namesake' by the same author that i had read before this one and had hated it. This book was a gift to my sibling and i, with an inscription from Sethuvamma reading 'on 11/3/16 the corridors of Dharamthala opp Rajbhavan Kolkotha reminiscent of British buildings.
We have given you books only as usual & as always. Love both of you'. Trust mothers to make sentimental even a pirated book.
I was skeptical when i started due to my bad experience with 'Namesake'. This one, but from the beginning, impressed me. It was very much like some of the short stories i had read of the author in my teens. Also pirated books, from an old books store in Kozhikode.
I don't know what it is about me but looks like when i start, i will have to start with a sentence i did not like in the book. Often wonder where this cynicism crept inside me.
He had not seen so many egrets in one place, flying off when he came too close. The trees threw afternoon shadows on the lawn. Their smooth limbs divided when he looked up at them, like the forbidden zones of a woman's body.

...They began to relax, discovering a series of flags planted along the course. The holes were like navels in the earth, fitted with cups, indicating where the golf balls were supposed to go.

It was interesting to note how the author also followed films. I made a point to mark all the places mentioned in the book so that i can visit them later and make sketches. The last time i did it was with 'The Calcutta Chromosome' by Amitav Ghosh. Of course, the lines remained marked and the sketches never made. And here i am, still marking when i am almost out of this favourite city.
At one point, because Udayan suggested it, they began to linger outside Technicians' Studio, where Satyajit Ray had shot Pather Panchali, where Bengali cinema stars spent their days. Now and then, because someone who knew them was employed on the shoot, they were ushered in amid the tangle of cables and wires, the glaring lights. After the call for silence, after the board was clapped, they watched the director and his crew taking and retaking a single scene, perfecting a handful of lines. A day's work, devoted to a moment's entertainment.

So much of history behind every alley.
It was 1964. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution authorized America to use military force against North Vietnam. There was a military coup in Brazil.
In Calcutta Charulata was released in cinema halls. Another wave of riots between Muslims and Hindus killed over one hundred people after a relic was stolen from a mosque in Srinagar. Among the communists in India there was dissent over the border war with China two years before. A breakaway group, sympathetic to China, called itself the Communist Party of India, Marxist: the CPI(M).
The English started clearing the waterlogged jungle, laying down streets. In 1770, beyond the southern limits of Calcutta, they established a suburb whose first population was more European than Indian. A place where spotted deer roamed, and kingfishers darted across the horizon.
Major William Tolly, for whom the area was named, excavated and desilted a portion of the Adi Ganga, which came also to be known as Tolly's Nullah. He'd made shipping trade possible between Calcutta and East Bengal.
The grounds of the Tolly Club had originally belonged to Richard Joshnson, a chairman of the General Bank of India. In 1785, he'd built a Palladian villa. He'd imported foreign trees to Tollygunge, from all over the subtropical world.
In the early nineteenth century, on Johnson's estate, the British East India Company imprisoned the widows and sons of Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore, after Tipu was killed in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War.
The deposed family was transplanted from Srirangapatna, in the distant soutwest of India. After the release, they were granted plots in Tollygunge to live on. And as the English began to shift back to the center of Calcutta, Tollygunge became a predominantly Muslim town.
Though Partition had turned Muslims again into a minority, the names of so many streets were the legacy of Tipu's displaced dynasty: Sultan Alam Road, Prince Bakhtiar Shah Road, Prince Golam Mohamad Shah Road, Prince Rahimuddin Lane
Golam Mohammad had built the great mosque at Dharmatala in his father's memory. For a time he'd been permitted to live in Johnson's villa. But by 1895, when a Scotsman named William Cruickshank stumbled across it on horseback, looking for his lost dog, the great house was abandoned, colonized by civets, sheathed in vines.
Thanks to Cruickshank the villa was restored, and a country club was established in its place. Cruickshank was named the first president. It was for the British that the city's tramline was extended so far south in the early 1930s. It was to facilitate their journey to the Tolly Club, to escape the city's commotion, and to be among their own.

If history was taught like this in school, i would have been good at it. Sigh.
By page 19 of the book i was thinking how the relationship between the brothers was so reminiscent of Estha and Rahel in the God of Small Things. Different, but alike in ways only siblings can be. Every time i promise myself not to think of that book again, it thinks of me.
Siblings through letters moved me as well. Like here in this letter Subhash writes to Udayan,
They call the marsh grass spartina. I learned today that it has special glands for excreting salt, so that it's often covered with a residue of crystals. Snails migrate up and down the stems. It's been growing here over millenia, in deposits of peat. Its roots stabilize the shore. Did you know, it propagates by spreading rhizomes? Something like the mangroves that once thrived in Tollygunge. I had to tell you.
In 1967, in the papers and on All India Radio, they started hearing about Naxalbari. It was a place they'd never heard of before.
It was one of a string of villages in the Darjeeling District, a narrow corridor at the northern tip of West Bengal.

Made a mental note to visit the place. It's not going to happen, but no harm making notes. In 4 years of being in Kolkata i have not been to Darjeeling or the North East. Yes, i am a loser.
Just making a note of how things are different and easier for men. When the brothers go to paint 'Long live Naxalbari' on the wall, you will also get to know why women were never doing such things. It's simple logic. They couldn't go out at night. For example,
Subhash held the flashlight. He illuminated a section of the wall. It was close to midnight. They'd told their parents that they were going to a late show of a film.
Such a thing could never happen with girls. This might seem silly but it's not. In my interview i was asked why i had not watched great malayalam films like that of Adoor and Aravindan. I could never watch them because i never got the chance to attend film screenings conducted at night or in totally male spaces.
Most of her writing, as i have seen deals with people and their emotions when away from home. I relate a lot to this because i too, am a 'home' animal. I define home and try to spend a lot of energy simply longing for it. So references to 'home' when you are away from home always make me feel good. Like here. Subhash in America.
The Jamestown Bridge was prominent, the Newport Bridge, a few miles in the distance, more faint. On cloudy days, at intervals, the sound of a foghorn pierced the air, as conch shells were blown in Calcutta to ward off evil.

He paused, then uttered Udayan's name for the first time since he'd arrived in Rhode Island.

A few days later, in his mailbox at his department, Subhash found a letter from Udayan. Paragraphs in Bengali, dark blue ink against the lighter blue of the aerogramme.
A collection of so many such letters with me which make me cry when i read them to indulge in some of my mother's sentimental nature.
Subhash and his helpless love, a feeling i know too well.
It was the heron taking flight over the water, its great wings beating slowly and deliberately, looking at once encumbered and free. Its long neck was tucked in, dark legs dangling behind. Against the lowering sky the silhouette was black, the tips of its primary feathers distinct, the forked division of its toes.
He went back a third day, but was unable to see it anywhere. For the first time in his life, he felt a helpless love.

And something i used to do when i had a working radio. Holly and Subhash, one day,
Did you forget to shut it off? he asked her, as she turned down the radio's volume.
I keep it on. I hate coming back to a quiet house.

I really liked the portion where she writes about Udayan'd murder.
He thought of Durga Pujo coming again to Calcutta. As he was first getting to know America, the absence of the holiday hadn't mattered to him; but now he wanted to go home. The past two years, around this time, he'd received a battered parcel from his parents, containing gifts for him. Kurtis too thin to wear most of the time in Rhode Island, bars of sandalwood soap, some Darjeeling tea.
...This year no parcel came from his family. Only a telegram. The message consisted of two sentences, lifeless, drifting at the top of a sea.
Udayan killed. Come back if you can.

I am someone who believes that death should be shown or written only this way. This is how death is, all the time. It's nothing fancy needs no embellishment or flowery writing. He/she died. That will do.
While talking about Calcutta and Durga Pujo let us also not forget that it is casteist. Not all hindus celebrate puja. There are other narratives which are never so celebrated because they are not brahminical. Like this.
Every year at this time, Hindu Bengalis believed, she [Kali} came to stay with her father, Himalaya. For the days of Pujo, she relinquished her husband Shiva, before returning once more to married life. The hymns recounted the story of Durga being formed, and the weapons that were provided for each of her ten arms: sword and shield, bow and arrow. Axe, mace, conch shell, and discus. Indra's thunderbolt, Shiva's trident. A flaming dart, a garland of snakes.
Very easy tip for authors and filmmakers. Things that the dead use while they are living should be shown again if they die. Like here, after Udayan's murder, when Subhash goes back to Calcutta,
This was the enclosure where he and Udayan had played as children. Where they had drawn and practiced sums with bits of coal or broken clay. Where Udayan had run out the day they'd been told to stay in, falling off the plank before the concrete had dried.
Subhash saw the footprints and walked past them.

