Tag Archives: Dalit

Intimations of a Bahujan Counter-Tradition and the Hindu Right

This post should be read as a sequel to my earlier post of 16 July, which had discussed the discourse of “Hindu Unity” and questions  before the struggle against the Right. That post had ended with the claim that the struggle against the Hindu Right is not so much about what we understand as “secularism” as it is about the reconstruction of a larger  Bahujan counter-tradition, the search for which was  already on.

Cover of book Mahishasur – Mithak va Paramaprayen [Myths and Traditions],ed. Pramod Ranjan
I should begin with a caveat, or more correctly, an amendment to a position I adopted in the earlier post. In that piece, I had used the terms “anti-majoritarian” discourse and “anti-majoritarianism” to refer to the the larger discursive formation against the Hindu Right. I used that expression largely because I went along part of the way with Abhay Dubey who uses it in his book, to which that piece was a response. However, that expression assumes that there is only one “majority”  or only one way of imagining majority in this country. More importantly, it concedes a certain “natural pre-givenness” to the project of Hindu unity as though that were a self-evident fact. The only thing that makes the project of Hindu unity appear so “natural”, it needs to be underlined, is that it is backed by “tradition” and “religion” in a way that say a class notion of majority is not. If we assume that the dominant tradition is the sole tradition, then this term could make sense but as the  stirrings of a renewed search for a Bahujan counter-tradition, especially in North India, come into view, it gives us a sense of another possible way of imagining “majority”.  It should be underlined here that this renewed search today does not emerge out of the blue from nowhere but draws on the work of earlier medieval thinkers and social/ religious reformers not just in the North (for instance Kabir, Ravi Das and Nanak) but also from Phule, Ayyankali, Sri Narayana Guru, Periyar, Iyothee Thass and many others in the South in more recent times. There is one difference however: rather than use the negative descriptor “Non-Brahmin”, the present search is more explicitly about the production of a Bahujan identity. Ambedkar of course, remains a continuous reference point in this discourse.

Continue reading Intimations of a Bahujan Counter-Tradition and the Hindu Right

Celebrating Dalit Achievements: C. K. Raju

Guest post by C.K. RAJU

It was B. R. Ambedkar who first publicised the 22 Mahar names inscribed on the pillar commemorating the battle of Bhima-Koregaon.  Ambedkar, a Mahar himself, had experienced great indignities, and everyone appreciates his quest for a symbol of dalit achievement. Much has been written since on Bhima-Koregaon, but one question has not been asked:  is there really such a paucity of symbols of dalit achievement?

Not actually. There is no dearth of dalit and ‘lower caste’ achievers. Sages from such backgrounds range from Valmiki, author of the Ramayana, to Tukaram, Kabir, and Sri Narayana Guru. Dalit warriors and kings range from the Nanda dynasty, mere reports of whose mighty army so frightened Alexander’s troops (according to Plutarch), to the Chalukyas (who were dalits according to Bilhan), the Bhils, the Gonds, and to Udham Singh who avenged Jallianwallah Bagh.

Continue reading Celebrating Dalit Achievements: C. K. Raju

ज़ुबां पर आंबेडकर, दिल में मनु

PTI4_2_2018_000239B

एससी/एसटी एक्ट को कमज़ोर करने के ख़िलाफ़ बुलाए गए भारत बंद का दृश्य. (फोटो: पीटीआई)

 

2 अप्रैल का ऐतिहासिक भारत बंद लंबे समय तक याद किया जाएगा. जब बिना किसी बड़ी पार्टी के आह्वान के लाखों लाख दलित एवं वंचित भारत की सड़कों पर उतरें और उन्होंने अपने संघर्ष एवं अपने जज्बे से एक नई नजीर कायम की.

आजादी के सत्तर सालों में यह पहला मौका था कि किसी अदालती आदेश ने ऐसी व्यापक प्रतिक्रिया को जन्म दिया था. ध्यान रहे कि इस आंदोलन के दौरान हिंसा हुई और चंद निरपराधों की जानें गईं, उसे कहीं से भी उचित नहीं कहा जा सकता!

