The recently activated Section 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act 2010 prohibits caste discrimination in the UK, where B R Ambedkar, an icon of the anti-caste struggle, spent formative years as a student at the London School of Economics between 1916 and 1923.
Photo: flickr / liits
The recently activated Section 9(5)(a) of the Equality Act 2010 prohibits caste discrimination in the UK, where B R Ambedkar, an icon of the anti-caste struggle, spent formative years as a student at the London School of Economics between 1916 and 1923. Photo: flickr / liits

Equalisation to annihilation-and beyond

A further fragmentation of caste identities would rule out the possibility of solidarity across oppressed castes.

Caste is not a physical object like a wall of bricks or a line of barbed wire which prevents the Hindus from commingling and which has, therefore, to be pulled down. Caste is a notion, it is a state of the mind. The destruction of Caste does not therefore mean the destruction of a physical barrier. It means a notional change.
B R Ambedkar

B R Ambedkar was at his lacerating best in 1936. That was a time when, in Lahore, a breakaway faction of the reformist Arya Samaj, known as the Jat-Pat Todak Mandal (Forum for the Annihilation of Caste), advocated inter-dining and intermarriage as measures to destroy caste. Membership, on paying two rupees as annual subscription, was meant for "Hindus" who took "a vow to marry himself or his sons and daughters out of his caste". The radical bluster of this forum, led by savarna, upper-caste Hindus, stood exposed when they refused to let Ambedkar express his views, despite having invited him to deliver the presidential address of the Mandal's annual conference in May 1936. In his undelivered speech, entitled Annihilation of Caste, Ambedkar argued, "Hindus observe caste not because they are inhuman or wrong-headed. They observe caste because they are deeply religious." This train of logic made him tell the Jat-Pat Todak Mandal, "The enemy you must grapple with is not the people who observe caste, but the Shastras which teach them this religion of caste." On reading Annihilation of Caste, 'Mahatma' Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi made a forceful defence of the fourfold chaturvarnya system.

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