I could so see this as a shot in a film. The footprints set on the cement forever and the remaining one of the siblings walking past them after its owner's death. And again,
He pressed the buzzer that Udayan had installed. It still worked...Finally he heard his father clearing his throat, seeming to loosen the secretions of a long silence.

And the mother of the dead
She stopped at the marker by the edge of the lowland, rinsing the stone clear with water she drew from a small brass urn, the one she had used to bathe him and Udayan when they were small,...

And the trauma that the state leaves on people. Udayan was killed by the state after a raid. His father, after the death,
Though the combing raids had ended, his father still kept the key to the house under his pillow when he slept. Sometimes at random, sitting at the top of the padlocked house, he shone a flashlight through the grille, to see if someone was there.

And Gauri, Udayan's wife, in Udayan's room now, widowed,
...He [Subhash] watched as she retrieved an old section of newspaper and began to wrap the cover of the book he'd given her. He and Udayan used to do this together, after buying their new schoolbooks for the year.
All middle class siblings too.
About the state sponsored murder the author says,
...He was pointing a rifle at his back. Gauri and her mother-in-law were instructed to turn around, to walk back downstairs. So there was no opportunity to go further into the house to see the rooms that had been overturned. Clothes knocked off the lines strung along the terrace where they had been hung to dry that morning, wardrobe doors flung open. Pillows and quilts pulled off the beds, coals dumped from the coal basket, lentils and grains tossed out of Glaxo tins in the kitchen. As if they were looking for a scrap of paper and not a man.
The last line says it all. The rest of it is what is done to terrorize.
And Gauri who watched her husband walking towards death thinks,
Gauri remembered all the times she'd watched him from her grandparents' balcony in North Calcutta, crossing the busy street, coming to visit her.
After his death,
...She shut the door and the shutters to preserve whatever invisible particles of him floated in the atmosphere. She slept on the bed, on the pillow Udayan had used and that continued to smell for a few days of him, until it was replaced by her own odor, her greasy skin and hair.
This is one of my worst fears too. The odor of a person disappearing from things they used. Remember in 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer how the hero frantically tries to preserve the smell of the woman he first killed? That.
And the depression which follows,
...She was unableto cry. There were only the tears disconnected to feeling, that gathered and sometimes fell from the corners of her eyes in the morning, after sleep.

In the first page of part IV i've jotted down this: 'the book makes me feel i'm here after the severest break up i have had. Crying without knowing why and sadness filled within me even though i'm at one of the happiest periods in my life so far. It's strange.'
Like in films, using objects repeatedly works really well too. Like how Gauri comes to America draped in the turquoise shawl Subhash gave her.
Glad that the author noted how even the most radical politics is sexist in nature because they too opposed Gauri's marriage to her dead husband's brother. Here:
...The party had opposed it, too. Like her in-laws, they expected her to honor Udayan's memory, his martyrdom.

Reminding us of Udayan's cement footsteps again, in Rhode Island, Subhash and Gauri
She looked back at the set of footprints they had made in the damp sand. Unlike Udayan's steps from childhood, which endured in the courtyard in Tollygunge, theirs were already vanishing, washed clean by the encroaching tide.

Something i hated again. I believe this sort of descriptions of the body of a woman both in literature and in films is equivalent to saying how clothes provoked, the shape of the body led to the sexual assault etc. I believe an arousal should not be depicted as arising from a change in clothes. Like here.
...Her hair hung bluntly along her jawbone, dramatically altering her face. She was wearing slacks and a gray sweater. The clothes covered her skin, but they accentuated the contours of her breasts, the firm swell of her stomach. The shape of her thighs. He drew his eyes away from her, though already a vision had entered, of her breasts, exposed...
...That night, asleep on the couch, he dreamed of Gauri for the first time. Her hair was cut short. She wore only a petticoat and a blouse. He was under the dining table with her. He was astride her, unclothed, making love to her as he used to make love to Holly. His body combining on the hard tiled floor with hers.
So the first fantasy of Subhash comes after Gauri wears clothes which accentuates her body's contours. Not okay for me.
I thought of my short film for which i had to make letterboxes. We had to construct a set and these letterboxes were everywhere in Kolkata. See this description.
In calcutta the names were painted onto wooden boxes with the careful strokes of a fine brush.
I did this myself, writing some bengali names in white paint. Memories of a shoot.
Motherhood: Gauri and Bela. I liked this relationship because it was not the perfect mother. She did not love Bela in the way mothers are supposed to. Sometimes she put her work ahead of her child.
With Bela, she was aware of time not passing; of the sky nevertheless darkening at the end of another day. She was aware of the perfect silence in the partment, replete with the isolation she and Bela shared. When she was with Bela, even if they were not interacting, it was as if they were one person, bound fast by a dependence that restricted her mentally, physically. At times it terrified her that she felt so entwined and also so alone.
...She waited for Subhash to take over, to allow her to leave, to attend her class or to study at the library. Fore there was no place to work in the apartment, no door she could shut, no desk where she could keep her things.

Simple things. Like a room of one's own. So necessary for women and yet never thought of. Taken for granted that she will find some space somewhere. Why does she need space anyway, to keep her things? What things? There is nothing called 'her things'. Precisely the problem. There are things called 'her room' and 'her things' and 'her space' and these are important things. Later we are told,
...the long task of raising Bela, was not bringing meaning to her life.
She was failing at something every other woman on earth did without trying. That should not have proved a struggle. Even her own mother, who had not fully raised her, had loved her; of that there had been no doubt. But Gauri feared she had already descended to a place where it was no longer possible to swim up to Bela, to hold on to her.

Caste again:
Water was pumped manually from the tube well, a series of bluckets filled up for the day's use, drinking water stored in urns. Sometime in the fifties they'd gotten a spetic tank. Before that there had been an outhouse by the entrance, and a man had come to carry their daily waste away on his head.
The author is talking about manual scavenging, performed by 'lower' castes. People carried other people's shit on their heads and it was considered normal.
She talks about the famine here
A cyclone the year before had destroyed paddy crops along the coast. But everyone knew that the famine that followed was a man-made calamity. The government distracted by military concerns, distribution compromised, the cost of war turning rice unaffordable.
She remembers dead bodies turning fetid under the sun, covered with flies, rotting on the road until they were carted away. She remembers some women's arms so thin that their wedding bangled, their only adornment, were pushed up past the elbow to prevent them from sliding off. Those with energy accosted people on the street, tapping strangers on the shoulder as they begged for the clouded starchy water that trickled out of a strained pot of rice and was normally thrown away. Phen.
It's called 'kanjivellam' in Malayalam. When i was in the habit of eating at home, i used to drink this with salt. I love it. Never knew that this was perhaps what helped people thrive in another part of the country when nobody had anything to eat because some people thought some human lives could be so worthless. Something someone i dearly loved used to do and which i would like to use in a film,
She'd extracted the bones from a single piece of fish, lining them up at the side of the plate like a set of her sewing needles.
Really liked this portion where Bijoli is upset after seeing Udayan's memorial stone desecrated by some neighbours.
Come forward, she calls out to those who are watching from their windows, their rooftops. She remembers the voice of the paramilitary, speaking through the megaphone. Walk slowly. Show your face to me. She waits for Udayan to appear amid the water hyacinth and walk toward her. It is safe now, she tells him. the police have gone. No one will take you away. Come quickly to the house. You must be hungry. Dinner is ready. Soon it will be dark. Your brother married Gauri. I am alone now. You have a daughter in America. Your father has died.
Want to make a sketch of this sight which is very common.
There was no dining table. On the floor was a piece of embroidered fabric, like a large place mat, for her to sit on. Her grandmother squatted on the flats of her feet, her shoulders hunched, arms folded across her knees, observing her.
Also this sight:
He saw his mother hunched over the black sewing machine she used to operate with her feet, pumping a pedal up and down, unable to talk because of the pins she held between her lips.
The slabs are uneven, forced up here and there by the roots of the trees.
The first time i went to buy sarees for my mother from Kolkata this was what i saw. It was different from home, sarees were never stored like that there.
One day they went into a sari store to buy saris for her grandmother and Deepa. White ones for her grandmother, colored ones for Deepa. They were made of cotton, rolled up on the shelves like fat starchy scrolls that the salesman would shake out for them.
A failed marriage described so beautifully
Though their marriage had not been a solution, it had taken her away from Tollygunge. He had brought her to America and then, like an animal briefly observed, briefly caged, released her. He had protected her, he had attempted to love her. Every time she had to open a new jar of jam, she resorted to the trick he'd taught her, of banging the edge of the lid three or four times with a spoon, to break the seal.
Finally, in Gauri's return to Calcutta, she does what a lot of people including me do whenever they think of their sad past. Imagine themselves in places in those times. A third person view of themselves. Like here,
She sat in the car, in snarled traffic, the atmosphere heavy with smog. She saw a version of herself, standing on one of the crowded busses, hanging on to a strap, wearing one of the cotton saris she'd worn to college. Going to meet Udayan somewhere he'd suggested, some tucked-away restaurant where no one would recognize them, where he would be waiting for her, where they could sit across from one another for as long as they liked.
Felt that the book resembles the God of Small Things in the way it ended as well. Memories, a chapter very much like The Cost of Living. The sun shining on Gauri's hair, when she was in love, when Udayan was alive... Please read this book. You need to feel it once.