मगर क्या इसी वजह से व्यापक जनाक्रोश की इस अभिव्यक्ति ने उजागर किए सवालों की अहमियत कम हो जाती है? निश्चित ही नहीं!

वैसे इन तथ्यों की पड़ताल करना भी समीचीन होगा कि (जैसा कि कई स्वतंत्र विश्लेषणों में स्पष्ट किया गया है) कई स्थानों पर इस हिंसा के पीछे दक्षिणपंथी संगठनों एवं उनके कारिंदों का हाथ था, जो दलित उभार को कुचलना चाहते थे तथा साथ ही साथ उसे बदनाम करना चाहते थे. ( Click here for the full article :http://thewirehindi.com/39182/sc-st-act-dalit-agitation-narendra-modi-government/)

 

Against the De-politicization of Mental Health- Harassment is Not a Myth: Simple Rajrah

Guest post by SIMPLE RAJRAH

This article is written in response to the article Activism as a blue whale challenge by Manu Joseph that first appeared in Livemint.

“Our love is constructed. Our beliefs colored. Our originality valid through artificial art. It has become truly difficult to love without getting hurt”

Dalit Scholar Rohith Vemula, who was institutionally murdered.

Often academic interests die a quiet death due to crassly political reasons but they die yet again, due to non-recognition and to their relentless reduction to the apolitical. Much as there must be emphasis on seeking solutions to the troubles that humanity is facing, it cannot be ignored that reducing the ‘root’ cause of everything to the realm of ‘apolitical’ can be academically simplistic and politically dangerous.  And why must there be an obsession with relegating everything to the ‘apolitical’ domain? Why do journalists who continually work within political systems still consider depression to be something external to the sphere of politics? Why must there be academicians who discount historicity and complexity by equating violence with counter violence? And why, similarly, must there be politicians who condemn violence on ‘both sides’? Because, even a simple reading of the political should reveal its association with power, challenge its centralization, and more importantly the show up the invisibilization that generates hegemony.

Continue reading Against the De-politicization of Mental Health- Harassment is Not a Myth: Simple Rajrah

Indian State, Society and ‘Public’ Through the Lens of Panchkula Killings : Sanjay Kumar

Guest Post by Sanjay Kumar

Nearly forty people were killed last Friday (25th August) during public disturbances at Panchkula in Haryana after the CBI court verdict in the rape case of Gurmeet Ram-Rahim. Surprisingly, even though these people died in public, till Tuesday, little information was available on how were they killed. The burning, arson and assault by followers of Ram-Rahim hogged the attention of media, state administration and judiciary. Yet, a deafening silence reined on the cause of death of forty people! It is as if the media, state administration, and judiciary, had implicitly assumed that people  indulging in arson after conviction of a rapist deserve to be killed any way. Continue reading Indian State, Society and ‘Public’ Through the Lens of Panchkula Killings : Sanjay Kumar

Committee for the Defense of Bhim Army Formed Amidst Continuing Repression

Image courtesy Indian Express

Even as the state government’s repression on Bhim Army continues, most of its leaders still in jail and some forced to leave Saharanpur, a committee has been formed for the defense of Bhim Army. (For background information, please see the ‘Note on Bhim Army’, appended at the end of this post, which carries links to informative videos as well). A group of activists and committed lawyers have been following up the legal struggle practically at their own expense – which at the moment involves getting the arrested activists, including the founder-President Chandrashekhar out of bail as the topmost priority. Some of the activists have started getting bail many still remain, including just ordinary people simply picked up by the people and framed by the police as Bhim Army activists.

