In 1936, a Hindu reformist group invited Dr B.R. Ambedkar to deliver its annual lecture. When the group read an advance copy of the text of the speech, it found the contents “unbearable” and rescinded its invitation. Ambedkar published the text, The Annihilation of Caste, on his own. It offers a scholarly critique of the Vedas and shastras—scriptures the Hindus regard as sacred, scriptures that sanction the world’s most hierarchical and iniquitous social system.
The world’s best known Hindu, Mahatma Gandhi, responded to the provocation. Gandhi believed that only untouchability was to blame and not casteism. Dr. Ambedkar rebuked this vision of Gandhi and explained that unless casteism disappears as a whole there will be no improvement in the state of affairs. The hatchet was never buried.
The Doctor and the Saint, takes us to the beginning of Gandhi’s political career in South Africa, where his views on race, caste and imperialism were shaped. It tracks Ambedkar’s emergence as a major political figure in the national movement, and shows how his scholarship and intelligence illuminated a political struggle beset by sectarianism and obscurantism. Roy breathes new life into Ambedkar’s anticaste utopia, and says that without a Dalit revolution, there cannot be any other in India.