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Sunday, 13 November 2016

Hatred in the belly Which Changed my Life

It was a mind blowing experience reading this book. It is a very well compiled bunch of writings on the politics behind the appropriation of Dr Ambedkar's writings. I have not read Dr Ambedkar's writings, yes, i know it's a shame. My reading life is rather shameful. I am late to read pretty much everything. Anyway this book has widened my knowledge and perspectives about caste. The book is a very neat compilation and all the articles are available online in Round Table India. I am trying to write down various arguments in the book from different people and perspectives but which were essentially on the same issue. I believe that by doing this i shall remember them more and also get more clarity on the topics discussed.
[In writing this i have often mixed up the web version and the book version so sometimes a replaced word or a comma and other such things are the result of me being confused. Please forgive] 

Let me begin by quoting from this interview. In one analogy it sums up the debate. 

Joe D'Cruz on saviors and censors
An interview by Kadhiravan
...I would like to tell you about Dhritarashtraalingan in Mahabharata. Dhritarashtra is a selfish, self centered person, keen only on his own and his children's welfare. One can say that the entire unfolding of Mahabharata is a result of this attitude of Dhritarashtra. One of his peculiar qualities is that, when he dislikes someone, he would embrace the person and in the process smother him/her to death. I see such groups as possessing this particular quality of Dhritarashtra--they make sure that they keep you under their control and smother you to death
[Joe D'Cruz, the renowned Tamil writer also has a history with Navayana and its Brahmin translator V. Geetha also which i will be quoting in some time]

On Arundhati Roy's introduction to Navayana edition of Annihilation of Caste, Appropriation of Ambedkar.

The Question of Free Speech,
Vaibhav Wasnik
explains why writing about appropriation is very important.
The power structures in the Indian context are explicitly as well as implicitly engaged in the business of maintaining caste heirarchies that dominate Indian society. The explicit tactics used by these power structures are there for everyone to see and hence are not matters to be exposed or to be invested with deep analysis right now. However, the power structures that work under layers of sophistication, masquerading as 'well intentioned' and prentending to promote the cause of justice for the victims of caste order, are the ones that need careful scrutiny.

AoC does not need any introduction 
Bojja Tharakam 

The 'we-are-doing-you-a-favour-by-writing-about-you' attitude is easily discernible to Dalits. People think it's rocket science or since they are casteist anyway they think Dalits are not capable of understanding this age old practice of appropriation. On this, Tharakam says,
Navayana claims that they are not casteists even though they are Brahmins. At this juncture, I feel whom are they fooling? Where is the necessity for S. Anand to say that I am a Brahmin but still I am praising Dr Ambedkar? I am getting Ambedkar to the people so I am doing a great service to untouchables. Being a Brahmin I am doing all these things. He wants to say all this only to please Dalits. 
Arundhati Roy wants to say the same thing probably. Because in the book she claims that she is a Syrian Christian. Where is the necessity to tell us that she is a Syrian Christian? Though I am a Syrian Christian I am praising Ambedkar, I am assessing Ambedkar in a great way...Arundhati Roy claims her Syrian Christian status, they are probably top among the Christians; probably, they are very upper caste; probably she is a Brahmin convert or her ancestors were Brahmin. So she wants to claim her genealogy - I am also a Brahmin upper caste but still I am writing about Dr Ambedkar, introducing Dr Ambedkar. Probably she wants to claim that by introducing Ambedkar she is doing great service to Ambedkar and Dalits. In fact, she has done great disservice to Ambedkar and Dalits by writing that preface.
In Arundhati Roy failed to grasp the significance of AoC
Dr K. Satyanarayana tells us what Dalits' reply to this attitude is.
To expect that just because Roy has written an introduction for AoC, we should be grateful and fall at her feet, that stage is gone. So now there is the next stage where we want the argument at that level; you have to treat us at that level. Now, you can no more get away by saying 'I have done this so you should be happy and thankful.' You have to rather throw away your introduction. You cannot get away by saying, "this is my introduction, and you write your own."
And in
Masked Messiahs: The Politics of Comparison,
Joby Mathew points out,
...In actual fact, a person like Arundhati criticizes Gandhi by using the foundation created by Ambedkarite movements...
The history of this book and its politics is explained here in
Stigmatizing Dalits, From the Wadas to the Web by
Nilesh Kumar
The thing I want to convey here is that we were the carriers of these texts [like AoC]. Much like the many Buddhist monks who carried the Buddhist texts to safety, to the East and other places, during the Brahmin invasion when they were either being burnt or destroyed by the invaders.
There are similarities between the two cases. We have a stake in it; we were the soldiers who pulled the movement's chariot, loaded with texts, forward.
A tactical, brahminical trick  ,
U. Sambashiva Rao says that,
But what we learn from the views expressed through various signals by Andhra Jyothi is that: whether in the pre-independence or in the post independence period, no one from the upper castes ever looked at Ambedkar positively; Arundhati Roy is the first one to do so, therefore they're hinting that we shouldn't look at her negatively.
A clear case of Brahmin benevolence. So kindly have they bestowed this 'favour' on dalits that they should not bear grudge and in fact be thankful.
I am not saying that if you belong to an upper caste in this country you should not talk about the tribals or the Dalits or the backwards or the poor. But caste is such a cunning system, and those castes which introduced this system in this society have not yet escaped from its framework. 
 And till that happens, can one speak of it, really?
...Moreover, they [Brahmins] become more famous than us by highlighting our contributions, contributions from dalit bahujan classes.

...She had analyzed tribal life; after she had done that, many people started praising her as a kind of authority on tribal life. Yes, she did offer some good analysis, but until the tribals themselves brought the issue of their autonomy and rights to the forefront, before anyone else - did any of us recognize it (their contribution) in this country?
In From Manusmriti to navayana Publishing: A history of appropriation,
Naren Bedide (Kuffir) stresses on why it is important that every single voice which is capable of doing it is raised regarding issues of appropriation. It has a history and he feels it should not be repeated. See here.
The first mistake the Bahujan did, one could say, the original sin of the Bahujan world, was to allow the Brahmin to enter into their little shrines - to control the worship of their holy stones, trees, serpents, whatever they considered sacred. They invited the Brahmin to come in with his mumbo jumbo. They allowed the Brahmin to introduce their gods to themselves. It started there. We can't allow that to happen again. 
The Brahmean Machine: Distorting Revolt into Surrender 
Shakyamuni says that,
It was the same machine that rendered Kabir toothless in the past. The act started with the very categorisation of what Kabir's life and words meant: what should have been called a revolt was wrongly and cunningly termed as Bhakti i.e. surrender. Kabir was mutilated by a Hindi-chauvinist Brahmin organisation, which was formed for Brahminising Hindi- interpolating it with, and ''purifying'' it, by sprinkling the Gangajal called Sanskrit on it. This happened in the 1890s under the leadership of a Punjabi Khatri, Babu Shyam Sundar Das, and a reactionary Brahmin, Ramchandra Shukla. To see how far their appropriation and distortion was institutionalized one must consider the fact that the Hindi-English Dictionary edited by the duo is accepted by American universities and the Government of India as standard and authoritative.
Dalit Hindi (a language that found voice among the lower caste viz. Ahirs – its old name was Ahiri Bhasha) or any other version of Hindi, was either erased or made impossible to continue. In a similar manner, the canonization and distortion of Kabir (the mutilated Kabir) disallowed any alternative reading. For example, they had substituted 'sunna' and 'shabda' with 'Rama' in the renditions of Kabir. This has been pointed out by Sadafal Guru, a Saint belonging to the Kabiric tradition, in his book 'Swarwed'.