However, getting the jailed activists out on bail is simply the first step in a long battle. The deliberate campaign of vilification that has been going on about Bhim Army has tried to paint the organization as ‘antinational’ and ‘instigators of violence’ who apparently have ‘Naxalite’ connections. Even though none of this could be substantiated and thus brought by the police into their charges against the jailed activists, the campaign of demonization has nevertheless continued through some sections of the media. Needless to say, such misleading campaign is meant to incite popular feelings against such groups who have been working mainly for education and self respect among the Dalit population in their area. Such a campaign of vilification cannot but affect the chances of wining the legal battle as well. It also ends up driving people who may have initially been sympathetic to their cause by sowing doubts about them in the popular mind.

It is with this concern in mind that a large number of citizens from different walks of life have come together to form the Committee for the Defense of Bhim Army, in order to mobilize all possible support for the embattled activists.

The Committee for the Defense of Bhim Army has been constituted comprising the following members from different walks of life:

Coordinators: Pradeep Narwal and Sanjeev Mathur

Treasurers: Presenjit Gautam and Nakul Singh Sawhney

  1. Anand Teltumbde, Civil rights thinker and activist, Mumbai
  2. Jignesh Mewani, Rashtriya Dalit Adhikar Manch
  3. Kancha Ilaiah, Political scientist, thinker and writer, Hyderabad
  4. Chandrabhan Prasad, Dalit thinker
  5. Radhika Ramaseshan, Senior journalist with Business Standard
  6. Harsh Mander, Human rights activist and Director, Centre for Equity Studies, Delhi
  7. Syeda Hamid, Former member, Planning Commission
  8. Om Thanvi, Senior journalist, former editor, Jansatta
  9. Sambhaji Bhagat, Cultural activist, Maharashtra
  10. Meera Velayudhan, Academic, Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum
  11. Martin Macwan, Social activist, Gujarat
  12. Ratan Lal, Academic, Hindu College, Delhi University
  13. Sachin Mali, Cultural activist
  14. Sheetal Sathe, Cultural activist
  15. S.R Darapuri , Former IPS officer, social activist
  16. Colin Gonzalves, Lawyer
  17. Anand Patwardhan, Film maker
  18. Anil Chamadia, Journalist
  19. Subhash Gatade, Writer and social activist
  20. Akram Hassan, Social activist, Shamli
  21. Surender, Dalit youth activist, Delhi University
  22. N. Sukumar, Academic, Delhi University
  23. Rehana Adib, Social activist, Saharanpur
  24. Banojyotsna Lahiri, Academic and independent researcher
  25. Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub, Actor
  26. Amar Singh, SC/ST Trade Union, Delhi University
  27. Dr. Mahesh Chandra, Bhim Army
  28. Sanjay Tegwal, Bhim Army
  29. Zakia Soman, Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan
  30. Presenjit Gautam, Jati Todo Manch, Ghaziabad
  31. Pradeep Narwal, Dalit youth activist, Jawaharlal Nehru University
  32. Saroj Giri, Academic, Delhi University
  33. Tushar Parmar, IRS
  34. Sanjeev Mathur, Journalist
  35. Nakul Singh Sawhney, Film maker
  36. Praveen Verma, Research scholar, Delhi University
  37. Aditya Nigam, Academic, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, Delhi
  38. Amar Paswan, Ambedkarvadi Chhatra Sabha, Gorakhpur
  39. Dhirendra, Poorvanchal Sena
  40. Anil Yadav, Rihai Manch
  41. Sagar Raghunath, Chhatra Bharati activist
  42. Dr J.K. Gautam, Doctor
  43. Dr. Sushil Kumar Gautam, Dalit Youth Activist, Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut
  44. Subhashini Ali, Social Activist
  45. Mohinder Singh, Professor, JNU
  46. Prashant Nihal, Social Activist (Bihar)
  47. Atul Meena, Research Scholar JNU

Continue reading Committee for the Defense of Bhim Army Formed Amidst Continuing Repression

People’s Movements Demand Revocation of Suspension of Dalit Asst. Jail Superintendent, Varsha Dongre

The  NAPM (National Alliance of People’s Movements) has written the following letter, signed by many movements and orgnizations, to the Governor and the Chief Minister of Chhatisgarh

Date: 11th May, 2017

To,

Shri Balram Das Tandon, The Hon’ble Governor, Raj Bhawan, Raipur, Chhattisgarh,

To,

Shri Raman Singh, The Chief Minister, Civil Lines, Raipur, Chhattisgarh

Sub: Revocation of suspension orders of upright, Dalit woman officer, Ms. Varsha Dongre, Asst. Jail Superintendent, Raipur Central Jail and restoration of peace and good government in the V Schedule adivasis areas of Bastar – Reg.

