More than 206 million people in India were born untouchable, with 500 million more belonging to low castes that are also oppressed under the caste system. Caste is neither simply a bad idea nor an irrelevant remnant of ancient times. It has roots in the economic structure of contemporary India. I will be discussing caste—a central question for the Indian left—in light of my experience as an untouchable from the state of Andhra Pradesh and one-time activist for the Radical Students’ Union, as well as the research I conducted for my book about my family history, Ants Among Elephants.
Sujatha Gidla is the author of Ants Among Elephants: An Untouchable Family and the Making of Modern India (2017), a widely praised memoir of her extended family. Ants Among Elephants was listed in the Top 10 Nonfiction Books of 2017 selected by the Wall Street Journal. Her writing has appeared in the Oxford India Anthology of Telugu Dalit Writing (2016). Sujatha Gidla earned an MSc in Physics at the Regional Engineering College, Warangal, India, and worked as a researcher in the Department of Applied Physics at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras.