Ambedkar and the Environmental Tradition

The 125th birth anniversary of Ambedkar was celebrated in April 2016 all around, so much so that the United Nations, for the first time, observed this day with a focus on achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As we know, the 17 goals along with 169 targets and 304 indicators, adopted in September 2015, aspire to transform our world by balancing the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic, social and environmental. The ‘plan of action for people, planet and prosperity’ has environment at its core, along with poverty and inequality: to ‘protect planet’, create ‘healthy environment’, and ensure equality, dignity and development ‘in harmony with nature’. And Ambedkar is found in this regard to be an apt and inspiring leader.

The world can see traces of Ambedkar’s vision in the SDGs and can find his views relevant for environmental sustainability, but not the Indian environmentalists! Indian environmental movements marginalize Ambedkar. From a historical past, environmental scholars have placed Gandhi at the apex of their inspiration. Recently, Nehru and Indira Gandhi too have been constructed through an ecological lens. However, Ambedkar’s engagement with the environmental question has been relatively unexplored, even when his thoughts and interventions on nature, village, land, agriculture, water, community, industry, technology and science are some of the enduring issues of India’s environmental and political traditions. In comparison with Gandhi, credited with having an intuitive critique of modern civilization, Ambedkar has often been criticized for his modernization vision, which it is argued, drew heavily on the west for inspiration (Nagaraj 2010: 56-7)

Continue reading “Ambedkar and the Environmental Tradition”

[Audio: Hindi] Prashant Jha on Upper Caste Madhesis taking the Sorry Pledge

In the second instance of what I hope will become a regular feature on Kafila, I caught up with fellow journalist and Kafila contributor Prashant Jha on the We Are Sorry Campaign for Social Reform in Madhes , where upper-caste Nepali Hindus acknowledge they have benefited from the centuries long oppression of pretty much everyone else.

In our conversation Prashant addresses the substantive and well-founded criticism of the pledge [another example of upper-castes setting the terms of debate and discourse, largely symbolic] as well as broader questions of Nepali politics and nation-hood.

He will respond to comments on this site. Let me know if there are any particular themes you would like us to explore in our new audio work. All audio files in this series are freely downloadable, and shareable – so you can download them to your phone and listen on your commute to where ever.

 

Ambedkar Cannot be Adopted or Appropriated by Hindutva: K Satyanarayana

Transcript and translation of lecture  by Prof. K.SATYANARAYANA, speaking at the launch of book, Ambedkar Can Neither Be Adopted Nor Appropriated by The Hindutva Elements. The book, authored by Bojja Tharakkam, K. Satyanarayana, K. Laxminarayana and K. Y. Ratnam. It was launched in Hyderabad in July last year and is a reply to RSS’ Organiser special edition on Ambedkar. The text and video of the original Telugu lecture received by us via DALIT CAMERA.

All the friends who gave me this opportunity, to the many Ambedkarites present in this hall and to the very senior members, activists and intellectuals, I thank you all. After Anand Teltumbde has spoken, there isn’t much left to speak because he covered all the information in this book and also described completely about a lot of aspects about Maharashtra, about Ambedkar’s like and his work. Therefore there might not be much new information in my speech, but while writing this book, the distortions they made, or the attempts of RSS in relation to Ambedkar, as there is a need for historical context, I will speak about some of those issues. Firstly what Respected Mr. Tarakam has said is, to read some of the names of essays in the Organiser as the book is not available to everybody. When this book Organiser came out, generally RSS-BJP, when they talk about Ambedkar or about Babri-masjid, what we think is that they speak lies, false words, and mistruths and therefore there isn’t any danger as nobody will believe in their load of rubbish and lies. We think that way and if people understand the lies and if they don’t follow those words, there is no danger, but with this same type of propaganda, they completely changed the normal common-sense of the people and today Modi, as a K.D (drawn from an old colonial police/ legal category, it has become a Telugu expression that suggests a person with undesirable traits), as our brother has sung, is sitting in power.