Respected Balram Das Tandon ji and Shri Raman Singh ji,

We, the undersigned, representing a large number of people’s movements and organizations, across India, as the National Alliance People’s Movements (NAPM), are writing to you with a deep sense of anguish regarding the arbitrary suspension of a young and dynamic dalit woman officer of your state, since she publicly expressed concerns over the serious human rights abuses of young adivasis girls in the jails of Chhattisgarh.

Continue reading People’s Movements Demand Revocation of Suspension of Dalit Asst. Jail Superintendent, Varsha Dongre

फर्ज़ी प्रमाण पत्र के सहारे दलित और आदिवासियों के अधिकार पर डाका

सांसद समेत अन्य लोग फर्ज़ी कागज़ातों के ज़रिये दलित और आदिवासियों के अधिकार छीन रहे हैं.

Indian tribal people sit at a relief camp in Dharbaguda, in the central state of Chhattisgarh, March 8, 2006. Violence in Chhattisgarh, one of India's poorest states, has mounted since the state government set up and started funding an anti-Maoist movement. Picture taken March 8, 2006. REUTERS/Kamal Kishore

(फोटो: कमल किशोर/रॉयटर्स)

मध्य प्रदेश के बैतूल से अनुसूचित जनजाति के लिए आरक्षित सीट से दूसरी बार चुनी गईं सांसद ज्योति धुर्वे की सदस्यता फिलवक़्त ख़तरे में पड़ती नज़र आ रही है.

पिछले दिनों मध्य प्रदेश सरकार की उच्चस्तरीय जांच कमेटी ने सघन जांच के बाद उनके द्वारा प्रस्तुत किए जाति प्रमाण पत्र को खारिज़ कर दिया.

ख़बरों के मुताबिक अपने जाति प्रमाण पत्र की कथित संदिग्धता के चलते धुर्वे तभी से विवादों में रही हैं जब 2009 में वह पहली दफ़ा वहां से सांसद चुनी गई थीं. यह आरोप लगाया गया था कि वह गैर आदिवासी समुदाय से संबद्ध हैं और उन्होंने फर्ज़ी जाति प्रमाण पत्र जमा किया है.

इस मसले को लेकर मध्य प्रदेश उच्च न्यायालय के सामने एक केस दायर किया गया है और अदालत के आदेश पर ही उपरोक्त जांच पूरी की गई है.

गौरतलब था कि जांच के दौरान पाया गया कि उनका जाति प्रमाण पत्र वर्ष 1984 में रायपुर से जारी हुआ था, मगर जब कमेटी ने इस बारे में कुछ और प्रमाणों की मांग की तो सांसद महोदया उन्हें कमेटी के सामने प्रस्तुत नहीं कर सकी.

कमेटी ने यह फैसला एकमत से लिया है और इसके बाद सांसद महोदया के ख़िलाफ़ कार्रवाई की मांग उठी है. विपक्ष का कहना है कि यह मसला 2009 से सुर्ख़ियों में रहने के बावजूद राजनीतिक दबाव के चलते इस पर फैसला नहीं लिया गया था.

बहरहाल, ज्योति धुर्वे के बहाने फिर एक बार फर्ज़ी जाति प्रमाण पत्रों का मसला चर्चा में आया है.

