07 May, 2021

The Lies Of Manu

As one who can look into the seeds of time, and say which grain will grow and which will not, a young Ambedkar formulates his ahimsa of inclusion.

Illustration by Sorit
The Lies Of Manu

Hinduism haunts Ambedkar ceaselessly. He confesses to having experienced that uncanny feeling one gets when ghosts exercise their force on the living. Still in his mid-twenties, the prodigious Ambedkar writes of being troubled by the ghost of Manu, that mystical jurist of the Hindu tradition, whose classic work Manusmriti he will publicly burn in 1927. Of course, this sacrificial gesture of destruction by fire (yajna)—whose name by now is “satyagraha” and of which Ambedkar is a temporary adherent—is itself unequivocally Hindu, perhaps even Vedic. It is almost prophetic that the young Ambedkar should write in New York in 1916, more than a decade in advance, “I may seem hard on Manu, but I am sure my force is not strong enough to kill his ghost. He lives, like a disembodied spirit and is appealed to, and I am afraid will yet live long.”

So, force, whether of religion or the law, is a living apparition. What stands out however is Ambedkar’s awareness of that religious phantasm that goes by the name...

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