The introduction of 'Rama', a strong and problematic Hindu symbol, into this tradition was very dangerous. This was tantamount to Brahminisation of Kabir. Furthermore, the very tradition of Sadafal Guru has been appropriated by his son and a certain Swantantra Dev ji Maharaj who organised hawanas and chanting of Vedas in the name of Kabir. How shocking to know that Kabir who was vehemently against Vedas and their nasty teachings was made a vehicle for propagating Vedic Karmakanda (rituals)! The Kabir Project of Linda Hess is also a product of the same ugly machine of appropriation. They all want to reduce Kabir to meaningless metaphysics.

The mutilated Kabir edited by the Punjabi Khatri, Babu Shyam Sundar Das, is prescribed in the syllabus of Hindi Literature in Civil Services exams conducted by UPSC. This was the clever tactic by which the monopoly of 'revised' 'Brahminised' texts, through which Brahmins inflict and maintain hegemony over entire knowledge systems, was ensured beyond any doubt. Would this also be the fate of Babasaheb's AoC as already pointed out in an earlier essay [The New Harijan Sewak Sangh by James Michael and Akshay Pathak].
The title in Round Table India is A Glass Menagerie for the Bahujans—Annihilation of Caste and Gandhi’s Wards ]
Taking further the example of Kabir, we must bear in mind that he was a revolutionary poet. The tampering and appropriation of his works transformed him into a spineless creature: a Bhakta (devotee). The Brahminist forces falsely reduced him to someone contemplating vacuous and obtuse rubbish on Brahma. The social resistance and struggle offered by the poet-revolutionary was erased from the collective memory of his caste peers and it was thus absent in the narratives of even Dalit history.
This is a harsh reality to face because when we Dalits try to reconstruct our own splintered history, our sources are often those managed, controlled and distorted by the Brahmins. Other sources of history are deliberately erased. They make it impossible to reclaim Dalit history by creating a certain mythology around the Dalit personality. A total closure of history is effected by them through this mythologizing and 'fixation' of meaning. Text is no more the infinite play of meaning in the Brahminised world. Apart from that they play around with the narrative too. For example they made a prince out of Buddha who was otherwise a citizen of the republic of Shakyas. Or they made Kabir the illicit son of a Brahmin ''saint'' (not doctor?) Ramananda while in fact Kabir was the son of lower caste parents- Niru and Nima.

In this connection it is not misplaced to recall the hypocrisy of the arrogant Arundhati Roy (hereafter referred to as AR). AR declined the offer to make her debut (and only) novel, The God Of Small Things, into a film citing her reservations against the danger of 'fixing' the meaning etc., in the cinematic interpretation of the story. The same AR, however, is ruthless and adamant on 'fixing' the meanings of AoC through so-called critical 'annotations' and creating a hyper-reality by mapping AoC into a preface longer than the book itself. It is like making a map of Puducherry3 which is bigger in area than Puducherry itself. One would wonder how is that a problem? First of all, this map which involves magnifying the text and its meanings is 'justified' by them under the dubious pretext of making it 'visible' (touchable? cf. commentary named 'Touchable Tales' by Navayana) to the elite Hindu-Brahmin and white audiences. But actually this misdemeanour not only reduces AoC but also severely disfigures it, destroys its totality.
By production of Brahminism, I mean its development, sustenance, reproduction and perpetuation. Despite the false claims around cultural studies, the production in the culture industry in India, which is usurped and managed by the Brahmin, has been left unanalysed. One sees that even in how they have dubbed any Dalit resistance (even the one to this latest AA project) into Identity politics, while they cleverly refuse to see any identity politics in how the savarnas hold on to their positions of power in media, academia, publishing etc.
Not only is the Brahmin politics made clandestine by dint of this hegemony over knowledge but the very Brahmin hegemony over production and reproduction of knowledge and knowledge systems is intentionally obscured.
One of the many eye openers was how knowledge and its control is important in any discourse. In

From Manusmriti to navayana Publishing: A history of appropriation 
Naren Bedide (Kuffir) we see, 
...this is about knowledge which is produced and mediated by a certain kind of worldview which is supposed to favour some sections of people and go against certain other sections of people. Control of knowledge is very important. If control of knowledge was not important, Ambedkar would not have said Educate (from his advice: Educate, Agitate, Organize), the first point is to Educate. And this is what the Roy-Navayana project is attemting to do: control Dalitbahujan knowledge, to mediate it, to manipulate it. 
A Tale of two Prefaces,
Karthick RM
says, about knowledge and caste privilege
...The superiority of the Brahmin is not just based on economic powerthat can change with fortunes. It is also not just a weak pseudo-science argument of race superiority. It rests largely on the Brahmin's power over definition, to determine good and evil, social and anti-social, clean and unclean, high and low, acceptable and unacceptable, interpretation and misinterpretation. It is the Brahmin's power over the Word, over knowledge and over meaning.

I found the following argument very valid. Again, it was an aspect i had not thought of at all. 
...You say, 'Arundhati Roy has written, let her write. What is your problem?' If Arundhati Roy has written, in a scenario where 98% of faculty in central universities are Savarna-Brahmin - who are the faculty going to teach and read in the classroom? Ambedkar or Arundhati Roy? They will segregate the original AoC from that book. It will be purely Arundhati Roy, portrayed as being in the forefront in the struggle against caste, which Ambedkar had actually waged, which Phule had waged, Nanak had waged, Kabir had waged, which Buddha had started, which the Charvakas had inspired.
In connection with this, we should also look at how criticism of this book was received by the spaces and media controlled by savarnas.
...the Telugu media, which is contractor media, is standing up for this book. And we see the Times of India, which is corporate media, standing up for this book. And we also see universities and scholars from across India and Europe, America, savarna scholars, standing up for this book, abusing us, calling us all kinds of names, on the site and social media. Because the social media is the only social media for Dalit-Bahujan, there is no other social media for dalit Bahujan outside the virtual media, all spaces are anti-social spaces for us, let us be clear about that. They have been calling us all kinds of names, that is also there, that is one structural aspect wherein they are springing up to defend Roy.
In the following portion from Vedic Chants for the 21st Century, a collection of responses to the criticism of Roy's introduction, we can see what exactly he is speaking about. Here for instance,
Of course I've several issues. Also with how the entire 'debate' is being conducted online-where AR and I are being held responsible for all rapes, murders of Dalits.
-S. Anand, Publisher, Navayana.
What a reply. Sounds so similar to Roy who puts 'research' in quotes while replying Dalit Camera. [Can see it in the excerpt after this one] Why does he think 'debate' should be in quotes? Is it because it is not happening in one of those book launches and online, a space which he utters with contempt? is it a coincidence that this contempt is directed towards the only media which Dalits consider free of anto-social elements? The portion about rapes and murders of Dalits is where the man totally gave it away. Caste simply does not disappear, you see, if Dalits question savarna logic they reply by saying that Dalits are making a mountain out of a molehill. Dalits say appropriation and he reads rape. I have not seen a greater trivialization of rape, murder and Dalit voices all in one sentence. Well done, Anand. 

In The New Harijan Sewak Sangh,
James Michael and Akshay Pathak 
highlight another aspect of these attempts to belittle social media. Repeated attempts for the same further confirms the fact that it remains the only space which is not anti-social for Dalits. From Arundhati Roy herself comes this bit
Ms Roy, continuing with her Gandhian patronisation, asked everyone to 'keep a cool head', for the Internet, she insisted was an 'insult machine'. She chose to pay little attention to the fact that the social media give scores of Bahujans the choice and freedome to cut through the mesh of segregation that had so far kept them away from the very castles that were built for the privileged by them. Social media, in a sense, enables a very modern form and space for 'Direct Action' that Babasaheb had advocated. Perhaps the criticisms posed by the lower castes could be looked down upon as the schadenfreude' or the 'clicktivists'. But, as is evident by now, the 'insult machine' has managed to expose the insincerity and hollowness of the perpetrators of this bizarre exercise.
Michael and Pathak  say, quite correctly, that
...In short, they do not just appropriate a text, they Brahminise it.
...The process involves containing a text that has been floating freely and widely and was enabling the ongoing struggles of the Bahujans against the tyranny of caste by incarcerating and monetising it, adding 'value' by way of 'research'. And this 'value-addition' also tries surreptitiously to canonise the incarcerated version of the text, even as the original falls by the wayside and is forgotten. This becomes clear in the introduction itself, where, by the time the reader reaches page 4, the footnote (No.5) boldly declares the forceful pulling out of AoC from the seminal government published Babasaheb Ambedkar: Writings and Speeches (BAWS) and placing the Navayana edition as the source to be referred to 'henceforth'. The usurpation is completed with the new stamp of authority.
In here, we also find the history of Navayana
...Although the publication was jointly started by Mr Iyengar and Dalit politician Ravikumar in 2003, the latter seems to have become more involved in politics since 2006, when he joined Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, a Dalit political party based in Tamil Nadu. Navayana has been an Iyengar show ever since.
I had tried reading The Myth of the Holy Cow once or twice. It is when i read this article that i realized it was a Navayana publication as well. I could never read much of the book written by D.N.Jha because i disagree with his approach. The approach is that of saying that beef eating was quite common during vedic period also and it is silly for the right wing to now argue that it is a sacred animal. I do not think this is the way to approach the problem. What if people worshipped cow during vedic period as well? Is it right to do what is being done in this country in the name of deference to the cow god? Also it had a lot of Sanskrit names and phrases in italics and it turns me off immediately as a reader who don't understand the point of Sanskrit at all. So i was quite happy to realise that my doubts about that book weren't misplaced. Here is another part of Navayana's history