(Read the complete text here : http://thewirehindi.com/8059/how-our-leaders-and-other-people-snatching-the-rights-of-dalit-and-adivasi-by-fake-certificates/)

Thinking Labour in Contemporary India – For a Different May Day Agenda

Massive Chalo Una rally, image courtesy, thenewsminute.com

This May Day comes at a very crucial juncture in our history. Crucial, not simply because there is a belligerent Hindu Right government in power but also because it comes in the wake of the most unprecedented belligerence of the upper castes and their all-round violence, especially on the Dalit communities across the land. Last year we had witnessed the most shameful incident of violence in the flogging of four Dalit youth by the cow gangs of Hindutva, which was followed by massive protests by Dalits and joined in by other sections of people, including some of the Left forces, as well. The attack had to do with the very specific form/s of labour that Dalit communities have been made to traditionally perform in Hindu society, in this case, the work of disposing of carcasses of dead animals, skinning them and so on.  Continue reading Thinking Labour in Contemporary India – For a Different May Day Agenda

Dalit Uprising and After …

Why Hindutva Would Not Be The Same Again ?

Image result for una struggle

(Photo Courtesy : newsclick.in)

When I was born I was not a child
I was a dream, a dream of revolt
that my mother, oppressed for thousands of years ,
dreamt.
Still it is untouched in my eyes
Covered with wrinkles of thousand years, her face
her eyes, two lakes overflowing with tears
have watered my body…..

– Sahil Parmar*

Well known Gujarati poet Sahil Parmar’s poem ‘When I Was Born’ perhaps reverberates these days in Gujarat when we are witnessing a Dalit Upsurge- a first of its kind at least in that regions history. It will be a talk of folklore for times to come how flogging of dalits in a village in Saurashtra by Hindutva fanatics suddenly erupted into a mass movement of dalits which could catch imagination of the people cutting across different sections of society. An attempt is being made here to understand the dynamics of the movement and its likely impact on the future trajectory of Hindutva.

Continue reading Dalit Uprising and After …

Civil War in Hindu Society – Happy Independence Day!

UPDATE FROM UNA :  THIS IS FROM TEAM UNA

Received August 15th evening

Violence broke out this morning on the highway.

We’ve been at Una Police Station since afternoon. The Una victim families, Balubai Sarvaiyya and others who feel threatened want police to escort them back to their villages after violence broke out on the highway today morning. Two cars have been burnt, vehicles are being stoned, roads are blocked. They also want police to put up a post in their villages. But the police is keeping mum. The families continue to agitate in whatever ways they can to express their anguish but the police is clearly indifferent. The Yatra came to an end today on a high note but how much has anything changed?

As Dalits march in hundreds of thousands in the Dalit Asmita Yatra from different places to Una, where four Dalits were flogged for skinning dead cattle, one contingent was physically attacked by ‘upper’ caste villagers at Samter village yesterday. A Bolero with 8 people inside was attacked, the vehicle was damaged and petrol was poured on the vehicle

(Video courtesy Dalit Camera)

Here is the route of this extraordinary journey covering 81 kilometers

Continue reading Civil War in Hindu Society – Happy Independence Day!

Condemning Caste Discrimination in Higher Education Centres that led to Rohith’s Untimely Death – Students of Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University

Guest Post by Students of Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University

dschool

( A protest meeting on Rohith Vemula was organised in Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University on 28 th January. Find pasted below a brief report of the meeting followed by the statement which was read and passed in the meeting.)

We, the students of Delhi School of Economics organised a protest meeting in solidarity with the Joint Action Committee for Social Justice, University of Hyderabad. It was joined in by students from other departments of the university as well.

