Tag Archives: untouchability

IIT-Madras, a Modern Day Agraharam ?

The institute’s recent order, now withdrawn, of separate entrance for non-vegetarians is just a part of the overall policing and push for vegetarianism after the Modi government’s ascent.
IIT Madras
Image Courtesy: Catch News

 

Nagesh (name changed), a bright student at the Indian Institute of Technology- Madras, who hails from a very poor economic background, had a shock of his life when he was entering the hostel mess. Someone literally stopped him at the gate and asked him to enter the mess from the other door if he is not a vegetarian.

A notice was duly pasted at the entrance of the mess, informing everyone of this ‘new order’. Even separate basins were demarcated for the students’ cuisine choices. Talking to a reporter with rage in his eyes, Nagesh questioned how the IIT-Madras management could issue such a discriminatory order without even consulting the students.

As of now, the notices have been removed after taking into consideration the uproar this ‘untouchability of a different kind’ caused at the national level. management is now trying to save itself by putting the blame on the caterer. Anybody can guess that a caterer, who is basically a contractor serving food for a fixed period, cannot suddenly disturb the existing arrangements, divide the mess into two separate sections, and have the courage ‘instructing’ his customers to use separate gates.

Commenting on this episode, the Ambedkar Periyar Study Circle – a student group within the institute- which brought this issue to national attention, says:

“Caste masquerades as something else in ‘modern’ society. In IIT Madras campus, it manifests itself as separate entrance, utensils, dining area and wash area in the mess for vegetarian and non-vegetarian students…:

( Read the rest of the article here : https://www.newsclick.in/iit-madras-modern-day-agraharam)

Continue reading IIT-Madras, a Modern Day Agraharam ?

Silencing Caste, Sanitising Oppression – Understanding Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

The Hindu notions of purity and pollution, inextricably linked with the caste system and the practice of untouchability, underlie the unsanitary practices in Indian society. These beliefs perpetuate the oppression of the “polluted castes,” who are forced to undertake manual scavenging, unclog manholes and clean other people’s filth. The availability of cheap Dalit labour to do these dehumanising jobs can be cited as one of the reasons why development of toilet facilities and a modern garbage and sewage management system have been neglected so far. As long as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan attempts to delink the relationship between caste and sanitation, its lofty goal of cleaning India will remain unachievable.

(Read the full text here http://www.epw.in/system/files/pdf/2015_50/44/Silencing_Caste_Sanitising_Oppression.pdf)

Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Too Many Erasures

The Hindu Social Order is based upon a division of labour which reserves for the Hindus clean and respectable jobs and assigns to the untouchables dirty and mean jobs and thereby clothes the Hindus with dignity and heaps ignominy upon the untouchables.

(The Revolt of the Untouchables, Excerpted from Essays on Untouchables and Untouchability : Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar, Writings and Speeches, Vol 5 (Mumbai : Govt of Maharashtra, 1989, 256-58)

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The inauguration of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, (Clean India Campaign) with much fanfare, with ministers, bureaucrats and others holding Jhadoos evoked an interesting reaction from a ragpicker Sanjay who lives in Mehrauli with his parents. “These are the same people from whose houses we pick up garbage every day. This is part of our life. We don’t really understand why they are making it such a big deal,” Continue reading Swachh Bharat Abhiyan: Too Many Erasures

Learning from Babasaheb: Harsh Mander

Guest post by HARSH MANDER

Among most  secular progressive people in India today there is the belief – indeed an article of faith – that India has been, through most of its long history, a diverse, pluralist and tolerant civilization – the land of Buddha, Kabir and Nanak, of Ashoka, Akbar and Gandhi. It is a culture in which every major faith in the world found through the millennia the space and freedom to flourish and grow, where persecuted faiths have received refuge, where heterodox and sceptical traditions thrived alongside spiritual and mystical traditions, and where ordinary people live and instinctive respect for faith systems different from their own.

All of this is true, and this is why the rise of a narrow, monolithic and intolerant interpretations of Indian culture – what Romila Thapar describes as the right-wing Semitisation of Hinduism – in new India causes us deep disquiet. But what our analysis does not stress often or deeply enough is that all of India, both old and new, has been also built on the edifice of the monumental inequality and oppression of caste, and that this is equally the story of India, old and new. Continue reading Learning from Babasaheb: Harsh Mander

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

How Modi Views Untouchability: Dissecting the ‘Toilets First, Temples Later’ Debate

Narendra Modi, would not have imagined that his exhortation that ‘toilets first, temples later’ at a Delhi conclave would not only generate a debate within the saffron fraternity but would also bring back focus on the pathetic situation of sanitation in his home state itself. And the ensuing discussion would also transcend to his controversial ideas about untouchability – the social-religious practice based on the logic of purity and pollution which has marginalised, terrorised and relegated a section of Indian society to a life marked by humiliation and indignity. Continue reading How Modi Views Untouchability: Dissecting the ‘Toilets First, Temples Later’ Debate

The Making of Anna Hazare

[This piece is based on my extensive field work on Anna Hazare and his movement in Ralegan Sidhi over some years and is also a part of my forthcoming book Green and Saffron: Hindu Nationalism and Indian Environmental Politics. MS]

The anti-corruption movement, spearheaded by Anna Hazare, and the passage of the Lokpal Bill have generated unprecedented interest amongst a wide spectrum of society about the ideas, politics and organisations of civil society in general, and Anna Hazare in particular. Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade merits attention not only for its importance in ensuring a corruption-free society, but also due to its multifaceted nature. Hazare’s politics however has to be seen in a larger framework and in a wider historical context. Howsoever laudable the goals of anti-corruption movement in India today, the movement is not beyond the categories of gender, caste, authority, democracy, nationalism and ultra-nationalism. Far from transcending them, the movement is transforming and being transformed by the implicit deployment of such categories. I wish to place Hazare in the larger context of his environmental journeys, where the elusive but crucial element is one of authority that is exercised due to a large degree of consent and conservatism. Yet, almost all accounts on him, largely celebratory in nature, do not examine the ideology and politics of his works. These are crucial not only to critically assess the present and the future of our anti-corruption movements, but also to interrogate certain brands of civil society activisms and environmentalisms. Continue reading The Making of Anna Hazare