Navayana seemed to have perfected this technique in its earlier attempts to repackage Babasaheb's thoughts. The exemplar in this case is The Myth of the Holy Cow by D.N. Jha, which was republished by Navayana in 2009, with an additional material appended to it-- 'B.R. Ambedkar on Beef-eating and Untouchability'. Whereas he mentions several works by scholars including Rajendralal Mitra's 1881 work on the same, among others, Mr Jha neither credits Dr Ambedkar nor cites him anywhere, not even in the bibliography. We would not be suprised if the book, which is on politics of beef-eating in India, would make one think that itis Mr Jha who discovered the politics of myth-making around the holy cow or that the Brahmins used to eat cow meat during Vedictimes, and completely (deliberately?) ignoring and erasing extensive research on the topic done by Dr Ambedkar
This obsession with the vedic age is a very brahmin concept. It is like when confronting pope's stance against abortion you running to the bible to see if there is any portion which says that abortion is okay. Chanced upon this in Big Bazar the other day. 

Vedic Tea. Photographed by Gaurav Puri
We know that there is a brand called 'Brahmin's' for cooking ingredients etc. I am waiting for the day they will change all these names to sanskrit script, that dead language which only brahmins could learn. 

No, it's not over. 
Joe D'Cruz on saviors and censors
An interview by Kadhiravan
throws light into another incident which happened to the renowned Tamil writer who has been interviewed. He explains the injustice meted out to him thus:
V.Geetha is talented and has clarity in her understanding of society. She was the one who introduced Navayana to me and told me that S. Anand would do his best to promote my book. I went to Delhi for some work and got to meet Anand there. At the very first instance he commented that, "It is not that great a work (referring to the novel) and I can give you a maximum of twenty-five thousand rupees. I can arrange for five to six reviews and you will get five copies of the (translated version) book. This is the best I can do for you." This was the offer. 
Dare anyone say they can't see the violence in this. Later they refused to publish him because he supported Modi in on social media. As if what they themselves have been doing is completely different from Modi's politics. The author explains further,
This is all about politics. One the one hand, they would have a Modi sympathiser in their ranks, and on the other, they would employ the discourse around Modi to silence people like me.
James Michael and Akshay Pathak also effectively dispel some of the key arguments of Roy supporters
The argument that AoC was originally written for a 'caste Hindu' audience is flawed, for it ignores the most crucial fact that it was to be delivered by an 'Untouchable'. Moreover, it inadvertantly places Arundhati Roy and Babasaheb on a common platform which is unacceptable on moral, intellectual, and political grounds. Let us also not forget that his speech was not delievered, because Babasaheb refused to alter his speech to make it palatable to caste Hindus. In fact, the very act of re-packaging and monetising a text under the pretext of getting it across to newer and ignorant readers defies the original spirit in which it was to be delivered. It is as if, 80 years down the line, the Jat-Pat Todak Mandal has risen like a phoenix to avenge Babasaheb's refusal to change even a comma of the original document, by siezing and manipulating the text, and making it malleable to their demands.
Look at what another one of Roy supporters says about the issue. You can see this in Vedic Chants for the 21st Century. is great time for an authentic deghettoisation of Ambedkar to happen. Not one that would santitize Ambedkar and downplay his criticism in order to make him fit to the nationalist vulgate, but one that really engages with his critique seriously in order for a revolution of thought to happen. So we definitely need more Arundhatis, Perry Andersons and Navayanas!...
The Dalit movement has developed a ghettoized culture, and certain stakes in it, precisely because of the historical experience of the harm done by false friends like Gandhi... Nicolas Jauol, Anthropologist
Can someone please tell me what he means by deghettoization? Ambedkar should be taken from the ghettos and should be integrated to mainstream. Seriously? Am i reading it right? Did he actually say that? Well then we will have to go to basics. If your uppercaste eyes see Ambedkar as belonging to a ghetto, his literature being ghettoized then you are the one who should go to the ghetto and learn what he has to say. It is not deghettoization of Ambedkar that is needed, it is your ghettoization. And no, it is not more Arundhatis that we need, it is more Ambedkars. An Ambedkar to every ghetto. You feel the need to deghettoize because you think a ghetto is not a place for intellectual talk to be done. That is your problem and you deal with it. Dalits have better things to do than to spoon-feed you on politics. 

The part where the hollowness of in Roy's arguments became apparent was the exchange she had with Dalit Camera. I found her reply inadequate and unconvincing. You can see the questions here. Her answer can be found here. In it she says,
Have I 'researched' Dalit history? Have I been part of Dalit movements? Do I consider myself an authority on Ambedkar? Do I think Dalit scholars are better placed to write an introduction to Annihilation of Caste? How can any non-Dalit be part of a Dalit movement when you will not even concede that they have the right to engage with Ambedkar? On the subject of my engagement with caste, my past work as well as this introduction may contain the answer. I am not a Dalit, I am not a Hindu, and I am not an authority on Ambedkar, though I have, unlike many people, including many Dalits, taken the trouble to read him
There you have it. However much you try to hide it under to garb of intellectual jargon, in plain english language it peeps out. Every sentence in this reply is an account of how much ingrained is casteism in an individual of india. Writer/activist or not. 'Researched' in quotes. Why? Does she think it is not a valid question? Does she think that it is silly because for a person like her 'research' is not required to write on any topic or does it mean that it is not required to write on Ambedkar? How can any non-Dalit engage with Ambedkar? I just finished reading this collection of criticism on her introduction. I have not seen anybody ever saying that a savarna cannot engage with Ambedkar. It is the appropriation of Ambedkar that is being questioned and it is impossible that someone like Roy who has excellent command over english language can mistake it for anything else. She says that the answer lies in her past work and her introduction. I have not found any testimony of her engagement with caste in her past work. What is she talking about or am i wrong? Is everyone who points this out wrong too? Take a look at this question from Nilesh Kumar
 ...Among the several issues being raised in the protests, an important and crucial one is the non-engagement of the celebrity writer with the anti-caste movement
...During the period when Roy's career as a writer surged ahead, the country witnessed quite a few momentous anti-caste struggles - for example, the protests against the Khairlanji massacre that kept Maharashtra burning in a prolonged battle for justice. This massacre and protests did not happen in some distant past but in 2006, they occurred when Ms Roy was well known as an activist in the global arena. These protests do appear in her introduction to the AoC, but where was the voice of the introducer during these protests?...
Her phenomenal global research was never extended towards any Dalit struggles; no article of her appeared anywhere to show solidarity with the Dalits and draw the world's attention to them. This lack of engagement with anti-caste struggles forms the core of the questions the Dalits wanted to raise. And in response to their critical questions they are being pathologized by the publisher, members of the academia and their friends.
Does she have any answers to this?  
And the most attractive sentence. What arrogance Ms Roy! Unlike many people including Dalits, she says she has 'taken the trouble' to read Ambedkar. Applause. Does she really think she has any right to point fingers at Dalits and what they have read or not read? Does she realize the arrogance and belittling attitude in the sentence of taking the trouble to read Ambedkar? Of course she does. She just didn't think it needed any sugarcoating. The same attitude is repeated in the following portion as well.
You say I patronize Ambedkar? I find that offensive. Why would I spend so much time reading what he wrote, and writing this introduction, just in order to patronize him? 
If she was earnest in her approach she would never have been able to write this way, making it sound as though her reading Ambedkar and studying him was a favour done to Ambedkar. It is, a favour done to herself. And by writing the introduction which also she clearly thinks is a favour from the above quote, she had only proved that her knowledge of Ambedkar is inadequate. So all the 'trouble' she took is in vain. She definitely has to read him again, prepare notes and study him. Not as a favour to Ambedkar or Dalits, as a favour to herself, to rid her of the phantom of caste.
Everything i felt about this has been said effectively in
The Not-So-Intimate Enemy: The Loss and Erasure of the Self Under Casteism
by Gee Imaan Semmalar
If for 80 years, savarna readership has ignored this treatise written against them by the greatest leader of modern India, the first law minister of independent India, the man behind drafting the Constitution, political thinker par excellence, awe inspiring social commentator, passionate learner and teacher of the masses for the sole reason that he was dalit, the loss is theirs. They needn't "take the trouble", like Roy hasm to read him. They also needn't take the trouble to make use of any of their constitutional rights either, since the constitution was also drafted by the same leader whose texts are untouchable to you without savarna mediation.
Really, if Arundhati Roy really thinks she took "the trouble" to read him, I wish she hadn't. She doesn't have the humility, the political sense to realise she has done nobody but herself a favour by reading him. The fact that she arrogantly says she has "taken the trouble" to read him amounts to glorification of her own privilege and is casteist. Though, how much of him she has understood, is unfortunately, questionable. For someone who has such a control over the English language, this is surprising. So it is something else that makes her misquote and isunderstand what Babasaheb has said. She misquotes Dr. Ambedkar who talked about the graded nature of inequality of the caste system, only to erase her own position and give herself legitimacy.  
Hatred in the belly
Joopaka Subhadra 

