( Photo courtesy : The hoot)
(To be published in the special issue of ‘Janata’)
The spectacle of what is called religion, or at any rate organised religion, in India and elsewhere, has filled me with horror and I have frequently condemned it and wished to make a clean sweep of it. Almost always it seemed to stand for blind belief and reaction, dogma and bigotry, superstition, exploitation and the preservation of vested interests.
– Toward Freedom: The Autobiography of Jawaharlal Nehru (1936), pp. 240–241.
If Hindu Raj does become a fact, it will no doubt, be the greatest calamity for this country. No matter what the Hindus say, Hinduism is a menace to liberty, equality and fraternity. On that account it is incompatible with democracy. Hindu Raj must be prevented at any cost.
– Ambedkar, ‘Pakistan or Partition of India’, p. 358.
India’s slow ushering into a majoritarian democracy is a matter of concern for every such individual who still believes in pluralism, democracy, equality and a clear separation of religion and politics. The way people are being hounded for raising dissenting opinions, for eating food of their choice or entering into relationships of their own liking or celebrating festivals according to their own faith is unprecedented. The situation has reached such extremes that one can even be publicly lynched for belonging to one of the minority religions or for engaging in an activity which is considered to be ‘suspicious’ by the majority community.
No doubt there is no direct harm to the basic structure of the Constitution, its formal structure remains intact, de jure India does remain a democracy as well as a republic, but de facto democracy has slowly metamorphosed into majoritarianism and the sine qua non of a republic—that its citizens are supreme—is being watered down fast. It does not need underlining that this process has received tremendous boost with the ascent of Hindutva supremacist forces at the centrestage of Indian politics. Continue reading Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism
This October, a colleague and I tracked a group of young Dalits fighting caste atrocities in Uttar Pradesh. The documentary posted above is one part of an extended multimedia project. See the entire project here: https://www.thequint.com/quintlab/ambedkar-dalit-army-fights-caste-atrocities-in-uttar-pradesh/
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
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.
Guest Post by Suhas Borker
This year, India has sponsored the observation of the birth anniversary of Babasaheb Ambedkar at the United Nations for the first time. The Permanent Mission of India to the UN shall commemorate the 125th birth anniversary of the Dalit icon on April 13 at the UN headquarters, a day before his date of birth, with an international seminar on ‘Combating inequalities to achieve Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)’. A note circulated by the Indian mission says that the “national icon” remains an inspiration for millions of Indians and proponents of equality and social justice across the globe. “Fittingly, although it’s a matter of coincidence, one can see the trace of Babasaheb’s radiant vision in the SDGs adopted by the UN General Assembly to eliminate poverty, hunger and socio-economic inequality by 2030.”
Juxtapose this with a recent report on caste-based discrimination by the United Nations Human Right Council’s Special Rapporteur for minority issues that has stung the Indian government, provoking it to raise questions about the lack of “seriousness of work” in the UN body and the special rapporteur’s mandate. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution, would definitely not be pleased. Nor are the Dalit rights activists in India and abroad.
( Read the rest of the piece here : http://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/how-to-be-free-of-caste-in-india/article8467518.ece?homepage=true)
Guest Post by Anonymous
A senior leader of India’s leading IT Services Company took a moment on March 8th to send a note to his colleagues wishing them on International Women’s Day. In the mailer, he also exhorted his colleagues, among other things, to strive towards building an environment that appreciates variety. The variety of Race, Ethnicity, Gender or Generation! He did not stop there, but went on to talk about drawing strength from these differences. Caste, quite evidently, is conspicuous by its absence in the corporate discourse on diversity (or variety as they also like to call it).
What is it that makes Corporate India, or a part of it, sensitive towards race issues/matters on one hand but allows them ignore caste on the other? Is it reflective of what a social activist friend once mentioned to me in a private conversation – Caste is only visible from “down below” and not “up above”? Continue reading Appreciating Diversity, Corporate Style – Guest Post by Anonymous