The discussion revolved around the presence of caste based discrimination within university campuses and the deadly silence on the matter. It was recognised that Rohith’s investment in progressive politics was crucial in him and others in Ambedkar Students Association being victimised. And the present gathering affirmed its investment in that politics and striving for the kind of change Rohith also aspired for. Continue reading Condemning Caste Discrimination in Higher Education Centres that led to Rohith’s Untimely Death – Students of Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University

Can Caste Be Swept Away? New Socialist Initiative

Statement by New Socialist Initiative, Delhi State Chapter
It is cleaning season in India. Country’s prime minister has gone to town with a broom. He started the campaign to clean India by sweeping a dalit neighburhood of erstwhile untouchables, seemingly breaking many caste barriers. There are very few public defenders of caste system nowadays. Upper caste men and women, whose ancestors only three generations ago fought tooth and nail to not yield even an inch of their caste privileges, now cry and organise under the slogan of Equality, once affirmative action for lower castes in educational institutions and government jobs has begun to have some traction. Is now not an opportune time to sweep away the garbage of caste into the dustbin of history?
Reality is too complex for this simple hope. If caste appears to be disregarded, or flouted, in some domains, its prejudices and violence are flourishing in others. The day country’s news channels were busy showing the prime minister sweeping a dalit basti in the heart of the capital, a young woman of Madurai in Tamil Nadu was burnt alive by her family for marrying a dalit. She could have been from anywhere in the country, from Haryana in the North to Maharashtra in the West, or Bihar in the East, to have met a similar fate; if not murder, certainly social ostracism. In all villages, where majority of Indians live, habitation areas are divided along caste lines; upper castes occupying the most secure central areas with easiest access to public utilities like road, school, and panchayat ghar; and dalits on the outskirts. In cities too, where caste markers are less visible, caste networks are the most potent resource the poor fall back upon while searching for job and habitation.

Continue reading Can Caste Be Swept Away? New Socialist Initiative

Tsundur Massacre – Normalising Injustice the Judicial Way

Tsundur, Guntur, A.P. which had made headlines way back in 1991 when eight dalits were lynched by a 400 strong armed mob of Reddys is again in the news. The recent judgment of the A.P high court has overturned the judgment of the Special courts and has acquitted all the accused involved in the case for ‘want of evidence’.

As rightly noted by Human Rights Forum (HRF) the judgment is ‘brazen injustice’ and is ‘reflective of upper caste anti-dalit bias’ and ‘betrays insensitivity in the judiciary to an inhuman caste atrocity.’ It is expected that the state does not waste time in moving the Supreme Court to get this retrograde judgment overturned and render justice to the families of dalits.

What is more disturbing and shocking is the fact that when the Special Court formed to deliberate on the case had finally given its verdict seven years back, it was considered a ‘historic’ in very many ways. The conviction of the perpetrators – twenty one of the accused were life imprisonment and 35 of the accused were asked to serve one year rigorous imprisonment – was considered a significant milestone in the ongoing dalit emancipation movement. Continue reading Tsundur Massacre – Normalising Injustice the Judicial Way

Modi and The Art of ‘Disappearing’ of Untouchability

It is a story attributed to a famous Saint from Middle Ages – a votary of the idea of Brahma Satya, Jagat Mithya (Brahma is the Only Truth, Rest is All Illusion). Once this gentleman was walking with his Shishya (disciple) on a road and suddenly a elephant appeared from nowhere and rushed towards this duo. Abruptly ending his discussion on Maya (illusion) the Guru instructed his Shishya to just run away to save himself. When both of them were at a safe place, the exasperated Shishya asked the Guru, why did he ask him to run knowing well that everything else is an ‘illusion’. Without winkling his eyelid the Guru said ‘Gajopi Mithya, Palayanopi Mithya‘ (The elephant was also an illusion and our running away was also an illusion).

One does not know whether the famous sage had visited Gujarat or not but his influence seems palpable there at least among the ruling elite. If the Guru could ‘invisibilise’ the elephant calling it an illusion, here in Gujarat an age old problem like untouchability could be similarly ‘disappeared’ by terming it a matter of ‘perception’. Continue reading Modi and The Art of ‘Disappearing’ of Untouchability

Modi’s Social Engineering

The system of untouchability has been a goldmine for the Hindus. This system affords 60 millions of untouchables to do the dirty work of scavenging and sweeping to the 240 million Hindus who are debarred by their religion to do such dirty work. But the work must be done for the Hindus and who else than the untouchables?

