A series of misleading author listings for B.R. Ambedkar’s seminal text The Annihilation of Caste on web portals has generated a lot of flak against writer and columnist Arundhati Roy and publisher S. Anand.
The webpage of VersoBooks.com, a U.K.-based publisher of the book advertised it as Annihilation of Caste: The Annotated Critical Edition by B.R. Ambedkar and Arundhati Roy.
The listing on Amazon.co.uk made no mention of the annotated version and simply announced the title as: The Annihilation of Caste (Hardcover – October 7, 2014) by Arundhati Roy (author), B.R. Ambedkar (author).
A similar version also appeared on the popular online shopping portal Home Shop 18. Not only did the site misrepresent the author, but a brief description of the book in its overview section said, “About the Author – Arundhati Roy’s books include, most recently, Listening to Grasshoppers .”
The Ahmedabad-based website Infibeam went a step further. Its listing made no mention of Dr. Ambedkar and mentioned Ms. Roy as the author with the original title, without even mentioning the annotated version.
Ms. Roy has written an introduction to the annotated version of the original 1936 text published by the Indian publishing house Navayana. The publisher has sold the publishing rights to Verso.
Ironically, the publisher’s website itself listed Ms. Roy as the co-author, without making any distinction between the author and the introducer.
A section of the online community cried foul over this misleading attribution of authorship to Ms. Roy, accusing her and the publisher of serious copyright violation and plagiarism.
“Arundhati Roy suddenly becoming co-author of AoC…What is colonization of Ambedkar? The process of appropriation through which the ‘introducer’ of Dalit writing becomes the primary author, for instance,” wrote Kuffir Nalgundwar (nom de plume), contributing editor on Round Table India, a platform for Dalit-Bahujan issues, who first posted these listings on Facebook.
When The Hindu reached Verso for a clarification by phone, it acknowledged the listing as a “mistake” and assured that it would be corrected on all websites, where the book was advertised.
In an email reply, Leo Hollis, editor at the Verso London office said, “These errors have resulted from a computer feed from our system to the U.S. Amazon information system. I fear that Amazon has inconsistencies which we will aim to rectify in the next 24 hours. We are publishing the Navayana edition of Annihilation of Caste by Ambedkar with an introduction from Roy. We have also acknowledged Mr. Anand as the editor. This is how the project was presented to us by Navayana and how we plan to proceed.”
Publisher Anand termed the listing “technical errors.” He said he was writing to the websites for correction.
“It’s a sensitive issue because factually it is wrong. In the book, the hierarchy has been maintained as to who is the author and the introducer,” he told The Hindu . Verso, Amazon and Infibeam have rectified their listings.
Mr. Nalgundwar, however, did not buy the argument. “How can this so-called error be on multiple websites? Even Mr. Anand’s website carries the same thing. The negligence is deliberate. The Annihilation of Caste is a major text of the oppressed classes, which provides substance to their politics.”