Arundhati Roy in book row

Arundhati Roy in book row
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Arundhati Roy in book row, Ambedkar book, Annihilation of Caste, Arundhati Roy. A statement from the venue confirming the cancellation said, “The event was to happen at Lamakaan at 5pm on Sunday.

Cancels visit to city for Ambedkar book launch

Launch of an annotated edition of BR Ambedkar’s ‘Annihilation of Caste’ by Arundhati Roy is embroiled in controversy as the author and social activist cancelled her visit to Lamakaan on Sunday. The critical edition has a 14,000 word introduction penned by Arundhati and dalits have been protesting against it stating that she has diluted Ambedkar’s writing

Close on the heels of the English and Foreign Languages University (EFLU) denying activist and writer Arundhati Roy permission to deliver a lecture at the campus on Monday, the author’s legion of fans received a rude jolt when her Sunday evening programme at Lamakaan too was cancelled, all of a sudden. The programme, an interaction with readers titled ‘The Half-life of a Caste’ with regard to the forthcoming launch of the annotated, critical edition of ‘Annihilation of Caste’, a book by Delhi-based publication house Navayana, was an eagerly awaited one. ‘Annihilation of Caste’ was authored by BR Ambedkar and was first published in 1936. In Arundhati’s introduction to the annotated critical edition, she looks at the ways in which caste plays out in modern India. This introductory note has irked many dalits. The publisher of the book S Anand, who cancelled the programme on Sunday morning, confirmed it when he reached the city and added that the event was ‘postponed’ and was scheduled to be held by this month end, hopefully.

A statement from the venue confirming the cancellation said, “The event was to happen at Lamakaan at 5pm on Sunday. Our apologies to those who were planning to attend. There have been some difficulties in the distribution of the book and it is not yet available. Meanwhile, acrimonious debates have been taking place without many people getting a chance to read it. The launch is therefore postponed till such a time as the book is widely available, and a more informed conversation can take place.”

Intolerance to criticism of traditionally venerated celebrities or religious customs is sharply on the rise. Wendy Doniger’s Hinduism book’s recall by Penguin is a recent example. And now Hyderabad, where the see-saw battle between radical and the fundamental has been ongoing of late, has the nation’s focus, albeit temporarily.

The 14,000 word introduction written by Arundhati titled ‘The Doctor and the Saint’, finds a prominent mention of Mahatma Gandhi along with Ambedkar. This was published in the Caravan Magazine early this month and has not got down too well with the Dalits who claimed that the foreword has needless comparisons to Gandhi.

“With Lamakaan, an open cultural space as the citizens have known it for nearly four years now, seeing a few nasty incidents like this in the recent past, one wonders why fringe elements can get away with their threats every time. A few months ago, the Kashmiri film festival which was scheduled at this location was called off despite police protection because the right-wing elements did not agree to it,” fumed an avid fan of Arundhati Roy.

One of the organisers at Lamakaan denied the brewing controversy as the reason for cancellation of the programme. He said, “The liberal space that Lamakaan has been famed for is because of its continuous endeavour to keep it going as it is deemed to be. There have been plays staged at this venue which takes a tongue-in-cheek stance on religious issues of both the minority and majority communities. On March 13, the day when it completes four years of its existence, the famed play ‘Birjees Qadar Ka Kunba’, a microscopic take on the repressed sexuality in a traditional Muslim household is being staged, a clear indicator of its commitment to maintain the tempo of being open and all-embracing.”

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