– Dr. B. R. Ambedkar

 Whether Shit Collection or cleaning of gutters – which has condemned lakhs of people to a life of indignity since ages – could be considered a ‘Spiritual Experience.’ Definitely not. Everybody would yell. Well, Mr Narendra Modi, chief minister of Gujarat, has a different take on this, which he mentions in the book ‘Karmayog’ (Publication year 2007). Continue reading Modi’s Social Engineering

Defying Manu, Bowing to Mammon

On The Silent Emergence of Dalit Capitalism

It was 14 th April 2012, when dalits in different parts of the country (as well as abroad) were celebrating 121 st birth anniversary of Babasaheb Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar, the legendary son of the oppressed. Thousands of  people had congregated at statue of Dr Ambedkar situated near Parliament itself as they have been doing on every such occasion. It was a festive type of atmosphere where one could find book stalls on the way – where one could browse through books on different topics all geared to bring about a social transformation in India – cultural performances by small groups going on uninterruptedly, volunteers had put stalls to provide water to all the visitors.

And Delhi was no exception. One could witness similar gatherings in different parts of the country where people gather on their own to celebrate the life of Dr Ambedkar. Close watchers of such gatherings – where state patronage is not the deciding factor – would emphasise why this phenomenon need to be closely understood and comprehended by sociologists of our times that even fifty six years after his demise there has not been a let up in his popularity. In fact, he happens to be one of those rare leaders of the first half of 20 th century whose birth anniversary as well as death anniversary is still celebrated as people’s festival.

On this day at a place not very far from the ongoing celebrations in Delhi a different type of meeting was being held which was attended by a motley combination of dalit activists, dalit enterpreneurs as well as few top bureaucrats. It was an occasion to float DICCI Venture Capital Fund, (DVCF) a For-Profit company whose aim was to support India’s Dalit entrepreneurs. In fact, 121 smartly dressed Dalit entrepreneurs cut a 121-kg birthday cake in honour of B R Ambedkar, and announced the launching of the (VC) fund. Continue reading Defying Manu, Bowing to Mammon

Caste Discrimination in Cyclone Thane in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry: NDW-NCDHR

A preliminary report of an investigation into caste discrinimation with regard to Cyclone Thane by National Dalit WatchNational Campaign for Dalit Rights  conducted on 18, 19 January 2012

Cyclone Thane

Cyclonic Storm Thane was the strongest tropical cyclone of 2011 within the North Indian Ocean. Thane initially developed as a tropical disturbance within the monsoon trough to the west of Indonesia. Over the next couple of days the disturbance gradually developed further while moving towards the northwest, and was declared a Depression during December 25, before being declared Cyclonic Storm Thane during the next day. As it was named, Thane started to turn towards the west under the influence of a subtropical ridge of high pressure before its development slowed down during December 27, as a strong outflow and marginally favourable sea surface temperatures fought with persistent vertical wind shear. After its development had slowed down during December 27, Thane became a Very Severe Cyclonic Storm during December 28, before as it approached the Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, it weakened slightly. Thane then made landfall early on December 30, on the north Tamil Nadu coast between Cuddalore and Pondicherry and rapidly weakened into a depression.

Cuddalore and Vilipuram Districts in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry were the worst affected due to Cyclone Thane. All roads in these three districts are line by wreckage of fallen trees including large tracts of Casuarina plantations completely wiped out. The only trees that seem to have withstood the fury of the cyclone seems to be the Borassus flabellifer or the Palmyra Palm. According to government estimates at least 39 people have been killed by this cyclone in Tamil Nadu and 7 in Pondicherry. Apart from the loss of life, the Cyclone left huge destruction in terms of livelihood, particularly agricultural livelihood and ripped apart the green cover in these already arid districts.

Continue reading Caste Discrimination in Cyclone Thane in Tamil Nadu and Pondicherry: NDW-NCDHR

Human Development and other Holy Cows: Sajan Venniyoor

Guest post by SAJAN VENNIYOOR

The press is full of the India Human Development Report 2011 released by the Centre recently, and Gujarat figures prominently in newspaper headlines for reasons Mr. Modi is unlikely to quote in self-congratulatory ads. As The Telegraph put in tortured prose, Gujarat has a ‘Gnawing record fasting Modi won’t flaunt‘.