Continue reading “Ambedkar Cannot be Adopted or Appropriated by Hindutva: K Satyanarayana”

‘Swacch Bharat Abhiyan invisibilises the linkage of Caste and Sanitation and glamourises broom among Scavenging Communities’ – Bezwada Wilson

In Conversation with Bezwada Wilson, National Convener of Safai Karmachari Andolan

The 125 day Bhim Yatra which started from Dibrugarh and traveresed 30 states and 500 districts to reach Delhi is now over.  As everybody knows it culminated in a big rally coupled with people’s hearing where families of those victims who died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks shared their plight at the hands of state as well as civil society. The call of this Bhim Yatra raised by Safai Karmacharis – ‘Stop Killing Us’ – would could keep reverberating for quite some time. (https://kafila.org/2016/04/14/bhim-yatra-so-that-there-are-no-more-killings/)

Here follows an interview with Bezwada Wilson, National Convener of Safai Karmachari Andolan

 How do you see the impact of  ‘Bhim Yatra’ ?

As far as those people who are still condemned to do scavenging is concerned, the 125 day Bhim Yatra has made two significant impacts :

– It has made people aware that a new act (2013 act) has come into existence for elimination of manual scavenging and they should make use of it for their liberation.

– Second significant impact is that people are realising that we should not do this work, we should leave this work altogether. Babasaheb’s teachings that depressed classes should leave all such professions which are stigmatised and which further help stigmatise them has reached broader cross sections of people engaged in cleaning and scavenging. The slogan ‘ Leave the Broom, Take the Pen’ is slowly reverberating across people especially the younger ones. Continue reading “‘Swacch Bharat Abhiyan invisibilises the linkage of Caste and Sanitation and glamourises broom among Scavenging Communities’ – Bezwada Wilson”

Bhim Yatra .. so that there are no more killings

Protestors set fire to containers representing septic tanks cleaning which manual scavengers have and continue to lose their lives even today ( Photo Courtesy : http://www.youthkiawaaz.com)

Rarely does Jantar-Mantar, the place in the heart of Delhi, gets ‘enlivened’ with people who share very similar type of tragedy – one should say man made tragedy.The culmination of 125 day Bhim Yatra – led by Safai Karmchari Aandolan – which had started from Dibrugarh in the North East on 10 th December and had traversed around 500 districts and 30 states, proved to be one such occasion. (13 th April 2016)

The big public meeting organised at Jantar Mantar, attended by hundreds of safai karmcharis from different parts of the country and many individuals, activists who are sympathetic to their cause, was just another way to celebrate Dr Ambedkar’s 125 th birth anniversary, a day earlier. Special focus of the Yatra was on deaths in sewers and septic tanks and the key slogan was ‘Stop Killing us in Dry Latrines, Sewers and Septic tanks’. In fact, most of the people who were sitting on the podium belonged to such families only, who had lost their near-dear ones in cleaning sewer or septic tanks. Continue reading “Bhim Yatra .. so that there are no more killings”

Insurgent Ambedkar and a New Moment in Politics

Both the Hyderabad Central University (HCU) and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) events were “ultra-Left movements” also involving a small section of “jihadis”, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley contended on Sunday.

In the case of JNU, the predominant section of those involved in the agitation was “ultra-Left” barring a small section of “jihadis”, who had their faces masked during a demonstration on the campus on February 9 in which anti-national slogans were raised, Mr. Jaitley said.

The name of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar was “unfairly used” in the case of HCU, where protests erupted after the suicide by research scholar Rohith Vemula, he told PTI. (emphasis added. See full report in The Hindu here)

 

Ambedkar at the barricades, Express photo, courtesy Tashi Tobgyal
Ambedkar at the barricades, Express photo, courtesy Tashi Tobgyal

Ambedkar has become an insurgent figure today, breaking out of all the pre-set molds in which he was sought to be confined all these decades. He is no longer neither a mere Dalit leader, nor is he simply the Constitution-maker and constitutionalist who taught us to have faith in the law – the two comfortable and domesticated roles in which he has been presented to us so far by all interested parties and the powers-that-be. In the face of the new Sanghist/ fascist assault, he has broken his chains to come out on the streets, as universities and colleges across the country begin to reverberate with his spirit of rebellion. Ambedkar, the name and the face, is ubiquitous by his presence in all the struggles that mark this moment. Even as the struggle of the HCU students for justice for Rohith Vemula continues and the news of the first victory – their release on bail – trickles in, the figure of Ambedkar at the barricades gives the lie to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s claim above: that HCU and JNU movements were ‘ultra-Left movements’ and ‘jihadis’, and that “the name of Dr Ambedkar was ‘unfairly used’ in the case of HCU. How easy it would be, Mr Jaitley, to thus pronounce the dog mad and go about your business, and how embarrassing to have to confront Ambedkar facing your police and lathis, your courts and prisons. Continue reading “Insurgent Ambedkar and a New Moment in Politics”