Beef, Brahmins, and Broken Men: An Annotated Critical Selection from The Untouchables

December 8, 2020
Beef, Brahmins, and Broken Men: An Annotated Critical Selection from The Untouchables

One of twentieth-century India's great polymaths, statesmen, andmilitant philosophers of equality, B. R. Ambedkar spent his lifebattling Untouchability and instigating the end of the castesystem. In his 1948 book The Untouchables, he sought totrace the origin of Untouchability. Beef, Brahmins, and BrokenMen is an annotated selection from this work, produced in atime when the oppression of and discrimination against Dalitsremains pervasive.Ambedkar offers a deductive, and at times a speculative, historyto propose a genealogy of Untouchability. He contends thatmodern-day Dalits are descendants of those Buddhists who werefenced out of caste society and rendered Untouchable by a resurgentBrahminism since the fourth century BCE. The Brahmins, whose Vediccult originally involved the sacrifice of cows, adapted Buddhistahimsa and vegetarianism to stigmatize outcaste Buddhists who wereconsumers of beef. The outcastes were soon relegated to thelowliest of occupations and prohibited from participation in civiclife. To unearth this lost history, Ambedkar undertakes a forensicexamination of a wide range of Brahminic literature. Heavilyannotated with an emphasis on putting Ambedkar and recentscholarship into conversation, Beef, Brahmins, and BrokenMen assumes urgency as India witnesses unprecedented violenceagainst Dalits and Muslims in the name of cow protection.