Tag Archives: caste

Whatever Happened to Struggle Against Untouchability

Untouchability Walls keep rising and falling in Tamil Nadu.

Whatever Happened to Struggle

BR Ambedkar wrote in Annihilation of Caste that “…the world owes much to rebels who would dare to argue in the face of the pontiff and insist that he is not infallible. I do not care about the credit which every progressive society must give to its rebels. I shall be satisfied if I make the Hindus realize that they are the sick men of India, and that their sickness is causing danger to the health and happiness of other Indians.”

In 2008, Uthapuram, a village in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, had made national headlines. It was the year when the Karunanidhi-led DMK state government had taken the initiative to demolish a portion of a thirty-metre wall that had been raised by the dominant Pillaimar community, an OBC caste which had wanted to keep residents of the Devandra Kula Vellalar community, which falls under the Scheduled Caste category, out of the Mariamman temple.

Built in 1989, this wall had become a symbol of segregation based on caste and organisations like Tamil Nadu Anti Untouchability Front, along with other groups and individuals had been conducting agitations to end this discrimination. Finally, the DMK government was forced to take action.

This was perhaps the first time that the rest of India came to know about the prevalence of this pernicious practice in Tamil Nadu. The demolition of the wall was projected as a significant step to move towards caste annihilation.

The recent death of 17 dalits in Mettupalayam wall collapse, in which members of the arunthathiyar dalit caste lost their lives is a reminder of how our celebrations were premature. And that when it comes to caste and its attendant exclusions and discriminations, India still has miles to go.

(Read the full article here https://www.newsclick.in/Whatever-Happened-Struggle-Against-Untouchability)

Cyclone Fani: Prejudice in Times of Natural Disasters

Caste discrimination, even while faced with a calamity, is a clear outcome of the brahminical ideology of purity and pollution that has permeated deep into Indian society.

Cyclone Fani: Prejudice in Times of Natural Disasters

Image Courtesy: Al Jazeera

“[U]ntouchability, is a kind of disease of the Hindus…it is a mental twist…. I do not know how my friend is going to untwist the twist which the Hindus have got for thousands of years unless they are all sent to some kind of hospital.’ Dr B.R.Ambedkar , 1954

Cyclone Fani is over.

Despite being one of the strongest cyclones to hit India in last two decades the manner in which the state most affected by it — Odisha — was successful in keeping loss of life and numbers of affected people to a minimum has earned it kudos even from its critics.

People are slowly trying to pick up threads to restart their lives

It is rather difficult to say whether it will be easy for dalit villagers of Baripada village — part of Patali panchayat — to do so, who had to endure callous and inhuman behaviour from their own village brethren, during the stormy winds. Around 85 of them from 25 families were denied entry to three shelters located within a radius of approximately four km by ‘upper caste’ people. Nandini (name changed) belonging to the Dom caste narrated how they had to ultimately take shelter beside an uprooted banyan tree, while it was raining heavily.

( Read the full text here : https://www.newsclick.in/cyclone-fani-prejudice-times-natural-disasters)

Nehru, Ambedkar and Challenge of Majoritarianism

Image result for nehru ambedkar

( 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.

Introduction

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

[Watch] Marching with the Bhim Army!

 

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/

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.

 

How to be free of Caste – Guest Post by Suhas Borker

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)