To best understand and address the inequality in India today, Arundhati Roy insists we must examine both the political development and influence of M. K. Gandhi and why B. R. Ambedkar’s brilliant challenge to his near-divine status was suppressed by India’s elite. In Roy’s analysis, we see that Ambedkar’s fight for justice was systematically sidelined in favor of policies that reinforced caste, resulting in the current nation of India: independent of British rule, globally powerful, and marked to this day by the caste system.
This book situates Ambedkar’s arguments in their vital historical context— namely, as an extended public political debate with Mohandas Gandhi. “For more than half a century—throughout his adult life—[Gandhi’s] pronouncements on the inherent qualities of black Africans, untouchables and the laboring classes remained consistently insulting,” writes Roy. “His refusal to allow working-class people and untouchables to create their own political organizations and elect their own representatives remained consistent too.”
In The Doctor and the Saint, Roy exposes some uncomfortable, controversial, and even surprising truths about the political thought and career of India’s most famous and most revered figure. In doing so she makes the case for why Ambedkar’s revolutionary intellectual achievements must be resurrected, not only in India but throughout the world.
“The fierceness with which Arundhati Roy loves humanity moves my heart.”
“Arundhati Roy is one of the few great revolutionary intellectuals in our time . . . courageous, visionary and erudite . . . The Doctor and the Saint puts a spotlight on the great B. R. Ambedkar, who is wrongly overshadowed by Gandhi. In short, Roy is a grand figure who challenges us all!"—Cornel West
"If you've ever wanted confirmation that you must never deliberately humiliate or harm anyone, read The Doctor and the Saint: Caste, Race, and Annihilation of Caste: The Debate Between B. R. Ambedkar and M. K. Gandhi, by Arundhati Roy. In this book we learn almost more than we can bear about the miserable treatment in India of the ‘Dalits' or 'those who are broken to pieces.’ We also learn, with pain, that Gandhi, as much as we venerate and are grateful to him for all the social and spiritual illumination he has cast around the world, could never quite speak up decisively on the question of destroying the horrendous system in India that lives on to this day, causing intolerable pain and suffering to people whose only ‘fault' is the caste into which they are born. What we learn also is that there was someone else, during Gandhi's time, someone more sure that the caste system must be completely destroyed, a man, an ‘untouchable' who became a lawyer, who struggled hard for his people and for India, a man most of us never heard of: B. R. Ambedkar. It is this man’s work on which Roy shines a light, reminding us perhaps that behind every ‘great' being we've heard about, there stands another whose work and service to humanity we may never know, until the universe locates a messenger equal to the task of helping us see."