ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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All the World's a Half-Built Dam

A response to Rajmohan Gandhi's "Independence and Social Justice: The Ambedkar-Gandhi Debate" (EPW, 11 April 2015).

It has taken me a while to respond to Rajmohan Gandhi’s long critique1 of “The Doctor and the Saint.”2 I thought at first that a close reading of my essay would contain the answers to the questions he raised. I was not exactly ecstatic about writing what would need to be a long response in which for the most part I would, most embarrassingly, have to cite myself. Truth be told, I was pleased that Rajmohan Gandhi wrote what he did, because it confirms my view that in order to present an apposite account of the complicated intellectual and political battle that B R Ambedkar waged in his time, as well as to understand caste politics in India today, we need to take a careful look at the part M K Gandhi played in it. Given Gandhi’s iconic status this is not something that can be done lightly.

The choice before me was to either leave Gandhi out completely, or to address the issue with the rigour it deserves. As a result, even though “The Doctor and the Saint” is an introduction to Ambedkar’s classic text Annihilation of Caste, Gandhi occupies an inordinate amount of space. For this I have been trenchantly—and in some ways understandably—criticised. Had I left Gandhi out of it, my guess is that I would have been mercilessly vilified by some of those same critics, and justifiably so.

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