Beef, Brahmins & Broken Men


An Annotated Critical Selection from the Untouchables


Doniger 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 sleuthing 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.

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B. R. Ambedkar

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