The Booker prize-winning author on her essay The Doctor and the Saint and more: Interview in The Outlook
The Doctor and the Saint, your introduction to this new, annotated edition of Dr Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste, is also a deeply disturbing critique of Gandhi, especially to those of us for whom Gandhi is a loved and revered figure.
Yes, I know. It wasn’t easy to write it either. But in these times, when all of us are groping in the dark, despairing, and unable to understand why things are the way they are, I think revisiting this debate between Gandhi and Ambedkar, however disturbing it may be for some people, however much it disrupts old and settled patterns of thought, will actually, in the end, help illuminate our path. I think Annihilation of Caste is absolutely essential reading. Caste is at the heart of the rot in our society. Quite apart from what it has done to the subordinated castes, it has corroded the moral core of the privileged castes. We need Ambedkar—now, urgently.
Why should Gandhi figure so prominently in a book about Ambedkar? How did that come about?
Ambedkar was Gandhi’s most trenchant critic, not just politically and intellectually, but also morally. And that has just been written out of the mainstream narrative. It’s a travesty. I could not write an introduction to the book without addressing his debate with Gandhi, something which continues to have an immense bearing on us even today.