Kerala once again topped the Human Development Index. One of the more charming images that accompanied the story is from Rediff, which showed a fairly archetypal Kerala landscape with paddy fields, coconut trees and a cow. No humans, though, developed or otherwise. It struck me, then, that part of Kerala’s high ranking in the health and nutrition stakes may come from its willingness to consume all three: rice, coconuts and the cow. And thereby hangs a tale. Continue reading Human Development and other Holy Cows: Sajan Venniyoor

The Many Lives of Caste in Modern India

[Following my previous post, ‘We are Proud Hindus’, there has been an expected barrage of comments – all along very predictable lines. Most of them, characteristically, turn every critique of reprehensible caste practices of Hindu society into an expression of ‘casteism’ and immediately displace the criticism to their favourite enemy, Islam. For the benefit of readers who might be interested in a more reasoned debate, I post here an essay,  which was written some years ago and a version of which published in South Asian Journal. This is  just by way of making my own position clear. – AN ]

Politics in contemporary India is marked by the ‘resurgence’ of ‘caste politics’. In a sense, this is true. The past two decades have seen a dramatic collapse of the old political formations and parties, which had dominated the politics of the Nehruvian era.[1] Even the movements of that period, right up to the mid-1970s, were largely movements on economic issues and questions of corruption, black-marketing, hoarding and food shortages. Through the decade of the 1980s, there was a gradual erosion of the Nehruvian secular-nationalist imagination, and one of the factors responsible for it was the ‘re-emergence’ of caste in public discourse.

The watershed in this respect of course, was the famous ‘Mandal Commission’ agitation – which has become something of a metaphor in contemporary Indian politics. The Commission, which was instituted in 1978, during the Janata Party government, under the stewardship of B.P. Mandal, a socialist leader from a ‘backward caste’, was given the task of looking into the question of ‘backwardness’ of certain castes and suggest remedies for its redressal. For about a decade after it submitted its recommendations in 1980, it lay in cold storage after the Congress under the leadership of Mrs Indira Gandhi (subsequently taken charge of by her son Rajiv) returned to power. It was implemented under extremely contentious circumstances in 1990 under the Prime Ministership of V.P. Singh. As is well-known, its main recommendations included 27 percent reservations in public employment for these castes (known in India as the ‘Other Backward Classes’ or OBCs).

Continue reading The Many Lives of Caste in Modern India

We Are Proud Hindus!

The Times of India carried a story today that we are reproducing here in full. It is the story of a Rajput-owned dog who became outcaste because it was fed a chapati by a dalit woman.  Not only was the dog turned ‘out’  to live in the dalit basti, worse, the woman Sunita was fined Rs 15, 000/-  by the panchayat for the crime. But hold on, there is more: when Sunita and her brother went to lodge a complaint at the police station, the police officer asked her why she fed the dog? So, this is not really a matter of one mad, ‘illiterate’ individual (as if literates are by definition better): This incident reveals an entire structure of thought and belief that extends through from the panchayat to the police itself (which despite the Supreme Court’s directive has not yet filed an FIR). Here is the full report:

BHOPAL: A dog’s life couldn’t get worse. A mongrel brought up in an upper caste home in Morena was kicked out after the Rajput family members discovered that their Sheru had eaten a roti from a dalit woman and was now an “untouchable”. Next, Sheru was tied to a pole in the village’s dalit locality. His controversial case is now pending with the district collector, the state police and the Scheduled Caste Atrocities police station in Morena district of north MP.

The black cur, of no particular pedigree, was accustomed to the creature comforts in the home of its influential Rajput owners in Manikpur village in Morena. Its master, identified by the police as Rampal Singh, is a rich farmer with local political connections.

Continue reading We Are Proud Hindus!