Beef, Brahmins and Broken Men
Author: B. R. Ambedkar
Introdution by Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd
Edited by Alex George, S. Anand
9788194447191 | PB | pp. 424 | 2020 | Navayana
Beef, Brahmins & Broken Men is an annotated, critical selection from Ambedkar’s much-neglected 1948 work, The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchables?.
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Why are those who consume beef reviled as Untouchables? The trace of this animus lies in the post–sixth century CE creation of distinctions between beef-eating Untouchables, meat-eating non-Brahmins and the mostly vegetarian Brahmins. To unearth this lost history, Dr B.R. Ambedkar undertakes a forensic examination of a wide range of Brahmanic literature. He exposes how the cow-loving Brahmin, for whom ‘every day was a beef-steak day’ in the Vedic period becomes a vegetarian, while the Buddhists who remained beef-eaters become Untouchable and are fenced out of society. At once partisan and dispassionate, militant and meticulous, Ambedkar reveals how some histories are brutalised by time and made to disappear.
First published in 1948, The Untouchables: Who Were They and Why They Became Untouchables?, in Ambedkar’s words is ‘a work of art even more than of history’. This extensively annotated selection, Beef, Brahmins and Broken Men, furthers his sleuthish search. Every source is examined, every thought unpacked, every knot untied. In a bracing introduction, Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd argues how the right to eat beef is the right to equality, it is the right to life.
B. R. Ambedkar
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About the Contributors
The author (1891–1956) was a radical thinker, statesman, lawyer, editor of newspapers and many books, economist, jurist, philosopher, and founder of a school of Buddhism. Born into an ‘Untouchable’ Mahar family in Mhow in present-day Madhya Pradesh, he waged a relentless, lifelong struggle for the rights of Dalits. Having earned doctorates from both Columbia University and the London School of Economics, he went on to serve as Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Indian Constitution. He converted to Buddhism along with half a million followers a few months before his death in 1956.
Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd is a political thinker best known for Why I Am Not a Hindu: A Sudra Critique of Hindutva Philosophy, Culture and Political Economy and Post-Hindu India: A Discourse in Dalit-Bahujan, Socio-Spiritual and Scientific Revolution.
Alex George, a philosophy graduate from Birkbeck College, London, is an editor with Navayana.
S. Anand is the publisher of Navayana. He is the co-author of Bhimayana, and has annotated the critical editions of B.R. Ambedkar’s Annihilation of Caste and Riddles in Hinduism.
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