Felt happy seeing that the title of the book had come from this piece. There is a portion in this one that i have a different opinion about.
She further says, about Gandhi, can we say, only Gujarati banias should write about Gandhi? Gandhi has to be owned by everyone, right? She claims, the Hindu society in India doesn't know how Gandhi suppressed Ambedkar, I am revealing that, as no one else has done it. She says this very proudly. Who does not know this? Everyone knows how Gandhi suppressed Ambedkar. 
This is not true. Yes, i understand the argument. In my opinion, the truth is a little different. How Gandhi suppressed Ambedkar is very clear within the Dalit discourse. Privileged people never knew of it nor try to know of it. Again this is their shortcoming. Arundhati Roy's argument is that she was trying to educate these privileged people on the suppression of Ambedkar by Gandhi. The problem is that introduction to AoC is not where it should have been done. If an author had to do it, it would have been the topic of an essay. The author in question has penned excellent essays on many issues. She did not feel the need to educate the privileged people in any of those. [Even this is upper caste snobbery. To learn Ambedkar you should venture out yourself because it is your need. But the privileged are used to spoon-feeding.] So of Arundhati Roy felt the need to spoon-feed upper caste privileged ignorant people, she should have done it in one of her independent essays and not in an introduction to a seminal work by a Dalit leader.

But i think the befitting reply to Roy's argument is given by Semmalar
She should know better than to ask Dalit Camera what they would do if tomo0rrow Gujarati banias say only they can write about Gandhi. Why would Ambedkarites care if banias write or do not write about Gandhi? What a twisted reversal of the question to make a mockery out of identity politics. It sounds suspiciously like the reverse racism argument made by white people when called out on being racist or occupying space that is not theirs. Why don't we ask this question instead - why didn't you do a comparative analysis between Gandhi and Dr Ambedkar and expose "the saint" in an introduction to Hind Swaraj? Nobody disagrees that it is politically important to expose the misogyny, casteism, racism etc of Gandhi's positions to the world. But that could have been done in so many ways other than angering the very sections you claim to stand in solidarity with. "What if Mahars say that their understanding of Ambedkar is more authentic and more radical than that of other Dalits", she asks. Dalits have read, translated, enacted plays on, sung about and followed Babasaheb Ambedkar's ideals for several decades now, I seriously doubt if tomorrow they would make stupefying, jaw dropping arguments like the one only Roy seems capable of making!
Also by Michael and Pathak here:
Although everybody gets to interpret AoC, only a certain somebody gets the privilege to be heard, as the mass media choose to listen only if the enunciator happens to be a savarna who can dip into her privilege-pickle-bottle network at will. This automatic transition from everybody, who has the 'right' to publish and speak, to a certain somebody, who has the 'wherewithal' to command a premium audience, and rub shoulders with the powers that be, is not incidental.
So it's like this: Arundhati Roy will be heard, always. Dalits have to fight to be heard. Now what arrogance is this to attach one's writing which will anyway be heard to a text which has to be fought to be heard. Further consider it an act of kindness and unabashedly proclaim it. The essence of the Dalit fight is being usurped by somebody who has never had to fight as a Dalit. 

Resisting a messiah
Anoop Kumar

I just said that Arundhati Roy could have spoon-fed the upper caste privileged readers in her independent essays if she wanted to. The shameful fact about this is that it makes it very clear how the upper caste logic is always that it is the world's need to keep them informed about everything even when they are knee deep in information possessed and controlled by them. On top of that the question that 'can only Dalits write about Ambedkar?' is asked. Writing an introduction to Ambedkar's book is not writing about Ambedkar. Look at this portion in which it is explained well.
Closely related to what she [Roy] represents to us is another issue of the whole politics of her introducing Ambedkar's seminal text to the world, to upper castes, to western world as has been continuously professed by her publisher and his friends - both desis and whites- telling me in no uncertain terms that this publication is actually not meant for me, for Dalits, for all those who "know their Ambedkar" but for upper castes who have refused to read him and for western academia who are yet to discover Ambedkar
You (Roy) introducing him will make them all read more about Ambedkar, they say.

And they are accusing me of wrongly calling you a messiah!
Nilesh Kumar further explains how flawed this argument is

Similar to the white people claiming reverse racist discrimination by African Americans, it is a logical fallacy to even think that Dalits can discriminate or can 'stop' any savarnas from writing on Dalits or Ambedkar; being marginalized they can't raise their voice against the dominant on a level platform. Dalits have remained a 'subject' of study or research for savarnas. Dalits don't have the institutional power to oppress them. An individual Dalit abusing a savarna can be wrong because of his personal prejudice, but that cannot be equated to reverse discrimination. Racist and casteist discrimination is enabled by the combination of prejudice and power at all levels. The processes of discrimination are possible only for the privileged and not the underprivileged.
Adding to this, i shall also point out why my argument about writing for uppercaste privileged people is also lame. See here in
Caste in the name of Christ: An angry note on the Syrian Christian Caste
Nidhin Shobhana
the author says,

...Christianity should be seen as a mere influence/variable on the bedrock called caste). 
In Tiru Kochi, until the early decades of the 20th century, if grains and oil were to be brought to a Namboothiri household by the lower castes, it had to travel through Syrian Christian household. The traditional role od purification continues in the case of this introduction. An upper caste audience can consume a self-sufficient radical text only when a Syrian Christian performs the caste ordained purification ritual. Since they have the knowledge of the world of trade, they would even market the text. This process is dangerous.
Arundhati Roy failed to grasp the significance of AoC
Dr K. Satyanarayana

In one of her [Roy's] replies, she says that, "Annihilation of Caste got published in so many newspapers." What has been circulated in many newspapers? Excerpts from the introduction written by you and nothing from  Annihilation of Caste. Not even a single paragraph. Is this not because of the fact that you are a famous writer hailing from a Malayali Syrian Christian background with certain kind of inherited access to privileges? Do you not know that the space that you occupy in the media is not available to any Dalits? While for Dalits their opinions there are only these alternative social media forums as no space is provided to them in the mainstream media platforms.
The other point is that, if today you want to write about Ambedkar then there are already a number of scholars who have researched about him. One could compare with this, say, if today you want to write an anthology of feminist literature, would you go to a prominent male person and ask him to write an anthology for women? If you were to look into the history of Black thought, who would you go to? Would you not be going to a black intellectual? This is such a simple question, yet they do not understand this
In Between Saviour and Seller: Critiquing Preface Politics by
Praveena Thaali are some important comments on this attitude of Roy.
Though Dalits are fully capable of articulating their subjectivity, Arundhati Roy believes 'history has been unkind to Ambedkar and that consequently his books are not shining in the bookshelves unlike Nehru's and Gandhi's. In other words, Arundhati's upper caste motherly sympathy operates to undertake a mission to deliver Ambedkar to the unreached, and to 'fill the gap' or 'bridge the gap'.It is this messiah consciousness (as Anoop Kumar has observed in his essay 'Resisting a Messiah', also featured in this book) thatmade Arundhati Roy take on an hegemonic saviour role whith the mission of introducing AoC and Ambedkar to the Indians 'schooled differently'. However, if she wants to 'de-school' Indians with her non-practicing caste ideology, shouldn't she start with herself?
In A Tale of two Prefaces
Karthick RM
after comparing Sartre's preface to Frantz Fanon's The Wretched of the Earth the author says,
Now let us turn to a book that can rightfully be called a Bible, a manifesto of liberation, for the Dalits and the other oppressed castes in India - Babasaheb Ambedkar's "Annihilation of Caste". Is there any indication anywhere in "Annihilation of Caste" that he wanted a Brahmin publishing house and upper-caste intelligentsia to frame how he should be read? Is there any indication anywhere in any of Ambedkar's works that he wanted upper castes to assist in interpreting him?
...It is as though they are responding "Ooh, we understand and sympathize with your lived experience but we are trying to help you with our knowledge." This seems to be a way of saying: "knowledge still belongs to us, but you guys can only talk from experience." Sorry to disappoint you friends. Ambedkar's critique of caste was not based on lived experiences alone but rather was and is one of the most rigorous theoretical analysis of a social system of oppression that has confounded and condemned the oppressed for millenia. And likewise, the Dalits and lower castes who are "claiming Ambedkar for themselves" are not doing so based on their lived experiences alone, but also because of a thirst for emancipatory knowledge by challenging the epistemological privilege that Brahmins have enjoyed for ages.
A Rescue Project Initiated by the Oppressors
Huma Dar
It [Navayana's decision of Roy's introduction] assumes that there was no better intellectual, with a strong record of engagement, available to write an introduction from amongst the Dalit-Bahujan.
Does Arundhati have any other qualification than her stardom?
Sunny Kapicadu interviewed by Dr. O. K. Santhosh

Sunny Kapicadu says, in this interview,
...One of the shortcomings of Arundhati Roy's introduction is that it is ignorant of the anti-caste crusades that have been initiated by Dalits...In AoC, Ambedkar asks why is it that India's savarnas, or the Brahminical system, instead of confronting caste, are posing obstacles to activities aimed at annihilating caste?
 He says that Roy has not spoken about this aspect at all. Also adds that
...if Arundhati is writing a foreword to a book which deals with issues such as this, we expect new interpretations about caste and observations that matter to the present. However, this foreword does not do that but ends up doing certain other things.
Another important aspect of appropriation is pointed out by Kuffir
...The annotation part is supposedly looked as a harmless aspect of this book, but this is the most dangerous aspect in my view. Because one of the writers, actually a couple of our writers, both non-Dalits - they pointed out that out of the 160 or so bibliographical references in that book, around 150 were non-Dalits, there were only 10 or so Dalits and two or three OBCs, out of which Dr Iliah was one I thimk, and there was G Aloysius also. So this is the most dangerous aspect wherein if you want to know about caste - being from a Dalit or an OBC background - you still have to go back and refer to a Savarna text to learn what caste is about. This is the most dangerous aspect. To know about our lives we have to go back to the brahmin and ask him again, is this our life?
Arguments/ Highlights on annihilation of caste and caste.

This is not Babasaheb's Annihilation of Caste
Suresh Mane

The author quotes Kanshi Ram's speech which was delivered at the first international convention at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. long as caste is beneficial to the upper castes, it will never be annihilated. The day on which caste will become a liability to the upper castes, they will say, hands off, bye bye. And that will be the beginning of caste's annihilation...

 Let it [caste] be proved as a disaster to the protectors and they will say bye bye to caste. Those stages are coming, slowly, it may take time, but annihilation of caste is possible. The only thing is that you shouldn't try to annihilate the very author of AoC instead.
Sunny Kapicadu says,
...Ambedkar concludes that it is quite difficult to eradicate caste. He says that as long as Brahmins maintain their intellectual dominance, these difficulties would not end. He points this as one of the important reasons why caste cannot be eradicated.
Kuffir says,

Caste is the mode of production in India. This is a caste economy. This is a caste society. 90% of Bahujan are even now engaged in under-capitalized, traditional occupations. That is how your food is produced, your sarees and shirts and everything else is produced. Your jewelry is produced by artisans who are dying. Your fish, whatever fancy names you give and order in posh hotels paying 2000 rs for two pieces, is produced by fishermen who are dying, who are being driven out of their homes...
As he [Ambedkar] said there is no difference between a secular/liberal brahmin and a priestly brahmin. They are essentially the same. Because you can't be a liberal and a brahmin. That is an oxymoron
Babasaheb Ambedkar, speech delivered at the Bombay Presidencly Mahar Conference, 31st May 1936.
Why then do the caste Hindus get irritated? The reason for their anger is very simple. Your behaviour with them on a par insults them. Your status is low. You are impure, you must remain at the lowest rung; and then alone they will allow you to live happily. The moment you cross your level, the struggle starts.
So much like patriarchy. 
Praveena Thaali draws parallels between oppression of Dalit women's writing by upper caste women,
We saw a similar process of 'prefacing' at work in the upper caste feminists' collective's introduction to the Intersections of Gender and Caste, the EPW issue (May 2013) on the Review of  Women Studies, featuring the writings of various Dalit women. Similarly they believe that, whatever knowledge is produced by Dalits needs to have a cover, a framework or flavour from the 'authentic' knowledge makers among the upper castes. 
On the greater problem of untouchability she quotes Ambedkar
...a crucial point, which Ambedkar had already raised about those who wish to 'liberate' the untouchables before they liberate themselves:
"It is usual to hear all those who feel moved by the deplorable condition of the Untouchables unburden themselves by uttering the cry "We must do something for the Untouchables". One seldom hears any of the persons interested in the problem saying 'Let us do something to change the Touchable Hindu'. It is invariably assumed that the object to be reclaimed is the Untouchables. If there is to be a Mission it must be to the Untouchables and if the Untouchables can be cured, untouchablility will vanish. Nothing requires to be done to the Touchable. He is sound in mind, manners and morals. He is whole, there is nothing wrong with him. Is this assumption correct? Whether correct or not, the Hindus like to cling to it. The assumption has the supreme merit of satisfying themselves that they are not resposible for the problem of the Untouchables".
She also speaks of one important right of Dalits which nobody considers a right and on the contrary calls an 'overreaction'. I know only of reactions. Yet to understand what an overreaction is. See here. 
Dalits, as a community are being humiliated by the bitterness of casteism and they have the right to be doubtful about the interference of upper caste reformers/liberators in their dscourses, even if the latter have genuine intentions. [Emphasis added by me] Any reformer can be sympathetic to Dalits and even to Ambedkar in order to patronize them. However, the politicized readers know the history of publishing and circulation of Ambedkar's writings and speeches all over India. The book Annihilation of Caste has been read by millions of people without any introduction by any upper caste messiah. Therefore, any reformist manoeuvres, which advocate for the greatness of Ambedkar in the name of charity and loyalty must be condemned
I completely agree with the following observation about privileged caste writers. 
It is unfortunate that people who are privileged by caste never talk about how they are engaged with it from their childhood itself, instead they just want to interpret lowe caste people's experiences to declare their solidarity with them.
A quote:
Do not allow those that have historically oppressed and continue to oppress you today to define your history, reality and interests for you. To say this is not rocket science. Nor is it racist. It is just common sense.
-Runoko Rashidi
It is while reading Michael and Pathak that i was able to put into words something that every one of us should realize, that caste is the capital you are born with. Like how some are born rich and some poor, caste is something you don't acquire, it is that which you inherit. See here:
Caste privilege does not begin at ground zero; neither is it a zero-sum game. As a social capital, it defines a subject's identity at the very moment of her birth--the very act of naming the subject, with various privileged surnames such as Roy, Iyengar, Menon, Cherian, Chacko, Syed, Pathak, Sharma etc., is just a socially visible confirmation of this capital accrued at birth. The communitarian aspect to this understanding of caste means that the subject is not an autonomous individual, but part of a community that is hierarchically up in the order vis-a-vis the castes on the lower rung 
Something which i was not aware of, 
A strong example of such segregation and subsequent usurpation of the capital of lower castes is that of Bharata Natyam. As is known, in its earlier avatar the dance form was known as 'Sadir' or 'Dasiattam', performed by Devadasis, who were lower caste women 'dedicated' to a temple. Subsequently, in the early 20th century, members of the Brahmin varna such as Rukmini Devi Arundale and E. Krishna Iyer became instrumental in 'reviving' and 'purifying' the art, which is now closely identified with Brahmins. Similarly the anti-Brahmin 'Bhakti' movement contributed to the many traditions, including that of keertana, which congealed to form the present-day genre of Carnatic Music. However, Carnatic Music is now emphatically identified with the Brahmins, as if they are the sole heirs and proprietors of the art form. 
One should also remember that all of the musical instruments that constitute the ensemble of a Carnatic music performance are made by the lower castes. Cowhide is a major component of many temple-based musical instruments such as mrudangam, chenda, idayka, pakhawaj, dholak etc., and communities that work with the remains of a dead cow or eat beef are historically considered to be the lowest in the caste hierarchy. Similar is the fate of hundreds of thousands of artisans, craftsmen, and weavers who design and produce Kancheepuram or Pochampalli or Banarasi sarees that adorn savarna bodies, or artists and stone masons who construct the temples populated by the savarna masses. The Bahujans are reduced to types that constitute a menagerie called 'bharat', constructed after the imagination of the 'twice-born'.
Huma Dar says, would make for an amusing exercise to note how frequently this charge of "identity politics" is bandied around by members of the most dominant groups whose privilege resides precisely in being able to remain unmarked by their "identities," if they so wish; whose identities are secure and prioritized; and most importantly, whose power is strong, pervasive, and invisible to themselves. It's like men who whine about not having an "international men's day," or whote folks about not having a "white history month," or "upper-caste" elite Indians who castigate Kashmiris for their 'nationalistic" fervour and call them "intoxicated-by-Azadi," and other such inanities.
For me it is easier to understand when the logic is applied to patriarchy, something which i, as a woman, have to deal with every day. So i have understood that people who say 'why do you want to bring caste into this' are able to say that only because they are privileged. For them caste never mattered because they were not at the receiving end of its oppression. 

Joby Mathew says,

...Interestingly, many of the dominant caste intellectuals refer to 'scavenging' to explain the brutality of caste. Though Roy criticizes Gandhi's concept of the 'ideal Bhangi', she end up underlining the imagery of scavenging. It has been argued thatif any intellectual wants to empathize the pathetic condition of Dalits through these derogatory images, that itself amounts to symbolic violence.
...In reality, comparisons between the contributions of Dalit-subaltern leaders and Gandhi are unnecessary, because the Dalit movement never used Gandhi as a metaphor to read Ambedkar.
In The battle against caste is not just some ideology, it's our existence,
Gaurav Somwanshi
speaks on a very important topic. The author wonders why, books which are read widely by Dalits and are always on demand, are never published by the savarna publishers. The answer he gets is this:
..."Why should they? Aren't you wrong in expecting our liberation to come from them? I'm always surprised when they do publish us. What makes a Dalit publisher a Dalit publisher is not his caste, but the fact that he's in the publishing field to make sure Babasaheb's thoughts and ideas are never lost. That is most crucial. A Dalit publisher is there to ensure that the Dalit voices do get published, irrespective of the market demand. There are also a couple of savarna publishers who do publish some of our work. Butnotice their medthod and motive. They will take only the few big established names from the Dalits, and publish them at high prices and the demand among the Dalits will ensure that their books are bought and their pockets filled, plus they also get to call themselves 'progressives'. But that is not anti-caste struggle."
The author also says that the anti-caste movement 'has always been about preserving them [ideas of Dalits] without loss or distortion.' He quotes Ambedkar "Lost rights are never regained by begging, and by appeals to the conscience of the usurpers, but by relentless struggle." Somwanshi continues in his essay which is one i liked a lot in this collection that,
Today, the savarna world's doors are closed and its shutters down. And if these shutters open at all, they're only open somewhat halfway, so that we Dalits must bend our spine to stoop and enter, because sometimes that's the only way the savarnas will allow us to come in front of them. But as the title of a chapter I learned in school said, 'moden pan vaankar naahi', "we'll break but won't bend".
Disagreements/ Further reading

Suresh Mane says,
Further she says, "Constitution has limitation with respect to revolution." Arre, even the Soviet Union had to make a constitution after their revolution. This is not your area. For this, dedicated scholarship is needed, learning is needed. After reading newspapers, watching television and writing a story while sitting in an airplane, you call it authentic scholarly work? It is foolish. This is a mockery.
I feel the attack is personal. If the statement had to be opposed it could have been but i don't think anybody can comment how a writer had written unless they know it personally. Nobody knows how Roy wrote anything she wrote. I don't think anybody has the right to tell anybody what their area is. Dedicated scholarship and learning are also achievable things by anybody in fact.

Personal Note: Look up this quote for later.
Ambedkar has described Gandhi as not only a saint but as a political saint. The adjective is there. That adjective this lady has cleverly removed. He called him a political saint. The title should have been very clear, The Doctor and the Political Saint. She removes the word political. 
After AoC was published, Gandhi felt bad, and in his Harijan magazine in 1936, he wrote in an issue that 'Ambedkar is not a man who will easily be allowed to be forgotten.' He made this accusation. Ambedkar responded to that. In 1936, Gandhi was an established leader, Babasaheb was not as well established as he was in 1946 or 50 or 55. This was 1936. So the book Annihilation of Caste is not about Gandhi, kindly remove such a view, if held by some youngsters who have not read the original book.
Personal Note: Belonging to the group mentioned in the last line, read up.

Kuffir says,

In the same 2001 interview so ironically titled as 'The Colonization of Knowledge', she [Arundhati Roy] talks about her arrest when she participated in a protest against the Maheswar dam: 'They arrested thousands of people, including me. They dumped me in a private car that belonged to S. Kumars. It was so humiating. The jails were full. Because I was there at that time, there was a lot of press and less violence than usual. But people have captured the Maheshwar dam site so many times before, and it doesn't even make it to the news.'

There have been many translations and reprints of the Annihilation of Caste before, but because she wasn't there, the press didn't notice, probably. It is quite clear she is very aware of her caste capital, about how it makes the state and society treat her different from the hoi polloi.
I felt that this was extrapolation. What i understood from what she wrote about the dam protest was that she was unhappy of her privilege and was using that to point fingers at how media makes invisible people's protests unless there is a popular figure like her over there. Yes, it means that she is aware of her caste capital and how the is treated differently because of it but i don't see how it means that she thinks of it as an achievement. In AoC context may be it is true, her introduction should definitely be subjected to this criticism but does it hold true for all of her political acts? I disagree.

Introducing Arundhati Roy and Friends
Karthik Navayan
People like Arundhati Roy have taken 80 years to read Dr B.R. Ambedkar's Annihilation of caste.  
Guilty here
Read: No Alphabet in Sight: New Dalit Writing from South India, Susie Tharu and K. Satyanarayana
Watch: bandit Queen 

Michael and Pathak says about The God of Small Things,
"He was called Velutha--which means White in Malayalam--because he was so black." His body cosntantly is carved out by the author's exotic gaze: "She knew his back. She'd been carried on it. More times than she could count. It had a light-brown birthmark, shaped like a pointed dry leaf." Or: "As she watched him she understodd the quality of his beauty. How his labour had shaped him. How the wood he fashioned had fashioned him. Each plank he paned, each nail he drove, each thing he made had moulded him."
I will have to confess that it is one of my favourite novels. Now i will re-read it fitting another lens.

Arundhati Roy's inquisition: How she groups Ambedkar with European fascists
Murali Shanmugavelan

...Gail Omvedt's open letter to Arundhati Roy on why the movement's leadership (or representation) was filled with urban elites and there was no top ranking Adivasi leardership
Read this. 
From footnotes:
In the words of Suryakant Waghamore: "The Namantar movement is a critical event in the history of Dalit assertion in Marathwada, and evokes memories of large-scale political violence against Dalits. It refers to the Dalit demand for Namantar of Marathwada University to Dr Ambedkar University. Namatar mobilisation and political violence lasted for fifteen years (1979-1994) costing Dalits, especially the Mahars, loss of lives and property as the upper castes, mostly Marathas, attacked the Dalits in the villages
Read up on this. 
I want to binge read Ambedkar now. Thank you for this book. It has changed my life. 

She Leaves Me. Again

For years I have struggled to explain to her how she hurts me. How I get hurt even when she has no clue that I am getting hurt. She ...